Monday, May 04, 2015

Good luck to all Liberal Democrats


I shall be away in Liverpool for the next three days with my day job. I don't know how much blogging I shall be able to do, but will be around on Twitter.

Because of this, my mother's frailty and my own slightly dodgy health recently, I have not been as active in this election campaign as I would have liked.

So let me take this chance to wish all Liberal Democrat candidates and activists the very best of luck on Thursday.

As to what happens afterwards... let us remember the most important rules of Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine Club: "To be true to each other whatever happens."

Harborough's Labour candidate backed the death penalty

The other day, when it was revealed that Ukip's candidate for Harborough had spent part of the campaign on holiday in Florida, Labour's candidate Sundip Meghani was outraged:
"Standing for election to the House of Commons is not a joke or something you do in your spare time. "... It is a disgrace."
I suggested when the story broke that Meghani was being ungrateful. Let me explain why.

Meghani first came to this blog's notice as one of two Leicester Labour councillors to back the death penalty.

He said in August 2011:
It's a complicated issue but I'm in favour of capital punishment in some circumstances. I think it may be wrong to restrict the death penalty solely to the murderers of children and police, because that gives some lives more value than others. But multiple killers should be eligible for execution."
I doubt that went down well in Labour circles, but Meghani and Barbara Potter did find one supporter in Leicester Mercury:
Isn't it refreshing that two elected Labour councillors can express an opinion? Well obviously not? 
I thought the days of Comrade Blair were long gone but obviously they haven't. 
As a Conservative voter at the last election I applaud Labour Councillors Meghani and Potter for their honest and forthright opinions. 
How can the Labour Party discipline councillors who are closer to the electorate than they ever will be for expressing an opinion (Mercury, September 7)? 
I am a firm believer that the death penalty is a solution to serious crimes and the weak Liberal Democrats are not helping this country with their wet human rights attitude. 
Mark Hunt, Oadby
And the writer of that letter must surely be the Mark Hunt who is fighting Harborough for Ukip (when he is not on holiday in Florida.

I wonder if Mr Meghani is comfortable with the supporters his views attract?

Incindentally, his fellow enthusiast for the noose, Barbara Potter, has had her own problems with the law.

She is currently standing as an independent candidate for mayor of Leicester while wearing an electronic tag.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Six of the Best 508

Nick Barlow stands up for localism against Eric Pickles.

Jackson Lears stands up for liberal education against neoliberalism.

More than 50,000 families have been silently shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years, says Daniel Douglas,

Ragged University argues that modern housing developments have been made little else but a stage for isolated family living

"The 25 men who participated in the incident swore one another to secrecy, and their names were never reported. In higher circles around Marietta, though, their identities were generally well known, for they had nothing to fear." Steve Oney on America's only anti-Semitic lynching.

"Oh for the lost days of our youth when a small boy could come skipping out of a chemist's shop with a manual of witchcraft in one hand and a bag of bomb ingredients in the other." Adrian Bott rediscovers How to Make Magic from 1974.

The importance of Magna Carta to British society today



Forget David Starkey. The best guide to the importance of Magna Carta to us 900 years on is Marriott Edgar.

Ben E. King: Stand By Me



Sometimes the obvious choice is the right one. Ben. E. King, who composed (with Leiber and Stoller) and sang Stand By Me died this week.

Today the song is seen as an outright classic, but when it was first released in 1961 it got no higher than 27 in the UK singles chart.

It reached no. 1 in 1987 when it was re-released after being used in a Levi jeans television commercial.

This is not the only case of that brand rewriting musical history.

In 1973 Johnnie Walker (then by far the coolest of the daytime Radio One DJs) played The Joker by the Steve Miller Band for months in an unsuccessful attempt to make it a hit in Britain. But it reached no. 1 after it was used in another Levi commercial.

Back to Ben E. King... Since you ask, the E stood for Earl.

Ed Miliband's monumental folly



This is, by some distance, the most ridiculous action by a British party leader I have ever come across (and I have not forgotten that unfortunate business with Rinka).

From the Guardian website (and presumably today's Observer, though the website no longer tells you useful things like that):
Ed Miliband has commissioned a giant stone inscription bearing Labour’s six election pledges that is set to be installed in the Downing Street Rose Garden if he becomes prime minister. 
The 8ft 6in-high limestone structure is intended to underline his commitment to keep his promises by having them literally “carved in stone” and visible from the offices inside No 10.
"Why? In God's name why?" you may reasonably ask. Here's Ed to explain:
“Nick Clegg and David Cameron have helped erode trust in all political leaders by the way they broke promises on issues like tuition fees and immigration after the last election. If I am prime minister, I will keep our stone in a place where we can see it every day as a reminder of our duty to keep Labour’s promises."
So now Labour won't just have mug saying "Controlling immigration". They will have it cut it into an 8ft 6in monolith.

