Sunday, July 31, 2022

Congratulations to the Lionesses

Congratulations to the England Women's Football team for winning the European championship, beating Germany two-one in extra time in the final this afternoon.

Incredible performance, the first major championship won by an England football team since 1966 more than fifty years ago. 

Quote of the day 31st July 2022


 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

A musical memory of the late Bernard Cribbins - "Right, said Fred."

Fairness and safety for leaseholders - the Building Safety fund

Today the government's £4.5 billion Building Safety Fund opens for new applications – protecting leaseholders in high-rise homes from unfair bills in making their homes safe.

  • The Conservative government introduced the Building Safety Act to ensure that building owners and landlords were held accountable for making buildings safe – and we are determined to ensure leaseholders in high-rise homes are not left with unfair bills for safety costs. 
  • That is why the £4.5 billion Building Safety Fund has been reopened for new applications – qualifying leaseholders in high-rise homes will be spared from unfair bills for building safety costs, while those responsible for the issues, and the owners of the building, will be held accountable.  
  • This fund will provide fairness to leaseholders while making homes safer across the country. 

Bernard Cribbins RIP

Sorry to see that one of my favourite actors, Bernard Cribbins, star of everything from Doctor Who to Right said Fred, from Fawlty Towers to the Wombles over a career which spanned seven decades, has died at the age of 93.

He gave such a lot of pleasure to so many people. He will be missed.

Rest in Peace.

Declare the next Eurovision venue Ukrainian territory for the evening.

There is an excellent suggestion on the letters page of today's Times from a Rohan Fernando that the building in which the next Eurovision Song Contest takes place should be declared by the UK government to be Ukrainian territory for the duration of the event.

There is a precedent for this. In 1943 when Queen Juliana of the Netherlands gave birth in exile, the Canadian government declared her hospital suite to be Dutch territory for the duration of her confinement so that the baby would be born free of the Nazi German occupation but on Dutch soil.

Similarly if the UK government declares the building where we host the next Eurovision, which Britain has already said we will do jointly with Ukraine, to be Ukrainian territory for the night, it will mean that Vladimir Putin's illegal war has failed to prevent the event taking place on Ukrainian territory. 

I think this is a really good idea and I hope that whoever wins the contest to be our next Prime Minister adopts it.

Commonwealth Games begin in Birmingham

Today, the Commonwealth Games begin in Birmingham – celebrating sporting success as we showcase the best of Britain on a global stage. As it happens, I was in Birmingham yesterday for work reasons and there was a palpable sense of anticipation in that great city with signs about the Games visible everywhere.

  • The UK has an outstanding reputation for hosting major sporting events, and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will be another fantastic opportunity to showcase the best of Britain on a global stage.
  • Over the next 11 days, Birmingham will host 6,500 athletes and officials from 72 Commonwealth nations and territories – and tonight’s opening ceremony at the Alexander Stadium is expected to bring a global television audience of over 1 billion people.   
  • The investment in the games will also bring an economic boost to the West Midlands – creating 40,000 new jobs and volunteering opportunities, £38 million investment in innovation programmes, £24 million in business and tourism programmes, as well as new and upgraded sporting facilities. 

Quote of the day 28th July 2022


 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Midweek Music spot: Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4

Award for President Zelenskyy

Yesterday the Prime Minister awarded President Zelenskyy the Sir Winston Churchill Leadership Award, recognising the President’s courage, defiance and dignity as we stand steadfast with the people of Ukraine. 

  • The Ukrainian people, led by President Zelenskyy, have moved the hearts of millions and stirred a global wave of solidarity in the face of Putin’s barbaric and illegal war. 
  • That is why we awarded President Zelenskyy with the Sir Winston Churchill Leadership Award via a virtual ceremony yesterday. The award signifies President Zelenskyy’s courage, defiance, and dignity – all Churchillian qualities – in the face of Putin’s aggression against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.
  • The UK stands steadfast with the Ukrainian people, and we will continue to support Ukraine until she rises as a free sovereign and independent nation.

Quote of the day 27th July 2022


 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Congratulations to the Lionesses

Congratulations to the England women's football team for booking their place in the final of the women's European football championship with an emphatic four goals to nil semi-final victory over a very good Swedish team this evening.

County Council attendance

The Cumberland News published some analysis on Friday of the attendance figures for members of Cumbria County Council at meetings, with a suggestion that this could be improved if the council went back to meeting "via Zoom."

Actually the council used Teams rather than Zoom but that's not the important point, which is that meeting online has some real advantages for ordinary members of the public who want to follow what their elected representatives are up to but don't have days at a time during office hours to come to Carlisle or Kendal to watch us in person.

A large majority of county councillors do attend the vast majority of meetings we are supposed to get to and indeed the Cumberland News' figures support that view. 

Unlike some other authorities, the county council does not publish collected statistics for attendance - and perhaps it should -  though it does publish who attended each individual meeting, so I presume the paper collated these statistics themselves. The Cumberland News article suggests that the mean county councillor attendance rate had dropped from about 85% of the council and committee meetings which a councillor was expected to attend in the year before the pandemic (2019/20,) to 82% last civic year (2021/22.) 

Attendance had been several points higher during the pandemic when meetings could be attended online.

