Monday, February 20, 2017

With three days to go Labour trot out the worst election cliche in British politics

With just three days until the Copeland by election, the Labour campaign has followed up their atrocious "babies will die" election material by wheeling out the most over-used cliché in British political debate.

Their candidate has now said that there are "Three days to save the NHS in West Cumbria."

Labour and their allies have used variants of this line at least fifteen times in the last 20 years, and Britain still has an NHS:

Music to relax after campaigning, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.6 first movement


There is More joy in heaven over one sinner that repents ...

Trevor Philips, who when he was 19 was one of those who persuaded the National Union of Students conference to adopt a policy of "No Platform for Racists and Fascists" has now come out in the Sunday Times against the policy here.

By coincidence, here is a current example of the way an equivalent policy has been abused in the United States: a society of Chinese students objected using the language of anti-racism to a visit an speech by a supposedly offensive "oppresser" (sic) -  the Dalai Lama.

This is not so much a case of "generation snowflake" being oversensitive as that of supporters of a highly oppressive regime or movement co-opting the language of social justice to label the victims of that regime or movement as the oppressors and try to silence them.

That tactic has also been employed on this side of the Atlantic, and while the "No Platform" policy exists there will be attempts to abuse it in this way. I welcome the fact that one of the originators of the policy has now disowned it.

Quote of the day 20th February 2017


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday music spot: "Lord let me know mine end" by Greene


Interesting straws in the wind with five days to go

I still think the Copeland by-election is looking too close to call between the Conservatives and Labour.

The Conservative vote is looking pretty solid, and motivated by the possibility of giving Labour in general and Jeremy Corbyn in particular a black eye. In a constituency dominated by the nuclear industry, it is a serious problem for Labour that their leader was passionately anti-nuclear for decades: as one Cleator Moor voter responded to Michael Crick when told that Corbyn had changed his mind about Moorside.

"If he can chance his mind for the by-election he can change it back afterwards."

And it is no good Labour representatives telling us that official party policy is to back Nuclear. To get investors a British government would have to convince them they were serious about backing the project and there is no way that Jeremy Corbyn would be credible.

The one card in Labour's hand is the threat from the success regime to local maternity services but they may have overplayed that hand.

In the months since the "success regime" proposed downgrading the maternity unit at West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) to a midwife-led unit I have not spoken to a single resident of Copeland, whatever their political views, whatever their position with respect to the NHS as patient or employee, who agrees with this proposal.

Local obstetricians do not support it. None of the other local doctors in  West Cumbria support it (though unfortunately some in Carlisle do, and they are the people to whose views, in my humble opinion, the success regime is giving far too much relative weight.) The midwives don't support it. The ambulance service don't support it. Local Tories don't support it. Local Labour party members don't support it. People who don't like any political party don't support it. None of the candidates in the election support it.

And everyone in Copeland, except for those who are so partisan that they would never believe anything good about the supporters of other political parties, knows that everyone else in Copeland is opposed to the success regime maternity proposals.

It would have been entirely legitimate for any party to put out material explaining why they think they are the best placed people to save consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland hospital, though of course the other parties will disagree.

Personally I quite certain that any of the seven candidates would try to persuade the PM and health secretary to try to save Maternity at WCH but also think that the Prime Minister would be more likely to listen to an MP who would become a member of her slender majority than to someone who has spent the last few months misrepresenting her and attacking her.

Putting out material which practically says "Unless you vote Labour babies will die and be brain damaged" which is what Labour have done is downright sick, and it is my impression that some of the Labour leaflets have offended as many people as they have persuaded.

Straws in the wind with five days to polling day

An article in the Independent,

"In nuclear Copeland it's Jeremy Corbyn that's radioactive,"

And one in the Sunday Times here.

Some parts of both articles are a bit over-simplistic and I don't agree with every word of either, but the general picture both present - that the Copeland by-election is looking very close indeed - is right.

Quotes of the day 19th February - understatements of the year to date.

Tony Blair's comments on Brexit were "unhelpful" - Jeremy Corbyn

"I've had a difficult week." - Paul Nuttall

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: J.S. Bach's 'Komm, Jesu, komm'


Quote of the day 18th February 2017

"Some of us have not forgotten that Labour increased outsourcing in the NHS faster than the coalition or the Conservatives. And we had to fight proposals to cut services like maternity when they were running the government too!

Voting Labour to stop privatisation of the NHS is like supporting King Herod for better childcare!"

(Copeland voter, conversation on the doorstep. The comment about the level of outsourcing when Labour's Andy Burnham was health secretary is accurate as the graph below shows)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Could Britain break -up?

Nothing in this world lasts forever.

We tend to think of nation states as though they were immortal because many of them last much longer than the average human lifetimes but there is no reason to imagine that any of the states which exist today are more immortal than the Empires of Alexander, the Mughals, the Aztecs or Incas, the Roman Empire, the Confederate States of America, or the Soviet Union.

A very current and welcome example is that in 2017 there is an excellent chance that DA'ESH will lose their remaining territory and with it their claim to be an Islamic caliphate and a significant proportion of their ability to wreak torture, slavery and murder on innocent human beings, though sadly the threat from Jihadi terrorism will not go away any time soon.

I hope that there will still be a United Kingdom of Great Britain for my grandchildren and my many-times great grandchildren to live in, but I do not deceive myself that such an outcome is inevitable. It would be a very rash British patriot who fails to recognise that, whichever way the EU referendum had gone, the existence of a very large minority within one of the four countries of the United Kingdom who are opposed to the Union would always have been and remains an existential threat to the UK. A threat which democrats can only oppose by persuasion, something which in the present political climate here and around the world is not something to which everyone is open.

The present edition of the Economist has an article "Britain is sliding towards Scoxit" about the possibility that the SNP might succeed at the second attempt to gain independence from the UK.

The subtitle of the article puts another slant on things: it reads

"The decision to leave the EU appears to strengthen the case for Scottish independence. In fact, it weakens it."

The fifteen opinion polls on Scottish Independence since the Brexit vote have all, with the exception of the three polls held a very short time after the 23rd June referendum result, suggested that Scotland would vote not to leave the UK if there were another referendum. But there was a bit of a "wobble" in a February poll following suggestions that Brexit may mean a "hard break."

The argument of those Independence supporters who think that Britain leaving the EU means that Scotland is more likely to vote to leave the EU is based on three principles, one of which is true and the other two are both dubious and apparently contradictory.

They argue

1) The vote to leave is a change in the situation of Scotland within the UK to that which prevailed at the time of the original independence referendum. That is true.

2) That most of those who wanted to leave both the UK and the EU will still vote to leave the UK if the SNP is proposing to leave the UK and rejoin the EU on the basis that leaving the UK is more important to them than being outside the EU.

