Sunday, January 31, 2010

More on Evelyn Cheesman

In November I discovered Evelyn Cheesman, the governess from Gumley Hall who collected specimens in the South Seas.

There is more about her work, including a video, on the Natural History Museum website:

Whether skinning lizards, battling with leeches, or getting trapped in giant spider webs, Evelyn Cheesman (1881-1969) had a passion for nature and a sense of adventure to match.

Evelyn was not daunted by Pacific Ocean expeditions even though they were considered hazardous for European women at the time. Her interest and research into the native, or endemic, fauna of the New Guinea region made her one of the key figures in entomology (the study of insects) in the 20th century.

The 70,000 specimens she collected have ensured her place as a collecting founder of the Natural History Museum.

Harborough Museum has the oldest Roman coin found in Britain

This story has been in the press in recent days, but let's go to the best source. The Leicestershire Museums blog reports:

What is believed to be the oldest Roman coin ever found in Britain makes its museum debut, 2220 years after it was made. The silver denarius coin is now on display at Harborough Museum, Market Harborough alongside other coins that were excavated with it. It is 4 years older than the coin previously thought to be the oldest surviving example.

The coin was found during excavation of a site near the village of Hallaton, Leicestershire. It is one of over 5000 Iron Age and Roman coins found at the site, believed to be a Late Iron Age shrine of the Corieltavi tribe dating to the 1st century AD.

This posting goes on to suggest that the coin may have reached Britain before the Roman conquest and is thus evidence of exchange through trade or diplomacy.

I get most of my history from Time Team these days, and I gather from viewing it that the idea of a single Roman "conquest" of Britain is out of fashion. It is now seen as a longer process with cultural and economic elements beside the military one.

Now read more about the Harborough Museum. Or see a picture of a Roman in Market Harborough.

Traffic: Light Up or Leave Me Alone



Jim Capaldi died five years ago this week, which gives me a good reason for posting one of the few songs from Traffic's 1972 Santa Monica concert that has not yet appeared here.

Capaldi was the band's drummer, though at this stage in his career he preferred to groove with a tambourine and sing the occasional lead vocal. He was also Traffic's lyricist and recorded many solo albums, reaching no. 4 in the UK singles chart with his recording of "Love Hurts" in 1975.

This track also displays the versatity of Traffic's members. It was not just that Steve Winwood was a genius on both guitar and keyboards: here Chris Wood, who plays saxaphone on Low Spark of High-heeled Boys and flute on Freedom Rider, fills in here on the piano.

Market Harborough by-election makes the Sunday Express

Ted Jeory, the paper's Whitehall correspondent writes:

Even more alarmingly, Tory supporters also highlighted yesterday the false sense of security gained from even a narrow lead in the opinion polls.

Recent council by-elections had shown a sharp drop in support for the party, completely against the national picture, they said.

Last Thursday, the Tories lost a council seat in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, when the party suffered a 14 per cent swing to the Lib Dems.

The seat falls within the constituency of Shadow Attorney General Edward Garnier, one of the Lib Dems’ top targets in the general election.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The year ahead

The end of another week at Bonkers Hall.

Sunday

We stand upon the verge of a new political year (informed sources tell me to expect a general election, probably on a Thursday in the first five months). I foresee that global warming will continue to be a major concern of the world’s parliamentarians – what a blessing it was that everyone got home from Copenhagen before the snow set in! Oh, and do not expect preparations for the London Olympics to be complete for at least another two years.

Nearer to home, my bell tower is in need of renovation and repair, but I assure you I shall not be seeking public monies to fund the work. My maze is also in need of some attention; I shall tell Meadowcroft to undertake a little replanting and shall ask the people at the Department of Hard Sums, University of Rutland at Belvoir, to simplify their design a little. Tongues wag in the village if too many people fail to emerge from the thing.

Earlier this week:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The further adventures of Alistair Swatridge

In September of last year Alistair Swatridge, the leader of the controlling Conservative group on Harborough District Council, suddenly resigned his seat - "amid speculation about his health", as the Leicester Mercury put it.

Friends of Mr Swatridge will be pleased to know that he has obviously enjoyed a rapid recovery. His website has suffered a sea change, or at least a canal change, and no longer deals with local politics. Instead, it declares:
Join us on its basin and canal trials and subsequently onto the adventure of a lifetime, with our continuous cruising of the canals and rivers within the UK and then if all is well onto Europe. Taking each day as it comes, without any deadlines or schedules, just relaxing and enjoying the peaceful countryside.
If is hard not to sympathise. If I were forced to deal with Harborough Conservatives on a daily basis, I too would find the call of the Grand Union and the Trent & Mersey hard to resist.

It was Mr Swatridge's resignation that led to the Market Harborough by-election that the Liberal Democrats won last Thursday.

Phil Knowles on his by-election victory

From the Market Harborough Lib Dems website:

"We were successful in this campaign because we were supported, not just by Liberal Democrat members, but also by many local residents who backed us and gave generously of their time to deliver Focus - often in awful weather.

"I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their efforts. This was a victory for the whole community, not just one for me and the Liberal Democrats. It was community politics in action."

Well said.

Photograph by Andrew Carpenter

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Keep it under your hat

Saturday

My diaries, as I am aware, enjoy a wide readership everywhere from the clerk’s desk to what that fine fast bowler John Snow termed “the corridors of power”. I must therefore ask all my readers to keep what follows under their hats lest in fall into the wrong hands.

We are informed by the government that our troops must continue to occupy and be killed in Afghanistan because if we were to withdraw then al-Qaida would return to that country and reopen their terrorist training camps.

However, a terrible thought hit me whilst I was in the bath this morning: what happens if al-Qaida hits upon the plan of Going Somewhere Else? I reflected, as I retrieved my loofah, that this would render our forces’ presence in Afghanistan otiose. We must hope that these al-Qaida fellows do not take many baths, because if they do our goose may be cooked.

As I said, keep this under your hat.

Kibworth bookshop website goes live

Last weekend I wrote about the new bookshop in Kibworth.

It's website is now live.

Gold shops: A sign of the times


This shop has recently opened around the corner from me.

As Ross Clark wrote in the Daily Telegraph last year:
In hard-up Britain, selling the family silver is an act to which more and more of us are being driven. Far from using our homes as cashpoints, as we were little more than a year ago, increasing numbers are being forced to make ends meet by auctioning off the contents. According to a recent survey by the charity Shelter, one in nine British households have had to sell possessions this year to make ends meet.
He also quoted the words of Harold Macmillan on Mrs Thatcher's privatisation programme of the 1980s:
"First of all, the Georgian silver goes. And then all that nice furniture that used to be in the salon. Then the Canalettos…”

Tony Blair and the Iraq Inquiry



Howard's cartoon from this week's Liberal Democrat News.

