Showing posts from September, 2023

MoD Defence intelligence update summary 30th October 2023


Saturday music spot: "Hooked On Bach"


Quote of the day 30th September 2023


Supporting vulnerable young people

This week the Conservative government announced   plans to support thousands of at-risk young people with one-on-one mentoring and job opportunities , as we help every young person to reach their full potential. Every young person should have the chance to thrive, whether they are already on the right path to success or need a guiding hand. That is why the government has announced plans to support 5,000 teenagers with intensive mentoring and one-to-one careers coaching, as well as offering 2,600 young people at risk of involvement with crime a job placement to help keep them on the straight and narrow. These schemes – backed by more than £15 million of funding – will help thousands more young people develop vital skills and build their confidence, helping them reach their full potential. 

Conservatives win North Yorkshire by-election

Congratulations to Cllr David Hugill, shown here with Conservative Mayoral candidate  Cllr Keane Duncan, who won a by-election yesterday for a vacant seat on North Yorkshire council. This will enable the Conservatives to retain effective control of the council and continue a positive, reforming agenda for North Yorkshire. Having met David when I hit the doorstep with him during the by-election, I am sure he will be an excellent councillor.

Music to start the weekend: A walk in the Black forest


Transforming the School Run

Today the government announced   £60 million of investment to transform the school run for millions of children , giving them more independence to walk, wheel or cycle to school and reap the benefits of a more active lifestyle. Walking, wheeling and cycling are not just greener and healthier ways to get to school – for many children they are also more enjoyable. That is why the Conservative government is investing £60 million to improve access to walk and cycle training programmes for children over the next two years – including £50 million for Bikeability cycle training which will reach 1 million children and £5 million to expand walk to school programmes. Expanding these schemes will help put the joy back into journeys and create a generation of young people who feel confident to make healthier and greener travel choices.

MoD Defence intelligence update 29th September 2023


Britain's GDP statistics revised upwards again

Earlier this month, when an upward revision by the Office for National Statistics demolished some much quoted political narratives, John Burn-Murdoch published an excellent piece in the FT, The danger of building strong narratives on weak data | Financial Times ( , which I blogged about  here. It sounds counter-intuitive for both these things to be true, but it is correct - Britain has both some of the most accurate economic statistics in the world, but at the same time the most pessimistic. Of those countries which take economic data seriously enough to revise and correct it as new data comes in, Britain's initial quarterly GDP figures published by the Office for National Statistics are in the top five for accuracy based on the absolute size of subsequent revisions, ignoring the direction. But when you stop looking only at the size of the corrections and look at the direction of subsequent corrections, Britain's ONS is the most pessimistic in its' initial estimates:

Two Irelands - the Ireland of "Zombie" versus that of "Celtic Symphony."

At the time it was written and released in 1994, the pro-peace message of The Cranberries' song "Zombie" was relatively uncontroversial to the point of being anodyne. Throughout the troubles the vast majority of people in both Britain and Ireland, North and South, Catholic and Protestant, Nationalist and Unionist, condemned paramilitary violence, whichever group was responsible and whoever it was directed against. The song was a reaction against decades of violence both in Ireland and on mainland Britain, although it is often particularly associated with condemnation of the Warrington bombings in which the Provisional IRA exploded two bombs in a crowded shopping centre, killing two children and injuring more than fifty other innocent people. All the evidence suggests that most people in Ireland today would still reject the violence of the paramiltaries during the troubles, and the fans and players who joined in when the song "Zombie" was played at the conclusion

Quote of the day 29th September 2023


MoD Defence intelligence update summary 28th September 2023


Second quote of the day 28th September 2023

"I received UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps in Kyiv. I am profoundly grateful to the UK for all the financial, humanitarian, and military support, including crucial long-range capabilities. We discussed further defense cooperation and steps to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense." (Ukrainian President Zelenskyy on Twitter today - you can see the tweet here) .

