Saturday, November 30, 2019

Music to relax after campaigning: Air On The G String, J. S. Bach

Working to keep Britain Safe

Conservatives are ensuring counter terrorism policing has the resources it needs.

At the Spending Round we announced that the budget for counter-terrorism policing would increase in line with inflation, including continuing the additional £160 million announced at Budget 2018, which maintains current counter-terrorism capability and protects officer numbers (HMT, Spending Round 2019, 4 September 2019).

We are developing a new Counter-Extremism Strategy to keep people safe. In October our Commission for Countering Extremism published its report, which will inform our new Counter-Extremism Strategy. Our 2015 Counter-Extremism Strategy was the first of its kind anywhere in the world, and our new strategy will reflect the changing nature we face from extremism whilst building on the positive work already delivered (Home Office, Blog, 7 October 2019).

We are taking action to ensure there is no safe place for terrorists online. We will legislate to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online – including ensuring there is no safe space for terrorists to hide online
(Conservative Party, Manifesto 2019, 24 November 2019; HO/DCMS, Online Harms White Paper, 26 June 2019).

In October this year we signed a landmark agreement with the US which will make it dramatically easier and faster to obtain data from US technology companies, including terrorist content (HO, UK/US Data Access Agreement).

We are working to improve the safety and security of public venues, following the terrible events in Manchester in 2017 (Conservative Party Manifesto 2019, 24 November 2019).

We’ve committed to update the Human Rights Act so that our security services can defend our country against terrorism. Our 2019 Manifesto states: ‘The ability of our security services to defend us against terrorism and organised crime is critical. We will update the Human Rights Act and administrative law to ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government’. 

This could include things like ensuring we can extradite or deport those who threaten us (Conservative Party, Manifesto 2019, 24 November 2019).

We’re putting 20,000 more police on our streets and giving them the powers they need to keep us safe. More police on the streets will aid our response to terror incidents, and powers such as stop and search will enable them to identify and apprehend knife carriers.

We will end freedom of movement, making it harder for those who intend to cause us harm to enter the UK and easier to deport those who commit offences. Free movement means any EU criminals can come and reside in the UK, but we will take back control of our borders and keep track of those who come in and out of our country.

In government the Conservative Party has extended counter-terrorism powers. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act gives the UK greater powers to crackdown on hostile state activity, ensures sentencing for certain terrorism offences can properly reflect the severity of the crimes, and prevents re-offending and disrupting terrorist activity more rapidly.

The Act also updated existing counter-terrorism legislation to reflect the digital age including the way in which people view content online. It also reflects the speed at which terrorism plots develop (Home Office, News Story, 12 February 2019).

We are stepping up our efforts to tackle far-right extremism. Following the terrorist attacks in 2017, the joint MI5 and counter-terrorism policing Operational Improvement Review proposed an increased role for MI5 and the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre in extreme right-wing terrorism. Our counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST, addresses all forms of terrorism in order to ensure that no individual or group whatever their ideology, is free to spread hate or incite violence (Home Office, Blog, 20 September 2019).

We are taking step to encourage integration and openness, addressing the root causes of extremism. We are tackling prejudice, racism and discrimination wherever it occurs while working to break down the barriers which hold different groups face (Conservative Party Manifesto 2019, 24 November 2019).

Full statement from the PM on the London Bridge Attack

Following yesterday’s appalling incident, please see the Prime Minister’s statement below. 

'I've just been briefed by the commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police about the events at London Bridge this afternoon and while this is an ongoing investigation, the police can confirm that this was a terrorist incident.

And clearly, my thoughts are first with the emergency services, with the police, the bravery that they showed in going towards danger as they do.

I also want to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery of those members of the public who physically intervened to protect the lives of others and for me, they represent the very best of our country and I thank them on behalf of all of our country.

I think we are all very saddened also to learn that some people have been injured in this event and our sympathies are very much with them and with their loved ones.

Clearly, the Metropolitan Police are continuing their investigations and I can assure you, and assure everyone, that anybody involved in this crime and these attacks will be hunted down and will be brought to justice.

And I think the message that we send to them and anyone associated with this type of attack is one that will be familiar, and that is that this country will never be cowed or divided or intimidated by this sort of attack and our values, our British values will prevail.’

Improving standards in Schools

Yesterday the Conservatives announced how we’ll improve standards in schools by giving Ofsted greater powers and more money – so we can make sure that every child in this country is getting a world class education.
This will mean:
  • Longer inspections to be sure of the full breadth of a school’s activity.
  • No-notice inspections to ensure inspections truly reflect the day to day experience in schools.
  • £10 million additional funding to back Ofsted.
  • End of outstanding exemption – meaning all schools will be checked.

Campaigning resumes

Campaigning for the election has resumed today following a pause announced last night as a mark of respect for the London Bridge terror attack victims.

