Friday, September 30, 2016

Michael Elwyn, Corin Redgrave and The Newcomers



Talking about Joe Orton on last Saturday, Michael Elwyn recounted how he had appeared in the 1960s BBC soap opera The Newcomers.

When he threw it up to join a touring theatre company, Auntie was horrified. Two dozen scripts with his character in them had been written. The solution turned out to be to cast Corin Redgrave as his twin brother and carry on as if nothing had happened.

When I spoke to Michael Elwyn afterwards, he told me he had given Judy Geeson her first screen kiss in the programme.

He also kindly suggested that I was too young to remember The Newcomers. But I do remember it, if only from its last days. It ran from 1965 to 1969.

Only a very few episodes survive, but you can read some memories of the show on Britmovie.

If you look at Wikipedia or the IMDB, you will find no mention of Elwyn or Redgrave. But the BBC Genome site allows me to be exact.

Michael Elwyn appeared in seven episodes of The Newcomers at the end of 1965. Corin Redgrave then appeared in a further nineteen.

There is something wonderful about the idea of a Redgrave appearing in a soap.

You can hear John Barry's theme to The Newcomers above, but I cannot claim it gives me any tingles of memory,but it does sound splendidly Sixties,

The New Statesman on the Liberal Democrat revival

Stephen Bush has noticed that last night local by-elections victories were the latest in a growing line for the Liberal Democrats:
Polling has always been somewhat unkind to the Liberal Democrats outside of election campaigns, as the party has a low profile, particularly now it has just eight MPs. 
What appears to be happening at local by-elections and my expectation may be repeated at a general election is that when voters are presented with the option of a Liberal Democrat at the ballot box they find the idea surprisingly appealing. 
Added to that, the Liberal Democrats’ happiest hunting grounds are clearly affluent, Conservative-leaning areas that voted for Remain in the referendum. 
All of which makes their hopes of a good second place in Witney – and a good night in the 2017 county councils – look rather less farfetched than you might expect.

Tim Farron and Liz Leffman open Lib Dem HQ in Witney


From the Witney Liberal Democrats website:
Hundreds of volunteers are flooding into the constituency this weekend to help with Liz’s campaign in the Witney by-election. 
Tim Farron said: "Taking over such a large building is a real sign of our commitment to West Oxfordshire and to the strength of the campaign we are running here."
Liz Leffman said: "I have been so touched by the huge number of people who have been coming from all over the country to help. This brilliant new HQ has really put us on the map in Witney and underlines that we are the only challengers to the Conservative Brexit government in this by-election."
You will find full details of how to help in the campaign on the Witney site.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Banbury to Birmingham Snow Hill in the 1960s



Lovely footage of steam locomotives hauling passenger and goods trains along this former GWR route.

Look too for some brief appearances by diesels, notably a Western and the Midland Pullman,

The final scenes at Snow Hill are particularly interesting and feature a steam locomotive shunting a DMU car.

It's rather like seeing an aristocrat polishing a peasant's boots after the Revolution.

Poetry Swindon Festival 2016

Richard Jefferies Museum, Coate

From the festival website:
This year our festival will be held at the picturesque Coate Water Country Park, the birthplace of one of the world's greatest nature writers, Richard Jefferies. 
The festival is renowned for creating warm and welcoming poetry events, providing great poetry with enjoyment at its heart. 
The Big Poetry Weekend features dozens of poets and takes place between 6th to 9th October 2016 with Andrew McMillan and Kim Moore as poets in residence.
For details and tickets, including accommodation packages, see the Poetry Swindon Festival 2016 site.

Six of the Best 630

"Is it possible for someone to crave something for so long, and then be deluded about why it happened? To strive and strive, only for the country to fall into a different, meaner, poorer future?" Sam Knight profiles Daniel Hannan, the man who brought you Brexit.

'Baby-boomer' is thrown about a lot these days, usually in a pejorative sense. But, as Flip Chart Rick explains, the concept does not really work in the UK.

"In her 1993 book, Denying the Holocaust, the American academic Deborah E. Lipstadt called David Irving, a British amateur historian, 'one of the most dangerous spokesmen for Holocaust denial'." Ian Buruma reviews Denial, a new film about Irving's unsuccessful libel action.

Jim Burt celebrates the rise of outdoor learning.

Elvis Costello grew up in England but is an New Yorker at heart, says Wendell Jamieson.

Catherine Hokin examines the strange case of the green children of Woolpit.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Emily Fermor chosen by Maidstone and the Weald Lib Dems

Kent Online reports that Emily Fermor is the new Liberal Democrat PPC for Maidstone and the Weald.

That was the seat at which the party threw a lot of money last time round, perhaps because the candidate, Jasper Gerard, had written an admiring book about Nick Clegg.

Emily Fermor was the campaign organiser then and takes over from Gerard, who is now the party's head of press.

She told Kent Online:
"I am incredibly proud to have been selected as the candidate in my home town. It would be a huge honour to represent the people of Maidstone. 
"I am proud of our County Town and I believe we need a local person representing us, with energy, enthusiasm and a commitment to the area – something we have not had for a number of years.
"We have a new army of committed activists who will be joining me on the doorstep, making the case for a strong local campaigner who will fight for Maidstone and The Weald."

When did small boys stop refighting the Second World War?



