Monday, October 31, 2022

Updating Britain's counter terror strategy

The government has announced plans to update Britain's counter-terror strategy, keeping the British public safe and strengthening our protections against terrorist attacks.

  • The nature of terrorism is continuously evolving – with the threat of self-initiated terrorism and online radicalism growing and new evidence emerging from the Independent Review of Prevent and the Manchester Arena Inquiry.
  • That is why the government announced plans to overhaul and update our counter-terror strategy – expected to be published next year – taking into account the latest evidence, diverse views from across the UK and the opinions of leading security experts.
  • This will ensure that Britain's response to the terror threat continues to be world-leading – keeping the British people safe and allowing them to go about their lives freely and with confidence.

Helping customers of the failed Bulb energy supplier

The government has been in talks to protect Bulb customers and has now reached a real with Octopus for Bulb customers to be transferred to Octopus Energy, providing certainty and a fresh start to the 1.5 million people who used Bulb.

  • After Bulb’s collapse, customers faced uncertainty and the taxpayer faced significant costs to temporarily run the loss-making business.
  • So it is good news that the government and Octopus reached an agreement on Saturday that allows Octopus Energy to take on Bulb’s 1.5 million customers through a seamless transfer that will not change supply arrangements or bring any disruption to customers.
  • This fresh start will bring vital reassurance and energy security to Bulb customers across the country at a time when they need it most.

Towards healthier crops and better food security

Today the government will bring forward the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill for its third reading in the House of Commons, backing UK scientists to develop more resilient plants that will strengthen our food security and boost economic growth.

  • Leaving the EU means we are free to set rules that work in the best interest of the UK – including taking action to strengthen our food security by developing more resilient crops.
  • That is why today we will bring forward our Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill for its third reading, allowing us to use precision breeding technologies to speed up the breeding of plants that are more resistant to disease, more nutritious and more productive – with fewer pesticides and fertilisers.
  • These reforms will allow our scientists to use their expertise to create healthier crops, strengthen our food security, and boost economic growth by making farming more productive and sustainable.

Quote of the day 31st October 2022


 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Sunday music spot: "Zadok The Priest" by G. F. Handel

Quote of the day 30th October 2022

"There are many reasons, from history to geography, why per capita GDP in the United Kingdom ($47,334) is so much higher than in Russia ($12,172) or China ($12,556), but I would argue it ultimately comes down to governance. Britain, as a liberal democracy, has long been run for the benefit of its people, while Russia and China have always been run primarily for the benefit of their rulers."

"It is impossible to imagine any democratic leader in the modern world launching an unprovoked war of aggression, as Vladimir Putin did in Ukraine. The resulting conflict has resulted in terrible suffering for Ukrainians — but it’s no picnic, either, for the Russians in whose name the war is being fought."

"In Putin’s case, he seems to have consulted with no one outside of a small inner circle before launching an ill-advised war of aggression against Ukraine. His attempt at conquest is going from bad to worse, but, rather than pull back, he keeps doubling down. This evil war holds no conceivable benefit for the Russian people. They are simply paying the price for their dictator’s mad dreams of imperial glory."

"Democracies such as Britain and the United States have their problems, but they are struggling with too many people trying to enter, not exit, their countries."


(Max Boot, extracts from a Washington Post article called "Democracies correct their mistakes. Dictatorships double down." which you can rea in full by clicking on the following link:


Saturday, October 29, 2022

A595 Moresby embankment work - new public meetings now rescheduled

As I reported here a few weeks ago, National Highways has profusely apologised for the fact that letters advertising to local residents the details of public engagement meetings to inform people about proposed improvement work on the Moresby Embankment section of the A595 (just North of Whitehaven) went out far too late. Most of the letters arrived after all but one of the events had already happened.

National Highways responded quickly to requests to reschedule these events so that members of the public could attend and promised that they would do so.

New letters have now gone out with details of the rescheduled meetings, which are also given on the National Highways website.

The new public engagement events will take place as follows:

  • Monday 7 November – The Beacon Museum, West Strand, Whitehaven CA28 7LY
  • Wednesday 9 November – Cleator Moor Civic Hall & Masonic Centre, Jacktrees Road, Cleator Moor CA25 5AU
  • Thursday 10 November – Gosforth Public Hall, Gosforth, Seascale CA20 1A
  • Friday 11 November – Workington Town Council Community Centre, Princess St, Workington CA14 2QG

On each of the above dates there will be three drop-in sessions throughout the day: from 11am to 12pm, 2pm to 3pm and 6pm to 7pm.

National Highways have promised that as the project progresses there will be further opportunities to speak with the project team.

Details of these events, along with an overview of the scheme and details of the proposed phasis of the scheme, benefits and Archaeology, can be found on the National Highways Website by clicking on the link below. 

A595 Moresby improvements - National Highways


(At a risk of teaching granny to suck eggs, you also have to click on the plus signs next to the relevant section.)

Saturday music spot: Handel's - Music for the Royal Fireworks

Latest MoD Intelligence update headlines on the situation in Ukraine

 It would appear that to add to all his other crimes, Vladimir Putin has now become a grave robber.