You can find the Cumberland News article online on the website they share with the News and Star at the link at

Call remote working for Cumbria County councillors as meeting attendance drops | News and Star

The online version includes a table which states how many meetings each councillor was expected to attend and actually attended in the 2021/22 civic year.

I suspect that anyone who digs into that table in more detail will find that in fact the majority of county councillors attend around 90% or more of council and committee meetings they are meant to attend, but that  a few individuals (who come from all groups) drag the average down. That minority of councillors do sometimes have a very good reason - I know for instance that one councillor suffered an extended attack of COVID and some have other serious health conditions - explaining the dip in their attendance.

My own attendance at the county council and its committees has never dropped below 95% in any civic year and has hit 100% more than once. I was one of the eleven councillors credited by the Cumberland News/News & Star with an 100% attendance record in 2021/22.

I have attended every meeting of the full county council since my election in May 2017 (and said something about the A595 at every meeting,) attended every meeting of the Health Scrutiny committee since my election, and I have so far also attended every meeting of the Pensions committee, Chief Officers' committee, Health Scrutiny variations subcommittee, and Cumbria and Lancashire Joint Health Scrutiny committee since my subsequent appointment to those committees. I had to send apologies for one meeting of the Copeland Local Committee five years ago but have been to every meeting of that committee since.

That's a slightly above average attendance record but most county councillors of all parties work very hard and do get to the vast majority of meetings.

There IS a case on grounds of saving public money and providing more accessibility for the public for reinstating the power of councils to hold meetings online and I would support this option being available, but you don't need to argue that it is needed because councillors are not attending the physical meetings. Most of us are.

David Trimble RIP

I was sorry to learn of the death last night of Lord David Trimble, former leader of the Official Ulster Unionist party when it was the largest party in Northern Ireland and former First Minister of Northern Ireland.

I did not personally know David Trimble but his contribution to the Good Friday agreement and his role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland speaks for itself. By all accounts he was a very honourable, pragmatic and decent man, who will be greatly missed.


Rest in Peace.

Quote of the day 26th July 2022


 

Monday, July 25, 2022

July meeting of Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee

 I attended the meeting of Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee today

The meeting heard presentations on the provision of Mental Health Services in the North East and North Cumbria, on the new Health and Care act, and on dental services in North Cumbria.

Help for Small Businesses

The government has announced further support for small businesses feeling the squeeze of worldwide inflationary pressures, creating jobs and driving economic growth.  

  • Small businesses are the lifeblood of the British economy, which is why we are determined to support our traders and entrepreneurs in dealing with global economic challenges. 
  • That is why we have extended the Recovery Loan Scheme, ensuring we continue to provide much-needed finance to thousands of small businesses across the country, while stimulating local communities, creating jobs and driving economic growth. 
  • The Recovery Loan Scheme has supported almost 18,000 British businesses over the last year and this extension will ensure they continue to access the finance they need to navigate the months ahead. 

Quote of the day 25th July 2022

 "We have reached the ultimate stage of absurdity ... where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today."

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist) 




Sunday, July 24, 2022

Action to stop the use of UK libel laws to muzzle legitimate free speech

This week the Justice Secretary announced reforms to crack down on corrupt elites abusing the UK legal system to silence critics, upholding freedom of speech. 

  • For too long, corrupt elites have used the threat of endless legal action to muzzle their opponents by abusing defamation and privacy law.  This problem goes back a long way - the late Robert Maxwell was showing how to abuse our libel laws to suppress the truth decades ago and it's only been possible to write this without risking bankruptcy after he committed suicide.
  • You can find some very concerning examples of the problem in Nick Cohen's book "You can't read this."
  • So I was pleased that the government has now announced a package of measures allowing courts to throw out baseless claims quicker and a cap on costs to prevent the mega-rich, such as Russian oligarchs, from using expensive litigation as a weapon to silence their critics. 
  • The government is determined to put an end to this bullying and protect the UK’s free press and will legislate at the earliest opportunity to uphold freedom of speech and defend those shining a light on corruption. 


Sunday music spot: Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major BWV 10

Quote of the day 24th July 2022


 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Saturday music spot: Overture from Rossini's "The Barber of Seville"

Building on Britain's relationship with India

On Thursday the British and Indian goverments signed an agreement to recognise each other’s higher education qualifications – which will remove market barriers and help young people from both countries to benefit.

  • International education is one of our finest exports, so we must ensure that we remove barriers to allow the best and brightest to study and work here.
  • That is why the UK government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with India to recognise each other’s higher education qualifications – including A Levels, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
  • This agreement will boost our economy, enrich our campuses and communities, and create more opportunities for UK students to study in India.

Quote of the day 23rd July 2022


 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Music to start the weekend: Vivaldi's Concerto for 2 Mandolins in G major

More help for Ukraine

This week the government announced plans to send a further 50,000 artillery shells and hundreds more anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, helping to ensure that Putin’s illegal invasion fails.  

  • Britain has been leading the world in our support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion, but we must ensure that our support continues until Russia ends their hostility. 
  • That is why the UK government has now announced plans to send additional ammunition and weaponry to Ukraine – including 50,000 artillery shells, 1,600 anti-tank weapons, 36 artillery guns, 20 self-propelled guns, drones, and counter-battery radar systems. 
  • Together with our international partners, we will continue to ensure Ukraine has the tools to defend their country from Putin’s illegal invasion.

