Friday, January 20, 2017

Doctor criticizes Gwyneth Paltrow for advising women to hold jade eggs in their vaginas all day

There has been other news in America today, and it has helped the New York Times to win our Headline of the Day Award.

The judges praised its perfect combination of celebrity, randomness and rudeness.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Goshawk (1968)



This film, made for the BBC in an era when nature dramas prided themselves on being unsentimental, is based on book of the same name by T..H. White.

You may have heard of it through Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk.

White's words are spoken by Duncan Carse, who also plays the falconer and has very much the look of White.

You can read a little more about the film on a website devoted to the work of Carey Blyton.

Blyton, who was the nephew of Enid Blyton and died in 2002, wrote the music. He also prepared Benjamin Britten's scores for the press at Faber & Faber.

Labour to hold Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central by-elections in February

From Politics Home:
Labour is planning to hold the Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central by-elections on the same day next month ... 
Senior party sources say the crunch polls are "likely" to take place on 23 February, although a final decision has yet to be made. 
A formal announcement could take place as early as tomorrow.
Labour's presss briefing is so chaotic that this story could well be denied in the morning.

But short by-election campaigns must make sense for Labour. It's not as if prolonged exposure to the media and the voters is going to do them any favours at the moment.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Richard Jefferies Museum's Open Air Project



Jaime Bullock's film about the Richard Jefferies Museum's Open Air Project.

Running from October to December 2016, it was funded by Arts Council England and Swindon 175,

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Walt Disney's "Education for Death: The Making of Nazi"



Thanks to Open Culture for posting this extraordinary and unexpected film:
During World War II, Walt Disney entered into a contract with the US government to develop 32 animated shorts. Nearly bankrupted by Fantasia (1940), Disney needed to refill its coffers, and making American propaganda films didn’t seem like a bad way to do it. 
On numerous occasions, Donald Duck was called upon to deliver moral messages to domestic audiences (see The Spirit of ’43 and Der Fuehrer’s Face). But that wasn’t the case with Education for Death: The Making of Nazi, a film shown in U.S. movie theaters in 1943. 
Based on a book written by Gregor Ziemer, this animated short used a different lineup of characters to show how the Nazi party turned innocent youth into Hitler’s corrupted children. 
Unlike other topics addressed in Disney war films (e.g. taxes and the draft), this theme, the cultivation of young minds, hit awfully close to home. And it’s perhaps why it’s one of Disney’s better wartime film.
And it is also why it still feels relevant today.

The Open Culture site, incidentally, is a real treasure. As it says, it posts the best free cultural and educational media on the web.

Just because Paul Nuttall is from the North, it doesn't mean he will appeal to Northern voters

When Paul Nuttall was elected leader of Ukip the commentators told us Labour should be afraid.

Nuttall came from the North, therefore he would appeal to Labour voters in the North.

That was, of course, nonsense.

It was like saying the Conservatives should be afraid of Jeremy Corbyn because he came from the South and would therefore appeal to Southern Conservative voters.

What it revealed was that, to too many commentators, the North of England is a homogeneous and unknown region stretching from somewhere just beyond Toddington Services to the Scottish Border.

It is populated, they imagine, by men with whippets and cloth caps and unmarried mothers with prams.

The truth is that Northern voters are as varied and discerning as Souithern voters. Perhaps a strong Northern candidate would appeal to them, but Paul Nuttall is not that man.

Those same commentators told us he was a great communicator. He is not.

Nuttall talks entirely in in cliches and prefabricated soundbites. And when he has unburdened himself of one of these, he gives a self-satisfied smile.

When he was on Daily Politics they noticed and kept the camera on him just that little bit longer than he expected. He looked very silly as a result. I suspect other journalists have noticed this too.

Nuttall is unable to talk for more than a few sentences without contradicting himself.

And, as he displayed on the Today programme this morning - "I'm massively excited about Donald Trump, It's clear he's an Anglophobe - he is not she sharpest point in the pencil case.

Add to that a silly face and an accent that will not appeal to everyone in the North, and you can see how wrong the commentators were.

Labour faces all sorts of problems - in the North as much as anywhere else - but I suspect Paul Nuttall will prove to be the least of them.

Thoughts among the dustbins


When I was a councillor we voted each year on the charges for collecting commercial refuse.

Inevitably, one of the older Tories or Independents would get up to say how unfair it was that businesses had to pay for collection twice. They had to pay business rates and then pay the council’s charges.

This objection was always brushed aside. Councils just didn’t work like that and, besides, we needed the money.

But at the back of my mind was an sense of disquiet. Didn’t the old councillor have a point? If businesses had paid their local taxes, shouldn’t local government services be free?

I thought of these doubts when the Conservative-run Harborough District Council brought in charges for collecting garden waste.

