Sunday, May 31, 2020

Lockdown diary, day 67

And yet another baking hot, beautiful day in Whitehaven

I know I keep writing this, but I think this has been the warmest and driest spring since we moved to West Cumbria in 2004.

It is often said that the rise of social media and particularly the ability to post anonymous insults, has meant a reduction in civility and I think there is a great deal of truth in this.

But I had a reminder today that, historically, extreme rudeness is nothing new.

Indeed, in the 18th century, political and social discourse was often nearly as rude as it is today. Even the existence of a functioning if illegal duelling code - one with such overwhelming social force that  even very powerful men who strongly disapproved of the whole business were forced to take part in duels - did not always prevent people being very rude about one another.

In fact the very powerful were often in an impossible position when harsh words were exchanged, in that they would be seen as cowards and lose face if they did not fight a duel but as breaking the law if they did so and actually harmed their opponent. 

Hence the practice known as "deloping" which appears to have been employed by all four parties on the two occasions when a present or former Prime Minister was forced to take part in a duel with another peer or MP. The challenged party selected pistols rather than swords and then one or more usually both parties would turn up for the duel but deliberately missing, usually be firing into the air or the ground rather than aiming at their opponent. 

The theory behind deloping appears to have been that honour was satisfied because you turned up and gave your opponent the opportunity to try to shoot you, and therefore proved that you were not a coward, but you were not liable to be accused of murder or attempted murder because you didn't actually try to kill anyone.  Certainly the politicians who took part in duels where both parties deliberately fired wide - or missed by a mile and claimed to have done so deliberately - suffered far less career damage - or indeed physical damage - than those who took part in duels where someone actually got hurt.

To be clear, I would never, ever want to see the practice of duelling ever brought back, but the mere thought of some of the trolls who write vicious and hurtful lies about other people behind the shield of anonymity provided by a computer being found out and having to stand on a duelling field holding a pistol and praying that the individual they had grievously insulted will have the sense to fire into the air rather than try to kill them, does present a certain entertainment value.

Of course, women were not allowed to fight duels, and could get away with being far more rude than men in the era, although if a gentleman insulted a lady her father, husband or brothers were all to liable to throw down the gauntlet.

What started this whole train of thought was that, while researching a post for tomorrow on the battle of the Glorious First of June, I came across a story about the captain of one of the RN ships in that battle, who had previously been at court as an aide to and friend of the Prince of Wales (later King George IV.)

The gallant captain had been rash enough allow himself to be overheard referring less than respectfully to Queen Charlotte by the Duchess of Gordon.

She put him in his place with the words

"You little, insignificant, good-for-nothing, upstart, pert chattering puppy"

Not quite as rude or offensive as some of the trolling one gets on social media these days but I don't think I would have cared to be on the receiving end of such a putdown.

Keep Well

West Cumbria Mining update

I've been asking my colleagues on the county council whether there is any news yet on when the new planning proposals from West Cumbria mining might come to a special meeting of the Development Control and regulatory committee of CCC.

My understanding is that it is impossible to give a definite date until the consultation period ends on 15th June and it is then possible to assess the representations received. A provisional date has now been given to the Whitehaven News for the meeting, which is not a firm guarantee but a best estimate of when a decision might come to committee if all goes to plan.

A council spokesman told the paper

Cumbria County Council welcomes the decision on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole to withdraw from the judicial review proceedings. We stand by our belief that all planning procedures and considerations were correctly followed throughout by the council. We therefore believe it would be in no one’s interests to hold a lengthy and costly judicial review into this case.

“West Cumbria Mining has revised their planning application so that only metallurgical coal will now be exported from the mine. In the original application it was envisaged that up to 15 per cent of all coal extracted would be middlings or industrial coal. This coal will now be reprocessed to remove sulphur content so that it can be classified as metallurgical coal. 