3) That some of those who previously wanted to stay in both the UK and the EU will switch over to the pro-independence side because staying in the EU is more important to them than staying in the UK.

(Obviously, we can agree that those who voted "Yes" and "Remain" will be overwhelmingly likely to still vote "Yes" and those who voted "No" and "Leave" will be equally likely to still vote "No")

Given that every argument I have heard the SNP produce about the failings of Westminster and Whitehall applies with even greater force to Brussels, I'm not at all convinced that all the Scots who want to "take back control" from both alike will be at all happy about escaping the authority of London only to cede independence to Brussels.

Those of my friends in Scotland who voted both "No" and "Remain" are convinced to a man and woman that voting for Independence now would be following one act of calamitous self-harm with a worse one - as some describe it, like stubbing your toe and responding by amputating your foot.

And it is easy to find objective, evidence-based reasons why they are exactly right.

For a start, Scotland exports four times as much to the rest of the UK than it does to the whole of the rest of the EU put together - so even if the eventual terms of Brexit impact on Scottish access to the EU single market, erecting equivalent barriers to the UK market would do four times as much harm to the Scottish economy.

Satisfying hardline nationalists is next to impossible, but it is very important to make every effort to ensure Brexit works for all parts of the UK and to listen to the concerns of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as  well as England.
Those of my friends in Scotland who voted both "No" and "Remain"

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Triple Concerto in A minor


Quote of the day 17th February 2017


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Copeland by-election cardiovascular workout continues

Out today evening delivering magazines in Lowca and Low Moresby for Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison.

As with the Valley area of Whitehaven you might think from the name that would not be too bad, but "Low Moresby" is low only in comparison with Moresby Parks and neither this village nor nearby Lowca is exactly flat!

So up and down a lot of steep slopes tonight.

However, it was undoubtedly exercise. Apologies to the lady who opened the door to put the rubbish out at the exact moment I came to the door delivering and had a shock finding someone on the doorstep.

The Copeland by election cardiovascular workout continues apace ...

Music to relax after campaigning: Haydn's 'Insanae et vanae curae'

Today's music spot to relax after campaigning was chosen because, while the music is beautiful, the words appear particularly appropriate to the scaremongering about the local NHS perpetrated by Labour during the Copeland by-election.

When translated into English the first two lines of the lyrics of this motet could almost have been written to describe how anyone unfortunate to be taken in by the Labour propaganda might feel.

The next two lines, which are very similar in meaning to Mark's Gospel, Chapter 8, verse 36, * might be a reminder to the people responsible for writing and circulating this Labour propaganda, more than one of whom have publicly described themselves as "Christian socialists," about how hollow an achievement it is to seek worldly power, office or status by frightening vulnerable people with scaremongering and deception.

The words of the motet are

Insanae et vanae curae invadunt mentes nostras,
saepe furore replent corda, privata spe.
Quid prodest, O mortalis, conari pro mundanis,
si coelos negligas?
Sunt fausta tibi cuncta, si Deus est pro te.


These are taken from the chorus “Svanisce in un momento” in the Oratorio, “Il ritorno di Tobia” and can be loosely translated as

"Furious and hopeless fears invade our inmost hearts
again and again they fill us with unreasoning terror.

How can it profit you, oh mortal, to seek for earthly status
If you take no thought of Heaven.

Yet all things can go well for you
If God is on your side."





* Mark 8:36 reads 

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

(King James Version)

UK Employment at record high

Figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).  show that The employment rate edged higher to 74.6%, which was a record high
 
"Continued moderate growth in employment has led to a new high in the total employment rate, while the rate for women has reached 70% for the first time on record," said ONS senior statistician David Freeman.

The estimated number of people out of work dropped very slightly and ONS said the jobless rate held steady at an 11-year low of 4.8%.



Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that the UK jobs market had remained resilient, despite warnings it would be hit by the Brexit vote.

"The UK labour market continues to confound the doom-mongers with its resilience to the Brexit shock," he added.

ONS figures also showed that real wages continue to rise, with average wages up at an annualised rate of 2.6% in the three months to December 2016 which is higher than either the 1.6% increase in prices over the year to that month or the the most recent figure for inflation, the 1.8% in the year to January.

Separately, an ONS "flash" estimate indicated that UK productivity grew for a fourth successive quarter in the fourth quarter of 2016: it reported that output per hour worked rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter.

Copeland by-election - one week to go

The Copeland by-election is one week today, Thursday 23rd February. Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm. You do not need your polling card to vote.

An excellent explanation of when PFI does and does not work

I have just seen a superb explanation of why PFI was a good idea for the purposes for which the Conservatives introduced it, such as toll bridges, but Labour were mad to use it to pay for hospitals.

This was posted by "Armchair Critic" on the Copeland By-election thread of the Vote UK Forum

http://vote-2012.proboards.com/thread/9029/copeland?page=59

One of the candidates in the Copeland by-election has been describing the use of PFI to fund hospitals as "Buy one hospital, pay for six."

I don't agree with much else she says but on that point my only issue is whether the number should be higher than six. The £20 million a year we are still paying for the Cumberland Infirmary at Carlisle is a major reason why our local NHS trusts are short of money.

Anyway, here is "Armchair Critic" on PFI:

"PFI was a concept invented by the Conservatives in 1986 with the Dartford Crossing Act.

The Dartford Tunnel was built in 1963, was loaded with debt and was in need of complete refurbishment and a new crossing building to increase capacity to cope with the building of the M25.

Thatcher ... for it was she ... handed over the tunnels to Trafalgar House, who had to build a new bridge, refurbish the existing tunnels, pay off the debts and hand the tunnels back to the Dept of Transport with a 100 million pound maintenance fund

In return for doing this Trafalgar House could keep all of the tolls they collected for a maximum period of, I think it was about 18 years, or until they had recovered their costs with an agreed profit, whichever was the sooner.

Trafalgar House did all of the work as instructed and handed back the tunnels to the DoT, with the maintenance fund, in about 15 years and 3 months.

At this point the tolls were supposed to be removed. That was the agreement. Unfortunately we had a Labour government in office and they decided to keep the tolls in place.

The Dartford Crossing was an excellent example of how PFI can and should work.


Unfortunately, the Labour government just saw it as a way of spending money off balance sheet and never really understood how to do it. That is why my local hospital is signed up to an absurd 35 year PFI arrangement, where the hospital pays 80 quid to have a poster put up, while the stupid little **** that claims to have organised the deal, Mary Creagh, now denies having had anything to do with it.

I knocked on a door in about 2009 for Alex Story. They guy who answered was a PFI consultant of some sort. I asked him if he would vote for us. He said that normally he would, but he wasn't going to because if he did he knew that the PFI deals he signed up would become much more difficult because the Tories wouldn't sign them with gay abandon, like Labour did. Whether that is true I have no idea.

