Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Sajid Javid - we see no need to go beyond 19 July

The new Health Secretary has confirmed that, with the data heading in the right direction, the government currently see no reason to go beyond 19 July in ending restrictions and restoring our freedoms.

  • The British people, who have sacrificed so much to protect the vulnerable from COVID-19, should have their remaining freedoms back as quickly as this can safetly be done..
  • With the numbers heading in the right direction – including new data showing that our vaccination programme has so far prevented an estimated 7.2 million infections and 27,000 deaths in England alone – the current view is that there is no reason to go beyond 19 July in easing the current restrictions.
  • At this crucial moment in our fightback against this pandemic, we must keep our resolve and keep on our roadmap to freedom – so, together, we can beat this pandemic and we can build back better.

Strengthening discipline and improving behaviour in schools

The government has launched a consultation on how to strengthen discipline and behaviour in schools, delivering on our manifesto commitment to raise standards and supporting young people’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

  • We all want our children to learn in a safe and calm environment, where they are free from the disruption caused to teachers and pupils by poor behaviour in schools.
  • That is why the government has launched a call for evidence asking teachers and parents for their views on how to enforce good behaviour in schools – including on maintaining a calm classroom, the usage of removal rooms, and creating mobile phone-free school days.
  • This will help to strengthen behaviour standards in schools – levelling up opportunity so that every child, no matter where they grow up, can get a world class education.

Quote of the day 30th June 2021


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Labour weaponising community tensions

The Labour candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election has been on the receiving end of  some nasty abuse, which I condemn. 

There is no outright proof which if any of the other candidates is behind this but I'm absolutely certain it is not coming from the Conservative campaign.

But two wrongs don't make a right.

Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater said that the last thing people in Batley and Spen need is people to "sow division" - so why is she doing it herself?

And it's not just people like me expressing that concern - it is one of Labour's own MPs and Labour Friends of India.

Labour have put out a leaflet in Batley and Spen which was was accused by one of its own MPs of using “dog-whistle racism” to win votes.

Labour was criticised for distributing a flyer to Muslim voters showing Boris Johnson with India’s  prime minister, Narendra Modi, in 2019, along with the message: “Don’t risk a Tory MP who is not on your side.”

This amounts to using the fact that the Conservative government has diplomatic relations with India to weaponise community tensions between people with links to India and those with links to Kashmir Muslims for sectarian political gain.

Labour MP Navendu Mishra said the “divisive” leaflet sought to turn communities against each other and exposed a “hierarchy of racism” within the party. He added: “We beat our opponents based on policies, not by dog-whistle racism.”

Mishra, who resigned from the shadow cabinet in October, said he had faced racism within the party because of his Indian heritage and Hindu faith. He said: “The party needs to do a lot better when it comes to relationships with all communities. With regards to leaflets like this, we don’t expect this from Labour.”

Labour Friends of India also called for the leaflet to be withdrawn.

So it should be - and both Starmer and Leadbeater should apologise unreservedly for issuing it in the first place.

If Labour act like this they have no moral basis to accuse any other party or candidate of playing the race card, of stirring up hatred, or of sowing division.

Corbyn demands Sajid Javid resigns from his private sector jobs - four days after he did.

Jeremy Corbyn doesn't seem to be terribly interested in keeping his facts up to date.

He's just demanded that the new Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigns from his private sector posts - four days after the Saj had already done so on day one of his reappointment to the cabinet. 

4G in rural areas

Today the government has announced that the new £1 billion Shared Rural Network will boost mobile connectivity across every part of our country, levelling up and connecting people as we build back better.

  • Every  corner of the United Kingdom should enjoy the economic and social benefits of 4G mobile connectivity, to help people whether they want to set up a business, go shopping online, or stream entertainment.
  • That is why the government is working with the telecommunications industry to boost mobile coverage through our £1 billion Shared Rural Network, which will increase 4G coverage across every part of the country – including in Scotland, where coverage will increase by two thirds, in Wales where coverage will increase by a third, and in the North East of England, where it will increase from 68 per cent to 86 per cent.
  • This will help to level up every part of the UK, powering economic growth and connecting people wherever they live.

(Full disclosure: I work in the industry - in Openreach - but am writing as a Conservative councillor and not on behalf of my employer.)

Vaccination update

Vaccines save lives.

Latest data shows the UK vaccination programme has so far prevented an estimated 7.2 million infections and 27,000 deaths in England alone.

As the PM says, "Thank you to everyone involved in this national effort and keep coming forward for both your doses."