WCM have also taken the opportunity to provide a greenhouse gas emissions plan and to respond to the findings of a Green Alliance report. The revised application is expected to be considered at a meeting scheduled to be held on July 8.

Also in the same article there are some more quotes from the "Keep Cumbrian coal in the hole" people who brought and have now withdrawn their Judicial Review request.

Gary Bullivant has been posting things in the comments field of this blog trying to explain what the campaign group is up to.

Gary's explanations would make sense if they matched what the campaign group are saying.

Unfortunately the quotes from "Keep Cumbrian Coal in the hole" in the Whitehaven News do not line up with what Gary writes and make no sense at all.

Ms Birkby of the group told the Whitehaven News that:

"We have in effect achieved what we first set out to do, which was to overturn the council’s unanimous decision to approve the coal mine."

No they haven't. That is nonsense.

If the new and revised application is approved West Cumbria Mining will have permission to proceed on the new basis.

If the new application is not approved West Cumbria Mining will still have planning permission to proceed on the basis of  the original unanimous committee decision, unless the campaign group re-start the judicial review and win it.

Personally I don't support the Judicial review and agree with the County council statement quoted above.

If the objectors think that the revised application resolves their original concerns, then it makes no sense to oppose the proposed changes to the application, which the campaigners say they are doing.

If the revised application does not resolve the original concerns, then the new application is not in itself a good reason to withdraw the Judicial review.

The reason for the withdrawal suggested by Gary Bullivant, in the comments section of this blog, was that, quote

"West Cumbria Mining has submitted proposals to modify the original application in ways that seek to address the points that were used to justify the judicial review. Of course the review has been withdrawn" 

which makes sense if you think that the revised application successfully addresses those points. But,
  • If it does, why oppose the revised application? 
  • If it doesn't, why withdraw the judicial review?
I suspect the real reason the judicial review has been withdrawn may be that the new application has been used as an opportunity to rethink after an astute lawyer told them that proceeding with the judicial review would cost an enormous amount of money and be unlikely to succeed. 

If so, that was a wise decision, because I think that is precisely the advice that a good lawyer would give them, and that such advice would very probably be right.

Live long and prosper

In the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic, while churches were still holding services but were already starting to think about how to increase social distancing, we needed to find an alternative greeting to the handshake which was traditionally given while sharing the Peace, and which did not involve direct physical contact.

People had various ways of dealing with this: I gave a court bow (a bow from the neck) but my wife used the Vulcan Salute

This salute, originating in the original Star Trek TV show, was created by the actor who played the half-Vulcan Commander Spock, the late Leonard Nimoy, and associated with the words

"Live long and prosper."

In his autobiography, Nimoy wrote that he based it on the priestly blessing performed by Jewish Kohanim with both hands, thumb to thumb in this same position, representing the Hebrew letter Shin (ש), which has three upward strokes similar to the position of the thumb and fingers in the gesture.

The letter Shin here stands for El Shaddai, meaning "Almighty God", as well as for Shekhinah and Shalom.

Nimoy wrote that when he was a child, his grandfather took him to an Orthodox synagogue, where he saw the blessing performed and was impressed by it.

I see from this weekend's papers that the use of the Vulcan salute is beginning to take off as an alternative to the handshake. And the words "Live long and prospect" which accompany it seem to be a particularly appropriate greeting to express at the present time.

Professional sport

From Monday, professional sport will be allowed to return behind closed doors, so long as individual sports and elite athletes follow strict rules that will help control the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

  • Live sport is a cornerstone of British society, and for many it will be hugely exciting and welcome that we have reached the point where it can begin to return in a safe and carefully controlled way.
  • The Government has worked with sports and medical bodies to devise a framework for sports to resume, so long as certain conditions that ensure safety are met. Individual sports will know when it’s right for them to restart, and as long as they can meet these protocols, such as competitions taking place without spectators, they can now start planning to return.
  • The government is also working hard to find safe ways to get grassroots sport back up and running. While those teams can’t compete together yet, the rules on exercise as being slightly further relaxed, so that from Monday people will be able to exercise with up to five others from different households, so long as they remain 2 metres apart.
  • This is a significant moment for British sport. By working with clinicians every step of the way, we have been able to bring the wait to an end and create the safest possible environments for everyone involved.