Residents had paid their Council Tax but were now being charged a second time for services.

Yes, council finances are under pressure, but then Harborough Tories cut the Council Tax just before the last council elections. So they can hardly if they are short of money now.

I suppose the moral is that that if you see injustice being done, you should speak out. You may be the victim of it one day.

I also remember the debate when we voted to bring wheelie bins to the district.

A Conservative woman councillor said that until now the dustmen had come to the back door of houses to collect the bins.

Now residents would be responsible for bringing their bins through to the front of their properties.

Who would have to do this? The woman of the house.

She was right too.

This is another example of the McDonaldisation thesis. Bringing in commercial operators does not boost our freedom. It requires us to behave in tightly circumscribed ways.

Write a guest post for Liberal England


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

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

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

Six of the Best 660

"The data presented to Waverley suggested that floods like January 1953 were becoming more frequent and that the combination of factors that produced them were likely to happen more often." Concern with man-made climate change in Britain dates back at least to the East Coast floods of 1953, argues Matthew Kelly.

It's not only fake news we needs to fight, says Sean Munger, there's fake history too.

Jay McGregor explains how Margaret Thatcher killed superfast broadband in the UK before it even existed.

The History of Parliament Blog explains why clapping is not the done things in the Commons chamber.

"He anticipated a revolution in attitudes towards women in the workplace. He could see the start of a Westminster elite getting out of touch, not just on policy questions but also on standards of conduct. And he forcefully made the point that mass immigration and joining the European club had happened with minimal public consent." Matthew Reisz pays tribute to Anthony King.

Martyn Crucefix introduces us to In Parenthesis by David Jones.

Paul Halliday resigns from the Liberal Democrats

Paul Halliday, who stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Newport East at the 2015 general election and the 2016 Welsh Assembly poll, has resigned from the party. He was  due to stand for Newport council at the local elections in May.

Halliday had been suspended by the party over allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct towards a 17-year-old girl.

He had previously told Wales Online:
"I don’t know who has made the allegation. 
"I have not acted inappropriately towards anyone and am anxious to clear my name."
This evening BBC News reports:
Paul Halliday claimed the Lib Dems have told him nothing about allegations leading to his suspension this month. 
The former church minister said he had given evidence to fraud police that text messages were falsely sent in his name, as if they came from his phone. 
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau said it was looking into his claims. 
The Lib Dems have declined to comment.
Halliday announced his resignation on the Three Muckrackers vlog.

Siôn Simon: "A cep vinaigrette so beguilingly sophisticated that one was tempted to dab it behind one's ears"


These days Guido Fawkes spends too much time spinning on behalf of Pro-Brexit Tories, but he did have an amusing story today, So, in the spirit of the glory days of political blogging, I have stolen his illustration.

Siôn Simon, Labour's candidate for West Midlands mayor, is trying to reinvent himself as an English nationalist and man of the people.

Guido writes:
Judging by the campaign material above, you’d think Labour’s candidate for West Midlands mayor is a Brexit backer who wants to stick it to the Westminster elite. Vote Leave slogan? Tick. England flag? Tick. Platitude about how "Politicians in London have learnt nothing"? Tick. 
Laughable really, since Sion Simon is still a Member of the European Parliament, backed Remain in the referendum and has been a career Westminster Europhile.
It became even more laughable when I remembered what I wrote about Simon in March 2005:
Researching him further, I came across this tribute to him on the Wales Watch site. Its interest dates from the days when, styling himself "Siôn Llewellyn Simon" he was after a safe seat in the valleys. 
Wales Watch commemorates in particular his time as a restaurant critic: 
Boudin of guinea fowl was served perfectly warm, with a slice of foie gras on top, and a cep vinaigrette so beguilingly sophisticated that one was tempted to dab it behind one's ears.
Wales Watch, I am sorry to say, has disappeared from the web, But at least I preserved its tribute to Siôn Simon,

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ilkley station and signal box in 1980


Ilkley station still exists, but the buildings have been converted into a supermarket and new platforms have been built a little further out.

Here it is in 1980 - at least I think it is Ilkley. If I am right, the hole in the back wall is where the line to Skipton via Bolton Abbey and Embsay used to run.

And below is Ilkley Junction signal box, which I imagine has long since vanished.

In those days if you hung around outside a box taking photographs and an intelligent interest, you had a sporting chance of being asked inside. I managed it at Ilkley.

Philip Hammond spells out British government's Brexit thinking - to the German press


Brexit, we Britons have been told, means Brexit and it will be red, white and blue.

Beyond that, we know very little about our government's plans. Theresa May's speech on Tuesday may change that. Then again, it may not.

So if you want to know what the future may have in store, try the German press.

