Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Exorcism by Don Taylor is on DVD

I am not a great one for Halloween, but this is as good a night as any to blog this.

Back in 2007 I wrote:
What is the most frightening television programme you have ever seen? 
For me it is probably the episode of Sexton Blake in which the hypodermic-wielding villain measured Tinker for his coffin while he was still alive. Mind you, I may have been as young as seven when I saw it. 
After that. it is undoubtedly a play I remember from the early 1970s. Two wealthy couples were spending Christmas in a country cottage - the second home of one of them. Gradually they become aware that they are trapped in the building and the red wine they are drinking has turned to blood...
That play, as I had just discovered when I wrote that, was The Exorcism by Don Taylor.

Thanks to BBC Genome I can reveal exactly when I watched it. It was on the evening of Sunday 5 November 1972, which means I was 12 years old.

And you can now buy The Exorcism on DVD:
After years of unavailability, the three surviving episodes from the legendary BBC horror anthology series, Dead of Night, finally comes to DVD. Originally screened on BBC2 in 1972, and rarely seen since, Dead of Night has been highly sought by fans of the BBC and British Horror for decades.
It is one of three episodes of Dead of Night to survive. The DVD cover shows Anna Massey in another of them.

The Exorcism has long been available on Youtube, though I have never been brave enough to watch more than opening few minutes.

What they show is that it is very much a play of the 1970s - it is written by a Marxist and Clive Swift's cravat has to be seen to be believed.

It comes over like an upmarket and even more horrific cousin of Abigail's Party.

Friday, October 30, 2015

George Lazenby sells Fry's Turkish Delight



I enjoyed Premium Bond, Matthew Sweet and Mark Gatiss's canter through the James Bond films the other evening.

One thing they did not mention was that George Lazenby, who made one appearance as Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, had previously starred in a commercial for Fry's Turkish Delight.

Jonathan Meades on Dennis Potter

This blog's hero Jonathan Meades reviews a selection of Dennis Potter's non-fiction in the Literary Review.

He questions Potter's reputation as our preeminent television dramatist:
Potter was certainly very prolific, but as a dramatist he was thematically straitened and tirelessly self-plagiaristic. Chapel (and the nonconformist, anti-Marxist socialism that derived from it), chippiness, the Forest of Dean, debilitating illness, the problem of prayer, virgins or whores: these are perpetually recurrent motifs. And surely one serial in which characters mime to pop songs would have been enough.
but praises the book strongly:
Every page of this book is constellated with sentences and phrases of, variously, humour, cleverness, warmth, indignation and savagery. It is one of the very finest collections of ‘occasional’ (but far from ephemeral) writing I have read.

Brief Encounter still moves us 70 years on



There was a tremendous episode of The Film Programme about Brief Encounter on Radio 4 yesterday. Listen to it on the BBC iPlayer:
To mark the 70th anniversary of Brief Encounter, Francine Stock asks why it still makes grown men and women weep despite the restrained passions, clipped accents and various parodies. 
She enlists the help of fans Moira Buffini, Matthew Sweet, Thomas Dixon, Neil Brand and Antonia Quirke.
The discussion raised the question of whether we can be sure that Trevor Howard has not picked up women at Milford Junction before, I am afraid we cannot.

Martin Amis and the left

Introducing his attack on Jeremy Corbyn the Sunday Times described Martin Amis, improbably, as "a leading figure on the British left for three decades".

Though he was a central part of the New Statesman in its last glory years, he has never shown strong signs of being on the left beyond his support for CND in the 1980s.

When I think of Amis's novels I remember his skewering of the showbiz left in his 1995 novel The Information:
Are you a Labour supporter, the interviewer asks Gwyn. 
‘Obviously.’ 
‘Of course.’ 
‘Of course.’ 
Of course, thought Richard, yeah of course. Gwyn was Labour. It was obvious. Obvious not from the ripply cornices 20 feet above their heads, not from the brass lamps or the military plumpness of the leather-topped desk. Obvious because Gwyn was what he was, a writer, in England, at the end of the 20th century. There was nothing else for such a person to be. Richard was Labour, equally obviously. 
It often seemed to him, moving in the circles he moved in and reading what he read, that everyone in the land was Labour, except the Government.
Jonathan Coe has a good article on Amis and Corbyn in today's Guardian.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Public Image Ltd get it together in the country



"Well, punk was really a reaction against people like me, wasn’t it?" as Steve Winwood once said.

So there is a delicious irony to the fact that John Lydon's Public Image Ltd now record their albums at his Cotswold studio.

See them there in this video, and read a little more about that irony in John Lydon, Steve Winwood and the taming of punk.

The fact that punk was happily absorbed into the opening ceremony for the London Olympics a few months after I wrote that post suggests I was on to something.

150th birthday of the Bishop's Castle Railway

The Ludlow & Tenbury Wells Advertiser reports on the marking on the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Bishop's Castle Railway:
Bishop's Castle Railway Society marked the anniversary by erecting two commemorative plaques at each end of the route. One was placed near the site of the station in Bishop's Castle and the other at Craven Arms station from where trains to Bishop's Castle departed.
The Bishop's Castle Railway Society website points us to a description of the celebrations in the town when the line opened:
On the arrival of the train at Bishop’s Castle, the Shrewsbury sax-horn band struck up “See the Conquering Hero Comes”, and a procession headed by the band was formed consisting of the committee, shareholders, schoolchildren, with the workmen and public following in the rear. The town was decorated in various places with triumphal arches in evergreen, flags, banners and mottoes. Guns were fired throughout the day and bells rung ...
The Rev. W. Rowland, Rector of the parish, replying to the loyal toasts given by the Chairman said he had been in that locality 24 years, and no day had dawned upon him so happily as the day on which they were now assembled. He stood there as a clergyman, and he believed that the extension of railways was the means, under God’s blessing, of raising our country higher and higher. The Glee “Hail, Smiling Morn” then followed.
Sadly, these high hopes were not fulfilled. The line went into receivership two years later and remained there, celebrated for its rickety nature, until it closed in 1935.