Latest lockdown advice from the government.

From tomorrow, the 2.2 million people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and have been ‘shielding’ will be able to go outside, as the government continues to ease restrictions in a cautious and gradual way which aims to ensure we can control the virus.

  • Those advised to shield can now go outside with members of their household or meet one member of another household if they live alone, providing a much-needed boost to people most at risk who have made huge sacrifices. Social distancing must be followed strictly at all times.
  • We recognise that the last 10 weeks have been particularly challenging for everyone following shielding guidance, and it’s thanks to their resilience and sacrifice that we have been able to control the virus, avoid the NHS being overwhelmed and save thousands of lives.
  • Thanks to the efforts of everyone, we’ve managed to get the R rate beneath 1. This means we can gradually ease restrictions. But the clinically extremely vulnerable remain at risk and should only leave the house once a day. They should not go to work or the shops and should avoid crowded places where they can’t stay 2 metres away from others.
  • The government is determined to find the right balance between continuing to protect those at the greatest clinical risk, whilst easing restrictions on their daily lives to make the difficult situation more bearable – particularly enabling the contact with loved ones they and we all seek.

Whit Sunday music spot: Rejoice in the Lord alway

In the Pentecost service broadcast from St James' church Whitehaven this morning (see previous post) the Revd Robert Jackson quoted a line from scripture,

"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice."

The delightful anthem below is a 16th century setting of those words to music.

I once read a humorous book about Anglican church music, which included a glossary which defined the word "Anon" as

"A composer with many pseudonyms including Farrant, Tye and Redford."

I strongly suspect that the composer of this anthem, usually now given as "Anonymous" but previously often attributed to John Redford, was one of those in the writer's mind when that passage was drafted.

St James' Whitehaven Pentecost Service 2020

Today is Pentecost Sunday in the church's year.

Here is a short Pentecost services published online this morning by my local church, St James' Whitehaven.

Quote of the day 31st May 2020

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Lockdown diary day 66

Yet another gorgeous day spent at home in Whitehaven. Some of it enjoying our garden. It does look as though one of the compensations of a terrible year may be a magnificent summer.

In the evening my wife and I watched the film "The Guernsey literary & Potato peel pie society" based on the book of the same name, set mostly in the channel islands shortly after and referencing back to the Nazi occupation.

There were some extraordinary parallels to today, and not just because we have just had the 75th anniversary commemoration of VE day which almost exactly co-incided with the liberation of the Channel Islands.

Early on in the film one of the characters refers to the events which lead to the creation of the society included that the people of Guernsey felt hunger not just for food but for human companionship under the restrictions imposed by the German occupiers, something which inevitably strikes a chord in 2020 when the restrictions imposed to limit the deaths caused by COVID-19 have inevitably had a similar effect.

My wife and I also - correctly - identified the ship which takes the heroine to Guernsey in the film, as MV Balmoral, on which we took a day trip a few years ago from Whitehaven to the Isle of Man and back. The Balmoral was actually built three years after the events in the film, but she is typical of the sort of ferry which was in use by companies like the Red Funnel line on routes between the south coast of England and various destinations from the Isle of Wight to France at the time of the film.

Keep well.

You know it's a slow news weekend when ...

You know it's a slow news weekend ..

When the news headlines devote a significant amount of time to the fact that some social media celebrity has been removed from the  Forbes list of billionaires because they now think her financial assets are only worth £900 million ...

And more to a report from the Resolution Foundation that people who own their own homes are having less difficulty with their housing costs as a result of the pandemic than people who rent ...