Quote of the day 29th October 2022


 

Friday, October 28, 2022

Clocks go back this weekend

Remember that we have an extra hour in bed (or wherever you want to spend it) tomorrow night as the country transitions back from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time at 3am in the early hours of Sunday morning.

So 3.00 am British Summer Time is followed by 2.01 am, Greenwich Mean Time.






Music to start the weekend: Bach's "Flocks in pastures green abiding"

Protecting vulnerable people online

The government has today announced more support for vulnerable people to spot disinformation and boost online safety, keeping elderly, disabled and other vulnerable people safe online. 

  • The most vulnerable people in our society are most at risk of being defrauded or misled online so we must do more to protect them. 
  • That is why the government has set out additional support for the most vulnerable groups as part of the three-year Online Media Literacy Strategy to protect vulnerable groups from misinformation online backed by funding granted to 17 bodies focused on improving media literacy among vulnerable and ‘hard-to-reach’ groups.
  • This will help those who may need additional help to stay safe online and protect themselves from being victims of misinformation and fraud.

Latest MoD Intelligence summary on the position in Ukraine

Latest intelligence summary from the UK Ministry of Defence.

To put it in even simpler terms

British intelligence believes Russian frontline units in Ukraine have been decimated to the point where they are finding it difficult to sustain offensive operations and are only capable of long-range bombardment of civilians and trying to hold defensive lines.

 


NHS Staffing hits record levels

All public services should be judged on the quality of their output, not their inputs, and the most important criteria for whether our NHS is succeeding is how many patients it helps, not how much the government spends on it or how many people it employs.

However, anyone who has anything to do with the NHS knows that in many key areas the biggest single challenge facing our health service is a shortage of staff, particularly but not only trained clinicians and nurses.

So although I would not want to fall into the trap of assuming that more employees always equate to better service, we all know that NHS staff shortages have made life very difficult for patients and current employees alike, and recruiting more staff, especially key professionals like doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives, is essential to fixing some of these problems. That is why I see record numbers of people working in the NHS as something to celebrate.

And yesterday new figures were published which show a record 1.2 million staff working in our NHS, meaning better care for patients as the NHS works to tackle covid related backlogs. 

  • Conservatives are committed to delivering a properly funded and properly staffed NHS, providing quality care for everyone who needs it in the UK. 
  • That is why we welcome new data that shows a record 1.2 million people working in the NHS with over 3,700 more doctors and 9,100 more nurses since August 2021. This fantastic news shows our NHS Long Term Plan is working as we deliver on the Conservative manifesto commitment to recruit more doctors and nurses.
  • This is incredibly welcome news as it is so vital to protect the NHS on which we all rely, work to tackle covid related backlogs and constantly improve patient outcomes.

Quote of the day 28th October 2022

"Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine will be studied for centuries by military historians — as a master class in how not to fight."

(Max Boot, from an article in the Washington Post which you can read by following the link here.)

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Latest MoD update on the war in Ukraine

 










The apparent "closer interlinking of regional governors into Russia's national security system" rather reminds me of the scene in "Star Wars - A New Hope" where Grand Moff Tarkin says 

"The regional governors now have direct control of their territories"

and adds that fear will keep people in line, before Darth Vader goes on to prove the point by force-choking a senior officer for disagreeing with him. 

I don't think it will end any better for Putin's regime in the real world than it did for Emperor Palpatine's in the stories.




15,343 more police officers recruited

New figures reveal more than 15,300 extra police officers have been hired across England and Wales in the UK’s largest police uplift programme, cutting crime and keeping communities safe. 

  • The Conservatives were elected in 2019 on a promise to the British people to recruit 20,000 extra police officers to cut crime and make our streets safer.  
  • New figures published yesterday reveal we remain on track to deliver this manifesto pledge, with an additional 15,343 police officers patrolling our streets – making up 77 per cent of our manifesto target. The figures also revealed there are now more than 50,000 female police officers in forces across England and Wales for the very first time, delivering on our commitment to ensuring forces become more representative of the communities they serve. 
  • This demonstrates the importance of a Conservative Government – delivering on the British people’s priorities and cracking down on crime which tears our communities apart.  


Quote of the day 27th October 2022


 
















Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Midweek music spot: Bach's Fugue in E minor BWV 548 (a.k.a. "The Wedge")

New government appointments

Yesterday, Rishi Sunak gave his first address to the nation as Prime Minister and appointed his new Cabinet, pledging to unify the country and party so we can overcome the profound economic and political challenge we face and build a better, more prosperous future.

  • Right now our country is facing a profound economic crisis as the aftermath of Covid still lingers and Putin’s war in Ukraine has destabilised energy markets and supply chains the world over.
  • That is why the Prime Minister set out his vision to place economic stability at the heart of his Government and to deliver on the mandate we secured in 2019 to deliver a stronger NHS, better schools, safer streets, and control of our borders.
  • This will mean difficult decisions to come, while protecting our environment and supporting our armed forces, levelling up, and building an economy that embraces the opportunities of Brexit, where businesses invest, innovate, and create jobs.
  • Our new Cabinet will help deliver on these priorities, representing a range of perspectives and talents. This is a Cabinet which will seek to unify the country and work day in and day out to deliver for all the people of our great nation.