Quote of the day 29th June 2021

“It blows my mind! How can nationalism be progressive?

“All across Europe we’ve got the rise of these small minded parochial xenophobic nationalism. You’re seeing it across Hungary, Poland. You saw it in England with the BNP.

“And now it’s happening in Scotland with the SNP but for some reason Scottish nationalism is seen as woke and progressive which it isn’t.

“It’s a horrible small minded ‘oh we are the best’, and hating on your neighbours, hating on the English.

“It’s a really toxic horrible self-defeating narrative."

(Leo Kearse, a Scottish comedian, commenting on Scottish nationalism.)

Monday, June 28, 2021

The next steps in better digital trade

The UK government has today launched negotiations with Singapore on a cutting-edge Digital Trade Agreement, removing barriers to digital trade and helping UK exporters expand into high-tech markets.

  • The Conservative government is committed to using Britain's new freedoms to strike trade deals by signing agreements which support jobs, productivity and growth across this country. 
  • That is why the UK government has today started negotiations with Singapore on a new digital trade agreement, aimed at removing barriers to digital trade, boosting the UK’s status as a global hub for services trade, and helping exporters to expand into high-tech markets. 
  • By boosting links with some of the world’s biggest current and future economies, we can use the power of free trade to drive productivity, jobs and growth across the UK.

Flexible season tickets available from today

Passengers can start using the new flexible season tickets from today. This will save many rail passengers hundreds of pounds by giving them greater freedom and choice in how they travel.

  • As the government kickstart the biggest reforms to our railways in a generation, this is one of the plans to deliver the reliable, rapid and affordable services commuters deserve. 
  • So the new flexible season tickets have been launched which allow passengers to travel on any eight days in a 28-day period, and there is also a new season ticket calculator’ to help people get the deal that best suits their needs, helping them save hundreds of pounds. 
  • The Conservatives plan for rail puts passengers first – giving them greater freedom and choice in how they travel.

Relaunching Britain's probation service

A new, unified Probation Service has been launched today to tackle reoffending so that the public are better protected from crime as we build back safer from the pandemic.

  • A strong probation service is vital for cutting crime – but for too long its important work helping victims and tackling reoffending has been overlooked.
  • That is why the government has unified the Probation Service, so it can deliver a better and more consistent approach to supervising offenders – backed by £300 million since 2019 and with plans to recruit 1,500 more staff this year – it will increase face-to-face supervision, strengthen community service orders, and better utilise electronic monitoring. 
  • A stronger probation service will mean that the public is better protected, crime is cut and fewer people become victims.

Quote of the day 28th June 2021

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and a cornerstone of democracy, which cannot flourish unless citizens can articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship or sanction. So it should concern anyone who claims to be a democrat that there is growing evidence that women who have expressed a set of feminist beliefs that have come to be known as “gender-critical” have, in some cases, faced significant professional penalties as a result."

"The belief that the patriarchal oppression of women is grounded partly in their biological sex, not just the social expression of gender, and that women therefore have the right to certain single-sex spaces and to organise on the basis of biological sex if they so wish, represents a long-standing strand of feminist thinking. Other feminists disagree, believing that gender identity supersedes biological sex altogether."

"Both are legitimate perspectives that deserve to be heard in a democratic society. Both can be expressed without resulting in the abuse, harassment and discrimination of trans people or women. Being able to talk about these alternative perspectives goes to the heart of resolving important questions about how we structure society. "

"As a society, we need to resolve the question of how to protect the privacy, dignity and rights of trans women while also respecting the privacy, dignity and rights of those born female."

(Extracts from an Observer editorial arguing that free speech must be an essential part of ensuring that society can between protect and respect both women and trans people. You can read the full editorial here.

I agree with that: I would add that there are a number of other improtant and difficult issues on which free speech is also essential - and is equally under threat)

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sunday music spot: Vivaldi's "Laudate Pueri Dominum" (Psalm 112)

Vaccination update on "Grab a Jab" weekend

Fantastic news that half of all adults under 30 have now had their first vaccination. Walk-in clinics have been offering a jab to any adult who wants one this weekend and we have made great progress: here are the latest numbers.

Protecting Care Homes

The government has announced an extra £250 million is being made available to adult social care services to meet the costs of infection control and testing so they can continue to protect those they look after and their staff from the virus.

