Showing posts from April, 2023

Walk for Epilepsy in memory of Arthur Lamb to be held on 20th May

NHS co-workers of my friend and colleague, the late Arthur Lamb, who died at the tragically young age of 31 earlier this year, have organised a sponsored walk in his memory on Saturday 20th May to raise funds for Epilepsy Action. Arthur packed a huge amount of achievement into those 31 years. He was chairman of Copeland Conservatives at the time of the Copeland by-election. He became a county councillor by winning a safe Labour seat, and at the time of his death was Chief Whip of the Conservative group on the County Council and Deputy Chairman of the Conservatives in Cumbria. I still miss him greatly and I know I speak for Conservative colleagues all over Cumbria when I say that we deeply feel his loss. Arthur was a cricket umpire and coach and was immensely valued not just by Whitehaven cricket club but by colleagues all over Cumbria  - the night before he died he was coaching youngsters in what he told his parents was a "really good session with the kids." He was also remem

Sunday music spot: Prelude to Charpentier's Te Deum


MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 30th April 2023

The date above is the last day of the fourth month of the 24th year of the 21st Century. And I'm posting an intelligence update about Russian commanders of units taking part in Russia's unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine who are apparently enforcing discipline using methods which are more the sort of thing you would expect to read about in an history of the 18th century, or in a novel by P. C. Wren. Unbelievable.

Quote of the day 30th April 2023

My quote today is from a statement issued by the Board of Deputies of British Jews about a statement they have made in response to a cartoon which appeared in yesterday's Guardian. For the avoidance of doubt, I agree with the Board of Deputies: that cartoon crossed the line,   POSTSCRIPT - the Guardian has taken down the cartoon from their website following the complaints.   Apologising, the author of the cartoon, Martin Rowson said through "carelessness and thoughtlessness I screwed up pretty badly".  The Guardian said the cartoon did not meet its editorial standards. Mr Rowson said the cartoon had gone "horribly wrong" and that while the representations were inadvertent he took full responsibility. "Satirists, even though largely licensed to speak the unspeakable in liberal democracies, are no more immune to f****** things up than anyone else, which is what I did here," he said. The cartoonist said Mr Shap's " Jewishness never crossed my m

There must be no hierarchy of Racism

I was genuinely saddened to see the letter from Diane Abbott MP in last weekend's Observer . While of course I disagree with a great many of her views, I had a soft spot for Diane Abbott as a person, and you don't have to agree with a word she says to recognise that she has often been the target of an unacceptable amount of disgraceful racist abuse. So it is incomprehensible to me that Ms Abbott should have put her name, even as a "first draft sent by mistake" to such an atrocious letter. She has, of course, subsequently apologised, withdrawn her comments and disassociated herself from the letter. The Labour party has still suspended her - and was right to do so. It is almost incidental that the letter was historically illiterate in the excruciating ignorance it displayed about the victimisation inflicted on Jews, Travellers and Irish people. What is worse is that it appeared to suggest a sort of hierarchy of oppression whereby those with black skin suffer "racis

Harry Belafonte RIP

This has been one of those weeks when it seemed like we lost far too many wonderful people.  First Barry Humphries, the creator of Dame Edna Everidge.  Then Len Goodman, the avuncular chief judge from Strictly Come Dancing.  Then the singer, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte died at the age of 96. Harry Belafonte will be remembered for his music, his sense of humour, his acting, and his lifelong campaigning with Martin Luther King Junior and other for civil rights.  Whether he was singing a calypso like Day O (a.k.a. the Banana Boat song) from his album "Calyso," or a christmas carols, this very versatile performer was a joy to listen to. Here is one version of the song Day-O ... But he performed this and other songs in many ways, often interacting with live audiences and getting them to sing along. Here is the version he did on the Muppet show, which perfectly catches his sense of humour. Every human being who died last week will be missed, from the famous like

The Gambling White paper continued: biggest shakeup of gambling rules in two decades

Britain's gambling laws need an update so they will be relevant and effective in the digital age. So here is some more detail of the proposals put forward in the Gambling White paper.  This will be the biggest shakeup in Britain's gambling laws for two decades. For centuries, millions of people have been able to enjoy sensible gambling within the limits of what they can afford without harming themselves or their families. But it has also been a problem for centuries that some people who gamble money which they can't afford to lose have inflicted devastating harm on themselves and their families.  It is right and proper that those who work in the gambling industry, and their customers, should have the confidence of knowing that all bets and all games will be run fairly, with a level playing field, in an open and transparent way, and the customers protected from gambling harms. So the government is introducing landmark  changes to gambling laws as set out in the Gambling Whit

MoD Defence intelligence update summary on the situation in Ukraine at 29th April 2023

  At least 25 innocent Ukrainian civilians, including five children, were killed in these attacks yesterday. 23 people, including four children, were killed in an attack that hit a block of flats in the central city of Uman, according to local officials. And a woman and her three-year-old daughter were killed in the city of Dnipro, according to the local mayor. Rest in Peace.

