Monday, February 28, 2022

Quote of the day 28th February 2022

 "Jesus, that guy is brave"

(Comment reportedly made to an aide by British PM Boris Johnson after finishing a phone call to President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, according to the Sunday Times)

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Sunday music spot: J.S. Bach's "Flocks in Pastures Green Abiding"

Reinforcing our NATO Allies

Yesterday, UK forces arrived to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, deterring Russian aggression threatening the territorial sovereignty of member states. 

  • NATO allies are united in response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and are collectively taking a range of measures to protect their security and deter further aggression. 
  • That is why the UK has deployed Royal Navy ships to the eastern Mediterranean and British Army troops and armoured vehicles to Estonia with equipment and around 1000 troops arriving over the coming days. This will lead to a doubling of UK presence in Estonia, where the UK leads a NATO battlegroup as part of the Alliance’s enhanced Forward Presence.  
  • Alongside our allies, Britain will make all deployments necessary to ensure strong and credible defence across the Alliance now, and in the future.

Action on the Swift Banking system

The UK and other nations have announced action to expel selected Russian banks from the SWIFT financial system, imposing the most severe economic sanctions against Putin’s tyrannical regime for the appalling assault on Ukraine.  

  • Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is an unprovoked attack on a sovereign, democratic nation. The UK is committed to defending Ukraine’s innocent people through this dark hour as well as the fundamental right to self-determination that has prevailed since the Second World War.   
  • Yesterday, Britain agreed with international partners to go further in isolating Putin’s regime from the international financial system. Selected Russian banks have been removed from the SWIFT financial system, harming their ability to operate globally. Action has also been taken to preventing the Russian Central Bank’s ability to deploy reserves and to limit the sale of citizenship that allowed wealthy Russians linked to the Kremlin become citizens of Western countries. The UK Government has also imposed personal sanctions on Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov, including an assets freeze.
  • The Prime Minister also spoke with President Zelenskyy again yesterday, paying tribute to his incredible leadership and the resolve of the Ukrainian people and Armed Forces in defending their great nation against Russian advances.

Quote of the day 27th February 2022

“The horrific and unprovoked attack on Ukraine is an act of great evil.  

“Placing our trust in Jesus Christ, the author of peace, we pray for an urgent ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian forces.  We call for a public decision to choose the way of peace and an international conference to secure long term agreements for stability and lasting peace.

“We invite Christians to make this Sunday a day for prayer for Ukraine, Russia and for peace. 

“We also give our support to the call from Pope Francis for a global day of prayer and fasting for peace on Ash Wednesday, March 2.”

(Joint statement by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, which was read at the start of services in Anglican Churches today.)

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Launch of the Conservative campaign for Cumberland Council

I spent part of today in campaigning in Maryport and then where the Conservative campaign was launched for the new Cumberland local authority which is to be elected in May and will take over council services in the area of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland councils in April 2023 from those three councils and Cumbria County Council.

The campaign launch was attended by the three local MPs - Trudy Harrison, Mark Jenkinson, and John Stevenson and by most of the candidates who will be standing for the Conservatives from all over the Cumberland Area.

The list of Conservative candidates should be announced within the next 48 hours. Here is an appropriate piece of music.


New measures to protect people from online trolls

The UK government has announced further plans to protect people from anonymous trolls online, adding new measures to the Online Safety Bill and strengthening the law against anonymous online abuse. 

  • Too many people currently experience online abuse, which is often fuelled by anonymity.
  • So the government has listened to calls to strengthen the Online Safety Bill to ensure social media platforms clamp down on anonymous abuse online – putting more power in the hands of people using social media, and providing tools to tailor their experience, including blocking anonymous trolls and giving people more control over what they see on social media.
  • This will help tackle the issue at its root as we make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine is an appalling and premeditated attack against a sovereign, democratic state – The UK government is determined to make Vladimir Putin feel the full cost of his actions and aims to impose a package of sanctions that will leave no corner of his regime unscathed.

  • Putin's invasion is an unprovoked, illegal and premeditated attack against a sovereign democratic state. Britain has been clear all along that there would be severe cost for any further Russian military incursion into Ukraine.
  • On Thursday, after speaking to President Zelenskyy, the Prime Minister addressed the nation, attended a meeting of G7 leaders and addressed the House and Cabinet – delivering strong assurance of Britain's unwavering support for Ukraine. Yesterday the Prime Minister met Britain's NATO allies. 
  • Alongside our allies, Britain is imposing the largest and most severe package of sanctions that Russia has ever seen, hitting more than a hundred companies and oligarchs at the heart of the Russian economy with assets freezes worth many hundreds of billions of pounds. Through this package we are dealing a significant blow to Russia’s economy, designed to hobble Russia’s military-industrial complex and personally damaging Putin’s inner circle of corrupt oligarchs. 
  • The Transport Secretary has also now signed restrictions prohibiting all scheduled Russian airlines from entering UK airspace and we have announced changes to visa concessions for Ukrainians in the UK, to provide certainty to our Ukrainian friends and colleagues living, working and studying here.
  • Britain will lead by example and will continue to support the Ukrainian Government and its people in the face of this assault on their sovereignty and territorial integrity. We cannot – and will not – rest until the Kremlin Regime pays the price for its actions and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are restored.
  • Thanks to the heroic resistance of Ukraine's defenders, it appears that the Russian armies have not made the progress they hoped during the first three days of this war. Despite the risk of arrest and victimisation, many brave ordinary Russians have made clear that the war started "Mad Vlad" Putin and his gangster administration is not a war they want and he is not acting in their name. This war may yet be the beginning of the end for Mad Vlad's rule.  

Quotes of the day 26th February 2022

 


















The original quote above is from the bible: the second quote which references it comes from Air Marshal Arthur Harris in 1942. Harris, later Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Harris,  was as good as his word: he is remembered in history as "Bomber" Harris.