Watch for frost and ice

A lot of frost and ice on the ground this morning and through to the early afternoon.

Please do take great care if you are out and about.

Quotes of the day 30th November 2019

Responses to the London Bridge terror attack:

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said she wanted "to thank the members of the public who have helped, either by showing extraordinary courage by stepping in to tackle this attacker". 

"Speechless. Members of the public with nothing but a narwhal tusk and a fire extinguisher tackle a murderous terrorist. Heroism, pure and simple." 

(Matthew Thompson on Twitter)

One member of the public ‘ran to the attacker and stamped on his wrist to make him drop the knife he was clutching. ‘Thomas Gray, 24, said he was “just a Londoner doing his bit” and went to the pub for a pint afterwards “to shake it off”’ 

(Henry Jones on twitter, quoting the Times)

"It only gets more British: "Thomas Gray, who was driving his classic mini over London Bridge at the time of the attack, said "One thought was going through my mind - stop the dude. I’ve played rugby for most my life and the rule on and off the pitch is ‘one in, all in’."" (Tim Stanley on twitter.)

"The handling of the lock down inside the cathedral by the clergy and stewards was astonishingly good. Obviously they must have an established protocol but even so top notch."
(David Morton, a Whitehaven resident who was visiting Southwark Cathedral at the time of the attack, on Twitter)

Mr Johnson praised emergency services and said members of the public "who physically intervened to protect the lives of others" showed "extraordinary bravery". "For me they represent the very best of our country and I thank them on behalf of all of our country," he says

Friday, November 29, 2019

Social Media campaigning suspended

As a mark of respect to the victims of the London Bridge terror attack, social media campaigning for the general election has been suspended.

I will therefore not be putting any party-political posts on this blog until further notice.

The London Bridge terror attack

Horrified to learn of another terror attack in London in which, at the time of posting, the attacker and two innocent members of the public have lost their lives and three more members of the public have been seriously injured.

I gather that the Met Police's commissioner, Cressida Dick told a press conference the stabbing attack in the London Bridge area, which has been declared a terrorist incident, began at an event at Fishmonger's Hall this afternoon. Within five minutes of being called officers confronted the suspect - who was shot dead by police - she said.

The suspect was wearing what is now thought to have been a hoax explosive device. He was a former prisoner and had been convicted of a terrorist offence, "sources" have told the BBC.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned to Downing Street from his constituency, convened a meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee at 21:30. He said the emergency services and members of the public who intervened "represent the very best of our country".

"This country will never be cowed or divided or intimidated by this sort of attack and our values, our British values, will prevail," Mr Johnson added.

Thoughts and prayers are with all the people who were hurt and their families.

Everything to play for

The biggest mistake anyone could think about the 2017 general election would be to imagine that the outcome is certain.

Anyone who thinks that could not be more wrong.

One reason so many opinion polls have got recent elections and referendum result "wrong" is not because the polls failed to reflect what people were thinking when the fieldwork was carried out but because they generated a self-defeating prophecy.

If some voters who would back Boris Johnson to win a small majority think that he is heading for a landslide (which he almost certainly isn't) they might be tempted to cast a protest vote for someone else to limit the size of that landslide.  The result could be another hung parliament which means at best another election in six months and at worst a Corbyn government.

Similarly there are voters who like Labour but detest Jeremy Corbyn, some of whom will vote Labour as long as they don't think Jeremy Corbyn will actually become Prime Minister as a result but could not face doing so if they think he might win.

There have been similar effects at many of the elections over the past thirty years. I am convinced that Neil Kinnock's "Nuremberg Rally comes to Sheffield" speech in 1992 helped to cost him that election because voters thought he was going to win and didn't like what they saw: the belief among voters that David Cameron was going to win in 2010 probably cost him a majority and an opposite belief that he was going to lose in 2015 helped him to get one.

And the closest potential parallel to 2019 is the 2017 election, where at the outset everyone thought that Theresa May was heading for a landslide and Jeremy Corbyn could not possibly win: there were other reasons for the fact that this didn't happen but there is no doubt in my mind that it was a self-defeating prophecy which helped to stop Theresa May from getting a majority at all and nearly put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.

Of course, it is by no means certain that this will happen again.  Perhaps people have learned not to take any opinion poll as an infallible predictor of election results - which even opinion pollsters themselves, the wiser ones anyway, would warn them not to do. What Harold MacMillan called "Events, dear boy, Events" could yet intervene on either side.

As James Johnson writes on CAPX here, it is all still to play for.

The only poll that matters is the one on 12th December.