I wonder how Labour activists feel about that?

The poet Shelley adds:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Vanished Leicester: King Richards Road

Copyright © Dennis Calow

Alan Craxford remembers King Richards Road in the Fifties
King Richards Road was a busy thoroughfare and bus route and it was also the main centre for shopping and our community life. In an age before the supermarket there were enterprises of all trades, shapes and sizes.
And then describes its demise:
There had been waves of slum clearance programmes in various areas of the city from the years after the first World War. Major demolition and redevelopment schemes were drawn up in the 1950s and by the middle of the 1970s some 12,500 slum houses had been removed. Improvement to road links were also in demand. 
In the West End, structurally sound housing was compulsorily purchased by the Council in 1970 to enable 'outworn terraces' to be cleared and King Richards Road to be redeveloped into the A47 western approach road.
More photographs of vanished Leicester in the University of Leicester Special Collections.

Ukip candidate for Harborough has been on holiday in Florida

What is it with Ukip candidates for Harborough and travel?

In March Clive Langley resigned when he found out he would have to travel to London if he won.

Now comes news that his replacement Mark Hunt has been on holiday in Florida for the past week.

Thanks to Dan Martin in the Leicester Mercury for confirming the local rumours.

I wouldn't be too hard on Mr Hunt. I recall a prominent Liberal Democrat candidate who spent part of the 2001 election campaign on holiday.

This was because the poll took place a month later than expected because of the outbreak of foot and mouth. Expecting a contest in May he had, quite reasonably, booked his holiday in June. And I suspect he was not the only one.

So I tend towards the charitable view of Zuffar Haq, as quoted in the Mercury:
"It is important for candidates to attend hustings to hear the views of constituents and it is a chance for them to ask questions of us, but I believe he stepped in at the last minute and he had previous commitments."
rather than the ungrateful "It is a disgrace" of Labour's Sundip Meghani.

Why ungrateful? I shall explain in another post .

What this amusing episode really shows that is that Ukip is not running a serious campaign in Harborough. Clive Langley used to tell everyone that he was going to win, but the party's ambitions now fall far, far short of that.

It also suggests that Ukip is not overstocked with talent. What can Ukip's next best choice have been like for it to go with someone it knew was spending part of the campaign in Florida?

Labour candidate says he will resign if elected

Richard Garvie, the Labour candidate for Wellingborough and Rushden, was convicted of fraud yesterday.

According to the Northamptonshire Telegraph, the offence involved the purchase of £900 of tickets from East Midlands Trains using a card for a closed bank account.

The sentencing magistrate told Mr Garvie the bench "did not find his evidence credible" and that they had "no doubt he had acted dishonestly". Mr Garvie says he will appeal.

Garvie was suspended by the Labour Party, but of course this has all happened much too late for them to find a new candidate.

Mr Garvie's solution?

He told the paper:
"Unfortunately I can’t be replaced on the ballot paper. This means that for all those who have voted, I want to make sure their votes count for something. If you support Labour, vote for me on polling day and I will do the honourable thing if elected.
"I feel that this is the only way to ensure that those who have already voted have their votes heard."

Keith Vaz in action

Douglas Murray wrote on the Spectator's Coffee House blog in June 2013:
I thought I might remind readers of something about Keith Vaz. The chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee has of course just applauded the banning of two American authors from Britain because of their criticism of Islam. So I turn to Joseph Anton – the illuminating fatwa-memoir released last year by Salman Rushdie. 
It contains a remarkable anecdote of the moment immediately after the news arrives of Ayatollah Khomeini’s order of murder. Rushdie (incidentally writing of himself in the third person) describes walking into his literary agent’s office in London. His agent gives him an astonished look. 
‘He was on the phone with the British-Indian Member of Parliament for Leicester East, Keith Vaz. He covered the mouthpiece and whispered, ‘Do you want to talk to this fellow?’ 
Vaz said, in that phone conversation, that what had happened was ‘appalling, absolutely appalling,’ and promised his ‘full support’. A few weeks later he was one of the main speakers at a demonstration against The Satanic Verses attended by over three thousand Muslims, and described that event as ‘one of the great days in the history of Islam and Great Britain.’ 
What guardians of our values we have.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Clangers: Vote for Froglet


The second general election of 1974 took place on 10 October. That day a special episode of The Clangers, which saw them trying an election of their own and not much liking it, was broadcast that evening.

