Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Conservative-controlled East Yorkshire votes for Lib Dem motion against fracking

The is evidence today that the Conservative leadership's enthusiasm for fracking does not extend even to their own councillors. Tory-controlled East Yorkshire council has voted overwhelmingly against fracking within its boundaries.

Drill or Drop? reports:

A Liberal Democrat motion committed the council to write to Liz Truss, her business secretary and the climate minister reinforcing the county’s opposition to fracking in the county.

A full meeting of the council in Beverley this afternoon voted by 49 votes in favour, with none against and six abstentions.

There were no speeches against the motion and it was supported by the council leader, Jonathan Owen.

That "anti-growth coalition" in full

Jonathan Gullis lasted a year as a Conservative councillor and told people to vote Labour when he resigned

Embed from Getty Images

No one seems to have picked up on the early political career of our new minister for school standards.

Jonathan Gullis, for it is he, was elected as Conservative councillor for the Shipston-on-Stour ward of Stratford-on-Avon District Council in 2011

He resigned the following year when he got a teaching job in London, but things did not no smoothly.

Labour List reported at the time:
Conservative politics in Shipston-on-Stour has entered the world of Catch 22, with a Tory councillor saying he’ll resign when they find someone to replace him – and the local party saying they can’t replace him until he’s resigned.
The blog linked to a story in the local newspaper, but the link is now dead.

A month later Labour List revisited the story:
In the end, the hapless councillor – Jonathan Gullis – resigned three hours too late for the by-election to replace him to be held on November 15th (the date of the PCC elections). That error cost the local council in excess of £5,000 when the by-election is held two weeks later. 
So annoyed is Gullis at the way he has been treated by the local Tory Party – he’s now urging local people to vote for Labour, instead of the Tories, in the by-election: 
"I back Jeff Kenner, the Labour candidate. There was no love lost between Jeff and I in election campaigns, but if the town wants someone with passion and pride in Shipston, Jeff Kenner is their man at this stage."
Again, there is a link to the local paper that no longer works, but you can still read the report in the Cotswold Journal.

So the Tories aren't just scraping the bottom of it to find ministers: they are struggling to find loyal parliamentary candidates.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Man 'drops kebab in horror' after finding HUGE rare spider at his home

Our Headline of the Day Award sees another win for the Leicester Mercury.

The judges were particularly pleased that it relates to a story from Leicestershire - Oadby to be precise.

Absolute scenes at the Conservative Party Conference

 Enjoy our exclusive live coverage...

Lord Bonkers 30 years ago: "Can Lloyd George Do It?"

"You didn't do it last month" said Lord Bonkers. "Do what?" I asked. "You didn't reprint something from my diary of 30 years ago. They'll be letters."

So here is something from the old boy's diary in the September 1992 issue of Liberator.


I must confess that I have not succeeded in following every twist and turn of Liberal economic policy. Once Free Trade was the pith and marrow of our cause, but later the likes of Milton Keynes came to the fore with quite other ideas. (Keynes, I recall was the author of a pamphlet entitled Can Lloyd George Do It? - a singularly redundant question in the eyes of many a Liberal lady.) 

Thus I am confused when I hear my younger colleagues saying that we should seek an accommodation with the Socialists while displaying greater enthusiasm for the free market than do the Tories. As ever we Liberals should seek the mean, and I advice those who are so fond of capitalism to go to live in Russia and see how much they are for it then.

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

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Market Harborough canal basin on an autumn afternoon

I took these photos yesterday afternoon. While I was out, Chelsea went from being a goal down down to a 2-1 victory. There's a moral there.

Compensation scheme opens for victims of the Jesus Army

The dangers posed by religious cults were emphasised by a story posted on BBC News a few days ago:

A compensation scheme for survivors of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the now-defunct Jesus Army has opened.

In 2019, ex-members told the BBC how children suffered abuse on a "prolific scale", with most claims relating to incidents between the 1970s and 1990s.

The Jesus Fellowship Church Trust (JFCT) said survivors could be entitled to compensation, a written apology and an "acceptance of responsibility".

The Jesus Army's headquarters were in Northampton - I took the photo above in 2017 - and they held property worth £50m in London and across the Midlands when they shut down in 2020.

I recall seeing their vehicles passing through Market Harborough from time to time. They gave of a hippyish, Scooby Doo vibe at odds with the dark realities of this cult.

If you wish, you can learn more about the Jesus Army from this BBC report.

Christopher Rainbow: Give Me What I Cry For

I don't suppose I've heard this record since it was on Radio One or Radio Luxembourg in 1974 - it doesn't seem to have troubled the charts - but when it was mentioned on Twitter the other day I remembered it at once.