Music to relax after campaigning: "The Windmills of Your Mind," Noel Harrison


Jas Singh for Calverley & Farsley

One of the many excellent Conservative candidates standing in the local elections next week is my friend Jas Singh, who is standing in the Calverley & Farsley ward for Leeds City Council. Jas lives in the ward and would make an excellent councillor. Last time he stood in this ward he very narrowly lost. Last year in this ward the leader of the Conservative group on Leeds City council, Cllr Andrew Carter CBE, was re-elected with 3,539 votes and a majority of 296 ahead of the Labour candidate who polled 3,243 votes. Indications are that this year's election may be close again. My wife and I went to support and campaign for Jas this morning and had a good session. If any voters from Calverley and Farsley should happen to be reading this blog, here is what Jas has written to residents of the area about the election for the West Leeds Dispatch . "This election is about local issues not national. Locally, I work hard with Cllrs Andrew and Amanda Carter, and we put you first. I l

The Gambling White Paper

The government has   published a Gambling White Paper , with proposals to bring our gambling regulations into the digital age and tackle gambling addiction.  Millions of people enjoy gambling without issues but there are too many cases of addiction and catastrophic financial loss which can have a devastating impact on people’s lives.  That is why the Gambling White Paper has been published, setting out proposals to address this problem, including a new levy on betting firms to pay for treatment for gambling addiction, player protection checks and new stake limits for online slots as is the case for bricks and mortar establishments. These proposals are designed to strike a balance which will ensure that the industry, which employs 100,000 people, continues to flourish sustainably but while also protecting players from gambling related harm.

Quote of the day 29th April 2023


The Public Order Bill

Yesterday, the  Public Order Bill received Royal Assent , bringing into law powers for the police to protect the public from the misery of protest disruption created by a small minority of activists. Selfish, disruptive protesters are using guerilla tactics to wreak havoc in people’s everyday lives across the country – and this must be brought to a stop. On top of these new powers, the Conservatives are bringing forward a new Statutory Instrument under the Public Order Bill to clearly define ‘serious disruption’ as requested by police chiefs, empowering police to intervene against these highly disruptive tactics used to block roads and cause chaos.

MoD intelligence update summary of the situation in Ukraine at 28th April 2023

  There is of course, also a realistic possibility that the event might have provided a propaganda gift for opponents of Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine.  And an opportunity to point out that regardless of whether the Russian tank team does well in the artificial environment of a competition, the photographs we have all seen of Russian tanks being blown up by Ukraine's brave defenders and towed away by Ukrainian tractors suggests that they don't dominate on real battlefields. 

Music to start the weekend part 2: J.S. Bach's arrangement of the same Concerto but for 4 harpsichords


Music to start the weekend part 1: Vivaldi's Concerto for 4 violins in B minor


Multi-million pound boost planned for specialist education

Children and young people in North Yorkshire with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are set to benefit from a £20 million investment towards the development of additional educational services. Proposals for the funding, which will create new places in schools and early years settings, plus a new school designed around the needs of children with autism, have been given the go-ahead by North Yorkshire Council.  It is estimated that an additional capacity of 350 SEND school places will be required to be developed over the next three to five years. The investment will enable North Yorkshire Council to find highly suitable placements for more young people closer to their local communities and deliver better value for children and families from the county, including improving existing provision to create modern, fit-for-purpose spaces suited to a wider range of pupil needs. North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson,

More funding for schools

This week the government   announced that schools across England will receive £2 billion in extra funding in May , the highest real terms spending on schools in history to provide opportunity across the country and help grow the economy.  Conservatives are committed to investing in a high-quality education to support young people to reach their full potential, particularly those who face challenges or who need extra support. That is why we are delivering an extra £2 billion in funding this year and next for primary and secondary schools across England, the highest real terms spending on schools in history. A typical primary school will receive approximately an extra £35,000 and a typical secondary school £200,000, with the first payments by 10 May. Conservatives are committed to delivering a world-class education and opportunity for all, wherever they come from and whatever their background, helping to grow the economy.