Today it is Mad Vlad who is sowing the wind: and he too will reap the whirlwind.

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor

Friday, February 25, 2022

Cumbria County Council finally abandons Judicial Review bid

Cumbria County Council's Labour administration has finally given up their futile legal challenge to the process local government reform in the area is finally over.

The government revealed its plans to reorganise how Cumbria is governed in 2021, which involve abolishing the existing county council and six district authorities.

Cumbria's existing councils will be replaced by two new unitary authorities by 2023. Cumberland Council will cover Carlisle, Allerdale and Copeland. Westmorland and Furness Council will cover Eden, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.

Despite a motion passed by the full council urging against pursing a Judicial Review against the decision, and backbench councillors on the Scrutiny Management Board urging the county cabinet to think again following a "call-in," a flaw in the County Council's constitution allowed the six Labour members of the council to launch a legal challenge.

The Scrutiny Management Board, which warned of the possibility of escalating costs, was proved right, and the council's Labour leader proved wrong, when the court ordered the county council to pay £60,000 of legal costs to the Secretary of State and to the other six councils in Cumbria - this was a "reasonable proportion" of their costs, so allowing for the rest and for the county council's own legal costs, it is unlikely that the taxpayers of Cumbria have had much change, if any at all, from a hundred thousand pounds.

Earlier this week the challenge failed in court for a second time and the authority has now announced it will not pursue any appeal.

A council spokesman said: "After careful consideration Cumbria County Council has decided not to pursue an appeal."This follows a decision by the High Court on Tuesday 22 Feb to refuse Cumbria County Council’s application for permission to proceed with its JR. "This now concludes the Judicial Review Application process."

Dr Stephen Haraldsen - a correction

The print issue of the Whitehaven News this week carries an unfortunate misleading headline about my friend and colleague Dr Stephen Haraldsen who among other things is and remains the Conservative county councillor for Yewdale.

The article itself is correct  but the headline was misleading. To  be completely clear, Stephen has not resigned from the Conservative party.

Because of his work commitments as a Senior Lecturer, Stephen has stepped down as Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group on Cumbria County Council. He remains committed to representing the people of Yewdale on the county council. 


The National Anthem of Ukraine

In place of the "Music to start the weekend" slot which I would usually post about this time on a Friday, as a tribute to the courage being shown by the Ukranian armed forces in the face of a massive unprovoked attack from a superpower run by a crazed megalomaniac, here is the national anthem of Ukraine, with an English translation of the lyrics.

Quotes of the day 25th February 2022

1) "What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution."

(V.K. Pleve, Russian minister of the interior, in 1905, immediately before the Russo-Japanese war which proved to be less than short and anything but victorious.)


2)













Acknowledgement to David Weber who used both of these quotes as a preface to his novel "The Short Victorious War"

If Mad Vlad had any sense he would have learned this lesson from history - governments who start a conflict hoping that a short victorious war will bolster their position have usually found this the worst, and sometimes the last, mistake they ever made.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Thursday music spot: Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 6

Today is a dark day for Ukraine, for Russia, for Europe and the world. The rest of today's posts have been about the reasons for this and the world's response. 

But there is no way I'm going to let Mad Vlad stop me from listening to music or from posting it, so I am still posting this glorious recording of one of Bach's Brandenberg Concertos which I had always planned to put up as a music spot this week.

Britain's response to the Russian invasion of UKraine

I have received the following briefing on the action the UK is taking in response to Putin's aggression against Ukraine.


Responding to an unprovoked and premeditated attack

  • Russia’s appalling assault on Ukraine is an unprovoked, premeditated attack against a sovereign democratic state. Britain have been clear all along that there would be a severe cost for any further Russian military incursion into Ukraine.
  • The Russian Government have repeatedly denied their hostile intent towards Ukraine, while they have been amassing troops, launching cyber-attacks, and staging false pretexts and provocations
  • We are now imposing the largest and most severe package of sanctions that Russia has ever seen alongside our international partners, and coordinating a response with our allies and partners to make sure that Russia cannot further undermine European stability.
  • The Prime Minister has been clear that our support for Ukraine is unwavering. We will continue to support the Ukrainian Government and its people in the face of this assault on their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Diplomatically, politically, economically – and eventually, militarily – this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure.
  • We are making sure President Putin feels the full cost of his actions:
  • We will defend the cause of peace and justice and stand by our Ukrainian friends in their hour of trial. We will use every international forum to condemn Putin’s onslaught and we will counter the Kremlin’s disinformation as we stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine. We will also work with our allies on the urgent need to protect other European countries that could become targets of Putin’s playbook.  

  • The Prime Minister met virtually with G7 leaders this afternoon, agreeing to work in unity to maximise the price that Putin will pay for his aggression. The Prime Minister urged fellow leaders to work together as one to do everything in their power to isolate Putin politically, economically and militarily, including ending Europe’s collective dependence on Russian oil and gas. Tomorrow the Prime Minister will meet with NATO leaders. 
  • Alongside our allies, we will impose the largest and most severe package of sanctions that Russia has ever seen. In addition to the sanctions we announced earlier this week, these additional sanctions will deal a severe blow to the Russian economy, will hobble Russia’s military-industrial complex, and will personally damage Putin’s inner circle of corrupt oligarchs.
  • We will starve Russia of their access to finance. We will stop the Russian state from being able to borrow in UK markets and issue sovereign debt; block the ability of major Russian banks to operate in sterling around the world with a prohibition on clearing payments in sterling; and we will limit the amount of money Russian nationals can deposit in their UK bank accounts.
  • We will expand measures to prevent key goods and technologies from being exported to Russia. We will no longer approve licences for the export of dual-use goods, with immediate effect, and ban the export of a range of high-end and critical technical equipment and components, with enabling legislation to be laid in March.
  • We will sanction over 100 more individuals and entities, including Russia’s largest bank and major defence sector organisations. We will freeze all their assets in the UK and prevent any UK entities from engaging with these organization and individuals in the UK or overseas, and we will impose a travel ban on individuals. We are imposing an immediate full asset freeze against VTB. Sanctions will also be applied to Belarus for its role in the assault on Ukraine. 
  • We will imminently ban Aeroflot from our skies.
  • We will be providing a further package of military support to Ukraine – on top of the support we have already provided. This new package will include lethal aid in the form of defensive weapons, and non-lethal aid such as body armour and helmets.
  • We will bring forward the full Economic Crime Bill in the next Parliamentary session. We are bringing forward measures on unexplained wealth orders from the Economic Crime Bill to be introduced before the House rises for Easter, and we will set out further detail on the range of policies included in the full Bill in the next session – including reforms to Companies House and a register of overseas property ownership.


