Showing posts from July, 2021

Special meeting of Cumbria County Council requested

I and four other Cumbria county councillors have called for a special full council meeting over the West Cumbria Mine application, following a decision by council officers to take a neutral position on the application. The requested for a special meeting was in order to ask specifically for a meeting of the council’s Development Control & Regulation committee to be convened so it can confirm its position on the application for a deep coal mine in Whitehaven, to produce coking coal for the UK and European steel industry, ahead of the public inquiry which is due to start in September. The DC&R committee has considered the planning application for a mine three times between March 2019 and October 2020: on each occasion there was an exhaustively detailed process looking at every aspect of the proposals, with reports running to hundreds of pages being produced and hours of debate and discussion. On all three occasions the committee voted in favour of the mine: the first two votes we

Deliberate typo of the week

There is no way this typo in the Telegraph can have been an accident For those who did not have the opportunity to study latin at school, "sic" which is latin for "thus" has in the past often been inserted after a quote which contains a mistake when whoever is quoting the comment wants to emphasise that the mistake was made in the original quote and is not a transcription error by the person repeating it. In this usage "sic" is shorthand for "sic erat scriptum," e.g. "thus was it written."

Vaccination Update


Saturday music spot: the Stringspace String Quartet perform Pachelbel's Canon


Quote of the day 31st July 2021

 "I was floating down that famous Egyptian river, Denial." ( Tom Edwards on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live this morning, describing his fall into alcoholism and his subsequent  recovery from it.)

Music to start the weekend: "I Need a Hero" (with the Mandalorian Season 2 finale sequence)


The UK Vaccination programme is now estimated to have saved 60,000 lives

Figures from Public Health England show that  Britain's historic vaccine programme has helped save 60,000 lives , and the government, NHS and health professionals continue to urge everyone, when you get the call, get the jab. Thanks to the continued success of this historic vaccine programme, the present wave of infections seems to be peaking and has not generated the level of hospitalisations and deaths which it previously would have. The majority of people in Cumbria's hospitals with COVID-19 now (late July) actually came into hospital for other conditions. Vaccination is protecting the most vulnerable, as we learn to live with the virus.   Our vaccines have already helped prevent 22 million infections and 60,000 deaths, which is why we are encouraging everyone who has not already done so – including young people and  pregnant women  – to come forward and get the jab.   Day by day, jab by jab, we are strengthening our defences against the virus and call on everyone to play th

Summer School

The government has announced that  more than half a million children across England will benefit from a summer school over the summer holidays , backed by over £200 million of investment, giving pupils the best opportunities to fulfill their potential as we build back better.  The pandemic has had a huge impact on the last school year for pupils – and it is important to help everyone affected catch up on lost learning and missed experiences before the start of the next academic year.    That is why the governmetn has invested over £200 million into helping schools put on summer schools and provide vital learning opportunities for pupils – boosting pupils’ learning and their confidence with extra lessons and extra-curricular activities like sports, music and drama, which 2,820 secondary schools, almost three quarters of those eligible, have now signed up to.    This will help set pupils across England up for the future, giving them the best opportunity to reach their full potential and

Comment moderation now turned back on for three weeks.

I apologise to those like Jim King and Gary Bullivant who post on here under their real names and those anonymous posters who have posted constructively, but a sick anonymous troll has forced me to turn comment moderation back on. Sadly some very unpleasant people think it is OK to post things online while hiding anonymously behind a computer screen which they would never dare to say to anyone's face. People sometimes joke about this sort of thing coming from people tweeting from their mum's basement though in a well-connected community like West Cumbria where everyone knows everyone else those of us on the recieving end have a better idea where some of these posts are coming from than the perpetrators may realise. I have some strong suspicions about where some of the anonymous online poison in West Cumbria comes from and that it is from people who really ought to know better. I adopted a strict rule a few years ago when a critical comment was made on an obituary post, which ca