Helping those most in need deal with the Cost of Living Crisis

Today it was confirmed that 7.2 million cost of living payments of £326 have been made to low-income families, as part of the government programme to help households with the cost of living. 

  • Ministers promised to help protect those on the lowest incomes from the global inflationary pressures caused by a range of international factors, and we are committed to delivering on this promise.
  • That is why over 7 million households have now received an automatic £326 payment to help with the cost of living, with the second half of the payment coming in the Autumn. Over 8 million of the most vulnerable households will receive £1,200 of direct support to help with bills over the winter. 
  • This payment will give vital support to families across the country as they manage the cost of living.  

On left and right in politics

WARNING - political anorak post, Do not read unless you are seriously interested in the intellectual side of politics.

The trouble with referring to politics using terms like "left wing" and "right wing" is it attempts to put into a small number of boxes or a single-dimensional axis people's position on a whole range of issues which would work better when viewed in at least two dimensions.

One of the most famous two-dimensional approaches is the "Political Compass" approach which ranks people left to right horizontally based on how much they support the free-market or economic liberty with a vertical axis based on how socially liberal you are with authoritarians at the top and those who are socially liberal at the bottom.

Of course, that is not perfect either as the current attempts by various actors in the Conservative leadership to claim the mantle of Margaret Thatcher demonstrates, with one group claiming, correctly, that she believed in low taxes and another pointing out, equally accurately, that she believed very strongly in "sound money" e.g. not spending more than you have coming in or borrowing more than you will be able to pay back.

Interesting thread on Twitter today by Marios Richards (@MariosRichards) which begins

"On the confusion of trying to follow UK politics with people point blank refusing to discuss candidate position in 2 two dimensional politics with anything other than a Left-Right axis."


With the posts is an image of how politicians who would be described in various ways from "hard right" through the centre to "hard left" might appear on a Political Compass type map.

It's not perfect but there is enough truth in it to make it interesting. And it illustrates why some people find it impossible to give a clear answer, and others get into debats in which neither can understand the other, on questions like which of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss is more "right wing."



 












The thread suggests that UK politics a single "left-right" axis when translated into the Political Compass direction becomes a sort of "weird tilted horseshoe" in which, quote,

"Hence

* the 'centre' is somewhere in the Liberal-Right quadrant

* the Soft Right is more Economically Right than the Hard Right

* but the Soft Left is less Economically Left than the Hard Left"


The threat includes an assessment of those who stood or seriously considered standing for the present Conservative leadership election on a "Political compass" map in which the centre is not the centre of politics for UK citizens as a whole but among Conservative MPs, and it looks like this:



Not sure I go along 100% with everything in the thread or with their positioning of the candidates, particularly in that not all of them set out their pitch in the election quite where most of us might have put them based on their recent records in government. (Those people could legitimately come back and respond to that point that they were bound when serving in government by collective responsibilty, but their campaigns today are based on where they now think the country needs to go tomorrow.)

But it was certainly a thought-provoking thread ...

Quote of the day 22nd July 2022

“Love the way the Left are already  frantically trying to pivot from “Boris is the most right-wing, corrupt, incompetent, evil politician in British history” to “Truss is the most right-wing, corrupt, incompetent, evil politician in British political history”. Never change guys.”

Dan Hodges on Twitter yesterday.

NB - this is not a coded message indicating support for either of the two candidates in the Conservative leadership race, I am repeating with amused agreement a comment by a journalist who used to work for the Labour party about the hard left's narrative on the contest.

I have no doubt that if Rishi Sunak wins the left will pivot again to "Sunak is the most right-wing, corrupt, incompetent, evil politician in British history."


Thursday, July 21, 2022

Thursday music spot: Palatine Electric String Quartet perform Palladio by Karl Jenkins

Quote of the day 21st July 2022 - "Hasta la vista, Boris."

Boris Johnson's last words to the House of Commons as Prime Minister yesterday:





























Originally a Spanish farewell, this expression is now associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger whose character in the film "Terminator 2," which is a killer robot, uses the line to another killer robot just before blowing it to pieces.


Some have suggested that this may have been a reference to Arnie's line in the previous film, "I'll be back." Don't think I buy that - certainly hope not because the killer robot who utters that line returns by crashing a car into a building, wrecking the place and shooting almost everyone inside.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Conservative leadership election goes to the membership

We now have the names of the two contenders for Conservative leader and hence PM which will go to a ballot of the party membership:



















Conservative members will probably have already received a letter from Sir Graham Brady with the details of the final MP ballot:



Midweek music spot: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations"

Problem solving courts

This week the government  announced plans to deliver our new Problem-Solving Courts, combatting drug and alcohol-fuelled crime and making our streets safer.

  • More people die annually as a result of drug misuse than from all knife crime and road traffic accidents combined, ruining lives and costing society £22 billion every year.
  • That is why the government is delivering on the commitment to introduce Problem-solving Courts through an £8.25 million pilot trialling a tougher approach to community sentences for low-level criminals in Liverpool, Teesside and Birmingham as part of our £900 million Drug Strategy.
  • Getting criminal offenders sustainably off drugs is the gateway to getting them into work and a law-abiding future – rebuilding lives, cutting the cost to the taxpayer, and making our streets safer. 
Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Dominic Raab MP said:

"Getting criminal offenders sustainably off drugs is the gateway to getting them into work and a law-abiding future.