Pro-Europeans need to find some positive arguments

Nick Clegg has an article in the Independent today:
The Outers want us to believe we can have our cake and eat it, effortlessly freeing ourselves from the shackles of Brussels while continuing to trade on equal terms with our neighbours across the Channel. 
They argue that Britain can simultaneously abandon the EU, end free movement of people, end all EU budget contributions, repatriate control over employment regulations and retain full access to the European single market. It sounds lovely, but it’s a deception. 
And that last point is the most deceptive of all. There is no access to the single market without adherence to its rules and regulations.
This is all true, but I find the tone, which is typical of pro-European Union articles, problematic.

We voters are being told, in effect, that we have no choice. We must vote to stay in the EU or bad things will happen to us.

Yet we live in an age where being told what to do by those in authority goes down very badly.

I fear for the referendum result if the pro-EU side cannot find some positive arguments for our membership.

Back in 1973 we greeted our membership of the Common Market with a celebratory football match.

We need some of that spirit - a touch of Ode to Joy - if the forces of light are going to win.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wolverhampton trains and trolley buses in the 1960s



The station shown is the current Wolverhampton station, but it lost its overall roof long ago.

Vince Cable on the threat to free debate in universities



Times Higher Education reports a talk by Vince Cable to the University of London’s Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

Vince expressed his fear that new anti-terror legislation will lead to universities becoming sterile institutions:
Sir Vince, who held responsibility for universities from 2010 until losing his Twickenham parliamentary seat in May’s general election, also warned that new rules that require universities to vet external speakers to see whether they hold 'extremist' views are likely to be applied zealously by institutions, thereby inhibiting free speech. 
"Universities – being naturally risk-averse and cautious – will err on the side of caution and try to stop certain Islamic speakers," said Sir Vince. 
"They will then be accused of being Islamophobic and choose to ban other types of speakers…[and] pursue bland, uncontroversial debates, driving underground contentious debate that causes difficulty," he added. 
Pushing legitimate debate away from campuses was 'profoundly dangerous'” because controversial views could not be challenged in the same way as they can during open forums at universities, said Sir Vince, a former president of the Cambridge Union. 
"I have a serious problem with action to drive underground people who are described as 'extremists', which could be applied to people with a whole range of views," he said.
Add to this the fact that today's students seem less inclined to invite speakers who will outrage their elders, and more inclined to call for them to be banned if someone else does, and I fear Vince is right.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Alec Clifton-Taylor goes to Stamford



This was an episode of his 1978 series Six English Towns.

More praise of Stamford here.

Six of the Best 548

Nick Barlow is right to wince at calls to "take the politics out of" things.

"It’s 'mystifying' that Britain is persisting with the deal for Hinkley Point, Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance said ... 'It seems to me that when you’re in a money hole, you should stop digging'." Alex Morales and Rachel Morison on the financing of the power station.

Chris Hanretty explains why Daniel Hannan and Owen Jones are both wrong about Portugal.

Matthew Lynn asks how long W. H. Smith, once a much-respected newsagent and bookseller, can keep squeezing profits out of falling sales and disgruntled customers.

She told the family of a severely disabled man that she could help him to communicate with the outside world, but the relationship that followed would lead to a criminal trial. Daniel Engber tells an extraordinary true story.

"As Christopher Hitchens noted ... Vidal was as close a figure to Oscar Wilde as America has ever had. He spoke in perfect epigrams, devoting his versatile intellect to matters high and low, and he lived his life in defiance of bourgeois sexual norms." Jennifer Senior reviews a life of Gore Vidal.

National party sacks the leadership of Leicester Conservatives

From the Leicester Mercury:
The national Tory party has sacked the leadership of the City of Leicester Conservative Association in the wake of a disastrous performance in May's elections. 
The party's board - its ultimate decision making body - has relieved the seven members of the association officer and management team of their duties. 
The Mercury understands a number of senior local Tories had raised concerns with the party hierarchy relation to the way the campaign was run.
Both opposition parties have suffered a collapse in recent years.

At the citywide elections of 2003, 25 Liberal Democrat, 20 Labour and 9 Conservative councillors were elected.

Today there are 52 Labour councillors and the other parties have one each.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Springtime in an English village (Stanion in 1944)


Click on the image above to view this film in the Britain on Film collection on the British Film Institute website.

The blurb there says:
This extraordinary and unexpected snapshot of rural life in wartime - unseen for years due to the fragility of the materials - documents most ancient of English traditions: the selection and crowning of the Queen of the May. 
But what is so surprising is that 60 years ago the village of Stanion in Northamptonshire chose to honour a young black girl - apparently the daughter of an African merchant seaman who had been evacuated there during the War. 
It's hard to know quite how literally to take the proceedings. The film was made by the Colonial Film Unit for the purpose of screening throughout Britain's African and Caribbean colonies - to demonstrate 'typical' life in the UK - at a time when the government needed to recruit the support of men and women from across the Empire. 
Later, in the immediate post-War period, such films not only acted to reinforce imperial solidarity, but formed part of a propaganda campaign to attract cheap labour to the UK.

GUEST POST The trouble with Seumas Milne

Tim Hall on Labour's new director of strategy and communications

I'm no Labour supporter but I was willing to give Jeremy Corbyn a chance to revitalise the British left and shake up the establishment consensus. I'd hoped he's galvanise a broad-based movement rather than retreat into sectarian zealotry.

Unfortunately his appointment of Seumas Milne to the powerful post of communications director does not bode well. Milne is an unreconstructed and unrepentant Stalinist who often seemed as though he was only employed as a columnist for the Guardian to make some of their other leftist writers look like voices of reason by comparison.

He's close to a caricature of the worst kind of public-school leftist, the product of an expensive private school and Oxbridge education that's filled his head with Marxist theory, undiluted with much contact with ordinary working people.

It's as if David Cameron had appointed the notorious Daily Telegraph columnist James Delingpole to the equivalent post for the Conservatives. Except worse; Delingpole is a noxious button-pushing right-wing troll, while Milne is a staring-eyed True Believer.

Milne's acolytes are meeping about "smears", except that most of those so-called smears are links to his Guardian op-eds, which let people read, in context, what he said about everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the murder of Lee Rigby. And none of it is pretty.

