Showing posts from June, 2020

Coronavirus diary, day 96

My wife, who works for the NHS, had her antibody test results back today, and she has not had Coronavirus. No vast surprise as none of the family have had any symptoms, but one of the many hugely problematic aspects of this wretched bug is that some people get it and can pass it on without getting any symptoms. The single most important lesson to come out of this pandemic so far is that we need to be ready in future to organise large scale testing for any disease, including new ones, and to ramp it up quickly. Keep well   

Delivering the homes people need

The government has announced the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War, making it easier to build better homes where people want to live.  New regulations will give greater freedom for buildings and land in our town centres to change use without planning permission and create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings.    Kick-starting the construction industry and speed up rebuilding. New rules will mean existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops, can be converted into residential housing more easily.   Work will begin to look at how land owned by the government can be managed more effectively through a new ambitious cross-government strategy to look at how public sector land can be put to better use including new homes, contributing to net zero goals and injecting growth opportunities into communities across the country.   Confirming a £12 billion affordable homes programme that will support up

A New Deal

Today in a speech in the West Midlands the Prime Minister announced a ‘New Deal’, an ambitious economic strategy which will put jobs, skills and infrastructure investment at the heart of our economic recovery post-coronavirus, and deliver on our manifesto pledges to level up the entire country.  The government is committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades: to build the homes, to fix the NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK, and to unite and level up.   Too many parts of this country have felt left behind, neglected, unloved, as though someone had taken a strategic decision that their fate did not matter as much as the metropolis. Not only has a vision to change this country for the better, we have a mission to unite and level up – the mission on which we were elected l

EU Trade negotiations

The pandemic has rather pushed Brexit off the front pages, but the need to have a solid trading relationship with our former EU partners has not gone away. Negotiating this is very important to both sides, and the damage caused to every country in Europe by the Coronavirus pandemic makes this all the more true. The UK and EU negotiating teams met face to face in Brussels at the weekend, with both sides having agreed to intensify talks on securing a new trade agreement before the end of 2020. The Conservatives delivered on our promise to leave the European Union on 31 January and have been clear that we will not request an extension to the transition period ending on 31 December.    Following recent discussions between the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament, the next round of negotiations began on Sunday in Brussels, marking the start of the intensified process agreed by both sides.    We are looking to

Rebuilding our schools and our economy

This week the Prime Minister has announced over £1 billion to kickstart a 10 year school rebuilding programme, including substantial investment in the North and Midlands, as part of our plan to level up and spread opportunity across the country as we recover from coronavirus.  All children deserve the best possible start in life – regardless of their background or where they live.   That is why we are beginning a transformative 10-year rebuilding programme with over £1 billion for the first 50 projects in 2020-21. Schools and colleges will also receive funding this year to refurbish buildings and continue raising standards across the country.   As we bounce back from the pandemic, it’s important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, with our younger generations front and centre of this mission.  

Quote of the day 30th June 2020

I thought to myself when about to post this, "Did Lord Acton really say or write this?" My source which says that he did, with a lot of other quotes, is here (at the top of the bottom box of quotes.)

Coronavirus diary, day 95

What a miserable few days it has been. Up to last weekend when we had a magnificent summer there were fears, sometimes realised as in Bournemouth, that the marvellous weather would encourage people to go out and foret social distancing. Not too much risk of that over the last three days. The summer garden furniture which I put out while we were having all the glorious sunshine has now been quite literally blown all over the garden and I've had to take some of it in again. Oh well. Nobody who can't cope with a bit of wind and rain (or indeed, a lot of wind and rain!) has any business making their home in Cumbria. Keep well

Quote of the day 29th June 2020


Coronavirus diary, day 94

Interesting to see that this morning's broadcast from St James' church described today as "The last Sunday of lockdown." I changed the name of this series of posts from "Lockdown diary" to "Coronavirus diary" some time ago to forestall an argument about precisely this point. I understand exactly what the Revd. Robert Jackson was getting at and I am not criticising him. Certainly next Saturday looks likely to see an easing of restrictions which could not unreasonably be described as the end of lockdown - the Whitehaven News is calling it "Independence day." But it is the end of one national lockdown. The virus is still out there. Even if we are very lucky I think we're going to see some more local or regional ones. The government is right to try to avoid a second wave, because even if that cannot be achieved the effort is still likely to make any second wave that we do get less severe than it would otherwise be. We need to be

Sunday music spot: Stainer's "I Saw the Lord."