You can't fund stuff like hospitals with PFI in my view. Whatever you build must be revenue generating to work properly. So...hospitals, no.....hospital multi-storey car park, yes. Anything else simply defeats the whole object as the government can borrow money cheaper than the PFI contractor."


Read more: http://vote-2012.proboards.com/thread/9029/copeland?page=60#ixzz4YrI7UM2k

Quote of the day 16th February 2017

On a visit to Captain Shaw's school in Bootle, which was saved following a local campaign in which Trudy Harrison, Conservative candidate in the by-election on 23rd February played a leading role, the PM talked about the local NHS and the proposed Moorside nuclear development, to which she said the Conservatives are committed.
 
She had this to say about Trudy Harrison's support for local health services in Cumbria:
 
"Trudy Harrison does indeed know the importance of these services. She is opposed to the downgrading of these services.

What is important is that Trudy Harrison is a candidate who has made clear her views not just to me but to health ministers, but she is also somebody who has a track record of delivering for local people.

She would be the strongest voice for Copeland if elected on 23rd February.

There is an issue about recruitment and retention of doctors.

Trudy has come up with a very sensible idea that there should be a professionally-led review into this issue of recruitment and retention and that is something the health minister is looking at.

There has been a lot of scaremongering about hospital services in the NHS here by the Labour Party.

There is no truth in the suggestion that A&E at West Cumberland Hospital is about to close.

They have been misleading in their representation of what I have said about maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: Telemann Concerto for 4 violins


Trudy Harrison writes ...

Trudy Harrison, the excellent local Conservative candidate in the Copeland by-election, writes:

Conservatives
 
Nothing is more important than making a success of Brexit. It’s what we in Copeland overwhelmingly voted for at the referendum.
           
With the spotlight on Copeland, this is our chance to send a message that the result of the referendum must be respected.
 
Only by voting Conservative can you send a message that the result of the referendum must be respected. Labour want to ignore and forget what Cumbria voted for at the referendum.
           
Labour have been running things in Copeland since before I was born, and with very little to show for it. They’ve ignored and forgotten us on jobs, particularly the nuclear industry. They’ve ignored and forgotten us on investment and transport. And now they’re determined to ignore and forget us on Brexit too.
 
My plan to make Cumbria’s voice heard: backing the Prime Minister’s plan to make a success of Brexit and protecting local jobs and industry ensure our whole local economy benefits from Moorside plans. It will make the most of Moorside to secure and improve local services like the NHS, skills training, apprenticeships for young people, broadband, flood prevention, better infrastructure and public transport.

So no matter how you’ve voted in the past, if you back the Prime Minister’s plan to make a success of Brexit and don’t want Copeland’s referendum vote to be ignored and forgotten by Labour, vote for me and my plan by completing and returning your postal vote today.
           
Thank you for your support.

Trudy Harrison
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Copeland
 
PS. Don't forget to follow me on Facebook to keep up with my campaign. 

 

Promoted by Neville Lishman on behalf of Trudy Harrison, both of Egremont Conservative Club, Ehen Court Road, Egremont CA22 2DX

Quote of the day 15th February 2017


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Postal Votes arrive

Our postal votes for the Copeland By Election arrived today.

I will of course be using mine to vote for the excellent local Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison.

Trudy is the candidate with the best plan to bring jobs and prosperity to West Cumbria and defend all local services.

Trudy was born at the West Cumberland Hospital, as were her four daughters. She had to make the journey to WCH from Bootle while in Labour, so understands only too well what a long journey to the hospital to give birth is like and that having to go to Carlisle would be even worse.

That's why Trudy is totally opposed to the success regime proposals to remove consultant-led maternity from West Cumberland Hospital and I believe she would be the best placed of all the candidates to convince the government to stop this dreadful idea.

Guido Fawkes caption competition winner

Guido Fawkes frequently does caption competitions and the winner of his most recent one, from a poster with the handle "bannedbyTelegraph," was a cracker:

"Clowns accuse Labour leadership of giving them a bad name"

Music to relax after campaigning: Andy Williams, Theme from Love Story

Valentine's Day edition of the "Music to relax after campaigning" series


Quote of the day for St Valentine's Day, 14th February 2017


Monday, February 13, 2017

Copeland By-Election Hustings

Congratulations to Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison on a great performance at the Copeland by-election hustings at the United Reformed Church in the Market Place at Whitehaven this evening.

Thanks to the Whitehaven News for posting this recording of the event on their Facebook Page:


IS, "Islamic State" or DA'ESH?

Periodically there is an argument about what to call the terrorist organisation headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, hence this revisit of an issue I first blogged about just over a year ago.

Like myself, Iain Dale always calls them DA'ESH and he gives a good and simple reason for doing so here.

In my opinion a useful starting point in deciding what to call the present-day gang of murderers headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is to consider what we call the mid 20th-century gang of murderers headed by Adolf Hitler. I never lightly refer to anyone by comparison with Hitler, but DA'ESH are one of the few groups of people evil enough that the comparison is appropriate.

If you have occasion to refer to the political party headed by Hitler, or to its' supporters, do you call them

1) By their official name translated into English
 (National Socialist German Workers Party)?

2) By their official name in German?
(Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

3) By the acronym of their party's full name in German?  (NSDAP)

4) Or are you one of the 99% of people who refer to them collectively the Nazi party and individually as Nazis ?

Nazi is a short, simple acronym derived from the name they claimed for themselves and which has the added advantage for English speakers who regard them as utterly evil that it sounds like "nasty."

On the basis of logical consistency, if you call the Nazi party by that term rather than the full name they gave themselves, then you should refer to the so-called "Islamic State" as "DA'ESH" which is a name widely used by their enemies in the Arab world and more recently some Western politicians and journalists (I've been calling them that for about 18 months.)

Although the self-styled "Islamic state" do not like being referred to by the term, DA'ESH is an abbreviation of the Arabic for what was, at the time the term was coined, the name they gave themselves:

"al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham"

(which means "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant")

So effectively calling them "DA'ESH" is the Arabic equivalent of the abbreviation "ISIL."

Why, then, such a fuss over such a tiny difference?

It would appear that the reason they do not like being called "DA'ESH" is that it sounds similar to the Arabic words 'Daes', which means 'one who crushes something underfoot' and 'Dahes', translated as 'one who sows discord'.

As Iain Dale said in the clip linked to above, the fact that DA'ESH do not like being called this is quite enough reason to do so.

Incidentally, I am not criticising those who refer to DA'ESH as "Islamic State" but insist on the  inverted commas or "so-called." And insisting on the qualification does not necessarily mean that you are suggesting they have nothing to do with Islam.