Quote of the day 28th April 2023


Update on the Sudan Evacuation

As at 6.20pm on 27th April  

On the move

It's just as well for me that the Conservative administration in North Yorkshire is on the ball in maintaining and improving local roads as I have been making more than a little use of them. 1st April 2023 was not just April Fool's day and the first day of new councils in both North Yorkshire and Cumbria - it also saw my job relocated to Yorkshire. In consequence, as well as making every effort to carry out my final responsibilities as a member of the former Cumbria County Council up to and including 31st March, my wife and I have been extremely busy relocating, and establishing ourselves in Selby. We do not intend to abandon our many friends in Cumbria and the North West. We will maintain links with Cumberland and the rest of North West Region, but we hope to make many new friends in Yorkshire. My late mother, who remained a proud Lancashire lass even after living the last thirty years of her life in St Albans, would undoubtedly raise a wry smile at this. However, despite the

Road improvements in North Yorkshire

Hundreds of miles of roads across North Yorkshire are to be treated as part of an extensive annual programme. North Yorkshire went through local government reorganisation at the same time and on the same schedule as Cumbria did. But the Conservative administration in the new North Yorkshire council, unlike the Labour administration in the new Cumberland council or the Lib/Dems in the new Westmorland and Furness council, has hit the ground running - and hit the roads, fixing them. The new North Yorkshire Council is delivering an extra £2.6 million worth of surface dressing works as part of its £8 million programme during spring and summer. Surface dressing is a quick, efficient and cost-effective way of maintaining skid-resistant and waterproof road surfaces, helping to prevent potholes and extending the life of the road by up to ten years. North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for highways and transport, Cllr Keane Duncan, said: “Keeping North Yorkshire’s roads safe and in the bes

Crisis in Sudan

The UK government continues to evacuate British nationals from Sudan, working with key allies on a joint approach on both evacuation and the de-escalation of violence.  The situation in Sudan is extremely grave and the safety and security of British nationals continues to be the utmost priority. The government is making every effort to evacuate British nationals from Sudan and has already evacuated 536 people since the operation began on Tuesday. Britain will continue to coordinate evacuation flights with allies and all British nationals who have not already   registered their presence   in Sudan are encouraged to do so.  Britain will continue to work with our allies and partners to end the bloodshed in Sudan and support the transition to a democratic government, which is the best thing we can do to ensure the safety of British nationals there.   

Record police numbers - promise to recruit 20,000 new police officers kept

The Conservatives promised at the last election to recruit 20,000 more police officers. That promise has now been kept and surpassed. Latest figures show that since the Police Officer Uplift recruitment drive was launched in 2019 by the Conservative government. the 43 police forces in England and Wales have recruited  an additional 20,951 police officers recruited, delivering on our flagship manifesto commitment and putting a record number of officers into communities. Getting extra police officers recruited across the country builds on our Beating Crime Plan and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act – reducing crime, protecting victims and making the country safer. This means that police numbers in England and Wales are now higher than they have ever been before, more than reversing the cuts in police numbers which were made in the first part of the last decade after the economy was crashed on Labour's watch.  We will continue to protect the public from crime. Recruiting th

MoD Defence intelligence update summary on the situation in Ukraine 27 April 2023


Quotes of the day 27th April 2023

  Dean Swift's comment is, of course, a general example of the issue to which Thomas Sowell was referring, when he wrote:  Tom Paine was more scathing still: However, perhaps all of us should occasionally ask ourselves - are we certain we are not the ones who are refusing to listen to reason?

MoD Defence intelligence update summary on the situation in Ukraine 26th April 2023


Midweek music spot: J.S.Bach's Triple concerto in A minor BWV 1044


Quote of the day 26th April 2023

And how I wish we were living in an age where those who follow Swift's advice were praised for it. Sadly, instead we live in an age where you can guarantee that if someone admits they had been wrong about something, or even says that they want to take more time to reconsider,  his or her political opponents, or journalists looking for a sign of weakness in the way that sharks hunt for a trace of blood in the water,  will seize on it as a "gaffe" and as proof of poor judgement or lack of understanding.