Friday, January 29, 2010

More on our Market Harborough by-election gain

Conservative Home kindly gives the percentages (you may enjoy the comments on that blog too):

Great Bowden & Arden ward, Market Harborough
Phil Knowles (Lib Dem) - 966 (62%, +14)
Barry Champion (Con) - 598 (38%, -14)
Lib Dem gain from Con

I make that a seven 14 per cent swing from Conservative to Lib Dem.

The phote above has been borrowed from the ALDC site (credit: Andrew Carpenter). Phil Knowles in in the centre of the group with Zuffar Haq, the Liberal Democrat PPC for the Harborough constituency.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

House Points: After Edlington

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News. I have written about Lady Allen of Hurtwood on this blog before.

Crying shame

David Cameron’s attempt to make capital out of events in Edlington was a nonsense. The attackers’ parents are married, and concern about that, besides a few false claims on crime rates, is all his “Broken Britain” campaign offers.

Still, there was a grim humour to it. After James Bulger's murder Tony Blair took himself off to Wellingborough to announce that the killing was “a hammer-blow against the sleeping conscience of the country”. It is poetic justice to see Blair's lowest punch used against his party in return. And it emphasises how closely Cameron has modelled his strategy on New Labour’s playbook from the 1990s.

Not that Ed Balls’ performance on Monday was much better. There may be good arguments against publishing the Edlington case review, as David Laws and the Conservatives urged, but he was not able to come up with them.

And a dispatch box appearance that made the Miliband brothers look mature must be a worry for someone who thinks he ought to be the next Labour leader.

Balls’ case was that everyone, or at least Lord Laming and the NSPCC, agreed with him. But Laming is one of those run-of-the-mill public servants who acquire mythic status because government gets them to write a report whenever it is in trouble. (It used to be Sir Ron Dearing in education.)

After the death of Peter Connelly (“Baby P”), Lord Laming was asked to consider whether the reforms he had suggested after Victoria Climbie’s death were adequate. Not surprisingly, Lord Laming came to the conclusion that Lord Laming had done a pretty good job.

And the NSPCC is not always a disinterested party. In the Climbie case the charity’s own actions were one of the things investigated. I also wonder whether the statement on its website that “this country has not seen such acts of schoolboy savagery for many years” is correct.

Besides, child welfare is too important to be left to the establishment. The greatest advance ever made in the field, the 1948 Children Act, was largely down to the independent campaigner Marjorie Allen (Lady Allen of Hurtwood). She took on the children’s charities that insisted upon running large barrack-like institutions.

So David Laws should keep up the pressure to have the Edlington review published.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Liberal Youth boot camp

Friday

When I heard that Liberal Youth (as the Young Liberals insist upon calling themselves nowadays) were planning to hold a boot camp, I was more than happy to lend a hand. As I have long insisted, we shall not be able to build a society in which none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity without a bit of discipline.

Thus it was that I turned up on the first day with the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Queen’s Own Rutland Highlanders – I happen to be their Colonel in Chief. He certainly wasted no time in licking them into shape: “I want to see my face in that ethically sourced jute Focus delivery bag, you ‘orrible little man” and so forth.

The Young Liberals all seemed to enjoy themselves immensely and the day was voted a success by all. For the sake of completeness, I must add that I first tried to institute such a camp in the late 1960s and received rather short shrift (though they did later appreciate the training in guerrilla warfare that I provided here on the Bonkers Hall Estate).

Lib Dems gain seat in Market Harborough

Congratulations to my old friend Phil Knowles for gaining the Great Bowden and Arden ward of Harborough District Council from the Tories in a by-election yesterday. This was the seat vacated so dramatically by the Tory group leader Alistair Swatridge last October.

The result:

Phil Knowles (Lib Dem) - 968
Barry Champion (Tory) - 598

Mr Champion was also the defeated Tory candidate in the Welland ward by-election last year. Clearly he has no answer to my masterly delivering.

Note there was no Labour candidate in either contest.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kibworth Harcourt and the Jarrow march

Kibworth, as we call it know, is really two villages. Kibworth Beauchamp (which has the new bookshop and the former Council Street) and Kibworth Harcourt.

Harcourt is far smaller and, perhaps because much of it was owned by Merton College, Oxford, more genteel. There are reports of conflict in past times between the radical framework knitters of Beauchamp and the more genteel inhabitants of Harcourt.

Today there are no shops left in Harcourt and even its pub has been turned into an Italian restaurant. Its Main Street makes a number of right-angled turns. So much so that the modern A6, which runs between the two villages, is an early 19th century by-pass built so that coaches did not have to take this route through Harcourt.

What intrigued me most about Harcourt last Saturday was the Munt - or Kibworth Harcourt Castle - which is the remains of a 12th century earthwork motte and bailey fortress, though it may have been reshaped by Victorian excavations. You can find it in a field just off the A6.

There was interesting 20th century chapter in the Munt's history. According to the excellent village trail leaflet, the Jarrow marchers halted here on their journey and were addressed by Ellen Wilkinson. I like to think of her standing on the mound itself to make her speech.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Christmas Day at Bonkers Hall

Apologies for the lack of blogging today: I have not been well. Things are happier at the Hall...

Christmas Day

I look around my table at the guests assembled for lunch at the Hall – Paddy Ashplant, Menzies Campbell and the formidable Elspeth, the Reverend Hughes, Knuckles Oakeshott, Hazel Grove (such a brave choice of dress in this cold weather!), Bob Russell (we miss his brother Conrad – though not the latter’s Big Band – on such occasions), Tavish Scott in his horned helmet, Susan J. Kramer (though not the Dakotas, who tend to eat rather a lot), some amusing young people from the Liberator “collective”, PC Heath, Philip “Whoopi” Goldenberg and several of the Elves of Rockingham Forest (strictly speaking they were not invited, but I find it is best to keep on the right side of these fellows) – and reflect how lucky I am to have so many fine friends and colleagues.

Earlier this week:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Bonkers Tower

Christmas Eve

Walking on the frost-rimed grass this morning, I reflect on the folly that has led to this tiresome “credit crunch”. Money was lent without security to finance what in many cases were no more than vanity projects – anyone who has visited Dubai will know what I am talking about. Fortunately the Bank of Rutland commissioned the necessary research and concluded that, although Abu Dhabi has a lot of wealth from oil and Dubai has a similar name to Abu Dhabi, Dubai itself has no oil.

Later I call in at the Estate Office with some of Cook’s mince pies to discuss progress with my plans for the Bonkers Tower and an island on Rutland Water in the shape of John Stuart Mill’s profile. Later still, I let myself down the chimney at the Home for Well-Behaved Orphans to deliver their presents and enjoy a splendid amontillado.

Earlier this week:

Spam Comment of the Day

Well done to Elliott Loohire for their contribution to my post Grant Shapps in the Portaloo:
Jonathan Calder may be "the Lib Dem blogfather" but I'm the UK's bogfather!
Thrill, too, to their blog Our Life with Portable Toilets.