Searching for "Seumas Milne" on Twitter and the overwhelming message is dismay from across the centre-left. This hard-hitting piece from Labour PPC Kate Godrey sums up that dismay rather well.

As for Milne's cheerleaders, a blog called The Canary thinks Jeremy Corbyn's choice of Comms Chief should delight his supporters and terrify his enemies which actually speaks volumes about the delusional bubble inhabited by much of the hard left. It's difficult to imagine that bubble surviving contact with reality on the doorsteps next May. After which there will be blood. Hopefully only metaphorical blood, but...

The truth they're unable to accept is that a hard-left Labour Party has little chance of being elected unless Britain suffers a Greece-style economic meltdown. And if you're really hoping for a Greek-style meltdown so you can benefit from it politically, then you've not the sort of person anyone should trust with political power.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
And this is before we start on how the whole controversy is distracting attention away from the really nasty stuff the Tories are doing.

Odd smell in Bridgnorth turns out to be cannabis plants

Bridgnorth: Please keep off the grass

Our Headline of the Day Award goes to the Shropshire Star.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is there a future for liberalism?



This is the opening session from the Battle of Idea last Saturday. I did not arrive until after it had taken place.

The blurb on Youtube runs:
Classical liberalism has very few friends on either side of the Atlantic. The ideal of free speech is frequently trumped by the claim that it must be regulated in order to protect the powerless. Even the liberal principle of tolerance has been criticised for being too judgmental. 
In this compelling panel discussion filmed at the Battle of Ideas 2015 at the Barbican, Professor Frank Furedi, Dr Katrina Forrester and Steven Erlanger discuss with a packed audience where this leaves liberalism today. Furedi’s call for a new judgementalism is inspiring. Claire Fox Director of the Institute of Ideas is chair.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Didn't It Rain



This is my new favourite clip on Youtube. The two quotes below what is going on.

From BBC News:
On 7 May 1964, a gaggle of excited passengers alighted on to a rainy disused railway station platform in south Manchester and took their seats for what one of the city's leading music academics says was a "massively culturally significant" gig. 
The show at Whalley Range's Wilbraham Road station, recorded for Granada TV as the Blues and Gospel Train, saw greats including Muddy Waters and Sister Rosetta Tharpe perform. 
The University of Salford's Dr Chris Lee says the show "influenced nearly everyone who saw it" and was as important as the Sex Pistols' 1976 show at the city's Lesser Free Trade Hall, which spurred attendees Morrissey, Mark E Smith and the musicians who would become Joy Division and Buzzcocks into action.
And from Richard Williams earlier this year in the Guardian:
By the time Sister Rosetta Tharpe sang Take My Hand, Precious Lord to a Copenhagen audience in 1970, she was 55 years old and shortly to suffer the stroke that prefaced her death two years later. 
The funeral of a performer for whom audiences had once packed venues across the US attracted only enough mourners to half-fill a church, and she was buried in an unmarked grave. Yet if you wanted to identify a performer who incarnated the qualities of rock’n’roll before such music had a name, she would top the list of candidates. 
Nobody – not Chuck Berry, not Scotty Moore, not James Burton, not Keith Richards – played wilder or more primal rock’n’roll guitar than this woman who gave her life to God and would have celebrated her 100th birthday on 20 March. With a Gibson SG in her hands, Sister Rosetta could raise the dead. And that was before she started to sing.
In view of the comment that she had given her life to God, it is worth pointing out that the 'Sister' was just a stage name. She was not a funky version of Julie Andrews.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Mountsorrel branch reopened today



From the Loughborough Echo:
A newly restored railway line in Mountsorrel will be opened this weekend, the latest addition to the Great Central Railway. 
The project to restore the Mountsorrel Railway, which once served the granite quarries of the village, has been undertaken entirely by volunteers from the local community and beyond ... 
Not content with restoring the railway, the group then set out to create a brand new railway station at Mountsorrel. 
Steve added: “When the Mountsorrel Railway was built originally, it was always intended that Mountsorrel would have a station but that dream was never realised. 
"That was something that we wanted to put right so that the public could ride the railway that we had restored."
Thanks to a grant of £66,000 from Tarmac’s Landfill Community fund, and more work by the volunteers, Mountsorrel now has a railway station, on Bond Lane.

Six of the Best 547

A 'progressive alliance' would suffocate the Liberal Democrats, says Tim Oliver.

Rafael Behr explains what is going on in the Labour Party: "To Corbyn and McDonnell, a commitment demanded by Hilary Benn that Labour campaign to stay in the EU, for example, is an easy concession to make. The bigger prize was the shadow foreign secretary’s seat on the national executive committee, snatched from under him and awarded to Rebecca Long Bailey, a Corbyn loyalist."

Whatever the House of Lords does on tax credits the Conservatives are unlikely to put reform of it back on the agenda, argues Richard Reid.

John Butcher on the squeezing out of part-time students from higher education: "Any diminution of part-time opportunity affects precisely those groups that policies aimed at increasing social mobility are meant to address."

In Odessa a statue of Lenin has been converted into one of Darth Vader reports Dumskaya.net.

William Boyd shows us why John le Carré is more than a spy novelist.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jan Svankmajer: Jabberwocky



The second session I attended at the Battle of Ideas was on children's literature.

What I chiefly remember from it is an extract from a film of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky made by the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer - not least because I belong to a generation that was made to learn that poem (but few others) off by heart.

That extract was shown by Dr Thomas Karshan from the University of East Anglia, who led the session. I think the video here gives the full version,

Svankmajer later annotated the whole of Alice and you can find clips from that film on the net .

Michael Meacher and the Oldham West and Royton by-election



Michael Meacher enjoyed a remarkable 45 year career as an MP. The most generous tribute to him was that by John Vidal in the Guardian:
Michael Meacher was a remarkable environment minister because for six years, at the start of the Blair government, he almost single-handedly fought to defend the natural world from road-building, the first generation of GM crops and rampant industrialisation. 
While junior environment ministers usually accept the Treasury or No 10 line without question, "the Meach", as he was widely known, stood up to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and possibly saved the administration from political embarrassment by urging caution at key moments.
Julia Langdon, in the same newspaper, was more measured:
He sat on Labour’s frontbench in government and opposition for a total of 29 years, but his misfortune was that he was never greatly favoured or particularly trusted by the six party leaders under whom he served.
At least he died under a leader with whom he was perfectly in tune.