Phil Aisthorpe writes on Liberal Democrat Voice:
The EU referendum was decided by the baby boomers, the generation to which I belong and a generation that has spent a lifetime romanticising about a conflict in which it had little or no involvement. I spent my boyhood immersed in the glory of World War II.
'Baby boomer" is now used too widely and I am not sure I see cause and effect here.

But it is true that in the 1960s I spent many primary school playtimes refighting Word War II. Whenever we played war we knew the enemy was the Germans.

That is certainly not the case now. Schools are not keen on playing war and I even here stories of ones that are not that keen on playtime.

So when did things change?

Hunted (1952) and Portpatrick harbour



There is a story on the Guardian website today about the way Portpatrick harbour has been saved by the people of the village:
In Portpatrick, a local seaside village, tiers of pastel houses stretch down to a small harbour where boats are moored. The place is so picture-postcard pretty, it’s hard to imagine that the harbour was almost left to rot – and with it, the future of the village – until local residents raised enough money a year ago to buy it. 
As the closest port to Northern Ireland, Portpatrick was once the main crossing to Donegal. But over time the ocean smashed away two grand piers as well as Portpatrick's future as a transport hub. When the crossing moved to nearby Stranraer, sailor numbers dwindled. 
Villagers knew that to get them back, they needed to improve the harbour with modern moorings and improved toilet facilities while keeping its charm, or risk losing precious tourist revenue to competing harbours up and down the coast. 
The harbour's private owners, Portpatrick Harbour Ltd, had applied in 2007 to build a 57-berth marina and fix pontoons to the listed harbour floor. Councillors quashed the plans, saying it was “completely inappropriate for the conservation of the area”. 
Locals then looked for a way to bring the harbour into community ownership where it could be maintained and improved in keeping with the village.
The video below will tell you how they did it.

I though the location sounded familiar, and the photograph above shows why.

It is a still from the 1952 British film Hunted. It is an early Dirk Bogarde picture and is worth seeking out, not least for its use of long-vanished industrial landscapes.

Portpatrick harbour featured in the film and the photo shows the Dirk's young co-star Jon Whiteley there.

Shami Charkrabarti goes to Eton



The latest episode in the slide in Shami Charkrabarti's reputation came on Newsnight yesterday evening when Michael Crick put it to her that she had tried to get her son into Eton.

Her non-denial denial - she just said Crick had "spent too long reading the internet" or something like that - suggests the charge is true.

The story turns out to come from Heat Street a month ago:
A source has told us: "I took my son to Eton to sit the entrance exam a couple of summers ago and was very surprised to soo Shami Charkrabarti there accompanying her son. There is no question it was her. I had assumed Shami was so Left-Wing that Eton was possibly the most offensive four-letter word known to her, but obviously I was wrong."
Heat Street has tried to contact card-carrying Labour member and Corbyn ally Chakrabarti on several occasions to discuss this but she either isn't available or won't return calls.
I had assumed that Charkrabarti was a liberal, which makes her embrace of Corbyn and the regressive left all the sadder.

And she is, of course, free to send her son to school where she likes. It's just that politicians who urge egalitarianism on the voters without practising it themselves are always going to be problematic - see my recent post on the grammar school debate.

What this story reminds me of is one of the SWP activists at York when I was a student there. He was never seen without his donkey jacket and cut quite a figure at student union meetings.

Then someone recalled he had seen him in a suit and tie when they had been trying to get into the same Oxbridge college. We saw him differently after that,

Man bitten on penis by spider for second time

The judges had no hesitation in awarding Headline of the Day to the Evening Standard.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Foxfield Railway Autumn Gala 2016



Loads of industrial steam goodness to enjoy.

Read about The Foxfield Railway on its website. I first came across this line by accident in 1988.

Six of the Best 629

Alwyn Turner paints a portrait of Tom Watson - "an overfed Che Guevara".

"I started out drawing clear lines linking schoolmates to flatmates, Bullingdon buddies and policy wonks, but pretty soon exactly the same people started popping up in new guises — as fellow MPs, cabinet colleagues, party donors — and the lines started to veer into ever more deranged spirals as everyone turned out to be linked, several times over, to everyone else." Emily Hill on the rise and full of the Cameron chumocracy.

Ferdinand Mount reviews a new biography of Karl Marx: "By the end of his life, his was a name to strike terror into bourgeois hearts across Europe, which gave him no little satisfaction. Yet at his funeral in Highgate Cemetery there were only eleven mourners."

In 2013 the poet Geoffrey Hill, who died earlier this year, was interviewed by Sameer Rahim.

"As soon as I saw those huge rust-coloured bridges stretching across the Tyne I knew this was Jack’s manor. Tough, ruthless and uncompromising." Mike Hodges talks to Adam Scovell about Get Carter.

John Fleming tells the sad story of the fallen Blue Peter presenter Christopher Trace.

Nick Clegg to host HIGNFY on 7 October



Nick Clegg is to guest host Have I Got News for You, reports the Radio Times. He will be in the chair when the show returns for a new season on Friday 7 October.

The Chortle website adds:
Last year, Clegg appeared on The Last Leg with Josh Widdicombe, Adam Hills and Alex Brooker and held his own, despite some embarrassing questioning. 
And he is also due to appear in Dave's new political show Unspun with Matt Forde.
I don't know if this is a shot at political redemption or being done with an eye to a media career after Nick leaves parliament, but I wish him well.