    The King has been pleased to approve the following appointments:
  • The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP as Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, and Secretary of State for Justice
  • The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP has been re-appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • The Rt Hon James Cleverly MP has been re-appointed Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
  • The Rt Hon Suella Braverman QC MP as Secretary of State for the Home Department
  • The Rt Hon Simon Hart MP as Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Chief Whip)
  • The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP has been re-appointed as Secretary of State for Defence
  • The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • The Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP has been re-appointed as Lord President of the Council, and Leader of the House of Commons
  • The Rt Hon The Lord True CBE has been re-appointed as Lord Privy Seal, and Leader of the House of Lords
  • The Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP as a Minister without Portfolio in the cabinet. 
  • The Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP has been re-appointed as COP26 President
  • The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
  • The Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch MP has been re-appointed as Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, and appointed Minister for Equalities
  • The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
  • The Rt Hon Mel Stride MP as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
  • Gillian Keegan MP as Secretary of State for Education
  • The Rt Hon Therese Coffey MP as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • The Rt Hon Mark Harper MP as Secretary of State for Transport
  • The Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP has been re-appointed as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  • The Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP has been re-appointed as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
  • The Rt Hon Alister Jack MP has been re-appointed as Secretary of State for Scotland
  • David T C Davies MP as Secretary of State for Wales
  • John Glen MP as Chief Secretary to the Treasury

  • The Hon Victoria Prentis MP as Attorney General
  • Jeremy Quin MP as Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office
  • The Rt Hon Johnny Mercer MP as a Minister of State (Minister for Veterans) in the Cabinet Office
  • The Rt Hon Sir Gavin Williamson CBE MP as a Minister of State (Minister without Portfolio) in the Cabinet Office
  • The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP as a Minister of State (Minister for Development) in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
  • The Rt Hon Tom Tugendhat MBE MP has been re-appointed as a Minister of State (Minister for Security) in the Home Department
  •  The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP as a Minister of State (Minister for Immigration) in the Home Department

November meeting of Cumbria County Council

The November meeting of Cumbria County Council will take place on Thursday 3rd November at 10 am in the council chamber at County Hall in Kendal

The meeting will be open to the public.

The agenda and supporting documents have just been published and can be found online by clicking on the link below:

Agenda for County Council on Thursday, 3rd November, 2022, 10.00 am | Cumbria County Council

Quote of the day 26th October 2022

"This country has a legitimate claim to be the most open and tolerant society on earth, or indeed that has ever existed."

(Daniel Johnson, in a piece on "The Article" called "Rishi Sunak and the politics of Envy" which you can read in full by clicking on the link below:

Rishi Sunak and the politics of envy | TheArticle)

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Second quote of the day 25th October 2022

 "As I've seen elsewhere: Waking up this morning, we have a Christian King, a Hindu Prime Minister, a Jewish Home Secretary and a Muslim Mayor of London.

You can disagree with personal politics, but that is a victory for a diverse, multicultural Britain - and we should be proud."

Daniel Sugarman on Twitter. Technically Daniel should probably have put "elect" or "designate" after Prime Minister as Rishi Sunak does not become PM until he goes to see the King later today, but the basic point is right.

There are far too many people who make at best ungracious and at worst racist comments when someone from an ethnic minority succeeds in modern Britain if they don't like his or her views. 

To give three examples, there is the speech Sir Keir Starmer described as racist and for which he suspended Labour MP Rupa Huq, the tweet which Labour HQ ordered Labour MP Nadia Whittome to take down yesterday, or this article on the Guardian website today by Hashi Mohammed which might perhaps be described as displaying a very mixed reaction to the election of Britain's first PM of Asian ancestry.

People's race is not defined by their political views or their bank balance, and those who truly welcome and practice diversity understand this.


Rishi Sunak promises to unify the country

Yesterday, Rishi Sunak was elected Leader of the Conservative Party, pledging to unify the country and party so we can overcome the profound economic and political challenge we face and build a better, more prosperous future.

  • Britain is currently facing a time of great change and exceptionally difficult circumstances both at home and abroad – challenges we can only overcome as a united country and party.
  • That is why yesterday, Rishi Sunak promised to make unifying the country and the party his utmost priority and pledged to serve the British people with integrity and humility – working day in, day out to deliver on the people's priorities and the 2019 manifesto.
  • That is the only way we will overcome the profound economic and political challenge we face and build a better, more prosperous future for our children and our grandchildren.

Quote of the day 25th October 2022


 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Diwali greetings

 


Ben Houchen and Penny Mordaunt messages of congratulations to the next PM


 

















Rishi Sunak elected Conservative party leader

At the close of nominations today there was only one candidate for leader of the Conservative party - Rishi Sunak who had the support of over 200 Conservative MPs, well over half the parliamentary party.

Congratulations to Rishi and good luck with solving the challenges our country faces. It goes without saying that he will have my 100% support.



From the fact-checkers

The "Retained EU Law" bill will not stop TV Viewers in the UK from having the right to watch the Olympics for free.

