Thursday, March 31, 2022

Inward investment into the UK - good news from down under

Yesterday good news came from a land down under as leading Australian businesses announced a £28.5 billion investment in a major economic boost for UK infrastructure projects

  • Trade between Global Britain and the rest of the world will bring jobs and growth to every part of the country. 
  • We can and must strike out as Global Britain – using the UK’s dynamic economy and workforce to attract foreign investment from around the world.
  • That is why yesterday top Australian investors announced £28.5 billion for clean energy, technology and infrastructure projects across the UK – supporting major developments from Orkney to Southampton to improve and upgrade the quality of our infrastructure.
  • This investment will create thousands of jobs and put the UK at the cutting edge of the green industrial revolution whilst building new partnerships with allies from across the globe.

The Culture recovery fund

Today the government announced a £35 million boost for 340 organisations across England from our Cultural Recovery Fund, ensuring cultural organisations and the jobs they support can survive beyond the pandemic.

  • Since 2020, the Culture Recovery Fund has distributed £1.57 billion to around 5,000 organisations and sites across the country, giving a lifeline to cultural venues and organisations.
  • Today’s final boost of £35 million will support 340 organisations across England and safeguard hundreds of jobs – helping venues such as music venues, theatres and museums to make a full economic recovery from the pandemic. 
  • This lifeline for cultural organisations protects the vital role that culture plays in our communities up and down the country – allowing cherished organisations to remain open in every part of the country.  

Latest growth figures

Because of the rise in energy prices and a general increase in the cost of living, this is going to be a difficult year for everyone

Living standards are likely to take a hit for all of us: to ensure that wages recover from this and that there is enough money to protect our public services, we need to get productivity up and ensure the economy grows.

So it is encouraging that figures released this morning show that the UK economy grew by 1.3 per cent from October to December 2021, indicting that showing that our economy is recovering.

  • Thanks to the hard work of many people in our wealth-creating firms and businesses, the government's £400 billion package of support, Britain's historic vaccination programme, and the government making the right calls at the right time, the economy continues to bounce back from the pandemic.
  • New figures released this morning demonstrate the benefits of our approach, with the UK’s GDP growing by 1.3 per cent in Q4 of 2021 – upwardly revised from the first estimate of a 1 per cent increase.
  • This shows that the government's plan for jobs our plan is working – and we are continuing to help the economy rebuild through boosts for businesses and support for households with the cost of living.

Thursday music spot: the Dambusters march

I understand why Lincoln Football club have decided to review the practice of playing the March of the Dambusters at their matches while the war in Ukraine lasts and of sounding Air Raid sirens when they score. 

In my humble opinion, suspending the air raid sirens was on balance probably the correct decision but to cease playing the Dambusters march was the wrong one, and I am posting it as my music spot this evening to make a point. Air raid sirens were designed to warn people when they are under imminent attack and I can see why using them to denote a goal could be seen as being in bad taste during a conflict - if there were Ukranian refugees at a match why it might even be traumatic for them.

However, without ever downplaying the cost of war or suggesting that war can ever by anything other than a terrible thing, it is right that we should celebrate the heroism of brave men and women who risked and sometimes lost their lives defending their country. 

The Lancaster crews of 617 Squadron for whom the "March of the Dambusters" was written were heroes who risked, and in far too many cases lost, their lives to defend our country and the freedom of the world just as the heroes of the Ukrainian defence forces are risking their lives to defend their country - and I would argue, ours as well - in fighting against Putin's illegal invasion of their homeland. Far from pulling the March of the Dambusters, wer should play it with an extra dedication of this march written to honour brave men who fought for freedom to also honour those who are doing so today.

Slava Ukraini!





 

Quote of the day 31st March 2022


 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Midweek Madrigal: Hark, all ye lovely saints above (Thomas Weelkes)

Free COVID testing will continue for at-risk groups

The government has announced further details of our next steps for living with covid – setting out plans to manage the virus like other respiratory infections.

  • Following our world-leading vaccination programme, Britain has been able to lift legal restrictions and reopen our society as we learn to live with covid.
  • Yesterday details were announced of guidance on learning to live with covid – including the continued offer of free testing to help protect specific groups and forward planning for rapid testing response should a new health threat emerge.  
  • As we open up the UK economy and return to a much more normal life, vaccines remain our best defence and we urge everyone eligible to get their spring booster. 

From 1 April, free covid testing will be available for people with symptoms if they are patients in hospital, eligible for treatments because they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill or living or working in high-risk settings such as care homes or the NHS.



Aid to Afghanistan

Today the UK government announced a pledge to provide £286 million of UK aid to the Afghan people - providing life-saving food and emergency health support to those in need.

  • The Afghan people are facing shocking deprivation following the fall of Kabul, with the UN estimating around 10 million children across Afghanistan urgently need humanitarian assistance to survive. 
  • That is why the government has announced a further £286 million of humanitarian aid today to provide life-saving food and emergency health support, building on our ongoing support which has already helped to build 60 hospitals and supported the World Food Programme, giving emergency food to 4.47 million people.
  • We are rallying countries in support of the Afghan people and helping lead the way in providing essential, life-saving support. 

Tackling domestic abuse

The government has announced our new Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan - investing £230 million over three years to support victims and tackle the perpetrators of these crimes.

  • Domestic abuse is a devastating crime that ruins lives. For far too long the focus has been on what the victim might have done differently, rather than on the behaviour of perpetrators. 
  • That is why the government have announced ao Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan to address this. Our plan includes the creation of a new register of offenders, an expansion of the ‘Ask for Ani’ Scheme, £140 million for supporting victims, and over £81 million to tackle perpetrators.
  • These plans will establish a whole society approach - taking the onus off victims and making it easier for them to access the support they need, while taking tough action against perpetrators.

Quote of the day 30th March 2022


 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Green paper on Special Educational Needs

Today the government announced a green paper to consult on a stronger national system for children with special educational needs and disabilities – ending the postcode lottery of uncertainty and accountability as we level up opportunities.