Getting children back to school

  The government is setting up   four more attendance hubs to drive up school attendance , supporting thousands of pupils as we drive up attendance and level up education across the UK.   Supporting pupils to catch up after the disruption of the global Covid pandemic is one of our top priorities as we take the long term decisions needed to boost education across the UK.  That is why we have established four more attendance hubs in Nottingham, Grimsby and Swindon, taking the total number of students supported through our attendance hubs to 400,000, helping those schools struggling to tackle poor attendance by giving them the tools they need, such as sharing practical approaches like building stronger relationships with families, to get pupils back to school.  The new hubs are at St Giles Special School in Nottinghamshire, John Whitgift Academy in Grimsby and at Ridgeway School and Sixth Form and The Croft Primary School, both in Swindon. Being at school helps children grow in confidence

Improving and protecting local bus services

Today the government   announced an additional £80 million in funding to improve and protect local bus services , boosting connectivity and growing the economy.  Whether it be through our Get Around for £2 scheme or our £1 billion Bus Service Improvement Plan we have consistently taken the long term decisions to level up local transport because we know how much people rely on it.  The Conservative government has now announced an additional £80 million in bus funding for 64 local authorities – supporting local services, helping lower fares, improving bus reliability and punctuality while preventing service reductions as part of our £3.5 billion investment in lifeline bus services since 2020. This will make sure people have the reliable local bus connections they need to get around, improving day to day life whilst growing the economy. 

Quote of the day 28th September 2023


MoD Defence intelligence update 27th September 2023


Midweek music spot: Torelli's Trumpet Concerto in D Major


Helping people get physically active, to lead longer, healthier and happier lives

I am delighted to see that the government is   joining forces with former sports stars to help 3.5 million more people get physically active by 2030 , helping people to live happier and healthier lives.   We need to increase opportunities for everyone to find the sport or activity that they love, which will help them to be healthy and happy.  That is why the government has launched a Physical Activity Taskforce to drive up participation levels across the country and help achieve our ambition of getting one million more adults and 2.5 million more young people exercising each day. Today we announced the Taskforce will be headed up by Lioness legend Jill Scott MBE, Olympic gold medallist Daley Thompson CBE and rugby union star Ugo Monye.  The steps we are taking will help deliver on our ambition of helping 3.5 million more people get active by 2030, helping people to live happier and healthier lives and building stronger communities for future generations. 

Outdoor learning opportunities for disadvantaged young people

Today the government announced   thousands more disadvantaged young people will access outdoor learning opportunities away from home , helping them to develop vital life skills and build confidence for a brighter future.  We want every young person to have the best start in life, and that includes access to exciting opportunities that take them out of their comfort zone and expand their horizons. That is why the Conservative government is supporting disadvantaged young people, including children with special educational needs and disabilities, with outdoor learning opportunities away from home. Our Adventures Away From Home Fund, worth £1.5 million, will support up to 7,500 young people to take part in outdoor activities and weekends away. We are committed to helping young people develop new skills, build confidence and resilience to support personal development and build stronger communities for future generations. 

The Rosebank oil and gas field

The Rosebank oil and gas field in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland has just been given the green light for development. I believe this is a vital boost to our energy security which will support thousands of jobs and help us to take a pragmatic approach to achieving Net Zero by 2050 whilst growing the economy.  The North Sea Transition Authority has today granted development and production consent for the Rosebank oil field in Shetland – which is expected to produce 69,000 barrels of oil and 44 million cubic feet of gas per day.  Conservatives are taking a pragmatic, proportionate, and realistic approach to reaching Net Zero by 2050. While we are scaling up clean energy sources such as offshore wind and nuclear, the UK will still rely on oil and gas in a Net Zero 2050. Unlike Labour, we are proud of our UK oil and gas heritage and projects like Rosebank have a much lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels imported from abroad.  This project will boost Britain's energy securit

RIP David McCallum - eveybody's favourite U.N.C.L.E.

The actor David McCallum, who starred in so many shows and films from "The Man from U.N.C.L.E" "Sapphire and Steel," "The Great Escape," as an Invisible Man, and finally in NCIS has died at the age of 90. What can one say about an actor whose on-screen characters were so likeable that he managed to be massively popular in the West while playing a Russian at the height of the cold war? He will be missed. Rest in Peace.  

Quotes of the day 27th September 2023

"Blair is absolutely in the driving seat. He is a grasping, amoral oligarch who counts a number of despots as clients. He should have been in front of judges in The Hague on a charge of war crimes years ago. He is a disgrace and so is Starmer for pathetically following him." Mark Seddon , who was President of the Student Union at UEA while I was taking a Masters' degree there, and went on to serve on the Labour Party National Executive Committee posted the above on X (a.k.a. Twitter) this week. I am reminded of the words of Ted Heath:

MoD Defence intelligence update summary 26th September 2023


Helping young people into work

Today the government announced plans to    expand the Youth Offer programme to tackle economic inactivity and help jobless young people into employment , improving prospects for young people and helping to grow the economy.  Youth unemployment is 43 per cent lower than it was under Labour but we know we have more to do to tackle economic inactivity. That is why the government has announced today proposals for expanding the Youth Offer programme, meaning many of those aged 16 to 24 who claim benefits and are not in or seeking work will now be eligible for support including coaching and preparation for interviews. Conservatives are committed to tackling economic inactivity and getting more British people into jobs which will help us deliver on our priority to grow the economy.

