Saturday, February 29, 2020

Campaigning in Whitehaven

Copeland Conservatives had a good campaigning session today in the Bay Vista area of Whitehaven Central ward, on behalf of our candidate in the Copeland Borough Council by-election, William Dixon.

We found a lot of support: we also heard, and paid careful attention to, strong concerns by local residents about planning proposals which have come back yet again, despite being refused twice by the councillors on the Planning Panel, a refusal which was sustained at appeal, to build new houses which would be served by the already overloaded and unsatisfactory access through Elizabeth Crescent.

Bill Dixon has listened carefully to these concerns and we will make sure they are passed on to the appropriate councillors and officers.

Supporting schools

Yesterday the Education Secretary announced that schools with poor discipline will receive expert support to curb unruly behaviour and prevent disruption in the classroom.

  • All over the country we see examples of schools with great behaviour cultures achieving incredible things for their pupils – and we want that to be the norm.
  • That’s why we are investing £10 million to improve discipline as part of our work to raise school standards for all. Supported by renowned behaviour experts, the funding will set up exemplary schools as ‘Behaviour Hubs’ and pair them with those that need to transform their culture – equipping them with the tools they need to tackle poor behaviour.
  • By empowering teachers with the best evidence to make decisions that are right for our schools, we can ensure every child gets the best education and deliver on our manifesto commitment to back teachers to improve discipline.

Pirates of Penzance - a paradox for leap year day

Quotes of the day for 29th February 2020

 And from the film "Leap Year:"

Friday, February 28, 2020

Action to help the homeless and end rough sleeping

New figures released yesterday showed rough sleeping has fallen for the second consecutive year across England, but there is still more we must do to end rough sleeping for good.

  • The latest figures show rough sleeping has fallen by 9 per cent in the last year. This is welcome progress, but it remains unacceptable that people find themselves sleeping on the streets at night.
  • That is why the Prime Minister has appointed Dame Louise Casey as an independent adviser to lead an urgent review into the causes of rough sleeping and we have announced an extra £236 million to provide accommodation for up to 6,000 rough sleepers, giving them stability and certainty over the long-term.
  • We are determined to end the scourge of rough sleeping by the end of 2024 and are taking the steps necessary to achieve this, meeting our moral obligation to support the most vulnerable in society.

Quote of the day 28th February 2020

North West Regional Conservative elections

There have been two sets of elections in which nominations closed today: as well as the Whitehaven Central by-election, nominations also closed for the officers of the North West Region of the Conservative party.

Full details of persons nominated are expected to be confirmed on Monday, but I would like to thank colleagues in the areas which nominated me for re-election as Deputy Chairman (political and campaigning.)

William Dixon for Whitehaven Central on 26th March 2020

Nominations closed today in the Whitehaven Central by-election for Copeland Borough Council.

The election will take place on Thursday, 26th March 2020 between the hours of 07:00 am and 10:00 pm.

Applications to register to vote by residents not currently on the electoral register but entitled to be must reach the Electoral Registration Officer by 12 midnight on Tuesday, 10th March 2020.

New applications to vote by post or to change existing postal or proxy arrangements e.g. cancellation or re-direction etc must reach the Electoral Registration Officer at the Copeland Centre by 5pm on Wednesday, 11th March 2020 if they are to be effective for this election.

New applications to vote by proxy must be received by the Electoral Registration Officer by 5pm on Wednesday, 18th March 2020.

This election was caused because a Labour councillor was disqualified from office under the six-month rule for failing to attend a single council meeting for six months.

Prior to his disqualification, according to the Whitehaven News, this Labour councillor had managed to get to just three of the eighteen meetings he could have attended.

I should perhaps add that the reason for his difficulty in attending meetings is that he had moved to France.

That isn't necessarily an absolute disqualification. I can recall a decade ago a colleague who was representing the former Bransty ward which covered much of the same area as the new Whitehaven Central ward also had to move to France for employment reasons. However, there was a very important difference: he continued to make regular visits to Copeland, to deal with casework by phone and email, and he actually did get to the great majority of the council meetings he was due to attend.

There was a very strong field to be the  Conservative candidate in the by election, with no fewer than five candidates expressing an interest in standing. The Conservative party is grateful to all these members for their interest.  A meeting of Conservative members this week selected William Dixon from among the excellent candidates who put their names forward and he will be the Conservative candidate in the by-election.

