Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Peak at Glendon Junction

This photograph must have been taken in the early 1980s. A Peak (class 45 diesel) has come from Corby and is about to join the Midland main line.

Note the semaphore signal and that the line to Corby was double track. It was later to be singled, only to be doubled again.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Try one of my setters, they’re milder"

Today is our last day for a while in the company of Rutland most celebrated fictional peer. How long ago the start of the general election campaign now seems.


I spend the aboard the Liberal Democrat Battle Bus, visiting some of our best prospects in South West London and taking the opportunity to pick ‘High Voltage’ Cable’s brains about my investments.

I remain convinced that Farron would take the pews out of St Asquith’s and have as all singing ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ given half a chance, but he is the most engaging of companions. No wonder the mint cake workers of Kendal vote for him en bloc.

He asks if I would like to smell his spaniel, whereupon I reply: “Try one of my setters, they’re milder.”

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Market Harborough school drops 'hands behind back' rule

Judging by the lively comments on my post on the subject, it was late with the story.

But the Leicester Mercury said yesterday that a Market Harborough primary school has withdrawn its policy that children should walk with their hands behind their backs:
The Mercury has now learned that after "consultation" with parents, pupils are now required to walk in with their hands held in front of them. 
A spokesman for the diocese said: "The policy was only ever introduced in the first place with thought for safety at its heart and for ensuring a calm atmosphere for the school, especially the youngest pupils, when they were walking about. 
"I believe parents have been sent a letter regarding the change."

Paul Keetch has died

Sad news this evening. Paul Keetch, Liberal Democrat MP for Hereford from 1997 to 2010, has died.

Liberal Democrat Voice points us to a report in the Ross Gazette:
Paul was a liberal, a democrat and an internationalist and amongst Liberal Politicians, a rarity in that he had never lost an election. 
He was elected to Hereford City Council at the age of 21, making him the then youngest City Councillor in the UK. 
As a proud Herefordian, born and raised in the city, there was only one place he wanted to represent in Parliament and he became the MP for Hereford at his first attempt in 1997. He defended the seat twice in 2001 and 2005, before standing down prior to the 2010 election.
Paul was the most senior Liberal Democrat to campaign for a Leave vote in last year's referendum.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A ride over Stainmore Summit in 1961

The line from Darlington to Penrith via Barnard Castle and Kirkby Stephen East was the highest passenger railway in England.

This film was shot in December 1961, a few weeks before it closed,

For more on the line, watch Snowdrift at Bleath Gill,

Lord Bonkers' Diary: What a scandal that was!

Today the old boy remembers a March visit to the banks of the Ouse and the Foss.


Were you in York for the Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference? Perhaps I met you there?

It is always a pleasure to visit that historic city, take tea at Betty’s and enjoy an Old Peculier in one of its many public houses.

I also think of Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate whenever I am there. What a scandal that was!

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Lib Dems and Independents take back control of Cornwall

This month's county elections left Cornwall with 46 Conservative councillors, 37 Liberal Democrats and 30 Independents.

As the largest party the Conservatives had first go at putting together a ruling coalition. But, reports BBC News, their proposal was rejected by the Independents unanimously.

The Liberal Democrats and independent councillors have regained joint control of Cornwall Council following two weeks of uncertainty. 
Adam Paynter from the Lib Dems is the new leader following a secret ballot by councillors on Tuesday. 
Independent councillor Julian German is to take on the role of deputy leader.
The council was run by a Lib Dem and Independent coalition before the elections.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Diane Abbott's ‘Coppers for Coppers’ scheme

Lord Bonkers occasionally complains of overzealous policing on Boat Race night, but for the most part he is a staunch supporter of the boys in blue.


I meet PC McNally on his beat, as he helps an old lady across the village high street – it not being the apple scrumping season, this is how he spends most of his time at present. (Incidentally, the walls around my orchard are at a sporting height to allow a fair contest between the aforementioned constable and the local urchinry.)

Poor McNally is a far from laughing policeman as he tells me that Diane Abbott has launched Labour’s new ‘Coppers for Coppers’ scheme. “They’re going to pay us just £30 a year,” he tells me with a sob in his voice. “I’ll need a new bicycle soon and even a second-hand truncheon costs a packet.”

I reassure him that there is no possibility of Labour winning the election with Corbyn and ‘Semtex’ McDonnell at the helm, leaving him in a happier frame of mind. Incidentally, while we are talking, the old lady re-crosses the road under her own steam and then scuttles away when PC McNally catches sight of her.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

The general election campaign must resume tomorrow

It was right that there should have been a pause in the general election today, but it must resume tomorrow.

A longer pause - some have even suggested we should wait six days - would hand ISIS a propaganda victory and encourage further outrages at election time.

It would also suggest that we do not hold our democratic traditions very dear if our first reaction at a time of national distress is to abandon them.

The campaign so far has been dull, but the right to be bored by democratic politics was dearly won and should not be discarded.

Later: From Liberal Democrat Voice:
The party is advising candidates tonight that, while national campaigning remains suspended, local campaigning can resume tomorrow.

Roger Moore and The Persuaders

This is how I remember Roger Moore best: starring in The Persuaders opposite Tony Curtis.

How enticing those Continental locations and their playboy lifestyle seemed on British television back in 1971!

Moore and Curtis played it mostly for laughs as they righted wrongs and fought crime, yet the wonderful John Barry theme has an unexpected sadness to it.