See, spammers? Make a little effort and I am happy to let you comments stand.

Pubs closing in south Shropshire

A year ago I reported that the Sun Inn at Clun had closed. Since then, according to the Shropshire Star, it has reopened and now closed again.

Elsewhere in the Shropshire hills, reports the South Shropshire Journal, the Green Dragon at Little Stretton has gone too. It was always the case that the pubs in Church Stretton were slightly disappointing and you were better off heading a couple of miles south to Little Stretton where there were two good ones.

Now the village is down to one pub: the Ragleth Inn.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The By-election Islands

Tuesday

By a great stroke of luck, I spied land after only a few hours at sea. By an even greater stroke of luck, it turned out to be the By-election Islands – discovered and named by my very own great great grandfather. (He made landfall at a time when the natives were involved in a ceremony involving a box with a slot in the top and pieces of bark marked using an X by burnt sticks, and put two and two together).

The British Consul turned out to be a decent sort and I soon find myself returning home on a flying boat via Gibraltar, La Rochelle and Staines Reservoir.

Earlier this week:

Jean Simmons 1929-2010

The American blogger Self-Styled Siren has a terrific tribute to the British actress who died a few days ago.

Green blogger: Many Lib Dems "defecting to the BNP"

There is a bizarre claim on the blog of Lib Dem turned Green Jo Anglezarke. Discussing the David Jack affair she says:
it confirms the view that many members of the Lib Dems are latent racists, many indeed defecting to the BNP.
[Later. David Jack was subsequently exonerated.]

It would be interesting to know what evidence Jo has for her assertion that many Liberal Democrats are defecting to the BNP.

I did link to Jo's blog for a time when she was a Liberal Democrat. But I recall her as being more preoccupied with appearing in Lib Dem Voice's "Golden Dozen" than was healthy and an occasionally prickly correspondent. (It seems I was not alone in this experience.)

Still, Jo's new blog does link to Alexei Sayle's blog. I had not seen this before, so thanks to her for the tip.

Thanks to a comment on an earlier post.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

ME, BCG and paralysis

Writing for the Guardian about Kay Gilderdale's acquittal, Sandra Laville tells us confidently:
Until 14, Lynn had been a bright and sporty schoolgirl, who lived with her family in Stonegate, East Sussex. But after a BCG vaccination she was struck down by ME and within four months was unable to move from the waist down.
I am puzzled.

What is the scientific evidence that BCG can cause ME? And what is the scientific evidence that ME can cause paralysis?

The lost country houses of England

The Lost Heritage website lists all the significant country houses it knows to have been demolished, destroyed or ruined and also provides historical notes and photos on many individual properties.

The photograph above shows Papillon Hall near Lubenham in Leicestershire. It was rebuilt by Lutyens in the Edwardian era but demolished in 1950.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Heathrow third runway: The fight continues



Actors, poets and politicians join Greenpeace, the Woodland Trust and local residents to plant an orchard in the path of the proposed third runway at Heathrow. You may recognise Nick Clegg and Susan Kramer among those taking part.

The latest news on the campaign can be found on the Airplot site.

Britblog Roundup 257

This week's roundup has just been posted by the redoubtable Slugger O'Toole.

David Jack and CreditCardKiller

Later. David Jack was subsequently exonerated.

Last week I wrote about the resignation of David Jack as the Lib Dem PPC for Stoke North after claims that he had sent racist emails. I also pointed you to the Stoke-based Pits n Pots site, which reported:
Mr Jack denies that he sent the emails. Tonight he claimed that he 'was out on the lash' with twenty other individuals at the time when the alleged emails were sent. 
He also claims that he is a victim of a smear campaign in relation to a upcoming court hearing to be heard in the Royal Courts of Justice on March 24th. 
Mr Jack claims that there are a number of companies that have acted illegally with regards to consumer debt. 
He said that he makes no apologies for protecting the interests of consumers.
With this in mind, it is interesting to find a press release from a Dawn Pugh on the PR Fire website. This appears to be a site to which anyone can submit a release without charge.

Pugh's release is headed "David Jack to be Arrested Over Racist Email Attack", though nothing in the subsequent text substantiates the assertion that Jack is to be arrested.

The release claims that:
Mr David Jack, has made numerous comments and posts on consumer forums such as scam.com and consumeractiongroup.co.uk, as well as on his own website, where he has been allowed to make totally unfounded and malicious comments about CreditCardKiller, its Directors and Debt Consultants. The constant abusive language and taunts went unchecked by these forums, which are often hosted abroad outside the reach of UK law.
It goes on to make more startling claims:
CreditCardKiller has dealt with not only David Jack's making unfounded attacks against its trading practices, but also Regulators that harbour inaccurate opinions and facts, breach Human Rights Laws with the intention of furthering a smear campaign to drive the Company out of business. 
They are as much to blame for David Jack's other comments as he is, as they have flooded the media and internet with accusations that they have never proven. It is time they stop misleading consumers and retracted statements before a more serious event transpires from individuals acting on statements which they believe to be true.
Those who wish to learn more about CreditCardKiller should visit its website.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Cruising with Limpet Opec

Liberator 337 arrived in the post this morning. So it is time for us to spend another week with Rutland's most celebrated fictional peer.

Monday

Snow falls upon Rutland in fat flakes, carol singers with lanterns progress from door to door and a poor man has just come in sight (he appears to be gath’ring winter fu-u-el). How happy I am to be home!

You see, a few weeks ago I decided to recharge the batteries by treating myself to a winter cruise to the Canaries. All went well – indeed I was in a deckchair sipping a G and T – until the identity of our lecturer was announced: “Mr Limpet Opec will speak on ‘Westminster: It’s a Funny Old World!’” Limpet Opec? I knew who the fellow meant at once.

I did go along to his talk with my hat pulled well down, in the hope that Öpik had brought those jolly Cheeky Girls along, but it turned out not to be the case. When his talk turned to “Why I was right to claim those wigs on expenses” I could stand no more. Taking with me only a cabin boy to eat in case of emergency (as is, I believe, conventional), I took to a lifeboat and cast myself adrift.

Council Street, Kibworth Beauchamp

While I was a district councillor in the 1980s the residents of this quiet little road in Kibworth petitioned to have its named changed. Which is why it is today called Stuart Street and not Council Street.

Perhaps they had all bought their houses?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Did David Dimbleby's family connections ease his path into television?

Let's weigh the evidence.

From the Observer today:
"I've worked with the BBC since I was 11."
No further questions, m'lud.

Peter Gabriel: Here Comes the Flood



We last saw Gabriel with long hair and a silly hat as the lead singer with Genesis on I Know What I Like in Your Wardrobe.

That was 1974. By 1979 he had left the band and issued a couple of solo albums. Like the better known Solsbury Hill, this song comes from the first of them. And it is certainly better than the later Don't Give Up, which is all you hear from him on the radio these days.