  • Every child, regardless of their background, should be able to access the education they need and deserve. 
  • That is why we have announced a green paper to consult on a new national framework for children with SEND – including setting new national standards, simplifying the Education, Health and Care Plan, changing the culture and practice of mainstream education, and improving workforce training for staff in educational settings. 
  • These plans will end the postcode lottery of uncertainty and poor accountability that exists for too many families, boosting confidence in the system and improving both mainstream and specialist education as we continue to level up opportunities. 

Quote of the day 29th March 2022

 


Monday, March 28, 2022

Monday Music spot - another Village People "In The Navy" video

I posted the version of "In the Navy" which was used as the end credits for the film "Down Periscope" a couple of days ago. 

Here is another video of the song.

Helping bring Russian war criminals to justice

The UK government has appointed a leading British lawyer as an independent adviser to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, helping Ukraine hold Russia accountable for the war crimes it is committing against innocent civilians.

  • Russia’s use of indiscriminate force against innocent civilians, in its illegal and unprovoked assault on Ukraine, amounts to war crimes for which the Putin regime must be held accountable.
  • That is why the Attorney General appointed Sir Howard Morrison QC KCMG as an Independent Adviser to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Iryna Venediktova, providing independent and expert legal advice to Ukraine to support their investigation and prosecution of war crimes committed by Russia.
  • The international community is united in our resolve to hold Putin to account for the evil actions of his regime and we will continue to do all we can to support Ukraine’s fight for justice against Russia.

Giving every child the opportunity to succeed

Today the government sets out a Schools White Paper, designed to make sure every child can reach their full potential and use education to futureproof the mission to level up the country.

  • Literacy and numeracy unlock the learning, knowledge and skills that every child needs to succeed – and we must focus on improving them as we build on the reforms which have seen a significant increase in the number of good and outstanding schools.
  • That is why the government has set out plans to dramatically improve English and maths in a new Schools White Paper today, supporting children who fall behind in those key subjects and getting them back on track – and getting all schools to offer a minimum 32.5 hour school week by September 2023.
  • By making sure every child receives excellent teaching which helps them reach their full potential, we will spread opportunity and futureproof our mission to level up the country

New Free Trade deal with Canada to be negotiated

The UK government has launched negotiations for a new free trade deal with Canada, strengthening our £19 billion trading relationship which supports jobs and businesses across the UK.

  • The UK and Canada are close friends with a trading relationship that was worth over £19 billion last year thanks to our UK-Canada Trade Continuity agreement – but there is huge potential to strengthen and grow trade between our two countries.
  • That is why the International Trade Secretary visited Ottawa last week, where she launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement that will boost our £19 billion trading relationship with Canada by making it easier for British services and exports to reach Canadian markets.
  • The new agreement will boost our thriving services sector, promote higher standards of living, reduce barriers for exporters and stimulate Canadian investment – supporting jobs and growth up and down the country as we level up and unite the UK.

Food aid for Ukraine

The UK government has announced £2 million of aid for vital food supplies in areas of Ukraine being cut off by Russian forces, supporting the innocent people caught up in Putin’s illegal invasion. 

  • The encirclement of towns and cities by Russian forces is restricting the supply of vital resources to those inside, so it is essential that we provide support before the window of opportunity closes. 
  • That is why the UK government announced at the weekend a further £2 million of aid for vital resources – including dried food, tinned goods, and water – to towns and cities encircled by Russian forces, and around 25 truckloads will be transported to these areas from early next week. 
  • This vital donation of food and supplies will help support the brave Ukrainian people remaining in their towns and cities following Russia’s barbaric invasion.


Quote of the day 28th March 2022

 “I thought what the boss of P&O said yesterday about knowingly breaking the law was brazen, breathtaking, showed incredible arrogance and I cannot believe that he can stay in that role."

“What they did was they flagged their ships through Cyprus, avoided having to tell anybody about this - or they felt they did - and even though they know they’ve broken the law, what they’ve done is to pay people off in such a way to try and buy their silence.

“It’s unacceptable. So what I’m going to do about it is come to parliament this coming week with a package of measures which will both close every possible loophole that exists and force them to U-turn on this."

(Transport secretary Grant Shapps confirming his view that the chair of P&O Ferries should resign for his cavalier attitude to breaking the law and that the government will act against this unacceptable behaviour)

Sunday, March 27, 2022

New Sanctions on Russian R&D

The UK government has today announced new sanctions on Russian research and innovation – ramping up the pressure on the Putin regime by withholding vital funds.

  • Britain is continuing to support the brave people of Ukraine as they stand up to tyranny by placing severe sanctions on Putin’s regime – making clear that unprovoked aggression will never pay.
  • That is why today the UK government has announced new sanctions that tackle Russian research and innovation – all payments for Russian-linked projects delivered through UK public funds have been paused and we will no longer provide new funding for collaborative projects, and we are providing a £3 million package of support for at-risk Ukrainian researchers.
  • These sanctions ensure that our response to Putin’s illegal invasion is far-reaching and comprehensive, and the UK continues to stand with our Ukrainian friends in their hour of need.

An anthem for Mothering Sunday: Noble's Magnificat in B minor

Poems for Mothering Sunday

 

"To My Mother,"

You too, my mother, read my rhymes

For love of unforgotten times,

And you may chance to hear once more

The little feet along the floor

(Robert Louis Stevenson)


"To My Mother," 

To-day's your natal day;

Sweet flowers I bring:

Mother, accept, I pray

My offering.

And may you happy live,

And long us bless:

Receiving as you give

Great happiness.

(Christina Rossetti)


Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

Sorry you didn't give birth to a poet who could rhyme!

(Anonymous)

Quotes of the day 27th March 2022

"The anti-anti-Putin Left are most usefully described as “campists”, whose geopolitical philosophy is summed up by the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. America is the font of all evil, therefore its opponents must have something going for them."

"The British-Syrian writer Leila Al-Shami calls this “the anti-imperialism of idiots”: 

“This pro-fascist Left seems blind to any form of imperialism that is non-western in origin. It combines identity politics with egoism. Everything that happens is viewed through the prism of what it means for westerners — only white men have the power to make history.” 

Russia’s unprovoked war of imperialist aggression is as inconvenient to campists as China’s oppression of the Uyghurs. Either they must find a way to blame America after all or they must downplay the issue."