(For the avoidance of doubt I am not criticising the Resolution Foundation who have produced very good reports but the media who are spending far more time on this utterly unsurprising conclusion than on what measures the Foundation is recommending to actually do something about it.)

Coming up - reports on the death of Queen Anne, the religious affiliations of  Pope Francis, the toilet habits of bears and the wetness of water ….

Saturday music spot: The Ebay Parody Song by Weird Al Yankovic

Like, I suspect, many people, I have been rediscovering the joys and pains of Ebay during the pandemic.

So I thought today's Music spot might be Weird Al's Ebay anthem - one of his performances which is musically so good that I am convinced he could have made it as a "straight" singer rather than America's answer to the UK's Barron Knights.

I have read that the Backstreet Boys brought out a parody of this called "I want it that way" ...

Quote of the day 30th May 2020

"Internet users are reminded to be careful of what they read – and to remember the important rule that if you can summarise a complex position with a single line of text and an attractive picture, it’s probably not true any day of the year and not just on April the 1st."

Proof that many a true word is spoken in jest - the above self-evident truth is taken from a spoof article on the NewsThump website published on April 2nd (2016) with the caption 

"People go back to believing everything they read on the internet.")

Friday, May 29, 2020

Lockdown Diary, day 65

I keep writing what a glorious day it has been in terms of the weather, and it seems to want to prove it can do better. Today was a baking hot day in Whitehaven - more like midsummer than May.

As from Monday I will rename this diary "Coronavirus diary" but keep the numbers in the same sequence, as from that point, although movement and social contact are still severely restricted, it seems better to focus on the main issue which is affecting all our lives, COVID-19, rather than risk getting into an argument over whether we are still locked down or not.

Keep well.

Protecting Jobs, Businesses and livelihoods.

Another briefing, this one on the announcements Chancellor Rishi Sunak made today. It reads as follows.

"Protecting jobs, businesses and livelihoods as we begin to kickstart our economy
Our top priority has always been to support people, protect jobs and businesses through this crisis. The furlough and self-employment schemes have been a lifeline for millions of people and businesses.

Moving into the next phase of our response, we are focussed on not just on saving lives, but also saving livelihoods. As we begin to re-open our country and kickstart our economy, these schemes will adjust to ensure those who are able to work can do so, while remaining amongst the most comprehensive and generous in the world.

The Chancellor has today announced that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be extended for three months with a second and final grant. Self-employed workers will be eligible for further support worth 70 per cent of their average monthly trading profits, capped at £6,570 in total.

The Chancellor also set out more details on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue to support jobs and business as people return to work. We have already extended the scheme until the end of October – that’s a total eight months of support. From 1 July, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time – a month earlier than planned – and then from 1 August, the scheme will be slowly tapered so that employers begin to contribute towards those costs and to reflect that people will be returning to work.

We stood behind Britain’s businesses and workers as we came into this crisis and we stand behind them as we come through the other side. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure people can pay their bills and put food on the table – as people continue to stay alert, to control the virus and save lives.

We are protecting people’s jobs, and supporting businesses and livelihoods by:
  • Extending the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme for three months – so that people will be able to claim a second and final grant in August. Individuals whose livelihoods are adversely affected by coronavirus will be eligible for further support worth 70 per cent of their average monthly trading profits, capped at £6,570 in total. The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants, and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant; for example, they may only have been adversely affected by coronavirus in this later phase.
  • Setting out details on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue to support jobs and business as people return to work. In June and July, nothing will change for employers and the Government will continue to pay 80 per cent of people’s salaries. From August, the level of the grant will be slowly reduced and employers will be required to top up the government payment to ensure employees receive 80 per cent of their normal pay, up to a monthly cap of £2,500, throughout.