HIGNFY, for me, long ago passed from being the sort of show you stay in to watch to being one you catch if it is on.

In fact, it is now in the "Is that still being made?" category.

As David Waywell once observed:
Brass Eye ran for seven episodes, causing more merry hell during that time than HIGNFY has caused in 25 years. Longevity can imply toothlessness or, worse, becoming part of the establishment.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Blow-Up, pareidolia and the grassy knoll



This is the latter part of the bewitching key sequence of Blow-Up. David Hemmings' unnamed photographer thinks he has spotted something suspicious in a photograph he has just taken.

He enlarges a detail again and again until he reveals a murder taking place, then goes to the park and duly finds a body.

On his return to the studio he finds the enlargements have been stolen, except for the very last. Shorn of its context, it reveals little more than a patter of light and shadows.

When he returns to the park for a second time the body has vanished.

In recent days I have been reading about the assassination of President Kennedy and it has made me think of Blow-Up.

Some of those who are dissatisfied with the official account that JFK was assassinated by a lone gunman - Lee Harvey Oswald - have seized upon a photograph taken at the moment the President received the fatal shot.

They claim that if the background is blown up at the right point it reveals the real assassin** ('Badge Man') on the famous grassy knoll. Some claim to be able to detect two or even three figures there.

I can now make out Badge Man, but only because I have seen so many fanciful renderings of that enlargement. In reality it reveals no more than David Hemmings remaining image. Blame pareidolia.

Once you go down the rabbit hold of conspiracy theories on JFK, there is now way back.

The Zapruder film (taken by a bystander and revealing the effect of the two shots that hit the President) was once taken as proof of a conspiracy. Today you will find many sites telling you it is part of that conspiracy - an obvious forgery made to cover the truth.

There mysteries that puzzle me about the affair. Could Oswald really have got from his sixth-floor perch to the first floor*** without anyone seeing him on the stairs in the short space of time available?

And why did the US authorities make so little of Oswald's connections with the Soviet Union and Cuba?

But stay away from the grassy knoll. That way lies madness.


* JFK's shooting is just about my first memory - I was three and just knew that something very grown up and important had happened.

** This links to a video that examines this claim. It does not show the short that killed JFK, which you can see online in the Zapruder film. We think we know all about violence in the cinema, but it is still hugely shocking to see a man shot in the head for real.

*** In British terms he had to get from fifth floor to the ground floor.

Alan Turing and Emlyn Hooson


On Friday BBC News reported that court files recording details of Alan Turing's convictions for homosexual acts have been put on display at Chester Town Hall.

As Helen Pickin-Jones, chair of Chester Pride, says in the BBC report:
"Just a few simple lines of text reveal the appalling treatment of one of our national heroes."
One of the documents displayed in Chester shows the mathematician admitted "acts of gross indecency" at a trial there in 1952.

Turing was working at the University of Manchester when he was arrested for having a relationship with 19-year-old Arnold Murray at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK.

The version of it on the BBC site has been cropped, but if you look at the full version on the Alan Turing: The Enigma website an interesting fact emerges.

Arnold Murray's defence counsel was E. Hooson. That was Emlyn Hooson, who went on to be Liberal MP for Montgomery between 1962 and 1979.

He appears to have defended his man by trying to place the blame on Turing. Dark days.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Kate Nash: Foundations



If pop paints an accurate picture of youth culture, we have come a long way from "I Want to Hold Your Hand".

Foundations was kept from the top of the singles chart by Rihanna and her silly Umbrella in 2007.

Celebrating 50 years of Joe Orton's Loot in Leicester


I spent today at the New Walk museum and art gallery in Leicester for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Joe Orton's play Loot.

The play had first gone on a provincial tour with an extraordinary cast - Kenneth Williams, Duncan Mcrae, Ian McShane, Geraldine McEwan - but had not pleased its audiences and been beset by constant rewrites in an attempt to put things right.

Williams was a friend of Orton, but it is hard to see how he could ever have made a suitable Inspector Truscott.

Loot was rescued by a new production in Manchester and two veterans of it were in Leicester today. They were its director Braham Murray and cast member Michael Elwyn.

Murray had worked closely with Orton to reshape and rewrite they play and described him as a "shy, sweet man".

The Truscott in that production was Julian Chagrin, and when I chatted to them afterwards they were suitably impressed that I knew he had been one of the tennis players in Blow-Up. (I did not reveal my debt to Nicholas Whyte's enthusiasm  the Double Deckers, which led  me to that knowledge.)

Jake Arnott, whose novels I have enjoyed, talked about the background to Loot and in particular the figure of Harold Challenor, the police officer who inspired Truscott.

But the star of the day was Joe Orton's sister. Leonie Orton Barnett. She read from his letters, including one attacking Loot by his creation Edna Welthorpe.

She is about to publish her own story of gaining an education and becoming her brother's champion under the suitably Ortonesque title I Had It In Me.

The cover, featuring a photograph of her as a young woman, looks like a lost Smiths' single. Which is appropriate, as Morrissey is one of many later artists who have acknowledged Joe Orton's influence.