"They do not know what they stand for, only what they oppose. This is how you end up making excuses for dictators who bomb hospitals while demonising the people who pull the bodies from the rubble as terrorists and/or CIA assets. This is how people who define themselves by their opposition to the US invasion of Iraq find themselves claiming that Russia was provoked into invading Ukraine. It is obscene."

(Dorian Lynskey, extracts from an article about those on the extreme left and extreme right who make excuses for Putin's regime, which you can read in full here.)

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Giles Frazer on Putin's perversion of Jewish history

There is a very powerful piece by Giles Fraser on the Unherd site about the Putin regime's co-option of the story of the Holocaust to provide an utterly fraudulent justification for his attack on Ukraine.

It is particularly sick for the present Russian regime to present their unjustified and illegal war in Ukraine as an attempt to protect people from largely imaginary Nazis given that they are using this narrative to excuse an attack on a country whose elected president is Jewish and whose grandfather's brothers were murdered by real Nazis.

As Giles Frazer writes, 

 “I won’t dignify Putin’s narrative of liberation by arguing with it. You don’t rain down bombs upon innocent civilians if you want to liberate them. And you don’t bomb the holocaust memorial site at Babi Yar if you are intent on freeing the country from “Nazis”.”


You can read the article here.

A month into the war on Ukraine: can we say who is winning and losing?

In a very real sense the Secretary-General of the United Nations was absolutely right when he said last week that Russia's invasion of Ukraine set off a war in which there are no winners, only losers.

Even if President Putin had a sudden attack of sanity tomorrow and ordered all his troops to cease fire and withdraw from Ukraine, that country would still have lost dozens of cities devastated and thousands of troops and civilians dead.

Even in the even more unlikely event that President Zelenskiyy unconditionally surrendered tomorrow the cost in terms of blood, treasure and prestige already suffered by Russia looks to be greater than any possible benefit which Russia could gain if they did "win" the war.

This war is a disaster, not just for both Russia and Ukraine but for the world. In a year when even without the war living standards would have been under pressure around the world as a result of energy prices, the war has both made energy even more expensive and created food shortages.

Macauley wrote of Frederick II of Prussia that "in order that Frederick might rob a neighbour whom he had sworn to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel and red men scalped each other by the Great Lakes of North America."

History will record of Vladimir Putin that because of his attempt to rob a neighbour whose borders he had sworn to guarantee, African children starved in countries from Somalia to Congo and other children in the poorest countries all around the world went hungry.

At the start of this conflict, it appeared that Russia had much more firepower than Ukraine and Putin appears to have thought he could seize the country in a few days.

It is now clear that this assessment was disastrously wrong.  The extent to which Russia underestimated the Ukranians is illustrated by today's reports that the Russian general who told his men at the start of the invasion that they would win victory within hours, has become the seventh Russian general killed in Ukraine. 

The Russian army has proved to be excellent at the mass murder of civilians but significantly less effective at almost every other aspect of war than most people anticipated, while the Ukranians have put up a classic flexible defence, particularly around Kyiv. 

It is difficult to see Russia's announcement that the first phase of their "Special Military Operation" is complete and they will now focus on the Donbass region and the Eastern area of Ukraine as anything other than an attempt to pretend that they never attempted to capture Kyiv when the reality is that they tried very hard indeed to do so but their initial attempts have failed.

Every day that the war continues, all the objectives which Putin says he wants are more clearly sabotaged by his actions. He wanted fewer countries in NATO and fewer NATO troops near his borders. But the outcome of his actions is that countries which have been neutral for decades now have bottom-up popular movements wanting to join the NATO defensive alliance and there are more NATO troops on his borders. Putin wanted Ukraine to reunite with Russia: he has guaranteed that Ukrainians have a much stronger national identify distinct from Russia and that most Ukranians will hate the idea of Russian rule for the rest of their lives.

Above all, you only need to say six words to prove that Putin has now earned himself the title of the most incompetent and unsuccessful Russian leader for a century:

Putin has provoked Germany to rearm. 

This is not a criticism of the German government's decision to increase defence spending: in the present circumstances it is only sensible for all European nations to review the effectiveness of our defences. But if I were leading Russia, one of the first aims if not the first aim of my foreign policy would have been to ensure that Germany continued the renunciation of militarism which the country adopted after World War II in reaction to the horrors of Nazism, a policy Germany continued to follow for seventy-five years. It is almost impossible to overstate what a massive failure of Russian policy it was to push Germany into a decision to double defence spending.

Sadly, nothing in this catalogue of Russian failures means that Ukraine has won or that the war will end any time soon. Putin is largely insulated from the suffering his disastrous policies are inflicting on the people of Russia and it is very difficult to see him backing down in the near future.

However, the one thing which even the most savage repression and the most comprehensive suppression of bad news cannot conceal is that large numbers of Russian soldiers are dying in Ukraine. The former Soviet Union gave up attempting to maintain a military occupation of Afghanistan after nine years and after losing 15,000 dead soldiers. There are huge discrepancies between different estimates and claims about how many Russian soldiers have been killed during Putin's invasion of Ukraine, but it is clearly in the thousands and if the number of Russian fatal casualties is at or near the higher end of the range of estimates by Western intelligence agencies, they've lost as many people in Ukraine in a month as the Soviets lost in Afghanistan in nine years. 

These deaths cannot be concealed from the families of the dead, and the scale of losses will inevitably leak out into the rest of Russian society - and sooner or later it will also become obvious that all these young men are dying for nothing.

It is not for people in the rest of the world to decide who should rule the Russian Federation: it should be for the people of Russia to make that decision, preferably in a free election. The present regime does not have a history of allowing those.

However, difficult a coup or popular revolution against Putin would be to mount, Russians will not put up with the casualty rate they are suffering in Ukraine for ever, It may take months: it may take years. And during those months or years there may be periods which Russian arms are more successful than they have been to date. But Russia simply does not have the military manpower to occupy Ukraine in the face of determined resistance. In the longer term, Putin will eventually either have to abandon his attempts to conquer Ukraine or he will be overthrown in favour of someone who will.

In that sense Ukraine will ultimately win, and Putin will ultimately lose.

Music to relax after campaigning: Vivaldi's Concerto for 2 Mandolins in G major

Clocks go forward tonight

Remember that we lose an hour tonight.