Flooding protection

Great news that  more than 1,000 flood schemes will benefit from over £860 million of investment this year , supporting homes and families against the devastating impact of flooding. Flooding can devastate communities – too many homes and families across the country have sadly fallen victim to this, and so we must put the necessary protections in place to tackle it.    That is why the governmetn is investing over £860 million into boosting the design and construction of more than 1,000 flood alleviation schemes in 2021-22, and outlining our record £5.2 billion of investment over the next six years to protect 336,000 properties from flooding and coastal erosion as part of the Flood and Coastal Erosion Investment Plan, accompanied by a consultation in the autumn looking at how we can better protect frequently flooded communities, tighter guidance for planning authorities to better protect and prepare for flooding, and setting out how households will benefit from improvements to flood ins

Quote of the day 30th July 2021


Investing in education

Today, at the Global Education Summit in London,  the Prime Minister called on world leaders to make a transformative investment into children’s education  to avoid a legacy of wasted talent due to the pandemic - as we lead the way in building back better across the globe. The pandemic has devastated children’s education around the world, with girls in particular risk at never returning to school and too many of them out of school before the pandemic even hit, so it is vital that we do not leave behind a legacy of wasted talent.    That is why the Prime Minister today called on world leaders to invest in children’s education as the UK and Kenya host the Global Education Summit in London, where funds will be raised for the Global Partnership for Education – which the UK has already committed £430 million to – and why we are leading international efforts to get 40 million more girls into school, and 20 million more to reading age by 10 over the next year, spending £400 million in aid on

Putting more police on our streets

Yesterday the government announced  the recruitment of nearly 10,000 additional police officers , meaning we are almost half-way to delivering the Conservative manifesto promise to put 20,000 extra police officers on the streets by 2023, making our streets and communities safer for everyone as we level up the nation. When he became Prime Minister, Boris Johnson made a commitment that we would recruit more police officers, cut crime, and make our streets safer.    Yesterday it was announced that – nearly two years into our programme – an additional police 9,814 police officers have been recruited across all 43 police forces in England and Wales, meaning we are nearly half-way to delivering on our promise to recruit the extra 20,000 new officers by 2023.   Through putting more police on the streets, launching our Beating Crime Plan, and progressing with our Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill – we are making our streets and communities safe for everyone as we build back better.

Thursday music spot: Purcell's March from the Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary


Cllr David Greenhalgh RIP

I am shocked and horrified by the news that Councillor David Greenhalgh, leader of Bolton Council, died earlier today at the age of 53. I had met David several times over the last few years and both liked and respected him as one of the best leaders in local government I have ever met and one of the nicest people in politics. In a joint statement, Bolton council's deputy leader, Coun Martyn Cox, and the council chief executive, Tony Oakman, said: "We have just learned the very sad news that Bolton Council Leader, Cllr David Greenhalgh, has passed away. "David served as a local councillor in Bromley Cross for many years, becoming council leader in 2019. "He was greatly respected and had many friends both in the town hall and the wider Bolton community. "As an individual he will be greatly missed by many, and it will take some time to come to terms with our sudden loss. "Our thoughts at this time are with those closest to him." Councillor Nick Peel, the

Britain's economic recovery

This week  the IMF announced that the UK’s economy is set to be among the fastest growing in the G7 this year  – showing that Britain's economic recovery and the government's plan for jobs are working.   There are positive signs that Britain's economy is rebounding faster than initially expected – with the IMF forecasting the UK to have the joint highest growth rate in 2021 among the G7 economies at 7 per cent.   But there are still challenges ahead as a result of the impact of the pandemic – which is why we must all remain focused on protecting and creating as many jobs as possible and why the government's plan for jobs is so important.  

Quote of the day 29th July 2021


Midweek music spot: Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto for 2 Violins in A minor,


Beating Crime, part three

Today the government has  set out extra measures to tackle the drivers of crime , building on our Beating Crime Plan.  The Beating Crime Plan sets out measures to cut crime and hold criminals accountable, but it is only right that we support offenders who wish to turn their back on crime and lead productive lives.   That is why the government has launched a scheme to break the cycle of reoffending, by providing temporary, basic accommodation to keep prison leavers off the streets, recruiting 1,000 ex-offenders into the Civil Service by 2023, and investing £80 million in drug rehabilitation.    These measures will break the cycle of reoffending, drive down crime, and save thousands of law-abiding people from becoming victims.