Howard Jacobson on Manchester

The novelist writes about his home city and last night's terrorist outrage for The New York Times:
The eruption of indiscriminate violence in a peaceful place is terrorism’s purpose and our greatest dread, the horrible intrusion of menace where we had no reason to expect it, no matter how often we tell ourselves that nowhere is safe now. The unnaturalness of terrorism is its essence. It means to strike out of a clear blue sky. It means to shatter those bonds of commonality we have to take for granted or we cannot live. 
So, this is terrorism’s perfect expression: the random massacre of kids coming out of a pop concert they’d no doubt been looking forward to and talking animatedly about for weeks, kids united only moments before in music and fun. 
Manchester, my home town, is a music city, at the forefront of musical innovation for decades. When I was growing up there, those who weren’t aspiring musicians themselves lived next door to someone who was. I was exceptionally unmusical, but my brother played lead guitar for a well-loved band called the Whirlwinds which, after time, morphed into 10cc. They practiced in our living room.
And he later says:
All that Manchester was best at, all its versatility and unexpectedness, all its artfully concealed sophistication, found a home in Tony Wilson, who read English at Oxford, taught drama at a school in Oldham, near Manchester, and founded Factory Records and the Hacienda Club. 
If I had to define the soul of modern Manchester, I’d point to Tony Wilson: down to earth and dandified, of the people and rarified, all at once; sharp-tongued, honorable, hedonistic, more interested in art and conversation than celebrity and wealth. It was thanks to Wilson that Manchester became known as “Madchester.”
You can read more about the Whirlwinds on All Music.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Not as strong and stable as she thought"

The prime minister visits Rutland in today's entry. With hilarious consequences.


Despite the blustery weather, I call on one of my neighbouring landowners - the fellow is a died-in-the-wool Tory, but a Decent Sort in his way. I find him in a state of great excitement as the prime minister is also on his estate.

"She has come to Rutland to meet the voters," he explains. "And where is she?" I ask. "She's locked herself in my gardener’s potting shed and refuses to come out." After I have offered the observation that Meadowcroft would never put up with it, we brave the wind to see how she is getting on.

A cluster of journalists surrounds the door - occasionally one jots a question on a piece of paper and slides it under the door - but of ordinary voters there is no sign. "She wanted me to have my domestic staff lined up to listen while she made a speech, but somehow that didn't seem quite cricket to me," my host observes.

Just then a tremendous gust lifts the shed clean off the ground and deposits it several fields away in a duck pond. "Not quite as strong and stable as she thought," I remark, as we watch a muddy figure wade to the shore with a mallard on her head.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

The Financial Times lists Theresa May's nine U-turns

Henry Mance, political correspondent of that well known left-wing publication the Financial Times, has helpfully listed Theresa May's major policy shifts over the past 12 months.

They are:
  • Brexit
  • A British bill of rights
  • Hinkley Point
  • Workers on boards
  • National insurance
  • Early election
  • Energy price caps
  • Social care
  • Foreign worker lists
The sad thing is that where May is in the right, such as on Europe and workers on boards, she lacks the courage to stand up for her views.

A North Korean flag is flying above Ingleby Barwick - and nobody knows why

Our Headline of the Day comes from the Middlesbrough Gazette,

Thanks to a reader for the nomination.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A train passing the Magic Roundabout, Hemel Hempstead

First there was a train crossing the old A41 and the canal on the way from Boxmoor gas works to Heath Park Halt.

Then there was a train crossing the viaduct over Marlowes.

This one shows a train passing the Plough Roundabout, which was known as Moor End Roundabout when I went to primary school nearby and later became famous as the Magic Roundabout.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Freddie and Fiona at the New New European

The old boy's young friends turn up in all the most important places.


To the offices of the New New European. Who should I find working there but my old friends Freddie and Fiona? "We've written an article about Skegness," says one. "You won't have heard of it, but it's a funny little place in something called 'Lincolnshire'." "All the people there voted for Brexit, so we had a good laugh at them." "And now Paul Nuttall has decided to stand there, so we have laughed at them even more."

I ask if they have ever been to Lincolnshire. "Oh no, we’ve never been to the North." "Well, I did go to Hertford once, but I didn't like it. You couldn't get artisan quinoa."

"And do you think," I further ask, "that laughing at the good people of Skegness will make them less likely to vote for the odious Nuttall? Don’t you want them to change their minds and support Europe as they did in 1975?"

"That’s not what the New New European is about. What we are interested in is selling our newspaper in North London."

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Six of the Best 694

"There can’t be many people who realise their dad has Alzheimer’s from listening to the BBC’s Today programme. But six years ago, hearing my brilliant and erudite father, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Goodhart, stumbling and pausing through his interview with John Humphrys, I knew something was very wrong." A moving article and a suitable tribute to his father by Benjie Goodhart.

Amelia Tate asks if 'dark ads' on Facebook will really swing the general election.

The peerless Ian Jack discusses the derided British Rail sandwich and its part in the privatisation of our trains.

Nicholas Barber on 'universe-shrinking': "What happens is that the characters in a science-fiction or thriller franchise are initially sent off on adventures in the wider world. James Bond goes after Goldfinger, Doctor Who defends the Earth against the Daleks, and so on. But after a while that world grows smaller and smaller until there is nothing in it which isn’t connected to the protagonists."