Family courts

This week the government has announced a major overhaul of family courts , helping to keep domestic abuse victims and their children safe as they go through this difficult process. Every day family courts see some of the most vulnerable in society, and we have a duty to ensure they are protected and not put in danger during this process.   That is why the government is reforming the way family courts handle domestic abuse cases – including giving victims special protections in court, and empowering judges to prevent abusive ex-partners from repeatedly dragging their victims back to court.   Alongside the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, these changes will transform society’s response to this destructive crime – protecting victims and pursuing perpetrators more than ever before.

Today's Sunday Service from St James' Church Whitehaven


Quote of the day 28th June 2020

"Our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end." (PM Boris Johnson in the House of Commons this week.)

Coronavirus dairy, day 93

Well, we're now getting close to what the Whitehaven news called "Independence day" when a lot of things we have been unable to do like go to the hairdresser may, we hope become possible, On Thursday the government introduced a new Business and Planning Bill which will allow pubs, restaurants and cafes to serve customers outside , helping businesses get back on their feet and getting people back into their jobs safely. A briefing I received about this says that quote,   "Because of the enormous sacrifices of the British people over the past few months, we have been able to control the coronavirus and can now continue our phased, cautious reopening of our economy for the summer months ahead .   "To help boost this recovery, we are introducing a new Business and Planning Bill that will simplify licensing processes and cut red tape for thousands of pubs, restaurants and cafes – introducing al fresco dining to the country by allowing them to serve cus

Saturday music spot: Gluck's "Dance of the Furies"


Support for R&D to tackle COIVID-19

The Business Secretary has announced £400 million to support major research and development projects across the UK, creating thousands of jobs and supporting our economic recovery from coronavirus.  The UK has long been a world leader in developing ground-breaking technology, and we are determined to enhance that position as we begin to kickstart our economy following the coronavirus pandemic.   Seven major research and development projects, including in Cardiff, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Bristol, will receive a share of £400 million of Government and industry funding. The money will support projects such as zero-emission tech for maritime vessels, smart packaging to cut food waste and new health products to combat infections.   By working with the private sector and our world-class universities, we are backing new ideas that will create jobs and boost skills in every part of the UK for years to come.

Quote of the day 27th June 2020

I thought of this quote which is often attributed to Winston Churchill this week, when I was asked to write a letter which could easily be seen as a rebuke but do it "diplomatically."   “Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.” This is one of a couple of versions of the quote often attributed to Sir Winston, but I gather there is no evidence that he actually said it. The Quote Investigator website suggests that travel writer and humorist Caskie Stinnett is most likely to have originated it, in the following verified form: " A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip."

6000 more doctors and 12,000 more nurses

The latest figures show that the numbers of doctors and nurses have reached record highs in the NHS in England, delivering on the Conservative election promise to get more staff on the frontline to deliver world-class care for patients. During the election, we promised the British people that action would be taken to raise the number of nurses by 50,000 compared with what it would otherwise have been by the end of the new Parliament. (30,000 through increased recruitment and 20,000 through improved retention, making the job of nursing more attractive and less stressful so that fewer nurses leave.) These figures show that these were not just words but positive steps are being taken to deliver on that promise.   The latest figures show the progress we’re making towards that goal – in March there were 6,000 more doctors and 12,000 more nurses compared to last year, and that is NOT including former healthcare professionals who have selflessly volunteered to return to the NHS d

Testing, testing ...

The Health Secretary has urged anyone with coronavirus symptoms to get tested, as we expand testing services to include new walk-through testing sites, so that NHS Test and Trace can continue to control the virus and save lives. Free and accessible testing is a cornerstone of NHS Test and Trace, which is working to control the spread of coronavirus and get life back to some sense of normality.   We are increasing access to coronavirus testing with six new walk-through testing sites for people in England who do not have a car and who cannot visit the existing drive-through sites. The number of mobile testing units will also double to 236 by the end of July, and new priority postboxes, for returning home testing kits, will be created.   As the virus is brought increasingly under control, anyone with coronavirus symptoms must get a test. We all have a part to play in helping to control the virus – and we will make it as convenient as possible for people to do so.

