When I worked at Sellafield in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the threat to our country’s security from Russia was taken very seriously.

I visited Russia in 1984 and had to obtain permission from our security department. I was briefed beforehand and attended a debrief afterwards.

It all seems a world away from the leave-well-alone approach to Russian interference from successive Tory governments over the last ten years.

The Russian Report by the Intelligence and Security Committee was published on Tuesday morning and was damning. No wonder Johnson was holding it back; he must have something to hide.

When our democracy is threatened by a foreign power, we might expect our government to take an interest and do something about it. Not so the Conservatives who operate on the basis of see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, of donors especially. The Conservatives benefit from donations from Russian oligarchs living in this country. No-one survives as an oligarch without Putin’s say-so. No wonder Johnson made every effort not to publish, particularly before the 2019 election.

Don’t look overseas for corruption, it is all around us here.

We simply do not know whether Russian interference made the Scottish Referendum in 2014 closer than it would have otherwise been, and whether it swung the Brexit referendum of 2016 in favour of leaving the EU, and increased the swing to the Conservatives in 2019. There must be doubts about all these results.

Putin’s objective is to weaken the West and he is succeeding.

The Committee recommends an inquiry and we must have one.



Put service before self

I COMMEND the contrast of opinion in last week’s Times & Star. The pertinent honesty of Mr Fawcett relating to Labour’s propping up an unelected Conservative administration on Allerdale Borough Council pointedly conflicted with the exposition of Mr Grisdale crying into his beer.

It was not so much Mr Grisdale’s personal criticism of myself (which was both factually wrong and hypocritical in the extreme), but his first mistake was that support for Coun Janet King to remain mayor until May 2021 was not solely from Independents – one of his colleagues, Labour councillor Barbara Cannon, endorsed the proposal and cited Coun Joan Minto as a precedent.

At the last AGM of the town council in 2019, it had been decided amongst non-Labour councillors that, due to the totally destructive nature and abuse from Labour councillors, we should have committees comprised solely of Independent councillors. It was time for fresh faces and fresh ideas and the attitude of some Labour councillors indicated that they considered themselves to be an obstruction against any proposal that was to be brought forward.

What has happened since indicates that the Independents were not wrong in this assumption. Without the obstruction of Labour town councillors new ideas have been brought forward and the town of Workington is now poised for new successes and innovation come the defeat of this wretched Covid-19.

Finally, in contrast to the whingeing and whining of a disconsolate Labour member who has known nothing but electoral defeat, we read last week’s politics column where Coun Paul Scott displays to the people of Workington the way forward. Work together, put the people first, put in abeyance the political sniping, create a Rainbow Alliance – what a great vision this is.

Let us go forward together using all our local talents. Forget political parties and groups. It is to the benefit of the people of West Cumbria that we should dedicate our energies and imagination. People before politics. Service before self.

Of course, it would take all people of all persuasions for this vision to become reality.



Family mementos

A bit of a long shot. In the mid-1980s all our family photos were in a large light brown softish leather suitcase with straps and buckles. Because of renovation they were given to a family friend for safekeeping but sadly all were lost.

Their house was in Lorton Avenue, I think.

If anyone has ever found, has, or knows where they are I would be eternally grateful. The suitcase may have a name inside, Muriel McClymont.

Thank you.


By email

Ease up on the gloom, gents

E.R.Thwaites and G.S.Fawcett are disillusioned with our local and national politicians (Times & Star letters, July 17).

There are no perfect people amongst those named and vilified, just upstanding representatives doing their best in a crisis we have not experienced in modern times. Knocking down our elected decision-makers is pretty dumb don’t you think?

We protest with bended knee, the elbow has replaced the handshake, what we do with our words has great potential or harm. Constructive criticism yes, but no venom please. The stones we throw at others will only weigh us down.

We didn’t choose this pandemic but we can choose how we respond.

It’s a risky business crossing a desert we haven’t crossed before – we might all die of thirst. Politicians coming together as a team concentrates the mind on everyone’s survival.

We all have so much to be thankful for, so let’s ease up on the gloom.



See, Hear, Respond

We are all aware that the current coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on everyone in our society, with the most vulnerable being exposed to even more risk. Worryingly, thousands of children are in danger of being left behind if their needs are not met.

The pandemic has meant that vulnerable children and young people are increasingly hidden from support services. But with the help of a £7m package of support from the Department for Education, Barnardo’s is bringing together a coalition of national and local charities to support those most at risk at this time of crisis.

Barnardo’s is proud to be managing the See, Hear, Respond response centre. Through our telephone referral service, we will refer any concerns about a vulnerable child raised to the local partner agency best-placed to help.

Support will include an online hub of information, online counselling and therapy, face-to-face support for those most affected and at risk of some of today’s most pertinent issues. There is also help for children and young people to reintegrate back into school.

The new service will see the collective of charities working alongside other community-based organisations, local authorities, schools, colleges, police forces and healthcare professionals – all pulling together to provide solutions to the challenges facing children and families that may have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The programme will focus on reaching out to children around the country who are experiencing negative impacts on their health and wellbeing, as well as those at risk of harm.

Helplines are open from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday; 10am-6pm at weekends. Readers can call 0800 157 7015 to make a referral or go to barnardos.org.uk/see-hear-respond to find out more.

As we all continue to navigate the coronavirus and its aftermath, this support will help us to ensure that those children across the North West who are most at risk have access to a lifeline and do not fall through the cracks.


Barnardo’s North Regional Director