"He thinks you were before your time. Personally, I don’t think we’re ever going to reach the time that you’re in." Andy Murray introduces to Anthony Newley, an important but largely forgotten figure in post-war culture, and in particular his 1960 television series The Strange World of Gurney Slade.

"As any football manager will tell you, 'A win is a win'. Or even, as Gertrude Stein liked to say during her brief spell in the hot seat at Turf Moor 'A win is a win is a win'." Backwatersman follows the progress of the 2017 cricket season.

Squeeze: Pulling Mussels (from the shell)

They do it down on Camber Sands,
They do it at Waikiki
A live version of the Squeeze single that got to no. 44 in the charts in 1980.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A hard border

A second day at Bonkers Hall, and his lordship considers the significance of Brexit for his native county,


Rutland, of course, will remain in the European Union. Every day ships laden with pork pies and stilton set sail from Oakham Quay to cross Rutland Water and then the North Sea. They return with wines, exotic spices and all the things that make life jolly. Why would anyone want to throw that away?

This afternoon I join a party of military engineers to inspect out border with Leicestershire. Some have spoken of a 'hard border' after Brexit. Surveying its  tank traps, minefields and the Rutland Military Canal, we conclude that it would be difficult to make it any harder.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Friday, May 19, 2017

Eddie McCreadie returns to Stamford Bridge

Eddie McCreadie was the left back in the glamorous Chelsea team that won the FA Cup in 1970 and the European Cup Winners Cup the following year.

Move on to the 1976/7 season and things had gone sour. The club was heavily in debt, could not afford to sign any new players and been relegated.

But Chelsea got back into the top division at the first attempt. The team consisted of a few survivors of the glory years (Peter Bonetti, Ron Harris, Charlie Cooke) and a host of youngsters. It was captained by an 18-year-old Ray Wilkins and managed by Eddie McCreadie.

Something went wrong - legend has it that Chelsea refused to buy him a car - and McCreadie left as manager. He has lived in America for the past 40 years and never been back.

Until now.

Yesterday's Daily Mirror reported:
Chelsea legend Eddie McCreadie is making an emotional return to Stamford Bridge this weekend for the first time in 40 years. 
The Blues hero landed at Heathrow this morning on a flight back from the United States.
And today's Sun says:
Chelsea legend Eddie McCreadie has been back to Stamford Bridge – for the first time in 40 years ... 
McCreadie, 77, still lives in the States in Tennessee keeping one eye on his old club. 
McCreadie told TalkSPORT: “I watch all the games in the United States. 
“I’m absolutely thrilled with the success they’ve had. I’ve come back here and the stadium, the facilities, it’s a remarkable change.” 
McCreadie was back at the Bridge on Friday to check out his old stomping ground and will appear at a special night on Saturday to mark the launch of a new book.
On Saturday McCreadie will be at the launch of a book about him and his era at Chelsea. You can here all about it on the Chelsea Fancast.

The Sun also suggests he will be at Stamford Bridge on Sunday when Chelsea are presented with the Premiership trophy.

Leicester West's Tory Spartans turn into snowflakes

Remember Jack Hickey, chair of Leicester Conservatives?

He was the one who told the Leicester Mercury:
"West is the target. It's where we think we can do well. 
"We are huge underdogs. We are outnumbered, we are outmatched but we are like the 300 Spartans. 
"We are fewer but we are better."
Well, things have moved on. First, because Hickey also told the Mercury that he would not seek to be a candidate himself and then emerged as the Tory candidate in Leicester West.

And second because the Spartans of Leicester Conservatives have turned out to be more like snowflakes.

Here is today's Leicester Mercury:
The Tories have accused a national pro-EU pressure group of trying to 'skew the vote' in the battle for Leicester West. 
Conservative candidate Jack Hickey has raised concerns about Open Britain's aim to get anti-Brexit supporters to travel to the constituency in the run up to the election on June 8 to support Labour's Liz Kendall who is defending a majority of just over 7,000. 
Open Britain itself says it is not trying to skew the vote but simply campaigning against what it describes as a 'a hard, destructive Brexit'
That's right: a candidate for the party that brought you the Battlebus2015 operation is now whingeing because activists are travelling to his constituency to campaign for another candidate.

This far from Spartan reaction confirms what I am hearing about the Conservatives campaign's failure to make progress in Leicester West.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: At the top of my hawking tower

With the latest issue of Liberator on its way to subscribers, it is time to spend another week with Lord Bonkers. We arrive on his estate to find preparations for polling day in full swing.


I am writing this at the top of the hawking tower at Bonkers Hall; I have set up my HQ here for the local elections. The view commands a sweep of country from the shores of Rutland Water to the Uppingham road. Armed with a pair of field glasses or a sharp-eyed orphan, I will get an early warning if any other party has the cheek to put up in the Bonkers Hall ward.

With the Bonkers Patent Shuttleworth Press installed in the room below, and a spiral staircase giving easy access to the kitchens, I decided to run the local general election campaign from here too.

Looking out, I see my tenants queuing to collect today’s Focus leaflet. I am gratified that they even come out in the rain, though my tried and tested slogan 'Remember your rents fall due on Lady Day' probably has something to do with that.

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Six of the Best 693

"Our new manifesto offers some serious proposals to address some fundamental causes of racial unfairness in society. This shows that Lib Dems are keen to walk the walk on equality." Lester Holloway looks at the party manifesto's proposals for making Britain a more racially equal society.