Reforming the global asylum system

Today   the Home Secretary will call for reform of global convention that has led to huge incentives for illegal immigration , helping us deliver on our priority to stop the boats. The British people have warmly welcomed refugees for a long time, but seeking asylum and seeking better economic prospects are not the same. That is why the Home Secretary will use a speech today to warn that the threshold for asylum claims has been lowered in the courts. We must ensure that the Government, not people smugglers, decide who can claim asylum in the UK.   We will continue to do everything we can to stop small boat crossings and stop illegal migrants from shopping around for a preferred new country.

Quote of the day 26th September 2023


MoD Defence intelligence update 25th September 2023


Lib/Dems split on housing

Before discussing what the Lib/Dems said about housing today, let me nail my own colours to the mast. We need more houses, in the right place, with adequate road and rail capacity for people to get to and from them. I support infrastructure-led development on Brownfield sites.  It is to the credit of the Lib/Dems that their party conference has had a genuine debate about one of the most difficult issues facing Britain - the need for new housing. I'm not sure, however, that the way in which they discussed it was quite so much to their credit. Sir Ed Davey's Lib/Dem leadership has been trying to use housing as a "Wedge" issue to take Conservative seats in by-elections by appealing to the most extreme opponents of new development - the ones who are not so much NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) as BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody.) This has generated a revolt led by the part of their party must likely to be harmed by "Don't put one brick on top of

Monday Music spot: Johann Sebastian Bach's Harpsichord Concerto no. 6, BWV 1057


A review of armed policing

Yesterday   the Home Secretary ordered a review into armed policing , seeking ways to support the officers that risk their lives to keep us safe.  In the interest of public safety, our brave armed officers make split-second decisions under extraordinary pressures, and they must not fear ending up in the dock for carrying out their duties.  That is why the Home Secretary has ordered a review into armed policing. The review will ensure these officers have the confidence to do their jobs whilst protecting us all. The Ministry of Defence have confirmed they will provide routine counterterrorism contingency support to the Metropolitan Police, should it be needed. We will do everything in our power to support officers and the job they do in keeping communities safe.

Protecting local facilities for local people - a levelling up boost

The government has announced today   a £12.3 million levelling up boost for 45 cherished local pubs , museums, and sports clubs to secure their future for generations to come and help to grow local economies.  Conservatives  know how much communities rely on key institutions like pubs and museums – they support jobs, attract tourists, and sustain local economies.  That is why, through the Community Ownership Fund, we are empowering local communities to level up treasured institutions in their areas with a share of £12.3 million. Projects include pubs, a tourist railway line and an aerospace discovery centre as the fund reaches almost £50 million in value, supporting a total of 195 projects £1 million will rebuild a historic Yorkshire railway bridge in urgent need of repair, which carries the  Keighley & Worth Valley R ailway line over Bridgehouse Beck between Keighley and Oxenhope. Knutsford Market Hall in Cheshire receives £560,000 to ensure it continues to host and support a numb

Quote of the day 25th September 2023

Letter in The Times from the former chairman of HS2.  

National Police Memorial Day

Today is National Police Memorial Day.  We remember all the police officers who have lost their lives in the service of our communities and our thoughts are with their families and friends. We remember officers like Bill Barker, who lost his life during the floods in Cumbria while directing motorists away from a bridge which had become dangerous. Their courage, dedication and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

MoD Defence intelligence update summary 24t5h September 2023


Sunday music spot: Mozart's Sanctus from the Missa Brevis in D Major - KV 194


Quote of the day Sunday 24th September 2023


MoD Defence intelligence update summary 23rd September 2023


Cost of Living payments

This week the government announced that   millions of families will receive the second of three £300 Cost of Living Payments between 31 October and 19 November , helping the most vulnerable people with day to day costs as we deliver on our promises to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt.  Putin’s war in Ukraine and our recovery from the pandemic has seen inflation rise – this is a tax on people’s income and is causing pressures on household budgets.  That is why between 31 October and 19 November millions of families on means-tested benefits will receive a second Cost of Living Payment, totalling £900 across three payments – with some families receiving £1,350 of support in total. Payments will be made automatically, and eligible pensioner households will also receive a further £300 payment later this year as an addition to the Winter Fuel Payment. This builds on our support with the cost of living, including paying for half of family’s energy bills, as we work to halve i

Quote of the day 23rd September 2023


MoD Defence intelligence update summary

  Since the above was published it has been reported that a Ukrainian Storm Shadow missile has hit and seriously damaged the Sevastopol headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. There are unconfirmed reports that very senior Russian officers may have been among the casualties.