Meacher was also known for losing a celebrated libel action against the journalist Alan Watkins, who had questioned his working class credentials.

In fact, Meacher had attended a public school - Berkhamsted. The late Robin Totten, who was the leader of Harborough District Council in the days when the Liberal Democrats ran it, once told me that Meacher had been his fag there.

I suggested to him that this is what had made Meacher a socialist, but I am sure it was not as Robin was a lovely man.

But politics, as Alan Watkins, used to observe, is a rough old game and already thoughts are turning to the forthcoming by-election in Oldham West and Royton.

On Lib Dem Voice Jonathan Fryer is absolutely right when he argues the Lib Dems must take it seriously:
During the Coalition government the Liberal Democrat powers that be took what I believed to be a misguided decision to virtually ignore northern parliamentary by-elections, with predictably disastrous results. In a couple of cases there was, however, a tremendous surge towards UKIP, almost causing shock Labour defeats. 
We lost our deposits spectacularly, despite the hard efforts of by-election candidates and mainly local party support. The impression given to the wider public, however, was that in the North of England the LibDems are rubbish, even irrelevant. We must not allow that to happen again.
By-elections campaigns are important for raising party morale, learning new campaigning techniques and making and renewing useful friendships.

But the strongest challenge to Labour in Oldham will almost certainly come from Ukip. Both Guido Fawkes and Sebastian Payne claim to have the inside on their likely candidate and campaign strategy.

After 45 years of Michael Meacher, who used to be called 'Tony Benn's representative on Earth, the Labour voters of Oldham are unlikely to be spooked by the leftward turn the party has taken by electing Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn should, however, be very worried about how they will react to a three weeks of being exposed to the views of his newly appointed lieutenants.

I cannot see John McDonnell's take on the Provisional IRA or Seamus Milne's view of the death of Lee Rigby going down at all well.

Which is why, like Nick Tyrone, I believe Labour needs to take the Ukip challenge extremely seriously.

 Ukip's fortunes seem to be in decline at the moment, but we shall have a clearer idea of their future, and of how the Corbyn leadership will play with Labour voters, after this by-election.

The homophobic monk is sentenced

A monk yesterday
From the Leicestershire Police website:
A man has been issued with a nationwide Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) after being convicted of harassment. 
Damon Jonah Kelly, 53, formerly of Millais Road, Corby, Northamptonshire, was sentenced today (Friday 23 October) after pleading guilty to harassment at an earlier hearing. 
He appeared at Leicester Magistrates Court he was sentenced to a 12-month community order and issued with the CBO ...The conditions of the order are [that he will not]: 
  1. Distribute unsolicited material about religious, sexual or reproductive topics to any residential, commercial or academic address in England and Wales 
  2. Call at any residential premises in England and Wales, whether by doorbell, telephone, knocking or any other means, without the prior permission of the occupier for the purpose of distributing unsolicited material as in condition 1,
Mr Kelly (or should that be Brother Damon?) is better know to the press and readers of this blog as the homophobic monk.

The police statement goes on to quote PC 4350 Emma Jayne:
"Leaflets have been distributed in Market Harborough, Loughborough and Leicester, but also in a number of counties across the country including Lincolnshire, Brighton, Cambridgeshire, Warwickshire and Northampton. Kelly had no regard for the effect his leaflets would have on people, some of the recipients were vulnerable and the leaflets only added to their distress."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The lost railways of Lancaster and Morecambe 2



Episode 2 visits Lancaster's first railway station, traces part of the old Green Ayre Line which connected Lancaster Castle Station with Lancaster Green Ayre Station and looks at Scale Hall Station.

Part 1 traces part of the old Green Ayre Line which connected Yorkshire to the city of Lancaster and the seaside town of Morecambe via Lancaster Green Ayre Station.

David "Cake" Amess to scrutinise government drugs policy



From the Independent:
A Conservative MP who was famously tricked into condemning a made up drug called “Cake” has been put in charge of scrutinising the Government’s new drugs policy. 
David Amess appeared on the satirical television programme Brass Eye in 1997 where he was filmed referring to Cake as “a big yellow death bullet”. 
As a result of the encounter he asked ministers a real life question in Parliament about the made up drug.

Danny Alexander: China in his hands



Danny Alexander has kept a low profile since the general election, but today comes news that he may be off to China.

BloombergBusiness has the story:
Danny Alexander, the former U.K. Chief Secretary to the Treasury who lost his job and his parliamentary seat in May’s general election, is in the running to join China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, according to two people familiar with the appointment process. 
The British government is considering putting forward Alexander, 43, for one of a small number of non-Asian seats on the development bank’s board, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are still under way. 
An appointment to the Beijing-based institution would be a further reward for Alexander, a Liberal Democrat who worked closely with Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in the coalition government that ran Britain from 2010 until 2015. 
He received a knighthood in August, three months after losing his Highland electoral district in the tidal wave of Scottish National Party victories.
You can read all about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank on its website.

T'Pau singer Carol Decker hits out at sports firm over online purchase

Our Headline of the Day again comes from the Shropshire Star.

I expect they are talking of little else in the county.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Six of the Best 546

David Boyle is worried about what will happen when people protest against the new Chinese-financed Hinkley Point nuclear power station: "What does the government do? Treat these demonstrators in a tolerant English way and risk offending our Chinese paymasters? Or will the government be required, by some secret or assumed agreement, to behave in a far more heavy-handed Chinese way towards them."

Sarah Noble says the Women’s Equality Party promises a surveillance state in the name of liberal feminism.

Abuse is killing Twitter, says Umair Haque.

Mimi Matthews on the 1871 Crystal Palace cat show.

"London’s waterways are audibly part of a different, parallel city ... It’s as if you’ve woken one morning to find 90% of the population have decided to go off on holiday." Matt Brown meets Ian Rawes, who has created an acoustic map of London's waterways.

Celluloid Wicker Man has been walking the landscape of M.R. James's ghost story "A Warning to the Curious".