The new Disability strategy

A new  National Disability Strategy   was launched today by the UK government, which will improve the everyday lives and opportunities for people with disabilities as we build back fairer - delivering on a Conservative manifesto promise. Everyone should be able to participate fully and freely in our society, but many disabled people feel held back by a lack of opportunity and accessibility. We must fix this and make our society fairer for everyone.    That is why the government has today announced our new National Disability Strategy – which includes 100 immediate commitments including improving accessibility of homes, investing £300 million to support young people with special educational needs and disabilities in schools, piloting an online work passport to help smooth the transition into employment, and consulting on introducing disability workforce reporting for large businesses.   This strategy will deliver lasting change for people with disabilities, levelling up opportunity and

Boosting a green recovery

It has been announced today that  90 green projects and 2,500 jobs will receive a multi-million pound boost , stepping up action to boost nature recovery across the country.  From new ‘insect pathways’ to tree planting projects in deprived urban areas, these projects will help build, improve and restore our natural environments for future generations.    The Conservative government has announced that 90 innovative projects will be awarded funding through the second round of the £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund, supporting 2,500 green jobs, planting almost a million trees, and boosting nature recovery across the country.    This funding will restore our natural environment for the benefit of both communities and the economy, helping us work towards net zero emissions by 2050 and creating more green jobs along the way.

Quote and Comeback of the day 28th July 2021

 An organising campaigning for a republic has a twitter campaign which makes the following point: "Would you fly British Heir Ways? It had a picture of a man in a pilot's uniform seated at the controls of an aircraft, holding his thumb up with the captions "I didn't learn to fly, but my dad was a pilot so we'll be OK. " and "Hereditary jobs don't work." Dsnny (@InTheLionsDen_) pointed out this morning on Twitter that this is perhaps not the most ideal analogy for the monarchy with five words: "We don't elect pilots either."

Beating Crime, continued

  If we are to succeed in levelling up this country, we must give everyone the security and confidence that comes from having a safe street and a safe home.   That is why the government introduced this week a  Beating Crime Plan ,  which builds on the achievements of the past two years – more police, more resources, and tougher sentences – to provide our law enforcement with everything they need to prevent, deter, and crack down on crime.   This plan will give the law-abiding majority the respect and support they need should they fall victim to a crime, whilst cracking down on those who persist in breaking the law. We are doing this by: Introducing our Beating Crime Plan, delivering the most comprehensive and far-reaching strategy of its kind yet.  This plan is our blueprint for cutting crime and increasing confidence in our justice system. By combining prevention, deterrence, and enforcement, it will put victims first and support the dedicated and hardworking men and women from across

Testing, testing

The government has announced  1,200 new testing sites to allow thousands more critical workers to test daily instead of self-isolating , to protect staff and minimise disruption Protecting critical workers from infection so that they can perform their key roles, while avoiding staff shortages, is a priority to continue our recovery from the pandemic.    That is why it has been announced that 1,200 extra sites will open to provide daily testing to critical sectors including the armed forces, prisons, and waste management, building upon the 800 sites being set up for our police, firefighters and supermarket staff, so that more critical staff can test rather than self-isolate.   Ensuring more sectors are able to continue operating safely by testing rather than isolating, will make it possible to protect staff and our essential public services

The National Adoption Strategy

The government has  announced a National Adoption Strategy , which aims to make sure every adoptive family in England is receiving the same high quality service no matter where they live. A loving family is key to boosting life chances, which is why steps have already been taken to ensure children and young people in adoption services can be matched with the families that are right for them, but we know there is more to do.   That is why the government has this week set out a new National Adoption Strategy, backed by £48 million, to improve adoption services across England, with better recruitment across the country and removing unnecessary delays, providing more training for front line staff, and setting out a new framework of national standards to end the ‘postcode lottery’.   This is part of a plan to level up opportunities for vulnerable children in care so that every adoptive family in England receives the same high quality service no matter where they live.