During Prime Minister’s Questions on 19 October, Labour MP Stella Creasy claimed that the Retained EU Law Bill — proposed legislation which would see some EU laws that were carried over after Brexit expire at the end of 2023 — would abolish the “right to watch the Olympics free of charge”.

The Olympic Games are a “listed event” — that is, a sporting event deemed to be of “national interest” for which the broadcast rights must be offered to free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters (like the BBC, ITV and Channel 4).

However, the UK’s listed events framework originates in domestic law, not EU law.

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told Full Fact: “The Retained EU Law Bill will not abolish people's rights to watch the Olympics free of charge. The listed events regime is set out in UK domestic legislation and will not change.

"We fully support the listed events regime and will ensure it continues to deliver its objectives in our Broadcasting White Paper.”

Source: Full Fact - you can read their report at

Retained EU Law Bill won’t end the right to watch the Olympics for free - Full Fact

Quote of the day 24th October 2022


 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Defence secretary Ben Wallace talks to his Russian counterpart

An MoD statement on a call held today between UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu:



Boris pulls out

Boris Johnson will not be standing for the Conservative leadership. I gather he has said that standing would be the "wrong thing to do."

I respect this decision and agree with him - the decision not to stand was the best thing for himself, the party and most important of all, the country. It would have been very difficult to calm the present turmoil with a PM facing investigation by the House of Commons standards and privileges committee.

If Penny Mordaunt can secure 100 MPs to nominate her there will be an online election of Conservative members and we will have a new PM on Friday. If not Britain will have our first non-white Prime Minister tomorrow.


Quotes of the day 23rd October - commemorating the battle of El Alamein 80 years ago


 









Churchill's famous comment after victory at El Alamein ...




Saturday, October 22, 2022

Seen on the doorstep:

 Evidently the people of Ormskirk in West Lancashire have a sense of humour. (People from Lancashire generally do.)

Seen on the doorstep earlier today when campaigning for Michael Prendergast, the Conservative candidate in the forthcoming West Lancs parliamentary by-election.

I suspect canvassers from all the parties will be used to a reaction like this by the time polling day arrives.




Quote of the day 22nd October 2022


 

Music to relax after campaigning Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor (BWV 1041)

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Resignation statement from Liz Truss

Prime Minister Liz Truss's statement in Downing Street

"I came into office at a time of great economic and international instability.

Families and businesses were worried about how to pay their bills.

Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine threatens the security of our whole continent.

And our country had been held back for too long by low economic growth.


I was elected by the Conservative Party with a mandate to change this.

We delivered on energy bills and on cutting national insurance.

And we set out a vision for a low tax, high growth economy – that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit.


I recognise though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.

I have therefore spoken to His Majesty The King to notify him that I am resigning as Leader of the Conservative Party.


This morning I met the Chair of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady.

We have agreed there will be a leadership election to be completed in the next week.

This will ensure we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plans and maintain our country’s economic stability and national security.

I will remain as Prime Minister until a successor has been chosen.

Thank you."

Keeping the Triple Lock

It is my view that the state pensions triple lock must be retained, although from the next parliament onwards I would like to see the earnings element of the guarantee based on an index rather than a year-on-year change.

That is so that pensioners can be still assured that their incomes will not fall behind wages as happened in the past under Labour, before the Triple Lock was introduced, but to avoid a ratchet effect which could be unfair to the current working population, especially the younger generation, many of whom have done badly out of the world economic events of the last fifteen years (since the crash of 2007.)

There have been siren voices pointing out that some pensioners are millionaires and asking why they are protected. Millions of pensioners who are dependent on the state pension are very far from being millionaires and they are entitled to the protection for their pensions which was promised at the last election. And most of them have spent decades paying tax and National Insurance part of which was to fund the pension system, so they have a moral right to get back what they were promised when they paid those taxes. 

So I was pleased that yesterday the government confirmed that they will keep the Triple Lock in place, honouring our 2019 manifesto commitment and supporting pensioners with the cost of living.

  • As a Government and a Party, we have consistently protected UK pensioners. That is why we introduced the ‘triple lock’ and committed to keep this in our 2019 manifesto. We have also acted to support people with their energy bills and made sure that vulnerable pensioners get the most generous support.
  • We were elected on the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto and will honour our commitment to keep the ‘triple lock’ on pensions until the end of this Parliament.
  • To put the public finances on a sustainable footing – we will publish a credible, transparent, fully costed plan to get debt falling as a share of the economy over the medium term on 31 October based on the judgements and forecasts of the independent OBR.



Limiting the damage from strike action

Today the government will introduce legislation to limit the damage from transport  strikes, keeping Britain and our economy moving.

  • Hardworking people and businesses should not be held to ransom by Labour-backed strike action which has repeatedly crippled our transport network this year.  
  • That is why we are today introducing legislation that will keep transport services running in the event of strike action – putting in place minimum service levels to keep Britain moving during union enforced disruption. 
  • This delivers on our 2019 manifesto pledge – cracking down on the union baron’s ability to paralyse our economy and ensuring passengers can continue to get to work, school or hospital. 

Latest MoD intelligence summary on the situation in Ukraine

Today's MoD Intelligence Update summary.