Six Conservative pledges

Here are our guarantees for you and your family:

  • Extra funding for the NHS, with 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP surgery appointments a year. 
  • 20,000 more police and tougher sentencing for criminals. 
  • An Australian-style points-based system to control immigration. 
  • Millions more invested every week in science, schools, apprenticeships and infrastructure while controlling debt. 
  • Reaching Net Zero by 2050 with investment in clean energy solutions and green infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and pollution. 
  • We will not raise the rate of income tax, VAT or National Insurance.

Quote of the day 29th November 2019

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Making poor mobile signal a thing of the past

We set out this week how Conservatives will make poor mobile phone signal a thing of the past, ensuring no community is held back because of poor digital infrastructure.

  • Currently only 66 per cent of the UK landmass has geographic coverage for customers of all four network operators. This will rise to 95 per cent or more under our plan.
  • In our first 100 days, we will finalise a £1 billion agreement with mobile phone operators to pool existing phone masts, and build new ones, bringing dramatically improved mobile service to the countryside.
  • This builds on a raft of commitments by this Conservative Government to ensure that rural areas are not left behind, including £5 billion to accelerate the rollout of the highest-speed internet across the country – eradicating the digital divide, boosting regional economic growth and improving productivity.

Getting people in work

New figures show that the number and proportion of children living in a workless household is at a record low; there are more working households than ever before; and 12.5 million households have all members over 16 in employment, up 331,000 over the past year. 

Work is the best route out of poverty, and we want to help people into work, so they have the security of a regular pay packet and can provide for their children. Labour won’t allow the country to move on from Brexit and their dangerous plans would wreck the economy – meaning higher taxes, more debt and fewer jobs.

Key facts: 
  • More children than ever before are living in a working home. More children than ever before are now living in a household with a working adult, as the proportion of children in a home with at least one adult in work is 91 per cent. 
  • The number of children in households with all adults in work has increased by 262,000 in the last year, to 7.7 million – a rise of 1.7 million since 2010. 
  • The number of children in workless households is at a record low. Fewer than 1 in 11 children now live in a workless household, a record low. 
  • The number of children in workless households is down 760,000 since 2010 – a drop of almost 40 per cent – and a record low. 
  • The number of children living in households where all members had never worked, decreased by 58,000 over the year to 172,000. 
  • There are more working households than ever before. There are 12.5 million households in which all people are working, up over 1.5 million since 2010, a record high. 
  • This means there are 23.1 million people aged 16 to 64 in working households, up 1.1 percentage points over the year – to a new record high. 

Under the Conservatives an average of 1,000 people have gone into work every day, supporting people to take control of their lives and build themselves a better future. We’ve seen over 3.7 million more people get the security of bringing home a regular pay packet.

The unemployment rate is at its lowest in 45 years.

Two weeks to go

Two weeks today is polling day in one of the most important general elections I can ever remember.

People involved in politics always describe the current election as important, but this one really is.

Cynics often say that there is little real difference between the parties but you cannot say that this time. The policies offered by the major parties are more different than any I can ever remember.

The Conservatives will deliver Brexit: a Conservative majority government will leave the EU with the deal which is on the table, on or before 31st January 2020.

Conservatives will also increase government spending by a moderate amount to pay for 20,000 more police, the biggest every programme of building and improving hospitals, increasing the number of nurses by 50,000 compared with what will happen if nothing is done (partly by recruiting more, partly by making the profession more attractive so that fewer nurses leave) and improve school funding.

The Lib/Dems will stop Brexit:  a Liberal Democrat majority government will revoke article 50, stop Brexit and effectively tell 17.4 million people that they don't give a f*** about their votes, as Caroline Lucas so eloquently put it.

They will increase government spending by a considerable amount.

Labour will spend months and years arguing about Brexit. Labour are talking about negotiating yet another different deal with the EU and then putting it back to the British people in a referendum in which they can't appear to decide which side they would be on. At one point Labour appeared to be saying they would vote against their own deal and they still have not ruled this out. The one aspect of Labour's Brexit policy which is certain is more delay and more argument, prolonging the uncertainty which is doing more damage to British business than almost any Brexit policy could.

Labour will also spend a vast amount of money, doubling the size of the state, which it is clear they don't have the faintest idea how to pay for: Labour claims that this could be funded by taxes on business and those who earn more than £80,000 a year have been exposed as nonsense.

Half way through the campaign Labour offered an extra £58 billion bribe which they don't even pretend to have included in their costings,  not just to those WASPI women who actually need help but to all women of a certain age whether they need it or not: for example, former Prime Minister Theresa May would receive £22,000 under this policy. Labour have no idea how they would pay for this: it would probably mean people on low incomes paying more tax to give Theresa May and
 women in her financial position a £22,000 payoff!

However, Labour have not repeated their previous promise to cancel student debt and have even tried to pretend Jeremy Corbyn never said he would like to do this (which he did.)

The one thing of which we can be certain: whatever the opinion polls suggest, the one poll which matters is a fortnight today on 12th December.