William Dixon's priorities for Whitehaven Central will include

1) Tackling dog fouling and litter

2) Working to improve the street scene

3) To be a strong voice for local residents.

And we will be out campaigning for him from tomorrow!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Quote of the day 27th February 2020

“If people seem slightly stupid, they’re probably just stupid. But if they seem colossally and inexplicably stupid, you probably differ in some kind of basic assumption so fundamental that you didn’t realise you were assuming it.”

(This is a line quoted by science writer Tom Chivers in a review on the Unherd website of the book 'Radical Uncertainty: Decision-making for an unknowable future,' by Mervyn King and John Kay.

The review is called "Are Economists really this stupid?")

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Looking again at Britain's place in the world

Today the Prime Minister set out a new review to define Britain’s place in the world, so we can ensure Britain can meet the global challenges of the future.

  • The UK’s institutions, expertise, leadership and values are renowned around the world. But as the world changes we must move with it, and ensure we are utilising the best technology and the latest ways of thinking.
  • That’s why we are launching an Integrated Review of foreign policy, defence, security and international development, bringing in a wide range of expertise to re-examine the UK’s priorities and objectives, and ensure our great country is equipped to meet the global challenges of the future.
  • By fulfilling this key manifesto commitment, we will ensure that British foreign policy is rooted firmly in our national interests, not just now but also in the decades ahead.

Protecting our police officers

The Home Secretary has outlined further plans to protect our police officers and crack down on the violent criminals who attack them, so that we ensure the safety of the officers who keep us safe. 

  • British people care about the health, wellbeing and welfare of our police officers, but incidents like the appalling death of PC Andrew Harper last summer shows that something has given.
  • That’s why the Home Secretary has announced a consultation on the Police Covenant to make sure our police officers feel valued, while at the same time strengthening the law against criminals who assault our police officers so they get tougher sentences that fit the nature of the assault.
  • These measures will make clear to criminals that to hurt a police officer is simply unacceptable, and help protect and support all our brave officers for generations to come.

Quote of the day 26th February 2020

‘I hate Tories’ won’t put Labour back in power 

“Those who still insist that Jeremy Corbyn ‘won the argument’ at the last election, despite leading his party to its worst defeat since the 1930s, take a strange pride in turning inwards ... 

Zarah Sultana, the new Labour MP for Coventry South, says she cannot see a Conservative in the House of Commons without thinking about ‘the harm they’ve caused’.

 She is so hostile to her political opponents that, during the recent elections for Commons select committee chairs, she tweeted a video of herself putting flyers from Tory MPs into the bin — an entirely futile gesture because the committees are divided up between the parties, based on their representation in parliament. 

Her commitment to the left-wing cause is so total that she even lumps her own party’s moderates in with the wicked Tories, calling in her maiden speech for the end of ‘40 years of Thatcherism’ as if the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had never existed. 

For this faction of the party, holding power is itself a betrayal.”

The above is set of extracts from an article in The Times by Rachel Sylvester on the self-defeating partisan politics of the hard left.

It is worth pointing out that the left of the Labour party are far from being the only people who are prone to falling into the self-defeating trap of demonising those who disagree with you. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Bluff, bluster, brilliance, and brains

Former Blairite adviser Geoff Mulgan has written an interesting post on his blog called

"Bluff, bluster, brilliance, and brains"

which compares attempts to get a wider range of ideas into the government of the country under Tony Blair and under Boris Johnson.

A couple of quotes from it:

"Without buy in from the bottom the top down changes rarely stick, even in states with authoritarian powers far beyond what UK ministers could dream of ... If there is no strategy for engaging hearts and minds the programme is almost certain to fail." 

"Government needs a constant influx of heretics to challenge the tendencies to cynical and world-weary fatalism that can overcome any bureaucracy."

"Policy cannot be separated from implementation, and no amount of cleverness can make up for lack of feel for how things really work."

"The biggest flaw that besets governments is their failure to learn. The best ones invest heavily in learning from their failures and their successes, and one key argument for a permanent civil service is that it organises a collective memory. Yet ours is surprisingly had at managing its memory, constantly reinvents wheels or forgets what worked and why."