A Discursive of Tunbridge Wells podcast discusses involuntary treatment in the mental health system.

Katharine Schwab on the rediscovery of Britain's miles of lost cycleways.

Claire Cock-Starkey wins Name of the Day and examines the 18th-century fashion for hiring ornamental hermits. (They live on at Bonkers Hall, of course.)

Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks was released 50 years ago, The BBC Radio 4 series Soul Music celebrates the anniversary by listening to the poignant, thoughtful and life-changing memories of those who love it.

"The West Ferry Printing Works has always been quite mysterious, when it was open, you seldom saw anyone go in or come out. The dark mirrored glass made it difficult to see inside. It seemed just the place where a Bond villain would hang out." Isle of Dogs Life on the short life of Rupert Murdoch's printing works.

Harborough Mail wins Headline of the Day

The judges, rather than laughing, preferred to treat this as a sad story about the decline of the local press.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Approaching Heath Park Halt over the Marlowes viaduct

Another 1958 glimpse of Heath Park Halt, which was the southern terminus for passengeers of the Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead line.

This time we see a train arriving at the halt from the north. It crosses the viaduct that carried the line across Marlowes, which was just then taking shape as the main shopping street of Hemel Hempstead new town.

Now watch Boxmoor gas works to Heath Park Halt,

The future of Britain: it's in your hands

A vote for the Liberal Democrats on June 8 is a vote to put the future of Britain in your hands.

Boris Johnson moos 'like a cow' and devours cakes on bakery visit

The Daily Telegraph wins Headline of the Day.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Vince Cable on the chances that a new political party will be formed

Interviewed by Ned Simon for Huffington Post, Vince Cable has been discussing the possibility that a new political party will be formed after the general election:
Vince Cable has said the creation of a new political party in the UK depends on how the Liberal Democrats perform at the general election. ...
Cable said “politics after the election may be more interesting than before it” if Jeremy Corbyn refuses to quit and the Labour party “fragments”. ... 
Cable, 74, said it was “possible” a new party could emerge from the ashes of a left-wing collapse at the hands of the Tories as the structure of politics was now extremely “unpredictable”. 
“It depends what happens to us. I’m not predicting that. I think we will do much better. But how much better I can’t say,” he said
The dilemma for Liberal Democrats who are attracted by the idea is that, in order to be successful, a new party would have to win over a large body of Labour MPs, who would then proceed to dominate it.

Indeed, if we don't do well on 8 June then a new party may happen without our participation being seen as that important.

Elsewhere in the interview Vince suggests that Brexit is no longer the main concern of voters as they are focus more on bread-and-butter issues like health and education.

And he is pretty damning about Theresa May's predecessor:
Cable said David Cameron’s decision to hold an EU referendum was “one of the biggest political miscalculations in our history” which has had “devastating consequences”. 
“It was almost as bad as losing America in the 18th Century. He had to go. Of course he had to go,” he said of Cameron’s decision to resign.

Six of the Best 692

Nick Barlow says those hoping for a British Macron have failed to grasp the fundamental differences between French and British politics.

"The further away the problem, the easier it feels to resolve the ethics." Matthew Spencer discusses what the environment and development communities can learn from each other when it comes to achieving political impact,

Isabelle Fraser, daughter of the documentary maker Nick Fraser, on his stroke and accepting a special Bafta on his behalf.

David Butterfield offers 10 commandments for the public house. He is right about most things and "the handled glass and its quaint dimples" is an abomination.

"It was a surprise to find, when visiting Marion Park in Charlton where much of the film’s famous park sequences were shot, that Antonioni and his sound recordist, Robin Gregory, had merely emphasised something that was already there." Adam Scovell in the importance of sound in Blow-Up.

In the Middle Ages there was a superstition that the king of England must not enter Lincoln. Caitlin Green examines its origins. She mentions that Leicester had the same superstition. As Richard III discovered, it was well founded.

Oswestry town centre street sealed off because of burning toast

Our Headline of the Day Award returns to its natural home: the Shropshire Star.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Boxmoor gas works to Heath Park Halt, 1958

A valuable scrap of footage.

Boxmoor gas works stood close to Hemel Hempstead station on the Euston main line. But passenger trains from Harpenden never made it that far, terminating at Heath Park Halt.

This video, shot from the footplate, shows the line crossing the old A41 and then the Grand Union Canal before arriving at Heath Park Halt.

The whole line was closed when Hemel Hempstead new town was built, which in retrospect seems an odd decision. It could have linked the town's main line station with its main shopping centre and industrial estates.

Lib Dems stand down in favour of the Greens in Skipton and Ripon

A pact too far?

In return for the Green Party not fielding a candidate in Harrogate and Knaresborough, the Liberal Democrats have agreed not to fight Skipton and Ripon.

As the Craven Herald says:
What makes this deal more remarkable is that the Lib/Dems have been second to the Tories in every general election from 1992 to 2010. And for two general elections prior to 1992 the Liberals were runners up.
Going back a little further, the Liberal Party won the old Ripon constituency in a 1973 by-election and came within a few hundred votes of winning Skipton at the October 1974 general election.

Are we, in an overoptimistic attempt to regain Harrogate, ceding traditional Liberal territory to the Greens? What will the long-term consequences of these local pacts be?