Quote of the day 28th November 2019

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Music to relax after campaigning: Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in A Minor RV356

Quote of the day 27th November 2019

"For as long as we think the problem we face is one of anti-Semites and not as one of anti-Semitism we will misdiagnose it.

The "virus" metaphor has been one factor - albeit one among several others - that has stood in the way of Labour facing up to its problem.

Jewish leaders and their allies habitually reach for the "virus" or "poison" metaphor, and this prevents them from calling Labour to account more effectively.

When Labour leaders and supporters say there are few anti-Semites in the party, they are right. But this leads them to imagine mistakenly that they can address anti-Semitism by ejecting "a few bad apples."

The reality is that Labour’s anti-Semitism problem is neither so simple nor contained: the issue is one of anti-Semitism, not anti-Semites.

This is something that will only be addressed by education, contrition and a leadership able to recognize and explain to members how racism can enter a political party, even one that conceives itself as the embodiment of anti-racist principles."

(David Feldman,  Director of the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London where he is also a Professor of History. He was a Vice Chair of the Chakrabarti Inquiry into Antisemitism and other forms of racism in the British Labour Party.

This is the conclusion of an excellent and original article into how we can more effectively oppose Anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, which can be read in full here.)

Anti-Semitism and Anti-Muslim prejudice

Last year I successfully proposed, in a non-partisan manner which was able to obtain all-party support, that Cumbria County Council should adopt the IHRA working definition of Anti-Semitism.

I said while proposing that motion that no party is completely free of Anti-Semitism and that no party can afford to be complacent about it.

I also said while proposing the same motion that there are other forms of prejudice which are also very worrying and called out prejudice against Muslims as one of them. The previous comment about Anti-Semitism applies to these forms of prejudice too - that no party is completely free of such prejudice or can afford to be complacent also applies.

The extraordinary comments by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, warning that the Labour party is not doing enough to root out Anti-Semitism should be treated very seriously.

I think it is almost impossible to credibly dispute that the worst problem with a form of racism in a mainstream political party on the UK mainland is Anti-Semitism in the Labour party, a problem currently being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights commission.

It is my personal impression that another significant problem, which does not get called out anything like as often as it should be, is Anti-English bigotry in the Scottish National Party.

Almost every political party has either had to expel or suspend members, or should have, because of a wide range of hate speech or unacceptable conduct. Anti-Jewish or Anti-Muslim prejudice are the most common, but the Labour party was also called out this week for Anti-Hindu prejudice.

While I do not for one second think that the Conservative party has anything like as serious a problem with either Anti-Semitism or Anti-Muslim prejudice as Labour has with Anti-Semitism, we cannot afford to ignore either.

That's why I welcome the fact that, when he was asked about this today, the Prime Minister did apologise for anti-Muslim prejudice in the Conservative party and confirmed that an inquiry into "every manner of prejudice and discrimination" in the party would begin by Christmas.

Former Conservative chairman Baroness Warsi, who has been calling for an inquiry, said the apology was "a good start".

The difference between Boris Johnson's willingness to apologise, admit that there is a problem and describe what will be done about it, and Jeremy Corbyn's refusal to apologise for Labour's Anti-Semitism problem was glaring.

Conservatives promise Whitehaven Relief Road.

Conservatives promise Whitehaven relief road

Chancellor Sajid Javid and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps were in Cumbria today to launch the Conservative party's North West manifesto.

Speaking in Cleator Moor this afternoon, they promised a Conservative majority government will proceed with the scheme which had massive local support in a recent public consultation.

The announcement was warmly welcomed by the audience.

Sajid Javid and Grant Shapps also promised to proceed with other proposals to unlock the potential of the North West, including making the transpennine A66 route a dual carriageway, providing better trains on local rail services, and reviewing the possibility of reactivating the rail line to Silloth as part of a programme of reversing the Beeching-era cuts to the rail network.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Follow on quote of the day 26th November 2019

"The Chief Rabbi is, sadly, quite justified in saying what he says. I can't vote to put the appalling people at the head of the Labour party into power. I'm stunned at some of the people who can."

(Philip Collins @PCollinsTimes on Twitter today)

Quote of the day 26th November 2019

"The way in which the leadership of the Labour Party has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud - of dignity and respect for all people."

"It has left many decent Labour members and parliamentarians, both Jewish and non-Jewish, ashamed of what has transpired."

Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, writing in today's Tunes.

He added that it was "not my place to tell any person how they should vote" but he urged the public to "vote with their conscience".

The Chief Rabbi also said that the response of Labour's leadership to threats against parliamentarians, members and staff has been "utterly inadequate" and said it "can no longer claim to be the party of equality and anti-racism".