Britain moves from Grenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time in the early hours of tomorrow morning and the hour from 2am to 2.59am will not exist: we will go straight from 1.59am GMT to 3am BST. 

So put any clocks in your house forward an hour or follow this guide to resetting your various devices:




Quote of the day 26th March 2022

"Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics. #IStandWithUkraine"

(J.K. Rowling responds on Twitter to Vladimir Putin's references to her in a speech about "cancel culture.")

Friday, March 25, 2022

Second music spot by special request: Village People "In The Navy" (Down Periscope)

I see from the blog's traffic counters that over the last two days quite a few people have been watching and listening to an old music post with the end credits from "Down Periscope" featuring Kelsey Grammer and the cast of the film, with the group Village People performing their hit "In the Navy." 

As it happens there is an updated version of that video so here it is!

More electric charging points

The Conservative government has launched a £1.6 billion plan to deliver a ten-fold increase in electric-vehicle charging points by 2030, making journeys across the country easier and cheaper.

  • Clean transport is not only better for the environment, it will help to drive down our dependence on external energy supplies and offer a cheaper alternative.
  • That is why the Conservatives are putting £1.6 billion behind our new Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy, which will see a ten-fold increase in EV charge points to 300,000 by 2030 – almost five times the number of fuel pumps on our roads today and will make using charge points easier than ever before.
  • This massive boost will make the entire country EV-fit for future generations, with charging easier and cheaper than refuelling a petrol or diesel car, all while putting the consumer first.

Reforming Social Care

Today the government set out the first stage of plans to improve social care, with a massive £1.36 billion funding boost to help local authorities pay fairer rates for care, so that everyone who needs support gets the best possible quality of care.

  • We all want to know our loved ones are receiving the best care possible – but for this to happen we need a thriving care market where providers receive a fairer cost for care.
  • That is why the government has set out plans to support local authorities with an additional £1.36 billion to pay a fairer rate of care to adult social care providers – alongside guidance to ensure the money is spent sustainably – helping to close the funding gap between people paying privately and those funded by local authorities.
  • This huge boost for social care is funded by our Health and Social Care Levy and will help address the problems in social care that have been ducked for decades – so that everyone can receive the highest possible quality of care without facing overwhelming costs.

The Kremlin's "lifetime achievement award" for Boris

A few weeks ago when the Kremlin responded to Western sanctions by imposing some rather cack-handed retaliatory sanctions on Western figures - among other things they accidentally sanctioned President Biden's late father - one of the targets, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded by tweeting

I want to thank the Russian Academy for this Lifetime Achievement Award,”

In the same sense the Kremlin appears to have UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson a similar "Lifetime Achievement Award" by making him the number one non-Ukranian target of their propaganda, calling him  “the most active anti-Russian leader.”

There is a good piece on "The Article" website by Daniel Johnson on the subject which you can read by clicking on this link:

Why is Boris being demonised by the Kremlin? | TheArticle




Music to start the weekend: the Boccherini Minuet

Quote of the day 25th March 2022

"Pro bono publico. No bloody panico"

Rear Admiral Sir Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Charles Morgan-Giles, DSO, OBE, GM, DL (1914 – 2013) - said while serving as a member of parliament.













Memorable because the gruff humour as a way of telling people not to panic got the message over without coming over as Corporal Jones.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Britain's ongoing support for Ukraine 2) - medical support

Yesterday it was confirmed that Britain has delivered over four million medical items to Ukraine, as we continue supporting the Ukrainian Government in the face of the health emergency caused by Russia’s invasion.

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is causing a medical emergency, disrupting supply chains, and denying Ukrainians access to vital treatment– causing untold suffering.
  • So the UK has provided an extra 175,000 doses of crucial medicines for diabetics and people with chronic conditions who are unable to access treatment. This builds on over 4 million medical items we have donated, including wound packs and intensive care equipment on 11 delivery flights.
  • Britain will continue doing everything we can to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine, to help them access the treatments they deserve and the equipment they need to save lives.

Britain's ongoing support for Ukraine 1) - Military support

The Prime Minister has announced a major military support package for Ukraine at the NATO and G7 Leaders’ meeting, providing defensive weapons to help Ukrainians in response to Russia’s brutal tactics.

  • Putin is already failing in Ukraine but continues to subject the Ukrainian people to increasingly brutal tactics as they defend their homeland against his unprovoked assault.
  • That is why, at the NATO and G7 Leaders’ meeting today, the Prime Minister announced that Britain is providing an additional 6,000 anti-tank missiles and £25 million for the Ukrainian military – more than doubling the defensive lethal aid we have provided to more than 10,000 missiles, on top of our £400 million in humanitarian and economic aid to Ukraine.
  • We will continue to urge our allies to join us in strengthening Ukraine’s defence capabilities – to keep the flame of freedom alive in Ukraine as we stand shoulder to shoulder against tyranny.

Quote of the day 24th March 2022


 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Midweek music spot: Franz Josef Haydn, extracts from "The Creation"

Some of the music from Haydn's Creation, with the correct words.

Nine times out of ten when the chorus and trio "The Heavens are telling the glory of God" is performed,  the second line is sung with completely nonsensical words. It was originally written in English and subsequently translated into German for Haydn by an amateur translator the quality of whose work could politely be described as controversial, 

I do not claim to be qualified to comment on the quality of the German version, but I don't need any vast expertise in German to be to understand that during the process of translation from English to German and back again, to give the version most often performed, the first line of Psalm 19 (In the King James bible, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.") has been mangled and  the subject and object of the second half of the verse swapped round. 

The YouTube clip below is one of the comparatively rare performances with the correct words. The lyrics of this extract are:

Solo Bass 
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 
And the earth was without form, and void. 
And darkness was upon the face of the deep. 

Choir 
And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 
And God said: Let there be light. 
And there was light. 

Solo Tenor 
And God saw the light, that it was good: 
and God divided the light from the darkness. 

Chorus 
The heavens are telling the glory of God: 
 the firmament displays His wondrous handiwork. 

Trio: Soprano, Tenor and Bass 
For day unto day doth show forth His praise: 
and night unto night the same doth proclaim. 
In all the lands resounds the word: 
never unperceived, ever understood.