    • From July, businesses can bring furloughed employees back part time. This is a month earlier than previously announced to help support people back to work. Employers will be able to claim the furlough grant for the proportion of the employees’ normal hours they are not working – but they must pay their employees for the hours they are working. The Government will continue to pay 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500, plus employer National Insurance and pension contribution.
    • From August, the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work. The government will pay 80 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,500, but employers will start paying employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
    • From September, the government will pay 70 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,190. Employers will be asked to pay the remaining 10 per cent, in addition to employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
    • From October, the government will pay 60 per cent of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will be asked to pay the remaining 20 per cent, in addition to employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
The furlough and self-employment schemes have been a lifeline for millions of people and businesses:
  • 8.4 million jobs have been protected through our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which would otherwise have been at risk. Around 1 million firms have benefitted from this support, at a value of £15 billion.
  • 2.3 million claims have been submitted for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, at a value of £6.8 billion.
  • Bounce Back Loans: Over 600,000 loans worth more than £18.5 billion.
  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme: 43,000 companies have loans worth over £8 billion.
  • Over 68,000 businesses have benefitted from Time To Pay. 
  • Our overall package to support people with welfare payments is now worth over £8 billion. 
  • Mortgage holidays: 1.8 million holidays granted, equivalent to 1 in 6 mortgages. And we’ve extended this by 3 months.

Blogger policy on comment moderation

I turned off comment moderation on this blog many moons ago, with the result that if a comment on a recent post does not get interpreted by blogger's systems as SPAM, it appears almost immediately and stays up unless it falls foul of one of the criteria which I do occasionally revisit and publish - don't attack the dead in an obit post, don't put up anything which might expose me (or blogger, or the author) to legal action, don't put up anything I consider highly offensive or insulting.

However, comments on a post which is more than a few weeks old do go into the "Awaiting comment moderation" folder.

Because this only affects a small minority of posts I probably don't check it as often as I should, and there can be a delay before I notice them, and either publish or delete them depending on whether they are still relevant or have been made out of date (for example, because the author has posted them somewhere else.

I notice that three comments went into that folder in the past fortnight or so. One was on West Cumbria mining, and I belatedly published it, as well as a post on the subject on which there has been further debate.

The other two were asking me to comment on the Dominic Cummings situation.

I have in fact already said something about that in response to comments on yesterday's Lockdown diary.  I will repeat it here.

I am reluctant to say much about this issue because I do not pretend to know the full facts.

It is essential that there is, and is seen to be, one law for everyone and nobody who is above the rules.

If I thought, however, when I listened to Mr Cummings' explanation for what he did that this was a person who thought that the rules did not apply to him, I would consider that this would have made his position untenable.

If there is not seen to be one law and set of rules for everyone, then otherwise the rules will not be respected and obeyed - and that will result in avoidable deaths.

I understand Durham police have released a statement to the effect that they have investigated the matter and that DC's decision to self-isolate himself and his wife and child on an isolated cottage on his father's farm, maintaining social distancing, was not in fact a breach of the rules.

Friday music spot: Bach Concerto for two violins in D minor

Easing the lockdown

I have received a briefing on the arrangements being made by the UK government  to slowly and carefully ease the lockdown which reads as follows.

"The Prime Minister has set out a carefully-designed package to ease the burdens of lockdown to keep the virus under control. Everyone must stay alert to control the virus and save lives.
  • We have been clear that our five tests must be met before any changes to the lockdown are made, because we must not risk the sacrifice of the British people.
  • Thanks to the public’s continued patience and hard work in helping to protect the NHS and contain the virus, the Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that the Government’s five tests are being met. This means we can now move forward to the next phase of adjusting the lockdown.
  • A series of measures will be put in place in England from Monday 1 June in three core areas – schools, social contact and retail

1) Firstly, as the Prime Minister set out on Sunday, we will reopen schools to more children on Monday.
  • On Monday we will start to open schools - in a safe way - by reopening nurseries and other early years settings and reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in primary schools.
  • On 15 June, secondary schools will begin to provide some face-to-face contact time for Years 10 and Year 12.