Monday, November 25, 2019

Boris in Wales

Today, the Prime Minister is in Wales – launching our Welsh Conservative manifesto. The United Kingdom is the most successful political and economic union in history. Together, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are safer, stronger and more prosperous. And as the Conservative and Unionist Party, we believe our best days lie ahead.
The key things a majority Conservative government will deliver for Wales are:
  • £1.8 billion of new Barnett Consequentials for Welsh public services as a result of our commitments in the manifesto to England.
  • A commitment to negotiate a Marches Growth Deal, to invest in local economic growth and cross-border infrastructure.
  • Continuing our offer to support the Welsh Government to build the M4 relief road and committing to upgrading the A55 in Wales.
  • A commitment to back Welsh automobile manufacturing as the industry transitions to building electric vehicles.
  • Supporting the ambition to have one million people speaking Welsh by 2050.

Quote of the day 25th November 2019

“All Labour governments end with an economic crisis. 
As far as I can tell, the only difference with Corbyn and John McDonnell is they intend to start with an economic crisis.”

(Boris Johnson)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Conservative manifesto launched

The Prime Minister has launched the 2019 Conservative General Election Manifesto. 
If there is a majority of Conservative MPs on 13 December, we will get our new deal through Parliament. We will get Brexit done in January and unleash the potential of our whole country.
We guarantee:
  • Extra funding for the NHS, with 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP surgery appointments a year.
  • 20,000 more police and tougher sentencing for criminals.
  • An Australian-style points-based system to control immigration.
  • Millions more invested every week in science, schools, apprenticeships and infrastructure while controlling debt.
  • Reaching Net Zero by 2050 with investment in clean energy solutions and green infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and pollution.
  • We will not raise the rate of income tax, VAT or National Insurance.

Please support a majority Conservative Government so our country can move on instead of going backwards.
Here are some other key commitments:
  • Cutting taxes for working people by raising the National Insurance Contributions threshold, saving 31 million taxpayers around £100 next year. Our ultimate ambition is to raise the threshold to £12,500 – which would put almost £500 in people’s pockets.
  • Supporting working parents with a £1 billion boost for childcare to increase the availability of after school and holiday childcare.
  • Ending unfair hospital car parking charges to support our fantastic NHS staff on night shifts, as well as disabled and terminally ill patients and their families.
  • Investing in clean energy to protect our planet and create more jobs – £9.2 billion to make our homes, schools and hospitals more energy efficient, £1 billion extra to expand the electric vehicle charging network, increasing offshore wind capacity and £800 million to establish Carbon Capture and Storage clusters.
  • Improving infrastructure across the country with £2 billion for the biggest ever pothole-filling programme.
  • Giving individuals and businesses the right to re-train with £3 billion for a new National Skills Fund.
  • Supporting small businesses – by cutting and reforming business rates, increasing the employment allowance, as well as the Building and Structures allowance.
  • Launching the fastest ever increase in domestic public research and development spending in British history – increasing R&D spending so that it reaches £18 billion in 2024-25.
  • Protecting our environment – with a £640 million Nature for Climate fund, 30,000 more trees planted every year, as well as a £500 million Blue Planet Fund to protect our precious oceans, and banning exporting plastic waste outside the OECD

Sunday Music Spot: Sanctus from Mozart's short mass in D

How not to conduct a politicsl discussion

A sad reflection on the state of British politics provided today by a tweet from an SNP parliamentary candidate:

Now I have not always been the greatest fan of the Liberal Democrats and am seriously out of  sympathy with the platform on which they are fighting the current election.

But I cannot see that shouting obscenities at canvassers who you think are Lib/Dems - or any other party for that matter - is exactly constructive or commendable.

The fact that a parliamentary candidate thought it was OK to give a "Big shout out" to someone who did this - or for apologising when she realised she had shouted at the wrong party, which should make no difference at all - is a very good metaphor for the deplorable state of political discourse in this country.

Professor Angus Dalgleish on Labour's NHS policy

Following up my quote of the day from this morning.

Campaign update from Kells

Copeland Conservatives were out again today campaigning in Kells.

Struck by the number of lifelong Labour voters who will not be backing them this time.

One gentleman said to me that he will be voting Conservative for the first time in his life. Another told a colleague that he just cannot vote Labour while Jeremy Corbyn is their leader.

Yesterday in Cleator Moor, another voter who is switching from Labour to the Conservatives told me that if you had told him ten years ago he'd ever vote Conservative rather than Labouir he'd not have believed you.

I said "No, but it's not the same Labour party you used to vote for, is it?" and he agreed.

These were not one-off comments.

The only test of support which matters will be the one in the ballot box on 12th December and there is still everything to play for, but I am now cautiously optimistic.

Policy update: bursaries for trainee nurses to be reinstated

Great news that the Conservative manifesto includes re-introduction of bursaries for trainee nurses.

