Monday, August 21, 2017

Ex- Hurricange Gert doesn't seem to have been as bad as was feared ..

After being downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, Gert has been something of a damp squib, which I dare say most people will be grateful for.

There has been some rain in Northern parts and will be more over the next 36 hours or so but basically what was one a ferocious storm has arrived in Britain as not much more than a slow moving area of low pressure.

Monday music spot: Simon And Garfunkel, "The Sound Of Silence"

Quote of the day 21st August 2017

As Cumbria is expected to get some filthy weather today from Storm Gert, I thought this quote was appropriate ...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday music spot: Haydn- Insanae Et Vanae Curae

After a day of techno-hell trying to sort out various problems with my computers and electronic devices I need some "hard stuff" to get me to relax, and as I don't drink alcohol the nearest equivalent of a strong dose of whisky was a piece of powerful music such as Haydn's musical masterpiece.

As I have previously posted, the lyrics can be roughly translated into English as follows:

"A crazed and hopeless passion invades our minds,
Again and again madness fills our hearts and robs us of hope."

"How can it profit you, O mortal, to seek for earthly riches but take no thought of Heaven?"

"Yet if God is for you, all things are possible for you."

This magnificent recording is by the choir of St John's Cambridge.

Bad weather warning - Storm Gert expected to hit Cumbria tomorrow

The tail end of tropical storm Gert is expected to hit the UK tomorrow (Monday 21st August) and there was at one point some concern among the relevant authorities that it might cause problems such as flooding.

Teams of officers from various authorities have been discussing how serious a problem this is likely to be, and making sure appropriate measures are in place to deal with any issues.

The current expectation is that

1) Prolonged rainfall is expected across Cumbria from 2pm to 9pm on Monday with some localised intensity.
 2) High ground figures of expected levels of rainfall are circa 50mm on Monday afternoon and 40mm at lower levels. (This is a rather less than was expected last week)
3) This may trigger several Flood Alerts and worst case scenario (Environment Agency modelling) 1 Flood Warning for the lower Eden. We’ll know more on this by Monday morning.
4)  The Environment Agency are engaging with communities in higher risk areas such as Glenridding and the Kendal area.
The EA are using social media (tweets) to reassure the public. CCC will re-tweet their messages in order to ensure consistency
Summary - expect an afternoon of filthy weather tomorrow if you are in Cumbria or the North of England but it looks less likely than it did earlier that there will be serious flooding. Emergency services and other relevant authorities have been asked by the Environment Agency to remain on standby in case that situation changes.

Quote of the day 20th August 2017

"I think we should just ignore Doctor Mengele over there."

(Response by one colleague when Lord Danny Finkelstein, who is Jewish, suggested in a discussion on education policy that "the natural ability of pupils might differ" as described in an article in The Times this week by Lord Finkelstein.

For the avoidance of doubt I am quoting this not with approval but as an illustration of the degree of venom some people are willing to use to try to shut down the expression of a viewpoint they disagree with.)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sir Bruce Forsythe RIP

Bruce Forsythe, who has died at the age of 89, was a great entertainer with a remarkable stamina, a great sense of fun and who was capable of enormous empathy.

He will be missed.

Rest in Peace

Back from holiday

I have just returned from a short family holiday on the Norfolk Broads.

Working through the long list of post and emails items sent while I was away. Will try to get back to people as soon as possible.

Music Spot :The Barron Knights parody top of the pops and MASH

To finish off what has become and informal "Barron Knights" week ...

In the 1980's spoof below the Barron knights first sang a parody of "Top of the Pops" and then for the "Number One" spoofed the theme tune of the contemporary comedy "MASH," which was about a US Army field hospital in Vietnam, as the "Masochistic and Sadistic Hospital Song" about the NHS.

There are a certain number of contemporary "in jokes" in this clip which cannot be explained without ruining them but most alert people should get most of the jokes.

For the avoidance of doubt I have posted this because it is funny and no endorsement or statement of any political view whatsoever is intended by doing so.

Quote of the day 19th August 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday music spot: Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band sing "Love Divine"

Maddy Prior, who sings with Steeleye Span, is here with her other group, the Carnival Band, singing the familiar hymn "Love Divine" to an older tune. Unless my memory is playing tricks on me this music was written by Henry Purcell as "Fairest Isle."

Quote of the day 13th August 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

Climate change and free speech

Lord Lawson and Brian Cox are both highly intelligent men.

The former ought to know better than to dismiss the evidence for the impact of human activity on the climate as lightly as he does.

The latter ought to know better than to attack the BBC for allowing Nigel Lawson to express that view on Radio 4. in the manner that he did

You do not win arguments by claiming that the other side does not have one and should not have the right to a platform, no matter how strongly you believe - possibly correctly - that the evidence is overwhelmingly on your side.

Quote of the day 11th August 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

More doctors and nurses to be trained

About time too!

This ought to have been done fifteen years ago but it is very welcome that it is finally happening.

Don't lose your vote

If you want to be able to vote in any elections , scheduled or otherwise, over the period of the next electoral register, don't forget to register to vote.

