Saturday, July 22, 2017

This is Their Life by Jonathan Meades (1979)

Published in 1979 complete with a foreword by Mike Yarwood, this is a collection of brief pen portraits of television stars of the day.

Just to list those thought worthy of discussion brings back a lost era. James Galway, Wendy Craig, Ron Pickering, Dickie Henderson. Max Boyce, Pam Ayres, Brian Glover, Penelope Keith.

And because this is 1979 no one on television is gay and only Trevor McDonald is black.

But the real interest of This is Their Life lies in the identity of its author. It is Jonathan Meades.

Meades turned 32 in 1979 and fame was still some years away. So on first inspection this looks like hack work. But a bit of browsing reveals it is more interesting than that.

There is the choice of subjects. I doubt any other young television journalists would have included Ian Nairn and W.G. Hoskins in his list.

Look for it, and the acerbic comment is there too. David Hamilton, for instance, is “the lowbrow’s Michael Aspel”.

The gruesome Ted Rogers is suitably dealt with:
Most of his material is written in conjunction with Wally Malston, who is apparently known as ‘King of the One-Liners’, and says that Rogers is ‘a barometer of what the public is thinking’. 
So be it, but he is hardly a barometer of what the public is doing. His passion is polo – he has four ponies and plays at Cowdray Park, which is also a regular haunt of Prince Charles. 
Meades gets his Foxes right too:
Described by his mother – herself an actress and the widow of the theatrical agent, Robin Fox – as ‘the world’s worst actor’, Edward Fox was for years overshadowed by his younger brother, James, who was arguably the world’s best actor, at least in certain roles. 
But the neatest digs are aimed at two targets who are still very much with us 38 years on – the Dimbleboys, as Meades says Bernard Levin used to call them.

Their father, as everyone would have known in 1979, was Richard Dimbleby, who had been the most famous broadcaster of his day.

Here he is on David Dimbleby:
Even before he became a professional journalist, he had to learn to live with accusations of privilege. At Oxford, where he took a third in PPE, his appointment as editor of Isis was opposed by the outgoing editor Kenith Trodd, who is now a noted drama producer, and his staff. Dimbleby countered with a swingeing attack on ‘the left-wing clique’. 
A couple of years later, some journalists took it upon themselves to advise him publicly not to attempt to follow in his father’s footsteps at the BBC.
On the face of it it might appear that he has done just that, but, of course, his route and approach have been very different from Richard Dimbleby's. Whereas the father was ever reverential, the son - despite his looks and his smooth cap of hair - is rather an abrasive fellow.
 Jonathan, meanwhile, had:
wanted to be a farmer, and his father succeeded in getting him a job on the Royal farm at Windsor, where he trained to be a showjumper. 
You can find This is Their Life on Amazon for a penny, which represents good value for students of popular entertainment and Meades enthusiasts.

Accordion player Sandy Brechin joins horse therapist in fundraising gig

The Ludlow Advertiser wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Many thanks to the reader who nominated this one.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Football mascots observing silences before games


I was introduced today to the comic gold that is photographs of football mascots observing silences before games.

Here, borrowed from The Peterborough Defect, is a shot of Fleetwood Town's Captain Cod remembering the dead of two world wars.

Why Liberal Democrat members should subscribe to Liberator



I have already posted Lord Bonkers' Diary from the current issue of Liberator and given you a taste of the party gossip to be found in Radical Bulletin.

But there is more to Liberator than that. As well as being the Liberal Democrats' Private Eye, it also aspires to be their New Statesman or Spectator.

You can download two articles from the new issue as pdfs.

There's Liz Barker's account of her attempts to address Tim Farron's line on gay sex. And there's Liberator's traditional questionnaire to party leadership contenders (even though there was only one contender this time).

Subscribers to the print magazine will also have read Tony Greaves, Michael Meadowcroft, Paul Hindley and others on Lib Dems' election result and Marianne Magnin on the French election.

The conclusion is clear. If you are a new (or old) Liberal Democrat you should subscribe to Liberator.

Six of the Best 710

"Within secure children’s homes, regulations limit the use of restraint to prevent injury, serious property damage and to stop a child running away. Escort officers, however, are permitted to restrain for 'good order and discipline'." Carolyne Willow shows that the deliberate infliction of pain is still used on children in care.

Alan Jay Levinovitz says economists turned economics into a highly paid pseudoscience because of their fetishising of mathematical models.

"If I put food on the table from writing BuzzFeed columns, or were up for course renewal at a local journalism school, this piece of writing would not exist." Jonathan Kay on what social media is doing to our intellectual landscape.

Sam Kitchener reviews a new exhibition of British realist painting from the interwar years at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and asks if those artists were scared of the modern world.