Of all the economies which were made to reverse the financial crisis inherited by the coalition in 2010 when the government was spending a pound for every found pounds coming in, this was the one which most cried out to be reversed as soon as financial circumstances permit.

Very welcome announcement.

Cartoon of the campaign to date ...

Boris Johnson used a very old, but entirely appropriate, line making the same point about Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit position:

"He used to be indecisive, now he's not so sure."

The old ones are the best ones.

Quote of the day 24th November 2019

"When I read the reports that Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party is proposing a four-day working week, I could not believe any supposedly serious politician was contemplating something so fundamentally stupid. 

"Yes, I can see it might buy Labour some cheap votes at the ballot box, especially from those won over by the economically illiterate, but electorally compelling, footnote — that a shorter week (32 hours) would involve no loss of pay. 

"But this completely ignores the fact that reducing the hours of public-sector employees — doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters, police officers, etc — would impose an extra cost on the Treasury, because the workforce would have to expand to ensure productivity and service delivery. 

"What Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, are choosing to ignore is that this proposal would spell the end of the NHS as we know it. That's the same NHS the Labour Party is supposed to love and cherish. The same NHS that Mr Corbyn insists — over and over — won't be safe in Tory hands. 

"Well, you might — just might — be able to produce enough widgets of the appropriate standard in a four-day week, but you certainly can't produce good doctors or nurses, or deliver first-class healthcare.

"I have worked in the NHS for more than 40 years, and I can tell Mr Corbyn that his radical plan would be a catastrophe." 

(Professor Angus Dalgleish, a consultant oncologist at St George's, London, extracts from an article which anyone thinking of voting Labour in the naïve and untrue belief that they will be helping the NHS, and also any Labour politician who is sincere about helping the NHS and wants to understand the downside of their policies, should read in full here.)

He has also said this week,

"I don't think the NHS would survive a Labour government."

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Supporting our NHS

The National Health Service is near the top of the priority list of the vast majority of voters.

We need to give the NHS more support to deal with the challenges it faces

And so today, we’ve announced that a Conservative majority government will:
All this is in sharp contrast to Labour’s four day week which would cripple our NHS, and leave it with less funding.

Unleashing Britain's potential

Here are some of the Conservatives' plans to unleash the potential of this dynamic country. A Conservative majority Government will:
  • Build more homes, get people onto the housings ladder, and make renting fairer. 
  • Yesterday, we’ve announced our plan to charge non UK residents more tax on homes they buy here to help make homes more affordable for UK nationals.
  • Cut taxes for 31 million people by raising the national insurance threshold from £8,632 to £9,500 – meaning a tax cut of approximately £100 for millions of workers.
  • Boost our economy and support small business with a range of tax cuts on business rates, jobs taxes, building taxes and R&D.
  • Crack down on crime and support vulnerable victims by properly punishing criminals and taking further action to prevent reoffending.
  • Make it easier to see your GP - with 50 million more appointments in GP surgeries, more GPs, more pharmacists and easier ways to book appointments, and a new visa to attract the best doctors and nurses to work in our NHS.
  • Take control of our borders by ending free movement and replacing it with an Australian-style points-based immigration system so we can be in control of who comes here.
  • Transform further education by launching a huge new rebuilding programme which will ensure we are able to prepare young people for their future.
  • Invest in infrastructure to improve opportunities across the country.
  • Protect our environment with a £640 million Nature for Climate fund, 30,000 more trees planted every year, as well as a £500 million Blue Planet Fund to protect our precious oceans.

More in our manifesto which will be launched tomorrow.

Chris Moncrieff RIP

Christopher Moncrieff CBE, a political reporter who covered Westminster for more than 50 years for the Press Association, died yesterday at the age of 88.

Chris Moncrieff continued to file stories long after he officially retired in 1994 and published articles in local newspapers in Cumbria until very recently - if my memory is not playing tricks he wrote at least one column in the Whitehaven news earlier this year.

He was once described by Sir John Major as a "National Treasure" and by the Press Association's current editor-in-chief  Pete Clifton as a "legend".

In 2007, the House of Commons press bar was renamed in Mr Moncrieff's honour.

The new House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who first met Mr Moncrieff in 1997 when he was elected to Parliament, said:

"Chris was the last of the great old journalists, the old school that everybody respected." 

He is survived by the four children he had with his late wife, Margaret.

Rest in Peace.

Music to relax after campaigning: Winter from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, 3rd movement

Out Campaigning today

Copeland Conservatives have been out campaigning today in various parts of the constituency including Cleator Moor and Frizington.

There will not be any "no-go" areas and we are trying to get round as much of this huge constituency as possible.

Generally friendly reception, and we appear to be getting a fair bit of support, at least for this election, from people who are not naturally Conservative supporters. But we are not taking anything for granted - still everything to play for and no room for complacency.