The artist's real name was Christopher Harley, but as 1974 was the year when Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were everywhere, he borrowed his stage name from a BBC reporter of the day.

Rainbow kept going as a single artist through the Seventies, then joined the Alan Parsons Project and Camel.

His greatest success came as a producer, where he had much to do with the rise of Runrig. He died at his home on Skye in 2015.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

More on the Richard III dig and the film The Lost King

Mike Pitts, who I quoted the other day on the Richard III film The Lost King, has written an article on the subject. You can download a pdf of it from the British Archaeology magazine website.

A few quotes for you:

The film portrays the university, and Richard Taylor in particular, as patronising and dismissive, coming on board only when they could see financial or personal career advantages; Langley, aided by the Richard iii Society, puts up all the funds. This is wrong. 

The society paid for a desk-based assessment and a ground-penetrating radar survey (against Buckley’s advice – in the event its most significant effect was to scare off a sponsor), and for about half of the initial dig. Most of the other half was paid for by the university, which underwrote the whole project and went on to fund research that proved the identity of the king’s remains, as well as contributing to reburial costs, with sums totalling millions of pounds. In all Langley and the Richard iii Society supplied around £20,000.

He writes of Richard Taylor, the University of Leicester's director of corporate affairs at the time of the dig:

He notes that the film, by omitting the university’s research, appears to create a sexist opposition between Philippa Langley and male archaeologists and administrators; of Jo Appleby (human remains), Lin Foxhall (head of archaeology & history), Sarah Hainsworth (pioneering micro-ct scanning), Turi King (ancient dna) and Deirdre O’Sullivan (friaries), only Appleby makes the cut, in a brief appearance standing in the trench. Taylor is taking legal advice

And on the film's implicit conspiracy theory Pitts says:

Though it is individuals who are falsely portrayed (even as actors seem to have been chosen partly on account of physical resemblances), the film implies a wider target. Langley represents all of us oppressed by bureaucracy, prejudice and corporate thinking – The Lost King does a good job of this. 
The baddies are not just Leicester’s academics and archaeologists, “a bunch of guys taking credit for what [she] did” as Frostrup put it, but the nation’s. Universities are shown as places where you are forbidden to challenge convention, and where devious academics scheme to shut down competition. 
In reality, the Richard III dig, a triumph of openmindedness, dedication to an unlikely cause and cooperation across a wide range of university departments, was the opposite.

Anyway, download and read the article for yourself.

Cat known for bringing random objects home returns with a sex toy


Thanks to the acquisitive Demo, the Leicester Mercury wins our Headline of the Day Award.

The judges did note, however, that Demo lives in Calidicot, Gwent, and they were later heard mumbling about "clickbait".

The Joy of Six 1078

"It appears those who called Friday’s mini-budget a “special fiscal operation” had it right. Not just because of the subterfuge involved in undertaking a full-scale budget under the guise of a 'Growth Plan 2022 speech,' but also because of the government’s inability to foresee its self-destructive consequences." Robin Niblett explains why markets don't buy the government's growth plan.

Will Lloyd witnessed the eclipse of Jeremy Corbyn's supporters at the Labour Party Conference.

"Looking for the reasons for children's behaviour is often equated with 'the soft bigotry of low expectations', lack of responsibility and chaos. Here's why that's a mistake." Take it away, Naomi Fisher.

Harry Cheadle opposes Style Guide Liberalism, which he defines as "a fixation on terms and language that is well-intentioned but inevitably creates a murky layer of jargon between speaker and listener, writer and reader. However egalitarian its aims, it inevitably results in an in-group and out-group."

Corporal punishment can still be used in schools in 19 US states. Jamie Davis Smith looks at its long-term effects.

"It was the photograph that did it. Joe Root pictured on a Scottish golf course while Yorkshire supporters were coming to terms with relegation. Root, the epitome of Yorkshire cricket, grinning broadly alongside Michael Vaughan, Kevin Pietersen and Piers Morgan (none of them particularly renowned for checking the county cricket scores), on a day that had reduced many White Rose loyalists to dismay." David Hopps says there's a danger that professional cricket is being asked to redesign itself for the benefit of established players who rarely play it.

Friday, September 30, 2022

The only Leicester councillor elected as a Tory leaves the party and calls on Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng to resign

The only member of Leicester City Council elected as a Conservative has resigned from the party and called on Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng to resign.

Daniel Crewe told BBC News:

"When Liz Truss got in, I didn't think she was right for the job but I thought at least I'd give her the benefit of the doubt and see what she was willing to do.

"But when they introduced that budget, it's going to detrimentally affect the poorest people in society whilst looking after the richest.