I do not know if it was shown after the polls closed, but in an interview Oliver Postgate said it was not shown at the usual time for children's programmes.

Vote for Froglet has long been thought lost, but the good news is you can watch  the whole thing on the British Film Institute website.

Sense About Science: Making Sense of Crime



From the Sense About Science website:
Making Sense of Crime brings together experts in the causes of crime and measures to reduce it, who share insights from reliable research evidence. This evidence reveals how misleading the political debate on crime is. 
The guide reviews how the media influences what politicians and the public think about crime, discusses the most reliable ways to judge how much crime is happening, and looks at how some of the common claims about crime and ways to reduces it stack up against research evidence. 
Making Sense of Crime also analyses some measures to tackle crime that are supported by evidence. 
Insights from the evidence in the guide include:
  • Most types of crime are falling across developed countries and have been for around 25 years 
  • ‘Criminals’ aren’t a separate group from the rest of society
  • Police statistics are not the best way to judge crime rates 
  • Crime isn’t caused by a single factor such as poverty, bad parenting, inequality, government cuts or influences such as video games 
  • The most effective ways to cut crime might lie outside the criminal justice system
You can download Making Sense of Crime from the Sense About Science website,

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Teignmouth in 1960



I was born into a Britain of patronising narrators and nondescript film scores. Where have they all gone?

Ed Miliband takes my advice

The Daily Mail scoffs:
Whether he is in a car park, a factory or even a field, Ed Miliband is never far from a lectern during the election campaign. 
The Labour leader has been touring the country with the prop in an attempt to make him appear more statesmanlike. 
He has delivered key speeches in the campaign stood behind the lectern. But it has also been deployed when he is just making some brief remarks or holding question and answer events with members of the public.
Maybe he is taking it too far, but he has taken my advice.

Back in September of last year, after Ed Miliband forgot to mention the deficit in his speech to the Labour Conference I suggested it was time for him to give up his stunt of delivering his conference speech from memory:
Miliband's defence of the technique is that it makes it easier for him to connect with people. But that sounds to me like a hangover from the early days of his leadership when we were told he was a brilliant communicator. 
He is not, though he is not an awful one either. Miliband's real weakness is that people think he lacks leadership qualities. 
In short, he needs to acquire some gravitas. And speaking from a lectern with a written speech - a speech that is not afraid to mention the deficit - would be a good first step.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

An interview with Pete York from the Spencer Davis Group



Pete York, the drummer with the Spencer Davis Group, talks about his career.

Richard Jefferies Museum reopens to the public

FLIC Wiltshire reports:
The Richard Jefferies Museum in Swindon will reopen to the public today following refurbishment. 
The Museum is housed in the farmhouse at Coate, where Richard Jefferies was born in 1848. Situated within the surroundings of Coate Water, the Museum features some of the memento's of Richard Jefferies (1848 -1887), one of England's most individual writers on nature and the countryside. 
The Museum includes first editions of many of Richard Jefferies writings, the manuscript of 'Wood Magic' and family photographs and memorabilia. Parts of the building have been restored to create the atmosphere of a mid to late 19th Century farmhouse with a cheese room. 
The museum will be open to the public on the second Wednesday of each month, 10:00am – 4:00pm and every Sunday, 2:00pm – 5:00pm.
Jefferies is one of this blog's heroes. I wrote my Masters dissertation on him many years ago.

Six of the Best 507

Alistair McGuire and John Van Reenen say that continued expansion of the NHS is only going to be viable through further efficiency savings of some kind – and even then it is not clear how resource levels will be maintained.

"The more macho elements within Labour are fond of quoting Michael Corleone, in the Godfather Part II, when dealing with the corrupt Senator Geary. 'My offer is this,' says Corleone: 'nothing'. But to make that approach work Michael Corleone had to be willing to murder a prostitute and dupe the Senator into thinking he’d killed her. Rosie Winterton is a very effective Chief Whip but she won’t go quite that far." Philip Cowley on the practicalities of minority government.

Vernon Bogdanor calls for a constitutional convention.

Julia Belluz examines why doctors and scientists are so anxious about the rise of popular science.