Translation - there is good reason to believe that Russian forces in the Kherson area are in serious trouble.




Quote of the day 20th October 2022

 "Dear Irony 

Just Stop Oil have blocked the Dartford crossing, meaning my 3 lorries will only deliver 75 tons of Biomass to the power station today rather than 150 tons, meaning more oil and gas will be required to make up the difference in power generation."

(Tweet from David Burden @OfficialDB earlier this week.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Grant Shapps appointed home secretary

Suella Braverman has resigned as Home Secretary after a breach of security rules.

Her resignation letter said:

"Earlier today, I sent an official document from my personal email to a trusted parliamentary colleague as part of policy engagement, and with the aim of garnering support for government policy on migration. This constitutes a technical infringement of the rules … nevertheless it is right for me to go.

Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics. I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign."

Grant Shapps, former Transport secretary, rejoins the government as her successor




 

Meme joke of the week

This particular meme has been written by someone takinhg the mickey out of Star Wars but it would work equally well for quite a few other franchises ...


 

Midweek music spot: Vivaldi's Cello Concerto in D Minor (RV 407)

PM confirms Triple Lock will be maintained.

The Prime Minister confirmed at PMQs in the House of Commons today that the government will honour the Conservative manifesto promise to maintain the Pensions triple lock

 • As a Government and a Party, we have consistently protected UK pensioners. That is why we introduced the ‘triple lock’ and committed to keep this in our 2019 manifesto. We have also acted to support people with their energy bills and made sure that vulnerable pensioners get the most generous support.

 • The Conservative government was elected on the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto and will honour our commitment to keep the ‘triple lock’ on pensions.

 • To put the public finances on a sustainable footing – we will publish a credible, transparent, fully costed plan to get debt falling as a share of the economy over the medium term on 31 October based on the judgements and forecasts of the independent OBR. 

We are doing this by: 

• Honouring our commitment to keep the triple lock in place. This means that until the end of the Parliament, the state pension will rise by whichever is highest of 2.5 per cent, average wage growth, or inflation. This delivers on the commitments we made in our 2019 manifesto and during the leadership contest. We are supporting pensioners with the cost of living by:

 • Increasing the state pension by over £2,000 since 2010. Since 2010, the full yearly amount of the basic State Pension has risen by over £2,300, in cash terms. That is £720 more than if it had been uprated by prices, and £570 more than if it had been uprated by earnings (Hansard, Written Question 54473, 11 October 2022, link).

 • Delivering immediate cost of living payments. As part of our £37 billion cost of living support package, pensioners will receive a £650 cost of living payment this year, as well as a one-off Pensioner Cost of Living Payment of £300 – in addition to the wider support also available (Hansard, Written Question 54685, 22 September 2022, link).

 • Protecting pensioners from rising energy bills this winter. The Energy Price Guarantee will protect millions of pensioners through a difficult winter, meaning they will not have to face bills of £6,000. Beyond April 2023, we will review the scheme to ensure it is targeted at those most in need (HM Treasury, News Story, 17 October 2022, link). 



If you are offered a COVID Booster or other protective measures, do take it

COVID-19 had not gone away.

The NHS has been inviting people over 65 and those whose circumstances make them particularly vulnerable to have a COVID-19 seasonal booster.

They've now worked around to everyone over 50 so I had an email this morning inviting me to book my COVID booster jab, and I have immediately made that booking. My wife had her booster a month ago (she works for the NHS and it is rightly regarded as a priority to protect NHS employees as they are the first line of defence for everyone else.)

would strongly urge everyone who is invited to have a COVID booster, or one of the earlier jabs if you have not already had them, to take this up.

Just under 200,000 people who died in the UK since the start of the pandemic had COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate as being one of the causes. There are a number of other ways to measure the impact of the pandemic - for the first two years I think excess deaths was probably the best measure of the net effect of the pandemic, though this is beginning to be more problematic as the pre-pandemic baseline is getting older and more out-of-date. But all the credible measures suggest that COVID has killed between 150,000 and 210,000 of our fellow-citizens in Britain, and more than 6.5 million around the world. 

There is no such thing as a completely zero-risk procedure but the overwhelming evidence suggests that the latest COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and greatly reduce your risk of death or becoming seriously ill from COVID.

If you have any concerns about whether the vaccine is safe for your own personal circumstances, or those of another member of your family, please discuss them with an appropriately qualified medical professional.

I have also had my seasonal flu jab and would strongly advise anyone in one of the categories for whom this is recommended to take this jab too.


Uniting to deliver stability and growth

Now is the time to unite and deliver stability. 
  • This country is facing severe economic challenges - our full focus must be on delivering stability for the British people, not talking to ourselves about ourselves. 
  •  As Conservatives we are on the side of people who do the right thing - we are building a country where hard work is rewarded, where people can walk home safely at night, and where our children have the promise of a better future. 
The Conservative government is taking decisive action to help families with the cost of living, prioritising help for the most vulnerable while delivering economic stability and long-term growth for everyone. 
  • We understand that families across the country are struggling with rising prices and higher energy bills. That is why we acted decisively to protect households and businesses from significant rises in their energy bills this winter, with our Energy Price Guarantee holding down peak inflation. 
  • We will always ensure the most vulnerable get the support they need, providing certainty for them over the months ahead, while we continue to do what is necessary for economic stability that will help everyone.