  • Throughout the pandemic, it has been important to take as many steps as possible to stop the spread of Covid-19 in care homes so we can keep staff and residents safe from this cruel virus. 
  • That is why the government is providing an additional £250 million through our Infection Control and Testing Fund to help care homes and providers meet the costs of implementing infection prevention measures and testing until the end of September – bringing our total support for social care to £2 billion.
  • By giving our social care the resources and funding it needs to control the virus, we can continue to protect staff and residents while allowing our care homes to deliver world-class care.

Congratulations to the Saj

Congratulations and best wishes to Sajid Javid on his return to the cabinet as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

He faces enormous challenges and I am sure we all wish him the very best success in dealing with them.


A thank you to the Stanley Arms

There are a large number of wonderful inns and restaurants around Cumbria and I'm going to start giving them a plug when we visit one.

To celebrate the fact that all the members of my family are now vaccinated against COVID-19 (my teenage children both acted on their own initiative to book jabs on the day the ability to book an appointment was extended to everyone over 18, and they have now both had their first jabs) we went to the Stanley Arms in Calderbridge, where we had a magnificent meal.

Quote of the day 27th June 2021

"I’m immensely proud that the UK is defended by without doubt the finest armed services you’ll find anywhere in the world. Our fantastic men and women in uniform are the best trained, the best led, the most dedicated bunch of people you will ever meet. 

This year we have witnessed the full breadth of what the Armed Forces can do – from being on the frontline in our fight against Covid to work fighting terrorism, delivering aid and flying the flag for the UK internationally. This Armed Forces Day, on behalf of the nation, I want to say a huge thank you for everything you do. We owe you more than I can ever say.

Over the last year our Armed Forces have been working around the world, in the UK personnel from all three Services stepped up to support the UK’s response to the pandemic. Elsewhere our Armed Forces have been promoting peace, delivering aid, tackling drug smugglers, training our allies and fighting terrorism."

(Prime Minister Boris Johnson marking Armed Forces day yesterday by thanking all the brave men and women of Britian's armed services for everything they do.) 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Musical medley for Armed Forces day: Heart of Oak, the British Grenadiers, & the Dambusters march,

Supporting Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through the pandemic

The latest official figures show that since the start of the pandemic the UK government has provided Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland with £28 billion of funding, as part of efforts to support the entirety of the Union throughout the pandemic and beyond, recognising that none of us are safe until we are all safe.

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has affected people up and down the country and so an an unprecedented package of support was needed and put in place for the whole UK.

  • That is why since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK government has delivered an additional £14.5 billion for the Scottish Government, £8.6 billion for the Welsh Government, and £5 billion for the Northern Ireland Executive – helping to protect jobs, livelihoods, businesses and public services.

  • Conservatives are fully committed to supporting the entirety of the UK and helping our nation to build back better as one united nation, levelling up the length and breadth of the country. None or us are safe until we are all safe.,

Saturday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor

Moves towards opening international travel

The government has we announced plans to reopen international travel in a safe and sustainable way which protects the progress made by Britain's vaccine rollout.

  • Thanks to the success of our vaccine programme the government believes that it is safe to move forwards with cautious efforts to safely reopen international travel this summer.

  • That is why Malta, Madeira, the Balearic Islands, several UK overseas territories and Caribbean islands have been added to the green list, meaning people can travel there without having to quarantine on their return. All but Malta are also joining the green watchlist, signalling they are at risk of moving from green to amber, giving people the full picture before they decide to travel. 

  • In recognition of the successful domestic vaccination programme, the plan is that later in the summer people who are fully vaccinated will not have to quarantine when travelling from amber list countries.
  • This shows a real sign of progress, but we must continue to take a cautious approach to protect public health and not put the success of the vaccine programme and the efforts of people across the country at risk as we move closer to normality.

Matt Hancock's resignation statement

Quote of the day for Armed Forces Day 26th June 2021

"Tommy" by Rudyard Kipling.

 I WENT into a public 'ouse to get a pint o' beer,

The publican 'e up an' sez, " We serve no red-coats here."

The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:

O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' " Tommy, go away " ;

But it's " Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play

The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,

O it's " Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,

They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;

They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,

But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' " Tommy, wait outside ";

But it's " Special train for Atkins " when the trooper's on the tide

The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,

O it's " Special train for Atkins " when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep

Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap.

An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit

Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Tommy, 'ow's yer soul? "

But it's " Thin red line of 'eroes " when the drums begin to roll

The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,

O it's " Thin red line of 'eroes, " when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,

But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;

An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,

Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;

While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Tommy, fall be'ind,"

But it's " Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind

There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,

O it's " Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:

We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! "

But it's " Saviour of 'is country " when the guns begin to shoot;

An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;

An 'Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!