"It's old school conservativism and I can't be a part of that."

He also told the BBC that Liz Truss should resign and take Kwasi Kwarteng with her.

Crewe became Leicester City Council's only Tory member when he won a by-election in Humberstone and Hamilton ward last summer. He will now sit as an Independent.

A Labour councillor later joined the Conservative Party and, as of tonight, remains a member.

GUEST POST Why we need an emergency Lib Dem special conference this year

Ed Davey, party members and Britain as a whole need a Liberal Democrat emergency special conference, argues David Evans.

In less than 26 minutes last Friday Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng took an axe to what remains of the British economy and to the hopes and prospects of so many people, and totally destroyed the last vestiges that the Conservatives are the party of Economic competence.

By the end of the day the pound had crashed over 4 per cent in value (and is still falling) and the FTSE a further 2 per cent, undermining the savings, pensions, and prospects of workers, the retired and the unemployed, be they teachers, doctors, farmers, workers in industry or workers in entertainment.  It affects them all.

Earlier this month, the Liberal Democrats' federal board and federal conference committee had decided to completely cancel the party's annual conference and put everything on hold until Spring conference is held In York next March.  

While the decision that it would be seen to be inappropriate to hold conference during the period leading up to the Queen’s funeral was justified, it was misguided to think that the Lib Dems, as a party, should have no opportunity to say anything about the new prime minister and her deeply damaging new ideas for six months.

Every Lib Dem who met Liz Truss when she was, temporarily, a member of our party seems to have quickly formed the view that she had an eye for self-publicity and an extremely radical view on things. But it wasn’t a Liberal Democrat view, as she quickly found out when they began to question the reasoning behind her vision.

Everyone who works in business knows that real growth and progress comes slowly, and need careful planning and sustained amounts of effort over years and sometimes decades. The desire for a quick fix, a dash for growth based on throwing vast amounts of borrowed money at its supporters, underpinned by a total lack of understanding of simple economic realities is no substitute for hard work and effort.

Sacking a permanent secretary on Day One and calling the most outrageous gamble with our nation’s economy "a fiscal event" in order to avoid Office of Budget Responsibility scrutiny shows linguistic cunning that Vladimir Putin would be proud of. 

We all know that our party has a proud record of economic competence thanks to Vince and his spell as secretary of state for business, innovation and skills - a time when he actually got industry leaders talking to each other and dealing with the fundamental issues they faced.  He even started to develop a proper industrial strategy, something the UK hasn’t had since the 1970s.  

However, we can’t expect Ed and his few close advisers to develop and make a case for a radically different Lib Dem solution to Conservative incompetence on their own in a five-minute slot on the BBC between coverage of the Labour Party Conference and the sports news.

He needs the support of the whole party and help from party members to develop a radical Liberal Democrat alternative to this Tory-created crisis, and a forum that will cut through into the national media, so we can present these to the country.  

We can only do this by being more wide ranging, radical and comprehensively better in our proposals, and to do this he, and we, need a conference.

But we don’t need yet another set of deadly dull Lib Dem policy motions that simply say

  1. Conference notes - Things are bad.
  2. Conference believes - Things should be better.
  3. Conference further notes – The Government are responsible for this mess.
  4. Conference reaffirms – Everything we ever said about this in the past, that the government still hasn’t done.
  5. Conference calls on – The Government to magically change its mind and do what we want.

When what need to get cut through is

  • This is the solution and Lib Dems Commit to do everything it can in government to sort it all out

Currently there are good Lib Dems working on a solution to these problems, but to make it successful we need a federal conference to give it the publicity it needs.

So in summary

  1. I note - Things are bad.
  2. I believe - Things can be made much better.
  3. I further note – That we have better solutions but we need to promote, debate and agree them, quickly.
  4. I reaffirm – That we need to hold this government responsible for the mess
  5. I call on - the federal conference committee and federal board to convene an emergency special conference later this year to allow these to be discussed
  6. To make sure this happens - Every Lib Dem who cares about our country’s future and our party’s continuing relevance should formally request that the party call an emergency special conference later this year, in accordance with Section 6.3 of the party’s constitution, to discuss our solution to the economic crisis that the Conservative Party has unleased on the British people.

David Evans is a lifelong Liberal and Liberal Democrat.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Lib Dems win Harborough District Council by-election

Good new from the count this evening. The Liberal Democrats have held their seat in Market Harborough's Logan ward in today's Harborough District Council by-election.

Congratulations to Geraldine Whitmore, the victorious Lib Dem candidate, on a great result.

