Wednesday, June 30, 2021
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
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Labour Friends of India also called for the leaflet to be withdrawn.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.
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.
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."
“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
"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
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.
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.
"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
"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
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.
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.
“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
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.
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
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.
"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
Fraud or not, it's a beautiful piece.
Monday, June 21, 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
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.
Saturday, June 19, 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
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.
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
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.
"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.