Keep on Running was recorded 50 years ago today



In January 1966 the Spencer Davis Group, fronted by a 17-year-old Steve Winwood, knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts with this song, which was written by Jackie Edwards.

It was recorded on 21 October 1965, which means it is exactly 50 years old.

I like to think it does not sound dated in the way that a song from 1915 must have done in 1965, Or am I just getting old.?

Former Liberator Collective member wins Peer of the Year

Congratulations to Liz Barker, named this evening as Peer of the Year by PinkNews.

The winners are not yet on the organ's website yet, but Liz's nomination says:
Baroness Barker has continued to be a strong advocate for LGBT rights within Parliament. 
Late in 2014, she led a debate on the health of lesbians which uncovered key areas where NHS provision should be improved. 
She has contributed to other debates on LGBT rights and is a frequent commentator on PinkNews.
Having a former Liberator Collective member as a peer always seemed remarkable, so this may well be a sign that the end of days is upon us. Mind how you go.

The Duke of Rutland gets nul points

At the start of the month I reported that the Duke of Rutland was standing in a rather esoteric by-election - one to fill a vacancy for a hereditary peer to sit on the crossbenches in the Lords.

Mark Pack has the results. The Duke was one of 12 candidates not to get a single vote.

The winner was Lord Oaksey, who must be the son of the racing broadcaster.

Lord Bonkers adds: One mustn't gloat. Oh dear me no. There will be no gloating here over the fact that the Duke failed to get a single vote. No gloating at all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Disused railway stations in Derbyshire



A bumper selection that threatens to stop halfway through and then carries on. Both the Peak District and industrial Derbyshire are well covered.

Other videos are available: Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, Hampshire, Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, Cornwall, Rutland. Northumberland, Shropshire, SuffolkEast Riding of Yorkshire, Norfolk, Wiltshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire, DurhamGlasgow and Staffordshire.

Simon Jenkins and moral equivalence with the Chinese regime



When Simon Jenkins started writing for the Guardian back in 2005, I blogged that he had quickly worked out what his new readers wanted.

I quoted him:
The education white paper offers a vision of a "parent-led" state secondary-school system. Its key institution is the "self-governing school free to parents", a copy of the Tories' grant-maintained school that Labour once derided. Parents will be able to control a school's "ethos and individualism". As one parent briskly put it to me, "We can keep out the blacks.
And then commented myself:
Parents cannot be trusted with a role in their children's education because they are all racists. No Guardian reader could ask more than that from a columnist.
Luckily Mr Jenkins could be trusted with a role in his children's education. He sent them to expensive private schools. (I read this somewhere, so I know it's true.)

Ten years on, he is still at it.

Guardian readers are not wild about Britain and tend to embrace any dictatorship that challenges British power or British values.

So today Jenkins wrote:
Two can play at “issues raising”. If I were that Chinese person I would politely warn the Queen of “legitimate” Chinese concerns over her surveillance cameras in every street; her police listening to private phone calls; her slave workers in the fields and domestic service. 
I would ask what kind of justice denies legal aid and charges a fee to use a court. How can Britain export terrorists to the Middle East and kill Muslims by the thousand for not accepting “British values”? How can it fail to teach its children simple maths?
In many ways an intermittently Establishment man such as Jenkins writing in this way is more dangerous than Jeremy Corbyn's appointment of a Stalinist as his communications chief,

Listening to Dapper Laughs

I arrived at the Battle of Ideas at lunchtime on Saturday and found there was a debate on comedy and offence starting shortly in one of the Barbican's cinemas.

It sounded my sort of thing, so I went along.

When I got there I found Dapper Laughs was one of the speakers.

If it had been any other event there would have pickets or I would have been called "Tory Scum" or spat on by Guardian columnists. Because it was the Battle of Ideas I just wandered in and found him there.

I got the memo. I have written for the Guardian and the New Statesman. I know I am meant to hate Dapper Laughs.

It's just that I have never heard him perform.

I did not rush back to listen to him either. I have reached an age where I don't like many comedians.

When you are younger, comedy matters immensely. It helps form your own sense of humour and even your view of the world. When I was in the sixth form (that's years 12 and 13 by my calculation) we conversed using lines from Fawlty Towers and Reginald Perrin in the way Victorian schoolboys are supposed to have swapped Latin tags.

Today I will admit to liking Alexei Sayle and Stewart Lee, and that is about it.

So I shall review the Dapper Laughs I saw on Saturday.

The first thing to say is that he was intensely irritating. When you look at local papers from the 1950s, you see that if a well-known comedian was in town he felt compelled to pull a face when he was photographed to prove how funny he was.

That approach has crept back in (think Mel and Sue saying "Bake!" in a range of achingly funny voices) and Dapper Laughs has certainly bought in to it. He spent the whole debate mugging to the audience and punched the air if someone agreed with him.

And for those who worry about manspreading - personally, I grew up in an era when radical politics involved something more than telling people to sit up straight - he contrived to take up three chairs.

But his arguments were better,

Because, he told us, he is not Dapper Laughs, His name is Daniel O'Reilly. Dapper Laughs is a character he plays. He is making fun of men's sexism, not celebrating it.

And before you dismiss that, remember how annoyed you get if some right-wing commentator fails to appreciate all the layers of irony in Stewart Lee's act - Will Self wrote well about him the other day - and assumes that something he says in his act is his real view.

As the other panelist, Tom Slater, pointed out, we middle-class liberals celebrate our ability to navigate Lee's shifting meanings but assume that a working-class man who hears a joke about rape will assume rape is just fine.

Well, maybe. But I find arguments that rely on affecting outrage on behalf of some other group inherently unconvincing. Too much education debate today takes place between people pretending to be outraged on behalf of teachers and people pretending to be outraged on behalf of teachers. The real issues never get discussed.

So that was Dapper Laughs. Or "Dapper Laughs".

I did not rush to watch his videos when I got home. I expect I would hate him. But then I hate most comedians these days.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The lost railways of Lancaster and Morecambe 1



Part 1 traces part of the old Green Ayre Line which connected Yorkshire to the city of Lancaster and the seaside town of Morecambe via Lancaster Green Ayre Station.