Support for Ukraine

Britain has been supporting Ukraine and tackling Russian aggression throughout this period by: 

  • Hitting Russian oligarchs and banks with an initial tranche of targeted sanctions earlier this week, using our economic heft to inflict pain on the Kremlin Regime. We have already targeted oligarchs at the heart of President Putin’s inner circle and banks which have bankrolled the Russian occupation of Crimea in our first wave of sanctions. This came on top of the 275 individuals and entities on whom we had already placed sanctions.
  • Persistently calling on Russia to deescalate, standing firm in our defence of Ukraine’s sovereignty. We have been clear all along that there would be a severe cost for any further Russian military incursion into Ukraine. The Foreign Secretary visited Moscow where she directly called on the Kremlin to engage in meaningful talks.
  • Supplying Ukraine with a new defence support package, increasing their defensive capabilities against threatening behaviour. This defensive support package supplies Ukraine with light, anti-armour weapons for self-defensive use, as well as a small number of UK personnel to provide initial training to Ukrainian military personnel.
  • Providing Ukraine with an additional £100 million in aid to help strengthen their defences and reduce reliance on Russian energy supplies. This new funding helps to reduce Ukraine’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.
  • Committing 1,000 more British troops to be put at readiness to support NATO and allies in the event of a humanitarian crisis. These troops are at readiness in the UK to support a humanitarian response in the region should it be needed. The Prime Minister has called on international partners to demonstrate their solidarity with NATO allies who bear the brunt of Russian aggression.
  • Doubling the size of our deployment to in Estonia and making it clear that we are willing to send more British forces to help protect our allies if NATO makes such a request. We have doubled the number of personnel in Estonia, where the British Army leads NATO’s battlegroup, and we are sending additional equipment, including tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.
  • Leading a campaign of diplomatic engagement alongside our international allies, combining dialogue with deterrence. Over recent months we have led calls from G7, NATO and the OSCE to urge Russia to desist from its reckless and destabilising activities, as well as raising these issues directly with the Kremlin.


Tackling illicit finance

  • Serious criminals and corrupt individuals who seek to threaten the security of UK and allies are not welcome here. 
  • We have taken steps to tackle illicit finance through the landmark Economic Crime Plan in 2019, the Criminal Finances Act 2017, launching the Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regime, and ending the Tier 1 Investor route. 
  • We will bring forward an Economic Crime Bill that will deliver unprecedented reforms, including reforms to Companies House and a register of overseas property ownership.

Quotes of the day 24th February 2022

"President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable."

(US President Joe Biden)



"President Putin of Russia has unleashed war in our European continent. He has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse. Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population."

"If the months ahead are grim, and the flame of freedom burns low. I know that it will blaze bright again in Ukraine.

Because for all his bombs and tanks and missiles I don’t believe that the Russian dictator will ever subdue the national feeling of the Ukrainians and their passionate belief that their country should be free."

"This act of wanton and reckless aggression is an attack not just on Ukraine.

It is an attack on democracy and freedom in East Europe and around the world.

This crisis is about the right of a free, sovereign independent European people to choose their own future.

And that is a right that the UK will always defend."

(Boris Johnson)


"Peace on our continent has been shattered.

This is a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion. Russia's unjustified, unprovoked attack on Ukraine is putting countless innocent lives at risk with air and missile attacks."

“NATO Allies condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms,”  

“We call on Russia to immediately cease its military action, withdraw its forces from Ukraine, and choose diplomacy.” 

“We fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and Ukraine’s right of self-defence” Mr. Stoltenberg added. 

“We will continue to do whatever is necessary to shield the Alliance from aggression,”

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking after the North Atlantic Council decided today to activate NATO’s defence plans to protect Allied nations during this crisis.


“We condemn this barbaric attack and the cynical arguments that are being used to justify it.”

“We will not allow President [Vladimir] Putin to replace the rule of law, by the rule of force, and ruthlessness. Ukraine will prevail.”

(EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's statement after Russian invades Ukraine


Prime Minister’s Address to the Nation on the situation in Ukraine: 24 February 2022

"Shortly after 4 o’clock this morning I spoke to president Zelenskyy of Ukraine to offer the continued support of the UK.

Because our worst fears have now come true and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate.

President Putin of Russia has unleashed war in our European continent. He has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse.

Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population.

A vast invasion is underway by land by sea and by air.

And this is not in the infamous phrase some faraway country of which we know little.

We have Ukrainian friends in this country; neighbours, co-workers.

Ukraine is a country that for decades has enjoyed freedom and democracy and the right to choose its own destiny.

We – and the world – cannot allow that freedom just to be snuffed out.

We cannot and will not just look away.

It is because we have been so alarmed in recent months at the Russian intimidation that the UK became one of the first countries in Europe to send defensive weaponry to help the Ukrainians.