A reminder of why everyone always receives a great reception on the doorstep

There was a rare outbreak of honesty from a general election candidate today as Julian Huppert, who hopes to regain Cambridge for the Liberal Democrats, sent this tweet.

Generally, of course, every candidate reports that they have received "a great reception on the doorstep". So much so that you see people making fun of such tweets whenever they appear.

Why do they do it?

One reason, as I blogged a couple of years ago, is this:
Let me to take you back to a Guardian account of the Hartlepool by-election of 2004 and what happened to the Liberal Democrat candidate Jody Dunn: 
On August 27, Dunn had written in her blog about a dispiriting evening out canvassing with Simon Hughes. "It didn't just rain last night, it poured," she wrote. "In fact the evening became one of the more farcical moments of the campaign. We'd picked what appeared at first to be a fairly standard row of houses. As time went on however, we began to realise that everyone we met was either drunk, flanked by an angry dog or undressed." 
We have all had evenings of canvassing like that. But the account goes on: 
The blog had continued with a joke about how Dunn looked like Worzel Gummidge in the rain. Ed Fordham had checked the copy as usual before posting it online. Nothing he read had sounded alarm bells. 
The Labour printing machines turned again, and this time Hartlepool woke up to the news on its doormat that Dunn had accused them all of being "either drunk, flanked by an angry dog, or undressed". 
And given the opportunity, other parties would no doubt behave just as Labour did. 
So it's much safer always to say you have received a great reception on the doorstep than tell the truth.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Emperor Haile Selassie visits Bishop's Castle

I once quoted Michael Coles' Reminiscences of Wistanstow:
In 1936 the Italians invaded Abyssinia and the Emperor Haile Selassie had to flee, He was given refuge by this country and one day whilst I was at Craven Arms railway station he arrived with his entourage to stay at Walcot Hall on the way to Lydbury North, which was a mansion owned by the Stephenson Ink people.
This film shows Haile Selassie at Bishop's Castle. I suspect it was shot on the same visit, if not on the same day that Michael Coles saw him.

Tim Farron on the stump in Cornwall

Laura Silver from BuzzFeed has been following Tim Farron on the campaign trail in Cornwall:
Amplifying doubts about Brexit could be a pivotal strategy for Farron and his party. [Andrew] George, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, wants to tell the Brexit-supporting fishing industry that the likes of Nigel Farage played a “cruel hoax” on them by suggesting there would no longer be quotas on the number of fish that could be caught if Britain left the EU, or that foreign boats could be banished from British waters. 
“It’s the equivalent of putting it on the side of a red campaign bus. It’s as honest as that,” he added. 
Johnny, a fisherman BuzzFeed News met in Padstow who preferred to not give his surname, said he voted Leave but that his perspective could be shifting as he fears the fishing industry had been “sold up the river”.
Elsewhere she finds Tim Farron's low media profile (almost inevitable in a new leader) and the aftermath of coalition as barriers to votes returning to the Liberal Democrats.

We should listen to Tony Blair's interview with Alastair Campbell

There was a sharp tweet from John Lubbock earlier today:

As a description of debate between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, that is accurate.

But I have the discouraging feeling that Tony Blair may be as good as it gets for the centre left. If that feeling is well founded, it means that both parties will have to come to terms with him.

At any rate, the exchange between Blair and Alastair Campbell in the video above is useful in its honesty about the problems of being in politics and being prepared to oppose the interests of big business.

And one of the few advantages of having been blogging for so long is that I can refer you to what I wrote when Blair stood down as prime minister:
Today's media consensus is that the public has undergone a long process of disillusionment with Tony Blair. 
My own experience has been the reverse. When he was first elected it seemed obvious to me that he was an actor more than a statesman - and a terribly bad actor at that. All those speeches with his voice thick with unshed tears - the best known is his reaction to the death of the Princess of Wales, but there were many more - were so palpably insincere that I was convinced that the public would see through him any day. 
Well, it took years to happen, and by the time it did I started to find myself with a grudging respect for his longevity and skill as a political operator. Still, I cannot pretend to be anything other than delighted that he is going.
Maybe I would not have been so delighted if I had foreseen what was to follow him.

Tom Waits: I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love with You

From Tom Waits' debut studio album, Closing Time, which was released in 1973.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Stalking the Obelisk, Boughton

The Obelisk, which was built by Wentworth as a memorial to his friend William Cavendish, the fourth Duke of Devonshire, loomed up in the distance as I walked around Boughton on Saturday. 
One day I will go back and photograph it close up, though I have the feeling that it is one of those buildings that will move around the landscape if you try too hard to pin it down.
That's what I wrote last summer after visiting Boughton and its follies, just to the north of Northampton.

I went back today, taking the Obelisk by surprise by approaching it from rear via Boughton village and a woodland walk.

If I had attacked it from the front - from among the bungalows that lap at its base - it would surely have seen me coming.

As I wrote last summer it was erected by William Wentworth, second Earl of Strafford, as a memorial to his friend William Cavendish, the fourth Duke of Devonshire. Cavendish was educated at Boughton as a boy.

Six of the Best 691

"Ever since she took over from David Cameron last summer, she has spoken as if Britain is a nation harmoniously united, aside from the divisive forces of party politics and liberal elites seeking to thwart the 'will of the people.'" William Davies dissects Theresa May's vapid vision of a one-party state.