Here Comes the Flood has an apocalyptic feel to it, though a page about the song suggests it was inspired by a dream Gabriel had in which "people could see each other's thoughts, producing a psychic flood".

This version comes from a Kate Bush special broadcast in 1979 - hence the rather arch introduction. I have no memory of watching the programme, but it would be surprising if I didn't.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sunday Times: David Chaytor "used daughter in expenses scam"

Tomorrow's Sunday Times contains further allegations about expense claims by the Labour MP for Bury North.

The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer

Here is an interesting film. It came, not from LoveFilm, but form Amazon. In fact, on looking back over this blog I found they sent it in error. I had ordered Sir Henry at Rawlinson End.

But I kept the DVD (having seen the film once before - on television in the 1970s) and finally got round to watching it the other day.

Viewed today, The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer is at once a period piece and strangely prophetic.

It is a period piece because so many familiar faces from earlier British films are in it - Ronald Fraser, Denis Price, Michael Trubshawe. It is also a period piece of the presence of Peter Cook, John Cleese and Graham Chapman. It was shot as the sixties were drawing to a close and Monty Python was about to become the big thing in television comedy (rivalled only by Arthur Lowe, also in the film, and Dad's Army).

The film is prophetic because Rimmer, played by Peter Cook, uses the techniques of public relations and consumer research to become prime minister and then subvert the constitution. On its release the film was seen as fanciful, but it turns out to have anticipated Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson by 25 years.

A few years ago Peter Cook was the top British comedian by other British comedians. I once spoke about him to Adrian Slade, the former president of the Liberal Democrats, who is the man who auditioned him for the Cambridge Footlights.

Adrian said that Cook was the funniest conversationalist he has ever met - he would make you laugh all evening, though you could remember nothing of what he had said the following morning. However, said Adrian, to be good in revue it is enough to pull on a hat and do a funny voice. That does not make you an actor.

Peter Cook's career bears this observation out as his limitations with an actor are often on display. Michael Rimmer, however, is an outsider whose past is a mystery to us, so Cook's slightly wooden quality and the limited degree to which he engages with the other characters somehow suite the role.

For this reason the claim by William Cook, in a Guardian article a couple of years ago, that The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer is a turkey is well wide of the mark. The film is slow to start, with an extra beat after each joke which suggests someone did not trust the script or the audience. But it soon warms up and the satire is relevant even today - or perhaps more today.

The DVD also has an amiable and informative commentary by the director Kevin Billington - almost 40 years on he too is surprised at the film's relevance today and its occasional spots of gratuitous sexism.
Finally, a glimpse of the film...

Terence O'Neill's story to be published by HarperCollins

Last year I reported that Terence O'Neill had written his memoirs - Never Again - and that they were available on Authonomy.

Terence, or Terry, is the brother of Dennis O'Neill, a boy whose death at a remote farm in Shropshire in 1945 was a national scandal and led to the reform of the treatment of children in public care. Terry was with him when he died.

Terry tells me that his book has now been taken up by HarperCollins and is to be published on 4 March 2010 as Someone to Love Us.

I do hope this book will be promoted, not as another misery memoir, but as the important piece of social history it is.

The Bookshop, Kibworth Beauchamp






It is always a pleasure to see a new independent bookshop opening.

This one is at 52 High Street, Kibworth Beauchamp, a large and growing village about five miles north of Market Harborough on the A6.

The shop does not have a website yet, but I shall pass on the address when it does.

For the time being, there is more information on the East Midlands Literature Network website.

Later. The shop's website is now live.

An obituary of Bill McLaren

This week's House Points was a sort of tribute to Bill McLaren. For a more conventional one, see the his Daily Telegraph obituary:

“No one voice is more closely associated with a single sport,” declared the Telegraph’s rugby correspondent, Brendan Gallagher, “and ironically that is now a cross rugby must bear. We have heard the 'best’ already.

Nothing can or will compare with McLaren in his pomp. He didn’t just reflect rugby’s camaraderie and ethos, he helped inspire it. Right sport, right man, right time.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Victorians were less Victorian than we imagine

On Tuesday the indefatigable Millennium Elephant covered the story began his posting on Stephen Gough, the naked rambler, with the words:
So it's 2010 and the VICTORIAN ERA is still well and truly in full complete-lack-of-swing here in ye Olde Grande Britannia.
Up to a fluffy point.

Having once pointed out that the Victorians did not cover piano legs because they thought them immodest, I had better also point out that the Victorians were remarkably relaxed about nudity - nudity among males in particular. Much more relaxed, in fact, than we are today.

Empire and Sexuality: The British Experience by Ronald Hyam records:

Not until 1890 did the Amateur Swimming Association rule that bathing drawers must be worn in competitive schoolboy racing. Cambridge and (even more successfully) Oxford were among the last pockets of resistance to swimming costumes.

Gwen Raverat's rhapsodies about nude swimming in the River Cam reflected a dying practice. It was frowned on by the city fathers after 1894 and finally banned from the town bathing sheds in 1910, although screened and segregated nude sunbathing survived until (ironically) the mid-1960s.

And what would the Victorians have made of the burka?

Edlington: Cameron copies a move from the New Labour playbook

David Cameron's attempt to make political capital from the Edlington case is, of course, a nonsense. But it is a reminder of just how closely he has modelled his strategy on that employed by Tony Blair and New Labour in the years before the 1997 general election.

An Observer article by Nick Cohen from 2001 reminds us of the depth to which Blair was prepared to sink:
After James Bulger's murder, Blair went to Wellingborough and announced that the killing was 'a hammer-blow against the sleeping conscience of the country'. It was a daring move. He was using a dead toddler as a symbol of the state of Britain under the Conservatives. Only under Labour, he said, would we find social peace by accepting we 'couldn't have rights without responsibilities'.
There is a certain grim poetic justice in seeing Blair's lowest blows rained on his party in return, but Cohen's judgement on the Labour applies just as much to Cameron today:

James Bulger's murder 'said' nothing more (or less) about the state of Britain than that a horrible crime had taken place. It wasn't a symbol of anything. About 20 juveniles are convicted of murder or manslaughter each year. Nearly all are 14 or over. Killers as young as Jon Venables and Robert Thompson are incredibly rare, which is why the criminal-justice system has such difficulties knowing whether to punish or treat them.

Ten-year-olds are usually too small to kill. Pre-pubescent murderers are freaks who appear without reason or pattern. Their numbers haven't been increasing or decreasing. They don't 'tell' the conscience of the country anything.

House Points: Bill McLaren in the House

Today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News. I have used all these arguments before, but then that is rather the point of the column.

On the blind side

One of the best things about the rugby union commentaries by Bill McLaren, who died on Tuesday, was that they were always much the same. You could tick off his favourite phrases during every match he described for the BBC. “Playing together for the 19th time in a major international.” “A bit of nonsense in the scrum there.” “As the referee’s whistle goes for no side.”