A mention, too, for Bernard Greaves, the co-author of that Liberal classic The Theory and Practice of Community Politics. I did not get a chance to speak to him, but he spoke movingly of the experience of being gay in the era of Loot.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Leicestershire county councillor leaves Labour after Jeremy Corbyn's re-election

One of the more notable names to have left the Labour Party today is the Leicestershire county councillor Leon Spence.

He has announced his decision in an article for Huffngton Post:
No one has to remain a member of Labour, should you disagree with the path the party is taking any member has the right to stop their support. Many decent Labour members did just that under Tony Blair, many others will take the same decision now. 
The time, for me at least, to stop supporting the party has come with the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn. 
I’ve never disliked Jeremy Corbyn, and although I deeply dislike some of the company that he keeps he seems a personable guy, but I firmly do not agree with the direction that he has taken Labour. 
I don’t like Jeremy’s approach to public services where dogma seems far more important than solutions, I don’t like his approach to defence or Britain’s position in the world, I don’t for one second believe he understands what motivates ordinary, hardworking people in communities like mine. 
I can’t ever see Jeremy as a Prime Minister leading our country in tough negotiations or at times of threat.
I wish all the people leaving Labour well, whether they decide to join the Liberal Democrats or not.

It must be an awful wrench to leave a party that has been an important part of your identity.

Trivial Fact of the Day with Petula Clark




As she revealed on Danny Baker's show last Saturday, Petula Clark sang on the Plastic Ono Band's 'Give Peace a Chance'.

You can read how it cane about in an old Guardian piece.

Petula Clark rang me once, you know.

Music in Leicester: A slideshow using a new Getty Images feature

Getty Images has introduced a new feature. You can choose five images, turn them into a slideshow and embed it in your blog.

So, to see if it works, here are five photographs of musicians in Leicester...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Disused railways stations in Sheffield



I remember Brightside from my journeys to and from York as a student. It survived until 1995, as did the nearby Attercliffe Road (which was a different station from the Attercliffe shown here).

In my student days too, the train from Sheffield to Penistone and Huddersfield ran through the disused Victoria station and up the Don Valley.

You tell young folk now and they won't believe you.

Six of the Best 628

The Bog
"There are those who dislike the term Left. I am not one. It is a short hand for those dissatisfied with the status quo. For a season it came, somewhat perversely, to mean political ideas that championed state ownership and regulation." Iain Brodie Brown attended the Social Liberal Forum's Brighton fringe meeting on the realignment of the left.

Dirk Singer offers two questions you should ask Labour MPs who suddenly oppose freedom of movement.

Donald Trump is the second coming of Joseph McCarthy, says Jelani Cobb.

"'Don’t worry, I’ll be back by lunch.' Those were the last words of a Scottish teacher who was murdered at Auschwitz for protecting Jewish schoolgirls, as revealed by the students who watched her being taken away to her death." Esther Addley tells the story of Jane Haining.

Michaelangelo Matos reviews '1966: The Year the Decade Exploded' by Jon Savage and 'Never a Dull Moment: 1971 - The Year That Rock Exploded' by David Hepworth.

Olly Parry-Jones visits The Bog. It's an abandoned mining village. In Shropshire.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Musical Ruth: The video



You've seen her in my photographs. Now enjoy her video.

Incidentally, her appearance on Britain's Got Talent shows what a sham that programme is. Ruth is no wannabee but an experienced artist.

Book her here.

Muff Winwood to be crowned an A&R icon

Good news for Spencer Davis Group enthusiasts from Music Business Worldwide:
Mervyn ‘Muff’ Winwood will receive the prestigious A&R Icon gong at The A&R Awards in association with Abbey Road Studios on the evening of Wednesday, November 2. 
The prize recognises ‘a remarkable individual whose momentous professional feats continue to inspire the UK A&R community’ – a description which perfectly suits the former CBS, Sony Music and Island Records exec.
Muff Winwood, the bass player with the Spencers and Steve's older brother, went on to have a great career on the other side of the microphone.

The website quotes a couple of tributes to him.

Elton John says:
“Muff Winwood is without doubt one of the greatest A&R men in the history of British music. 
“He introduced me and millions of others to countless new talent. He was SO supportive of his acts. 
“He was unbelievably helpful to me and Bernie in our early days which was invaluable and something I will never forget.”
And Mark Knopfler says:
“Muff was hard-working, straightforward and easy to work with and the album was recorded and mixed inside three weeks. 
“I can still hear his Birmingham accent coming over the talk back after a take: ‘If we can’t make a record out of that we’re all custards.’ I still use that one now. 
“Congratulations on the award, Muff, and thank you for everything you’ve done for so many in music.”
All of which is a good excuse to listen to this...

A video of Tim Farron's speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference



The other day I quoted from Tim Farron's speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference.

Here is a video of the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Iain Sinclair on William Blake's radicalism



Iain Sinclair explores the historical background to William Blake's radical writings.

This video was filmed at Vauxhall in 2014.

Six of the Best 627

Peter Carrol reviews Ed Balls' memoirs.

"Lib Dem Glee Club is without a doubt, the weirdest event in British politics." Mikey Smith of the Daily Mirror ventures into the belly of the beast.