Bernard Aris looks at the history of internationalism in the Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats.

The privatisation of the Forensic Science Service in 2010 has brought about a crisis in the criminal justice system, argues Jerry Hayes.

Bethlem Museum of the Mind on the rumour of a Petition of the Poor Distracted Folk of Bedlam from 1620.

Northamptonshire Britain's Best Surprise visits Kelmarsh Hall, which is down the road from here. I shall go back this summer to see the exhibition of artwork by MacDonald (brother of Eric) Gill.

"The presence of the 'slick, flashy' Spivs gave post-war British cinema an excuse to make their own version of the 1930s Hollywood gangster movies – still loved and regularly watched by much of the UK cinema audiences after the war." Rob Baker looks at this genre of films.

The evidence behind the Lib Dem call to legalise cannabis

The Liberal Democrat call for a regulated market in cannabis this week has attracted more media interest than out policies normally do.

You can read the evidence behind this policy in the report A framework for a regulated market for cannabis in the UK: Recommendations from an expert panel.

That expert panel was made up of:
  • Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation (Chair)
  • Mike Barton, Chief Constable, Durham Constabulary
  • Niamh Eastwood, Executive Director, Release
  • Tom Lloyd, Chair of the National Cannabis Coalition and former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police
  • Professor Fiona Measham, Professor of Criminology, Durham University
  • Professor David Nutt, Founder of DrugScience and former Chair of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs
  • Professor Harry Sumnall, Professor of Substance Use, Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University
To give you a taste of the report:
The prohibition on cannabis production and supply: 
  • Creates opportunities for criminal entrepreneurs, fuelling a vast and socially corrosive criminal market, associated with violence, people trafficking and slavery, including of children 
  • Ensures that people who use cannabis have little or no information about the potency of the product they are consuming 
  • Ensures people who use cannabis buy from potentially risky illicit markets that put them in contact with dealers of other more harmful drugs 
  • Has progressively tilted the market towards more risky products (with higher THC and lower CBD) that are more profitable to the criminal entrepreneurs who control the trade 
  • Has led to the rapid expansion of markets for more risky synthetic cannabis analogues (e.g. ‘spice’)

Friday, May 12, 2017

St Pancras Old Church on St Pancras's Day

Having begun the day by wishing you a happy St Pancras's Day, there was only one place to go.

St Pancras Old Church stands just to the north of the railway station and to the west of the line.

As St Pancras Old Church History explains:
St Pancras Old Church has been a site of Christian worship since the 4th century. It is thought that this church is on a site that has offered worship for more than 1700 years. Fragments of Roman material can still be seen here and there in the fabric of the current building. 
The monuments and reuse of stone chart the history of the church’s development over time. Spanning eight centuries since Fulcherius in the late 12th century the incumbents stretch down to the present day, Fr James Elston becoming the Team Vicar in 2012.
And the last two times I have been there the church has been open.

In the churchyard you will find Sir John Soane's mausoleum, an influence on the design of the classic red telephone box, and the Hardy Tree.

Happy St Pancras Day

As John Betjeman wrote:
Saint Pancras was a fourteen-year old Christian boy who was martyred in Rome in AD 304 by the Emperor Diocletian. In England he is better known as a railway station.
Today is also Steve Winwood's birthday.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Arts Council grant for the Richard Jefferies Museum

Good news from Swindon Link. The Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate has receive a donation of £55,000 from the Arts Council towards a programme of arts and heritage activities.

The website quotes a couple of reactions:
Hilda Sheehan, who organises most of the museum's events as well as being a poet and mainstay of the Swindon Poetry Festival, said: "This is such good news for us. We are a tiny museum and really want to reach as many people as possible. Having a grant from the Arts Council means we can bring in really good artists and internationally renowned poets and not have to charge the earth for people to enjoy them."
Museum manager Mike Pringle said: "We have only been developing the museum for a relatively short while after taking it over from the Council. This helps us to go even further, developing local arts and heritage through our relationships with local services such as the Alzheimer's Society, the Downs Syndrome Society, Mind, local schools, community groups, libraries and galleries. We think that arts which respond to this sort of audience participation grow in new and unexpected ways, and bring our museum to life."
The museum occupies Coate Farm, which was the birthplace of the 19th-century nature writer Richard Jefferies.

For more on the man and the location see the guest post on Liberal England by Rebecca Welshman. It was written before the museum's recent renaissance.

Tensions between May and Hammond mean the government is neither strong nor stable

What makes a government weak and unstable?

Tensions between the prime minister and the chancellor that's what.

It was when Margaret Thatcher fell out with Nigel Lawson in 1989 that she started to look vulnerable. She did not last much longer.

Which is why the most important political news today is this one behind The Times paywall:
Relations between the chancellor and Theresa May’s top team have deteriorated following a series of clashes over policy and presentation. 
Philip Hammond infuriated senior Downing Street aides by effectively committing the prime minister to ditching a promise not to raise VAT, tax or national insurance days after she called the election and before the policy had been settled, The Times has learnt. 
Yesterday, both sides denied reports that Mr Hammond had initially opposed Mrs May’s promise to cap energy bills for 17 million households as they sought to present a united front before the launch next week of the Conservative manifesto.
The report goes on to say that Hammond's relations with Theresa May's chief of staff Nick Timothy are particularly strained. The latter is said to have been "incandescent" at briefings (blamed on Hammond's aides) that he is economically illiterate.