You can read the whole thing here.

Cutting air pollution

The Environment Secretary has announced that we will phase out sales of the most polluting fuels for household fires, helping to improve air quality and leaving our environment in a better condition for future generations.

  • Wood burning stoves and coal fires are some of the biggest emitters of harmful pollutants in this country, damaging to both people’s health and the environment.
  • We want to move towards using cleaner fuels, which is why we will phase out the sale of traditional house coal and wet wood in England between 2021 and 2023, giving the public and suppliers time to move to cleaner alternatives.
  • This is the latest step in our world-leading Clean Air Strategy, as we work to clean up the air, improving people’s health, cutting household bills and leaving our environment in a better condition.

Consultation on keeping venues safe from terror attacks

The government is launching a consultation into a new ‘protect duty’ for venue operators – to help keep the public safe from terror attacks.

  • The devastating attacks in 2017, and more recently at Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham, are stark reminders of the current threat we face. 
  • Venues and public spaces need to have effective protective security and preparedness measures, and this public consultation will lead to a proportionate law that will help keep people safe while not putting undue pressure on businesses. 
  • The proposed ‘protect duty’ reflects the proposals put forward by the family of Martyn Hett, who was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing attack in 2017. 
  • Our first priority is keeping the public safe and preventing more families from suffering the heartbreak of losing a loved one.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Commemorating the heroes of World War II

The Prime Minister has unveiled plans to commemorate the heroes of World War Two on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

  • The 75th anniversary of VE Day marks a historic opportunity for us to honour the heroes of the Second World War and reflect on the sacrifices they made to defend freedom and secure peace across Europe.
  • That’s why we will be coming together as a country with commemorations across the UK on 8 May, with hundreds of veterans taking part in the Royal British Legion’s programme of events, Churchill’s victory speech being broadcast across the country, and a fly past Buckingham Palace by the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
  • With further events also planned for VJ Day later in the year, this programme of events gives the whole nation a chance to thank all those involved for everything they did, while also reminding ourselves of the fragility of peace and the need for us all to collectively uphold it.

Investing in Cross-Country Trains

The Conservative government is investing £2.5 million in Cross Country trains – improving journeys for thousands of passengers across the Midlands and making our country better connected.
  • We are funding benefits to improve journeys for passengers in the short-term, as well as making sure our trains are fit for the future. 
  • Our £2.5 million investment will produce over 20,000 extra seats a week from mid-2021 – with a boost of 5,000 a week by May this year for passengers travelling from Birmingham to Nottingham, Leicester and Cardiff. 
  • Investing in transport is essential to levelling up the country, as we look to modernise our rail network and restructure the industry to put passengers at the heart of the railway.

Latest news on Coronavirus

We are continuing our world-leading efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus.

  • Latest news today (24th February) is that there are four new cases of coronavirus in the UK, bringing the total number of cases of this disease in the UK to thirteen. 
  • Public safety is the government's top priority - the UK health authorities are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus and Public Health England is continuing to work hard tracing patient contacts from the UK cases. 
  • The NHS remains well-prepared and well-equipped, with a number of robust measures in place and access to capital funding if they need further support. 
  • The UK is one of the first countries in the world to have developed an accurate test for this coronavirus and we are undertaking continuous refinement of this test – in addition to investing £20 million to develop a new vaccine for coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

Quote of the day 24th February 2020

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sunday music spot: "Te lucis ante terminum" (Tallis) sung by The Gesualdo Six

The difference between trust and truthfulness

Let me make clear that I regard it as important that
  • people involved in politics at all levels should try to make their public statements as accurate as possible, 
  • I hugely regret that, with some honourable exceptions on both sides, there was a dire failure to do this by the campaigns on both sides of the EU referendum, and 
  • I think that British politics would be hugely improved if people in all the major parties were to improve the accuracy of the things they say.
In other words nothing in this post is meant to justify false or misleading statements.

I have just discovered an interesting article by Will Dunn published by the New Statesman, dated on General Election day (somehow I missed it when it originally came out - I was just a little busy on that day!) called

"Why voters trust certain politicians, even when they know they’re lying."

Dunn quotes an academic from the other side of the pond, Stephen Martin, who says that

“Lots of us confuse truth and trust.