The result:

Lib Dems         582 (45.7%)

Conservatives 382 (30.0%

Labour             250 (19.6%)

Independent      60 (4.7%)

This is a two-member ward in which the Lib Dems held both seats until one of their councillors had to move away from the area, causing the by-election. Last time the top Lib Dem candidate polled 35 per cent of the vote.

There was little sign of a Conservative campaign today.

The boy walked, looked and spoke like any other child

The row over cheating in chess grumbles on. There is now a sense that many of the top players share a feeling that Hans Niemann, the young American whom the world champion Magnus Carlsen implicitly accused, has improved too rapidly and plays strong but not obvious moves too quickly.

If you want an informed guide to the controversy, I recommend an edition of Perpetual Chess Podcast. One of the contributors, the Scottish grandmaster and philosopher Jonathan Rowson, quotes this German fable as a warning:

A man whose axe was missing suspected his neighbour's son. The boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief and talked like a thief.

But the man found his axe while he was digging in the valley, and the next time he saw his neighbour's son, the boy walked, looked and spoke like any other child.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

A Market Harborough mystery: the infectious diseases hospital

Have a look at this map of the area around Market Harborough railway station. It's a detail from the six-inch Ordnance Survey series published between 1888 and 1913.

East of the station, on Rockingham Road, you see the legend Hospital, with Infectious Diseases below it in italics.

This appears to relate to a square building on the north bank of the Welland, which I calculate to stand where Weddel Swift's plant is on the Riverside Industrial Estate is today.

I have never seen any reference to the opening or operation of this hospital. But an advertisement in The Hospital from 1915 by Humphreys Ltd lists Market Harborough as one of the places they have supplied with one of their iron hospitals. See the blog Historic Hospitals for more details.

But did it ever open? According to the map there was no road or path to it.

Remembering Upper Kent Street, Leicester

Copyright © Dennis Calow

One of the striking things about the aerial photograph of Leicester Midland steam locomotive shed I posted a couple of days ago is the long terraced street that passed close by it.

Someone on Twitter (my mother used to work for him, as it happens) remembered visiting cousins in Upper Kent Street, as it was then called, and spending hours with them watching the coming and goings on the railway.

Today Upper Kent Street has been redeveloped and even renamed Maidstone Road. But it lives on in the University of Leicester's Vanished Leicester collection where you will find several images of it.

Follow that link to see them all: I have reproduced a couple here.

Copyright © Dennis Calow

The mystery of the King's Cross lighthouse

Jago Hazzard is our guide to this prominent but enigmatic structure.

You can support his videos via his Patreon page.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Steve Coogan, Richard III and conspiracy theories

The Lost King sounds as though it should be one of those gentle films in which people take of their clothes for a calendar photoshoot or sing sea shanties and Dame Judi Dench has to appear by law.

But it's been causing no end of a row today.

Members of University of Leicester Archaeological Services, who are unhappy with the way they are depicted in the film, were interviewed for an article in this morning's Daily Mail.

So there you will read:

One of the film's worst inaccuracies has undermined the reputation of the lead archaeologist on the dig, Dr Richard Buckley, 64.

The movie portrays him as being dismissive of Langley and of refusing to help her, only agreeing to become involved when his department is threatened with closure and he faces losing his job; he sees the project as a way of saving his own skin.

But this simply isn't true.

Buckley's job was never under threat and his department wasn't facing closure. He actually worked for a commercial arm of the university called University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), which undertook commercial digs all over the country. ULAS was thriving and did not rely on funding from the university.

Neither did Buckley dismiss Langley out of hand. All the academics involved in the project say he was enthusiastic from the start.

I have seen emails between Buckley and Langley from the days and weeks after their first contact and his are full of ideas, suggestions, co-operation and positivity. Buckley did express caution over the odds of success, but he signed up to the project nonetheless.

And by the time people had digested that, Steve Coogan, who co-wrote and appears in The Lost King, had gone on the Today programme to defend the film: 

"They've played this quite badly.

"Had they at the start been generous towards Philippa, and elevated her to the front and centre position, which is where she deserves to be, this film wouldn't have been necessary.

"But at every turn they marginalised her, edged her out, because she wasn't cut from the right cloth."

That's not how I remember the media coverage at the time, even if I've never been quite clear what Philippa Langley's role was. The dig, for instance, was largely paid for by Leicestershire Promotions and the university.

So I was a little concerned by an early promotional piece for the film where Zoe Williams told us that Langley

was in Leicester, trying to piece together from her research the whereabouts of a long-gone church, and she walked across the fabled car park.

Because the location of Greyfriars in Leicester has never been a mystery: part of it is still above ground. The archaeologists were keen to dig the site so its exact layout could be established, but David Baldwin, another hero of the finding of the king, had got it about right in 1986. That's why the dig took place in the correct area, though coming down on Richard's skeleton on the first morning was a bit of a bonus.