Quote of the day 27th July 2021

Most of the quotes in the "Quote of the Day" section of this blog are intended to be inspirational, cheering, or make a political point I agree with. And I try to include at least ten positive posts in this blog for every post attacking another party or perspective. However, there are times when a quote from another party cries out to be repeated, in order to critically examine it, particularly when a Labour MP manages to put into a few words much of what is wrong with the Labour party. Labour MP Jess Phillips did that recently when she told the Sunday Times "The only way that a woman will become Labour Leader is if men don't stand." Some people will read those words and detect an atrocious sense of entitlement. Others, including me, will see in them an admission that Labour is sexist to the core. No men stood aside for Margaret Thatcher and she beat them fair and square to be elected leader of the Conservative party and then Prime Minister. No men stood aside

One Step Greener

The government has  announced the first 13 ambassadors from the One Step Greener initiative , bringing together people from all walks of life to inspire and encourage others to follow in their green footsteps and help to tackle climate change. We all have a role to play in tackling climate change, and with 100 days to go until COP26 we are calling on people to share their stories and inspire others as we build a more sustainable and greener future.   That is why the government has announced the first 13 One Step Greener ambassadors – including Dame Jackie Daniel, Hugo Chambers, and Toby McCartney – bringing together businesses, community groups, and schools who best symbolise climate leadership to showcase their stories at the crucial summit in November.   In addition, a further 13 ambassadors are being sought to show how they are championing climate initiatives in their communities and inspiring others to follow their lead.   By sharing their stories, these One Step Greener ambassador

Preparations for COP26

Yesterday and continuing today,  the COP26 President-Designate brought together ministers and representatives from more than 50 countries  to lay the groundwork for success ahead of November’s COP26 negotiations. Alongside national efforts in tackling climate change, we must work with our international partners to ensure that definitive action is taken to drive down emissions and protect our planet.   That is why Alok Sharma has brought together representatives from over 50 countries for two-days of informal, closed-door meetings to encourage frank conversations about the issues in fighting climate change – the first such meeting for more than 18 months.   By engaging with difficult issues, representatives will be able to build common ground and find a unity of purpose ahead of November’s COP26 conference, ensuring we remain on track to reduce carbon emissions before it is too late.

Daily contact testing

Over the weekend the government announced an  expansion of daily contact testing to emergency services and some transport sectors , ensuring that frontline workers can continue to keep us safe while remaining protected from the virus. As part of the targeted contact testing of workers, we have engaged with the emergency and transport sectors to understand how workers can continue to safely deliver their vital services, despite cases rising in the coming weeks.   That is why the government is expanding our contact testing scheme to police and fire services, Border Force, and some transport workers, replacing self-isolation with daily testing for those identified as contacts of people with coronavirus, with an expected 200 additional testing sites being opened.   By doing this we can ensure our emergency and transport services will continue to keep us safe while offering them protection from the virus.

Beating Crime

Writing in the Sunday Express,  the Prime Minister outlined the Government’s Beating Crime plan , setting out proposals to introduce effective localised policing, reduce crime, and make our communities safer - ahead of its publication next week. Far too many of us know the powerlessness and anger felt when we are victims of crime, and despite crime falling by 9% in the year before the pandemic, we must do more to ensure this trend continues.   That is why the Prime Minister has outlined a Beating Crime plan, which will introduce a named police contact for every community – someone who knows the strengths and vulnerabilities of our areas and who can provide residents with an officer that sees crime in context.   The government will also publish league tables for 999 and 101 call answering times, put more police into dealing with anti-social behaviour, expand the tagging of offenders, intensify our war on county drug lines, and bring together police, employers and health experts to devel

Monday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto No.10 in B minor for 4 violins


Quote of the day 26th July 2021

Tom Harris on why parliament has, and should have, a rule against MPs calling each other liars. He argues that, if there were no such rule ...

Sunday music spot: Mozart's "Kyrie Eleison" (Lord have mercy,) soloist Julie Fuchs


Delivering on Conservative promises

In some ways it doesn't seem all that long that Boris Johnson has been PM - there was only about seven months of "normal" politics before the pandemic started, not that this period seemed all that normal at the time - but it is two years. Here is a list of some of the things the Conservative government has achieved in that time Key achievements include: Rolling out a historic vaccination programme, delivering the long-term protection that has allowed us to unlock our country.  Almost nine in ten adults in the UK have now received a first vaccine dose – with almost seven in ten having also received a second dose. Every adult has now been offered a first dose, and by the end of September will also have been offered a second.   Getting Brexit done, leaving the EU, delivering on our promise to the British people.  We have implemented the decision which the British people took in 2016 and taken back control of the issues that matter to the British people. Leaving the EU has gi

The story of a plot to undermine vaccination programmes by spreading Anti-Vax fake news

There is an interesting story on the BBC website here about a plot to recruit social media influencers to spread fake news and undermine the vaccination programmes in Germany and France. The plot failed because the people they tried to recruit were horrified and blew the whistle. The BBC tried to trace the plot back to see who was behind it, getting as far as "a Russian man called Stanislav Fesenko." The Russian embassy has, of course, denied that the Putin regime in Russia had anything to do with this. Yeah, right.