Panorama journalist John Ware responds to the Corbyn cult

The BBC has a record of annoying people in every part of the political spectrum. Sometimes than annoyance is justified. often, it is not.

Supporters of the former Labour leader  Jeremy Corbyn - and don't be fooled that they have gone away, the present Leader of the Opposition has done his best to purge the Corbyn cult but they are still a powerful force in the Labour party - are convinced that the reason he was so decisively rejected by the country in 2019 is that is that he was "smeared" over Anti-Semitism by the media in general and the BBC in particular.

They have made particular attempts to suggest that the BBC Panorama programme "Is Labour Anti-Semitic" which was broadcast in July 2019 was wrong to suggest that the office of the then leader of the opposition had intervened in disciplinary cases brought against Labour members accused of anti-semitism and they continue to argue this even though the country's official watchdog in such matters, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (which, by the way, had been created by a Labour government) also found that there had been such intervention.

John Ware, the lead journalist involved in that programme, has been a particular target for the Corbynistas, several of whom have subsequently had to apologise to Ware and pay damages and costs for making inaccurate and defamatory statements about him.

Ware has now published a fairly hefty rebuttal on "The Article" to the accusations which the pro-Corbyn left and their supporters on news sources like Novara Media and Al Jazeera have thrown at him. In his words

   "It now seems to me that laying out in forensic detail all the evidence that underpinned our case might be revealing and even quite interesting, because in my view it might suggest that some Corbynites have become impervious to evidence that undermines their case. So, I’m now going to set out that evidence in all its detail.

To the frustration of the Corbynites, both the Labour Party (from Corbyn’s time) and his supporters in a pressure group unaffiliated to the Labour party but called Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), most of them radical Left anti-Zionist Jews, have already had to apologise in open court and pay damages and costs to me for a series of defamatory statements.

Labour has also apologised and paid damages to seven ex-Labour party officials who blew the whistle on Panorama about how the antisemitism crisis under Corbyn had developed and the rancorous climate inside the party. Labour and the JVL have accepted there was no truth in their allegations.

None of what the Corbynites and Al Jazeera have now said about Panorama misleading the public over interference by Corbyn’s office is true either."

You can read his detailed rebuttal on The Article site but clicking on the link below.

Rewriting history: Corbyn’s Labour Party, antisemitism and ‘Panorama’ | TheArticle

Latest MoD estimate of the position in Ukraine


 

Quote of the day 19th October 2022


 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

From the fact-checkers

Nurses pay is to rise by 72p per hour, not 72p per week.


Earlier this month RCN general secretary Pat Cullen stated that Nurses have been offered a pay rise of 72p per week.

This claim was repeated at last week's Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons by a Labour MP.

However, the RCN has since said that Ms Cullen misspoke. Calculations from UNISON actually suggest the pay offer increases wages by 72p per hour, not 72p per week.

Source - Full Fact. 

Link: NHS pay award will increase pay for nurses by 72p per hour - Full Fact

From today's messages ...

 


Protecting the UK economy

Yesterday the Prime Minister and Chancellor set out the difficult decisions we need to take to ensure there is trust and confidence in our economy, acting in the national interest to deliver for the British people.

We need to be frank about the scale of the economic challenges we face. We have had short term difficulties caused by the lack of an OBR forecast alongside the Growth Plan – but also global inflationary and interest pressures, caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • We went too far, too fast - and are sorry for the mistakes that have been made. Now our full focus needs to be delivering for the British people and acting in the national interest to preserve economic stability.
  • That is why – to support confidence and stability in our economy – the government has made immediate changes to the Growth Plan:
  • Reversing most of the tax measures announced last month – including the cut to dividend tax rates; the reversal of the off-payroll working reforms introduced in 2017 and 2021; the new VAT-free shopping scheme for non-UK visitors; and the freeze to alcohol duty rates.
  • Maintaining the planned levels of income and corporation tax – keeping the basic rate of income tax at 20 per cent until economic circumstances allow for it to be cut, restoring the top rate of income tax at 45 per cent, and proceeding with the planned corporation tax rise to 25 per cent.
  • Reviewing the Energy Price Guarantee – keeping the planned support in place until April 2023, and conducting a review into how best to support energy bills for households and businesses beyond that date, ensuring support is in place for those most in need.
  • This will help to put the public finances on a sustainable footing – and we will publish a credible, transparent, fully costed plan to get debt falling as a share of the economy over the medium term on 31 October based on the judgements and forecasts of the independent OBR.
  • We remain committed in our mission to go for growth – but need to change the way we approach this. We will take advantage of Brexit freedoms, delivering Investment Zones, speeding up road projects, standing up to Russia, and increasing our energy supply so we are never in this situation again.
  • But to achieve this growth – we must unite as a party and act now to create the stability we need, taking the tough and difficult decisions in the long-term interests of the country. 