Roger Hermiston says the Liberal Democrats ignore one of their more recent heroes: Sir Archibald Sinclair. "Ultimately his legacy might well be, like Clegg, that he led the Liberals on a downward electoral path, but his is a compelling story, and there is much to chew over and admire in his years at the top of British political life."

Pop culture has worn out Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, explains Nick Murray.

Mark Cunliffe remembers Thick as Thieves, a 1974 TV sit com starring Bob Hoskins and John Thaw.

"There was always a hint of the West Country lumberjack to Trescothick's batting, defined by hefty forearms, scythes through the off side and a stubborn reticence to move his feet. But his runs underpinned England's progress to their 2005 summit." Tim Wigmore celebrates Marcus Trescothick.

Lethal 4-hour-erection-causing spiders spill out of bunch of ASDA bananas






Thanks to a nomination from a reader, The Register wins out Headline of the Day Award.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Liz Leffman is the Lib Dem candidate for the Witney by-election





The BBC's Peter Henley has just tweeted that Liz Leffman, who fought the seat at the 2005 general election, is to be the Liberal Democrat candidate at next month's by-election.

You can read all about Liz on the party website.

More photographs from Arts Fresco 2016


Arts Fresco wasn't just Musical Ruth, so here are some more photographs from the day.

I even indulged in some audience participation with The Notional Trust.








Tim Farron's speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference today

The party website has the full text of Tim Farron's speech:
So I was in what you might call a reflective mood when I began the meeting. 
There were perhaps 70 people there. Most of them had voted to leave. And most of them pretty much fitted my demographic. 
They weren’t mostly die-hards. I reckon, honestly, that three quarters of them could have been persuaded to vote Remain up until about two or three weeks out. 
One guy said that the clincher for him was George Osborne’s ‘punishment budget’. 
And when he said that, pretty much the whole room chipped in and agreed with him. 
There was near universal acknowledgement that this had been the pivotal moment. 
Here was this guy, George Osborne, who they didn’t really like. 
And who they felt didn’t really like them. 
And he’d appeared on the telly bullying them into doing something they weren’t sure they wanted to do. 
And they reacted.
Later. Watch the video here.

The "right to be forgotten" spreads its tentacles

It's a while since I wrote about the "right to be forgotten" - you can find my earlier posts on the subject by following that link.

Today's Guardian carries a report that reminds us how it came about and reveals that the courts are increasing its reach:
Ever since the European court ordered Google to delist a 16-year-old article about a bankruptcy, web watchers have wondered how the ‘right to be forgotten’ would evolve. 
Mario Costeja González’s ‘Data and Goliath’ victory in 2014 in Spain has meant that human concepts of fairness are now applied to Google Search, which is subject to European data protection laws. 
But there are now worrying new signs from Europe that the right is being applied directly against news websites and not just search engines.
The author, Athalie Matthews, concludes:
Consequently, in Italy at least, ‘the right to be forgotten’ now has a new meaning: the right to remove inconvenient journalism from archives after two years. 
This surely cannot be right. If it was, everyone would demand deletions from news websites and online journalism would be decimated.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Lord Bonkers' foreword to the new Liberator songbook

With the Glee Club about to get underway at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton, it is time to share this with you...

Bonkers Hall
Tel. Rutland 7

Are we downhearted, fellow Liberal Democrats? No we are not!

Every day brings news of fresh triumphs. Why, only last week I read on Liberal Democrat Voice that we had come second in a parish council election in Cropwell Bishop.

With our clear stance on Europe – exemplified by that splendid new group ‘I’m As Much In Favour Of The EU As The Next Man But Did You See The Referendum Result In My Constituency?’ – I have no doubt that we shall return to government before we grow much older.

So we have good reason to sing tonight.

Just look at the pitiful opposition we face. The prime minister resembles the ink monitor in a particularly savage girls’ grammar school, while her chancellor must be the most insignificant figure to occupy 11 Downing Street since… What was the fellow’s name?

Someone asked me the other day what I thought of Brexit. I replied that I had always found his plays Terribly Dull. All that stuff about peasants and then an actor shouts at you just as you are dozing off.

Now it seems we need three ministers to deal with the fellow. I can’t see the point myself, but if he is so important why put the three stooges in charge?

And then there is the Labour Party. Can you see Corbyn and ‘Semtex’ McDonnell carrying Middle England?

I cannot either. Come to that, I can’t even see them carrying their own MPs.

So be of good cheer, fellow Liberal Democrats, and sing your hearts out.

The book before you contains all the songs you need to enjoy the Glee Club – many of them printed in a different order from last year’s edition.

The only sour note is the omission of that popular Rutland anthem ‘Hurrah for Lord Bonkers’, which is traditionally sung by the Well-Behaved Orphans when they are brought to St Asquith’s to return thanks to their benefactor.

The first verse runs:
"Hurrah for Lord Bonkers,
Who feeds us on gruel;
He’s ever so jolly
And not at all cruel."
Still, I suppose it will have to do.
Bonkers

Big Brother is watching you - but you don't take any notice


Remember this poster? I came across it on a bright January day this year when I visited Rothwell.