2) Secondly, we will also start to reopen some shops as we restart our economy.
  • On Monday, outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen, provided they meet Covid-secure guidelines.
  • On 15 June, we intend to reopen other non-essential retail - but only provided the five tests are still being met and shops have been made Covid-secure. 

3) Thirdly, from Monday we will allow up to six people to meet outside, including gardens and other private outdoor spaces - provided those from different households continue strictly to observe social distancing rules by staying two metres apart.
  • At the moment, people can meet in parks but not in private gardens. The evidence shows that the risk of transmission is significantly lower outdoors and this step will mean that people can see more of their friends, family and loved ones - perhaps seeing both parents at once, or both grandparents at once.
  • But to control the virus, everyone needs to stay alert, act responsibly, strictly observe social distancing rules, and stay two metres apart from those who you do not live with. 
  • Minimising contact with others is still the best way to prevent transmission. You should also try to avoid seeing people from too many households in quick succession.
  • It remains the case that people should not be inside the homes of their friends and families, unless it is to access the garden.

All the steps we have taken, and will take, are conditional. They are conditional on all the data, and all the scientific advice, and it is that scientific advice which will help us to judge what we are doing is safe.
  • We will see how these new changes are working, and look at the R value and the number of new infections before taking any further steps, so we can ensure anything we do does not risk a second peak that could overwhelm the NHS.
  • The new NHS Test and Trace programme will ensure we keep making progress in easing the lockdown while continuing to keep the virus under control.
  • There is no doubt that we are making progress and we are hopeful that in the coming weeks we may be able to do more. Because while protecting the health and safety of the British public is our number one priority, we must also work to restart our economy and society - so as many people as possible can begin returning to their way of life."

Hong Kong and the proposed new security law

The UK, Australia, Canada, and United States issued a joint statement in response to China’s proposed new security law for Hong Kong which would violate the territory’s autonomy and freedoms. In response the UK government is examining how we would change the status of British National Overseas passport holders if China implements this National Security legislation.
  • The national security legislation published by China is deeply concerning and undermines the autonomy and freedoms guaranteed for Hong Kong in the treaty agreed at the time of the handover from Britain to China.
  • China must step back from the brink and live up to its international obligations. If it chooses not to, Britain will take steps to protect British National (overseas) passport holders by extending how long they can come to the UK without a visa from six months and make it possible to apply to work and study for extendable periods of 12 months, which provides a pathway to future citizenship.
  • Rebuilding trust across Hong Kong society by allowing the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the rights and freedoms they were promised can be the only way back from the tensions and unrest that the territory has seen over the last year.

Quote of the day 29th May 2020

There are various versions of this quote, most often attributed to Henry Ford though there are other versions, mostly less concisely put, which go back much earlier, including a Latin version comprising part of the concept dating from the first century BC in Virgil's Aenid.

The Quote Investigator website suggests that Henry Ford probably did originate a version of this saying in simple and clear language.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Lockdown diary, day 64

Another beautiful day in Whitehaven and it looks like I may need to conclude or rename this series of diary posts soon.

Let's just hope we can get the economy going again without increasing the danger from COVID-19

The track and trace which launched today (fantastic news) should help with that.