Quote of the day 23rd March 2022


Spring Statement - key measures

The United Kingdom’s security and ability to be a force for good in the world is in large part based on the strength of our economy. Thanks to the hard work of British workers and businesses, and the support packages provided by the government, Britain's economy has been recovering well, with record job vacancies and unemployment back at pre-crisis levels.

However, even before Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine, which would have had dire consequences around the world for energy and food prices even without sanctions, a variety of world factors including the impact of COVID was already causing leading to energy cost rises and presenting many households and businesses with serious challenges through rising costs of living and doing business.

The steps Britain and other nations are taking to sanction Russia will not be cost-free for us at home: the biggest impact will be on the cost of living for working families. But as the PM said at the weekend, the cost of doing nothing in the face of Putin's aggression would have been even worse.

Nevertheless, the effect of the energy price rises we were already facing on world markets, the further rises which the war is directly causing, and the impact of sanctions will mean that millions of people are facing the largest cost of living challenge in decades.

That is why the chancellor has today published a new tax plan in his Spring statement to reduce and reform taxes over the Parliament: helping families with the cost of living, creating the conditions for private sector-led growth, and sharing the proceeds of growth fairly:

Key measures include:

  • Cutting fuel duty by 5p for 12 months – a £5 billion TAX CUT and largest fuel duty cut ever 
  • Cutting National Insurance by raising the employee threshold at which people start to pay it by three thousand pounds to line up with the Income Tax threshold. This will particularly protect low aid workers but in total it will help 30 million working people around the UK from July, Effectively this is a £6 billion TAX CUT, worth over £330 a year – 70 per cent of people will pay less tax even after the levy to raise more money for the NHS and for Adult Social Care
  • Cutting the basic rate of Income Tax to 19p from 2024 – the first income TAX CUT for 16 years, a £5 billion tax cut for over 30 million workers, savers and pensioners
  • Cutting business employment taxes now by raising the Employment Allowance to £5,000 – a TAX CUT for half a million small businesses worth up to £1,000 per business
  • Cutting VAT on energy saving materials like solar – a TAX CUT only possible because of Brexit
  • Doubling the Household Support Fund to £1 billion for councils to support the most vulnerable
  • Creating the conditions for private sector-led growth – through Autumn Budget TAX CUTS on business capital investment and R&D

Make no mistake, this year is still going to be tough, but these measures will help reduce the impact of rising costs for millions of families and delivers the biggest net cut to personal taxes in a single statement in over a quarter of a century.

It is only because a Conservative government is capable of the tough but responsible decisions to fix our public finances that we can announce today that taxes are being cut, debt is falling, and public spending is increasing. Delivering this plan will require continued discipline on public spending that only a Conservative government can provide.

Compensation for the victims of the Post Office software scandal

Yesterday the government launched a new government compensation scheme for postmasters, ensuring the postmasters who were unfairly accused of fraud to to inexcusable failures by the Post Office are compensated fully and fairly. 

  • Whilst no such scheme can take away the years of distress, the postmasters who have suffered over the post office horizon scandal deserve to be fairly compensated. 
  • So the government has announced a further compensation scheme targeted at the postmasters who brought and won the landmark High Court case against the Post Office, ensuring those who uncovered the miscarriage of justice receive the compensation they deserve.
  • This will delivering compensation to victims of a terrible injustice, righting a historic wrong and giving people confidence that the UK will always act to ensure people are treated fairly.

Steel Tariffs dispute with the USA resolved

Yesterday it was announced that the UK and US governments have agreed a resolution which puts an end to the ongoing issue around steel and aluminium tariffs, giving the UK steel and aluminium industries a vital boost. 

  • Since UK steel and aluminium export tariffs were imposed by the US in 2018, we have been working towards an agreement with the US to support the industry which employs 80,000 people.
  • Yesterday the UK government announced a resolution with the US to end the ongoing issue around steel and aluminium tariffs, securing a high level of tariff free access to the US market. In response, the UK will suspend rebalancing measures on US products including whiskey and motorcycles. 
  • This will boost businesses on both sides of the Atlantic and give workers greater security, as well as clearing the way for us to focus on the next steps for the UK-US trade relationship.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Safer Streets Fund

 Last week the government announced an extra £150 million for our Safer Streets Fund – helping to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour as we build back safer.

  • Our local communities are the beating hearts of the United Kingdom – we all want our streets to be safe for everyone to go about their daily lives without fear inflicted on them by criminals.
  • That is why, in round four of our Safer Streets Fund, the Conservative government is  making an extra £150 million available across England and Wales to areas most affected by crime. This latest round of funding targets neighbourhood crime, violence against women and girls, and – for the first time – anti-social behaviour.
  • This will help to prevent potential perpetrators committing crimes in the first place, improving the safety and safety of our streets and helping our communities to flourish as we build back safer.

Quote of the day 22nd March 2022

 "All statements are true if you are free to redefine their terms"

(Thomas Sowell, American economist.)



Spring booster programme begins

Bookings are now open for hundreds of thousands of people to get their Spring Covid booster, topping up the protection of the most vulnerable against Covid.

(The Chairman of the CCC Copeland local committee, who is in an eligible category, has set an example by booking his immediately as he explained at Local Committee today).

  • Britain's phenomenal vaccination programme has saved countless lives and built a wall of defence which has allowed us to learn to live with Covid – but we must protect this success and top up people’s protection. 
  • That is why, from Monday, bookings opened for Spring boosters, and this week around 600,000 people will be invited to book, with eligible groups including care home residents, the over 75s, and those who are immunosuppressed aged 12 and over. In all, around five million people will be able to get a Spring booster dose. 
  • This will give the most vulnerable additional top up protection as we continue to learn to live with Covid. Everyone who does not have a specific medical reason not to take the vaccine is strongly urged to come forward as soon as they are contacted by the NHS. If you have any concerns about whether the vaccine is right for you or a member of your family, please discuss it with an appropriately qualified medical professional.




Monday, March 21, 2022

Ukranian Refugees will be able to access benefits as soon as they arrive

The government has announced that people fleeing Ukraine and arriving in the United Kingdom will be able to immediately access benefits from day one. 