I thought of it when I read this post on the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog:
Imagine there was an honesty box in your coffee room at work, do you think it would make any difference to your behaviour if there was poster of staring eyes on the wall? 
A hugely influential study published in 2006 suggested that it would – that feeling watched, even by a picture of eyes rather than an actual person, increases people’s honesty. In fact, in the study, donations to the box were an average three-fold larger in the presence of an eye poster rather than a picture of flowers. 
The finding even inspired the West Midlands Police in the UK to launch a poster campaign featuring staring eyes and the strapline “We’ve got our eyes on criminals”.
I suspect this study also inspired the poster I photographed in Rothwell.

Trouble is, attempts to replicate the 2006 study have failed. Not only that. As the Research Digest says:
two meta-analyses combined the data from over 50 studies involving collectively tens of thousands of participants and found no evidence overall that watching eyes boost people’s generosity.
So not only was that poster distasteful in its use of Big Brother imagery, it may well have beeen ineffective at changing behaviour too.

Revd J. P. Martin, the Uncle Books and Quentin Blake



An exhibition and conference that celebrate the Revd J.P. Martin's Uncle books are to be held next month at the New Room, The Horsefair, Bristol.

The exhibition will run from 7 to 22 October. It will explore the links between Methodism and publishing in Bristol, celebrate the Uncle books and mark the achievements of the Martin/Currey family, particularly the involvement of James Currey in the African Writers Series.

The theme ‘Writing and Publishing in Bristol’ will run through both the exhibition and a free one-day conference on Saturday 15 October.

Further details can be found on the New Room website.

I am pleased to see these events being held. The other day I came across a new book on Quentin Blake that does not even mention Uncle.

Nicola Horlick jins the Liberal Democrats over Brexit



Judging by the stats for this blog, there is a hunger among my readers for good news about the Liberal Democrats.

So try this story from the Evening Standard for size:
City “superwoman” Nicola Horlick today backed the Liberal Democrats to lead the battle against Brexit and launched a stinging attack on Cabinet minister Liam Fox. 
The financier and mother-of-six has previously shied away from taking sides in the political arena. 
But she says she was stung into speaking out after a “barrage” of abuse on Twitter for warning of the perils of Britain quitting the EU.
The paper does not say she has joined the party, but she could not be clearer in her support:
"I urge all who voted Remain to re-kindle the passion of the protests that followed the vote ... For those who want us to stay in Europe and, at the very least, in the single market, the Liberal Democrats are the obvious choice."
I also like her:
"I find it hard to understand how anyone who cares about Britain’s economic prosperity could remain a Tory."
Later. Nicola Horlick has joined the Liberal Democrats.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lib Dems could take back Cambridge under new boundary proposals


That's the headline on an article on the website of Varsity, which styles itself "cambridge’s leading student newspaper".

Looking at the Boundary Commission proposals for the Cambridge constituency, its author Harry Curtis says:
If enacted, they would introduce voters in the Queen Edith’s ward in the south of Cambridge – which contains Homerton College and Addenbrooke’s Hospital – and the Milton ward, northwest of the city to the constituency. 
Local election results from the newly added wards suggest that the proposed boundaries will change the balance of power in the city’s politics. 
Current Labour MP, Daniel Zeichner took the seat last year by 599 votes, a majority that could be wiped out by the newly included areas where the Liberal Democrats polled 1,298 more votes than Labour in the 2015 local elections.

Musical Ruth at Arts Fresco 2016


Despite our differences, I hope we can agree that there is nothing - absolutely nothing - as funny as a man dressed as a nun driving a motorised piano.

There was other stuff at Arts Fresco. No doubt I shall show it to you one day.








Madness: Mr Apples



I am told that when Madness played this, their new single, in Hyde Park last week they dedicated it to Keith Vaz.

I can't think why.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ivan Massow joins the Liberal Democrats


Good news from the Financial Times:
Ivan Massow has been a flatmate of Michael Gove, an admirer of David Cameron and, briefly, a chaperone for Margaret Thatcher. The entrepreneur and philanthropist even aspired to be the Conservative candidate for mayor of London. 
But now he is a Liberal Democrat. His defection is the first of what Tim Farron’s party hopes will be a stream of centrist recruits — motivated by a pro-EU outlook, fiscal moderation and the apparent end of the Tory party’s Cameron era. 
“They are really nice people. It is such a change from the Tory party,” said Mr Massow, whose business successes included offering financial services to gay people.
The Lib Dem website quotes him too:
"After seeing the Lib Dems’ work in Coalition, and seeing them step up to the responsibilities of government, I felt I had more in common with them. I hadn’t realised the Lib Dems could be a party of government before Coalition – and I know they took a huge hit for doing it – but I think they proved themselves and were a great party for the economy and a great help for business."

Enjoy Arts Fresco in Market Harborough tomorrow

Tomorrow sees the annual Arts Fresco event takes place here in Market Harborough.

Full details on the event's website:
Often described as a 'mini Fringe festival', Market Harborough's Arts Fresco is a free street theatre festival, that for one day every September, transforms the town centre into the biggest street arts festival in the Midlands. 
Every year thousands of people flock to Market Harborough to wander the streets, mingling with roaming dinosaurs, mad chefs and wheelie bins that drive themselves. 
Performers from all over Europe take part, from big names in the world of street theatre to unknown artists looking to build their careers, with many of them coming back again and again.