Other allies have now done the same and we will do what more we can in the days ahead.

Today in concert with our allies we will agree a massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy.

And to that end we must also collectively cease the dependence on Russian oil and gas that for too long has given Putin his grip on western politics.

Our mission is clear.

Diplomatically, politically, economically – and eventually, militarily – this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure.

And so I say to the people of Russia, whose president has just authorised a tidal wave of violence against a fellow Slavic people.

The parents of Russian soldiers who will lose their lives.

I cannot believe this is being done in your name or that you really want the pariah status it will bring to the Putin regime.

And I say to the Ukrainians in this moment of agony:

  • we are with you
  • we are praying for you and your families
  • and we are on your side.

And if the months ahead are grim, and the flame of freedom burns low.

I know that it will blaze bright again in Ukraine.

Because for all his bombs and tanks and missiles I don’t believe that the Russian dictator will ever subdue the national feeling of the Ukrainians and their passionate belief that their country should be free,

and I say to the British people, and all who have heard the threats from Putin against those who stand with Ukraine,

we will of course do everything to keep our country safe.

We are joined in our outrage by friends and allies around the world.

We will work with them – for however long it takes – to ensure that the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored.

Because this act of wanton and reckless aggression is an attack not just on Ukraine.

It is an attack on democracy and freedom in East Europe and around the world.

This crisis is about the right of a free, sovereign independent European people to choose their own future.

And that is a right that the UK will always defend."

Putin declares war on Ukraine

Russian president Vladimir has announced what he described as a “special military operation” in the breakaway eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass, saying that Russia was responding to pleas for help from the separatists there.

Shortly after Mr Putin’s televised address at around 6am in Moscow, explosions were heard outside Kiev itself and heavy clashes were reported in several major Ukrainian cities.

The Ukraine government said Mr Putin had “declared war” and Russian forces were entering the country from Belarus in the north and Crimea in the south, as well as Russia to the east.

Clearly the intelligence that Putin was planning an unprovoked and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine was correct.

The West must, and I believe will, now hit Russia with a united and very strong package of sanctions. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The PM's statement on the international situation

Prime Minister’s Statement on the situation in Ukraine: 22 February 2022

The PM made the following statement yesterday.


"Last night, President Putin flagrantly violated the Minsk peace agreements by recognising the supposed independence of the so-called ‘People’s Republics’ of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

In a single inflammatory speech, he denied that Ukraine had any ‘tradition of genuine statehood’, claimed that it posed a ‘direct threat to the security of Russia’, and hurled numerous other false accusations and aspersions.

Soon afterwards, the Kremlin announced that Russian troops would enter the breakaway regions under the guise of ‘peacekeepers’, and Russian tanks and armoured personnel carriers have since been spotted.

The House should be in no doubt that the deployment of these forces in sovereign Ukrainian territory amounts to a renewed invasion of that country.

And by denying Ukraine’s legitimacy as a state – and presenting its very existence as a mortal threat to Russia – Putin is establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive.

I think Honourable Members will struggle to understand how or to contemplate, how in the year 2022, a national leader might calmly and deliberately plot the destruction of a peaceful neighbour, yet the evidence of his own words suggests that is exactly what President Putin is doing.

When I said on Saturday that his scheme to subvert and invade Ukraine was already in motion before our eyes, the events of the last 24 hours have, sadly, shown this to be true.

We must now brace ourselves for the next possible stages of Putin’s plan: the violent subversion of areas of eastern Ukraine by Russian operatives and their hirelings, followed by a general offensive by the nearly 200,000 Russian troops gathered on the frontiers, at peak readiness to attack.

If the worst happens, then a European nation of 44 million men, women and children would become the target of a full-scale war of aggression, waged without a shred of justification, for the absurd and even mystical reasons that Putin described last night.

Unless the situation changes, the best efforts of the United States, of this country, France, Germany, and other allies to avoid conflict through patient diplomacy may be in vain.

From the beginning, we have all tried our utmost, we’ve all tried, to find a peaceful way through this crisis.

On 11th February, my Right Honourable Friend the Defence Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Radakin, paid the first joint visit to Moscow by the holders of their offices since Churchill - who was also defence minister at the time – travelled to Russia with General Alanbrooke in 1944.

They held over three hours of frank discussions with the Russian defence minister, General Shoigu, and the chief of staff, General Gerasimov, demonstrating how seriously we take Russia’s security concerns, how much we respect her history, and how hard we are prepared to work to ensure peaceful co-existence.

My Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary delivered the same messages when she met her Russian counterpart in Moscow on the 10th of February.

I have spoken on a number of occasions to President Putin since this crisis began and so has President Biden, while President Macron and Chancellor Scholz have both visited Moscow.

Together we have explored every avenue and given Putin every opportunity to pursue his aims by negotiation and diplomacy.

And I will tell the house, we will not give up: we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution until the last possible second, but we have to face the possibility that none of our messages has been heeded and Putin is implacably determined to go further in subjugating and tormenting Ukraine.

And it is because we suspected as much that the UK and our allies repeatedly sounded the alarm about a possible new invasion, and we disclosed much of what we knew about Russia’s military build-up.

Britain has done everything possible to help Ukraine to prepare for another onslaught, training 22,000 soldiers, supplying 2,000 anti-tank missiles, and providing £100 million for economic reform and energy independence, and we will now guarantee up to $500 million of Development Bank financing.

I travelled to Kyiv to meet President Zelenskyy on the 1st February, and I saw him again in Munich on Saturday. I spoke to him last night, soon after Putin’s speech, to assure him, as I’m sure the whole House would agree was the right thing to do, I assured him of Britain’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And now the UK and our allies will begin to impose the sanctions on Russia that we have already prepared, using the new and unprecedented powers granted by this House to sanction Russian individuals and entities of strategic importance to the Kremlin.