Only once offenders are drug-free can they grasp the opportunities of skills training and employment and turn their backs on crime for good.

So these innovative courts will help us grasp the nettle of drug addiction, and make our streets safer."

Quote of the day 20th July 2022

"The evidence clearly demonstrated that a vociferous faction in the party sees any issues regarding anti-Semitism as exaggerated by the right to embarrass the left," it says.

"It was of course also true that some opponents of Jeremy Corbyn saw the issue of anti-Semitism as a means of attacking him.

"Thus, rather than confront the paramount need to deal with the profoundly serious issue of anti-Semitism in the party, both factions treated it as a factional weapon."

Extracts from The-Forde-Report.pdf (fordeinquiry.org) detailing the results of an inquiry into anti-semitism in the Labour party.

No political party is completely free of racism or can afford to be complacent about it, and the Forde Report contains plenty of things which every party, not just Labour, should see as mistakes to avoid when seeking to eradicate racism.


Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Tuesday music spot: The Monkees, "Last Train To Clarksville"

And now there are three

 Results of the penultimate MP ballot.

Conservative MPs will  now vote tomorrow on which two of Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss will go forward to the membership in a vote of all Conservative party members.




Boris Johnson's last cabinet meeting.

Today Boris Johnson will chair his last scheduled cabinet meeting. 

He has said that he will be praising the resilience of public sector workers as we mark the one year anniversary of step 4 in the covid roadmap with the majority of restrictions lifted. Other points being made on his behalf are as follows:

  • The pandemic was the greatest global threat to public health and the NHS in over a century, and our response would not have been possible without the superhuman efforts of our NHS staff, volunteers, scientists and clinicians who helped take on the virus.
  • That is why the Prime Minister will praise the resilience of our public sector workers at his last scheduled cabinet today – as we mark the one year anniversary of England moving to step 4 of the covid roadmap, when the majority of restrictions were lifted, which would not have been possible without their incredible work and millions coming forward to get jabbed.
  • One year on from a successful reopening, we can reflect on what our brilliant NHS and country and has achieved, and we should be proud of how far we have come.

I agree with every word of that, and in many ways I regret the necessessity for Boris Johnson to leave office because he had some very real achievements.

However, politics is a team activity in which trust and loyalty need to flow in both directions. And the simple reality is that Boris Johnson had conducted his government in a way which had eroded that trust with his own MPs to such an extent that he lost the confidence of the parliamentary Conservative party. 

And therefore, although the House of Commons voted last night that it has confidence in the government as a whole and implicitly therefore for Boris Johnson to remain as caretaker PM until his successor has been elected by the Conservative party, Boris had lost the confidence of the House of Commons and could no longer remain PM.

As I wrote in my blog shortly after his defenestration, there were some legitimate questions about whether the PM should remain until his successor is elected, and I understand why, but it  is the normal procedure which has been followed every time in the past thirty plus years when there is a change in PM other than at a general election. 

Margaret Thatcher withdrew during a Conservative leadership election but remained PM until John Major had won it: Tony Blair remained PM after announcing his resignation until Labour had elected Gordon Brown to succeed him: David Cameron remained in Number Ten after his resignation until Theresa May had been elected to succeed him and she in turn remained PM after announcing her decision to quit until Boris Johnson had been elected. 

So in announcing his resignation as Conservative leader but waiting until his successor has been elected to resign as PM, Boris Johnson was following the precedent of the last four Conservative and Labour Prime Ministers to face an equivalent situation, and that has now effectively been agreed by the House of Commons,

As I have written, in many ways I deeply regret the need for Boris Johnson to stand down, but it was the right thing to do.

There are at least four myths  being spread by various people about why Boris Johnson went, 

The most ridiculous, an idea being inferred by friends of the Putin regime in Russia, is that his resignation was in some way the "logical result" of Britain's support for Ukraine and might weaken that support, with Moscow gloating that "Ukraine's best friends are departing."

If Moscow thinks that the departure of one man will stop Britain supporting a free and independent Ukraine, they have another think coming. If anything the invasion of Ukraine and Boris Johnson's strong support for Ukraine in that situation actually prolonged his time in office. Although I regard his early and strong support for Ukraine as one of Boris Johnson's most important achievements, the policy has strong cross-party backing and I am 100% certain that whoever succeeds Boris as PM will continue to give aid and comfort to Ukraine.


I'm going to reiterate what I wrote after his resignation.

Three other myths are that

  • Boris was brought down by the Press, or
  • Boris was brought down by "Remainers," or
  • Boris was brought down  by major disagreements over policy.
None of these contains more than a scintilla of truth.

No, I am afraid that Boris was brought down by Boris Johnson. 

Indeed, the joke that "Boris Johnson ahs become the third Prime Minister brought down by Boris Johnson is an example of many a true word being spoken in jest.

There are certainly elements of the press and elements of those who voted Remain who have never forgiven Boris Johnson for the "Leave" vote, and have never made any secret of their hostility towards him. But those people were unable to prevent him winning the Conservative leadership or the 2019 general election and they would never have been able to bring about the end of his premiership had he not also lost the support of other people who disagree with them over just about everything. For months many of the loudest voices calling on him to go have belonged to strong Brexit supporters.