Friday, September 16, 2016

John Peel and Lee Harvey Oswald in Trivial Fact of the Day



This near meeting between the late DJ and the assassin of President Kennedy wins our coveted award.
"It's a story that I've told so often that you get to the point where you don't really believe it yourself, it just seems so unlikely. 
"But then in one of the bits of film of that press conference, we were all standing in this room and they had the identification parade in the basement of this building and they said - Henry Wade said - that this is the man that's been charged in the assassination of President Kennedy, and they brought in Lee Harvey Oswald. And he stood there looking slightly puzzled and alarmed for a while, and then was taken away again. 
"In one of the films of this, which they showed on British television, they showed that Jack Ruby was in the room as well - which I didn't know he was until I saw this film they sort-of panned across the room and in the last few frames you can see me and my friend Bob standing there looking like tourists."
This transcript is taken from the video's YouTube page. The full version there explains what Peel was doing in Dallas in 1963.

Lib Dem candidate beats her grandson into fourth place

I don't like to dwell on Liberal Democrat successes in town council elections. It can come over as too needy, too Jeremy Corbyn.

But Jenny Davies' victory in Burton Latimer should be noted because the Labour candidate she beat into fourth place was her own grandson.

She told the Northamptonshire Telegraph:
“I was really pleased with the result, it was quite something. 
“I had a lot of people helping and they were brilliant, they did a great job and it was a real team effort. 
“The town council should be speaking up for the people it serves and I don’t think people thought it was. 
“I have never been backward in coming forward in what I say and I shall continue in that manner.”
I am sure Jenny is a very good granny, but she is no political novice: she is a former deputy leader of Luton Borough Council.

Lead singer of Fight the Bear holds Bishop's Castle for Lib Dems

Last night the Liberal Democrats comfortably held my favourite Shropshire town:
Note that Labour's intervention made little difference and the Greens, who once had high hopes of this end of the county, actually went backwards.

The by-election was caused by the resignation of Charlotte Barnes for family reasons. I met her in the days when it was easier for me to get over to Shropshire and I am sure she was a very good councillor.

She also fought the Ludlow constituency for the Lib Dems at the last general election.

The new councillor for Bishop's Castle is Jonny Keeley who, among many other things, is lead singer with the band Fight the Bear.

Enjoy...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Bigger than Kim Kardashian’s bottom

It looks as though all is well at Bonkers Hall after all. Let us steal away and leave him to enjoy his new fame until our next visit.

Bigger than Kim Kardashian’s bottom

I wrote all the above yesterday, and will confess that I spent the night tossing and turning. How would my piece be received in Fleet Street?

I need not have worried. This morning I received an excited telephone call from the organ. I won’t pretend to understand everything that was said, but the gist of it was they had published it on the electric internet under the title: “We asked a Liberal Democrat peer to tell us how his party can be revived: You won’t believe what happened next!”

Not only that: it appears I have “broken the interweb”. I was about to apologise, but it transpired this was a good thing and that I am “bigger than Kim Kardashian’s bottom”.

 And that, I think we can agree, dear reader, is Very Big Indeed.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

  • How the Liberal Democrats can revive their electoral fortunes
  • While I enjoy my Caffè Bellotti
  • Piracy on Rutland Water
  • The work of a particularly large mole
  • Take a cold tub and volunteer for extra delivering
  • I'm buggered if I know
  • Mike Rumbles says Brexit will increase the price of Irn Bru


    I love this story from the Aberdeen Evening Express:
    Scots face a “Brexit Irn Bru tax”, with the cost of importing soft-drink ingredients already rising sharply following the vote to leave the European Union ... the Liberal Democrats have warned. 
    The cost of a two-litre bottle of Irn Bru could rise by 6p if just half of the beverage’s secret formula is affected by Brexit-related inflation, MSP Mike Rumbles said. 
    Manufacturers are already seeing higher inflation for raw materials since the Brexit vote, he said. 
    Inflation for imported soft-drink ingredients jumped 6.3% between June and July compared to only 1% between May and June.
    Wars have been fought over less.

    Six of the Best 626*

    "Although the policy paper is called ‘Mending the Safety Net’, what it proposes is nothing of the sort. In fact, it actively endorses the current welfare system which is failing so badly that over a million people in the UK don’t just live in poverty but are actively destitute." George Potter argues that Liberal Democrat Conference should reject the social security policy paper.

    Caroline Wright reports that a renowned Harvard psychologist Says ADHD is largely a fraud.

    Gavin Stamp mourns the unhappy fate of Christopher Wren's London churches.

    Thinking of faking your own death? It's harder than you think, explains Elizabeth Greenwood.

    "That feeling extends to the battle scenes, as if a bunch of flower children have taken some bad acid and gone berserk. It's a sloppy, nasty tableau, anticipating the actual grubby decline of the sixties." A Classic Movie Blog views Alfred the Great from 1969.

    " I like chess. That’s the main reason that I’m able to play at a reasonably high level - that I really love chess. Always have and always will (smiles). It’s the best game in the world!" Britain's Nigel Short explains why he is the only player aged over 50 in the world's top 100.

    * Except that the numbering of this feature went haywire long ago. I've no idea which number this really is. One day I will find out.

    You are welcome to suggest links to me, by the way.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2016

    Whitworth Park, Darley Dale



    Looking for the cricket ground at Darley Dale I first came across the lovely Whitworth Park.

    It was given to the town by and named after Sir Joseph Whitworth.