All of which strengthens the impression that Theresa May is a control freak surrounded by a group of tantrum-prone manbabies.

The claim that her government is strong and stable is as false as the one that a big majority will somehow improve the deal she gets from the European Union,

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Darlington to Middleton in Teesdale in 1963

More evocative footage of a lost branch line, This one closed to passengers the year after the film was shot.

Now a Market Harborough school imposes 'hands behind back' rule

It's reached Market Harborough. It's reached a Market Harborough school where, in an earlier life, I was a governor.

The Daily Mail reports:
A primary school has been accused of 'going back to Victorian times' by insisting children walk around the grounds with their hands behind their backs. 
Teachers at Market Harborough Church of England Academy say the antiquated rule is for the 'safety' of pupils and to encourage a 'calm' atmosphere. 
The ruling is also in force when youngsters finish their lunchtime break and return to classrooms. 
Angry parents have dubbed the new rule 'draconian' and blasted the school in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, for 'going back to Victorian times'.
I blogged about this bizarre idea when it was imposed upon a London primary school. Now it has arrived here.

The Mail quotes the Harborough school's head:
'As part of our commitment to providing a safe and orderly environment, we have recently introduced the practice of children gently placing their hands behind their backs as they move round school in large groups, or when they enter the building at lunchtimes.
I love the 'gently' - as though children placing their hands behind their backs with insufficient care might be a risk.

The answer is clear. The people of Market Harborough must point at the people responsible for this decision and roar with laughter whenever they appear in public.

Six of the Best 690

Conservative member Peter Reynolds says Theresa May is not strong and stable but cowardly, evasive and weak.

"This divorce is not going well. And the proceedings have only just started. There is a long road ahead. Heaven knows what sort of country we will be at the end of it. But, as with any divorce, we can be fairly confident that it is the children who will suffer the most." Chris Patten on what Brexit means for Britain's future.

Leonard Pozner, whose son Noah died at Sandy Hook, writes about dealing with the conspiracy theorists and hoaxers who have taunted him ever since,

Is it time do divorce Facebook? Mark Pesce asks the question.

A London Inheritance on his father's experience of VE Day.

Dirty South introduces us to Battersea and its pubs.

More titbits on Dr Teck Khong, the Ukip candidate for Harborough

Last night I introduced you to Dr Teck Khong, Ukip's candidate for Harborough on 8 June,

He has featured on this blog a couple of times before.

Dr Khong was on the shortlist of three from which the Conservative candidate for the 2011 Leicester South by-election was chosen, but did not make the cut.

And he was himself the victim of a racist speech by one of his Conservative colleagues on Oadby and Wigston Borough Council in 2015.

I wish him joy in Ukip.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Viewing the remains of Roman Leicester

The excavations of Roman remains off Great Central Street in the centre of Leicester were opened to the public on Saturday and Sunday.

So long were the queues to view them that it was decided to open the site between noon and two every day this week.

I went along today, finding the entrance to the site directly opposite the old Leicester Central station.

Even on a weekday I had to queue for over an hour to get in to view it.

As the Leicester Mercury told us:
Key discoveries include the remains of one of the largest and highest-status Roman mosaic floors ever found in the city, two Roman streets containing a number of buildings and rare evidence of the first Anglo-Saxon migrants to arrive in the city following the demise of Roman Leicester.
This site was formerly occupied by the Stibbe factory, which supplied machinery to the local hosiery trade. That was built in the 1960s and its concrete pillars rather dominate proceedings.

The dig will continue until the late summer before the site is redeveloped as a hotel. The mosaics will be lifted and displayed there of in one of the city's museums.

The sheer bloody uselessness of Jeremy Corbyn

The problem with Jeremy Corbyn is not his left-wing politics, The problem is that he is no good as a leader.

On the great issue facing the country - Brexit - he has managed to convince Leavers that he supports Remain and convince Remainers that he supports Leave.

We saw that in microcosm today.

This morning he announced that the issue of Brexit is "settled", dismaying those of us who hope Britain will yet escapte this self-inflicted disaster.

This afternoon he refused seven times to say he would definitely take Britain out of the EU, dismaying those who still believe Brexit is the cat's pyjamas.

And then there is the inept way he and his team handle the media. This goes right back to the night he was elected Labour leader and that grim-faced silent walk as journalists tried to interview him.

Today he told Buzzfeed News that he would stay on as Labour leader if he lost the election. Then he denied to the BBC that he had done so and Buzzfeed were banned from Labour events.

Sure enough, Buzzfeed was able to produce a recording of Corbyn saying just what it reported he had.

So don't see Corbyn as a socialist martyr, See him as a bloody useless leader.

Introducting Dr Teck Khong, Ukip's candidate for Harborough

On Sunday Ukip announced they would be standing a candidate in the Harborough constituency as the new Conservative candidate, Neil O'Brien, is a "big Remainer".

Today they named that candidate: Dr Teck Khong.

This came as something of a surprise as he was until today a Conservative member of Oadby and Wigston Borough Council. He also fought Bradford North for the Tories at the 2005 general election and Twitter gossip is that he was disappointed not to be allowed to fight a seat this time.

I don't know if he had his eye on Harborough, but because of the snap election a shortlist of three outside names was imposed on the constituency party by the national Conservative Party.