I would argue that DA'ESH are following a sick and perverted form of that religion, but there are plenty of other Muslims who are civilised, decent and intelligent people.

However, DA'ESH claim the right to determine who is a true Muslim, and they consider that any Muslim who votes or stands in elections, thinks women have rights and are as valuable as men, doesn't believe in throwing gay people off the nearest tall building, or offends DA'ESH in any other way is an apostate marked for death.

As someone who is not a Muslim I do not claim the right to judge who is and who isn't one.

However, as a civilised human being I refuse to acknowledge a barbarian like Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as having the exclusive authority to speak for Allah which he claims, or accept that he has any right  to tell other people who are far better human beings than he is whether they are Muslims or not.

Most people know who you are talking or writing about when you refer to "DA'ESH" and I will continue to do so.

Quote of the day 13th February 2017




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Tonight's Keswick hustings

I thought Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison gave an excellent performance at tonight's hustings in St John's Church, Keswick.

If you are thinking to yourself that I would say that, wouldn't I, the event was captured by the Cumbria Newspaper group on video and you can watch it for yourself and make you own mind up at

 http://www.nwemail.co.uk/news/VIDEO-Copeland-by-election-candidates-grilled-by-the-public-fd6663d9-47e1-497c-9efc-03e23aa66a35-ds

Sunday music spot: Hallelujah Chorus

I am keeping my fingers crossed that I may have cause to post this again in just over eleven days' time ...





Copeland by election hustings

The candidates in the Copeland By Election had a debate on the NE & Cumbria Sunday politics show which was recorded at the Beacon on Wednesday and broadcast at 11.30 today.

There will be two hustings sessions over the next two days to which all the candidates have been invited.

The first is at St John's Church, Keswick at 7pm this evening and the second is at the United Reformed Church, in Whitehaven's Market Place at 7.30pm tomorrow (Monday 13th February)

Superb Article by Dan Hodges on the PM's negotiating position on Brexit

Theresa May is determined to implement the public's decision on Brexit and to get the best deal she can for the UK while doing so.
 
But she is not, and never has been, one of those on either side who takes a rigid ideological line on the issue.
 
There is an excellent article in the Mail by Dan Hodges on the subject. Here are some extracts:
 
 
"There was no triumphalism in No.10. Instead, the events of last week are being seen as a victory born of necessity, rather than ideology.
 
"May is perplexed at suddenly finding herself the darling of Eurosceptics. Speaking to her inner circle before a meeting with leading Tory rebels, she remarked: ‘I don’t understand it. I voted Remain. Why do they think I’ve suddenly become some crazed Brexiteer?’
 
"Those who have become fixated by her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ mantra, forget that Brexit did not always mean Brexit to May. 
 
Indeed, her ambiguity on the matter prior to the referendum infuriated David Cameron, who told his staff he believed she was working the political angles on the issue to position herself for a future leadership challenge.
 
Of course, if that was her strategy, it succeeded spectacularly. But the reality is more complicated. May was advised by one of her chief strategists, Nick Timothy, to back Brexit for precisely the reasons outlined by Cameron. But following a long heart-to-heart with her husband Philip, she adopted a more pragmatic approach. The economic dangers, the potential impact on national security co-operation, and the practical difficulties of constructing ‘fortress Britain’ on immigration persuaded her to stick with the Government’s line.
 
It is that same pragmatism that will guide her approach to Brexit in the coming months – and that last week found her expressing exasperation at the fundamentalists from the Leave and Remain camps.
 
May privately supported a number of the principles set out in the rebel amendments. But she believed it would be disastrous for her negotiating strategy if she was seen by fellow European leaders to have suffered a series of embarrassing defeats on the issue.
 
‘If they think the House of Commons is driving the negotiating position, then Europe will just ignore her,’ an ally explained. ‘Her position throughout all this has been: “I can’t be seen to be negotiating with one hand tied behind my back.”’
 
To many observers, the bottom line for those negotiations was drawn last month when the Prime Minister set out her 12-point plan for Britain’s departure, including an end to free movement, membership of the Single Market and membership of the customs union.
 
But May retains greater flexibility than is popularly perceived. Yes, if Europe proves intransigent then she is perfectly prepared to walk away from the table, but that is not her preferred option. She has no desire to see a reversion to World Trade Organisation tariffs, for example, or to leave British business operating in a trade vacuum. ‘I’m not going to just jump off a cliff,’ she has told friends.
 
For opponents of Brexit, May’s announcement that she would trigger Article 50 by March at the latest was further evidence of intoxication through exposure to Eurosceptic Tories. But her primary concern is not of Brexit proceeding too precipitously, but at a pace that is too sluggish for the British people.
 
‘Her view is that the public wants us to just get on with this now,’ says a No. 10 insider. ‘But she’s also aware that negotiations are going to take around two years. The danger as she sees it, is that we come back and say, “Here’s the dealand people say, “What, you mean you haven’t finished this thing yet?”’
 
To May’s critics, this will all fall on deaf ears. 
 
For them the mask has finally dropped, and a true blue-in-tooth-and-claw Europhobe stands before them. They point to her attempt to block Parliament from voting on Article 50, and the protracted – if doomed – effort to contest the Gina Miller court case.

Maybe. But following the events of the past week, Remainers of all political persuasions need to do less finger-pointing, and a bit more soul-searching.
 
Regardless of the constitutional niceties, the decision to force a Commons vote on Article 50 has proved to be a catastrophic own goal by Brexit’s opponents.
 
The Leavers have been vindicated. The Labour Party – home to the bulk of the Brexit opposition – is in total disarray. Tory Remainers have been marginalised. There is now a clear parliamentary mandate for an expedient departure from the EU, one the Lords dare not challenge.
 
It is the Remainers, not the Leavers, who appear to have been attempting to defy the democratic will of the people. And crucially, May has been backed so far into a corner, she has been given no option but to make common cause with Brexit’s true believers.
 
She now needs to be freed from that corner. When the Prime Minister says: ‘I’m not a crazed Brexiteer’, she is telling the truth. Behind the negotiating stance she does not crave a hard Brexit, so much as a fair Brexit.
 
When she said in her New Year message that she would seek the ‘right deal, not just for those who voted to leave, but for every single person in this country’, she meant it. And she now needs to be given the space to deliver it.
 
Those who opposed Brexit have had their moment. They have had their day in court, and they have had their day in Parliament. They have tried – and failed – to save the country from a hard Brexit.
 
Now they need to step back and leave it to the only person who can. Theresa May.


You can read the whole article at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-4216118/DAN-HODGES-Theresa-s-way.html#ixzz4YUecHCdG

Quote of the day 12th February 2017

As today is the anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln:



Saturday, February 11, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: Grieg, Praeludium from Holberg suite


Another great campaign day for the Copeland By Election

I was campaigning in Millom today with Trudy Harrison: and yet again we had Conservatives out campaigning all over this huge constituency.

