Whitehaven News column – 20th March 2014

To boldly go…

Project Space Eye update. You’ll remember in last week’s column I praised the pupils of West Lakes Academy for having the audacity to send a balloon into space so that they could take photos of the Earth. Local company REACT Engineering was behind the venture – demonstrating again what can be achieved when local companies and local schools work in partnership. To cut a long story short; the software failed and the pictures weren’t captured. Typically, Project Space Eye – in the style of NASA – has not let this hiccup dent their ambitions. Equipped with new cameras, Project Space Eye will go again. Real thanks have to go to Nuclear Management Partners (and Gary McKeating in particular) who spotted the plight of Project Space Eye on social-media and stepped in with the necessary funding to make the re-launch a reality.

Welfare for the Wealthy

Millionaires have done well out of this government, for them the tax cuts have been generous as 500,000 people have been forced to use Foodbanks and hundreds of thousands of children have been forced into poverty and the bedroom tax has caused misery for hundreds of people in Copeland and thousands across the country. But when it isn’t attacking the ‘benefits culture’ of those struggling to get along,  the government is busily creating a new benefits culture for some of the very wealthiest in our country. Want to buy a house up to the value of £600,000? No problem, the government will help you with a mortgage for that amount. Does your household earn £300,000 per year? Great. Provided you don’t earn over that amount, the government will now subsidise your child care. It beggars belief.

As Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria County Council continue to suffer from government cuts – whilst the councils of many government ministers aren’t seeing these cuts – the wealthiest are making out like bandits. Altogether now, if you live in Copeland, if your home is worth £600,000 and your household earns £300,000 per year, please raise your hand…

Meanwhile, if you live in the wealthiest parts of London and fancy using public money to fund an au pair, you’re quids in.

Tony Benn

Tributes from across the political spectrum have poured in for Tony Benn following his death last week. A hero for many, a hate figure for some, Benn’s life was a remarkable one, and like the late Baroness Thatcher, an equally divisive figure. My first encounter with Tony Benn was during my first week as a Member of Parliament when I found him sleeping in the House of Commons library. It was early morning when I saw him, and I don’t know how many hours he had been there for. No longer a Member of Parliament at the time, he was still committed to the power of politics to make our country a better place. A lesson for us all.

Of course, some years earlier, as Secretary of State for Energy, he had mobilized the army against striking Sellafield workers. That wouldn’t happen these days – apart from anything else, we don’t have enough soldiers…
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