  • Following Putin’s abhorrent and illegal invasion of Ukraine, many of the British people have said how much they want to help as many Ukrainians as possible to come to the United Kingdom, and tens of thousands have backed their words with actions by offering space in their homes. We need to make this process as simple as possible for those arriving here.  
  • That is why the government has laid emergency regulations before parliament so those arriving can access Universal Credit and support from Work Coaches to find jobs from day one. We are also providing translation services and face-to-face assistance to those who need it. 
  • This will allow those fleeing the unimaginable horrors in Ukraine to rapidly get the support and help they need and move forward with their lives immediately. 

PM hosts nuclear industry roundtable

Today the Prime Minister hosted a roundtable of leaders in the nuclear industry – as we continue to take action to boost our domestic energy security.   

  • Nuclear energy, which currently accounts for around 15 per cent of our electricity generation, is critical to boosting our energy security as we move away from volatile fossil fuels.
  • That is why I very much welcome that today the PM hosted a roundtable of leaders in the nuclear industry to discuss domestic energy security and future nuclear projects ahead of our of our British Energy Security Strategy this month - rebuilding the industry destroyed by the Labour Party.
  • This will help to remove barriers and progress future nuclear projects, and could lead to vital steps to boost our energy security and independence – as well as bringing more jobs across the United Kingdom.  

Quote of the day 21st March 2022

"There is nothing so bad that politics cannot make it worse"

(Thomas Sowell, American economist)



Sunday, March 20, 2022

The PM's speech to Spring Conference

There has been some discussion today about the Prime Minister's speech yesterday. I heard it in person: and found what he had to say about how Putin's illegal and disastrous invasion would probably never have been launched if he faced a free press and a genuine parliament very powerful.

Here is the full transcript of his speech.


"Good morning, everybody. 

It's absolutely fantastic to be back here in Blackpool.

I first spoke here 25 years ago, 1997. I was the freshly defeated candidate for Clwyd South. And I did the appeal. But I didn't think they could get Jeffrey Archer that day.

Because we, as you recall, we'd been more or less wiped out. And what a joy it is to come back here today, quarter of a century on and find that we have more Conservative MPs than at any time since the 1980s. And that we not only hold Clwyd South, we hold Blackpool South, my friends.

As we meet today, a tragedy continues to unfold in our European continent, a vicious and a barbarian attack on innocent civilians, the likes of which we haven't seen since the 1940s. And, Mr. Ambassador, sir, there you are. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, Ukrainian ambassador, I want to repeat to you directly what I told your wonderful president Volodymyr Zelenskyy yesterday. We stand with the Ukrainian people, and our hearts go out to them.

And tens of thousands of people in this country are opening our homes, to the people of Ukraine. We say thank you to them, and we applaud them. And with every day that Ukraine's heroic resistance continues, it is clear that Putin has made a catastrophic mistake.

And you have to ask yourself why he did it. Why did he decide to invade this totally innocent country? He didn't really believe that Ukraine was going to join NATO anytime soon. He knew perfectly well, there was no plan to put missiles on Ukrainian soil. He didn't really believe the semi-mystical guff, he wrote about the origins of the of the Russian people; Nostradamus meets Russian Wikipedia.

I think that wasn't what it was about. I think he was frightened of Ukraine for an entirely different reason. He was frightened of Ukraine, because in Ukraine, they have a free press. And in Ukraine, they have free elections. And then with every year that Ukraine progressed, not always easily, towards freedom and democracy and open markets, he feared the Ukrainian example. And he feared the implicit reproach to himself. Because in Putin's Russia, you get jailed for 15 years, just recalling an invasion, an invasion. And if you stand against Putin in an election, you get poisoned, or shot.

And it's precisely... that's what happens... and it's precisely because Ukraine and Russia, have been so historically close, that he has been terrified of the effect of that Ukrainian model on him and on Russia, and he's been in a total panic about a so called colour revolution in Moscow itself.

And that's why he's trying so brutally, to snuff out the flame of freedom in Ukraine, and that's why it is so vital that he fails, because a victorious Putin will not stop in Ukraine and the end of freedom in Ukraine will mean the extinction of any hope of freedom in Georgia and then Moldova, it will mean the beginning of a new age of intimidation across the whole of Eastern Europe, from the Baltic to the Black Sea... and if Putin succeeds in crushing Ukraine, it will be the green light for autocrats everywhere in the Middle East, in the Far East.

This is a turning point for the world. And it's a moment of choice. It's a choice between freedom and oppression. And I know there are some around the world, even in some Western governments who invoke what they call realpolitik. And you say that we're better off making accommodations with tyranny. I have to say I believe they are profoundly wrong. And to try to renormalise relations with Putin, after this, as we did in 2014, would be to make exactly the same mistake again. And that is why, and that is why Putin must fail.

And I know that it's the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time, I can give you a couple of famous recent examples. When the British people voted for Brexit, in such large, large numbers, I don't believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It's because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself. Give you another example, where the British population came forward to be vaccinated at such incredible speed voluntarily. Unlike many other countries, I'm sure it was partly because they wanted to avoid catching Covid, very sensible thing to do, by the way, I hope you've all had your boosters. You have? Well we're getting ready for a fourth jab, because we're going to need it. But I'll tell you why people did it. Why? Why did the British people come forward? I mean, 90 per cent , we got entirely voluntary. Entirely voluntary. It was because they wanted to get on with their lives. They were fed up with being told what to do, by people like me. They were!

We wanted to take back control of our lives. And so I'm proud that this government has done the things that so many people said were impossible. We got Brexit done. I'm proud that we deliver the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, not once, but twice and the fastest booster route rollout. And, of course, yes, I am proud that this government has been in the lead in sticking up for freedom in Ukraine. This was the first European country to send defensive weapons to help the Ukrainians. And now dozens are following our lead. And I'm very grateful to my friend Ben Wallace also there in the front row for his foresight many months ago. And for getting me to read Putin's crazy essay, which I did, and we are talking continuously, Liz, Ben and I, we're talking continuously to our colleagues in the in the Ukraine support group to discuss what more we can do. And those conversations go on literally every day, and there will be more.