Copeland Borough Council sent out the registration form this week and other local authorities will be doing the same about now.

I certainly never imagined when I registered this time last year that there would be two parliamentary elections - a by-election and a general election - to vote for in the period covered by that registration.

Quote of the day 10th August 2017

I think Google could think about this one too ...

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tuesday music spot: Handel's Chandos Anthem No.9

The movements of this mini-oratorio are

1. O praise the Lord with one consent
2. Praise him, all ye that in his house attend
3. For this our truest interest is
4. That God is great
5. With cheerful notes let all the earth
6. God´s tender mercy knows no bounds
7. Ye boundless realms of joy
8. Your voices raise, ye cherubim

Most people will find the recurring theme of the first movement rather more than slightly reminiscent of the first line of "O God our help in Ages past" ...

Still fighting the last battle ...

It's evidently a slow news day. Some pro-remain papers had a retrospective go at the Leave campaign this morning over their exaggerated claim during the referendum last year that the UK sends £350 million a week to the EU.

Not to be outdone, the BBC fact checkers had a go at both sides, saying,

"EU Cost: why £350 million and £156 million per week are both wrong."

The BBC is right to say that we do not "send to Brussels" either of these figures in the sense that the former is the approximate value of a purely notional gross contribution, and Maggie Thatcher's rebate is deducted before anything is paid.

£156 million a weeks was the net contribution - Britain actually sent £252 million a week to the EU in 2016 but received back £96 million of EU spending in the UK.

The net contribution is a far more representative measure of the net cost to the UK of payments to the EU than a notional gross contribution millions of pounds of which was never actually paid, but if you are going to nit-pick over the exact words used the amount we "sent to Brussels" was the actual gross contribution e.g. £252 million a week.

But come on guys, the referendum was more than a year ago.

And since then we have had a general election in which the two main parties standing on a platform of implementing Brexit increased their share of the vote and got well over 80% of votes and seats between them, while the anti-Brexit parties (the Lib/Dems and SNP) both did very badly.

Isn't it high time for both sides to stop fighting the last battle and concentrate on making the best of the present situation?

Whether we like it or not Brexit is going to happen.

I don't, but as a democrat I respect the decision of the electorate.

Let's try to get the best and fairest deal for everyone on both sides that we can.

Diversity, sexism, and the need for open discussion

Many issues are too complex to have a perfect solution, but there is almost no case where you get towards a better one if you penalise people for expressing a view about them which you think is wrong.

Even if that view really is wrong, the resentment you create if you make martyrs of those who express it - and the risk to honest debate if people keep their heads down on consequence - does more harm than good.

It appears to be just as well for one of the regular posters on the comments threads of this blog that he works for Sellafield rather than Google, since one employee writing a memo expressing what were labelled as "anti-diversity" views at the latter organisation on issues like the gender pay gap appeared to have caused quite a furore at Google.

Personally I do think that racial and gender inequality exist, as does the gender pay gap (though it is also estimated in Britain that it is as low as it has ever been and is reducing) and that we ought to find positive and constructive ways of reducing them. Nor do I agree with every word in the controversial memo, far from it.

However I take the author at his word when he wrote

"I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group "

In a healthy organisation or society people who in a polite and constructive way express even highly controversial views should absolutely not be penalised for it.

Quote of the day 8th August 2017

"If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem."

(James Damore, extract from the controversial memo which caused a stir at Google)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Useful Idiots

Both communism and fascism have destroyed the lives of millions of people and turned entire countries into giant prison camps.

In a free society we are entitled to hold, and express within the law, any opinions we wish, but anyone who uses the liberty of a free society to express support for authoritarian tyrannies whether of right or left casts doubt on their judgement.

The vast majority of people would have no truck with fascism or nazism and would regard support for either as putting the person who expresses such support outside the pale. Yet a surprisingly large proportion of those who - rightly - condemn fascist or Nazi regimes and their sympathisers do not express the same condemnation of Marxism or communism.

This is astonishing given that avowedly communist or Marxist regimes have been responsible for crimes which have destroyed even more millions of innocent lives than Nazi and fascist regimes.

Lenin is reported to have described those in the West who supported the propaganda of his regime as "useful idiots" and there have been a long history of people who have allowed themselves to be duped by far-left regimes, governments which claimed to follow idealistic policies but which left a string of ruined countries, shattered lives and murdered opponents.

Oliver Kamm on CAPEX has an excellent article at

which chronicles the story of some of these "useful idiots" and notes that Jeremy Corbyn's support for the disastrous regime in Venezuela is the latest in a long line of people who have given uncritical support to dire hard-left governments our of a wish to believe that hard-left policies can succeed.

The corruption and incompetence of previous governments in Venezuela had previously been very damaging but the history of the Chavez and Madura regimes demonstrates that hard-left policies were no solution and that in the medium and longer term only made matters much worse. Chavez is still popular with some people in Venezuela because he managed to die before most of his chickens came home to roost. Maduro is continuing the same economic policies which have manifestly failed while effectively trying to abolish democracy to cling to power.