My great hope was that one day Martin Johnson would score a try for England and McLaren would say “There’ll be dancing in the streets of Market Harborough tonight.” Sadly, it never happened.

Monday’s Commons proceedings were just as predictable. They began with culture, media and sport questions, which for most MPs means asking what the government is doing to encourage sport in schools.

The answer, of course, is that however much it is doing it won’t have much effect on child obesity, which is the problem those MPs have in mind when they ask this question. Children were thinner in the days when they walked to school and played in the street. Unless we can tame traffic and convince parents there is not a paedophile behind every tree, we shall have to go on reinforcing classroom floors.

Other old favourites included questions from irate Tories about the BBC licence fee and complaints that National Lottery proceeds have been siphoned off to pay for general government spending.

Monday also saw the usual crop of questions about the Olympics. The ever popular one about how the London Games will help the rest of the country came up.

An honest reply would be that they probably won’t help it very much. London was sold to the world as a funky, multicultural city quite unconnected with the rest of Britain. And security concerns mean the authorities will keep athletes as near to the capital as they can.

And most predictable of all... After questions were over for the day the government launched yet another crime bill. By Chris Huhne’s calculation this new Crime and Security Bill was announced 13 days after Royal Assent was given to the Policing and Crime Act 2009, which it amends.

They won’t be singing and dancing about that anywhere tonight. A bit of nonsense in the House there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Trivial Fact of the Day with Sooty







Harry Ramsden, the Yorkshire fish and chip magnate, was the uncle of Harry Corbett of Sooty fame.

Western Morning News: Local Tories dislike Cameron and lack confidence

Some interesting observations on the state of West Country Conservatism from Matt Chorley, the London editor of the Western Morning News:
speaking to MPs and PPCs from Devon, Cornwall and Somerset there is a distinct lack of confidence, even in private.

They talk about “hanging on” to seats, “picking up one or two” others. Don’t forget the Tories need to win an extra 10 seats in the three counties, all but one from the Lib-Dems, to secure a majority of just one.

One Tory MP told me: “There is uncertainty over Cameron in the South West, largely because our Tories tend to be a bluer shade of blue. There was over Thatcher in 1979 as well. They are yet to be convinced.”

Another MP talks of there being “no love” for the Tory leader.

A cat about Rutland

Remember my photograph of a cat at Oakham railway station?

It seems he is a well-known cat about town in Oakham. Martin Brookes recently sighted him patiently waiting for a petfood shop to open.

And the good news is that they obviously let him in.

The other cat in my original photograph was last seen boarding a train for Peterborough.

Later. An Oakham tweeter suggests he lives at the pet shop. Lucky cat.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Painted Boats

For years this Charles Crichton film for Ealing was rumoured to be lost or known only in a damaged version, but it has recently been released on DVD and now LoveFilm has sent it to me.

Painted Boats was released in 1945 and is as much a documentary as a drama. The schoolmasterly commentary, written Louis MacNeice, recalls many films in that genre from the 1930s.

The cast contains stalwarts of the era like Megs Jenkins and Harry Fowler, but the two principals, in as far as the film has any, are less well known. Robert Griffiths hardly appeared in another film (and you can see why); Jenny Laird enjoyed a longer career and even turned up in 1990 in 1978.

But what makes Painted Boats worth watching today is the wonderful photography by Douglas Slocombe. The canal system of the era is brought to life in wonderful black and white photography that is both stunningly beautiful and a unique historical record.

Given the popularity of the canals for leisure today, it is astounding that this film is not better known. Shoestring has a page with many stills and discussed the different locations where the film was shot - notably Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, now the home of the National Waterways Museum.

Charles Masterman's fate shows we should not be surprised the Democrats lost in Massachusetts

In August of last year I compared the difficulties President Obama was having introducing socialised medicine with the experience of the Liberal government that introduced Lloyd George's Health Insurance Act in Britain.

The junior minister who took that Act through the Commons was my hero Charles Masterman. His subsequent career shows why we should not have been too surprised that Obama has run into trouble.

As a reward for his remarkable work on health, in 1914 Masterman was appointed to the cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. As the law stood at the time, any MP accepting an "office of profit under the Crown" was required to resigned his seat and fight a by-election. (This requirement was abolished by the first Labour government a few years later.)

Masterman lost this by-election in his original seat of Bethnal Green South West and then lost a second by-election in Ipswich, which had been caused by the death of the Liberal MP Silvester Horne. So he was obliged to give up his parliamentary career and took responsibility for British propaganda in the war.

He did briefly return to parliament in 1923 as MP for Manchester Rusholme, defeating a Conservative called John Thorpe - father of the future Liberal leader - in the process, but he lost the seat the following year.

In the years before the First World War Masterman was seen as one of the great hopes of the Liberal Party and quite possibly a future leader. There is no doubt that it was becoming so closely identified with Lloyd George's health reforms that quashed these hopes.

The story of health in Britain was for years told by socialist historians who saw it as a matter of uncomplicated progress and believed that each wave of reform was massively popular with the masses. The fate of Charles Masterman suggests that the true picture is more complicated than that.

It also suggests we should not be too surprised that the Democrats lost in Massachusetts last night.

Paul Holmes discovers Hell's Grannies

The Daily Telegraph reports:

A total of 181 people aged over 65 were successfully pursued through the courts for violent attacks in 2007, up from 101 ten years earlier.

Their offences ranged from murder and attempted murder to more minor crimes such as common assault.

Commenting on these figures, Paul Holmes says:

"It seems that the Government’s obsession with criminalising people does not stop at the elderly.

“Labour's target-driven, box-ticking approach to policing, where minor misdemeanours are treated the same as convictions for murder or rape, has led to mass criminalisation.

“I find it more likely that this increase is down to a government which has created a new crime for every day in office, rather than pensioners being twice as violent as ten years ago."

He may well be right, but could it be that, as with the furries, Monty Python was ahead of the game?



Thanks to Steve Beasant.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Michael Palin praises the Wrexham & Shropshire

The Shropshire Star has a famous guest writer today. Former Monty Python funster Michael Palin writes about the Wrexham & Shropshire railway company, which runs a sightly and very popular service between those town and London Marylebone:

Perhaps it lacks the hurtling speed of a Pendolino or a TGV, but Wrexham & Shropshire makes up for this in every other way. Nothing is sacrificed for speed, and yet passenger satisfaction figures are at the top end of the scale.

Which surely shows us that people rate a railway on how they’re treated on the train. Wrexham & Shropshire may seem like a throw-back to old-style comforts but I see it as a pioneer setting an example of high service standards which other lines would do well to follow.

