Showing posts from December, 2023

MoD Defence intelligence update summary 30th December 2023

Everyone knows that Putin's presidency of Russia has been a disaster for Russia's neighbours. But it has also been a disaster for Russia as well. Putin's illegal war on Ukraine has cost the lives of thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians and defenders. But the estimated casualty figures for Russia's troops are also quite shocking.  Britain's Ministry of Defence believes that if Russian casualties continue next year at present rates they will reach half a million killed and wounded by the end of 2024.

A Christmas Message

For anyone reading this who is of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Bahai faiths , May the God of Abraham be with you and all who you love at this time, guard, guide and protect you. For anyone reading this who loves the Christmas story: May the Joy of the Angels, The Eagerness of the Shepherds The Wisdom of the Magi The Patience of Joseph The Love of Mary and the Hope represented by the baby Jesus be with you this Christmas season and throughout the year For anyone reading this of any other faith , may your God be with you at this time. And for everyone reading this , I with you and your family good health and happiness at this time and a peaceful, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year 2024. In other words:  HAPPY CHRISTMAS! 

The Community Ownership Fund

In a Christmas present for many much-loved local clubs and facilities, the government has announced a   £25 million funding boost for over 70 cherished local pubs, museums, and sports clubs   through the latest round of our Community Ownership Fund, securing their future for generations to come and helping to grow local economies. Conservatives are committed to supporting communities that want to purchase communal assets like pubs, clubs and sports grounds as we level up every corner of the UK, securing a brighter for communities across the country. That is why the government has announced the next round of funding for communities through the £150 million Community Ownership Fund so they can purchase much loved local facilities and secure their future. Helping communities to protect local facilities including sports grounds and pubs is central to our levelling up agenda, as we take the right long-term decisions to support areas that were previously left behind.

Quote of the day 24th December 2023

"The men and women of our Armed Forces protect our nation every single day - and that includes over Christmas. With 7,000 personnel currently deployed overseas and sacrificing time at home over Christmas to keep every British family safe. My message to them is simple: Thank You." ( Grant Shapps , UK  Defence secretary)

Saturday music spot: Pentatonix - Carol of the Bells


More funding for the police

This week the government   announced a major funding boost for police forces , ensuring police officers have the resources they need to keep us safe. The first duty of any government is to keep people safe which is why Conservatives will always ensure our police have the resources they need to protect our communities. That is why the Conservative government is investing up to £843 million more into keeping our streets safe, taking the total police funding settlement to £18.4 billion for 2024-25 so that every officer and community has the support and resources they need to cut crime, protect the public and build confidence in policing. By giving the police resources they need to keep our streets safe we can help ensure wherever people live they can feel secure and proud of the place they call home.

Another version of The Boar's Head Carol (from the King's Singers)


Thursday music spot: Steeleye Span sing "The Boar's head Carol"


Record funding for schools

This week the Conservative government   announced record funding for schools in England , ensuring every child has access to a world class education to get the jobs they need to grow the economy.  As England continues to rise up global rankings in maths, reading and science under successive Conservative Governments, we will continue to invest in our children’s future. That is why we are boosting school funding to reach almost £60 billion in 2024-25, its highest ever level in real terms. This is an increase of £1.8 billion. This investment, alongside our long-term reforms to education, will play a defining role in providing a world-class education for our children.

New Qualification in British Sign Language

Today the government has   announced plans for a new GCSE in British Sign Language which will be in classrooms from September 2025 , delivering on our commitments to create a more inclusive classroom and improving accessibility across the UK. Conservatives are committed to making the UK a more inclusive and accessible place, delivering a brighter future for everyone including those who are deaf or have hearing impairment. That is why the Conservative government has announced a new British Sign Language (BSL) GCSE is coming to classrooms across the UK from September 2025, breaking down barriers and giving young people valuable new skills, as we continue to take the right long-term decisions to improve accessibility and support for  children and young people, including those who are deaf or have a hearing impairment .   We have helped more disabled people into work and given millions of people the support they need, only the Conservatives are taking the right long-term decisions to deliv

A look at the alternative

Within at most fourteen months, in practice almost certainly in 2024, there will be a general election. I post mainly here about Conservative plans and policies, but it is legitimate and appropriate to occasionally compare those plans with those of the main opposition party. Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor, promised in September 2021 that a Labour government would deliver ‘an additional £28 billion of capital investment’ each year to support the UK’s transition to net zero. In June of this year, Ms Reeves reaffirmed her commitment to this pledge – dubbed a ‘Green Prosperity Plan’ and with some updates and adjustments, indicating that the investment would be ramped up over time, to reach £28 billion per year by the second half of the next parliament. New analysis suggests that Labour’s £28 billion borrowing plan would drive up mortgages by £2,000 per household , reversing the hard work of the past year to bring down inflation and causing misery for families. Over the past few we