Thanks both to all those people from Copeland Constituency who turned out, those from the rest of Cumbria - we have had fantastic support from the rest of Cumbria, particularly today from Carlisle and Barrow (though all the other associations in Cumbria have helped too) and from the rest of the country - Connor Burns MP came all the way from  Bournemouth, Graham Evans MP and a strong contingent from Lancashire, while National Conservative Convention chairman Rob Semple OBE came from Yorkshire.

Here are some, but by no means all, of the Conservatives who were campaigning for Trudy Harrison today:



Part of the Millom team (left to right above) Cllr Doug Wilson (Mayor of Millom,) Copeland councillor Graham Roberts, Millom councillor Jane Micklethwaite, Rob Semple OBE, Trudy Harrison, Sophie Evans, Graham Evans MP, myself, Rob Bailey, Cllr Charles Fifield,  Sarah Roberts ...


John Stephenson MP and a strong team from Carlisle Conservatives, and others ...



Connor Burns MP and some of the team working from Egremont ...




And some of the other people who were out campaigning today

Dealing with Corruption

How serious a problem is corruption in Britain and throughout Europe?

Nobody knows for sure but the one thing we can say for certain is that there is more than is good for our society or the continent.

A report published by the European Union about corruption in the current member states (e.g. including Britain, we have not left yet) suggested that there are "breathtaking" levels of corruption in Europe (in the countries of Europe generally, not specifically in EU institutions.)

Surveys of citizens in the current 28 member states found very varied levels of personal experience of corruption - in Britain five out of 1,115 people surveyed had been personally asked to pay a bribe, which was the lowest figure in Europe, but even here more than 64% of British respondents said they thought that corruption was "widespread" in the UK.

Until comparatively recently we had a very tough code of ethics, with teeth, in local government and look at what happened to it. It had to be scrapped by the Coalition government after becoming totally discredited because far too many politicians on all sides of the political spectrum, used it to try to discredit their political opponents with petty and usually baseless allegations of unethical conduct.

I do not think there is any simple "magic wand" which we can wave to deal with corruption, but it seems to me that we need a greater degree of transparency in business, politics, national and local government. And a bit more common sense in discriminating between things people disagree with, things which should result in disciplinary action short of prosecution, and conduct which should put people in the dock. I do not think the answers are always easy but we all ought to be watching out more carefully for when things may be going wrong, and be willing to do something about it when we see something dodgy.

Fighting corruption is in all of our interests, and ultimately it is something we should all watch out for.


Quote of the day 11th February 2017

"Hear me loud and clear.

I gave birth to my four daughters at that hospital. I was born at that hospital and I look forward to being an MP in power who can work with the government to  support all services in this area."

(Trudy Harrison, Conservative candidate in the Copeland by election, makes clear her commitment to support maternity and other services at West Cumberland Hospital.)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Trudy Harrison on the need to protect services in Copeland including WCH

Trudy Harrison explains that she will fight for all local services in our area including West Cumberland Hospital and that fighting to keep jobs and prosperity in West Cumbria is the best way to do this.


Music to relax after campaigning: Mozart's Symphony no 40


Copeland by-election cardiovascular workout continues ...

If nothing else, the by-election has been great from the viewpoint of getting exercise.

Delivered another large chunk of the misleadingly named "Valley" area this evening.

Copeland Lib/Dem candidate puts forward disastrous education plan for Whitehaven

A Lib/Dem election leaflet delivered to my home today by the Royal Mail has this to say about their candidate's education plans for the Whitehaven area

"SHE WILL FIGHT FOR A SINGLE SECONDARY SCHOOL IN WHITEHAVEN"

Good Lord!

In view of her experience as a teacher in West Cumbria, I find it difficult to believe that this is a badly described expression of support for the former proposal for a new education campus in Whitehaven which was originally planned to include Mayfield School, St Benedict's School, and what was then known as Whitehaven School onto one site, but still as three distinct schools.

There is still a "Campus Whitehaven" proposal which currently only includes Mayfield and St Benedicts but not Whitehaven Academy - see report here.

If this isn't about the campus proposal, then either

a) She wants the merger of St Benedict's and Whitehaven Academy, or

c) She wants to close one of those two schools.

The students and staff at both Whitehaven Academy and St Benedict's have had quite a lot to put up with already. Trying to merge these two schools - or closing either of them - would almost certainly cost some teachers their jobs and probably further disrupt the education of the students at one or both schools.

There is the additional complication that St Benedicts and Whitehaven Academy are different types of school.

St Benedict's Catholic High School, to give it the full title, is a catholic voluntary aided school.

Whitehaven Academy is a non-denominational school which started as a grammar school, went comprehensive, and is currently an academy. Putting two schools with a distinctly different ethos together would be a high-risk strategy and any merger or closure would also inevitably reduce the degree of choice in secondary education available in the area.

The Lib/Dems do not appear to have thought this one through.

Fisking the Lib/Dem election literature in Copeland

In many parts of Britain one of the few things that Labour and Conservative councillors agree on is that the Lib/Dems in their areas are the party most prone to dirty tactics.

Up to now that has not generally been the case in West Cumbria, though it certainly is in South Lakes.

I have been campaigning all over the Copeland constituency for nearly two months now without seeing a single Lib/Dem out canvassing or delivering, with a few posts on social media the only sign they are doing anything much, but we have had freepost leaflets from them delivered by the Royal Mail, a facility offered to all candidates in parliamentary elections.

The Lib/Dems would have a long way to go to equal the amount of nonsense which Labour have put out during the Copeland by-election, particularly about the NHS, but the degree of mendacity is certainly higher than I would normally expect from Copeland Lib/Dems and I suspect the malign hand of Westmorland and Lonsdale Lib/Dems may have had something to do with this. (The Lib/Dem campaign is based in Kendal.)

So let's do a little light fisking of some of the claims about their candidate in the election communication they sent through the post today.

THEY SAY
"Rebecca lives locally"

RESPONSE:
She gives her address as being in Cockermouth, outside the constituency and about twenty minutes' drive from the main towns in Copeland constituency.


THEY SAY
"Rebecca is a local councillor"

RESPONSE
She is a Town councillor for Christchurch ward, Cockermouth, outside the Copeland constituency. This is a position to which she was elected in less than six months ago, and is not exactly "local" to Copeland.

THEY SAY
"Rebecca is leading the campaign to make the government and health bosses see sense."