Martin continues:

 “We think they’re either the same thing, or they have some relationship – which is not true.” 

In etymology the two concepts may be linked but in psychology,

“trustworthiness is essentially our ability to predict someone else’s future behaviour”. 

In other words it is possible, and may even be rational, when asked if you believe everything that a political candidate has said is true, to consider that the answer is no, (either because you think they are mistaken or are deliberately lying,) but still vote for them because you think that they are more likely than the rival candidate to deliver something that you want and is very important to you.

I don't agree with everything in Dunn's article, and I have absolutely no wish to defend anyone in any party who fails to tell the voters what they think is true. I merely draw the attention of the article to anyone with an interest in politics in general and truth in politics in particular because if you want to understand how to make truth-telling more prevalent you have to start by understanding how those who have not been completely straightforward with the voters often get away with it.

You can read Will Dunn's article here.

NB. I have deliberately worded this article to avoid making partisan points about which side in politics is more truthful, and instead tried to approach the issue from the perspective that all parties need to do better. Any comments which take a similar approach will be welcome and will be read with interest. 

I reserve the right not to accept comments on this particular thread which take a much more partisan view and particularly not any comments which amount to personal attacks on the integrity of someone who the person posting doesn't like. If you post "X is a liar" I will probably delete the post even if I agree with you.

Quote of the day 23rd February 2020

An explanation of one of the reasons the Conservatives won Blyth in December 2019, and praise for the hard work of Conservative councillors in that constituency, has come from an unexpected source - the constituency's former Labour MP until he stepped down at the election.

Photogtraph credit: Robert Booth/The Guardian.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Saturday Music spot: Requiem Aeternam - W.A. Mozart

Today's Saturday music spot, in memory of the leaders of the White Rose non-violent resistance whose judicial murder by the Nazis regime took place 77 years ago today, is "Requiem Aeternam," the first movement of the Mozart Requiem.

The words mean "Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them."

Quote of the day 22nd February 2020

Today is the 77th anniversary of the execution of three of the leaders of the non-violent  "White Rose" anti-Nazi resistance movement - young Germans who spoke out against the Nazi tyranny and died on the guillotine for doing so.

The author of the quote below is Sophie Scholl, whose judicial murder by the Nazi regime took place on 22nd February 1943, when she was 21 years old.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Thursday, February 20, 2020

So who shot themselves in the foot over Brexit? Guido's view

A year ago, Theresa May's Brexit proposals were repeatedly voted down by the votes of people who watned diametrically opposed things.

On the one side it was being opposed by those who wanted a harder Brexit, possibly even what they called "WTO Brexit" and most people call a No Deal one, and on the other side by people who wanted a softer Brexit or no Brexit at all.

I commented that both groups were playing with fire and they could not both get what they wanted: somebody was shooting themselves in the foot.

I don't think anyone knew for certain at the time which side was setting up the exact opposite of what they wanted - the one thing we could be certain of was that both sides were taking an enormous risk.

Of course, now we know that the people who dug their own graves were the soft-Brexiteers and hardline Remainers who voted against Theresa May and in the process gave the country a harder Brexit than they could have secured.

That doesn't mean that the people on the other side who opposed the WA were not taking an equally enormous risk - it looked at one stage as though the effect of the votes of these "Brexiteers against Brexit" might have kept Britain in the EU.

Guido Fawkes has a nomination for the group of MPs who did most to deliver the exact opposite of what they wanted here ...

Quote of the day 20th February 2020

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

February meeting of Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee

I've been away for a few days on business: details of the February meeting of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny were emailed out while I was away and the 237-page agenda was waiting for me when I arrived home.

The meeting will take place at 10.30 am next Tuesday, 23rd February 2020 in Conference Rooms A & B of Cumbria House, Botchergate, Carlisle, CA1 1RD.

It will be open to the public.

Agenda items include
  • Vascular services in North Cumbria, 
  • System plans around building integrated care in both North and South Cumbria, 
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health services in South Cumbria, and 
  • Possible changes to NHS podiatric service provided by the Morecambe Bay NHS Trust
The full agenda and supporting documents can be found here.