Quote of the day 21st December 2023

STEELMAKING PLANS SUBMITTED ✅👊  In 2020 I promised to bring steelmaking back to Teesside. That promise is being delivered with plans for @BritishSteelUK's new Electric Arc Furnace now officially submitted 👏 ↕️ 70 meters tall  Hundreds of jobs  🏭 Production by 2025   (Ben Houchen, Mayor of Tees Valley)

MoD Defence intelligence update 20th December 223


Helping vulnerable pensioners with their energy bills

 🔹Around 11.9 million Winter Fuel Payments and Pensioner Cost of Living Payments have been made to pensioners across the UK over the past month. 🔹More than 99% of eligible pensioners have now received up to £600 per household to help with their energy bill this Christmas for the second year running. 🔹 The support ­­– worth over £4.8bn – comes on top of the biggest State Pension increase on record, and a commitment to a further increase next April. As of today,  nearly twelve million cost of living payments have been made to pensioners over the past month, supporting the most vulnerable with the cost of living . We halved inflation to ease the pressure on households, but we know vulnerable people in particular are still feeling its effects, which is why we have been delivering targeted cost of living support. Over the past month, nearly twelve million payments have been made to pensioners across the UK – meaning that more than 99 percent of eligible pensioners have now received up to

Inflation down to 3.9 Percent

The Conservative government has continued to deliver on our promise to reduce inflation, giving families the immediate relief they need. When Rishi Sunak become Prime Minister, inflation was running at over 10%, which is why he made it his top priority to half this. New figures show the  rate of inflation is at 3.9 per cent  and is at  its lowest point since 2021. Inflation has continued to fall - it was 4.6% in the twelve months to September, which met the promise to halve inflation, but fell again to 3.9% in the twelve months to October. This is still too high, but it represents real progress and means that for many more households the rise in their income will exceed the rate at which inflation takes away the value of their money. The world has been grappling with high inflation, caused by the pandemic and Putin’s weaponisation of energy – which is why the Prime Minister made it his top priority to halve inflation. Whilst there is more to do, the reduction of inflation to 3.9% will

Midweek Music spot: Steeleye Span perform 'Gaudete'


MoD Defence intelligence update 19th December 2023


Quote of the day 19th December 2023


Tuesday music spot: Once in Royal David's City


MoD Defence intelligence update on the war in Ukraine 18th December 2023

Who in their right mind would want to be one of the footsoldiers fighting Putin's illegal war of aggression in Ukraine - especially one convict recruits serving in the "Shtorm-Z" units? It's not just for the people of Russia's neighbours for whom Putin's rule has been a disaster.

Quote of the day 18th December 2023

"Never mind just Labour MPs. Is there a single person anywhere in the country who at the time the pandemic was unfolding said “Sorry. The doctors and nurses will have to wait. We need to make damn sure we’re getting good value for money here”…" Dan Hodges on Twitter. The answer, of course, is no.

Monday music spot: "O Come, All Ye Faithful" (Adeste Fideles)


Cutting Energy Bills

Today the government announced that   around a million families and hundreds of businesses will be helped to cut their energy use and bills , as part of our long-term approach to net zero – reducing the burden on working people.  Investing in energy efficiency, combined with energy security, is the only way to stop ourselves being at the mercy of international gas prices and ensuring families are not hit with high energy bills. That is why we are helping around a million homes and hundreds of businesses cut their energy use and bills. We are giving targeted support for 200,000 low income, cold and social homes and an extra £1.5 billion for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, after the success of our 50 per cent increase in the heat pump grant to £7,500. This will help keep families warm during winter, as we take a proportionate, pragmatic and realistic approach to net zero that eases the burden on working people.

MoD Defence intelligence update on Russia's illegal war in Ukraine 17th December 2023

Reasons to expect more vote-rigging from the Putin regime ...  

Sunday music spot: "For unto us a child is born" from Handel's Messiah


MoD Defence intelligence update 16th December 2023


Saturday music spot Bach's "Wake, O Wake!" (choir of Trinity college, Cambridge)


MoD Defence intelligence update 15th December 2023

The illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is continuing. The map below shows the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 15 December 2023. You can find out more about the UK Ministry of Defence's use of language at: #StandWithUkraine

Protecting Britain's natural heritage


When life puts your problems into perspective

This morning after dropping my wife off at the hospital where she works and driving to my own office, I encountered some very frustrating traffic issues, something which is hardly unusual for me, but after a very stressful week it was perhaps the penultimate straw and I got quite upset. I made it to the office safely, and a colleague asked how I was feeling, and I admitted to being rather stressed. Then I turned on my email and found something which put all my problems into perspective. At the end of November I met an old friend at a social function. This is someone who went to the same school, and who served on St Albans Council at the same time as I did - and being in different parties never stopped us being friends. He told me that his mother was receiving end-of-life care. And when  I opened my email this morning I found that she had died yesterday. There is perhaps nothing in this life as difficult to deal with as the death of a beloved relative and it certainly put my own problem