Nor does any suggestion that he was brought down over policy stack up. There are differences over policy in any government, but there was no strong consensus in the party in favour of a radically different approach on any particular issue. The one partial exception is Northern Ireland, on which the government's U-turns and flirting with a unilateralist approach may have reinforced the Prime Minister's most serious perceived weakness - trust.

A more credible explanation of Johnson's fall is that he was brought down by misplaced loyalty to erratic subordinates and allies - Dominic Cummings, Owen Patterson, Downing Street Staff, and finally Chris Pincher. There is much more truth in this view than any of those discussed and dismissed above, although I myself regard it as a secondary reason why he lost the confidence of his colleagues. But it is not an excuse: the head of an organisation is responsible for how he allows his subordinates to behave.


The reason I deeply regret the need for Boris Johnson to go is that he has enormous talents and strengths and has notched up some genuine and significant achievements in his time as PM. 

Boris resolved the logjam of Brexit which was blocking everything else in British politics and got us out of the situation where a significant proportion of Britain's political establishment was refusing to respect the vote of the British people and in the process sabotaging progress on every other challenge facing the nation. He did "get Brexit done" with the exception of Northern Ireland and it will be an important responsibility of both whoever succeeds him and the EU to negotiate in good faith to get a better solution

In terms of COVID-19 Boris will be remembered for some brilliant successes as well as some dire mistakes: all the UK's administrations and parties got care homes wrong, but Boris Johnson's government deserves credit for one of the most effective vaccine programmes in the world and for a massive programme of aid to families and businesses which helped people through the economic disaster of the pandemic and without which the economic consequences would have been far worse. 

I have already mentioned Ukraine: without Boris Johnson's early and strong support for Ukraine the heroic struggle of the Ukrainian people against the invaders in the early days of the war would have been even more difficult. That's not just my opinion, it is that of President Zelenskyy, who expressed sadness at Boris's resignation and called him a "True Friend" to Ukraine.


Unfortunately, set against Boris Johnson's considerable talents, he also, like every human being, has flaws, and those flaws eventually eroded the trust even of those who were most keen to give him the benefit of the doubt to the extent that he lost the confidence of his party, which eventually made it impossible for him to govern. 

Most Prime Ministers would have resigned, and would have been forced out had they not resigned, after any report as damning as the Sue Gray report. 

I don't believe that any one incident caused Conservative MPs (and others) who had previously supported Boris Johnson to withdraw that support, but rather a pattern of behavior, However,  I do think one can identify the specific last straw which finally broke the camel's back and made it impossible for even the "greased piglet" to wriggle out of the situation. 

It was the letter from Lord McDonald, who had been the PM's Permanent Secretary while he was at the Foreign office, confirming that Boris had been briefed at that time about specific allegations against Chris Pincher and that a formal complaint had been made at that time, and therefore that the line Downing Street was sending out people to give the media was not correct.  

If this had been an isolated incident a heartfelt apology and promise to do better might have saved him. But it was the latest in a line of such incidents and perhaps, of all of them, the one in which clear evidence of a lack of concern for the truth was most impossible to overlook. And it came shortly after Boris Johnson had stated in public that his personality is never going to change.

In a piece which was generally quite favourable to the PM, Daniel Johnson wrote on the Article website 

"It is a tragedy that the PM’s slapdash managerial style has allowed the political, media and bureaucratic establishments to focus on questions about his personal integrity, rather than on the incomparably graver question of how we can preserve our way of life which has been imperilled by Putin’s nihilistic war of conquest."

"Nor did" (Boris Johnson) "grasp the importance attached by others to public statements: who did what and when. His careless talk has ultimately cost him his political life. " 

This brings me back full circle to one of the first points |I made in this essay: politics is a team activity. It is virtually impossible to achieve anything much in politics at any level without teamwork, which demands trust and loyalty. And these things have to run in both directions - from leader to members of the team, and from the team to their leader.

The habit of loyalty makes it very difficult for parties to turn on their leader. In fact, the only political party in the UK which ever does sack its leader is the Conservative party. 

There are plenty of people asking today why the Conservatives didn't get rid of Boris Johnson months ago. Most of this criticism is coming from members of rival parties which have never, ever, deposed one of their own leaders who wasn't willing to go.


It is time to move on and look to the future. I look forward to the election of a new Conservative leader, who will either be Britain's third woman PM, Britain's first non-white PM, or just possibly both. 

Labour talks endlessly about diversity - this leadership election proves that the Conservatives practice it

I will be looking at all the candidates with a view to what they say about the need to solve the cost of living crisis, support Ukraine, refresh and renew the levelling up agenda, and carry forward the Conservative promises of more doctors, more nurses more police, more hospital building, and building back better.

Dealing with the heatwave

Readers of this  blog in the UK may have noticed that it is a little warm at the moment.

Indeed, the Met office has issued it's first ever Red warning of danger caused by hot weather in some parts of the country, with an Amber warning for the rest of the UK including the North West.

Everyone is advised to take care at the moment - drink plenty of water and other fluids, do not expose yourself needlessly to direct sunlight for any length of time, think carefully about whether you need to travel.

The government has set out a plan of action being taken to mitigate the effects of the record-breaking heatwave – including increasing ambulance and 999 capacity.