The Fraud investigation into SNP finances

No political party gets everything right - none should be above scrutiny or criticism. There are a number of aspects of the current fraud investigation into the SNP's finances which give particular grounds for concern - and I will let this piece from the Sunday Times speak for itself.

Quote of the day 25th July 2021


Quote of the day 24th July 2021


Saturday music spot: Grand Admiral Thrawn's Theme from the Star Wars universe

It is extraordinary how much background material exists besides the films for the Star Wars universe, some if it "Canon" (e.g. recognised by Disney who now own te franchise as part of the "official" timeline) and much that currently isn't.   A surprising number of the major characters from Star Wars have their own theme tunes, and I rather like this one for Grand Admiral Thrawn.  For many Star Wars fans, Thrawn, or to give him his full name, Mittth'raw'nuruodo, is their favourite blue-skinned red-eyed military genius. Many, though not all, of the bad guys in the Star Wars universe are almost pure evil and hence a little bit boring.  Thrown, by contrast, is a much more complex character, and depending on which book you are reading or series you are watching, he varies between a villain who thinks he's a hero, or a good guy who ends up on the wrong side. (Two of the inspirations used by his creator, Timothy Zahn, were Generals Erwin Rommell and Robert

Cutting energy bills by making switching easier

The government has  announced plans to drive down energy bills for millions of families across the UK , so they have money more in their pockets. The best way to get better service is to unleash a wave of competition within the energy market if managed properly this should also keep bills low so households across the UK can keep more money in their pockets.   That is why the government has today published proposals to trial automatic switching for customers on expensive default energy tariffs to cheaper deals, helping 15 million households save hundreds of pounds more a year on their energy bills.   Alongside these proposals, the government has announced that the Energy Price Cap, introduced in 2019 to protect the 15 million British households on default tariffs, could continue for longer - helping those on the highest tariffs save between £75 and £100 a year on dual fuel bills.   Making it easier to switch to a better deal on the market, will help people to keep more of what they earn

Ensuring food supplies

The government has announced  the rollout of daily contact testing for our critical food supply workers , minimising the disruption caused by rising COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk. As part of the government's close engagement with the food and drinks sector, new targeted testing is being introduced for certain workplaces to ensure supermarket shelves are stocked and fridges are full.   That is why the requirement is being ended for vital food supply workers to self-isolate if they are identified as contacts of people with coronavirus,  and instead allow them to take daily tests at work if they test negative each day, with an initial 15 priority testing sites being rolled out today.    By helping minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, we can ensure our highly resilient food supply chain continues to keep food in strong supply while keeping our workers safe.

Music to start the weekend: Overture from Handel's "Solomon" (a.k.a. the arrival of the Queen of Sheba)


Quote of the day 23rd July 2021

“The point of using that really was to try and drive the Remain campaign and the people running it crazy.” ( Dominic Cummings on why he insisted that all Vote Leave campaigners repeated the misleading claim that Britain's weekly contribution to the EU was £350 million. Let there be any misunderstanding, if Dom Cummings said it was raining I would look outside to check but in this instance he has finally admitted something I have believed for five years was his real strategy.  And let's be honest it worked exactly as planned.)

Thursday music spot: Bach's Fugue in G minor BWV 578


More competition in the UK digital economy

This week saw the announcement of  new proposals to increase competition in the UK’s digital economy , making sure the public gets the best services at fair prices. The UK tech scene is thriving – but we need to make sure British firms have a level playing field with existing tech giants.   That is why the government is proposing new powers for the digital markets watchdog, so they will be able to suspend, block and reverse decisions by tech giants, as well as issue fines of up to 10 per cent of  turnover for serious breaches. These reforms will help to champion competition in our tech sector – protecting consumers and boosting the UK’s start up scene.