RESPONSE
The claim to be involved may well be true but the claim to be "leading the campaign" is pure hyperbole. A lot of people, in all parties and none, are involved in various campaigns to protect local hospital and health services. I don't personally believe that any one individual can really claim to be leading the campaign but I can think of several people with stronger claims than the Lib/Dem candidate.


And here is something the Lib/Dems says about their candidate which is presumably true:

"SHE WILL FIGHT FOR A SINGLE SECONDARY SCHOOL IN WHITEHAVEN"

What a horrendous idea!

Either

a) She supports but has misunderstood the previous proposal for a new campus to fit Mayfield, St Benedict's, and what was then known as Whitehaven School onto one site as three distinct schools, or

b) She wants to force the merger of St Benedicts and Whitehaven Academy, or

c) She wants to close one of those two schools!

So she either completely misunderstands the current situation in Whitehaven,  or is supporting a policy which could cost teachers their jobs and further disrupt the education of Whitehaven pupils.

Dan Hannan MEP on why Protectionism never works yet is popular

Great video article by Dan Hannan on why protectionism nearly always does far more harm than good but the vested interests that get the smaller benefits are very well aware of them, yet the much larger costs of trade barriers are spread over a wide number of people and often far less visible.



Quote of the day 10th February 2017


Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Copeland by election cardiovascular workout continues ...

Out this evening delivering leaflets for Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison in the Valley area of Whitehaven.

You might think from the name that would not be too bad, but the Valley concerned is the one between Hensingham and Kells - the flat bit at the bottom has rugby pitches on it, but the houses are mostly on the sides of the valley and they are quite steep.

So up and down a lot of steps tonight.

However, it was undoubtedly good for me: arrived home tired but with a sense of another job done.

The Copeland by election cardiovascular workout continues apace ...

Music to relax after campaiging: "Adoramus" by Libera


Copeland By-Election campaign day Saturday 11th February 2017

Calling Conservative supporters:

On the penultimate Saturday of the Copeland by-election campaign we will again be using all three Conservative Clubs in the constituency as rendezvous points for campaigning.  

The main focus of activity on Saturday 11th will be in Millom where we will be joined by our excellent local candidate Trudy Harrison for canvassing and leafleting so it would be good to see as many of you as possible in Millom on Saturday.    

Egremont and Keswick Conservative clubs will also be open from 10:30 am onwards.

Egremont club will also be open from 10:00 am on Sunday.  

If anyone wishes to have a poster to display in their window etc please pop along to Egremont Conservative Club to pick one up.

Copeland By-Election - Two weeks to go

The by-election for a new MP for Copeland is two weeks today on February 23rd.

I will be backing Trudy Harrison, the Conservative candidate, who was born and has always lived in the constituency, gave birth to her four children at West Cumberland Hospital, and would be the most effective champion for our area.

I am convinced that Trudy would be the best placed of the candidates to fight to make sure we get the new nuclear power station at Moorside, to protect local infrastructure, to defend and return services to West Cumberland Hospital, Millom Community Hospital and the Mary Hewetson Cottage hospital at Keswick, particularly including consultant-led maternity and children's services at WCH.

You can read about Trudy's plan for our area at http://www.trudyharrison.co.uk/

Michael Crick from Channel 4 News was in Copeland earlier this week. He says he tried to contact all the candidates in the by-election for an interview and I do not doubt for a fraction of a second that he is telling the truth about this. Trudy and all but one of the opposition candidate were happy to talk to him and be filmed campaigning.

Yet for some reason Jeremy Corbyn's Labour candidate for Copeland didn't want to talk to Mr Crick. I wonder why?

You can watch a replay of Michael Crick's report on the Copeland By Election at

https://www.channel4.com/news/copeland-by-election-could-labour-lose

Second quote of the day

"Yet again what we get from Labour are alternative facts - what they really need is an alternative leader."

(Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday)

Quote of the day 9th February 2017


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Article 50 bill clears commons by 494 votes to 122

The bill giving the PM the power to activate Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty and thereby start the process of British exit from the EU cleared the House of Commons today by 494 votes to 122.

A large number of amendments were proposed which ranged from blatant wrecking amendments to attempts to guarantee future rights of EU nationals, but none of these were passed.

The bill now has to get through the House of Lords but this is expected to be completed in time for Article 50 to be triggered before the end of March.

The "Fleet Street Fox" is now known as "Mrs Flapjack"

Hat tip to Guido Fawkes here for pointing out that, six months ago today, Susie Boniface wrote the following in her "Fleet Street Fox" column in the Daily Mirror:



As of today the three Brexiteers, Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox are all still in their jobs without any major scandal.

I'll pass on the first two parts of Susie's invitation but she's definitely "Mrs Flapjack" from now on.

Music to relax after campaigning: Final part of Overture from "William Tell"


The Independent does a "Reverse Voltaire" on Speaker Bercow

The classic defence of free speech, usually attributed to Voltaire and certainly representative of his views, though he may not have coined the phrase, is




But can the reverse be true?

Today the Independent did a reverse Voltaire on Speaker Bercow, in that they agreed with what he said about Donald Trump but disagreed - though not quite to the death - with his right to say it.

There argument is they share his opinion of Donald Trump but consider that as impartial chairman of the House of Commons he should be more careful about how he expresses that view and, quote,

"The Speaker's sentiments were quite right, but he was wrong to express them in a fit of public political showboating."

Whatever  your opinion of President Trump, he is the elected leader of Britain's most important ally and trading partner. This does not mean that he is above criticism but it does mean that it is important that any such criticism is not presented in a way which comes over as an attack on all Americans.

The date and itinerary for President Trump's planned visit to the UK have yet to be set. It is entirely within the powers of the Speaker of the House of Commons to take a view on whether the visit should include an invitation to speak to parliament but the same constitution which gives him that power also includes conventions on how it should be exercised,

As the speaker of the House of Lords gently pointed out, John Bercow should have spoken to him and attempted to reach a consensus view of whether Trump should be invited to the parliament building, particularly as he expressed an opinion about the possibility of an invitation to speak in the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords.

I don't think I can put the issue better than the Independent did in these extracts from their article:

"Mr Bercow’s sentiments, in saying 'our opposition to racism and to sexism, and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations', were quite right. But he was wrong to express them in public in this way."

The Speaker is supposed to be an impartial and bipartisan presiding officer. He seems to have fallen victim to linguistic confusion, mistaking “speaker” for the word “spokesperson”. His job is not to speak on behalf of MPs collectively on political matters. That is why we have political parties, and a government and an opposition. The Speaker's job is to facilitate debate, not to take part in it.