On the night of Friday 16 May 1941, a single German bomber killed 11 people in the Leicestershire town of Hinckley. Read about it on Hinckley Past and Present.

"One of the most distinctive actresses of the 20th century, with her inimitable, tremulous voice, arrestingly unusual features and irresistible presence, guaranteed to wrench your attention away from everything else on screen." Rick Burin celebrates the wonderful Wendy Hiller.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Travelling for a Living - a 1966 documentary on the Watersons


Here is an unexpected pleasure. The whole of this documentary about the important folk group is available to view for free on the British Film Institute website.

Click on the still above to view it there.

As the blurb on the BFI site says:
"These are the Watersons, a very important part of the revival of traditional British music. They live in Hull." 
A British road movie of sorts, this rich and vital film follows the group on the folk club circuit, at home and in studios. 
It's rewarding on several levels - whether your main interest is Hull, the folk revival or documentary filmmaking - and repays repeated viewings. Seminal and superb.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Democratic Unionist Party meets the Rutland Water Monster

And so another week with Lord Bonkers draws to a close. His diaries appear in each issue of Liberator magazine as well as on this blog.

Sunday

It is the day of the annual fixture between Lord Bonkers’ XI and the Democratic Unionist Party. The Ulstermen are rather pleased with themselves, having had handfuls of banknotes stuffed down their trousers by the Conservatives in return for their votes.

Playing the DUP is always something of a trial: they will not allow two to their batsmen to be in at the same time in case it leads to immoral practices.

During the tea interval I hear them saying that there were never any such as thing dinosaurs. I have a word with my old friend Ruttie, the Rutland Water Monster, and she makes a point of sticking her head in through the window of their team bus and sticking her tongue out as it prepares to pull away.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Government announces that the Midland main line will not be electrified north of Kettering

We will see more disappointing news like this around the country as HS2 eats up all the funding for rail investment.
That's what I wrote last December when it was announced that planned access improvement at Market Harborough station were to be postponed.

Reading between the lines of that post, it should already have been clear that today's announcement that there will be no electrification of the Midland main line north of Kettering was inevitable.

The transport minister Paul Maynard had declined to confirm that work north of Kettering would take place. 

And BBC News had quoted his boss Chris Grayling:
He said that rather than passengers from Northamptonshire having to board trains coming from the further north down to London, they would have a service originating from Corby and Kettering.
So services on the Midland will be operated by hybrid trains that use the overhead wires from St Pancras to Kettering and then switch to diesel to get to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.

The photograph below was taken in Kibworth Beauchamp (between Market Harborough and Leicester) and shows work being carried out to rebuild a road bridge to give room for overhead electrification to be installed on the railway.


This was done to numerous bridges north of Kettering and now turns out to have been a waste of money.

What appears to have happened is that the electrification of the Great Western line took too long and cost too much, with the result that the government felt it had to postpone the work on the Midland.

That in turn meant that the government was going to have to order hybrid diesel-electric trains to run on the Midland.

And if they had those, reasoned the government, then there was no need to electrify the line north of Kettering at all.

Note, incidentally, how intimately the government is involved in the running of our 'privatised' railways.

The railways had far more autonomy in the days of the nationalised British Rail.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The remains of the Hanbury mausoleum at Church Langton


So I went to Church Langton churchyard to pay my respects to J.W. Logan.

I was sorry to see that one of the other Logan family monuments has been damaged, but please that a couple of plaques inside the church that a family member has recently contributed to restoration there.

But the structure in the photograph above is the remains of the Hanbury family mausoleum. I have blogged about William Hanbury and his ambitions for Church Langton before.

John Throsby saw the mausoleum in 1790:
Near the above, in a seat, is a rude pile of bricks which incloses the body of the late Mr. Hanbury. For its reception, he built a mausoleum in the church-yard; but thither it, at present, has not found its way, although I am told, that some of the ashes of his kindred rest in it. It seems somewhat a pity but his will was complied with in this instance. The mausoleum is built of wrought stone, plain and lofty.
It was taken down in 1865. All that remains today is the base, which home to a rather fine statue of an angel.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A glimpse of Theresa May's girlhood

Lord Bonkers tells me he no longer shows Belted George Galloways - "Not a reliable breed."

Saturday

Years ago I spoke with a red-faced farmer at some county show or other – I must have been there with my Belted George Galloways. He complained to me that the local vicar’s daughter was in the habit of running through his wheat fields and doing awful damage.

I now realise that the obnoxious child must have been Theresa May. For the farmer said to me: “I wouldn’t mind, but she keeps changing direction.”