There is an idiosyncratic biography on his website, but I decided to dig a little deeper.

Dr Khong's attendance record at Oadby and Wigston is not impressive.

More worrying is this article on Tell MAMA from last year:
t has been brought to our attention that the Conservative Councillor, Cllr Dr Teck Khong, has an interesting network of friends on social media. Of particular interest has been the fact that he is a serving councillor on Oadby and Wigston Borough Council in Leicestershire. 
He also lists his profession as a General Practitioner in his register of interests and also is a Board member on the Governing Body of Leicester City’s Clinical Commissioning Group. He also lists an interest in a company called Healthwebwide Limited, which is also listed in his register of interests. 
So far so good. Yet, a look at the social media activity of Cllr Khong leaves much to be desired in the comments that he seems to ‘like’.
And the article goes on to list a number of anti-Muslim tweets that he has liked on Twitter.

People like tweets for all sorts of reasons, but a post on Thoughts of a Leicester Socialist gives more cause for concern.

It says of Dr Khong:
In September 2008 he felt moved to leave positive comments under a bile-filled article titled “How modern Islam has made UK citizens homeless in their own homes.” 
This article warned that Britain was on the way into turning into “some sort of semi-Islamic republic”; and the bigoted author made clear that: “Unlike other valuable and rich cultures and religions that integrate successfully, modern Islam seems steadfast in its principles of war and violence.” 
Sympathising with the general thrust of the article Dr Zhong (sic) commented: 
“What saddens me and many with similar historical backgrounds is the lack of allegiance to the adopted home with newcomers who have been attracted to these shores in the first instance. Even worse is to contemplate the destruction of the very host that offers a haven of hope. ‘When in Rome…’ seems to have slipped into oblivion.”
That article was on Conservative Home and you will find three comments on it from Dr Khong.

The Economic Voice quotes an ecstatic Paul Nuttall:
"That Tech has chosen to support UKIP at this time shows clearly that the scales are beginning to fall from the eyes of Tories about the vacuum where a serious Brexit policy lies in Theresa May's Conservative Party"
But the truth is that today Ukip is attracting people who are prejudiced against Muslims and precious few others.

Tim Farron's hovercraft ride keeps up a Liberal tradition

Exciting times at Burnham-on-Sea today as Tim Farron and Tessa Munt visited the Hovercraft Search and Rescue Centre.

Tim spoke to the workers, media and supporters before taking a ride in one of the things.

Which reminds me of two earlier encounters between Liberal leaders and hovercraft

In 2008 Nick Clegg and Tessa made the same visit to Burnham.

And Rod Liddle once told the story of Jeremy Thorpe's 1974 visit to Sidmouth:
I sat in the bar with a drip feed of genteel alcohol and listened to one of the younger locals — he'd have been in his late seventies, I would guess — talk about the last time there'd been a shipwreck in these parts. 
They all remembered it very well, though it must have been 30 or 40 years ago now. A privately hired hovercraft had, somewhat ill-advisedly, attempted to gain access to Sidmouth harbour. It was not successful in so doing, apparently. Some way out it foundered and began to sink. And yet this terrible wrecking also brought forth bounty of a kind. 
As the craft flapped pointlessly in the surf, many yards from shore, a magisterial figure in a smart suit emerged from within its bowels and waded, with steadfast expression and immense resolve, through the waves, a look of destiny upon his face. 
People looked on in amazement and trepidation. For it was the Right Honourable Jeremy Thorpe MP — and he'd come to do a spot of canvassing.
Hovercraft, incidentally, have proved something of a disappointment. Back in the 1960s hovercraft rides or displays were part of every ambitious fête and we were in no doubt that they were going to be part of the future. Somehow it never quite happened.

Jonathan Meades was right when he said that the future happened briefly in 1969.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Nottingham to Lincoln by water

The British Waterways hotel boat Water Wanderer makes its way from Nottingham to Lincoln via the River Trent and the Roman canal the Fossdyke.

I would guess this dates from around 1970.

The old Hippodrome in Brighton

After my flirtation with restoration at Embassy Court, let's return to derelict Brighton.

The old Hippodrome is tucked in, rather unexpectedly, just behind the seafront.

It was built in 1897 and Wikipedia tells its colourful history:
Shows of all types were staged there, and top-name entertainers such as Sarah Bernhardt, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gracie Fields, Harry Houdini, Buster Keaton, Lillie Langtry and Laurel and Hardy appeared. 
Laurence Olivier played the venue early in his stage career—but fell over on his first entrance on his début. 
One of Charlie Chaplin's first roles was a bit-part in theatre impresario Fred Karno's comedy Saturday to Monday, staged in May 1907; and Vivien Leigh gave an acclaimed performance in George Bernard Shaw's play The Doctor's Dilemma. 
Local stars also featured: Max Miller, the Brighton-born music hall entertainer and comedian, appeared on many occasions during the mid-20th century; and conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, whose vaudeville career began in their home town in 1911 at the age of three, topped the bill with their variety show.
The article goes on to say that 4000 people attended concerts by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in 1964, but that could not help the Hippodrome closing the following year.

It was bought by the Rank Organisation and turned into a Mecca Bingo hall and remained open in that guise until 2007.

Hopes of restoring it remain, those this whole quarter of the city seem run down at present. Our Brighton Hippodrome has the latest news.

The building's glory is its interior, as you will see from the video below.