I'm proud of what we did on sanctions. We were in the lead in sanctioning swift and the bank certain banning Aeroflot, we've now sanctioned more banks and individuals than any other European country, and we will be detaining their yachts and their assets. And, of course, there is a cost to all these actions. Of course there is but the cost of doing nothing will be far, far higher. Putin's war is intended to cause economic damage to the west and to benefit him. And he knows that with every dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil, he gets billions more in revenues from the sales of oil and gas. And that's the tragedy of the situation. He's been preparing for this moment, by pushing hydrocarbons on the west like a back street pusher, feeding our addiction, creating a dependency. And now he wants to weaken the collective will to resist by pushing up the cost of living, hitting us at the pumps, and in our fuel bills. And so we must respond and we've got to do everything we can to help people with their daily costs help people with the cost of living and of course that means doing all the things that we're doing, lifting the living wage, cutting council tax bills, helping with fuel costs, giving billions to councils, millions more to help people in particular hardship.

The best possible answer, of course, is to make sure that this is the traditional Conservative answer to make sure that we have a strong economy and strong economic fundamentals with well paid jobs. And thanks to the speed of that booster rollout, we have the fastest growing economy in the G7. Unemployment now actually back to the level it was before the pandemic, virtually a record low, 3.9 per cent, youth unemployment at or near record lows. But if we're going to deal with a particular cost, the biggest cost that families now face and tackle these rising fuel bills, the energy spike, we must take the bold steps necessary to end our dependence on Putin's oil and gas.

And that is what we are doing, in the immortal phrase, it is time to take back control of our energy supplies. After years of short termism and hand to mouth solutions, we are setting out a British energy security strategy. And we will make better use of our own naturally occurring hydrocarbons, rather than import them top dollar from abroad and put the money into Putin's bank account.

That does not mean in any way that we will abandon our drive for a low carbon future, we're going to make some bets on nuclear power and big bets on nuclear power, not just the big projects, but also the small modular reactors. And we're going to take that bull-at-a-gate spirit of the booster rollout and use it to build more offshore wind, double quick time, and many other investments in clean green power. But if you ask me how we're going to pay for all this, I can tell you that I've been going around the world recently, and I've been talking to international investors who are yearning to make colossal long term investments in British green infrastructure. Colossal. And there's a reason why people want to come to this country, many, many reasons why they want to come. But you're seeing them invest massively in everything from tech to finance to green power.

And that is that they know what this government is doing. They know about... I mean, you may not believe it, but they do... they know about our levelling up agenda, my friends, they do. They've heard of it. They have, they're very well informed. And they know that we have a plan to unleash the potential of this whole country and they can see how we are doing it, making our streets safer with 20,000. More police rounding up the county lines, drugs gangs, that cause such misery, stopping and searching the kids with the with the knives giving the police the powers that they need. And by the way, giving the criminals the serious sentences that they deserve for the crimes that they commit. Tackling the middle class of drugs use by the way that helps to drive so much of the consumption but doing things.... Thank you for that small clap for that. I think it's about time that the government stood that the government said that we don't tolerate this kind of... it is driving misery across the whole country. It's driving the county lines gangs and we have to be absolutely frank about it.

But what we're doing goes far beyond that. And people around the world can see what levelling up is doing the massive extension of fibre optic broadband and I'm just trying to look for Nadine, where is Nadine, perhaps she isn't in here. But Oliver you were doing it. Massive expansion when you were at DCMS with full fibre of Gigabit broadband. It is a great thing for our country. And we need to do it we will go further and faster investing massively in road and rail and not just the colossal schemes of the integrated rail plan, northern powerhouse rail, making sure that the Midlands and the North of the country finally get the kind of commuter style rail networks that have been taken for granted for so long in the southeast. Huge schemes that we're doing, they'll be transformative for the UK economy but look at the little things that we're doing as well. Relatively smaller schemes such as the new tram improvements in Blackpool, which I was delighted to see the other day. I congratulate the Blackpool authorities on what they are doing because it's driving tourism, it's driving investment even more investment here in in Blackpool. That's what Levelling up is.

I went for a run. You may not believe it but I did. I went for a run this morning on the beach. Absolutely beautiful. Better than anything in the Caribbean. That is not near gallantry. It is true. And it's true. I mean, that time of the morning 6:45, sun coming up. Unbelievable. Tide right out, ribbed sand stretching for miles and miles, and obviously beautiful. And as I ran along, I saw over new hotels and the new attractions that will benefit from that new transport infrastructure going in... the new tram. Of course, government has a role. Safer streets, better health care, better schools, better education, creating the conditions for that investment. But in the end, you need the private sector. The animal spirits of the private sector to come in and have the confidence to invest. That's what it's all about. That's the fundamental symmetry at the heart of our Conservative vision.

And as I was running along the sand, I saw a man who seemed to be prospecting with a kind of steel pole, or tube. And I asked him what he was looking for, hydrocarbons perhaps. What do you think he was looking for? Anybody have any idea? I tell you, he wasn't searching for oil. Well, he was looking for lug worms. And he showed me some lug worms that he had caught. And I will tell you, my friends, the lugworm is not perhaps the most beautiful of God's creatures. But bigger fish love lugworms. And I want you to know that we Conservatives back everybody in this country who gets up early and invest their time and their skill and their energy and their effort in the hope of a bigger return. You need to use a lugworm to catch a bream, my friends and I have a bream. As they say.