  • This is the first time in its history that the Met Office has issued a red warning for extreme heat – which means the heat poses a danger to all of us, but especially to those at particular risk.
  • That is why the government has organised a meeting with ambulance trusts to ensure that they have more call handlers, more paramedics on duty and that the NHS 111 and 999 phone lines also have more resources to deal with increased demand.
  • The best thing the public can do is take sensible steps like prioritising water, shade and cover – as well as looking out for their neighbours and others who might be vulnerable to the heat.

Boosting production of nuclear fuel

An important step today in the development of low-carbon energy in Britain and potential good news for Cumbria: the government is boosting production of nuclear fuel with a £75 million fund to drive investment that will shore up our energy security while creating jobs.

  • As Britain invests in eight new nuclear power stations, we also need to boost our investment in domestic nuclear fuel production so we have the material we need to power the nuclear reactors of today and tomorrow.
  • That is why the government has today opened our new, £75 million Nuclear Fuel Fund which will give grants to projects that can increase the UK’s domestic nuclear fuel sector by designing and developing new facilities.
  • This funding will kickstart projects in the UK and generate private investment in facilities that will fuel Britain’s eight new nuclear power stations, shoring up our energy security while creating jobs.

Investing in Railways in the North of England

Today the government has trebled investment in TransPennine route upgrades to over £9 billion – slashing journey times and creating thousands of jobs across the North of England.

  • The record-breaking integrated rail plan represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to redesign our railways using the best quality technology at our disposal.
  • That is why the government is are trebling investment in the TransPennine route upgrades to more than £9 billion – doubling the tracks from Huddersfield to Westtown in Dewsbury to increase capacity and fitting the route with the latest technology, including complete electrification and full digital signalling.
  • This new investment will slash journey times by up to 40 per cent, allow two additional passenger trains to run every hour, and make journeys more reliable and greener as we level up across the North.

And then there were four ...
















Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss and Kemi Badenoch now go forward to the fourth round.

Well done to Tom Tugendhat who fought a good, clean campaign emphasising the importance of integrity.

It is worth pointing out that it's now certain that the Conservatives are about to elect either Britain's third woman Prime Minister (the first two, Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May were also Conservatives) or second ethnic minority Prime Minister (the first, Benjamin Disraeli, was also a Conservative) and first non-white Prime minister,

Or just possibly both.

Labour hasn't ever elected a woman leader or non-white leader.

Labour talks endlessly about diversity but the Conservatives practice it - based not on closed shortlists but on merit.

Quote of the day 19th July 2022

"Oh, to live in a country where people were admired for building up personal wealth and not denigrated for it."

(Former Labour MP Tom Harris responds on Twitter to a tweet from a current Labour spokesman playing the envy card against Rishi Sunak.

My response was a follows:

"I agree with Tom.

There are many aspects of the Blair era that I don't miss, or regret are still with us.

But I do miss that lots of prominent Labour MPs and councillors could and did openly argue being left-wing didn't mean stirring up hate and envy against successful people.")

Monday, July 18, 2022

Protecting the rights of airline passengers

The government has announced stronger protections for passengers through our new Aviation Charter, helping people to navigate their protections and rights when flying.

  • The chaotic scenes we have seen at airports are unacceptable - passengers deserve reliable services and to be properly compensated if things do not go to plan.
  • That is why the government has published a new Aviation Passenger Charter - acting as a one stop shop so passengers know their rights for their entire journey from booking to travelling if confronted with delays and cancellations this summer. 
  • This will give UK passengers peace of mind as they enjoy the renewed freedom to travel this summer - whether for holidays, business, or to visit loved ones.

Consultation on recreational drug use launched

Today a consultation is being launched on tougher penalties for recreational drug users, tackling drug use which put lives at risk.

  • The government's view is that drugs are a scourge on our society putting lives at risk, fuelling serious and violent crime and encouraging the grotesque exploitation of young, vulnerable people.
  • That is why the government is consulting on tougher penalties for recreational drug users including a ‘three strikes’ policy to escalate action against drug users. The policy could see repeat offenders ordered to wear electronic tags, undergo random drug tests or receive nightclub bans.
  • Do you agree? Or do you strongly disagree? Or have you or anyone you know had your life affected by the impact of drugs in a way which might give you a relevant perspective on this difficult issue? If any of these things applies, please respond to the consultation.
  • Taking on so-called recreational drug use is an important step in the strategy to reduce demand, make our streets safer and tackle an industry that funds crime and exploits vulnerable people. 

Quote of the day 18th July 2022


 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Paul Urey RIP

British aid worker Paul Urey, 45, has died while being held hostage by pro-Russia separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Paul Urey did not go to Ukraine to fight or to hurt anyone - he went to help evacuate refugees. He was arrested and falsely accused of being a mercenary by a puppet state in Donetsk which is effectively a Russian state proxy.

Dominik Byrne, the co-founder and chief operating officer of the Presidium Network, said at the time of Urey’s capture that he was working independently in Ukraine as a humanitarian aid volunteer.

Britain's Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, has summoned Russia's ambassador to the UK and told him that Britain holds the Russian regime accountable for what happened to Paul Urey.

Britain’s Foreign Office summoned the Russian ambassador, Andrei Kelin, on Friday afternoon to express “deep concern” over reports of Urey’s death.

The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said: 

“I am shocked to hear reports of the death of British aid worker Paul Urey while in the custody of a Russian proxy in Ukraine. Russia must bear the full responsibility for this.”