Friday, June 25, 2021

Bring back Ruth

There is an interesting article on the "The Article" website about Scotland which covers a number of areas but the headline is the suggestion that former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson should be brought into the cabinet as minister for constitutional affairs.

I strongly support this idea.

Ruth Davidson has in ample measure several of the most valuable attributes of which no government in history has ever had a surplus - courage and integrity, the ability to communicate with people at every level of society, clear vision, and a presence and star quality that you have to pay attention to. Quite apart from considerations of party advantage, it is no insult to the present Scottish secretary to say that the government of the UK would be able to do more for Scotland - and quote possibly other parts of the UK as well - if Ruth Davidson were part of it.

You can read the article here.

Music to start the weekend: Telemann's Concerto for Mandolin, Dulcimer and Harp

Armed Forces Day 2021

 Tomorrow (26th June 2021) is Armed Forces Day

It is a day when we remember the sacrifices made on our behalf by the Armed services community of and what the men and women of our armed foreces have done to keep us safe.

More details of Armed Forces Day can be found here.

Areas of Outstanding Natural beauty

The government has this week announced plans to create and extend Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, safeguarding more of Britain’s iconic natural landscapes as we build back greener from the pandemic.

  • Britain's natural landscapes bring enormous benefits – enhancing our wellbeing, providing places for living and working communities, and playing a crucial role in the fight against climate change.

  • That is why the government is outlining plans to deliver on our manifesto commitments by boosting nature recovery, launching a new funding programme to support farmers to improve protected landscapes, and creating new Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with proposals to consider the Yorkshire Wolds and Cheshire Sandstone Ridge for protected status as well as extensions to the Surrey Hills and Chilterns areas.

  • By strengthening protection for our natural environment, this will ensure that everyone can access Britain’s most beautiful landscapes and safeguard them for future generations as we build back greener from the pandemic.

Quote of the day 25th June 2021

“It looks as if the R rate on flags is greater than 1 at the moment. Therefore, from next week, no more flags. Otherwise, I’ll be tempted to fly the flag of the Independent Tropical Republic of Ceredigion behind me here. So, we move on to a flagless week next week please.”

(Presiding Officer Elin Jones telling the Senedd (the Welsh assembly) that Senned members or MLAs are banned from displaying flags in their background during online meetings after a Conservative MLA asked :a question with the background displying a Union Jack.

There are some people who go a bit over the top in terms of wrapping themselves or painting themselves with their respective national flag, but unless there are specific issues of concern with the particular flag involved, I'd rather have most of those people any day than most of those who to equally over the top about people displaying flags.)

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Music to relax after a council meeting: "Holding Out for a Hero"

Until recently I was never able to hear any version of "Holding out for a hero" without thinking of Jennifer Saunders as the (evil) Fairy Godmother singing it while the Shrek and his friends break into the castle in Shrek II. Even the fact that the hero looks exactly like the worst British Prime Minister since Lord North didn't spoil it. 

Since December, and the climax of athe Season II finale of The Mandalorian, which a lot of Vloggers have set to that piece, I usually think of Luke Skywalker "rescuing the rescuers" instead. 

This was usually set to the Bonnie Tyler performance of "I need a hero" but here the musical soundtrack is the Jennifer Sunders version.

Today's special meeting of Cumbria County Council

I attended a special meeting of Cumbria County Council today (24th June)   in the Committee rooms of Cumbria House in Carlisle at 10am.

Because of COVID-19 regulations it was not possible for the entire council to meet so it was been agreed that a politically balanced but quorate sample about a quarter of the council members would  attend to conduct some non-controversial but essential business, particularly  the appointment of a new acting chief executive for a two year term.

The reason for the limited contract is the possibility that the council will cease to exist after that time under local government reorgansation (LGR) and be replaced, along with the six districts, by one or two unitary councils.

The full agenda and supporting documents can be found on the council website here. But be aware that the "attendance" details suggesting that the whole council was "expected" is not correct. All the councillors were sent a summons but three quarters were quietly asked not to attend. 

This was not an ideal position to be in, and we hope that by the time the next meeting is due COVID restrictions will have been relaxed sufficiently to allow all councillors to do the job we were elected to do and represent the people who put us there.

The meeting was recorded so it could be posted online: we were told it would be on Youtube and I was going to post a link here but it doesn't seem to be up yet. When it goes up I will post the link here.