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Six of the Best 709

"The Chagos Islands, a beautiful archipelago of seven atolls in the Indian Ocean, comprise of more than 60 individual tropical islands of sun swept beaches and palm trees. Yet, for nearly 50 years the local Chagossian people, known as the Illois, have been denied the right of return. Their story is one of expulsion, lies, betrayal and severe poverty." Ollie Taylor on a dark episode in postwar history.

Y Cneifiwr on Carmarthenshire County Council's persecution of the blogger Jacqui Thompson.

"More than 500 streets across England have been temporarily closed for play over the past few years, with support from around 45 local authorities, and the idea has recently spread to Canada and Australia." Divided cities can be brought together by children playing in the road, says Apolitical.

The British government wants to put all pornographic websites behind an age-verification wall. But, as Jerry Barnett points out, this ambition could affect many other sites too.

We have replaced regular church going with visits to sacred sites, argues Lousie Hampson.

Adrian Yekkes takes us to five Art Deco and modernist buildings across London.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

To Market Harborough and the Beerhouse by canal



An amiable travel video that appeared on YouTube today.

The 1985 Liberal Party Assembly was organised from two semi-converted narrow boats moored at Foxton. That mooring was through the brick bridge you see at about 1:03 when they stop to open the swing bridge.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: How to keep Vince Cable lithe and limber

The old boy goes on about that cordial so much that, despite his complaints at its cost, I would not be surprised if he were on a percentage from the Elves of Rockingham Forest.

Friday

Vince "High Voltage" Cable keeps himself lithe and limber with his ballroom dancing, but if he is determined to be leader – and there does not seem to be anyone else prepared to pick up the mantle - then he needs to look to his health.

I stop him in a Westminster corridor today to give him some advice. "You need to bathe annually in the spring of eternal life that bursts from the hillside above the former headquarters of the Association of Liberal Councillors in Hebden Bridge," I say.

I also offer to introduce him to the Elves of Rockingham Forest. "You want to get your hands on some of their cordial. They do drive a hard bargain. though, so don’t accept the first price they offer you. Still, you’re an economist so you should know all about that."

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Hamidullah Qadri: the future of English spin?



This blog takes an interest in the emergence of young English spin bowlers. Both Adil Rashid and Mason Crane featured here early in their careers.

Today's Guardian introduced us to another bright prospect:
Last month Hamidullah Qadri did much more than become the first person born in the 21st century to play county cricket when, at the age of 16, he was picked for Derbyshire against Glamorgan. 
Qadri did much more than inspire Derbyshire to their first four-day victory in two years when, as an off-spinner, he opened the bowling in the final innings of a match which ended as he took his fifth wicket amid excitement and joy. 
He did much more than explain why Iain O’Brien, who played 22 Tests for New Zealand, calls him The Magician.
Qadri has since been called up to the England under-19 one day squad.

Why is the thought of a new England spinner so enticing?

In part it is because really good ones are so rare. In my long cricket-watching careering England have had precisely two consistent match-winning spinners: Derek Underwood and Graeme Swann.

And in part it's because it is good to craft and guile triumphing over strength and power in the modern game.

But I think it is also because one of my favourite cricket memories is Phil Edmonds' debut against Australia at Headingley in 1975. He took 5-28 in Australia's first innings and they were skittled for 135. (England did not win: the game was abandoned after protesters vandalised the pitch overnight.)

Edmonds was about the first young player I saw being picked for England. In those days a batsman could be promising at 30 and the selectors specialised in recalling former players. Both Ted Dexter and M,J.K Smith, who might as well have batted with dinosaurs, reappeared in the test side.

So as long as there are young England spinners, I will not feel entirely old myself.

Philip Hollobone meets the Kettering branch of Ukip



Philip Hollobone, the Conservative MP for Kettering, has met the local Ukip branch, reports the Northamptonshire Telegraph:
The local UKIP branch and long-standing Brexiteer Philip Hollobone agreed a memorandum of understanding in April whereby UKIP didn’t put up a candidate against Mr Hollobone because of their shared views on certain issues. 
Senior UKIP member locally Jonathan Bullock said: "Philip Hollobone kept his promise from the General Election and met with senior members of UKIP’s Kettering branch recently to discuss the progress of Brexit and his support for outlawing face coverings in public, reducing overseas aid and opposition to HS2 ...
"Philip gave a detailed briefing as to how he saw the Brexit negotiations progressing and also confirmed his support on various other issues upon which UKIP has campaigned. We saw eye to eye."
Hollobone is in the habit of wearing a Union Jack jacket. He must think it makes him look patriotic. In truth it makes him look an idiot.

Which may not be entirely misleading.