Cracking down on sanction-busters

Today the UK  government announced a   new unit to crack down on companies evading Russian sanctions , as we continue to starve Putin of the resources he needs to fund his illegal war in Ukraine.  Alongside our allies, we have implemented the most severe package of sanctions on Russia ever seen on a major economy – but we must go further.  That is why the government will set up the Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation early next year to clamp down on companies evading trade sanctions, including those against Russia. The unit will have greater powers to issue penalties for trade sanctions breaches, such as sending products through other countries, and refer cases for criminal enforcement to HMRC. Our package of sanctions is working. Goods imports from Russia to the UK have already plummeted by 94 per cent and today’s announcement will ensure there is nowhere to hide for individuals and businesses propping up Putin’s war effort.

More help for Ukraine

Today Britain announced that we will   send two Royal Navy minehunter ships to Ukraine as part of a new Maritime Capability Coalition , opening up vital export routes and providing long-term support to the Ukrainian Navy.  Ukraine’s economy continues to be impacted by Putin’s blockage in the Black Sea, which has significantly reduced the country’s ability to move vital exports by sea. That is why the Defence Secretary today confirmed that two Royal Navy minehunter ships will be transferred to the Ukrainian Navy to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to operate at sea. This comes as the UK and Norway launch a new Maritime Capability Coalition to build long-term support for Ukraine’s Navy to bolster security in the Black Sea.  These minehunter ships will deliver vital capability to Ukraine, helping to save lives at sea and open up vital export routes which have been severely limited since Putin launched his full-scale invasion

Consultation on making better use of pharmacy professionals

Yesterday the government   launched a consultation to make better use of our pharmacy professionals , helping to improve access to NHS care and easing pressures on GPs as we work to cut the waiting lists. Pharmacies play a vital role in providing care to people in the community, but there is more we can do to better use our highly skilled pharmacy professionals and maximise their contribution. That is why the Conservative government has launched a consultation to give skilled pharmacy technicians a greater role supporting customers and patients with the safe dispensing of medicines, freeing up pharmacists to provide more clinical care and making it easier for patients to access care without the need for a GP appointment. We are delivering on our Primary Care Recovery Plan and using our skilled pharmacy professionals more effectively, helping to ease pressures on GPs, improve access to primary care and cutting waiting lists. 

Midweek music spot: "Winter" from Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons


Humanitarian response package for Ukraine.

 The UK has announced a humanitarian response package for Ukraine. This will include £37 million which will support the UN and Red Cross to give vital help to Ukrainian people through winter, as well as partners focusing on the most vulnerable: women, girls, older people and people with disabilities.

PISA study international education results

Yesterday   the OECD PISA study named England among the highest performing Western countries in education   – whilst in Wales, Labour lets children down with their worst ever PISA test results, showing that only Conservatives can be trusted with our children's future.  Under Labour in 2009, Britain was  25th, 27th and 16th in international league tables for reading, maths and science. This has improved to rank 13th, 11th and 13th with our 15-year-olds performing above the OECD average in the international education league tables. We must not be complacent. the COVID pandemic created great difficulties for students and teachers alike. But these international comparisons show that British schools, particularly those in England, have responded to these challenges better done better than those in many other comparable countries. There is still more to work to be done, but we are making progress, ranking higher than Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Norway. However, Labour-run W

Advent Sunday music spot: "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from Handel's "Solomon"

This lovely Sinfonia from the start of Act III of Handel's oratorio "Solomon," immediately precedes the story of the visit to King Solomon of the Queen of Sheba and has long been nicknamed "The arrival of the Queen of Sheba." Today is Advent Sunday, the first day in the Christian Church's year, and the official start of the lead-in to Christmas. Advent means arrival, and the Rector of St James' church in Whitehaven had this piece played at the start of her sermon this morning, to use the arrival of the Queen of Sheba as a metaphor for the arrival of the baby Jesus at Christmas, to which we look forward at Christmas.

Quote of the day for Advent Sunday 2023


Celebrating Small Business Saturday today

Celebrating Small Business Saturday  Small and medium businesses make up 99.9 per cent of the 5.6 million businesses in the UK – they employ almost 17 million people and contribute £2.4 trillion to the economy.  That is why the Conservativves are helping small businesses succeed by cutting their businesses rates, cutting the cost of employing staff and keeping corporation tax low. We are also freeing up billions of pounds of Start Up Loans so new businesses are created every day.  By taking the long-term decisions to support these businesses we are supporting local jobs and helping to secure economic growth to fund public services.   We are doing this by: Cutting tax for small and medium businesses , allowing them to focus on their priorities. We have raised the employment allowance to £5,000 which delivers a £1,000 tax cut for small businesses – and we have secured a lower rate of corporation tax for smaller businesses through the Small Profits Rate, meaning smaller businesses do not