Quote of the day 24th June 2021


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Vaccination update - 75 million doses given

More than 75 million doses of approved COVID-19 vaccinations have now been given in the UK. And three our of five adults have now had both jabs.

Special meeting of Cumbria County Council

 I will be attending a special meeting of Cumbria County Council tomorrow (24th June) which will be a physical meeting held in the Committee rooms of Cumbria House in Carlisle at 10am.

Because of COVID-19 regulations it is not possible for the entire council to meet so it has been agreed that a politically balanced but quorate sample  of members will attend to conduct some non-controversial but essential business.

The main item on the agenda is the appointment of a new chief executive for a two year term. The full agenda and supporting documents can be found on the council website here.

We have asked that the meeting should also  be livestreamed.

Midweek music spot: the LSO play Pachelbel's Canon

Transforming schools

The government has announced a £483 million investment to transform schools across England, so that every child, no matter where they go to school, can learn in the best possible environment.

  • As we deliver on our promise to level up education, we will ensure no child is held back from achieving their potential because of the condition of the school they attend.
  • That is why the government is making £483 million available to nearly 1,200 schools across England through our Condition Improvement Fund, helping them improve their classrooms and facilities while becoming more energy efficient – building on our School Rebuilding Programme which is already underway with the first 50 projects confirmed, as part of the £1.8 billion being invested to improve school buildings this year alone.
  • In building back better, we must give our schools the investment they need so students and staff can learn and work in the high-quality classrooms they deserve.

Quote of the day 23rd June 2021

"What we're seeing in Batley & Spen is literally incredible. Labour's own candidate is facing homophobic attacks. Labour's own leader and his family are facing anti-Semitic attacks. But no-one will respond. For fear of upsetting a section of Labour's own base."

Dan Hodges on Twitter yesterday. Anyone wondering what he is referring to can find a report on the Guide Fawkes site here.

Anti-Semitism is wrong whoever it comes from and whoever it is directed against.

So is homophobia.

Neither of these things should need saying. But apparently they do.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Tuesday music spot: Giazotto's "Albinoni Adagio"

No apologies for posting another version of the so-called "Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor for Strings" as I have found this performance of it which I particularly like. 

As I have previously posted, most if not all of this piece was actually composed by 20th century Italian composer and biographer Remo Giazotto who claimed to have based it on a fragment, allegedly found in the ruins of a library wrecked during the RAF and USAF bombing of Dresden, of a piece he thought had been composed by the the 18th-century Venetian master Tomaso Albinoni. 

The library which was destroyed in the 1945 Dresden bombing raids did indeed contain a substantial and irreplaceable collection of Albinoni's work and it is, sadly, almost certainly true that much of the composer's work was lost forever to allied bombs. 

However, it is more than a little suspicious that neither Giazotto (who died in 1998) or his heirs have ever produced the manuscript fragment supposedly recovered from the museum, and sceptics have described the claim as "the biggest fraud in music history."

Fraud or not, it's a beautiful piece.

Upgrading Britain's R&D

Yesterday the UK government announced a £50 million upgrade to research and innovation infrastructure cementing Britain's status as a science superpower and laying more groundwork to tackle the challenges of the future.

  • The pandemic has taught us all that new challenges can arise from anywhere at any time – and that research, and innovation is the key to responding to the challenges of the future. 
  • That is why the government has announced a £50 million upgrade to research and innovation infrastructure, supporting more than a dozen projects including the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope network, carbon capture technologies and a state-of-the-art airborne research laboratory, cementing Britain's status as a science superpower. 
  • By boosting UK spending on research and development we can use the power of science and technology to tackle great societal challenges, level up across the country and generate wealth and prosperity around the world.

Health and care data

Today a new health and care data strategy has been announced which will free up staff time so they can focus on delivering world class care for patients.

  • The great strides made on vaccines and treatment during the pandemic have taught us that good use of data saves lives and is the key to improving patient treatment. 
  • That is why the government has today announced a new health and care data strategy which will mean better sharing of records across healthcare systems and give patients more access to their data, freeing up staff time and improving care by allowing faster, more specialised treatment.
  • The new system will put patients in control of their information while allowing our NHS to better look after the public and discover the life-saving treatments of tomorrow as we build back healthier.
  • In Cumbria, while a lot of progress has been made, there is much more to be done before we have a modern, effective system of digital records which gives the best possible support for patient care.  I want to see this new health and care strategy used as an opportunity to drive further improvement in using better digital record systems to save professionals' and patients' time, reduce cancelled operations and deliver better patient care.