We begin our journey at Lancaster Green Ayre and travel east to the village of Caton, looking for traces of the lost railway along the way.

Camila Batmanghelidjh begins


Why did Camila Batmanghelidjh enjoy such a high reputation for so long?

As Gaby Hinsliff pointed out back in August, one reason for her success was that she appealed to both the political right and left.

To the Conservatives, she embodied their dream of the Big Society.

And you can see its appeal. Government services can be impersonal and bureaucratic, their staff can sometimes seem most concerned with their own interests. (The obligatory political radicalism of those staff tends to stop just short of a point where it would question the need for their own existence.)

So you can understand the appeal of Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company. Here was a charity apparently doing an immense amount of good for a client group (badly behaved orphans) that conventional services were failing to help.

So Batmanghelidjh ticked all the boxes in the era when David Cameron was trying to detoxify his party, right down to her air of vaguely defined ethnicity. (It is hard to avoid thinking of Ali G interviewing politicians at this point.)



But the left loved her too. The more lurid her stories about the conditions children faced, the more they proved the wickedness of the Coalition,

The fact that Alistair Darling had fought the 2010 general election promising spending cuts "tougher and deeper" than those implemented by Margaret Thatcher.

Labour activists preferred to take their lead from the ludicrous Sharon Hodgson:
The Lib Dems aided and abetted, this time by their Conservative masters, are at it again! 
They are literally time and again taking the food out of the mouths of society’s poorest children! 
I hope they are proud of themselves and the fact that this is what they actually seem to have come into politics for as they do it time and time again!
So Labour desperately wanted Batmanghelidjh's stories of feral children abandoned by statutory services to be true.

The truth is very different.

Ruth Bright has written a tremendous post about "the condescension of Camila" on Lib Dem Voice. She says:
Kids Company began in "my" patch as a councillor in Southwark. Between 1992 and 1994 my Lib Dem colleagues and I did a 400% canvass of the nearby, very deprived, Aylesbury Estate including Wendover the biggest continuous high-rise council block in Europe. We topped this canvass up throughout the next decade, also conducting a crime survey of 2,700 homes. 
In many years of door knocking in the area I had many complaints about Kids Company (not all justified) but I never met a single local person who had been helped by Kids Company. 
In an interview on Thursday to Channel 4’s admirable Afua Hirsch Camila showed extraordinary condescension when she said that the select committee members who questioned her were not the sort of people who visit the “ghettos”. 
My former ward of Faraday in Southwark can be a tough old place but it is not a “ghetto” nor is it likely to descend into “savagery” as Kids Company claimed in a risk assessment. It is easy to look around a high rise estate and assume the worst of the people who live there. But get a bus from the Aylesbury Estate at 5am and you will see people going in to London Bridge to clean City Hall, the Shard and many a prestigious office block. 
In my time as councillor a survey showed that an astonishing 81% of council tenants in the area felt that they could trust their neighbours.
Charities can do great work - and work that the statutory services would not consider. But people I know who work in the sector often come to the view that their services tend to prosper because of remarkable individuals and particular local circumstances.

What you cannot do it benchmark them and roll them out across the country, as official dogma now demands.

I suspect Camila Batmanghelidjh's career will ultimately prove a chapter in the history of public relations more than one in the history of children's services.

And the trustees of Kids Company have a lot of awkward questions to answer.

19 October on Liberal England

19 October 2012

Liberal Democrat Voice has chosen five of its own posts from 19 October in different years.

Back in the old days, in the noughties, when the internet was in black and white, on for only three hours in the evening and closed down at 10 sharp with the National Anthem, these memes were the lifeblood of blogging.

In those days we were interested in other bloggers just because they blogged, and we took ourselves a little more seriously.

So join me as I journey back in time to see what Liberal England said on 19 October.

2014. I chose Stranger on the Shore by Acker Bilk as my Sunday music video. Two weeks later he was dead. The police couldn't prove a thing.

2013. Rather like today, I had just been to the Battle of the Ideas. I took the opportunity to photograph the disused platforms at Barbican station.

2012. Down in London for work, I photographed St Pancras in the autumn sun.

2011. The Daily Mail announced that Mike Hancock had resigned from the cabinet. He had, thank goodness, never been in it. What he had resigned from was the Commons defence select committee.

2010. I quoted evidence that A levels had got easier: "No wonder that York, like many other UK universities, now runs remedial classes in basic skills for students who know their stuff on their specialist subject, but don't make the basic grade for numeracy and literacy."

2009. My review of The Liberal Moment by Nick Clegg reached chapter 6. Never accuse me of not being a party loyalist.

2008. I asked if the Shropshire Star had driven Lembit Opik mad.

2007. In my House Points column for Liberal Democrat News I argued that Ming Campbell had been right to resign as Lib Dem leader and had a go at Mock the Week: "For 10 or 15 minutes they unleashed a tirade against Ming, all of it based on the assumption there is something inherently funny about being old. If they had attacked a woman or someone who was gay or black in the same way they would never have worked for the BBC again."

2006. I marked the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising.

2005. An anonymous wit had suggested that David Cameron was "born with a silver spoon up his nose".

2004. I didn't blog on 19 October - I don't recall the world coming to an end. The following day I quoted a tribute to Conrad Russell by Nick Clegg ("former Lib Dem MEP for the East Midlands and PPC for Sheffield Hallam"): "He was a striking, slightly beguiling figure. He walked with an intellectual's stoop, invariably with a cigarette in hand. A shock of white hair was permanently standing to attention above an angular, slightly hawkish face."

So that is Liberal England on 19 October. Music, railways and even a little politics.

Now what about your blog?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Paddy Ashdown is the new president of the European Movement

I am pleased this means the former Liberal Democrat leader will be playing a prominent part in the referendum campaign.

Reuters quotes Paddy as saying:
"We are about to enter the battle of our lives to keep Britain in the European Union ... 
"The choice is between a divided Britain that retreats into isolation or a Britain which maintains the foundations on which our greatness has been built: outward-looking, engaged and playing our full part in our continent."

Love: Signed D.C.



Remember the slightly spooky 'Tonight You Belong to Me' by Patience and Prudence from last Sunday?