Today, the UK is sanctioning the following four five Russian banks: Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank. And we are sanctioning three very high net worth individuals: Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg, and Igor Rotenberg.

Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here, and we will prohibit all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them.

This is the first tranche, the first barrage, of what we are prepared to do: we will hold further sanctions at readiness, to be deployed alongside the United States and the European Union if the situation escalates still further.

Last night, our diplomats joined an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, and we will raise the situation in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

And let me emphasise what I believe unites every member of this House with equal determination: the resolve of the United Kingdom to defend our NATO allies is absolute and immovable.

We have already doubled the size of our deployment in Estonia, where the British Army leads NATO’s battlegroup, and when I met President Levits of Latvia and Prime Minister Kallas of Estonia in Munich on Saturday, I told them that we would be willing to send more British forces to help protect our allies if NATO makes such a request.

We cannot tell what will happen in the days ahead, but, Mr Speaker, we should steel ourselves for a protracted crisis.

The United Kingdom will meet this challenge side-by-side with our allies, determined that we will not allow Putin to drag our continent back into a Hobbesian state of nature, where aggression pays and might is right.

And it is precisely because the stakes are so high that Putin’s venture in Ukraine must fail, must ultimately fail and be seen to fail. That will require the perseverance, the unity and the resolve of the entire Western alliance, and Britain will do everything possible to ensure that that unity is maintained.

And now our thoughts should turn to our valiant Ukrainian friends, who threaten no-one, and ask for nothing except to live in peace and freedom.

We will keep faith with them in the critical days that lie ahead and whatever happens, Mr Speaker, Britain will not waver in our resolve and I commend this statement to the House."

Liz Truss on the latest Russian moves


 

Fair representation in boardrooms

The government has welcomed news that nearly 40 per cent of FTSE 100 board positions are now held by women – meaning the UK is second in the world for women’s representation at board level as we work to build back fairer.

  • This Government is committed to levelling up every part of our country – tackling inequality and promoting equality of opportunity, including at senior level, so everyone can thrive. 
  • Conservatives do not support crude measures such as quotas but we do believe that your chances of promotion in politics or business should not depend on how many X or Y chromosomes you have, and hence we welcome the FTSE Women Leaders Review, which shows that nearly 40 per cent of UK FTSE 100 board positions are now held by women – compared with 12.5 per cent just 10 years ago – meaning the UK is second in international rankings for board representation.
  • UK businesses have made enormous progress in recent years to ensure that everyone, whatever their background, can succeed on merit - and we will continue to support them to go further and build on this progress. 

Cutting insurance red tape

The government has this week announced plans to slash red tape through reforms to insurance regulation – unlocking billions of pounds of investment in UK infrastructure by taking advantage of our increased freedom of action outside the EU.

  • Whether you voted Leave or Remain, the majority of those who cast a ballot voted Leave and we are no longer part of the EU, which brings advantages and disadvantages. It would be silly not to make full use of the former while dealing with the latter.
  • When Britain was subject to EU law, our insurance sector was subject to the Solvency II rules which have been in place since 2016 – but we now have an opportunity to create a new regime which makes it easier for insurance firms to unleash long-term capital and investment. 
  • So the UK government has announced reforms to the regulation of the UK insurance sector, including increasing the flexibility of insurers to invest in infrastructure, reducing the reporting and administrative burden placed on firms, and changing how credit risk is managed by businesses. 

This plan will unlock growth and ensure businesses can spend more of their money investing, innovating, and creating jobs, as we seize on the opportunities of Brexit. 

Quote of the day 23 Feb 2022

"What is at stake is something much bigger than settling ethnic or nationalist claims. It is whether we are committed to the advance of democracy."

(Daniel Finkelstein, in an article in today's Times about the implications of what is happening between Russia and Ukraine for democracy here and around the world. I bought a paper copy today: if you subscribe you can find it online here.)

In an alternate universe

The Jewish Chronicle carries a piece from former editor Stephen Pollard, with a news report from an alternate universe in which Jeremy Corbyn won the last election and suggests how he might be responding to current tensions with Ukraine. You can read it here ...

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Putin puts the last nail in the coffin of Nuclear non-proliferation

Whatever else he may or may not do to Ukraine, one thing can now be said with certainty about the malign legacy of Vladimir Putin's actions towards Ukraine - there will be those who make a convincing argument that it could be said even before the present crisis.

And that is that he has dealt any hope of nuclear disarmament and the cause of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons a blow from which it may never recover.

On the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, Ukraine was left with about a third of the former Soviet nuclear arsenal - about 1,700 warheads, one of the three largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the world. There were also former Soviet nuclear weapons in Belarus, Kasakhstan and, of course, the Russian Federation,

At an OSCE conference in Hungary in December 1994, Ukraine, Belarus and Kasakhstan agreed to surrender or destroy all their nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees from all the great powers.

In particular, under the terms of the Budapest Memorandum,   Russia, the US and the UK confirmed their recognition of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine becoming parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and effectively abandoning their nuclear arsenal to Russia and that they would:

  1. Respect Belarusian, Kazakh and Ukrainian independence and sovereignty in the existing borders.
  2. Refrain from the threat or the use of force against Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
  3. Refrain from using economic pressure on Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to influence their politics.
  4. Seek immediate Security Council action to provide assistance to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine if they "should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used".
  5. Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
  6. Consult with one another if questions arise regarding those commitments.

The USA and the Russian Federation jointly reaffirmed those promises and guarantees to Ukraine as recently as 2009.

The theft of the Crimea by Russia in 2014 was a serious breach of the Budapest Memorandum, but Russia's further actions this week and Vladimir Putin's speech amounted to a clear repudiation of the agreement.