Boosting Britain's trade with the pacific nations

Today the UK government launched negotiations to join the CPTPP free-trade partnership  - this stands for  "Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership" and it is a high standards free trade area, which will open up new opportunities for British businesses in the world’s fastest growing markets.

  • As a sovereign trading nation, Britain is striking out in to the world, grasping new opportunities through new free trade agreements with our friends and allies around the world. 
  • That is why the UK is today starting negotiations to join the CPTPP free-trade partnership, a free trade area spanning some of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies. Joining this £9 trillion free-trading area would open new markets for services, remove tariffs on British goods, and allow UK farmers to access these growing markets - where demand for their products is soaring.
  • By boosting links with some of the world’s biggest current and future economies, we can use the power of free trade to build back better and level up opportunity across every part of the country.

Quote of the day 22nd June 2021


Monday, June 21, 2021

Monday music spot: Bach's Concerto for three harpsichords in D minor BWV 1063

Flexible season tickets for rail travelers

The new flexible season tickets will go on sale from today, helping rail passengers save hundreds of pounds by giving them greater freedom and choice in how they travel.

  • As the government works to kickstart the biggest reforms to our railways in a generation, measures are being put in place to deliver the reliable, rapid and affordable services commuters deserve.
  • That is why the government is today launching a new flexible season tickets that will allow passengers to travel on any 8 days in a 28-day period, and introducing a ‘season ticket calculator’ to help people get the deal that best suits their needs,  helping them save hundreds of pounds. 
  • Through this plan for rail, Conservatives are putting passengers first – giving them greater freedom and choice in how they travel.

Using Science and Technology to build back better

Writing in the Daily Telegraph today, the Prime Minister set out the Conservative government's plans to maximise the opportunities of scientific and technological breakthroughs, helping us tackle some of the great societal challenges of our time from climate change to cancer.

  • Throughout the pandemic we have seen what British science can achieve, and with the right direction and backing, we can harness it to transform the lives of people across the UK. 
  • That is why the government is creating a National Science and Technology Council – chaired by the Prime Minister and supported by a new Office of Science and Technology Strategy – which will work across government to strengthen our understanding of how we can develop the technology to reach net zero, cure and treat cancer and keep our citizens safe at home and abroad. 
  • The success of Britain's vaccine programme shows the power of investing in scientific research, which is why we are boosting funding for research of all kinds to £22 billion, so we can deliver more breakthroughs like the Covid vaccine.
  • This will help to cement the UK’s place as a global scientific superpower, transforming the lives of people across the UK as we build back better.

Quote of the day 21st June 2021

‘Liberal Democrats led calls for high-speed rail lines to the North from the very start ... and will continue to do so in the future.’

Lib Dem spokesman Lord Scriven speaking in 2015 and quoted this weekend by Andrew Pierce in the Daily Mail. 

Residents of Chesham and Amersham please note. 

For anyone who isn't prepared to take the word of the Daily Mail, if you look up the manifesto promises made by the Lib/Dems in the last three general elections, you should not find it too hard to find confirmation - I found it easily - that the Lib/Dems did promise to support HS2 in the 2015 manifesto when he made that comment, and that they subsequently promised "continued support" for HS2 in both the 2017 and 2019 elections. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Matthew Syed on Trust

There is a really powerful article in today's Sunday Times by Matthew Syed in which he argues that one of the main problems of our time is a moral one - a reduction in our ability to trust one another.

It is certainly possible to be too trusting. A person who has no healthy scepticism of government, of politicians, of people who are trying to sell things to him or her, is liable to be the victim of bad policies or bad products whether those advocating them are doing to out of dishonesty or foolishness.

However, if we are unable to trust one another at all, the results are catastrophic. Some degree of trust in one another, in governments, in our institutions, is necessary for society to work at all. Successful government requires the consent of the governed just as policing requires the consent of the vast majority of those policed, and needs to be two-way. 

Without it any trust at all you have to fall back on order imposed by force - a solution which works only in dictatorships and not very well there.

Certain politicians of all political parties have delivered hammer blows to trust in politics in the last few years, 

(No names, no pack drill, any person who themselves combines a reasonable degree of impartiality with intellectual honesty will admit that there are some honest people in all political parties and some others who are part of the problem of collapse in trust, and I will delete any comments trying to score party points by naming individuals from one party as examples and saying - oh yes it's all X party's fault.) 