The Ear Candy page I linked to has all sorts of speculation about what became of them in later life, most of it almost certainly fiction.

But two things are certain.

The first is that the sisters appeared on television in 1978 talking about their early fame (which they did not greatly enjoy).

The second is that Prudence, the elder sister, was the wife or partner of the drummer Don Conka, who played with Arthur Lee's band Love in its early days.

AllMusic describes his slightly mystical career:
The original drummer for Love - a classic West Coast psychedelic and folk-rock outfit of the '60s - as well as a Love drummer in several revived lineups of the band decades later, Conka appears on no recordings by Love or anyone else, wrote no songs, shows his face in no videos. 
His death circa 2004 was a reminder, however, that there are other ways to become part of a band's legacy besides participating in documentation and publishing enterprises.
Well, all good bands need a lost genius. And Dan Conka - D.C. - was also the inspiration for this bleak but beautiful song about addiction.

It was recorded only 10 years after Tonight You Belong to Me. A reminder, not just that girls grow up fast, but also of how quickly popular culture developed in that period.

Uri Geller's giant spoon gorilla set to stay in Shropshire

Not for the first time, the Shropshire Star wins Headline of the Day.

In fact it's not the first time Uri Geller's spoon gorilla has won Headline of the Day.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Six of the Best 545

"Delve beneath the left-wing and anti-austerity rhetoric and you’ll find a bit of everything: centre-right economics, centre-left social policy, populism, authoritarian law and order, as well as libertarian stances on sexual and gender politics." David Torrance examines the contradictions of the SNP.

"What the hell is a university doing plonking a lump of rock covered with party political propaganda on its campus?" Nick Cohen on the threat to the independence of Scottish universities.

Iain Martin asks why Mhairi Black is pretending to be working class.

The Revd Giles Fraser was wrong to calls for a Dr Beeching for churches says Wealands Bell.

John Gallagher reviews Thomas Dixon's 'Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears'.

"Looking at the buildings, sometimes in the freezing cold or the pouring rain, there would be moments of revelation and suddenly one would figure out what had been in the mind of a master-mason working centuries earlier." David W. Walker is co-author of the two new Pevsner Aberdeenshire volumes in the Buildings of Scotland series.

Adil Rashid: the best figures by an English leg spinner since 1959



On 22 July 2006 I blogged about Adil Rashid's Yorkshire debut, in which he took 6-67 against Warwickshire, and asked:
Won't it be nice if yesterday turns out to have been an historic day in English cricket?
Today, by taking 5-69, Rashid became the first English leg spinner to take five wickets in an innings since Tommy Greenhough in 1959.

That was in the second Pakistan innings. In the first he took 0-163, the worst ever figures for an England bowler on test debut.

Read more about Adil Rashid and about the history of English leg spin.

The Battle of Ideas









I spent the afternoon at the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican. Thanks to the organisers for the press pass - we bloggers still get the odd perk.

Among the speakers I heard was the wonderful Lenore Skenazy and the less wonderful Dapper Laughs. I shall write up the three panel debates I attended over the next week.

There is a second day of the Battle of Ideas tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Wild Edric, the Norman yoke and the Stiperstones

The story of how Jeremy Corbyn climbed the Wrekin to plant a red flag puts me in mind of this passage from John Wood's 1944 book Quietest Under the Sun: Footways on Severnside Hills:
Though the Stiperstones stand as long as the world endures the doom of the land we love may be inevitable unless the descendants of the Saxons rise and throw off that remaining relic of the Norman Conquest: class privilege based on a superiority that is not of mental nor even physical powers, but merely built up from one generation to another on the continued assumption of usurped authority, particularly associated in the minds of ramblers with the private ownership of uncultivated land. 
The day that the English - or Scots or Welsh - tramper can cross the moors of his native Britain without fear of impediment from game-preserving landowners or their hirelings, that day will the Devil be finally foiled and the spirit of Wild Edric be liberated for ever from its dungeon beneath the Stiperstones.
More on Wild Edric from the late Richard Walker, who worked as a storyteller under the name Mogsy. He was also one of the founders of the Malcolm Saville Society.

Pennine Steam: The Standedge Line 2



I posted part 1 a couple of days ago.

Paddy Ashdown on what we should do next in Syria

The former Liberal Democrat has an article on the Guardian website (and probably in tomorrow's paper, though the site no longer tells you that).

The problem?
Our presumption was that the days of Russian power in the Middle East were over. But today Russia has more influence from the north-east corner of the Mediterranean through to Iran than ever before. None of this is due to Putin’s genius. It is due to our follies.
The solution?
What all this amounts to is a twin-track strategy. Continuing with military action, while recognising that it will have little effect beyond illustrating to Putin that there are limits to his room for manoeuvre; but shifting our main effort to regional diplomacy, where we can now best outflank him. Then we can begin the task that we all know must be done one day – laying down the basis for the political solution without which Syria and its tortured people can never have peace.

My Campbell forebears are remembered in Crathie old churchyard

The old churchyard at Crathie © Alan Morrison

I have blogged with pride the tale of my kinsman Alexander Campbell, who refused to shave his beard off for Queen Victoria, more than once.

He is remembered by a John Robertson in Robert Smith's book A Queen's Country:
"He was a bit of an eccentric," said John Robertson. He planted honeysuckle away out towards the Dubh Loch, halfway between in and the Glass-alt, beside a cairn of stones. He also planted holly trees along the lochside. ... 
"If he parted company with somebody," said John, with a grin, "he would build a cairn."
Alexander's love of monuments is also reflected in the old churchyard at Crathie.

This can be found across the road from the rather mausoleum-like church the royal family attends when they are staying at Balmoral. It contains the remains of a 14th century church dedicated to the 9th-century St Monire.

It also contains an obelisk put up by Alexander as a memorial to his parents, his brothers and sisters, and ultimately to himself.