Let me take you back to November 2008 and a House Points column I wrote for Liberal Democrat News:
The death of Baby P ...was raised again when Ed Balls answered questions on Monday. He tried to slip a statement through. Mr Speaker cut him sort short and said he would have to come back another day and do it properly. The atmosphere was tense. 
At which point the Tory Philip Hollobone took it into his head to stand up and ask Balls this question: 
On another subject, the ocarina is an easy-to-play, easy-to-learn, easy-to-teach circular flute, and the centre of the UK’s ocarina industry is in Kettering. My constituents, David and Christa Liggins, actively promote the use of this low-cost musical instrument in schools across the country. Would the Secretary of State agree to meet my constituents and me to discuss how this low-cost instrument might help the Government to teach more school pupils how to play musical instruments?
You can see why he got on so well with Ukip.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Old Manor House, Kibworth Beauchamp


After watching the cricket at East Langton on Saturday I ended up in Kibworth.

The bookshop was closed, but I found that the Old Manor House in Kibworth Beauchamp high street was undergoing pretty far-reaching renovations.

Pevsner describes it as
C16 to C17, with two symmetrical gables. Stone below with mullioned windows, timber-framed and stuccoed above.
But it was clear on Saturday that there is still a lot of wattle and daub involved too.







Lord Bonkers' Diary: Meadowcroft and the magic money tree

Today the spotlight is turned on a stalwart member of staff at the Hall. We may not have heard the last of this.

Thursday

I complain about the prime minister to Meadowcroft this morning as we inspect my gardens. “Did you heaer her tell that nurse there is no magic money tree?” I ask. “It sounded Terribly Patronising. Mind you, I suppose she is right. There is no such thing as a magic money tree, is there?”

To my surprise, Meadowcroft replies hotly: “What I have in my greenhouses be no one’s business but my own, I’ll thank you to know.” Later I hear him drive off in his new Ferrari.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Nick Clegg: My nieces and nephews voted for Corbyn



This story went up on the Sun website earlier this week:
Mr Clegg, who was leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2007 until the disastrous 2015 election which saw his party lose all but eight seats, said that Labour had hoovered up a lot of university-educated, young voters in the recent snap vote. 
He said: "It's on a completely false prospectus. But I had members of my own family, my nieces and nephews who stridently voted for Corbyn. 
"When I pointed out to them he’s a Eurosceptic, they said, 'oh, it’ll be fine' and carried on waving their flags at Glastonbury." 
But he speculated that the youth vote would not stick with Mr Corbyn because they were yet to discover his rampant Eurosceptisism, and that he would not save them from Brexit.
Nick, surely rightly, attributes his loss in Sheffield Hallam to Conservative voters unwillingness to vote for him tactically this time around.

Liberator on the fall of Tim Farron - and other party gossip

Lord Bonkers thinks it was a posse of peers that did for Tim Farron. Radical Bulletin in the new Liberator comes to a different conclusion:
It may be that translating his constituency and internal party campaigning talents to the national stage was simply beyond Farron's ability and eventually, rather to his credit, he realised this and resigned.
Elsewhere in Radical Bulletin you can read about the row over the Liberal Democrat selection in Bath, about problems with Connect and the targeting of seats the Lib Dems hoped to win and about an unhelpful intervention in Ceredigion by Great George Street.

If you want to know what is really going on in the party: subscribe to Liberator.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jonathan Meades visits Marsh Court



This is obviously an early Meades film and one that was thought lost or at least hard to find. It was turned up on an old VHS tape and put online by MeadesShrine.

The great man visits Marsh Court (or Marshcourt), a house built by Edwin Lutyens in the first few years of the 20th century.

When he made this film the house was home to a prep school. I shall not quickly forget the shots of small boys doing their PE under the gaze of hunting trophies.

The school had closed by 1993, because Wikipedia records that it was then
bought by the Belgian car importer Joska Bourgeois for £630,000. Bourgeois allowed the British businessman and politician Geoffrey Robinson to appear as the owner of the house, he would eventually inherit it after her death, some eight months later.

Six of the Best 708

"The most prominent Brexit cheerleaders, none of them lacking in ambition and all of them now installed in the Cabinet, appear to have lost, for now at least, any desire to captain the team." James O'Brien on Brexit and the aftermath of the general election.

underthewesternfreeway analyses what it means to steal a poster board.

It's time for an all-party parliamentary group on land value taxation, says Joe Bourke.

"The many maps contained within the book are rendered as works of art and it includes a particularly beautiful visualisation of the proposed (but later superseded) scheme for the Neasden interchange on the North Circular." LCC Municipal has fallen in love with the Willesden Survey of 1949.

Eyesore Magazine has a podcast interview with Iain Sinclair. All his usual subjects are touched upon, so it makes a good introduction to his work.