However, the media also has a lot to answer for.  Partly that is due to the media's own displays of dishonesty - the BBC's catastrophic failures of integrity over Saville and the Martin Bashir interview with Princess Diana and the phone hacking scandal are only three of the worst examples.

But also, the media have not always kept the right balance between healthy scepticism and corrosive cynicism. Jeremy Paxman was a brilliant interviewer, but he openly admitted that he approached all interviews with the mindset "Why is this lying bastard lying to me."  The trouble with that level of  cynicism is that it reduce trust in honest politicians as well as the bad ones. And Paxman was not the only interviewer to adopt that style.

I don't see an easy answer but I think Matthew Syed's article raises important questions and I think the first part if the answer is that all of us need to start being more honest with ourselves and one another.

You can read the article here if you register - there is a paywall but you can get a certain number of free articles.

Reminder - every adult can now book a COVID-19 vaccination

Every adult in the UK can now book a life-saving Covid vaccine as we enter the final stretch in our race to protect the country and fully return to normality.

  • Vaccines are our route out of the pandemic - vaccinated people are less likely to get Covid-19 symptoms, be admitted to hospital or die from the disease, and there is growing evidence that vaccinated people are less likely to pass the virus on to others. 
  • That is why it is vital for everyone who has not done so yet to come forward and get their jab, so we can build on the continued success of our historic vaccine programme - which has saved more than 14,000 lives so far as part of this remarkable national effort to protect the country.
  • Thanks to the heroic efforts of our NHS, armed forces and countless volunteers, we are now approaching the final stretch in our race to vaccinate – so when you get the call, get the jab.

Sunday music spot: Lord Let Me Know Mine End, by Maurice Greene

Quote of the day Sunday 20th June 2021


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Music to relax after campaigning: G. A. Bresceianello's Sonata for 2 Violins, "La Serenissima"

Quote of the day 19th June 2021

'The @GBNEWS boycott involves people threatening brands they don’t buy with custom they don’t give unless adverts they haven’t seen are withdrawn from a channel they don’t watch — all because people they don’t know might have opinions they don’t like.'

(Stephen Daisley, on Twitter and in a Spectator article.

On the same issue I recommend this article on Unherd)

Friday, June 18, 2021

Music to start the weekend: Bach's Organ Concerto in D minor

Reminder: risks in perspective

With the news today that COVID-19 vaccinations are now available to all adults in the UK it is worth reminding ourselves of the perspective on the risks from the disease against those of the measures being taken to protect against it.

Anyone who has any doubts about whether the COVID-19 vaccines are suitable for them or a member of their family should discuss it with their GP or another appropriately qualified medical professional. There is no such thing as a totally risk-free medical procedure and there are a very small number of people who for valid reasons should not have any given treatment. 

But the answer to this is check out the facts and make an informed decision based on the actual balance of risks - not to listen to the paranoid ravings of every tinfoil-hat wearing conspiracy theorist on the internet or of anti-vaxxers whose theories are in a different category from the flat earthers mainly in that belief in a flat earth has never killed anyone.

And the facts show that for the vast majority of adults the health risks of getting COVID-19 are vastly greater than any risks associated with the approved vaccines.

All the approved Coronavirus vaccines have been subject to extensive clinical tests involving thousands of volunteers over a period of months.

Has it been proven that there is no risk whatsoever from vaccination? No, or course not.

But can we say that there is concrete and immensely strong evidence that the vast majority of adults are orders of magnitude more likely to suffer death or other adverse health outcomes from catching COVID-19 if you don't get the vaccine than from COVID or the vaccine if you do? Yes, we can.

And here is a reminder of how the probabilities of getting rare blood clots which some people have suggested may be associated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine - though no causal link has ever been proven compares with other possible risk factors incuding COVID-19 itself:

This graphic shows the proportion of people who have had blood clots following one of a number of four possible events - having the Oxford AstraZeneca jab, taking the birth control pill, smoking, or catching COVID-19.

These percentages are an indication of correlation, not causation. The lower the level of correlation the weaker the argument that there is a causal connection.

But if there is a causal connection - which is not proven - the average person has about 40,000 times more risk of getting blood clots as a catching COVID-19 as they have of getting one as a result of being vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

A new deal with the USA

Yesterday, Britain struck a deal with the US on the Airbus-Boeing dispute which will mean cheaper exports for goods like Scottish whiskey, as we use the power of free trade to build back better across our Union.