Going for growth with stability


 

Quote of the day 18th October 2022

Remarkable prescience - this comment was made long before people started sticking themselves to roads or trains, or throwing soup over masterpieces.


 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Ensuring Financial Sustainability

Today the Chancellor has brought forward measures from the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan to support fiscal sustainability.

A central responsibility for any Government is to do what is necessary for economic stability. This is vital for businesses making long term investment decisions and families concerned about their bills, their mortgages, and the cost of living.

  • Since last month, global economic conditions have worsened – and because of this we have had to adjust our programme. Interest rates are rising globally, we need to act in a responsible way.
  • That is why we have decided to make further changes to the Growth Plan – we will not be proceeding with the planned cuts in corporation tax, income tax, or the majority of other planned measures – and will review the energy bill support package after April 2023 to help those most in need.
  • The Conservatives are committed to long term reforms and going for growth – but we need to change the way we approach this. We are committed to delivering Investment Zones, speeding up road projects, standing up to Russia, and increasing our energy supply so Britain is never in this situation again.
  • We remain confident about the UK’s long term economic prospects as we deliver our mission to go for growth – but growth requires confidence and stability, so we will always pay our way – and will make whatever tough decisions necessary to ensure we do.

We will put public finances on a stable footing by

  • Keeping the basic rate of income tax at 20 per cent. Cutting tax is a deeply held Conservative value – but at a time when markets are rightly demanding evidence of commitment to sustainable public finances, it is not right to borrow to fund this tax cut. Because of this, the basic rate of income tax will remain at 20 per cent – and it will do so indefinitely, until economic circumstances allow for it to be cut.
  • Proceeding with the planned rise in corporation tax to 25 per cent. Given the exceptional circumstances, we are keeping the increase in corporation tax that was planned by the previous government. This will raise £18 billion per year, and act to restore the public finances and market confidence in the UK’s fiscal discipline.
  • Taking the difficult decisions to get debt falling as a share of the economy over the medium term. There will be more difficult decisions to take on both tax and spending – all government departments will need to redouble their efforts to find savings.
  • We have to recognise that the need to follow and be seen to follow fiscal responsiblity necessitates a chance of course, and this includes reversing most of those tax measures announced in the Growth Plan three weeks ago that have not been legislated for in Parliament. the government will no longer be proceeding with: the cut to dividend tax rates; the reversal of the off-payroll working reforms introduced in 2017 and 2021; the new VAT-free shopping scheme for non-UK visitors; or the freeze to alcohol duty rates.
  • Publishing a Medium-Term Fiscal Plan on 31 October, setting out our responsible fiscal approach. The Chancellor will deliver the full Medium-Term Fiscal Plan to be published alongside a forecast from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility on 31 October.

Reviewing the Energy Price Guarantee:

The Energy price guarantee will be continued in its' present form until at least April 2023. The government will continue to protect households against excessive energy bills after that date.but is reviewing how to do that as effectively as possible.

  • The Conservative government will maintain the planned level of support between now and April 2023. This is a landmark policy, supporting millions of people through a difficult winter and meaning they have not had to face bills of £6,000 this winter. We can confirm that the support we are providing between now and April next year will not change. 
  • There will be a Treasury-led review into how we support energy bills beyond April next year. The review’s objective is to design a new approach that will cost the taxpayer significantly less than planned whilst ensuring enough support for those in need. Any support for businesses will be targeted to those most affected. And the new approach will better incentivise energy efficiency.

The government will continue to go for growth by

  • Delivering support for families who needed it most – dealing with the tax burden by cutting National Insurance tax. We have scrapped the National Insurance levy, a tax cut for 28 million people worth on average £330 a year – helping hard working people to keep more of the money they earn.
  • Launching Investment Zones, unlocking housing and driving growth through tax incentives. Investment Zones will drive growth and unlock housing by liberalising planning and delivering wider support for local economies that have been left behind for too long. We will also work with devolved administrations to look to establish Investment Zones in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 
  • Stopping Labour-backed strike action from slowing down Britain. We will introduce Minimum Service Levels for transport services in Great Britain, ensuring militant strike action cannot derail economic growth, and union bosses cannot hold working people to ransom. 
  • Accelerating infrastructure projects across the country. We have announced over 100 infrastructure projects from transport to energy and telecoms that we will accelerate to help to grow our economy.
  • Speeding up delivery to unpick the complex patchwork of restrictions and EU-derived laws. We will streamline a host of assessments, duplications and regulations whilst ensuring essential protections remain in place that will finally get the infrastructure we need built more quickly.
  • Continuing to support homeownership. We will enable crucial planning reforms and increase the disposal of surplus government land to build new homes. We will also maintain the announced stamp duty cuts to drive homeownership. 

Growth with Stability

Today the Chancellor will make a Statement, bringing forward measures from the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan to ensure sustainable public finances underpin our plan for economic growth.  