Thanks to a genealogy website devoted to the Gordons O' Girnoc, I can give you the full inscription:
Erected by ALEXANDER G. CAMPBELL Khantore in memory of his parents ALEXANDER CAMPBELL d. there 20th October 1858 aged 54, MARGARET GORDON his wife d. there 3rd June 1891 aged 83. 
JANE CLARK his daughter d. Belnacroft 15th August 1848 aged 22, STEWART CLARK his son d. Edinburgh 10th August 1852 aged 22, JOHN his son d. in infancy, ANN his daughter d. in infancy. 
(RHS) MARGARET MIDDLETON his daughter d. Khantore 20th August 1887 aged 40. 
JOHANNA ROBERTSON housekeeper to Queen Victoria at Glassalt Shiel d. 16th January 1900 aged 47. 
DONALD G. CAMPBELL d. Honolulu 3rd August 1900 aged 56. 
JAMES CLARK d. Liverpool 21st June 1906 aged 72. 
ALEXANDER G. CAMPBELL d. Khantore 20th May 1912 aged 76 - was in the service of Queen Victoria for 40 years, 32 years as gamekeeper at Glassalt Shiel.
Jane Clark Campbell is my great great grandmother.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Iain Sinclair: At large in a 'fictional' Hackney



You may also enjoy Iain Sinclair and Jonathan Meades in conversation.

When Jeremy Corbyn claimed the Wrekin for socialism

Photo by Sabine J Hutchinson
In the Shropshire Star Peter Harrison, who was chairman of Wrekin Young Socialists when Jeremy Corbyn was secretary, recalls an escapade of the Labour leader:
"We used to meet in the Raven in Wellington where there were a series of old rooms, and the landlord allowed us to use one of them. We were all young and idealistic people, pretty much as Jeremy is now. We were drinking and it was May Day the following day, and asking what we were going to do to celebrate, and next thing you know one said, 'Why not go up The Wrekin and plant the red flag?'
"If I remember correctly one of them made the red flag and we took it to the top of The Wrekin and tied it to the trig point and we all sang the Red Flag and came down, and went to the Raven and had a few more pints."
He also pays Mr Corbyn a rather backhanded compliment:
"I knew him when we were 18 or 19, and his views have not changed. We are talking about the thick end of 50 years ago."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

1935: The first time Leicester found Richard III


In my post on the remains of the Church of the Annunciation in Leicester I mentioned the story that it was believed the body of Richard III was found there in 1935.

It turns out to be true. The press cutting above is borrowed from LiveScience.

Pennine Steam: The Standedge Line 1



This video covers the line from Huddersfield to Marsden, including stations like Golcar and Swaithwaite.

A wide variety of freight and passenger traffic is shown. There are also comparisons with the 1980s, which now have period interest of their own,

Write a guest post for Liberal England


This is a reminder that I welcome guest posts on Liberal England.

And as you can see from the list of the 10 most recent guest posts below, I am happy to consider a wide range of subjects.

But if you would like to write a "Where do the Liberal Democrats go from here?" post, that would be welcome.

If you would like to write a guest post for Liberal England yourself, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea.

  • One woman’s view of being a senior citizen - Eileen Ward-Birch
  • The perfect Christmas gift for a carer - Jon Pollard
  • Politic360: Mending online political discussion - Jason Brown
  • A new hole in the safety net - Anonymous
  • Memories of Snailbeach in the 1950s - Christina Samson
  • We are all the poorer for soundbite politics - Tony Robertson
  • A few thoughts on walking - Phil Smith
  • The mad, mad world of Maghull Town Council - Tony Robertson
  • What the US can do to end the Gaza conflict? - Daphne Holmes
  • "You're all the same" - Katie Barron
  • Tuesday, October 13, 2015

    The Wild and the Willing: Lincoln in 1962



    Like the appearance of Jimi Hendrix at a 1967 rock festival held at the Tulip Bulb Auction Hall, Spalding, this is a story I wish I could share with Simon Titley,

    The Wild and the Willing was a 1962 film set at the fictional Kilminster University and filmed in Lincoln.

    The vice chancellor of the real University of Lincolnshire and Humberside (now the University of Lincoln) once suggested that by today's standards its students "appeared not at all wild, and only slightly willing".

    He was right. Though it was based on a novel from the Angry Young Men era, those students are reminiscent of the heroes of the 1954 film Doctor in the House.

    The Wild and the Willing is notable today for its shots of Lincoln and for its extraordinary young cast. Ian McShane, in his first screen appearance; Samantha Eggar; an incredibly youthful John Hurt; John Standing; Johnny Briggs; Jeremy Brett.

    The whole film is on Youtube, but you will have to be content here with the opening credits, which introduce the cast.

    We could all be running naked down Whitehall soon

    This afternoon Stephen Tall ran down Whitehall naked (or very nearly). He is pictured here with an impressively large rosette.

    He was doing it for charity, and you can still donate to Médecins Sans Frontières (UK) via his JustGiving page.

    Commendable though his charitable efforts are, there is a little more to it than that.

    Appearing on the Daily Politics in 2013, Stephen announced airily that he would "run naked down Whitehall" if the Liberal Democrats won as few as 24 seats at the general election.

    As it turned out, we won a lot fewer than that.

    The Daily Politics would not let him forget his pledge, and Kelvin MacKenzie offered a generous donation if he would honour it. Hence this afternoon's events.

    Stephen's streak has led me to look at how accurate my own predictions for the general election were.

    I wrote a post in January 2015, which made various tentative forecasts. I was right that the Ukip and the Green Party would be disappointed, but woefully underestimated how well the SNP would do.

    My suggestion that the Liberal Democrats might outpoll Ukip proved way too optimistic.

    The following month I rightly argued that we had made too much of Mike Thornton's victory in the Eastleigh by-election. But I was comforted by Lord Ashcroft's faulty constituency polls and did not draw the depressing conclusion that my arguments warranted.

    I seem to have avoided forecasting which party would win the election altogether.

    Today I have a feeling that, in the words of the late Yogi Berra, it's deja vu all over again. Politics in 2015 seems just like a rerun of the 1980s.

    I have seen this movie before and I know who wins. (Clue: It's not Labour.)

    My overwhelming instinct is that Jeremy Corbyn cannot possibly last until 2020, and that if he does Labour will suffer a catastrophic defeat.

    But maybe, like the SNP, he will prove me completely wrong.

    So be wary of making politics predictions. We could all be running naked down Whitehall soon.