See also Euan Feguson's comments on the company's sensible ticketing policy, quoted in an earlier posting here:
"Now, the train's going to be moving off in that direction," says the guard, bending solicitously over a sweet little bundle of embroidered tea cosies which turned out to be a shawl wrapped around a lady of rather more than a certain age. "Do you want to go to the opposite seat, face forward, see the countryside? Oh, don't worry about the ticket stuff; we'll get that sorted later."

London in the 1960s

A wonderful slideshow of street scenes by wasleso.

Note how many of the buildings still look modern, whereas the cars are getting to be comically old fashioned.

Thanks to @urchinette and @helenduffett on Twitter.

Pits n Pots on David Jack

The local news site Pits n Pots has a bit of background on David Jack, who resigned as Lib Dem PPC for Stoke North earlier today over allegations that he sent a racist email:
It seems that Mr Jack has been embroiled in an email exchange with another party where racist and abusive language was allegedly used by Mr Jack.
Mr Jack denies that he sent the emails. Tonight he claimed that he 'was out on the lash' with twenty other individuals at the time when the alleged emails were sent.
He also claims that he is a victim of a smear campaign in relation to a upcoming court hearing to be heard in the Royal Courts of Justice on March 24th.
Mr Jack claims that there are a number of companies that have acted illegally with regards to consumer debt.
He said that he makes no apologies for protecting the interests of consumers.
Later. David Jack was subsequently exonerated.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Lib Dem PPC resigns over racist email

Channel 4 News is reporting that David Jack has resigned as Liberal Democrats candidate for Stoke North after an offensive email was sent from his official email address.

The TV station says its political correspondent Cathy Newman has spoken to Mr Jack, who denies sending the email, which contains sexually offensive and racist language.

Later. A bit of local background here. Even later. David Jack was subsequently exonerated.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Hilary Benn on Top of the Form

The TV Cream page on Top of the Form says:
Grammar-school only institution, with singular absence of “new” comprehensive representatives. Prize was simply “taking part”, the swines.
This cannot be true, as the photograph on the page has Holland Park (a deeply fashionable comprehensive in the 1960s) as one of the two schools taking part.

Now go to that page, click on the photograph to get a larger version and see who is second from the left in the Holland Park team.

Monday, January 18, 2010

David Dimbleby was a member of the Bullingdon Club

In the early days of this blog I wrote of David Dimbleby:
He is a public school boy of no great imagination or ability, projected on to the national stage by television fame and family connections.
A profile of Dimbleby published in the Observer last October suggests this was more true than I realised.

Written by James Robinson, it says of Dimbleby:
He attended private schools in Surrey, including Charterhouse, and studied at Oxford, graduating with a third-class degree. He joined the notorious Bullingdon Club, many years before David Cameron's membership brought the elite drinking fraternity to the attention of the wider public.
You can't get much more public school than the Bullingdon. And "no great imagination or ability"? Emerging from the best education his father's money could buy with a third suggests that Dimbleby is indeed not the brightest light in the studio.

I wouldn't mind, but Dimbleby shows no signs of going away. The BBC recently announced that he would be their interviewer in the leaders' debates at the general election.

At least he and David Cameron will have something to talk about.

Paul Martin, Market Harborough and corsets

This is what I call good television. The Paul Martin and Flog it! page gives us this gem of a repeat to look forward to:

BBC2

Monday January 25th 3.45pm-4.30pm Northampton

Experts:- Mark Stacey and James Lewis

Paul visits the corset museum at Market Harborough.

Britblog Roundup 256

To be found on The Wardman Wire.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick: I Haven't Told Her



Don't get me wrong. I love British folk music. I can't get enough of people walking out on May mornings or of drowned sailors. It's just that the genre sometimes seems to lack a sense of humour.

So it is a delight to find two of the stars of the 1960s' British folk revival singing like this.

A little Googling suggests that this song is not by Peter Sellers, as the poster on Youtube claims (though Sellers did perform it), but by Sammy Fain. And this recording is taken from a 1965 documentary for Danish television.

Elsewhere on this blog Dave Swarbrick plays the violin with Fairport Convention and Whippersnapper. More on Martin Carthy another day, no doubt.

The Peacock, Market Harborough, closes

I walked past the Peacock (where I worked as a barman during one university summer vacation) this morning and it looked thoroughly closed.

Sure enough, the Harborough Mail website reports:
The Peacock pub, a centuries old coaching inn, shut on Wednesday (January 13).

Landlords Adrian and Sharon McCarthy said a mutual decision was recahed (sic) with themselvs (sic) and brewery Marstons to close the St Mary's Place pub.
The Peacock has been closed in the past and housed an ambitious teashop called the Nutmeg Tree for a while in the 1990s.

Make your own David Cameron poster



Here.

Thanks to a comment on an earlier post for the tip.

Let's see what Eric Pickles is made of

Colin Breed, the Liberal Democrat MP for South East Cornwall, has issued a challenge to Eric Pickles, the Chairman of the Conservative Party.

A few days ago Pickles described Paddy Ashdown as "frail and confused" after the former Lib Dem leader said the South West had been "trampled on" by previous Tory administrations.

Now Breed has challenged Pickles to:
"visit Cornwall and Devon and meet Mr Ashdown. Perhaps first they could 'yomp' across Dartmoor."
Turning the irony up to 11, Breed went on:
"I can assure Mr Pickles we have very long memories in the South West and we would love to see him down here.

"Of course I suspect he would have passed out on a boggy patch a few hundred yards after trying to keep up with the frail and clearly decrepit Paddy Ashdown."
Let's see if Pickles will have the courage to take up this challenge.

Come on, Eric, show us what you're made of!

Nancy Keene Perkins and Ronald Tree

The Esoteric Curiosa introduces us to Nancy Keene Perkins, whose second husband was Ronald Tree, the Conservative MP for Harborough between 1933 and 1945.

Nancy was born near Charlottesville, Virginia, and brought up in Richmond and New York. She was the niece of Nancy Astor and a cousin of Joyce Grenfell.

She was first married in the United States in 1917. Her husband Henry Field, heir to the Marshall Field department store fortune, died five months later following an operation to remove his tonsils.

Her second husband Ronald Tree was Henry Field's first cousin. Esoteric Curiosa follows Wikipedia in describing Tree as "a bisexual journalist and investor". They married in the States in 1920 and moved to England in 1927. They took a 10-year lease on Kelmarsh Hall, which is five miles south of Market Harborough.

In 1933 Tree became MP for Harborough in a by-election that was a Conservative hold. In the same year he and Nancy moved to Ditchley House near Charlbury in Oxfordshire.

Tree became one of the few Conservatives who grasped the threat that Nazi Germany posed to Britain. During the World War II he offered Ditchley House for Churchill's use as Chequers and the prime minister's own house at Chartwell were thought too vulnerable to German bombers "when the moon was high". (Tree took this phrase of Churchill's as the title for his own memoirs.)