  • Tariffs imposed by the 17-year dispute over aircraft manufacturing have been massively damaging for the cashmere, machinery, and single-malt Scotch whisky, which employ tens of thousands of people across the UK.
  • As a sovereign trading nation, we have been able to deescalate the dispute by unilaterally suspending tariffs on the US at the start of this year - which was crucial to reaching this deal to suspend damaging tariffs which affected British exports worth more than £500 million.
  • We can now focus on taking our trading relationship with the US to the next level, as we work together to use the power of free trade to build back better and level up opportunity across our Union.

Seeking justice for victims of rape

There are few crimes more horrible than rape - and few where it is more difficult to ensure that justice is done. More needs to be done to bring the guilty to justice - without throwing out of the airlock the principle that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty

Today the government has set out an action plan to overhaul the approach to rape investigations, protecting the public and making sure that victims get the justice they deserve.

  • It is not good enough that brave victims who come forward to report crimes are too often let down by the criminal justice system and Conservatives will not rest until improvements are made. 
  • That is why the government is today publishing plans to overhaul the approach to investigations with a new approach on suspect behaviour, increasing the support for victims by making sure that they are never left without a phone for more than 24 hours, and holding the police, CPS and courts accountable for their failings with regular scorecards on progress to be published every six months. 
  • The government will do everything possible to drive the change needed to tackle this horrible crime and restore faith in the criminal justice system – so that victims get the justice they deserve.


We're finally there - with the news that eligibility to book a vaccination has been extended down to people aged 18 and 19, all adults in the UK are now able to book an approved COVID-19 vaccination appointment.

I repeat:

Every adult in the UK can now book a life-saving Covid vaccine as we enter the final stretch in the race to protect the country and return to normality.

  • Vaccines are our route of the pandemic - vaccinated people are less likely to get Covid-19 symptoms, be admitted to hospital or die from the disease, and there is growing evidence that vaccinated people are less likely to pass the virus on to others. 
  • That is why it is vital for everyone who has not done so yet to come forward and get their jab, so we can build on the continued success of our historic vaccine programme - which has saved over 14,000 lives so far as part of a national effort to protect the country.
  • We are now approaching the final stretch in our race to vaccinate people as quickly as possible – so when you get the call, get the jab, so that we can put this pandemic behind us for good.
  • You can book a vaccination appointment by ringing 119 from 7am to 11pm seven days a week or by clicking on this link.

Remember that it is important to get BOTH jabs - for full protection against the "Delta" variant first identified in India which is now responsible for the majority of new cases spreading in Britain, you need two vaccination doses.

Remember also that it takes from two to four weeks after the jab for the protection to kick in.

Quote of the day 18th June 2021

"Yes, Minister was a hit with the public because they enjoyed it as a comedy and with politicians because they knew it was closer to a documentary."

Stephen Daisley, from an article which you can read here calling for more effective scrutiny of the Scottish government.

He has a point - everyone with whom I ever discussed "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" who was anywhere near the workings of government agreed that if people knew how much truth there is in  that programme they would not be laughing but horrified. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Thursday music spot: Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor

The UK Infrastructure Bank opens today

Today the new UK Infrastructure Bank in Leeds opens, and will accelerate investment in infrastructure projects, tackle climate change and help level up every part of the country.

  • As Britain recovers from the pandemic, we need to put infrastructure at the heart of government plans to help create skilled jobs and level up opportunity across the UK. 

    That is why the government has created the new UK Infrastructure Bank, based in Leeds and backed by an initial £12 billion of taxpayers' money, which will help unlock £40 billion of overall investment – helping to finance major infrastructure projects in clean energy, transport and digital in every region and nation of the UK. 
  • This will accelerate efforts to level up opportunity through new jobs and investment, by delivering the world class infrastructure we need to support our businesses and communities. 

The COVID-restrictions extension.

MP’s have voted to extending the coronavirus regulations by four weeks, giving our NHS time to accelerate our vaccine programme and save lives.

  • This was not an easy decision for the government and MPs to make and will have disappointed many people.
  • When the government set out the roadmap to freedom a few months ago, they were very clear that they would be driven by data rather than dates and determined to make progress that was cautious but irreversible.
  • There were a set of tests set our for each stage of relaxation, and Britain has not met all four tests to proceed with the next step of the roadmap. So the government felt they had to propose a delay in moving to Step 4 by four weeks until 19 July, giving our NHS more time to administer the lifesaving vaccines, and slow the spread of the Delta variant. This decision has been confirmed by parliament.
  • Now is the time to ease off the accelerator, because by being cautious, we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.