A story about a lone eccentric who proves the establishment wrong makes for an appealing film, but it has little to do with what went on in Leicester that autumn.

And, as the archaeologist Mike Pitts said on Twitter today:

Monday, September 26, 2022

Leicester Midland steam locomotive shed in 1948

The large round structure here is Leicester Midland steam locomotive shed, which was built in 1945 and serviced its last steam locomotive in 1966. After that a couple of steam locomotives were restored here - there was even talk of it housing a transport museum - before it was demolished in 1970. That's not a long life for such an impressive building,

This site is still railway land and today is home to the depot of UK Rail Leasing, which own a fleet of heritage diesels. This makes waiting for a train at Leicester station, which you can see towards the top of the photo, interesting for a railway enthusiast. You never know what will emerge from there.

The terraced streets around the loco shed have not fared so well. Most were cleared so the new St Peter's Estate could be built.

Labour will target NO Liberal Democrat seats as the next election

The Daily Mail has a story today...

OK, let's get this bit over with...

The Daily Mail has a story today under, at least on its website, the headline:
Labour will target just TWO Liberal Democrat seats to win the next election in anti-Tory manoeuvre
But when you read the story those two seats turn out to be Sheffield Hallam and somewhere unspecified in Scotland.

Sheffield Hallam, of course, is a Labour seat. And there is no Liberal Democrat seat in Scotland where Labour are within a mile of being anywhere near having a chance of running us close.

It may be that Labour is worried about the Lib Dems eyeing Edinburgh South, which used to be a target for us, but it's hard to think they have much to worry about there at the moment.

Anyway, it follow from this that the Mail should have headlined its story:
Labour will target NO Liberal Democrat seats to win the next election in anti-Tory manoeuvre

Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Joy of Six 1077

"Nothing like this has happened before in Britain’s most multicultural city. In recent months, though, something has changed. Hindu nationalism has come to Britain." Peter Oborne and Imran Mulla set out to explain recent events in Leicester.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft says the United Kingdom has given a range of financial crimes a sheen of respectability: "The story of Britain’s transformation into an oligarch’s paradise has its origins in the country’s earlier decline. Once upon a time, English banking and broking prided itself on its integrity."

Jules Evans on the crackpot philosophy Putin has fallen for.

Musicians and crew could find themselves unemployed en masse because of Brexit, representatives from the New Musical Express warned a House of Lords hearing. Read the report by Andrew Trendell.

Boak & Bailey investigate the decline in quality of pub food: "We don’t think we’re seeing as many people eating in pubs that offer food. And the other week, we wandered into a pub that’s usually full with diners at lunchtime on the weekend and found it mostly empty."

Peter Ackroyd's biography of Charles Dickens appeared in 1990 and was reviewed by Bryan Appleyard: "He remarks at one point that Dickens is perfectly capable of being as self-consciously Dickensian, as artificially as his public self, as any of the pubs or people who have earned that epithet since. The myth is an essential element."

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Leicestershire and Carlisle United’s Chris Balderdash

We end our week at Bonkers Hall with the doyen of East Midland peers giving his thoughts on the climate crisis. Never let it be said that he does not move with the times.

Incidentally, I have to thank the predictive text on my phone for turning the late Chris Balderstone into Chris Balderdash. It's still in a creative vein: the other day, while I was tweeting about the legendary Shropshire figure Wild Edric, it came up with Wild Edrich, the black sheep of the cricketing family.


Perhaps it is all the carbon dioxide in the air, but the seasons are all over the place. It used to be possible for a chap to make a good living playing country cricket in the summer and League football in the winter, but I don’t suppose anyone has tried that since Leicestershire and Carlisle United’s Chris Balderdash. 

Now winter draws on, as the First Lady Bonkers used to say, and I turn my thoughts to heating my stables. I assure readers that, unlike Mr Nadhim Zahawi, I shall not be stinging the taxpayer for the cost. 

One year, as I recall, word got around that the stables were nice and warm, with the result that two Well-Behaved Orphans spent several weeks living there in a pantomime horse costume. I couldn’t find it in my heart to be hard on them: by the time they were discovered they had won me a novice chase at Haydock Park.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers Diary...

Wizzard: Angel Fingers

To think there was a time when I was embarrassed that Wizzard had been my favourite band when I was 13.

Angel Fingers completed a run of three singles, after Ballpark Incident and See My Baby Jive, that most other bands could only dream of.

But then Roy Wood is a genius. Abba took See My Baby Jive when they wrote Waterloo.