Music to start the weekend: "Elizabethan Serenade" by Ronald Binge. (Paintings by Vladimir Volegov)


The new plan to deliver Net Zero

OUR NEW PLAN TO DELIVER NET ZERO If we want to  c hange the direction of our country and build a better future for our children , that means we must change the way we do politics. That mission starts this week with a new approach to tackling one of the biggest long-term challenges we face:  climate change . Sadly, the debate about climate change is all too often  stuck between two extremes : those who want to deny climate change or abandon Net Zero altogether because the costs are too high, and those who want to go further and faster with no regard to the cost to people’s lives or how much our country has already achieved compared to others. We need to  change this debate  – and  forge a credible path to reach Net Zero by 2050 that brings people with us  and is  properly transparent about the choices involved . Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has this week laid out a more pragmatic, realistic and proportionate approach to meeting Net Zero that eases the burdens on working people: Easing

Quote of the day 22nd September 2023

"The debate about climate change is stuck between two extremes: those who want to deny climate change or abandon Net Zero altogether because the costs are too high, and those who want to go further and faster with no regard to the cost to people’s lives or how much our country has already achieved compared to others. We need to change this debate – and forge a credible path to reach Net Zero by 2050 that brings people with us and is properly transparent about the choices involved." (This is a line from a Conservative Research Department briefing sent out this week. I thought it was worth pulling out and publishing on it's own as a quote, because, regardless of where you stand on the proposals the PM put forward this week, you can agree with all of them, disagree with all of them, or like some but not others, but this is a really good point which can stand on its' own.  We do need a more intelligent debate about how to protect our planet's environment which steers

Two very different views on how the war in Ukraine should end

 I have been reading today two very different views on what sort of negotiated end to the war in Ukraine might be acceptable. There is a piece by Ian Linden on "The Article" website, The case for a negotiated peace in Ukraine | TheArticle which a sympathetic reviewer might describe as a plea for peace even if Ukraine has to compromise, and a less sympathetic reviewer such as myself, might describe as well-intentioned but hopelessly  naive. All too often in the face of a dangerous threat, be it Putin or Hitler, a wholly understandable wish for peace can lead to weakness masquerading as pragmatism in the form of arguments against which standing up to an existential threat and making it more dangerous. Linden repeats the line that Western leaders had given assurances to Russia that NATO would not expand East and then broken them: it's difficult to see what this is meant to show since as he himself admits, "NATO’s expansion does not justify Putin’s criminal invasions of

MoD Defence intelligence update 21st September 2023


A new approach to climate change

Yesterday   the Prime Minister set out our new, pragmatic, proportionate and realistic approach to meeting Net Zero   that eases the burden on working people.  The UK is a world leader on climate change. We have over-delivered on our targets, with the fastest reduction in emissions in the G7, down almost 50 per cent since 1990.  That is why the Prime Minister set out our new pragmatic approach, easing the transition to electric vehicles and heat pumps, so people will not have to make changes until 2035, while increasing grants for heat pumps by 50 per cent. We are also scrapping onerous energy efficiency requirements and no rules on carpooling, seven different bins, more expensive meat and no new taxes on flying.   We are putting long-term interests before short-term political needs and our new approach to net zero will change the direction of our country and build a better future for our children.

Quote of the day 21st September 2023


MoD Defence intelligence summary 20th Sept 2023


Latest inflation figures

Today   the latest figures confirm that the rate of inflation is 6.7 per cent, easing from last month , as Conservatives continue to take action and deliver on our priority to halve inflation. Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine and the lasting effects from the pandemic continue to have an impact across the world, but today’s figures show that our plan is working as inflation stands at 6.7 per cent, down from over 10 per cent at the beginning of the year.  We are taking action to drive down inflation – getting more people into work, halving energy bills, and taking a responsible approach to the public finances, while helping households with the cost of living. But while price rises are slowing, we are not at the finish line. We must stick to our plan to halve inflation this year and get it back to the two per cent target as soon as possible The decisive action we have taken to tackle inflation is working, with inflation now standing at its lowest level since February last year. Cutting infl

MoD Defence intelligence update 19th Sept 2023


Making the global financial system fairer

Today the UK government announced new proposals   to make the global financial system fairer and better support developing countries from global security risks   – helping to build a more prosperous and secure world at home and abroad. Climate change, pandemics, and stagnant economic growth are some of the greatest challenges facing developing countries, and a united international effort is required to tackle them. That is why today the K government announced new proposals to build a fairer financial system and boost the financial resilience of developing countries, including by helping to unlock investment in climate initiatives and education, improving the efficiency of disaster response funding, and creating more sustainable tax systems in developing countries.  These steps will help to support countries become more prosperous and prepared for future threats, helping to improve lives across the world.   