The exact circumstances of Paul Urey's death are very unclear. But we can say with reasonable certainty that he was a brave man who went to Ukraine, not to harm anyone but to help vulnerable people who were in a desperate situation and that he lost his life after being wrongfully arrested whiled trying to provide that help.

Paul Urey will  be remembered as a hero by the people of both Ukraine and Britain.

Rest in Peace

July 2022 meeting of Cumbria County Council's Copeland local committee

 

The July meeting of the Copeland local committee of Cumbria County Council will take place on Wednesday 20th July at 10.15am in Millom Network Centre, Unit 3, Devonshire Road Industrial Estate, Millom LA18 4JS.

The meeting will be open to the public.


The main items on the agenda will be

Item 6. Whitehaven area Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (This extents out to places like St Bees)

        To consider a report of the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure

        The purpose of this report is to seek approval of the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan         (LCWIP) for Whitehaven and the surrounding area.

Item 7. Parking Services Presentation 

        To receive a presentation on Parking Services

Item 8. Minutes and report from the Highways working group meeting on 22nd June


Item 9. Consultation on potential change of age range to St Bees Village Primary School 

            This report provides background on the current formal consultation being undertaken by the                     county council on the proposed change of age range at St Bees Village Primary School from 4                 to 11 years to a new range of 2 to 11 years.


Item 11. Invest in Our Communities pdf icon PDF 228 KB

        To consider a report of the Assistant Director – Customer and Community Services which                      presents grant applications in excess of £5,000 for consideration and approval from the 2022-23             budget.


Full details of the agenda and supporting documents can be found on the County Council website by clicking on the link below:

Agenda for County Council Local Committee for Copeland on Wednesday, 20th July, 2022, 10.15 am | Cumbria County Council

Helping people with the cost of living

This week, the first Cost of Living Payments were made. Over the coming weeks, more than eight million households will receive the first of two cost of living payments – easing the pressure on household costs for people across the country.

  • A series of global forces have caused cost of living pressures around the world, so it is the government's utmost priority to help those families struggling with their finances.
  • That is why the government set out a £37 billion support package, including a £650 cost of living payment for every household on means-tested benefits – around 8 million households. This week the first instalment of £326 begana start to be paid out, with the second to follow in the autumn. Pensioners will also receive an extra £300, while disabled households will get a £150 payment – on top of the £150 council tax rebate paid in April and the £400 cash discount on energy bills this Autumn.
  • Through this support, over eight million households will receive at least £1,200 – supporting the most vulnerable people in our society during a difficult period.

Sunday music spot: The Monkees "I'm A Believer" (Original Video)

Quote of the day 17th July 2021

"Russia has already lost this war, in terms of it's original objectives."

Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakan on the BBC this morning - he said  that Russia had wanted to conquer the whole of Ukraine, and would never be able to do so, He added that the Mod think Russia has lost 30% of their combat power - 50,000 soldiers killed or injured, 1,700 tanks and 4,000 otherarmoured fighting vehicles put out of actionm, while trying and failing to subdue Ukraine.

The Chief of the Defence staff was reiterating a point he made to the press a month ago, and you can read the details as the Guardian reported them in a news article which can be found by clicking on the link below:

Russia has ‘strategically lost’ war, says UK defence chief | Ukraine | The Guardian

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Saturday music spot: Nigel Kennedy - Vivaldi "Summer" 3rd Movement

July meeting of Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee

The agenda has now been published for the July meeting of Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee - which will be held on  Monday, 25th July, 2022 10.30 am at Cumbria House, Botcherby, Carlisle.

The meeting will be open to the public.


The main agenda items are

8) The Health and Care Act 

        To consider a report by the Strategic Policy and Scrutiny Adviser.

9)  Mental Health Services in North and West Cumbria and the rest of the area of the new Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust 

        To receive a presentation by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust 

10) Update on NHS Dentistry in North Cumbria 

        To receive a presentation by NHS England and NHS Improvement


Full details of the agenda and supporting reports can be found on the County Council website by clicking on the following link:

Agenda for Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee on Monday, 25th July, 2022, 10.30 am | Cumbria County Council

Everyone over 50 to be offered an Autumn Flu and COVID jab

Everyone aged 50 and over will be among those offered a COVID-19 booster and a flu jab this autumn under plans to increase protection against respiratory viruses ahead of winter.

I think this is absolutely the right thing to do, I will certainly be taking up the offer of a jab and encouraging everyone else who is eligible to do so unless they are advised be an appropriately qualified clinician that they have a particular reason not to do so.

On coronavirus (COVID-19) boosters, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has now published its final recommendations for this autumn’s programme.

Under the advice, those eligible for a further dose will be:

  • all adults aged 50 years and over
  • those aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group, including pregnant women
  • those aged 5 to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
  • those aged 16 to 49 years who are carers
  • residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
  • frontline health and social care workers

In addition, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will be widening the offer of the free flu vaccine to more eligible groups. These additional groups will only be eligible once the most vulnerable, including previously announced pre-school and primary school children, those aged 65 years and over and those in clinical risk groups, have been offered the jab.

The additional groups set to be offered the free flu vaccine in England will be:

  • all adults aged 50 to 64 years
  • secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9, who will be offered the vaccine in order of school year (starting with the youngest first)

The NHS will announce in due course when and how eligible groups will be able to book an appointment for their COVID-19 autumn booster, and when people aged 50 to 64 years old who are not in a clinical risk group will be able to get their free flu jab.