MoD Defence intelligence update summary on the situation in Ukraine 25th April 2023


ANZAC day - We Will Remember Them


Tuesday music spot: Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave)


Cost of living support

From today   over eight million families will receive the first of three cost of living payments totalling £900 , helping the most vulnerable with day to day costs as we deliver on our promises to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt.  Inflationary pressures caused by the pandemic and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine are stretching family budgets.  That is why from today over eight million families on means-tested benefits will receive the first of three Cost of Living Payments totalling £900 – with some families receiving £1,350 of support. These will be accompanied by a £150 payment for people on disability benefits, and a £300 payment on top of Winter Fuel Payments for pensioners at the end of 2023. This builds on support which the Conservative government has given with the cost of living over winter, paying for half of families energy bills through a windfall tax on energy profits, as we work to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt. In the Selby and Ainstey con

Quote of the day 25th April 2023


Business Connect

Today,   the Prime Minister launched Business Connect   – a new conference for leading UK businesses and Government to convene and deliver on our pledge to grow the economy.  Businesses plays a vital role essential in our mission to deliver on our five priorities, including growing the economy and reducing debt.  That is why the Prime Minister has announced a new platform, Business Connect, to convene the country's biggest business and investors to work with this pro-growth, pro-enterprise Government. Key Growth Sectors, including tech, life sciences and advanced manufacturing will be represented.  It is absolutely vital that government listens to and works with industry leaders, innovators and disruptors. Conservatives will do this as we deliver on our priority to grow the economy and reduce debt.

MoD Defence intelligence update summary 24th April 2023


Quote of the day 24th April 2023


Working with the Netherlands to power both countries

Today Britain   agreed a historic deal with the Netherlands to build the world’s largest multi-use electricity power line , boosting the UK’s energy supplies with enough to power 1.8 million homes and growing the economy. This deal will bolster our energy security and send a strong signal to Putin’s Russia that the days of his dominance over global power markets are well and truly over. Today’s historic deal with the Netherlands is the largest of its kind in the world. The new LionLink will connect the UK and the Netherlands with offshore wind farms providing enough energy to power 1.8 million homes, more homes than Manchester and Birmingham combined. This will fly the flag for British business and demonstrate Britain's world-leading expertise in cleaner, cheaper and secure renewable technologies - helping deliver on one of our five priorities to grow the economy.

MoD Defence intelligence update summary on the situation in Ukraine 23rd April 2023


Sunday music spot: Handel's 'Hallelujah!' Chorus at the Sydney Opera House


Prayers for today

 Here are the candles which my wife and I lit just before the service began at church this morning. Among other things I prayed for all affected by the situation in Sudan, and for all candidates in the various current UK local elections. (Just Town and Parish elections in much of Cumbria, but in may parts of England there are Unitary or District elections.)

National Emergency Alarm system to be tested this afternoon - in half an hour's time

At 3pm BST today (Sunday 23rd April) an emergency alarm message will be sent to every mobile phone in the UK. This is a test of a new system. There is no cause for alarm.

Happy St George's Day


Quote of the day 23rd April 2023 - the PM's statement on Sudan

"UK armed forces have completed a complex and rapid evacuation of British diplomats and their families from Sudan, amid a significant escalation in violence and threats to embassy staff.  I pay tribute to the commitment of our diplomats and bravery of the military personnel who carried out this difficult operation. We are continuing to pursue every avenue to end the bloodshed in Sudan and ensure the safety of British nationals remaining in the country.  I urge the parties to lay down their arms and implement an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to ensure civilians can leave conflict zones." (UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today, referring to the current situation in Sudan) Postscript: UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace subsequently tweeted this statement with more information.

MoD Defence intelligence summary on the situation in Ukraine 22nd April 2023


Foreign office minister Andrew Mitchell's statement re Sudan

"We recognise that the situation is extremely concerning for British nationals trapped by the fighting in Sudan.  We are doing everything possible to support British nationals and diplomatic staff in Khartoum, and working with @DefenceHQ to prepare for a number of contingencies." Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell M P on Twitter today.

Music to relax after campaigning: Edvard Grieg: Prelude from the Holberg Suite


Improving Britain's online security

The government has launched  GovAssure, a new cyber security programme for Government departments and arms length bodies , protecting the public’s data from hostile actors and boosting our national security. With growing international threats, including from Russia, and cyber security attacks from countries like China, we must do more to protect our data from those who are trying to access it illegally. That is why the government has launched a new cyber security programme, GovAssure, which will see all Government departments and a select number of arm’s length bodies have their cyber security reviewed annually under new, more stringent measures to strengthen our security. We are protecting people’s personal data through our strengthened cyber security regime and boosting our national security in the face of global challenges. 