The question now has to be asked, in the light of this clear breach of faith by the Russian president, what government in their right mind would give up nuclear weapons in exchange for such a guarantee in future - and the answer to that question, surely, is none.

Quote of the day 22nd February 2022

"I welcome this apology from Jolyon Maugham for the untruthful statement he put out yesterday. Having lost yet another case this week, and falsely claimed they won, the discredited Good Law Project should now accept their increasingly vexatious legal actions are a waste of the court’s time, when there is such a backlog to clear.


"The Good Law Project should accept that officials and Ministers in Government were working hard to save lives, and end their increasingly desperate actions. I particularly want to thank the huge number of officials who did so much in the pandemic and now find their time needlessly wasted in defending these pointless actions, especially when there’s going to be a full inquiry.

The public should note that the Good Law Project’s claims are frequently untrue, and should not be reported as fact, if at all.


"I once again welcome this apology from this increasingly discredited organisation."


(Matt Hancock welcomes an apology from Jolyon Maugham on behalf of the so-called "Good Law Project" for communicating out "We won" about a court judgement which had actually found that 

‘The claim brought by Good Law Project fails in its entirety.’

You can read the details here or here.)

Monday, February 21, 2022

PM to set out plans for living with COVID today

The Prime Minister will todaset out plans to live with Covid, using the strong protections we have built up against the virus to safely restore people’s freedoms.

  • Covid will not suddenly disappear and we need to learn to live with this virus, and continue to protect ourselves without restricting our freedoms.
  • That is why the Prime Minister will today set out the governments plan for living with Covid, which I understand will focus on removing regulations and requirements while emphasising public health advice and continuing to protect the vulnerable.
  • Thanks to our world-leading vaccine rollout, we are now able to bring our response to Covid in line with other viruses and allow people to get back to normal while remaining protected.

Britain and France stand together on Ukraine

Yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke with President Macron about increasing tensions on Ukraine’s borders, reaffirming Britain's unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and commitment to severe sanctions if Russia invades.

  • As Russia continues to show threatening behaviour towards Ukraine, the international community must face down Putin’s aggression.  
  • That is why the Prime Minister spoke with President Macron to discuss our respective diplomatic efforts, urging Putin to step back from his current threats and withdraw troops from Ukraine’s border. We have been clear that we stand ready with a severe set of sanctions on a level not seen before. 
  • We are united with our NATO allies, standing behind Ukraine in defending her sovereignty and independence, urging Russia to choose a different path through diplomacy.  

After the storms ...

The government is advising everyone to remain vigilant today and take extreme care following the impacts of Storm Eunice, taking steps to protect people from further storms on the way. 

  • Many flood warnings are still in place following the impacts of Storm Eunice and with Storm Franklin on the way, heavy rain affecting already wet areas is likely to cause significant river flooding, particularly in parts of the north of England. 
  • That is why we are urging people to remain vigilant and to continue to prepare for flooding - particularly in the north of England - and stay away from swollen rivers, and not drive through flood water. 
  • Following the Prime Minister’s emergency COBRA meeting on Friday, the Environment Agency has taken preventative action, closing flood gates, deploying temporary barriers, and moving pumps and other response equipment to areas of highest risk, and stand by ready to operate flood defences as needed.  

Quote of the day 21st February 2022


 

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Ruth Davidson on the abuse directed at BBC journalist Sarah Smith


 

Wishing Her Majesty a quick and full recovery from COVID-19

I am concerned to learn that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for COVID-19 today. Relieved to hear that she only has mild and "cold-lie" symptoms.


Like, I am sure, the vast majority of people in Britain I wish Her majesty a quick and full recovery.

Boris Johnson's speech at the Munich Security Conference on 19th February 2022

Here is the Prime Minister's speech to the Munich Security Conferences yesterday.

 

A couple of extracts:

"At this moment of extreme danger for the world, it has seldom been more vital to preserve our unity and resolve, and that was the theme of my discussion last night with fellow leaders, including President Biden, President Macron, Chancellor Scholz and Prime Minister Draghi, as well as the leaders of NATO and the EU.

And as I said to President Putin during our last conversation, we in the UK still hope that diplomacy and dialogue may yet succeed.

But we also have to be unflinchingly honest about the situation today.

When over 130,000 Russian troops are gathering on the borders of Ukraine, and when more than 100 battalion tactical groups threaten that European country.

We must be united against that threat because we should be in no doubt what is at stake here.

If Ukraine is invaded and if Ukraine is overwhelmed, we will witness the destruction of a democratic state, a country that has been free for a generation, with a proud history of elections.

And every time that Western ministers have visited Kyiv, we’ve assured the people of Ukraine and their leaders that we stand four-square behind their sovereignty and independence.

How hollow, how meaningless, how insulting those words would seem if – at the very moment when their sovereignty and independence is imperilled – we simply look away.

If Ukraine is invaded the shock will echo around the world and those echoes will be heard in East Asia and they will be heard in Taiwan.

When I spoke to the Prime Ministers of Japan and Australia this week, they left me in no doubt that the economic and political shocks would be felt on the far side of the world.

So let me be clear about the risk.

The risk now is that people will draw the conclusion that aggression pays and that might is right.

So we should not underestimate the gravity of this moment and what is at stake.

As I speak to you today, we do not fully know what President Putin intends but the omens are grim and that is why we must stand strong together.

The UK has worked with the European Union and the United States to put together the toughest and strongest package of sanctions, and I spoke recently to President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss the measures prepared by the EU, in the closest coordination with our own.

And if Russia invades its neighbour, we will sanction Russian individuals and companies of strategic importance to the Russian state; and we will make it impossible for them to raise finance on the London capital markets; and we will open up the matryoshka dolls of Russian-owned companies and Russian-owned entities to find the ultimate beneficiaries within."