Tree lost Harborough to Labour in 1945 (the only time they have won the seat) and he and Nancy divorced two years later.

Nancy's third husband was Claude Lancaster, the Tory MP for Fylde and then South Fylde between 1938 and 1970. By coincidence, he also owned Kelmarsh Hall. This marriage lasted only until 1953, but Nancy was later to buy Haseley Court near Oxford and become "the doyenne of interior decorators (something she never was nor ever claimed to be) and smart gardeners".

Ronald, meanwhile, had also married again. His new wife was Marietta Peabody FitzGerald, with whom he had worked at the Ministry of Information. They moved to New York and had one daughter, but Marietta's other lovers included the Democratic Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson and the film director John Huston.

She was the sixties model Penelope Tree, who was David Bailey's partner and later appeared in The Rutles.

What all this brings home to me was the degree to which American money and American blood kept the British upper classes going through the upheavals of the 20th century. No wonder so many Tories are instinctive Atlanticists.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What the lack of protest over airport scanners tells us about Britain

I have visited someone in prison. I have been to a work meeting at Rampton Special Hospital. And when it comes to security precautions, catching a flight from Edinburgh to Luton is right up there with them.

Now, cheered on by Norman Baker and Chris Huhne, air travel is about to leap into a clear lead. Full body scanners are to be installed at airports in Britain and abroad so that anyone catching a flight will be viewed naked by security officials before boarding the plane.

They are not taking it lying down in Germany. Yesterday the Daily Mail reported the gathering of a number of naked flashmobs - or fleshmobs - to protest against the plans at airports in Berlin, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf:

The demonstration was organised by the Piraten Partei (Pirate Party) - a group who say on their website that they stand up for 'civil liberties'.

Protestors, using the motto 'you do not need to scan us - we are already naked', scrawled messages on their bodies including 'something to hide?' and 'be a good citizen – drop your pants'.

There have been no such demonstrations here in Britain. It seems that it only takes one Nigerian to set fire to his underpants and any sense of human dignity is forgotten. Give us our cheap flights (aren't we supposed to be cutting down on those?) and we will put up with anything.

This confirms the impression that government is principally about news management. It is not clear that these scanners would have prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab getting on to his plane. The important thing is that the government is seen to be do something - and cannot be charged with not having done it next time there is a terrorist incident.

What protest there has been in Britain has centred on the possible introduction of racial profiling. It seems that so much of our moral energy goes into Not Being Racist that we have none left to be outraged at anything else. As long we are all oppressed equally, what is there to complain about?

Friday, January 15, 2010

More on Withers LLP and John Hemming

A short debate took place on John Hemming's motion yesterday and it was referred to the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee.

Some background.

MP repays £755 expense claim for astrology software

In June of last year I wrote about one of the more entertaining expense claims that had come to light at Westiminster. David Tredinnick, the Tory MP for Bosworth in Leicestershire, had claimed for astrology software bought from a company called Crucial Astro Tools and for tuition from the same company to show him how to use it.

News comes today, courtesy of the Leicester Mercury, that he has repayed the £755 he received for these claims. Though Tredinnick still defends this use of public money:
"There are, in my view, links between astrology and healthcare and this is held to be the case in India and other healthcare systems and that was what I was looking into."
he told the Mercury:
"I thought, however, that to avoid any doubt about this claim that I would repay the money."
Strange, you think he would have foreseen that this claim would cause him problems.

I later had fun with this story and some of Tredinnick's other wacky beliefs in a House Points column.

Writing on his blog Adventures in Nonsense, Simon Perry does not take the member for Bosworth so lightly:

I find it unbelievable that a democratically-elected MP seems to be suggesting we should be looking into using astrology within our system of health care ...

Radionics is a system of healing where you take a sample of hair or blood, or even a signature and use it in what I can only describe as a kind of remote psychic healing machine.

It's the friendly but equally wacky equivalent of sticking pins into a voodoo doll. Yet it seems Mr Tredinnick is suggesting we should consider it within the NHS.

Though it does not say so on the blog, I think this piece was originally one of Simon's columns for the Leicester Mercury. Clearly, he fancies himself as the Ben Goldacre of the East Midlands.

House Points: Nick Clegg, Gina Ford and airbrushing

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News.

Ford unpopular

Interviewed by the Sunday Times last week, Nick Clegg mentioned that he and Miriam had tried then discarded the methods advocated by the mother-and-baby guru Gina Ford. “It was like following a sort of Ikea assembly instruction manual. It made us feel strangely passive as parents.”

I doubt this was planned by Cowley Street spin doctors: it reads like one of those outbreaks of candour Nick is prone to (and which make insiders nervous). But readers’ comments on the paper’s website suggest he struck a chord with the public.

Perhaps there is a lesson here. Parenting is one of those subjects that people talk about all the time but politics hardly touches. And note that Nick was just saying what he thinks: he was not proposing a new law or telling anyone what to do.

This is ammunition for those who argue that not every Lib Dem Conference debate has to be on a policy motion. We don’t always have to promise voters two new Acts of Parliament and a Royal Commission.

I thought of this on Monday when Jo Swinson, who persuaded our last Conference to adopt a policy of obliging advertisers who use airbrushed photographs to declare it, had a Commons adjournment debate on the same subject.

She spoke well:
Hospital admissions for bulimia and anorexia among girls under 18 leapt by 47 per cent last year ... Media images are not the only factor responsible for that list of health problems, but they are a significant risk factor.

And:

One study of girls aged from five to seven found that girls had less body esteem and a greater desire for a thinner body after exposure to images of thin Barbie dolls, compared with girls exposed to images of dolls with a healthy body size.

I am not convinced that legislation is practicable, but those who oppose Lib Dem policy have no alternative. Rather than offer another way of tackling the problem, they simply deny it exists.

A healthy society would have a whole range of institutions – schools, churches, youth organisations – where such matters could be discussed and some authority was lodged. In Britain today it seems to be the state and a new law or nothing. Which is why Nick’s remarks were so refreshing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Test drilling resumes in Nottinghamshire oilfield

It sounds like a story from Lord Bonkers' Diary, but it is true.

I once wrote about the oil wells in Nottinghamshire that contributed some three million barrels to the Allied effort in World War II.

This evening's East Midlands television news reported that exploratory drilling is taking place n this oilfield to see if it can be exploited further.

IBTimes has the story:

UK and France oil explorer Egdon Resources says drilling has begun at the Dukes Wood-1 well in Nottinghamshire. Operations are expected to take around two weeks.

This is the first well in evaluation of the rejuvenation potential at the Eakring-Dukes Wood oil field, where Egdon has identified low- risk opportunities to add production, revenues and reserves.

Vice President of the Day

A correspondent draws my attention to the Vice President of Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan.

RomanCatholicism4UK

The Spectator is organising a debate: "In this year of the Pope’s visit, is it time for England to become a Catholic country again?"