Karen Strike takes us into The Vanilla Fudge room - a lost chapter from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: “Why can’t we have a woman as leader?"

When I read this I am reminded that Lord Bonkers was a great supporter of women's suffrage. (But then the first Lady Bonkers would have taken a pretty dim view if he hadn't been.)

Wednesday

“Why can’t we have a woman as leader?” came a question after I spoke at a local Liberal Democrat dinner this evening. I replied that, while I am attracted to the idea, you must first find a woman who is willing to stand. “At one time,” I went on, “we would have engineered a by-election in a safe Liberal seat and got the Wise Woman of Wing to Westminster. She would certainly make a good leader – being Terribly Wise and so forth.” Such matters are not so simply arranged these days, not least because there are no safe Liberal seats any more.

Jo "Gloria" Swinson has ruled herself out this time, settling for the deputy leadership and what she fondly imagines will be a shoo-in next time. Well, we shall see, but "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley," as the former Somerset wicketkeeper Neil Burns once remarked to me.

So instead we must look to our new female Members. Wera Hobhouse is no doubt a relation of my old friend L.T. Hobhouse, with whose latest every young Liberal could once be found curled up. If you want someone Terribly Clever, she’s your girl. Then there is Christine Jardine, who must be a relation of Douglas Jardine, the great England captain from the Bodyline series. His strategy, based upon the insight that Donald Bradman did not like it up the snoot, brought the Ashes home. We could do with similar generalship today.

My eye, however, has fallen upon Layla Morgan – so much so that I have written a song about her on the banjulele. It goes something like this:
Layla,
You've got me on my knees, Layla.
Rumpty tumpty tum, Layla.
Darling won't you ease my worried mind?
Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Be Bop Deluxe: Ships In The Night


I heard this on the radio the other day and it sounded good. Don't let the dry ice in this video put you off.

It was a minor hit in February 1976 when Harold Wilson was still prime minister and the nation's youth was waiting impatiently for punk to happen.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

J.W. Logan's cricket ground at East Langton


Down at Third Man once described the cricket ground this blog's hero J.W. Logan MP gave to the village of East Langton as "the mythic cricket ground that all lovers of the game believe one day they will stumble on".

I have blogged about its history before. And today I called in to see some cricket there.

If I read the Langtons Cricket Club site correctly, I was watching their second XI play Bitteswell.







Behind the facade of Conservative unity it's ferrets-in-a-sack time



Politics Home says Theresa May’s enemies plan to challenge her leadership in the week after the Conservative conference.

That is the traditional time to do it. Remember the rapturous reception the Tories gave Iain Duncan Smith just before they shot him?

But it is clear that cabinet members are already fighting for the succession. Take a couple of stories that appeared in the press today.

There was the one, in the words of the Telegraph, where
Philip Hammond has found himself at the heart of a sexism row after telling fellow members of the cabinet that driving trains was so easy "even a woman can do it."
It may be true. It may be true but exaggerated. It may be false.

But the most striking thing is that an account of a discussion at cabinet has appeared in the press at all.

Who passed on the story?

As a Remain supporter, the chancellor is not trusted by the Leavers around the table, so look for the culprit among them.

Not that all is sweetness and light among the Leavers. Have a look at  this headline from the Sun:
BOJO SEX SMEAR Ally of David Davis is spreading rumours Boris Johnson slept with Theresa May’s aide during campaign
What are we to make of this one?

It could be that someone from Davis's camp really is spreading these rumours. Equally, it could be that the Johnson camp is spreading the rumour that this rumour is being spread to discredit Davis.

It it is the latter, then this could also be an attempt to put Johnson's private life out of bounds in any future leadership election - even though he has been given a remarkably easy ride in this area.

I don't know which explanation is true or if there is an even more machiavellian one. The only clue is that the story is written by Harry Cole, who comes from the Guido Fawkes team where adoration of Boris Johnson is the house religion.

Whatever the truth of this, you don't have to read between the lines to know the Conservatives are at each other's throats. You just have to read the headlines.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: How Matron keeps herself in gin

This is the poster Lord Bonkers is talking about.

Tuesday

One pleasing outcome of this hung parliament is that the Conservatives have been forced to give up their idea of doing away with Clegg’s cherished free school meals, and I am pleased to have played some small part in that. The bright young things in the Liberal Democrat press office rang me during the campaign asking if I could help them source a thin, doe-eyed child for a poster.

I, of course, replied that the Bonkers Hall for Well-Behaved Orphans is simply full of them. In fact, I suspect Matron keeps herself in gin by providing the urchins for the BBC’s adaptions of Dickens, but I do not Make A Fuss About It.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Friday, July 14, 2017

The estuary of the River Erme, Cornwall



This photo, taken in 1992 or 1993 as far as I can recall, shows the estuary of the River Erme in Cornwall.