"Lord Fowler, the Lords Speaker, was quite right today to admonish Mr Bercow gently for his presumption. As Lord Fowler said, invitations to foreign leaders are usually discussed by the speakers of the two houses of Parliament in an attempt to seek consensus. By expressing his personal view, Mr Bercow has short-circuited that consultation and in effect vetoed the invitation to the President."
"The objection to Mr Bercow’s showboating is not that Mr Trump will now give the Palace of Westminster a miss. It was never likely that an invitation would be issued, given the feelings of MPs and peers. The problem is that Mr Bercow has damaged the machinery of democracy because he could not resist advertising his own liberal credentials."

"The Speaker’s standing with Conservative MPs was already low, but by launching what was in effect a political attack on the Prime Minister he has forfeited any right to their respect."

"There are many people who have expressed their opposition to the idea of the President making a state visit to this country – including the 1.8 million ordinary citizens who have signed a petition to that effect. There was no need for Mr Bercow to add his signalling to this festival of virtue. All he has done is open himself to the charge of hypocrisy, as he has previously welcomed Xi Jinping, President of totalitarian China, and other authoritarian leaders to the Palace of Westminster."

Quote of the day 8th February 2017


Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: The Carnival Is Over


Helping people to find a home

The government has set out a strategy to make more affordable houses available, helping people to buy and rent.
 
The new housing strategy for England includes giving councils powers to encourage developers to start building on land they own and are using as a "land back."

Ministers also promised to make renting more "family-friendly," including offers of longer tenancies

The government says at least 250,000 new homes are needed each year to keep up with demand.
Mr Javid set out the details of the housing White Paper in a statement to MPs, with measures including:
  • Forcing councils to produce an up-to-date plan for housing demand
  • Expecting developers to avoid "low-density" housing where land availability is short
  • Encouraging the extension of buildings upwards in urban areas
  • Reducing the time allowed between planning permission and the start of building from three to two years
  • Using a £3bn fund to help smaller building firms challenge major developers, including support for off-site construction, where parts of buildings are assembled in a factory
  • A "lifetime ISA" to help first-time buyers save for a deposit
  • Maintaining protection for the green belt, which can only be built on "in exceptional circumstances"
  • Introducing banning orders "to remove the worst landlords or agents from operating"
  • Banning letting agents' fees
Starter homes, championed by former Prime Minister David Cameron, will be aimed at "households that need them most", those with combined incomes of less than £80,000, or £90,000 in London.

Starter homes are new homes built for first-time buyers between 23 and 40 years old and sold at least 20% below market value. The maximum price after the discount has been applied is £250,000 outside London and £450,000 in the capital.

Under the new proposals, starter home buyers will need a mortgage, "to stop cash buyers", and some or all of the discount will have to be repaid if the property is resold within 15 years, "to reduce the risk of speculation".

A proposal that 20% of all larger developments had to be starter homes is to be dropped and replaced with a "clear expectation" that at least 10% of developments will be "affordable home ownership units".

Many councils already include similar requirements in their district plan or LDF - we had a requirement for developments above a certain size to include a proportion of affordable homes in the St Albans plan while I was planning portfolio holder in that authority - but you have to word the requirement carefully or it can produce perverse incentives.

For example, if you are not very careful you can incentivise developers to provide the market element of housing proposals in the form of large executive houses and the affordable element in the form of one and two bedroom flats. Which is fine if that is what your area needs, but can be a problem if it results in an underprovision of homes in the middle range - for instance, if an area has a shortage of, say, three bedroom houses to buy or rent you need to ensure that your planning policies do not skew housebuilding in favour of larger and smaller units while neglecting mid-size homes.

You also have to make sure that such requirements are sufficiently carefully drafted, and consultation procedures followed carefully enough, that you are proof against legal challenges. Developers are rather prone to make such challenges to council planning policies if they are not fireproof.

We need to provide more homes or a generation of young people will be condemned to suffer housing need. I welcome the steps the government is taking.

Quote of the day 7th February 2017


Monday, February 06, 2017

Nadhim Zahawi on Trump's executive order

Before Boris Johnson secured an exemption for holders of British passports, Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, who was born in Iraq but is now a British citizen, appeared to be excluded from the USA by President Trump's executive order.

He has written a piece on Conservative Home, which is called

"I found myself banned from Trump's America: but I want his state visit to go ahead, and to tell him why he's wrong."

As a balanced piece of writing which sees both sides of the story I would commend it to a great many other people who have been taking positions on the subject.

You can read it here.

International Day for Zero Tolerance of FGM

Today is the International day for Zero Tolerance of the barbaric form of child abuse known as Female Genital Mutilation or FGM and the NHS is running an FGM prevention programme.

This disgusting practice must be treated as seriously, and punished as severely, as any other form of child abuse.  There is no "cultural" or religious justification for the practice and all civilised countries must do their best to totally eradicate it.


Quotes of the day 6th February 2017

This quote from John Stuart Mill was shared on Twitter last night.



It is a very good point and also reminded me that he made this similar and equally powerful comment:



Sunday, February 05, 2017

Healthcare in West Cumbria - what are the real issues?

We still await the publication of the "Success Regime" proposals for healthcare in West, North and East Cumbria following the consultation last year.

The consultation closed on 19th December and the Success regime stated at that time that

"The public feedback is being analysed independently by The Campaign Company, and a report is expected in early February. Work will also be carried out to assess any alternative options suggested by members of the public and community groups. Local clinicians and regional specialists also will be involved in that process.

Health leaders from across the system and NHS Cumbria CCG’s Governing Body will also spend time considering the public feedback from the consultation process.

It is expected NHS Cumbria CCG’s Governing Body will make a decision in early March, ahead of the local government elections in May."

You can still read the consultation document at

http://www.wnecumbria.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/NHS-Cumbria-doc-LoRes.pdf

Since the number of "alternative facts" (that seems to be the new way of describing false statements) being circulated during the Copeland by-election is quite unprecedented, particularly a large number of highly misleading statements by the Labour party, it is worth reiterating what is and is not actually proposed.


1) There IS a threat to consultant-led maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital

Although it is quite clear that almost nobody in West Cumbria agrees with them - certainly not ANY of the local political parties, nor any of the candidates in the election, not the local doctors, not the local midwives and not the public - the Success Regime appear to still think there is a "clinical consensus" to take away consultant-led maternity from WCH.

This view appears to have been formed by listening to the doctors based at Carlisle and ignoring those based in West Cumbria. I cannot understand how anyone who is paying attention to what the doctors based at West Cumberland Hospital say could think that there is any sort of clinical consensus for the Success Regime's preferred option in the recent consultation.

If the Success Regime stick to their guns when they publish their proposals, then whoever wins the Copeland By-Election will have to lead a campaign to save consultant-led maternity at WCH.

There is no doubt in my mind that all the candidates would do this. The question which then becomes pertinent is which candidate would have most influence over the government in fighting to save our maternity services. Here is a clue: I don't think it is the one who has been attacking the Prime Minister and misrepresenting her views.