Keep well

Thursday music spot: Vivaldi.Viola d'amore Concerto in A minor

Track and Trace goes live

From 9 am today, the new NHS Test and Trace service has launched across England - helping us to keep the virus under control while carefully and safely lifting the lockdown nationally.
  • As Britain moves to the next phase of our fight against coronavirus, we must ensure we continue to control the spread and do not compromise the progress we have made.
  • The new scheme will mean anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by one of the 25,000 contact tracers; they will help trace anyone who had been in close contact with the infected individual, ensuring they isolate for 14 days, thereby avoiding them unknowingly spreading the virus. These tracers will be capable of tracking the contacts of up to 10,000 new cases a day. 
  • NHS Test and Trace will be vital to stopping the spread of the virus. It is how we will be able to protect our friends and family from infection, and protect our NHS. But everyone must play their part so together we can continue to control the virus and save lives.
The government has extended testing to all symptomatic individuals in England, helping us to continue to monitor the virus and take appropriate action quickly 
  • Thanks to the NHS's hugely ramped up testing capacity we are now in a position to extend testing while ensuring testing capacity is available to those who need it most – our frontline staff and those most vulnerable.
  • From today, anyone with a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a change in their sense of smell or taste can immediately report these symptoms and book a test at Expanded testing availability for children aged under 5 will also be available from today, to help support the phased opening of schools and childcare settings in England from 1 June.
  • While we cautiously move to the next phase of our response to this unprecedented virus testing will remain key – alongside the continued heroic efforts of the British public in controlling the spread of the virus and in doing so, saving lives.

The final "Clap for carers?

Just taken part in the tenth, and probably last, "Clap for carers" to show support for NHS staff and other front line carers at 8pm this evening.

Think there were more people out in Foxhouses Road than last week.

One of the founders of the event, Annemarie Plas, told Good Morning Britain that it's time to move on but praised people who'd taken part. She suggested this evening's "Clap for carers" should be the last one.

It  does make sense to stop while there is still plenty of enthusiasm and move on to other ways to support NHS staff and other key workers and carers.

Quote of the day 28th May 2020

(This was the answer the Iron Duke gave when asked if, given his life again, he would have done anything differently. Quoted because I don't think he was unusual in this respect.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Lockdown diary, day 63

Another beautiful day in Whitehaven, looking as if we are on our way to a warm summer.

Another long working day from my perspective.

At least I am getting better at using the plethora of systems which various people and organisations are using for conference calls and online meetings.

What a week!

Keep well

Re-opening schools and the economy

On Monday, the Prime Minister outlined the next steps of the Government’s plan to safely reopen our schools and our economy.
  • Thanks to this country’s collective efforts, the number of new Coronavirus cases is down, and evidence suggests the infection rate is falling. This progress means that we can make further steps toward rebuilding our country.
  • From 1 June, the Government intends a cautious, phased reopening of nurseries and primary schools starting with reception, Year 1 and Year 6, and then, from 15 June, ensuring secondary pupils with exams next year get some time with their teachers before their summer holidays.
  • The Government’s intention is also to allow outdoor markets and car showrooms to reopen from 1 June, as the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces.
  • All other non-essential retail will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the Covid-19 secure guidelines, giving them three weeks to prepare.
  • Announcing these intentions gives schools, teachers, parents and retailers the clarity they need to prepare, so we can begin to reopen our economy and our society in the safest possible way.

PPE Supplies

Yesterday, the Health Secretary announced a significant boost to PPE supplies, with the Government signing deals with more than 100 suppliers around the world, as well as ramping up domestic production here in the UK.

  • Worldwide demand for PPE has never been higher and it is vital that PPE continues to be delivered to where it is needed.
  • The government has signed over 100 new deals with suppliers across the world to boost our PPE supply, as well as signing contracts to produce 2 billion items of PPE right here in the UK; including facemasks, visors, gowns and aprons.
  • Healthcare and social care workers are on the frontline of our battle with Coronavirus. This will help ensure they can do so as safely as possible.

Midweek music spot: Vivaldi: Concerto for 4 Violins in B minor

Quote of the day 27th May 2020

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Lockdown diary, day 63

Absolute day from hell today.

Between my job and CCC business I finished work at about twenty to midnight this evening.

Always difficult the day after a bank holiday when one is often trying to fit two days of business into one.

Made it even more difficult when certain computer systems I was dependent on for information were running ludicrously slowly.

Hope anyone reading this had a better day than I did.

The one high point of the day was an online meeting of Cumbria County Council's local committee for Copeland which I thought was quite a constructive meeting.

Keep well


Quote of the day 26th May 2020

"I feel like I've been booked to be a talking head at the post-match analysis after the Salem witch trials"

(Alex Deane, former advisor to David Cameron, on the BBC following yesterday afternoon's press conference in the garden of No 10.)