Other estuaries on the South West Coastal Path have a bridge or a ferry, but you have to wade the Erme at low tide.

I arrived a bit before then, but took local advice and crossed a little downstream from where the guidebook said. I had no problems.

Tim Farron says he planned to resign after the general election



In a BBC interview this morning Tim Farron told Emma Barnett that he decided to resign the leadership of the Liberal Democrats after the election a couple of weeks into the campaign.

But I share the confusion of two fellow Lib Dem bloggers - Andrew Page and Neil Monnery - about the muddled way Tim's resignation took place if that is the case.

Lord Bonkers has had his say and you can also download a pdf of an article by Liz Barker from the Liberator website.

Liz pours cold water on "Lib Dem Voice conspiracy theorists". She is critical of Tim's stance on gay rights and his handling of the issue once that stance became a problem for the party. But she is also clear that this failing must not be used to avoid debate on the wider problems with our general election campaign.

We always blame advisers - Parliament was doing so right up until it cut Charles I's head off - but it seems to me that the Lib Dem press operation could have done better on this.

Though Norman Lamb's camp attempted to exploit Tim's Evangelical Christian morality obliquely in the last Lib Dem leadership election, by putting 'the right to die' at the centre of his campaign, it was always clear this might be an area of vulnerability for him.

His advisers should have recognised that. If Tim was prepared to say he does not regard gay sex as a sin, he should have said so from the start.

Equally, while Tim's performance in his interview with Andrew Neil was poor, some of the questions Neil asked were eminently predictable to anyone who has watched The Daily Politics since the referendum.

Lord Bonkers was right on one thing at least:
We Liberal Democrats pride ourselves on electing our leaders by one member, one vote, but should we not pay some attention to the way they are removed from office?
But unless Radical Bulletin in the new Liberator has more on Tim's resignation than I expect, we rank-and-file members will continue to be left in the dark over the affair.

That boring Market Harborough plaque explained

This sign caused some hilarity on Twitter today - and at least it gave Jeremy Vine a break from playing Bermuda Triangle by Barry Manilow.

What it commemorates is the innovative traffic calming measures - raised crossings and kerbs and so on - that were put installed in the town centre after the bypass opened.

They sound commonplace today, but were innovative then. So much so that the government provided the money for them as a trial.

And if Market Harborough Urban District Council really was the first authority in Britain to put cat's eyes in the road, there should be an obelisk.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The inside story of the fall of Tim Farron

The new Liberator is on its way to subscribers, which means that it is time to spend another week in the company of Rutland's most celebrated peer. We begin with the inside view on recent events that we have all been waiting to read.

Monday

I have seen active service in two worlds wars (details still hush hush, I am afraid). I was at the General Post Office, Dublin, when the Easter Rising broke out (I had only gone in to buy a stamp). I went canvassing in the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election. But never have I seen scenes like those I endured at Westminster that afternoon.

It began in the Lords’ tearoom, where there was the usual grumbling about the state of the world and the manners of young MPs these days. Soon our discussions took on a darker tone. “Fella’s from the North,” said one peer. “Keeps talkin’ about his children,” returned another. “Did you see him with Andrew Neil? Terrible performance.” “He’s a God-botherer.” “Let’s debag him!”

“Now look here,” I began, “I know he would tear the pews out of St Asquith’s and have us all singing ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ given half a chance, but he has many good….” I found myself addressing an empty table. The posse, clad in ermine and tweed, was off down the corridor to the Other Place. There they found poor Farron, who was forced to leap from his office window into the Thames mud to preserve his life.

We Liberal Democrats pride ourselves on electing our leaders by one member, one vote, but should we not pay some attention to the way they are removed from office?

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

Woman who allegedly walked a seagull on a lead in York city centre flees court

Our Headline of the Day comes from the Yorkshire Post.

Uniquely, this case has led to two of these prestigious awards. The first went to The Press.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Great Quorn Public Lavatory Dispute of 1961

Click on the still above to watch a film about this, complete with doggerel commentary, on the British Film Institute site.

The building has survived to this day and is now used by a pizza business.

BuzzFeed News does its best to end the Liberal Democrat leadership election



Vince Cable is standing for the Liberal Democrat leadership and, as far as we know, he is the only one of our MPs who is.

Jim Waterson from BuzzFeed News reckons there are still four Lib Dem MPs who have not formally ruled themselves out. So he set out to discover their intentions.