Quote of the day 26th June 2020

"I come back to the idea of transparency of scientific advice - widen the gene pool of scientists giving advice to ministers.  "What I think we need to do is de-politicise the process of scientific advice and also educate the public that sometimes scientists disagree.  "Just as economists giving advice on interest rates regularly disagree.  "We need to avoid the groupthink that clearly existed - we need to find ways to challenge the groupthink that meant we thought we were all fine because we prepared for a pandemic flu, when actually we needed to be thinking about pandemic SARS.  "That's the kind of structural change which we urgently need to address." "With the benefit of hindsight, for sure, we would have done lots of things differently...  "And these aren't just mistakes that were made here, they were made by governments all over the world." (Former Health secretary Jeremy Hunt on learning the lessons of the pandem

Coronavirus diary, day 91

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has issued a stark warning that coronavirus cases "will rise again" if people do not follow social distancing guidance. The warning follows a major incident being declared at Bournemouth's beaches as thousands of visitors flocked to the south coast to enjoy the hot weather. In a post on Twitter, Professor Whitty wrote: "COVID-19 has gone down due to the efforts of everyone but is still in general circulation.  "If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again. Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all."  Health secretary Matt Hancock added: "We all want to be outside and enjoying the glorious sunshine but if you are heading out please do it safely and stick to social distancing rules." Keep well

Rebecca Long Bailey sacked for sharing Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory article.

Former Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Baily has been sacked by the leader of the Labour party from the shadow cabinet for sharing an interview on social media which in the words of a spokesperson for the Labour leader "contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory." To be precise, in the interview the actress Maxine Peake managed to blame Israel for the death of George Floyd, claiming that the US police officers responsible for his death had learned their tactics from the Israeli secret services. Dear oh dear. No  party is completely free of prejudice and all parties need to be vigilant against this sort of nonsense, whether it is directed at Jewish people or anyone else. I am pleased to see that message is starting to get through, with strong and immediate action taken in the past two weeks by more than one party in cases of unacceptable comments..

Quote of the day 25th June 2020


Decision on West Cumbria Mining application deferred

I am advised by the Cumbria County Council planning department that because of a very high level of response - the word used was "unprecedented" - the latest West Cumbria mining proposals will not now be considered on 8th July and will come to committee on a later date, yet to be determined.

Support for Rough Sleepers

Today, the government has announced £105 million to continue support for rough sleepers and those housed in emergency accommodation during the pandemic – taking total spending on rough sleeping and homelessness this year to over half a billion pounds – an unprecedented commitment as we move towards ending rough sleeping for good. Since the start of the pandemic, 15,000 vulnerable people have been taken off the streets and prevented from becoming homeless during the pandemic, which has been a vital step to ensure their safety and has changed the lives of thousands for the better.    This extra £105 million will be used to support rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness with the next steps - including through help with deposits for accommodation, and securing thousands of alternative rooms already available and ready for use. This builds on our recent announcement to provide 6,000 long-term, safe homes – ensuring the work being done to take society’s most vulnerable

Quote of the day 24th June 2020


A summary of government action to deal with the pandemic

Action taken by the UK government to help Britain through the COVID-19 pandemic includes: Protecting the NHS so that it is there for people when they need it … From just 2,000 tests per day in March Britain now haa the capacity to conduct over 200,000 tests per day – with 139,659 tests on 21 June. Daily cases down from a peak of 5,195 on 14 April to 1,205 on 22 June 2020 (seven day rolling average) Daily deaths down from a peak of 943 on 14 April to 130 on 22 June 2020 (seven day rolling average) Ventilators up from 9,000 in March 2020 to 21,200 on 22 June 2020 . Number of ventilator beds occupied down from a peak of 3,301 on 12 April 2020 to 330 on 19 June 2020 . Over 1.94 billion items of PPE delivered since the start of the outbreak. 6 Nightingale hospitals created with a 7th due to open in Exeter this month. Hospital admissions down from 3,432 on 1 April 2020 to 380 on 19 June 2020 (England, Wales and NI). Over 1.3 million testing kits delivered to a

The Prime Minister's update on Covid 19

The Prime Minister has set out further changes to lockdown measures in England to enable people to see more of their friends and family, help businesses get back on their feet and get people back in their jobs. From the outset we have trusted the common sense and perseverance of the British people and thanks to them we are continuing to meet the five tests, and the Chief Medical Officers have downgraded the UK’s Covid Alert Level from four to three.   That is why we can now go further and safely ease the lockdown in England to enable people to see more of their friends and family, help businesses get back on their feet and get people back in their jobs. At every stage, caution will remain our watchword, and each step will be conditional and reversible.   Everyone must keep washing hands, staying 2 metres apart wherever feasible, and mitigating the risks at 1 metre where not, avoiding public transport when possible, and wearing a mask when not, getting tested immediately if