  • The government needs to and will act now to reassure the markets of our fiscal discipline and ensure our country’s economic stability to achieve economic growth.
  • That is why today the Chancellor will make a Statement in the House of Commons, bringing forward measures from the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan. 
  • Today’s Statement follows further conversations between the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Bank of England over the weekend to ensure sustainable public finances underpin economic growth.
  • The Chancellor will deliver the full Medium-Term Fiscal Plan to be published alongside a forecast from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility on 31 October.
  • The Conservatives will deliver the strong and sustained growth that can transform the prosperity of our country for generations to come.

Quote of the day 17th October 2022

"There have been inaccurate reports we are changing free hospital car parking. We have delivered our manifesto pledge to provide free parking for those who need it most at all NHS trusts. This will not change.

#ABCD is about putting patients first and I'm determined to deliver it."


(Thérèse Coffey, secretary of state for health and deputy Prime Minister)


Sunday, October 16, 2022

Sunday music spot: Handel's "Dixit Dominus" (1st movement)

From the fact checkers

This is the first of an occasional series of posts in which I will draw attention to selected findings of independent fact-checkers like Full Fact.

Only findings of independent groups which I consider to be non-partisan will appear under the heading "From-the fact checkers." I make no secret that I often publish material from CCHQ and Conservative government sources on this blog, and I will continue to do so, but I will reserve the "From the Fact checkers" title for material from independent sources and I will always include a link so that the reader can check exactly where it comes from.


FINDING = The government has not proposed banning Unions

SOURCE - Full Fact (see link: The government hasn’t proposed banning unions - Full Fact)

Posts shared hundreds of times on Twitter or Facebook in 2022 falsely claim that the government has opened a consultation on proposals for a new “996 working hour system” and a ban on trade unions.

This story has no basis whatsoever in fact.

One version of the twitter post, which has also been shared on Facebook, impersonates the Cabinet Office website and claims that “on 13 September the government published a Green Paper on reforming the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.” 

This is not a real screenshot, and the image appears to have been digitally manipulated. There is no trace of such a document on the real Cabinet Office website. 

The Cabinet Office did not publish any such Green Paper on 13 September. 

A similar post, which appears to be a screenshot of an article published by the Guardian, also claims that Prime Minister Liz Truss “wants a 996 working hour system for Britain”. 

A Google search for this headline reveals zero results, and there is no evidence that the Guardian ever published this article.


Latest MoD Bulletin of the situation in Ukraine

Latest MoD Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 16 October 2022

Find out more about the UK government's response: ow.ly/savs50Lb516 🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦



Quote of the day Sunday 16th October 2022

 “Persuade me or prove to me that I am mistaken in thought or deed, and I will gladly change—for it is the truth I seek, and the truth never harmed anyone. Harm comes from persisting in error and clinging to ignorance.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

A slightly different translation of the same passage:




Saturday, October 15, 2022

Ensuring Britain's economic stability

It was necessary for the government to act this week to reassure the markets of Britain's fiscal discipline and ensure our country’s economic stability. That is why the government has now decided to keep the increase in corporation tax that was planned by the previous government. 

  • This will act as a down-payment on our full Medium Term Fiscal Plan which will be accompanied by a forecast from the independent OBR. The government will control the size of the state to ensure taxpayer's money is always well spent.
  • We all want to live in a country where people can get good jobs, new businesses can set up and families can afford a better life. We will get through this storm and deliver the strong and sustained growth that can transform the prosperity of our country for generations to come.

The government will do this by:

Delivering Growth and Stability

  • Growing the economy: this remains the key challenge to help protect living standards for everyone, especially the less fortunate, and to protect and improve public services. Since the 2008 financial crisis this country has been held back by consistently weak growth, which has made us all poorer. Restoring a low tax, high wage, and high growth economy is the Conservative government's priority, and will make the country richer and better off.
  • For growth, businesses and households need stability. Conservatives understand that – it is why we acted rapidly to help businesses and households with their energy costs this winter. But it is also true that Britain is not alone – global economic conditions are worsening due to the continuation of Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine and the aftershocks of the pandemic.
  • The government recognise this and will act to reassure markets of  its commitment to financial stability. It is clear that parts of the mini-budget went further and faster than markets were expecting. The PM has recognised the need to act to rectify that and has therefore decided that the way that we deliver our mission needs to change.
Maintaining fiscal discipline

  • The government will restore fiscal discipline now. Given the exceptional circumstances we are committing to keep the increase in corporation tax that was planned by the previous government. This will raise £18 billion per year, and act to restore the public finances and market confidence in the UK’s fiscal discipline.
  • We must and will put our finances on a firm footing in the longer-term. This change will act as a down-payment on our Medium Term Fiscal Plan which will be accompanied by a forecast from the independent OBR. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that debt is falling as a share of the economy in the medium term. 
We owe it to the next generation to improve our economic performance. That is how we will deliver higher wages, new jobs, better public services, and how we will ease the burden of debt. The new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, one of the most experienced and widely respected government ministers, shares that conviction and will help us deliver this mission in the national interest. 


Protecting small businesses

  • SMEs will be protected from the rise in tax. The government will retain the small profits rate introduced in the 2021 Finance Bill, so that businesses with profits under £50,000 continue to pay 19 per cent and businesses with profits under £250,000 pay a reduced rate. Around 70 per cent of actively trading companies will be protected from a rate increase.