    Now read more about Darley Dale:




    Lord Bonkers' Diary: I’m buggered if I know

    Frankly, after all that build up, I was hoping for more than this.

    I’m buggered if I know 

    Tea was delicious, as indeed was dinner – cannon of Norman lamb with pugh lentils. The sun gone down over Rutland Water with a loud hiss and I have before me a blank sheet of paper.

    Well, not quite blank.

    Beneath the heading “How the Liberal Democrats can revive their electoral fortunes,” I find I have written the words:

    “I’m buggered if I know.”

    Still, a deadline is a deadline, so I shall now have a junior footman take it to the village post office so it can be telegraphed to London.

    Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10

    Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

  • How the Liberal Democrats can revive their electoral fortunes
  • While I enjoy my Caffè Bellotti
  • Piracy on Rutland Water
  • The work of a particularly large mole
  • Take a cold tub and volunteer for extra delivering
  • Help the Liberal Democrat campaign in the Witney by-election



    The resignation of David Cameron and the resultant by-election in Witney give the Liberal Democrats to regain some political momentum and re-establish themselves in the public mind as challengers for power.

    You can donate to help the campaign via the Liberal Democrat site.

    Our realistic aim in Witney must to be to regain second place. 

    Historically, Labour has polled better in the constituency than you might expect and have sometimes come second there themselves. But I cannot see Corbynism appealing to this tract of deep Tory England.

    Paddy Ashdown has had what he calls a "naughty thought" and wants you to retweet it. He doesn't tell you what to do if you think ir is a silly idea.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2016

    Disused stations on the London Underground



    Look back on Ongar.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Take a cold tub and volunteer for extra delivering

    We are no nearer learning how Lord Bonkers believes the Liberal Democrats can start winning elections again, but I suppose he does have to deal with his correspondence.

    Take a cold tub and volunteer for extra delivering

    Lunch was enjoyable, but before I get down to writing my article I must attend to this morning’s post. What do we have? A letter from an Irish bishop inquiring about visiting hours at the aforementioned orphanage. Another from a journalist who wants to interview me about my part in the archaeological dig that discovered ‘Ashdown Man’ – at one time the old boy was thought to provide important evidence about the evolution of Liberalism in Britain, but these days people are Not So Sure.

    What else do we have? Bills (we won’t bother with those), dividends from my shares in the oil rigs on Rutland Water and an illuminated address thanking me for my work in suppressing vice amongst canvassers in the West Country.

    Then there are the usual letters from Liberal Democrats around the country. These tend to repeat the same questions, so over the years I have dictated standard replies to them and given each a number. Today’s required replies are: 1 (“Thank you for your kind words – I enclosed a signed photograph”), 17 (“In such a marginal seat I would recommend the use of the Bonkers Patent Exploding Focus”) and 84 (“Take a cold tub and volunteer for extra delivering”).

    Now it will soon be time for tea and I really must get on with that article.

    Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10

    Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:
    • How the Liberal Democrats can revive their electoral fortunes
    • While I enjoy my Caffè Bellotti
    • Piracy on Rutland Water
    • The work of a particularly large mole
    • I've good news for Nick Clegg: You can't lose by predicting Liam Fox will resign



      The Spectator's Steerpike quotes Nick Clegg's words at a Commons press gallery lunch today:
      "I’ll just say a word about Liam Fox though because I do feel sorry for him. I’m not a betting man but if I was I’d put a fair amount of money on Liam Fox resigning in a huff in the next 18 months and I’ll explain to you why. He doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t appear to have realised that yet. 
      "He genuinely doesn’t have a job. If the United Kingdom doesn’t leave the customs union then he is heading a department without purpose because he cannot negotiate all these apparently magnificent trade deals with Papua New Guinea and Tanzania."
      I think Nick Clegg is right. In my experience you can't go far wrong by predicting Liam Fox will resign.

      Because in August 2010, when the commentariat had decided that Vince Cable would be the first minister to resign from the Coalition cabinet, I wrote:
      My own tip for the first resignation would be a Tory right-winger like Liam Fox.
      In October 2011 I was proved right.

      So pile your money on Nick. It's a banker!

      John McDonnell: Labour is like Lord of the Flies

      Monday, September 12, 2016

      Thunderbirds 1965


      .
      A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of three new episodes of the 1960s British television series Thunderbirds to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

      It was my favourite programme when I was seven.

      Lord Bonkers' Diary: The work of a particularly large mole

      Still no news on how the Liberal Democrats can revive their electoral fortunes. Still, Estate work is important.

      The work of a particularly large mole

      I must now pause for a modest luncheon. You are no doubt wondering how my article is coming along. Well, I am (as I may have mentioned) simply bursting with ideas for it, but I have been concerned for some days about a spot of subsidence at the Bonkers’ Home for Well-Behaved Orphans. Being firmly of the belief that we must put children first, I hurried over their after coffee to supervise the repairs.

      The foreman of the builders suggested that the problem was due to a tunnel that had been dug from the coal cellar under the walls of the orphanage, put I pooh-poohed the idea. It must, I told him, be an adit left over from the Rutland Gold Rush or the work of a particularly large mole.

      Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10

      Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:
      • How the Liberal Democrats can revive their electoral fortunes
      • While I enjoy my Caffè Bellotti
      • Piracy on Rutland Water