The YouTube clip shows the whole speech: you can also find the text of the whole speech on the government website here.

Sunday music spot: Orlando Gibbons "O Lord, in thy Wrath"

Quote of the day 20th February 2022


 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Daniel Johnson on the imminent threat of war

There is an excellent piece by Daniel Johnson about the looming threat of a return to war on The Article site.

Here are a few extracts.

"We have lived with the expectation of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine for many weeks now. A miasma of fear has spread across Europe, wreaking more havoc than Storms Dudley and Eunice. The world is learning to live again with the nightmare of sudden annihilation, which hovered over us for more than 40 years during the Cold War. Older people can still recall Chamberlain’s chilling announcement of the outbreak of the Second World War. 

We are returning to a world in which dictators prey on vulnerable neighbours, where landscapes are disfigured by killing fields. Europe is a haunted continent, whose phantoms are rising from the mass graves of all too recent atrocities. That unquiet past has never really passed away; now it threatens to return."

"It is not only the Ukrainians who dread what is to come. Poles and Romanians, Latvians and Lithuanians, Estonians and Jews in every country are deeply apprehensive about what may be about to happen. Wars that begin in one region of these “bloodlands” tend to spread to the rest. From 1939-1945 Belarus lost a quarter, Poland 18 per cent, the Soviet Union (including Ukraine), Lithuania and Latvia 13-14 per cent of their prewar populations."

"One man, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, has it in his power to banish this hideous vision of Hell from our minds. He alone can tell his generals to desist from unleashing forces that will ultimately destroy not only countless numbers of civilians as well as those whom he regards as his foes, but many thousands of his own troops and very probably his own regime, too."

"Putin can halt his aggression now and prevent all of the consequences that must inexorably flow from it, or he can go down in history as the uniquely iniquitous individual who knowingly condemned Europe to repeat the bloodiest chapter of its history. For that crime, he would deserve to be arraigned at The Hague. He would be a war criminal no less guilty than those tried and punished at Nuremberg."

"He should be reminded by the international community that launching a war of aggression remains a war crime, regardless of the crimes against humanity that would inevitably follow later. The moment he gives the order to invade, his life and liberty are forfeit."

"For this crime, there can be no excuse, no forgiveness and no escape. Even if he were never arrested, Putin would be a fugitive from justice for the rest of his days. He would be an indelible stain on the reputation of his country. Is that what Putin wants for himself and for Russia?"


You can read the whole piece here.

Saturday music spot: Bach's Concerto for two violins in D minor

Russia and Ukraine

Yesterday evening President Biden said that he thinks Vladimir Putin may have decided to invade Ukraine.

  • We must hope that this is wrong or that Putin sees sense and steps back from this.
  • But if I ask myself: if the Russian President really was planning to invade, would he be likely to do anything very different from anything he has actually done? And my answer is no.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has urged Russia to step back from the brink and reaffirmed Britain's unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty.

  • We must not be lulled into a false sense of security by Russia claiming some of their troops have been withdrawn from the Ukrainian border and will remain vigilant against false flag attacks which could be used as an excuse for war.
  • On Thursday the UK again announced a £20 million increase in our financial support to Ukraine, bringing the total to £100 million alongside arms deliveries and military training to help our Ukrainian friends defend themselves.
  • On her visit to Kyiv this week, the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Britain's commitment to a world free from aggression and coercion, and made clear that if Russia continues down this path of aggression, they will be faced with a severe set of sanctions on a level not seen before.
  • Alongside our allies, Britain will continue to take a hard-headed approach, stressing that there is still time for the Kremlin to step back and choose a different path through diplomacy. 

Quote of the day 19th February 2022


 

Friday, February 18, 2022

4,000 more prison places

Today the government announced the creation of more than 4,000 new prison places, which will help to keep criminals off our streets and protect the public while they undergo rehabilitation as we build back safer.

Having enough prison places is essential to keep criminals off our streets and allow enough time for rehabilitation to turn them into law-abiding citizens that are no longer a threat to the public.

That is why the government has today announced the creation of more than 4,000 new prison places across 16 different prisons through the building of new wings and refurbishing jails, as part of our unprecedented prison-building programme which will create 20,000 new places by the mid-2020s.

The government is improving the existing prison estate, putting more offenders behind bars, training them for release and protecting the public as we build back safer.

Action against corruption

Yesterday, the UK government closed the Tier 1 Investor visa route with immediate effect, as the first move in a new plan to take firm action to crackdown on corrupt elites and strengthen confidence in our immigration system.

  • The New Plan for Immigration will mean zero tolerance for those wanting to abuse our immigration system and is aimed to stop will corrupt elites to enter the UK using dirty money.
  • That is why we are closing the Tier 1 Investor visa route to all new applicants with immediate effect after reviews revealed that it had been used by people acquiring their wealth illegitimately and associated with wider corruption.

This is just the start of a renewed crackdown on fraud & illicit finance.


An upcoming Fraud Action Plan and the Economic Crime Bill will better protect the taxpayer.

Music to start the weekend: Horst Jankowski, "A Walk in the Black Forest"

Covid vaccination update

Britain has this week accepted expert advice to extend the offer of a vaccination against Covid-19 to all children aged 5 – 11, ensuring that parents are able to increase their children’s protection against potential future waves of Covid-19 if they wish to do so.   

  • Following a thorough review by the independent medicines regulator, the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations has approved Pfizer’s paediatric dose of the vaccine as safe and effective for children aged 5 to 11.
  • That is why the NHS will prepare to extend this non-urgent offer of Covid-19 vaccines to all children aged 5 to 11 in April, while continuing to prioritise at-risk children, those living with immunosuppressed people in this age group, and booster jabs for older adults.
  • As we learn to live with Covid-19, it is vital that we continue to strengthen our immune defences, so if you haven’t already – please come forward for your first, second or booster jab. 