One doorstep brought back recollections of an amusing incident in Cleator Moor during the 2017 by-election. Trudy and the team were approaching a house I recognised, with a couple of dogs barking at us from the window, and I said 

"Oh, yes, that's the dog who pulled my folder through the letterbox."

This had happened back in the 2017 by-election in which Trudy Harrison was first elected MP for Copeland. Hearing the noise of barking, I had used my folder to push a calling card through the letterbox to avoid exposing my fingers to the risk of getting bitten. Unfortunately the dog grabbed the folder, gave a tremendous heave and pulled it inside.

I came back a couple of hours later, to be met at the door by the homeowner with my folder in his hand and a big grin on his face. We took one look at each other and both fell about laughing. 

Back to today; I had scarcely started to mention this to the team when the homeowner appeared at the window, recognised me, and pointed to his dog with a smile. We exchanged a thumbs-up sign. 

Quote of the day 23rd November 2019

Friday, November 22, 2019

"The longest suicide note in history" has now been surpassed as the worst manifesto ever ...

Until this week the most preposterous manifesto ever put before the British electorate by a major party in a general election in my lifetime was that put by Michael Foot's Labour party in 1983, which was widely described as

"The longest suicide note in history."

(That particular put-down is widely believed to have come from Gerald Kaufman a member of Foot's own shadow cabinet. Conservatives rarely have to think up good lines to use to attack the Labour party- as Ted Heath once said, they do it so well themselves.)

However, the manifesto which Labour have put out this week is so utterly impractical, duplicitous, unworkable, and just downright bonkers that it steals the title of the worst manifesto I have ever seen from any previous offering.

This manifesto would be completely impossible to deliver, but any attempt to do the things Labour promises would have gigantic and in my opinion utterly disastrous consequences.

Labour's manifesto is also completely misleading in that they claim to be able to implement and raise the £83 billion they say it would cost (although that is probably a massive underestimate

Paul Johnson, Director of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies is one of the many experts who criticised the plans. In this interview he explained that the "colossal" spending programme Labour proposes would double what the government does and mean the largest programme of state spending in British history: he doubts that it would be possible to achieve an expansion that large in a five year parliament.

He also points out that Labour's plans are misleading in that they say they would fund them entirely by higher taxes on companies and those earning more than £80,000 a year, but in practice it is simply not possible to raise that much money without a large chunk of it being paid by people on middle and indeed lower incomes.

For example, you can't put the sort of taxes on companies which Labour propose to impose without a large proportion of the impact falling on the pension funds in which the savings of millions of ordinary people are invested.

Here is what Paul Johnson, IFS Director, wrote about Labour's plans on the IFT site:

“The Labour Party manifesto offers a very substantial increase in the role of the state, one that is even larger than the big increase offered in their last manifesto. They estimate that their measures would push up day-to-day spending by £80 billion in 2023–24."

"They estimate that their tax raising measures would bring in a similar sum, which if delivered would push the tax burden well above levels sustained in the UK since the Second World War. 

They also plan to increase investment spending by £55 billion a year, a doubling on current levels and even more than the substantial increases proposed by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.

There are risks with both the proposed spending increases and the proposed tax rises.

"It will be extremely hard simply to deliver anything like this scale of increase in capital spending, at least in the near-term, certainly in an efficient and cost effective way. If the intention really is to scrap Universal Credit and replace it with an entirely new benefit system then, as the last decade has shown, this would come with the risk of huge administrative complexity and costs. 

"A particularly expensive commitment is on the state pension age. Rather than allowing it to rise as longevity increases, Labour wants to keep it at age 66, a very expensive pledge in the face of demographic change. This would add a projected £24 billion a year to spending by the 2050s.

"The commitment to abolish university tuition fees remains an expensive giveaway to the highest earning graduates and has the potential to make it difficult to maintain a system without a cap on student numbers.

"On the tax side the proposals in the Labour manifesto represent an enormous increase in the amounts they want to raise from corporation tax. If their proposals did raise the sums they suggest then we would be raising more in corporation tax, as a fraction of national income, than any other country in the G7, and more than almost anywhere else in the OECD. This would clearly come with substantial risks.

"The truth is of course that in the end corporation tax is paid by workers, customers or shareholders so would affect many in the population. In the end, it is unlikely that one could raise the sums suggested by Labour from the tax policies they set out.

"If you want to transform the scale and scope of the state then you need to be clear that the tax increases required to do that will need to be widely shared rather than pretending that everything can be paid for by companies and the rich.”