"On the night of February 28, 1944, war broke out on the streets of Leicester as black and white American soldiers fought pitched battles. It was the first race riot of the modern age." The Leicester Mercury reprints a 2004 feature by Adam Wakelin.

Andy Marshall photographs the angels of St Nicholas' Chapel, King's Lynn.

Conservative candidate for North Devon once called rural voters "straw-sucking yokels"



I suspect the Liberal Democrat campaign in North Devon will be greatly heartened by a story in the Western Morning News:
A Conservative candidate in one of the South West's most rural constituencies once derided the countryside as populated by "chinless foxhunters, straw-sucking yokels and whingeing farmers". 
In a newspaper column, Peter Heaton-Jones, a would-be MP in North Devon and former BBC DJ, launched an attack on the huge countryside march through central London in 2002, arguing if rural life is "so bad" they should "move to the town".
Heaton-Jones' defence is that the articles he wrote for the Evening Advertiser in Swindon were designed to provoke a response - he was also a 'shock jock' for BBC Wiltshire - and were "not my views".

But if you put your name to views you do not really hold, you can hardly complain if they later come back to bite you,

The evasions of Alison Saunders

Nigel Dudley has written three fine posts examining the evasive language used by Alison Saunders and her spokespeople in announcing and defending her decision that Greville Janner should not be prosecuted.

They are:
To give you a taste of them, here is a quotation from the second:
First lets look at the phrase: "The DPP (Saunders) was not unduly influenced by anyone…". 
Note the use of the passive tense which makes it possible to evade identifying who has done the influencing - the phrasing is clever as it initially has you nodding in comfortable agreement. 
Then you notice that the stement says "unduly influenced." In this particular case the DPP should state who has "influenced" Saunders’s decision, rather than cower behind the passive tense – I find it interesting that the DPP is admitting that she can be influenced but does not feel the need to say who has done the influencing. 
Then there is the use of the extraordinary word "unduly," which means either "without cause or justification," or "unrightfully, undeservedly" or "to excess, beyond the due degree." Those words imply a very extreme degree of behaviour and allows an enormous scope for what could be deemed "due" influence. 
In other words the phrasing reveals nothing. Look at the gaps that are revealed when you use an active verb and meaningful adverbs.

Monday, April 27, 2015

David Cameron and the Flashman factor

Anoosh Chakelian is not impressed by the new, pumped-up David Cameron:
As soon as he starts ranting and turning scarlet, viewers are reminded not of a slick, safe statesman, but of a bully on the rampage. A tyrannical lord of the manor who’s been awoken from his slumber by an improperly-timed dinner gong.
I was blogging about David Cameron as Flashman back in 2009, and judging by that post Michael White had made the connection before that.

So let us see Flashman in action in the 1971 BBC adaptation of Tom Brown's Schooldays...

Imagine David Cameron standing on your child's foot - for ever

I have this from a colleague and it concerns her daughter's friend's cousin, so it is practically first hand.

At a recent school visit David Cameron stood on the child's foot, made her cry and then just walked away.

I think that is a good metaphor for Conservatism.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Edwards Hand: Friday Hill



Rod Edwards and Roger Hand were originally leaders of a band called Piccadilly Line, releasing in 1967 an album with a very 1967 title The Huge World of Emily Small.

In 1969, after the band had broken up, they released a first and eponymous LP as a duo.

Reminding us of how fast music moved in those days, Bad Cat Records says of it:
Powered by the pair's strong vocal harmonies, comparisons to early Bee Gees, or The Hollies during their psychedelic phase were quite apt. That gave the album a somewhat dated sound - way more 1967 than 1969. 
Great material if you liked the genre, but probably a bit too pompous, sentimental, and fey if you were looking for a more rock-oriented attack. For what it was worth, I like the results quite a bit.
And they particularly like Friday Hill:
Starting out as a fragile, flute-propelled ballad, 'Friday Hill' quickly morphed into a catchy slice of pop-psych. Even better, the pair's harmony vocals were simply to-kill-for. 
Besides, when was the last time you heard an oboe arrangement that complimented a pop song?
As it happens, I was listening to The Summerhouse by the Divine Comedy the other day, which even has a cor anglais solo, but I know what they mean,

The Post Office Tower in 1967


Back in 1967 the Post Office Tower was a great symbol of British modernity. They put it on stamps and the revolving restaurant at the top was the coolest in London.