Midweek music spot: Steeleye Span - All Around My Hat

Quote of the day 19th February 2020

"More serious still for these voters was the principle that Labour had refused to implement the democratically expressed wishes of the people, and often of their own constituents.

Brexit therefore became a metaphor for a party that no longer listened to them, taking their votes for granted while dismissing their views as ignorant or backward.

“They were saying, ‘it’s the adults talking now, leave the table and we’ll sort it out for you’,” as one former supporter put it.

Another linked Labour’s apparent attitude on Brexit to Gordon Brown’s encounter with Gillian Duffy in 2010:

“He tarred her with the bigot brush rather than listening to what she had to say. It’s the same with Brexit.” 

These impressions – of a party unready for office and unwilling to listen – will not vanish just because the Brexit legislation is complete."

(Extracts from analysis of comments by former Labour voters who abandoned the party in December 2019 as reported in "Diagnosis of Defeat: Labour’s Turn to Smell the Coffee" by Lord Ashcroft.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Why a free society needs the rule of law and independent courts.

A free society needs more than the ballot box to function.

Anyone who imagines that a society which practices either direct democracy or representative democracy cannot be a tyranny needs only to look at the present governments of Russia or Turkey, at how Hitler or Mussolini came to power in the 20th century, or to read Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.

Only the rule of law and independent courts can stop a democracy from sometimes acting as the tyranny of the 51%.

John McDonnell. who wanted to lock up his political opponents and, when asked under what law, said he might have to invent one, will not now be Chancellor of this country. But he is one of too many people who think like Roper in Robert Bolt's play, "A man for all seasons."

And while there are men (and women) like that in British politics, on all sides, we need laws and strong independent courts to enforce them, as explained by Sir Thomas More in the play, here brilliantly depicted by Paul Scofield.

Statement of the day 18th February 2020

"No judge should ever deliberately act as an enemy of the people.

But neither should any judge ever fail to justly uphold the law because doing so will lead some people to call him or her and enemy of the people."

A statement not a quote, because this one is from me. More shortly on this topic.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Quote of the day 17th February 2020

"Free Speech includes not only the inoffensive, but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative, and the freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worthy having."

Mr Justice Julian Knowles, in a landmark High Court ruling which will be seen as a significant blow for freedom of speech. See extracts below of a report on the case.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Storm Dennis continued

Further to yesterday's post about storm disruption - check before setting off on a rail or air journey what services are running - a lot of trains and planes have been cancelled, delayed or amended this morning.

Sunday music spot for 16th February 2020, I Saw the Lord (John Stainer)

The Anglican church lectionary for today, the second Sunday before Lent, has the first eight verses of the book of Isaiah as the Old Testament lesson.

This chapter of the bible describes a vision of the Lord which the prophet experienced in the year when King Uzziah died. It was brilliantly set to music by John Stainer:

A Sunday reflection

I have been worshipping regularly at St James's Whitehaven for about as long as we have lived in the town, which will be fifteen years this year, but this morning at the 8am service my attention was drawn for the first time, perhaps by a trick of the light, to one particular stained glass window near where I usually sit, and I looked at it properly for the first time.

The bottom part of the window clearly represents the waves of the sea, and a pair of arms are reaching up from the waves to grasp a rope which is clearly a bell-pull.

The rope ascends to a church bell which is superimposed on the sun, whose rays descend back to the earth: but the wheels which swing the bell and the rays of the sun are depicted in a way which also makes them look like the wheels for the lift pulleys at the top of a mine shaft, and the struts of a tower supporting those wheels, of the kind which can still be seen at the top of the Haig Mining Museum where Haig Pit was once in operation and which are still a prominent landmark in the town of Whitehaven.

The two main industries with which Whitehaven was once associated were mining and seafaring. Both once exacted a heavy toll in human life and suffering.

It is right that we remember this.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Quote of the day for Valentines day: on Love

"Love is patient, love is kind. 

Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 

Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, love keeps no record of wrongs. 

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. 

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

Love never fails. 

Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. "

Three things will remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them all is love."

(From the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 13, verses 4:8 and 13)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Notes from today's full council meeting

Today was the budget meeting of Cumbria County Council.