I have a vision of a one nation conservatism that takes that capitalist spirit and uses it. Uses our wonderful free market system to make sure that we have the revenues further for Rishi Sunak could pay for our fantastic NHS and the 50,000 more nurses and the thousands more doctors that were are hiring pay for all the wonderful staff who are clearing the COVID backlogs, pay for our defences, pay for Ben Wallace’s troops, pay for our 20,000 more police officers pay for investment in skills. Like what we're doing with the Blackpool and Fylde College, the new Multiversity that's opening because that is what levelling up is all about. And it is those wonderful public services that create the climate of confidence, which means that private sector investment comes in and it works, this formula for levelling up I believe is right for the whole country. It's vital to understand this. It's vital that it works. It works everywhere. By unleashing talent everywhere across the UK still, under the old model the most imbalanced European economy, by unleashing can everywhere you stop the overheating and the stress and the overdevelopment, that is a part of the failed economic model, and we take the whole country forward together. That's what we're going to do. That's why Rishi… I think he's totally right to be driving at a new age of post Brexit, entrepreneurialism. Tough word to say, you know, but you know what I mean? Low business taxes and other fiscal incentives, the eight new free ports and all the new freedoms that we're currently taking, driven by Jacob, who's our invigilator of these things, to do things differently and do things better? And now that we can, and I think it's because of the spirit that people can see in this country that we're seeing a surge of investment in the last few months, another billion just this week from Al Fanar, from Saudi Arabia in Teesside to make green aviation fuel on top of a billion from Nissan for a Gigafactory, a billion from Mubadala for Life Sciences, 6 billion from Iberdrola Spanish company in East Anglia wind farms, 1.5 billion from Blackstone in labs in the creative sector. The list goes on and on.

It is absolutely astonishing, a billion here, a billion there, you're talking about serious money, you're talking about tens of thousands of high wage, high skilled jobs. And there's another reason of course, why investors come here. And when they think about the UK, and what it’s going to be like for themselves and their families, they think about the time that they're going to be spending in the UK, and I tell you something, it is the invincible strength of this country that we believe, by and large, and within the law, that people should be able to do whatever they want, provided they don't do any harm to anybody else. And that's called freedom. That's called freedom. And we don't need to be woke. We just want to be free. And that's why talented people are fleeing Russia, quite frankly, right now. And that's why they're flocking to the UK.

And to get back to my theme. That's Putin's tragedy. That's his tragedy there. Actually, there's a sense in which his disastrous error in Ukraine is itself an argument for democracy and freedom. I mean, seriously, if Putin had a free press, if he had the BBC on his case. I'm deadly serious, he would know, whatever you may think, he would have known the truth or a version of it, he would have known the truth. If he had free, impartial, responsible journalism, let me put it that way. Then he would have known then he would have known the truth that the Ukrainians are a proud, proud nation with a charismatic leader, and he would have known before he set out on this disastrous and inhuman venture that they would fight to defend their homeland. He would have known that, and he wouldn't have locked himself in this echo chamber of sycophants. On which subject if Putin had to explain himself to a real parliament, with real backbenchers whom, of course, all leaders must have a very, very lively regard. Who had backbenchers they had to justify themselves to every day, to their electors, and of course at elections, you know, I don't believe that he would have been capable of such a crescendo of disastrous and self-destructive mistakes. Isn't that the truth?

Now, I don't believe that democratic freedoms are going to sprout anytime soon in the Kremlin, far from it, but with every day that passes, I think that Putin becomes a more glaring advertisement for the system that he hates and despises. And it becomes ever more obvious why we have to stick up for Ukraine. And we will. And that's why we will continue with absolute conviction to stick up for freedom under the law, freedom under the law at home and abroad, even if it means making some tough decisions. We made a tough choice, for instance, over Christmas and New Year to keep going to keep our economy open. When some people said we should go back into lockdown. We made the tough choice to open up last July, when I think that the Labour Party said we were being reckless. Never forget if we'd listened to Captain Hindsight and the Labour Party, I never tire I'm telling you this, but it's true, we would still be in lockdown and we would certainly not be seeing the strong growth and employment that we're seeing today. When the Labour Party and the current leader were trying with might and main to install a leader who wanted I'm sorry, I'm serious, to abolish NATO. We were already training Ukrainian troops to fight. And it's an absolutely incredible fact and it's true at a time when Russia is being led by a President who is capable of bullying and threats who's plainly capable of making dangerous and irrational decisions, we have a Labour party whose shadow cabinet is stuffed with people who only recently voted to abolish the UK's independent nuclear deterrent. That's right. Eight of them. The Shadow Foreign Secretary unbelievable, the Shadow Levelling-up Secretary, the Shadow Transport Secretary, I can't get the entire list, but you can find it out. That's them.

Do we want them in charge, my friends at this moment? Do we want them running up the white flag? Do you see them standing up to Putin's blackmail? By the way, in the next few weeks. Do we want them running our councils where we know that up and down the country Labour councils cost you more and Conservatives deliver better services? Do we want them in charge of the economy of this amazing country of ours when there has never been a Labour government that left with unemployment lower than when they arrived? Let me tell you when you go out campaigning in the in the next few weeks, as we all will, joyfully. Let me tell you that my message to everybody on the doorstep is that it is Conservatives. It's Conservatives who get things done, even when they look difficult, and its Conservatives who take the tough decisions to help you, to be on your side, to help you with the cost of living. And its Conservatives who stand up for freedom against the blackmail of Vladimir Putin. I'll tell you why they do it.

We do it, not out of ideology, because we know through long experience, that it's only by sticking up for freedom, that we can deliver long term prosperity and security and that's what we will deliver together. 

Thank you all very much. And thank you for coming to Spring Conference.

Thank you."

Second sunday music spot: "Salvator Mundi" by Thomas Tallis

Quote of the day 20th March 2022

 









The war which the generation of my grandfather (who fought in it) called the Great War is normally referred to today as the first world war, but that is not strictly an accurate name,

The first true global conflicts took place in the 18th century and there is a strong argument that the first real world was that known in Europe as The War of the Austrian Succession, in Britain as the war of Jenkins' ear, in India as the first Carnatic War, and in the USA as the Third French and Indian war. It had different names in different theatres but it was a genuinely global series of confrontations.

And it was the first of those wars which led the British historian Thomas Babington MacAulay Macaulay, analyzing the successive wars of annexation waged by Frederick II of Prussia, (called by some "Frederick the Great,") to write that "his selfish rapacity gave the signal to his neighbours  . . . .  His example quieted their sense of shame." 

The historian proceeds:

"On the head of Frederick is to be placed all the blood which was shed in a war that raged during many years and in every quarter of the globe  . . . .  The evil produced by his wickedness was felt in lands where the name of Prussia was unknown; and in order that Frederick might rob a neighbour whom he had sworn to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel and red men scalped each other by the Great Lakes of North America."


Remind you of anyone|?

The world community must make sure that no sign of apparent success signals to Russia's potential imitators that we will look the other way as the success of Prussia did in the 18th century.