Thanks to Dirty Modern Scoundrel for posting this film of it from that year.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Six of the Best 506

Jay Rayner on the uncharacteristic silence of Keith Vaz.

"Boosting economies and vindicating the human rights of women and girls is the very real impact of aid in developing countries. The UK being the first G7 power to enshrine in law a commitment to spend 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on aid every year is something of which the British people should be justifiably proud." Jenny Tonge celebrates overseas aid.

Did Nick Clegg drop two clangers yesterday? Keynesian Liberal thinks so.

"Adolf Hitler said: 'I have sent my Death’s Head units to the east with the order to kill without mercy men, women and children of the Polish race or language ... Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?' Giles Fraser asks why the government is so afraid to speak of the Armenian genocide.

Frank Furedi rehearses his familiar (and correct) argument that modern society curbs children's freedom to a ridiculous extent.

Duncan Weldon examines the economics and politics of Thomas the Tank Engine.

David Cameron and Tony Blair pretending to be football fans

First, let us pause a moment to enjoy David Cameron's discomfort today. Remember, he is supposed to be an Aston Villa supporter:



Not that he knows much about the Villa. Remember, he was 15 when they won the European Cup. If he really was a fan, that would have been one of the greatest nights of his life:



The truth, I suspect, is that David Cameron is not a Villa fan at all.

As I wrote when discussing Tony Blair's equally unconvincing claim to be a Newcastle United fan:
Football may be classless today, but when the young Blair was at prep school and public school it was less common for someone of his background to follow the game.
And the same is true of the younger David Cameron.

This just in...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Disused railway stations in Lincolnshire



A particularly fine crop this time. I have visited Stamford East myself, though not accompanied by Strauss.

There are many more of these slideshows to enjoy on this blog: Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, HampshireCumbria,Cambridgeshire and Kent.

Bookends, Nelson Street, Market Harborough


This shop in Nelson Street, Market Harborough, has been an Indian takeaway for as long as most residents can remember. Today it appears to be undergoing a refitting to become some form of fried chicken shop.

But for two or three years in the late 1970s it was a secondhand bookshop. When I was in the sixth form I had a Saturday job there, serving what customers there were and cataloguing books.

It all sounds rather unlikely now and too long ago for the internet to help me prove the bookshop really existed.

But a search in Google Books brought up this priceless fragment of my past from a 1978 issue of Antiquarian Book Monthly Review.

Greville Janner's supporters melt away


Thanks to Spotlight for the illustration.


After the allegations against Greville Janner had received their first public airing during the trial of Frank Beck in 1991, he received extraordinary support from a group of colleagues in the Commons,

In recent days two of them who are still active in politics have backed away from supporting him again.

In 1991 Keith Vaz told the House:
The people of his constituency do not believe the lies. They are with him now, and they will be with him in the future, because they know of his unstinting service to anyone who approaches him, for whatever cause. He has vindicated himself, and all of us, in what he has said tonight. ... 
My hon. and learned Friend, too, is a brave man in what he has done, said and endured over the past weeks and months. Every one of us should be grateful to him, because ... what has happened to my hon. and learned Friend could happen to any one of us, so we should all be aware of it.
Now, according to BBC News, he supports the comments of Leicestershire police and crime commissioner, who wants the case to be reconsidered.

In 1991 Alex Carlile said:
I can but echo the tributes that have been paid to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). He is a man of determination and enthusiasm, whose integrity and will power have crossed party lines. I for one value the friendship that he has given me in the eight and a half years that I have been a Member of the House, despite the fact that we are in different parties and disagree on many issues. ... 
I respectfully suggest to the Solicitor-General that a clear and simple change can be made to the law which would protect those who are not the parties to a trial—third parties outside a trial. It would in no way inhibit the right of a defendant to make his defence, however dishonest. It would in no way inhibit his right to instruct his solicitors, however egregiously. But it would prevent the press from publishing calumnies which cannot be answered, as in the Beck case, sometimes until weeks or even months after the allegation is made in the public arena of a court.
Now, according to the Telegraph:
Lord Carlile last night said evidence since gathered by Leicestershire police meant he would “not make the same comments today”. ... 
He said: “This was 24 years ago. At that time, there was absolutely no evidence that would stand up in a court of law against, as then was, Mr Janner.”
And, though he was not around in 1991, it is worth noting the interview Norman Lamb gave to LBC saying Janner should have been prosecuted earlier.

That is because, as my Trivial Fact of the Day once revealed, Norman worked for Greville Janner after leaving university.