Points to note

1) The Budget

The Conservative group moved an amendment, in three parts, to the administration  budget which would have allocated more money to local committees to provide innovative means to support community transport and improve local roads. It would also have provided more support for families in difficult circumstances.
In accordance with the council's latest rules of procedure for the budget, the Conservative amendments had been amendments had been submitted to council officers several days previously to be checked for practicality, legality and affordability and had received signoff as meeting those three tests. In spite of this a lot of time was spent in adjournments while the administration raised constitutional points about these amendments. Eventually after a lengthy debate the Labour and Lib/Dem groups voted against spending more money on improving the road infrastructure or supporting local transport initiatives.

The administration budget, increasing the county council share of council tax by 3.99% was then put to the council and passed with all the Labour and Lib/dem councillors voting in favour and all the Conservative county councillors and one independent voting against.

2) Statements

There were a number of statements by senior councillors and officers including a statement by the portfolio holder for Public Health about the Coronavirus

3) Questions
Questions were asked on issues including

West Cumbria Mining
Indpendent Nurseries
Special Planning arrangements
Bus service operators grant

I asked a question about the redundancies which Family Action are making at the Howgill centre, particularly with respect to the Breastfeeding co-ordinator.

4) Urgency Procedure - Grants for short breaks fur children with disabilities  and Mental Health provision

The leader of the council reported on grants which had been made under the urgency procedure.

5) Speeches.

There were two speeches, one by Councillor Clark and one from myself. The latter was on post-sixteen school transport, highlighting concerns that a number of sixth form school students are not being allowed to go to school on school buses despite there being places available. I will explain in more detail in a subsequent post.

Quote of the day 13th February 2020

“The billions of pounds they were promising for this, that and the was pie in the sky. People are not daft.”

(Former Labour voter explaining to pollster why they did not vote Labour in 2019, quoted in a report of a poll by Lord Ashcroft published in the Independent.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Why is it so hard to get reliable clocks these days?

Not all that long ago two of the main products sold by jewellers were clocks and watches.

Despite the fact that they mostly used what we would now consider obsolete technologies - mechanical ones, often based on springs - great effort was put into making them reliable.

So much so that the word "clockwork" entered the English language as a metaphor for something reliable which goes exactly according to plan. There can be no greater accolade for the professionalism of the people who used to make clocks that even today we still speak of something as having worked "with clockwork precision" or having "gone like clockwork" to indicate that it went off perfectly.

So why on earth are all the clocks you get in shops these days such unreliable rubbish?

(I would have used a much ruder expression but I try to keep the language on this blog suitable for a family audience.)

I think that what's happened is that these days a high proportion of the population - though not everyone - carries a smart phone or at least some kind of mobile phone, and our phones display the time, so we do not need clocks or watches.

So clocks are sold by a range of shops not as timepieces but decorations - and almost all of them, including those sold by middle-of the range and even upmarket shops, have the same cheap mechanisms bought from some sweatshop, probably in a country where the workers are paid less than a pound an hour.

The shops selling these cheap or decorative clocks as decorations have destroyed most of the volume which might otherwise have been available to the people making reliable clocks.

Yes, this is an example of the free market not working very well. No, an economy run by the government would not have done any better - indeed they probably would have done worse.

But I for one am done with buying clocks as decorations, even expensive ones - I have this old-fashioned prejudice for having clocks on the wall but I also have a preference for ones which show the right time.

Next time I buy a clock I will seek out a proper jeweller or specialist clockmaker who makes clocks which actually work.

Quotes of the day 12th February 2020

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America, the statesman who freed America's slaves and one of the greatest leaders any nation has ever had was born two hundred and eleven years ago today.

Here are five of his many famous quotes

"My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read" 

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”

“You can tell the greatness of a man by what makes him angry.”

“Tact: the ability to describe others as they see themselves.” 

And here is one, obviously, which isn't really his:

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

It's still very windy.

Caution is still advised when travelling in many parts of the UK including Cumbria.

Storm Ciara may have moved on but it is still very windy!

Quote of the day 11th February 2020

"The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things."

(Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States of America)

Monday, February 10, 2020

Budget Meeting of Cumbria County Council 13th February 2020

The 2020 budget meeting of Cumbria County Council will be held at County Hall in Kendal at 10am this coming Thursday, 13th February 2020.

The meeting will be open to the public.

The agenda has been published and is now available on the County Council website.