Quote of the day 22nd April 2023


Current blog readership stats

I occasionally get the odd question - or sarky comment - about how many people read this blog. I'm dependent on the stats generated by Blogger for an answer to this. On a typical day there will currently be between 250 and 500 pageviews. Occasionally I get a spike which can be over a thousand. FWIW here is the chart of daily hits provided to me by Blogger for the last thirty days, during which time there have been 11.9k pageviews. Postscript - Another spike today (Saturday 22nd April) - here is what that chart looks like now  

New government appointments:


The Raab Resignation

Dominic Raab had promised that he would resign from the government if the report into allegations that he had bullied civil servants upheld any of the complaints against him. Although some of the complaints were dismissed, some were upheld and today he kept that promise. Here is the text of Rishi Sunak's reply to his resignation. "Dear Dominic,  Thank you for your letter notifying me of your decision to resign from your position in His Majesty's Government as Deputy Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. It is with great sadness that I have accepted your resignation. "When I became Prime Minister in October last year, I pledged that the Government I lead would have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level. The Ministerial Code requires ministers to uphold the highest standards. "When formal complaints about your conduct in different ministerial posts were submitted last year, I appointed at your request an indep

MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 21st April 2023


Music to start the weekend: Bach's Concerto for two violins in D minor BWV 1043


Britain should legislate to prevent new first-cousin marriages

I see that Matthew Syed has a piece in The Times arguing that new marriages between first cousins should not be permitted. I agree with this argument because of the genetic risk to the health of the children of such marriages. Here is a piece I wrote on the subject on this blog in 2010: I have not changed my view. "Sometimes new scientific knowledge means that the case against a practice which has previously been regarded as acceptable, perhaps even normal, reaches the point where society is justified in discouraging or banning that practice. This can be hugely controversial, particularly in communities where the practice concerned is more common and who may feel that they are being targetted. Any change in legislation has to be sold and enforced in a way which ensures that such a charge neither is, nor is seen to be, justified. But sometimes nettles need to be grasped. I am now convinced that Britain has reached that point in terms of new marriages between first cousins because o

Quote of the day 21st April 2023

"Yousaf’s attempts to manage the scandal engulfing his party have been like a man fighting a fire armed only with a bag of kindling and a can of lighter fluid." ( Euan McColm , in a Daily Express opinion piece about the problems of the SNP and of Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf and the SNP entitled "Scottish politics is now a freeze frame of a car-crash." He illustrated the point with a few quotes from the First Minister's performance on Tuesday, such as “Of course I’m surprised when one of my colleagues is arrested” ,  and “I’ll have to speak to Colin — he’s still in the police station.” )

Building on the Good Friday agreement

Yesterday   the Prime Minister hailed the extraordinary political achievement of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement   and committed to building on its promise to create a better future for Northern Ireland and grow the economy across the UK.  The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement left us with an extraordinary legacy to tackle the problems of a divided society and achieve sustained economic growth, and we must give everything we have to continue to deliver that mission. That is why, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Agreement, the Prime Minister set out that we can fulfil its true legacy with a more prosperous economy and a more united and contented society – with the full force of the UK Government behind the people of Northern Ireland. By building on the precious legacy of the Agreement, not only will we protect peace in Northern Ireland but ensure it is one of the best places to start a business, create jobs and attract investment to grow the economy.

MoD Defence intelligence summary on the situation in Ukraine at 20th April 2023


Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak to all Muslims celebrating in Britain and around the world.

Thursday music spot: "Baba Yetu" by Christopher Tin (The Lord's prayer in Swahili)


Supporting jobs in Britain's film industry

Findings released this week showed that   Government support for the film and TV industry during the pandemic protected more than 100,000 jobs and contributed £2.25 billion to the UK economy , ensuring the economic powerhouse of our screen industry could continue to contribute to growing the economy. When our world-leading screen industry struggled to access insurance from commercial insurers during the pandemic, the Government stepped in with our Film and TV Production Restart Scheme to protect thousands of productions.  Independent figures released today show the success of the scheme, launched in 2020, which supported more 1,300 productions including Peaky Blinders and His Dark Materials. These productions created 63,500 crew positions, 31,100 cast roles, 47,500 jobs in the supply chain and contributed £2.25 billion to the British economy. 73 per cent of productions said they would have been unable to invest the amount they did without the scheme showing how vital our support was to