The IFS also had this to say about Labour's tax proposals
  • Labour’s proposed income tax rise for those with incomes above £80,000 would affect only the highest-income 3% of adults. But this accounts for less than a tenth of the additional revenue Labour says it would raise. 
  • About three-quarters of the revenue comes from increasing taxes on companies and their shareholders. It would be a mistake to think of this as falling entirely on ‘the rich’. To the extent that corporation tax falls on company shareholders, that includes everyone with a defined contribution pension. 
  • And in practice much of the burden will be passed on to companies’ employees through lower wages, and customers through higher prices – and that means all of us. Labour proposes to raise the main rate of corporation tax to 26% and reintroduce a small profits rate at 21%. 
  • In terms of headline tax rate, that would move the UK from one of the lowest headline rates in the OECD to above average. Alongside other corporation tax increases proposed, this would move the UK from raising an average share of national income in corporation tax to the highest in the G7 (see chart below) – if the reform raises the revenue Labour hopes. 
  • In the short run, the increase in the rate of corporation tax might bring in the £20 billion Labour says. In the long run it would bring in less, as a less competitive rate would reduce investment, and therefore productivity and wages, in the UK. 
  • Labour’s proposed reforms to the taxation of capital gains and dividends could represent moves in the right direction; its proposal for a financial transactions tax much less so.
It is worth pointing out that the costs in KLabour's manifesto many in many respects be an underestimate. As I explained in my article on Conservative Home, Labour have certainly underestimated the cost of their proposals to nationalise Broadband - the chairman of BT suggests they might not get much change from £100 billion for the policy, if the European Court of Justice allowed to go ahead with it.

Then there is the lunacy of Labour's four day week policy which would handicap business and mean ward, department and hospital closures in public services like the NHS.

Labour's economic policies are the stuff of fantasy. They would bankrupt Britain. They might as well offer everyone a free unicorn.

Copeland political quiz question

Guess which Cumbrian politician said this of Jeremy Corbyn a few years ago:

He described Corbyn as a " “throwback to an age of class war that has now gone,”

and as the “political equivalent of Orangemen, locked in a struggle that no longer exists”,

adding that

“I have not and will not support him or his bonkers, unworkable, radically left-wing policies and that will bring nothing but ruin to the party.”

Yes, the person who posted those words on social media a few years ago is now Labour's candidate for Copeland in the current election.

He was right then.

He is wrong now.

Quote of the day 22nd November 2019

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has described the spending plans in the Labour manifesto as "colossal" and their promise to fund it by raising £80 billion from companies and people who earn more then £80,000 a year as "not credible."

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fixing Britain's housing market

Too many people are losing out because Britain does not have enough homes, of the sort people want and need, in the places they want to live,

This is particularly tough on young people and families but it affects people of all ages.

Purist ideological solutions are not the answer because both the market and the state have failed - the market has not delivered enough housing where it is needed but this has a great deal to do with state regulation. Britain's housing market is tightly regulated (as I should know having spent years on planning committees.)

The main reason young people and others on low incomes are being priced out of good options on the housing market is that Britain simply does not have enough homes in the right places. So a majority Conservative government will take the following action:

  • Build one million more homes in the next five years.
  • Strengthen the rights of renters by ending short notice ‘no fault evictions’.
  • Help more people onto the housing ladder by introducing a discount home scheme and by encouraging innovation in the mortgage market.
  • Improve the system for paying your deposit by introducing a deposit passporting scheme.

Helping people with the cost of living

Yesterday, we announced that a Conservative majority government will cut taxes for millions of hard working people.
We will help people with the cost of living with our plans to:
  • Cut taxes for 31 million people by raising the national insurance threshold from £8,632 to £9,500 – meaning a tax cut of approximately £100 for millions of workers.
  • Ultimately raise the threshold to £12,500 for all people which would put almost £500 in people’s pockets.
  • Since 2010 we have already cut income tax for 32 million people by raising the level of personal allowance to £12,500 – meaning a typical basic rate taxpayer now pays £1,205 less tax than in 2010.
This tax cut demonstrates that once we get Brexit done, our priority is helping hard working people on low incomes and improving their lives.

Quote of the day 21st November 2019

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Fighting crime and protecting the interests of victims of crime

I wrote earlier about how Conservatives will put the victims of crime at the heart of the criminal justice system. A Conservative majority government will deliver on people’s priorities by tackling serious violence, making our communities safer. We’ll give vulnerable victims the support they need to cope and recover by:
  • Supporting rape victims – with a £15 million cash boost to cut delays, speed up charging decisions, and keep more victims engaged with the process until trial.
  • Protecting domestic abuse victims by passing our Domestic Abuse Bill by Spring 2020 and implementing it quickly.
  • Enshrining the rights of victims in law - with a Victims’ Law which that guarantees their rights and the level of support they should receive.
  • Boosting funding for specialist victim services – with a victim surcharge which imposes a levy on convicted offenders based on their sentence, with income contributing to the funding the MoJ provides to victim services.
  • Reforming the parole system – with a root-and-branch review of prisoner release arrangements and reform the parole system to make it more transparent.