History will not be kind to either. Nor will the wise be impressed by those who held up Venezuelan socialism as a model for Britain to follow.

Sunday music spot: William Byrd's "Ave verum corpus" sung by The Sixteen

Quote of the day 6th August 2017

"Success is like an Iceberg" (Wright Thurston)

Friday, August 04, 2017

Friday music spot: "Ghost Riders in the Sky" (Johnny Cash)

From Johnny Cash's album "Silver."

The painting is called "The wild hunt: Åsgårdsreien" by Peter Nicolai Arbo. This song was written by Stan Jones on 5 May 1948. It was originally recorded by Burl Ives on 17 February 1949.

Quote of the day 4th August 2017

One thing Nehru and Churchill agreed about (WSC, of course, is responsible for a very similar quote.)

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Music spot: Steeleye Span "Somewhere Along The Road"

Ken Haywood RIP

I have just learned that my former friend and colleague Honorary Alderman Ken Haywood has died at the age of 91.

Most readers of this blog in Cumbria and the North West will not have heard of Ken but if I have any readers in St Albans or indeed in Hertfordshire they will almost certainly remember him.

During his twenty years as a member of the Council of the City and District of St Albans Ken was Mayor of St Albans in 1982/3 and again in 1988/9, and he was leader of the council in 1990-1

He was my immediate predecessor as leader of the Conservative group on the council and also served a term on Hertfordshire county council - he was in fact my county councillor from 1989 to 1993.

Ken was a dedicated public servant with an eye for getting to the heart of the matter and he had a number of favourite expressions for concentrating on the big items and not getting so hung up on minor details that you forget the more important ones.

"Fish where the fish are" was one of those expressions, and another, referring to what takes up most of the costs of local government, was "costs walk in on two legs."

You probably would not get away with that latter comment today but back in the eighties and nineties someone like Ken could say it without meaning or causing offence. 

Ken Haywood worked hard for his constituents, was a loyal friend, had a good sense of humour and was a sympathetic and patient listener, and I will miss him.

He is survived by a widow, June, and a son and daughter-in-law, David and Cathy.

Usual Obituary rules apply to this post.

Rest in Peace.

A Canadian perspective on their form of constitutional monarchy

I stumbled by chance on a fascinating piece in a Canadian paper which you can read  here describing the form of constitutional monarchy in those Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia where the Queen is their head of state as a "fluke work of genius."

I don't think you could ever plan for such a model - hence the valid reference to a fluke - but it makes a most interesting point.

Quote of the day 3rd August 2017

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Midweek music spot: Dixit Dominus (first chorus) by Handel

A thank you to HRH Prince Philip

HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, carried out his final public duties today in a career of public service which has lasted by my count for nearly seventy eight years - since he joined the Royal Navy early in World War II.

His naval career was impressive and it is not entirely beyond the bounds of possibility that if he had not married the Queen he might still have become an Admiral of the Fleet by working his way up to the job as his grandfather and uncle did.

After his marriage to the Queen, he has spent sixty years, well into his nineties, carrying out a punishing schedule of royal engagements.

We owe him our thanks for all his work on the nation's behalf, for his untiring support to his wife, and our good wishes for a happy retirement.

The silly season - or not

My first reaction to the Times front page with the headline

"Labour MPs urge Corbyn to condemn Venezuela"

was to laugh uproariously and think "The silly season is off to a good start."

My second thoughts was that actually the situation in Venezuela is too sad to be funny. More than a hundred and twenty people have died in riots over the past four months as the economy becomes a basket case.

What should be one of the richest countries in Latin America is spiralling down into collapse.

CNN reports, "Venezuela is running out of food. Hospitals are overcrowded with sick children while doctors don't have enough medicine or X-ray machines. Electricity isn't guaranteed. About the only thing Venezuela has in abundance is chaos."

As that well known right-wing newspaper The Guardian (irony warning) commented after a disputed election for a constituent assembly,

'The European Union has condemned “the excessive and disproportionate use of force by security forces” and said it had serious doubts whether the election could be recognised. On Wednesday, one of the companies who worked on the voting system for Venezuela’s constituent assembly election said it believed results were inflated by at least 1m votes.'

Since the vote, Maduro’s government has continued to arrest representatives of the country’s beaten-down opposition.

It would be oversimplistic to blame everything which has gone wrong in Venezuela on Hugo Chavez or socialism, and this more nuanced account argues for a broader view but it is beyond dispute that the present socialist government which Jeremy Corbyn praised to the skies has catastrophically failed to resolve the country's problems and is resorting to increasingly authoritarian and dictatorial measures to try to hold on to power.

Even many of those socialists who used to praise the Chavez and Maduro regimes have, like  Asa Cusack in a mea cupla in the Guardian, changed their minds.

Of course, the left are on a hiding to nothing. If they condemn the Maduro regime, we will be reminded that they used to support policies - and advocate them here in Britain - which have contributed to complete catastrophe in Venezuela. If they don't, their silence about the dictatorial and brutal methods used by the Maduro regime will be all the more deafening.

Quote of the day 2nd August 2017