Stephen Lloyd was clear:
He immediately ruled himself out: "I'm for the wisdom and sagacity of Vince Cable."
So was Jamie Stone:
"Absolutely not. I'm lucky to here at all in the first place and I'm a strong support of Vince's."
And so was Christine Jardine:
"No," she explained. "It would have been good to have a contest but on the other hand I'm perfectly happy."
The only slight mystery surrounds Layla Moran's intentions:
Moran, the new MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, had written a piece offering to nominate any MP who wanted to prompt a leadership contest but had not formally ruled herself out. 
So is she running? "Not as far as I'm aware," said the person manning the phone in her office.
I'm with Christine Jardine. It would have been good to have a contest.

But what we really need is a frank debate about the recent past and the future of the Liberal Democrats, and it is quite possible to have a leadership contest without having that. Stephen Bush has discussed this in the New Statesman.

Besides, a leadership contest, by my calculation, requires a minimum of two candidates and we do not seem to have that luxury.

Layla Moran would make an attractive candidate, even if - inevitably - we do not know a great deal about her views. But I suspect she would be wise not to stand this time.

So we are left with Jim Waterson's conclusion that we should declare Vince Cable our leader and go on holiday.

Steve Baker called for the European Union to be "wholly torn down"



You may have heard Steve Baker, the new minster at the Brexit department, interviewed by Nick Robinson on the Today programme this morning.

He used the new government line about listening to people and then proceeded to rubbish every view from other organisations that Nick Robinson put to him.

It was a masterly piece of interviewing, proving once again that a sustained line of questioning is far more deadly than bluster and bullying. (Are you listening, Paxman and Humphrys?)

But we should not have been surprised at Baker's unwillingness to listen. Here he is in 2007 calling for the European Union to be "wholly torn down".

If the government is serious about Brexit it needs the most skilled diplomats you can imagine.

Instead, it has appointed a team of ideologues and clowns.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A podcast on Dickens' railways



Including a link to a podcast on Dickens' story The Signalman in a recent Six of the Best led me to this one.

Professor Stephen Gill from Lincoln College, Oxford, gives an approachable talk about the influence the railways had on Charles Dickens' writing.


The photograph above shows the aftermath of the 1865 railway accident at Staplehurst in which Dickens was himself involved.

Despite my experience in the same county, I have yet to become a great novelist.

Anyway, there are more Dickens podcasts on the University of Oxford website.

Six of the Best 707

Mark Pack suggests 11 things to do with new Liberal Democrat members.

"Militant has returned. Of course, not quite the same people. Many of the people who have joined the new Militant – Momentum – were not born then. But some are the same people with less hair and even less imagination!" Richard Kemp sees the resurgence of an old opponent in Liverpool.

Carne Ross, diplomat turned philosophical anarchist, is profiled by Andrew Anthony.

Michelle Sowey says teaching philosophy to children is a great idea.

"'How are we Flat Earthers supposed to explain to our friends the solar eclipse in August?' asked one attendee. The room fell silent. 'We'll have to do more research and get back to you on that.'" Graham Ambrose on America's burgeoning Flat Earth movement.

David Pountain explains how Bonnie and Clyde brought the French New Wave to Hollywood.

Leicester magistrate calls teen driver a 'plonker' after describing daft crime

Today's Headline of the Day comes from the Leicester Mercury.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The struggle to save Northampton's Eleanor Cross


Last month I went to take some photos of Northampton's Eleanor Cross because there are concerns about its state of repair.

Now Graham Evans from the Northampton Battlefield Society has written an article on the currents state of play for The Pipeline.

He explains:
A major part of the problem is that with a Monument that is listed and under the protection of Historic England you just can’t go and pull the weeds out and slap on some Polyfilla. And although it is under HE’s protection, they don’t own it.
So who does own it? The prime candidates are Northampton Borough Council and Northamptonshire County Council:
The evidence points strongly towards the Borough. They did the last restoration in the 1980s, it appears on their asset register, it formed part of the Conservation Management Plan they produced and the County say they have documentary proof that it was transferred to the Borough in 1965 and provided with funding for its upkeep. 
The water is slightly muddied as the last restoration did use the County Archaeologist, but as archaeology is a county provided service used by all authorities at a lower level within the county this is no surprise and doesn’t denote ownership. 
So the situation we now have is that the Borough have agreed to do the work but don’t currently accept they own the Cross. That’s a start, but isn’t where we’d like to end up.

Freddie and Fiona are still at the New New European

The last time Lord Bonkers met Freddie and Fiona they were working for a newspaper called the New New European.

When I saw this tweet today, I reflected once again that the old boy has a better idea of what is going on than most of us.

'Armed' Cornish nationalists hint at suicide attack and claim responsibility for Rick Stein fire

The Plymouth Herald wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Thanks to the reader who alerted me to this story.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Sutton Park station, Sutton Coldfield, in the early 1980s


Taken in 1981 or 1982, this photo shows the former Sutton Park station in Sutton Coldfield.