All papers for the budget meeting of the council can be read here.

Take care if travelling today

Travel is still very disrupted in the aftermath of Storm Ciara and there are still yellow warnings for high winds in many parts of Britain including Scotland, Cumbria, Lancashire and the South West.

Please take great care if you have to travel today.

Quote of the day 10th February 2020

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Sunday Music Spot: Vivaldi Gloria (1st movement)

Quote of the day 9th February 2020

"My dad would say 'Why the hell are we going to the gym at 4am?

"Park would say 'Because your mind doesn't want you to.'

"When you're body's saying you don't want to do something and you go and do it, you show your mind and your body that you're capable of doing it and you start to process everything differently."

(Patrick Schwarzenegger, in a Times magazine interview, on the mind-over-matter approach which the actor and bodybuilder Reg Park taught his father Arnold)

Saturday, February 08, 2020

2020 Budget meeting of Cumbria County Council

The 2020 budget meeting of Cumbria County Council will be held at County Hall in Kendal at 10am this coming Thursday, 13th February 2020.

The meeting will be open to the public.

The agenda has been published and is supposed to be available on the County Council website.

I will put up a link to the agenda when the relevant part of the site is definitely working.

The portal which is supposed to display agendas and minutes appears to be down at the moment, at least I cannot get it to display on my computers which are able to access plenty of other things on the internet including other parts of the CCC website.

As POTUS might say, "Sad."

UPDATE - the portal is now up and running and papers for the budget meeting of the council can be read at

Time to batten down

Storm Ciara, which it has been suggested may be the worst storm to hit the UK for seven years, is arriving as I write.

We have already had some nasty bouts of high winds, hail and rain on Friday and today but much more severe weather including hurricane force winds are expected over the next 24 hours.

It is recommended only to travel if it is essential to do so. Hundreds of flights and train services have been cancelled. If you do have to travel, please be very careful and allow a longer time for your journey.

Cumbria Conservative Conference

Attended the annual AGM and Conference of Cumbria Conservatives today.

It made two successful area Conservative conferences at opposite ends of the North West Region on consecutive Saturdays.

Last week I attended Cheshire and the Wirral's excellent Annual Conference, this week it was our turn to hold a well attended conference at the Auction Mart at Junction 36 (of the M6).

The  meeting began with an AGM which re-elected Richard Rhodes as Chairman and agreed a positive way forward for the Conservatives in Cumbria.

We also had a superb presentation from the county's Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall. Great to hear a straight talking explanation of what is being done to put more police on the beat and give them the support to fight crime.

Party Chairman James Cleverly gave an excellent talk at lunch and gave thoughtful but positive answers to some tough questions.

In the afternoon we had a panel session with three of our newly elected or re-elected MPs - Trudy Harrison, "Workington man" Mark Jenkinson and Simon Fell from Barrow and Furness.

Really positive session.

Saturday music spot: "Salvator Mundi" by Thomas Tallis

Quote of the day 8th February 2020

Thursday, February 06, 2020

If free speech means anything, we must extend it to people we think are vile

I disagree with Noam Chomsky on many things.  But here are two similar quotes from him which I think are dead right.


To be absolutely precise, what I believe in is free speech within the law. If your speech is not libellous, encouraging violence or criminal activity, or otherwise contrary to the law - and I believe that laws which might restrict free speech should be drafted with great care not to restrict speech beyond what is absolutely essential to protect society - then you should be allowed to say things which I find vile.

Let's refer to a particular hard case.

Katie Hopkins often says disgraceful things.

She sometimes goes beyond saying things which most people disagree with into the realms where a lawyer or a court might be able to make a case that she has transgressed the law.

If so the courts should deal with her.

But however tempting the thought, it is not for the rest of us to try to silence her when she is within the law, even when she says things we despise.

Brendan O'Neill makes a strong case here that although he finds her vile, Twitter was wrong to suspend her account.

There is a difficult balance to strike here. Social media companies should have the right and arguably the duty to block threatening and abusive messages, particularly those targeting and attacking people, and those which are outside the law. But we need to ask ourselves the question - at what point does that become silencing people because we don't like their opinions?

if it is OK for social media platforms not just to remove offensive posts but to block the accounts of people for expressing unpopular opinions within the law, where is that going to stop?