People in these groups are asked not to come forward until further information is announced.

Commenting on the autumn COVID-19 booster programme, Professor Anthony Harnden, Deputy Chair of the JCVI, said:

"We have provided our final recommendations for the autumn programme to ensure the NHS and wider health system has time to plan a vaccine rollout well ahead of the winter season.

The COVID-19 boosters are highly effective at increasing immunity and, by offering a further dose to those at higher risk of severe illness this autumn, we hope to significantly reduce the risk of hospitalisations and deaths over the winter."

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at UKHSA, said:

"Widening the eligibility for the flu vaccine will help reduce the number of people getting seriously ill and ease pressures on the NHS, particularly during the busy winter period.

It is also important that everyone eligible for the COVID-19 booster gets the jab when invited, including pregnant women, who are among those at higher risk. Having COVID-19 during pregnancy can lead to complications. Getting the vaccine, including a booster, offers the best possible protection for you and your baby."

Quote of the day 16th July 2022


 

Friday, July 15, 2022

Music to start the weekend: J.S. Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D-minor BWV 565

Helping people with Autism

Yesterday the government announced new measures towards Building the Right Support Action Plan to help disabled people and those with autism, supporting them to live independently and improving the quality of their lives.

  • It is important to make sure that autistic people and people with learning disabilities are supported in the best possible place for them, and able to live as independently as possible.
  • So the government is speeding up discharges for people with a learning disability and autistic people, with funding of over £90 million – providing key workers for young people with complex needs and £21 million Community Discharge Grants for local authorities. We are also reforming the Mental Health Act and providing specialist training for health and care staff.
  • This policy will make sure that people are treated with dignity and respect, experience personalised care and treatment, and can live an independent life in their own home as part of their community.

Helping offenders back into the community

Cutting crime does not just mean being tough on criminals, though that is sometimes called for: but it also means helping former offenders to go straight after they have paid their debt to society.

Those who break the law must be dealt with - but after they have served the punishments decided by the courts it is important to help them get back into society and earn an honest living in the future.

So it is a good thing that figures published today show that thousands of offenders are finding jobs, helping to protect communities by cutting reoffending and boosting the economy.

  • Reoffending costs our economy £18 billion every year and we know that ex-prisoners who have the security which a job brings are less likely to reoffend. 
  • The government launched Employment Advisory Boards, to link businesses with prisoners and to provide skills for former offenders. Since that policy was introduced,  4,000 ex-offenders have been helped into work and the number of former offenders in work six weeks after release has increased by nearly half. Greggs, TalkTalk, and Lotus Cars are participating to help break the cycle of reoffending.
  • The government is now on track to roll out Employment Advisory Boards to all 91 ‘resettlement’ prisons by spring 2023 – getting more offenders into work than ever before, cutting crime, and making our streets safer. 

Quote of the day 15th July 2022


 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Thursday music spot: the LSO play "Hooked On Bach"

Conservative leadership second ballot results


 














The Conservative leadership race is not yet in the bag for any candidate and it is worth remembering that in Tory leadership races the favourite nearly always loses. The most surprising thing is if the candidate expected to win at the beginning, does. 

The next round of voting is on Monday after the TV debates. It is still possible that Tom Tugendhat or Kemi Badenoch (who has already done much better than pundits had expected) could play a blinder in the debate, or one of the frontrunners could stumble. Such things have happened before.

Nothing should be taken for granted, but unless there is a game-changer in the debates it is likely that  Tom Tugendhat will go out in the next round and at that point Rishi Sunak is likely to pick up enough of the current Tugendhat supporters to have enough MP votes to guarantee that he will be one of the final two candidates put to the party membership in the final ballot.

Again, nothing should be taken for granted but the final ballot of MPs is likely to see a contest between Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt for the other place in the vote of party members.


Positive progress on Northern Ireland

We really need a reset on relations with the EU in terms of co-operation to sort out the trade position in respect of Ireland - I share the concerns of the government and many Businesses and people in Northern Ireland that the Northern Ireland protocol is not working as it was intended, but we cannot afford a trade war with the EU.

So I very much welcome the EU’s adoption of Britain's new peace and reconciliation programme for Northern Ireland and Ireland a programme in which the UK government has shown positive leadership in challenging times for Northern Ireland.

  • The UK government are continuing to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, address the legacy of the Troubles and work toward the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive at Stormont.
  • That is why everyone should welcome the news yesterday that the EU have adopted the PEACE PLUS programme, which the UK is majority funding with £730 million, supporting the levelling up of Northern Ireland’s economy as well as fostering cross-border collaboration.
  • Peace and reconciliation must be central to everything we do in Northern Ireland, and we must continue to build cross-border communities, address the legacy of the Troubles and work to re-establish executive government at Stormont.

Quote of the day 14th July 2022

Like yesterday's quote of the day, the following comment from American Economist Thomas Sowell is reproduced and endorsed here as a general warning and not as an attack on any specific individual. 

Indeed, if it were aimed at any identifiable individual, it would breach the rules of this blog. I am agreeing with Thomas Sowell on the general principle that too many politicians - from, in my opinion, every part of the political spectrum, not just left or right - do not pay enough attention to the accuracy of what they say rather than singling out any individuals and attacking their personal integrity.

If you interpret it as a coded message, you have misunderstood this post.