2) There IS a threat to children's services

At least for maternity services the "Option one" proposal is acceptable, though the Success regime has a preferred option (e.g. option two) which would not be.

However for children's services none of the options look palatable and all of them would downgrade the service. This definitely will need to be challenged.


3) However, NOBODY is planning to close Accident and Emergency at WCH

Contrary to the misleading propaganda being put round by certain candidates and parties in the current by-election, particularly the Labour party, nobody is proposing to close the Accident and Emergency department at West Cumberland Hospital.

The preferred option put forward by the Success Regime would maintain 24 hour cover in the Accident and Emergency department at WCH. I don't know of anyone at all who supports the options in the consultation which would not do so.

Under the "preferred option" proposals there would be a 24/7 A&E at West Cumberland Hospital along with acute medical inpatient services and rehabilitation. There would also be an intensive care unit although some of the most seriously ill patients would be transferred to Carlisle if it was felt they would benefit from the extra support available there.

There is a proposal to develop a specialist Stroke centre at Carlisle, but anyone in West Cumbria who suffered a stroke and needed emergency care would receive it from the Accident and Emergency department at WCH first, although they might then be transferred to Carlisle when stabilised.


4) It is proposed to INCREASE the number of beds at Keswick, not cut them

Some election material is being circulated by certain parties suggesting that it is planned to remove inpatient beds from the Mary Hewetson Cottage Hospital in Keswick.

In fact the Success Regime's preferred option for Community Hospitals and two of the other three options would increase the number of beds at Keswick from 12 to 16. I am not aware that anyone is supporting the option which would remove beds from Keswick - the "Success Regime" certainly isn't and none of the political parties or candidates in the by-election support that option.


There are plenty of serious issues affecting local hospitals in West Cumbria. What a shame that certain politicians seem determined to mislead and scare people by making up extra threats on top of the real ones.

Music to relax after campaigning: The flocks shall leave the mountain

This beautiful musical depiction of the eternal triangle comes from Handel's "Acis and Galatea"



The story begins as a romantic duet, as Acis the shepherd, and the nymph, Galatea, are singing of their love. Unfortunately the monstrous giant Polyphemus who had imagined himself a suitor for Galatea's love discovers them together and is not pleased ...





Disintegration of the persistence of memory

I had to use chip PIN this morning for a card I can usually use contactless for. I had a moment's fear that the PIN might have escaped my memory but no, it popped into my head even as the muscle memory in my fingers typed it into the keypad.

I think I'm far better at remembering passwords and PINs in my head in my mid fifties than I was in my twenties - which is just as well since I have to remember a four digit PIN code for each credit and debit card I have and for my work passcard to get into the office, not one but two eight digit codes to get into my computer, not to mention those for email accounts, Parentmail, social media etc ...

What I don't understand is, given that I can remember an astonishing variety of PINs and passwords, and am better at memorising slabs of ritual lasting up to four or five pages than I was ten years ago, why is it often so annoyingly difficult to remember where I have put my wallet, keys or mobile phone? 

Quote of the day 5th February 2017


Saturday, February 04, 2017

Stephen Daisley on the ugly side of Scottish nationalism

There are good people and bullies in every political party. Nothing I am about to write is meant to imply either that the Conservative party or any other has a monopoly of virtue or that there are not people in the SNP who are nice people or genuine democrats.

The propensity, and apparent increase in that propensity, of a large number of people throughout the political spectrum to regard anyone who has a different political perspective with total contempt is probably the most worrying development of our generation.

Incidentally, that is the reason why, although I still think that leaving the European Union will do more harm than good, I also believe that failing to respect the decision to leave taken by the people in the referendum on 23rd June would be an outright catastrophe. A breach of faith of such magnitude would enormously increase the degree of distrust and anger towards people of different views, and inject such a dose of poison and suspicion into British politics that the functioning of democracy in this country would be crippled.

But although the extent of contempt for anyone with different views is more widespread than I like in all the British political parties, it is within a significant chunk of Scottish Nationalist supporters that it most worries me.

Stephen Daisley, who was digital politics and comment editor at STV until he left the company last month following a campaign against him by SNP politicians, has written an article today which you can find here about the way the authoritarian tendency within the SNP are using bullying and threats to try to silence anyone who disagrees with them.

Here are a few of extracts:

"There is now in Scotland a Nationalist nomenklatura of true believers and latter-day converts, sincere and cynical alike. They are united in their support for independence and the 24-Hour Grievance Hotline that passes for a government at Holyrood. In return, they benefit from a revolving door between nationalist politicking and prominent positions in business, the public sector, media and NGOs. Across Civic Society those politically out-of-step are pressured, cajoled and harassed, not only by government but by its boosters in these sectors.
 
Last month, a senior NHS bureaucrat launched an astonishing public attack on a journalist, calling him “disgusting” and accusing him of “trying to deflect from the NHS humanitarian disaster over the border”. His crime? He reported on the 1,700 Scots whose operations were cancelled in 2016.
 
Other journalists have hardly fared better. When Alex Salmond stood down as First Minister after his referendum drubbing, the Mail, Express and Telegraph were banned from his final press conference. The Guardian refused to send a correspondent after Salmond’s office insisted on choosing which one. The sensitive wee soul even admits to calling the editor of this newspaper" (e.g. the Daily Mail, in which the article first appeared) "over a reporter’s tweet, though nothing will surpass the open letter he penned denouncing his own biographer."
 
"It’s bad enough that the Nationalists champion obscure cranks peddling conspiracy theories about the BBC. That they also busy themselves bullying dissenting voices in the professoriate is more alarming. When the principal of St Andrews University voiced fears about research funding after independence, Alex Salmond’s spin doctors drafted a retraction praising the SNP government and demanded she sign it. The then First Minister even telephoned the academic and treated her to a “loud and heated” call.
 
SNP minister Shona Robison complained to Dundee University when a respected history professor spoke at a Better Together event while our friend Mr Nicolson asked bosses at Birbeck College to give a psychology lecturer “a little extra markingafter she criticised him on Twitter."
 
"Nationalism is an all-consuming worldview. A conservative can accept the need for change and still be a conservative, a socialist that class alone doesn’t explain all injustices and still be a socialist. A nationalist must subordinate all things to “the restoration of Scottish sovereignty” or forfeit their place in the tribe. Under this most barren of ideologies there is only national pride and nothing else. Independence is always the answer because nationalists spend so little time thinking about any other question."
 
"Having co-opted so much of the third sector, academia, and some of the best and worst of Scottish journalism, they want it all and they want it waving flags. And when you can’t do that, when you have to point out their mistakes or remind them that nationalism is not sanctified by some cant about social justice, you must be destroyed, anathematised, made an example of."