This confirms that the British right is very odd these days. What kind of Conservative are you if you do not believe in the Established Church?

And the list of those speaking in favour of the motion is telling. It includes Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the recently retired Archbishop of Westminster, and Reverend Dom Antony Sutch, former headmaster of Downside and regular contributor to the Today programme's Thought for the Day.

Roman Catholics, like every other religion, like to portray themselves as a harmless minority who are rather oppressed by a secular mainstream culture. That two such prominent British Catholics are prepared to argue that we should be a Catholic country again suggests they would be comfortable with a more ambitious agenda.

Certainly, the concept of "a Catholic country" is likely to make British readers think of Ireland in the decades after independence. Most of them are unlikely to think this a happy parallel.

And their enthusiasm for the motion is a reminder to me that my wistful atheism is a tenable position only in a largely secular society.

Thanks to Archbishop Cranmer, who may at least agree with my first point.

New David Cameron poster unveiled



Thanks to Malcolm Redfellow, who has plenty more spoof Cameron posters to show you.

The Withers LLP email to John Hemming

Yesterday the Commons Speaker granted an emergency debate after John Hemming claimed he had been "intimidated" by a firm of solicitors.

The text of the email from Withers LLP, the company in question, has been published in Hansard.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Paul Heaton gets on his bike

The Publican reports:

Ex-Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton is looking for venues to perform at as part of a cycling tour to promote traditional pubs.

Heaton will begin his 720-mile Pedals and Pumps trip in May at the set of the Rovers Return in Manchester.

Travelling by bike, Heaton will be aiming to play 15 gigs with his band across the North and Midlands at a range of different pubs – and hopefully stay the night.

He is not coming anywhere near Market Harborough, but he is looking for a pub to play in that is within 10 miles of Much Wenlock.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nevill Holt Story of the Day

Just before Christmas I noted the story that David Ross, the owner of Nevill Holt, was to be questioned by police following allegations of an assault outside Bonkers House his Belgravia home.

Out of fairness - and in my new role as chronicler of all things to do with Nevill Holt - I should record that Sniezana Kobeniak, the young lady involved, has now withdrawn her allegation.

Writing on the Guardian website, Roy Gleenslade is scathing about the whole affair:
It may not be the concluding episode in this odd saga, because the police are supposedly continuing with their inquiries (why?), but it must surely rank as one of the greatest non-stories of all time.
Lord Bonkers adds: Well said, The press can be Terribly Unfair. I recall an unfortunate misunderstaning in 1932...

How to be a Lib Dem blogger

Hurry over to Lib Dem Voice to download a free ebook on the subject.

Leicester New Walk Museum and Art Gallery: A Journey out of Darkness

From the museum's website:

"A Journey Out of Darkness" is a stunning exhibition of over 100 artworks, which explores the development of Leicester’s German Expressionist Art Collection.

The collection, which began in 1944 amidst the darkness of war with paintings saved from destruction in Nazi Germany, now numbers over 350 artworks, the first and largest of its kind in the UK.

The exhibition will now run until 3 May 2010. This etching, the extraordinary "Death and Woman" by Kathe Kollwitz, forms part of it.

Health and safety and the Daily Mail

A couple of days ago I pointed you to a posting where David Boyle wrote about the concern with health and safety. He suggested that it had the effect of making us less safe and was a good example of how big government can be self-defeating.

In a comment on that post "James" pointed us to a link that showed that what the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Telegraph had described as Institution of Occupational Safety and Health guidance was in fact the opinion of an individual contributor to the Institute's magazine.

James concluded: "David may have a point but he needs to back it up with some real examples", which is fair comment.

The trouble is that too many Liberal Democrats regard showing that the Daily Mail is wrong as the end of the debate.

Take a posting on the same subject by Mark Pack on Lib Dem Voice. (I am sorry to pick on Mark- there have been many similar posts over recent months.)

Mark wrote about the same story, but to him the only point of interest was that the two newspapers had misrepresented the Institute's advice. But surely there is more to it than that?

Because when you read the Institute's guidance (which Mark helpfully reproduces) it turns out to be something less than the call for neighbourliness which the Institute's website represents it as:
Deciding whether to grit beyond the boundaries of their property needs to be carefully considered by companies. If access to the premises is covered in ice, companies may choose to grit the access to help their staff and visitors arrive and leave safely, even though it’s not their property. However, in this instance, if they failed to grit the surface properly and someone had an accident as a result, then they could incur some liability.

As a general rule, though, it’s sensible for firms to consider the risks and take reasonable steps to prevent accidents from happening. If this means gritting outside the boundaries of your workplace, then it’s better to do that than to have people slipping over or involved in car crashes on your doorstep.
Mark has nothing to say about this. All he wants to do is complain about the Mail.

Let us take is as read that the Daily Mail is awful. There still remains a much more important and interesting question to debate.

What is the Liberal Democrat attitude to health and safety? Do we think that the government (though it is not the only influence here) has got things about right? Or do we (like me) hold a view more like David Boyle's, which suggests that the Labour attempt to regulate everything is bound to be counterproductive?

This constant complaining about the Mail is a form of political group grooming. Look how ridiculous the people who disagree with us are! How sensible we are in comparison! Why, they even supported Oswald Mosley!

I suspect that, like the constant bien-pensant complaints about the Sun in the 1980s, the modern hatred of the Daily Mail disguised more than a drop of hidden snobbery.

So let's stop talking about the Mail all the time and start worrying about what we think. It may be harder work, but it will a lot more rewarding.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Comedian's son is the deputy leader of Rochdale Council

The Manchester Evening News carries the important news that Liberal Democrat councillor Dale Mulgrew, who has just become the deputy leader of Rochdale Council, is the son of the comedian Jimmy Cricket.

"And there's more!"

Please yourself. That used to crack us up in the 1980s.

Peter Bartram

Someone called Peter Bartram arrived at work today to give us some training.

The name seemed familiar. "Did you once publish a biography of David Steel?" I asked.

He did. We got talking.

"Don't you write Lord Bonkers?" he asked. I do.

We got on famously after that.

Peter has his own website.

Windy Ridge, Little Bowden

Walking home from the station tonight someone asked if I would show a poster protesting against the development of Windy Ridge on the edge of Little Bowden. I agreed to do so.

The Harborough Mail will tell you about the issues at stake:

An inquiry into the so-called Battle of Windy Ridge is due to start tomorrow (Wednesday, January 13).

A Government-appointed planning inspector will preside over a three-day public inquiry in Harborough over the latest homes row at the so-called Windy Ridge site, off Glebe Road in Little Bowden.

Developers Mosaic Ventures and Fletcher Homes want to build 141 houses on the 17-acre plot of land but residents living nearby are against the move.

Harborough District Council's planning department threw out the application in August, saying the plan lies outside the limits of its Local Plan and would adversely affect the appearance of the countryside.