It stood on the line from Water Orton and Castle Bromwich to Walsall. That line closed to passengers in 1965 but is still used by freight trains.

Sutton Park station has been the postal depot for British forces overseas by the end of the second world war and remained a Royal Depot after that.

Disused Stations tells the story of its later days:
Sutton Park station continued to be served by mail trains until about 1987. The Royal Mail depot at Sutton Park continued to be used, served by road vehicles. 
The passenger station building was used for a period as offices but by the mid 1990s had fallen into dereliction. It was demolished in 1999.
The only other thing to record is that I recall being surprised to meet one of my old teachers for Market Harborough (one I did not like) on the way back from taking this photo.

Vince Cable's appearance on The Andrew Marr Show displayed his strengths



Here is Vince Cable on Andrew Marr's show this morning.

There are two important points about his observation that Brexit may not happen.

The first is that it has received media coverage throughout the day - something the Liberal Democrats have struggled for since the rout of 2015.

The second is that it shows Vince's particular strength. He has the priceless ability to come over as being above politics while he is being very political.

Jethro Tull: Velvet Green



One of the young people at work told me that a special 40th anniversary edition of Jethro Tull's LP Songs from the Wood has been issued.

Good news, except that as (along with Kate Bush's The Kick Inside) Songs from the Wood was my favourite record when I was in the sixth form, there must be some mistake. Maybe they mean fourth anniversary?

Whatever the truth of that, here is one of the best tracks from the LP.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

From Sileby to Mountsorrel


Just a short walk in the Leicestershire countryside with a music festival, a cricket match, weirs, a Lancaster bomber, threatening signs and a pub.






Theresa told such Dreadful Lies, It made one Gasp and Stretch one's Eyes

From the Guardian:
Theresa May has said she had no regrets about calling the early election that stripped her of a parliamentary majority...
This is not true.

Of course, Theresa May regrets losing her majority, revitalising the Labour Party and being forced to dispense with the services of her two closest advisers.

Everyone knows that Theresa May regrets losing her majority, revitalising the Labour Party and being forced to dispense with the services of her two closest advisers.

Theresa May knows that everyone knows  that Theresa May regrets losing her majority, revitalising the Labour Party and being forced to dispense with the services of her two closest advisers.

So what does she imagine she is accomplishing.by telling such an obvious lie.

I suppose she imagines it makes her look tough and confident. In reality it just makes her look ridiculous.

Six of the Best 706

"The important thing to understand about right-wing libertarianism is that it is a very eccentric viewpoint. It looks mainstream because it has a number of well-funded think-tanks pushing its agenda and its adherents are over-represented in politics and the media. The public, though, have never swallowed it." Flip Chart Fairy Tales says the dream of a shrunken state is over.

Helen Brown Coverdale asks why we are not concerned that prison doesn't work.

Community groups are organising to reverse the tide of pub closures, reports Rupert Jones.

Alison Chandra has some startling things to say on the cost of healthcare in the US and on the malevolence of online trolls: "The attacks became increasingly personal and increasingly violent. Strangers were telling me it would have been cheaper to make a new kid, as if anyone in the history of the world could ever replace this bright light of mine, the boy who loves animals and can’t keep himself from kissing babies and always wants to sleep with one arm wrapped around my neck."

Thom Hickey on the cultural significance of Skeeter Davis and The End of the World.

Having exhausted the works of M.R. James, A Podcast to the Curious has turned to the ghost-story writers he admired. This time they consider Charles Dickens' masterly The Signalman.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Lynx could be reintroduced to Northumberland this year

A lynx yesterday

I find it hard to explain why this news fills me with such joy:
After an absence of 1,300 years, the lynx could be back in UK forests by the end of 2017. The Lynx UK Trust has announced it will apply for a trial reintroduction for six lynx into the Kielder forest, Northumberland, following a two-year consultation process with local stakeholders. 
The secretive cat can grow to 1.5m in length and feeds almost exclusively by ambushing deer. Attacks on humans are unknown, but it was hunted to extinction for its fur in the UK. The Kielder forest was chosen by the trust from five possible sites, due to its abundance of deer, large forest area and the absence of major roads.
As the Guardian goes on to admit, the idea is controversial locally.

But who could not be moved by the words of Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific adviser to the Lynx UK Trust and expert adviser to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature?

He says:
"Lynx belong here as much as hedgehogs, badgers, robins, blackbirds - they are an intrinsic part of the UK environment. There is a moral obligation. We killed every single last one of them for the fur trade, that’s a wrong we have to right."