MoD Defence intelligence update 18th Sept 2023


Improving Mobile Connectivity

This week the government   announced new investment of £88 million to boost mobile connectivity across sporting venues and tourism hotspots , increasing resilience across our network and ensuring businesses can attract more customers as we grow the economy. Whether you are in a busy city centre or a rural village, a fast and reliable mobile connection is vital to staying in touch, accessing services and doing business. That is why we are investing £88 million into making our mobile networks more adaptable and resilient in sporting venues and across tourist hotspots, with future-proofed technology to support bringing lightning-fast connections across the country for many years to come. These projects will introduce key solutions to increase the resilience of our mobile networks, connecting people and helping to grow the economy. Full disclosure: I am an employee of Openreach and a small share holder in BT PLC. However, all the information in this post came from Conservative Party or pub

Sunday music spot: Sing Joyfully by William Byrd, performed by the King's SIngers


Egremont Crab Fair 2023

My wife and I spent this evening at Egremont Crab Fair, a traditional local event founded by royal charter in 1267, making it one of the oldest  community fairs in the country. It has been held almost continuously since the thirteenth century, but made a welcome return this weekend following a four-year gap, having had to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic and last year as a mark of respect because Her late majesty Queen Elizabeth died just before the event was due and the fair fell during the period of national mourning. But the Crab Fair was back with a bang this year and hundreds of people from all over Britain, and some from the rest of the world, came to enjoy it. The Crab Fair includes the World Gurning championship.  What is gurning, you might ask?  Well, I suppose you could describe it as pulling odd faces - in the same way you could describe the Atlantic Ocean as a large body of water. Tommy Mattinson became Men's World Gurning Champion for a record 18th con

Comeback of the week

“Funny, Labour was here yesterday and said exactly the same thing.” Timothy Fox, a voter in Mid Bedfordshire, quoted in the Guardian on how he replied to the Lib/Dem candidate in Mid Bedfordshire when she told him her party were frontrunners to beat the Conservatives. The same Guardian article also quotes Peter Kyle, Labour's campaign co-ordinator for the by-election as complaining about personal attacks by the Lib Dems on Labour’s candidate,  “The Lib Dems have gone scorched earth. They are a towering inferno of self-righteous rage. Politically, they will raze the place to the ground if they carry on like this.” This complaint about Lib/Dem tactics resonates with me: I've seen some nasty ones in the past and indeed, I was out on the doorstep a couple of days ago in Richmond, with the Conservative candidate in a by-election for North Yorkshire Council, and what should we find but local residents complaining about Lib/Dem campaign tactics. Here is a link to the Guardian article:

£1 billion to insulate more homes

This week the government   announced a £1 billion scheme to insulate more than 300,000 houses across the country , helping families save up to £400 a year on energy bills as we halve inflation and grow the economy. Putin’s weaponisation of energy has led to household bills soaring. We shielded people by paying half the typical energy bill but now we must look to more long-term measures to help people save on their bills. That is why the Conservative government has announced our Great British Insulation Scheme, helping more than 300,000 families in lower council tax bands with less energy-efficient homes insulate their homes, which could cut their annual energy bill by an average of between £300 to £400 a year. This is on top of the 2.4 million homes which have already benefitted from similar measures.  We will continue to help families keep their homes warm through the winter months and save on their energy bills.

Music to start the weekend: Hornpipe from Handel's Water Music

I hope I am not inviting it to rain by scheduling this!

Quote of the day 15th September 2023


£200 million of new funding for the NHS

Today the government    announced £200 million of new funding for the NHS , boosting resilience so patients get the care they need this winter and helping to address the serious challenge of cutting waiting lists. Winter brings immense challenges for the NHS, so the government is working with health leaders to make sure we are prepared.  That is also why the government is investing £200 million to boost resilience in the NHS and protect elective care and to do more to address the challenge of cutting waiting lists. The government is also investing £40 million to bolster social care capacity and improve discharge from hospital.  This funding will help patients get the care they need and help to cut waiting lists. I will put up another post in the next few days addressing the serious challenge of getting waiting lists down. The present problems have been building for decades under governments in which there have been ministers of all three parties. It is too serious and complex for  knee