Monday, May 25, 2020

Lockdown diary, day 62

Many years ago, at a count for a county council election, the Lib/Dem county councillor who I was standing against made the joke that if I won he might finally have time to do something about the weeds in his garden.

As his pile of votes was a little higher than mine, and I've never seen in any point in pretending that you're doing better than you think you are in the period between the close of voting and the announcement of the results, I replied that it looked like the electorate had given the weeds in his garden a reprieve for another four years.

The conversation came back to me today as I finished filling up the brown bin which Copeland Borough Council will be collecting tomorrow with weeds from my garden.

Three years ago the electorate of Egremont North and St Bees were kind enough to give the weeds in my garden what we thought at the time was a similar four year reprieve. However, today they became some of the less regretted casualties of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Keep well

West Cumbria Mining Judicial Review withdrawn

A guarded welcome to this week's news that the Judicial Review application into Cumbria CC's decision to grant planning permission to West Cumbria Mining has been withdrawn.

The reason I describe it as a guarded welcome is that, if the reason given to the Whitehaven News for their decision to drop by action by the protestors who brought the Judicial Review request is the real one, they have based it on a fundamental misunderstanding of the implications of the latest application on the site.

West Cumbria Mining has submitted proposals to modify the original application. These are currently out to public consultation, which will last until 15th June. The company is proposing a change in the way it plans to process coking coal, meaning only premium metallurgical coal will be processed.

Marianne Birkby, of the group behind the judicial review request, is quoted in the Whitehaven News as saying that the reason the judicial review was dropped was that:

“The point of the judicial review was to get Cumbria County Council to look at the plans again. Since WCM submitted the new details, there was no point in carrying on with the judicial review because they will reconsider it anyway.”

I am far from certain this makes sense.

Cumbria County Council is not supposed to - indeed, legally cannot - revisit the principle of the entire original application when it reviews the proposed change. The application before the council is whether or not to approve the amendment to the proposal.

If it is refused, West Cumbria Mining could still go ahead on the original basis, or come up with a different proposed amendment with a compromise which addresses any valid reason which might be given for refusing the application.

I hope this does not become the "Hokey Cokey judicial review" - put in when the objectors failed to get the application called in, taken out when the applicants put in an amendment, put in again if the application is approved - in, out, in out, waste a fortune of taxpayer' money in legal costs and hold up hundreds of new jobs in West Cumbria.

Anyone who wants to find out about the planning application and the proposed changes can find the documents submnitted to Cumbria County Council at:

Flatt walks recycling centre re-opens

Delighted to see that the recycling centre at Flatt Walks retail park opposite Morrisons in Whitehaven has re-opened. Sure I will not be the only resident of Whitehaven and surrounding area glad to have the opportunity to use it.

Monday music spot: Bach Harpsichord Concerto No.1 in D Minor

Improving transport links

On Saturday, the Transport Secretary outlined new measures to protect and increase transport services, level up infrastructure and regenerate local economies after coronavirus.

  • People across the country are all sharing the same public-spirited approach to tackling the spread of this virus and keeping others safe – with many playing their part by avoiding public transport.
  • The government is investing an extra £283 million to increase the number of bus and light rail services as quickly as possible so people can reach their destination safely and quickly, while helping ensure there is enough space for them to observe social distancing guidelines. We have also set out the preferred route for the £1 billion upgrade to the A66 which will help to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with Leeds, Sheffield and Norwich. Ten bids have also been announced to receive funding to develop proposals to build or reopen railway lines and stations, including those closed following the Beeching cuts.
  • Strengthening vital road and railway connections will be essential to our ambition to level up the country and kickstart regional economies, as we build out of coronavirus and look to the future.
Local authorities have also been allocated their share of the £225 million announced earlier this month, to create pop up and permanent cycle lanes and reallocate road space.