I suggest the answer to that question is nowhere we want to go.

Quote of the day 6th February

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Kirk Douglas RIP

Kirk Douglas, who I suspect will be remembered as one of the greatest film stars of all time, has died at the age of 103.

He was justly regarded as a legend.

Rest in Peace.

Midweek music spot: The King's Singers, "Windmills of Your Mind"

Watch out for fraudsters claiming to be calling from BT

Working at home today, have just had three calls in less than an hour from three different fraudsters all claiming to be from different parts of BT.

One of them gave the game away instantly by doing something which a genuine BT employee almost certainly would not do, e.g. referring to the company as "British Telecom" which is a trade name which was replaced by "BT" thirty years ago, and hung up when I called him on it.

The other two hung up when I asked them for their Employee Identification Numbers.

Quote of the day 5th February 2020

Sunday, February 02, 2020

It is past time Leave and Remain supporters moved on from insulting each other.

The decision whether to vote leave or remain was for me an "on balance" decision with strong reasons arguing in each direction.  I agonised for a long time about which way to vote before eventually deciding to back Remain.

Although, to be honest, both the Leave campaign and the Remain campaign were shockingly dire, and with honourable exceptions on  both sides there was more inexcusable nonsense written and spoken on both sides than in any other campaign I can remember, most of the people I know on both sides had completely legitimate reasons for casting their votes the way they did.

The overwhelming majority of people I know who voted Remain were not elitist, arrogant or unpatriotic, and do not hate Britain.

The overwhelming majority of people I know who voted Leave were not racist, xenophobic or stupid and do not hate Europe.

Sadly there are exceptions to these statements and in general the people most likely to be exceptions are the people hurling such insults at the other side.

Again, this applied to both sides.

One embarrassed leave supporter who saw two fellow-leavers burning the EU flag apologised on behalf of most Leave voters for that kind of behaviour, calling the people concerned "cretins" and said that this was not what the vote to leave the EU was about.

Similarly I get the urge to apologise, certainly on my own behalf and I would like to think on behalf of many remain voters, when I see childish insults thrown at everyone on the Leave side.

When the Independent published an article yesterday slagging off the people at a Brexit celebration which was described as

"a static, knuckle dragging carnival of the irredeemably stupid,"

it is not the people so described who went down in my estimation but the author of the article and the paper which published it.

And similarly those Remain supporters who used the hashtag #thick for leave voters might appropriately ask themselves this question:

The people you've just called "thick" won, and you lost - so if they are stupid, what does that make you?

There was a good piece on the "Unherd" site this week by Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics at the University of Kent, which you can read here and which makes a convincing argument that all the insults thrown at Leave voters have been debunked, or at last, there is no credible evidence that they apply to the vast majority of the 17.4 million leave voters.

The same applies, in my humble opinion, to all the insults which have been thrown an Remain voters - or at least, there is no credible evidence that they apply to the vast majority of the 16.1 million Remain voters.

There are some on both sides who are still too angry to leave the insults behind. But I am convinced that that is what most of the country wants to do.

To those who are still wallowing in bitterness and hurling harsh words at anyone who takes a different view, including people who voted the same way as they did but take a more conciliatory approach, I say this.

"I am sorry you feel that way. I am moving on. I hope it will not be too long before you are able to leave the anger behind and do the same."


I spent yesterday at CW20 - the excellent 2020 conference of Cheshire & the Wirral Conservatives.

It was a very well organised event: they had an annual dinner on Friday night which was attended by more than 200 people and raised £6,000 for campaign funsd, and the main conference was yesterday. The conferenced was kicked off by defence minister Johnny Mercer and closed by Transport minister Paul Maynard with a lot of very interesting speakers in between such as the new MP for Crewe and Nantwich, Dr Kieran Mullan and the Conservative candidate to return as Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer.

Congratulations to the new area chairman Kate Vaughan and her team for putting together an excellent event.

Next weekend we will have to see if Cumbria Conservatives can match it!

Sunday music spot for the Feast of the presentation of Christ in the Temple

Johannes Eccard's beautiful anthem

"When to the temple Mary went,"

which was written for the feast of the presentation of Christ in the Temple (which falls today) is sung in this recording by the Choir of St. Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Quote of the day 2nd February