Quote of the day 18th February 2022


 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Britain and Australia

Yesterday, the Prime Minister met virtually with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, strengthening the historic partnership of Britain and Australia in security, democracy and trade.  

  • Our unique relationship with Australia is built on the deep bonds between our peoples and sustained by our shared commitment to promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. 
  • That is why the UK has committed £25 million to strengthen Indo-Pacific resilience in cyberspace and maritime security, as well as intensifying cooperation in trade and reaffirming our commitment to AUKUS alongside the United States. 
  • The Prime Ministers also discussed the concerning situation on Ukraine’s border. As Russian military build-up shows no signs of slowing, both nations emphasised their unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and agreed on the need for urgent de-escalation to avoid tragic humanitarian cost.   
  • Our nations are forging a new partnership fit for the next century and grounded in our shared priorities in democracy, security, and free and fair trade. 

Russia and Ukraine - update 17th February

Today, the Foreign Secretary urged Russia to step back from the brink and reaffirmed our unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. 

  • The West must not be lulled into a false sense of security by Russia claiming some of their troops have been withdrawn from the Ukrainian border. 
  • Britain remains united with NATO allies, providing vital support to help our Ukrainian friends defend themselves and stand ready with a severe set of sanctions on a level not seen before. 
  • On her visit to Kyiv today, the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Britain's commitment to a world free from aggression and coercion, and made clear that if Russia continues down this path of aggression, they will be faced with severe economic costs.    
  • Alongside our allies, Britain will continue to take a hard-headed approach, stressing that there is still time for the Kremlin to step back and choose a different path through diplomacy. 

Learning the lessons of this pandemic to guard against future ones

The government is investing £200 million in the UK’s fight against zoonotic diseases, so Britain can lead the way in protecting both human and animal health and boost our resistance  to future pandemics.

  • The UK is a world leader when it comes to science and biosecurity, but the outbreak of COVID-19, a zoonotic disease, has reiterated the importance of boosting our  resilience to help prevent future pandemics. 
  • That is why the UK government is investing £200 million, boosting the UK’s fight against zoonotic diseases, revamping the Animal and Plant Health Agency scientific laboratories at Weybridge and providing scientists with the resources and funding they need to continue their world-leading research into existing threats but also future risks to safeguard animal health and the wider public.
  • This will help us to learn the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and arm UK scientists with the resources and skills they need to ensure that we are at the forefront of defence against future pandemics.

Thursday music spot: Sibelius's "Finlandia"

Quote of the day 17th February 2022


 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Sir Robert Fry on the capacities of the Russian forces massing on the Ukrainian border

 There is a very good piece about the Russian Army, how it has developed and the threat it poses on "The Article" website by Sir Robert Fry.

General Sir Robert Fry completed a full military career which included appointments as the Commandant General of the Royal Marines and Deputy Commanding General of coalition forces in Iraq. After military service, he became a vice president of Hewlett Packard and chair of Albany Associates. He is a visiting professor at King’s College, London.

His article begins as follows:

"We can be certain of few things about the crisis in Ukraine: that NATO seems to have some life in it yet, that the French President is irredeemably grandiose, that the German Chancellor seems just as irredeemably reticent and that Liz Truss can manage a passable Margaret Thatcher tribute act. 

My money remains on a no-score draw (see Putin needs to tread carefully in Ukraine,  20 January). It is militarily irrational in the long term to take on a Ukraine that seems determined to fight beyond the initial, conventional phase of any conflict and into an insidious and draining subsequent phase of popular resistance, where Putin would lose all the hybrid advantages he holds now.

That said, the commentators who make the point that we are now entering into the most dangerous stage of the process so far are exactly right. The large scale exercises the Russians are holding along Ukraine  s northern border means that they are manned up, fuelled up and deployed in tactical formation, only awaiting the order to roll across the border. The difference between this and a week ago is that the Russians were then deployed administratively and the switch into tactical formation would have been a key combat indicator of intent. We have lost that element of warning and the indicator that now becomes critical is the forward deployment of live ammunition stocks, particularly artillery ammunition. Once they are bombed up too, we can only fear the worst."

You can read the whole piece here.

Support for the victims of domestic abuse

The government has announced £125 million in extra support for councils to provide shelters, refuge, and support services to help victims of domestic abuse and their children.

  • Home is not the safe place it should be for domestic abuse victims and their families - so it is essential to support councils in delivering the vital services that keep victims safe.
  • That is why the government is providing councils across England with an extra £125 million to fund safe accommodation, including refuges and shelters, for victims of domestic abuse. It will provide support services including health and social care, benefits, interpreters, immigration advice, and drug or alcohol support. Rules on Joint Tenancies and Local Connections tests for housing will also be revised to make it easier for victims of domestic abuse to escape their abusers.
  • This support will give victims of domestic abuse and their children across the country the practical and emotional support to recover and rebuild their lives from this terrible crime.

Midweek music spot: "The Windmills of Your Mind" - Noel Harrison

Time to batten down again

The UK is expected to be hit by two storms in the space of three days starting today with forecasters warning of 90mph winds across the north of England and Scotland, while some regions could face "blizzard conditions".

Storm Dudley will cross the northern half of the UK from tonight (Wednesday) into Thursday morning, while Storm Eunice will bring strong winds and potentially some snow for parts of the country on Friday.

The Met Office has added an amber warning to a yellow alert already in place, when naming the first of the two storms expected to cause disruption.

"Storm Dudley is expected to affect the UK on Wednesday night and Thursday, bringing a period of very strong and disruptive winds," the Met Office said.

The amber alert warns of gusts of 70-90mph from 6pm on Wednesday to 9am on Thursday for southern Scotland, north England and the north of Northern Ireland.