Philip Hammond has given an interview to Welt am Sonntag in which he is far more forthcoming than any minister has been to a British newspaper:
Hammond: We are now objectively a European-style economy. We are on the U.S. end of the European spectrum, but we do have an open-market economy with a social model that is recognizably the European social model that is recognizably in the mainstream of European norms, not U.S. norms. 
And most of us who had voted Remain would like the U.K. to remain a recognizably European-style economy with European-style taxation systems, European-style regulation systems etcetera. 
I personally hope we will be able to remain in the mainstream of European economic and social thinking. But if we are forced to be something different, then we will have to become something different. 
Welt am Sonntag: We don’t understand: Who or what would force you? 
Hammond: Economic circumstances. If we have no access to the European market, if we are closed off, if Britain were to leave the European Union without an agreement on market access, then we could suffer from economic damage at least in the short-term. 
In this case, we could be forced to change our economic model and we will have to change our model to regain competitiveness. And you can be sure we will do whatever we have to do.
Reading between the lines, Hammond is telling other European governments that Britain, if it is not favourable trade terms with the EU, will set itself up as an offshore tax haven with low standards of regulation and welfare.

How convincing a threat that will sound to those governments, I do not know.

But you can see how convenient it might be to right-wing British Conservatives. The line will be: of course, we would love to keep the NHS, but  because of those wicked Europeans we cannot afford it.

This vision of Britain as the Singapore of Europe, incidentally, was set out in the 2012 collection Britain Unchained.

Elsewhere, Hammond makes it clear that controlling immigration is the government's chief concern in Brexit negotiations.

He also offers this interesting observation:
In my judgement it would be a mistake to read the Brexit vote as being part of the same strand of thinking that has formed in the US. If you look at the media and the reporting during the Brexit referendum campaign, there was no anti-trade rhetoric. It was the exact opposite.

The Housemartins: Over There



Hull is the UK City of Culture for 2017, which gives me an excuse to choose another track by one of my favourite bands.

Incidentally, Hull beat Leicester in the contest for this accolade. The judges said the Leicester bid "lacked slightly in ambition and innovation".

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Remembering Graham Taylor



The Spiked website has far too much reflex contrarianism, but there are still good articles there if you look.

Here is Tim Black on Graham Taylor and his hounding by the media:
Taylor’s time in charge of the national team coincided with football’s post-1990 explosion as the National Game. Long a passionate pastime for many, football, by the time of the formation of the lucrative BSkyB-backed Premiership in 1992, had become the cultural centrepiece of national life. Those who may once have ignored it descended from the cultural heights to embrace it. 
Classical musicians wore club scarves; middle-class authors wrote up their teams; politicians spoke about international matches in parliament. It was no longer simply a beautiful game played on half-mud pitches; it was treated as art, prefaced by opera songs, and colonised by sections of society who once treated it with disdain. Football was undergoing Hornby-isation; it was hipsterising; it was being valorised by the right-on and progressive. 
And then there was Taylor. The haircut was straight, the accent East Midlands-ish, the overall impression a bit naff. Football’s new fans wanted polish and sophistication, innovation and Europeaness. What they got was spit and archaic, long-ball and patriotism. 
To football’s newest fans, Taylor appeared an unwelcome throwback, a return of football’s unreconstructed working-class, an obstacle in the way of progress.

Stella Creasy: If you don't get Mrs Brown's Boys you don't connect with real society

Except Stella Creasy tells me she did not say this. See the footnote.

The moderate wing of Labour plots its path back to power.
I have my doubts.

Or as Mrs Brown would put it...


Footnote. After I tweeted the link to this post I received a reply from Stella Creasy:
I expressly didn't say this ... Which is ironic when you see what I actually said about echo chambers..
I have asked her to send me what she did say so I can quote it accurately. I hope she will, as there is a debate to be had about the danger of liberalism becoming a patrician concern.

Later. You can read Stella Creasy's speech on Huffington Post. The relevant passage is:
This fatal flaw in our collective identity has also made us presume we know what other people want and need - and that it’s all about money. That has meant we’ve focused on economic difference, without recognising the cultural division that cripples any shared progress too. And that is not about Brexit, but a nation that is becoming ships that pass in the night. 
Who here watches Mrs Brown’s Boys? It’s the number one-viewed television programme in this country. It beat the Queen’s Speech at Christmas. It won the best comedy of the 21st Century. And, yes, the intelligentsia were horrified. We don’t get the joke. If you want to understand why Donald Trump won, look at who watches Duck Dynasty in America.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Snow in Wensleydale, 1981


A topical photo, but it was taken on the same day as I shot the milepost at Redmire: 25 April 1981.

After getting to Redmire, a couple of university friends and I walked back down the valley through the village of Wensley to Leyburn.

There we were allowed to thaw out in the railwaymen's mess room while we waited for the train back to York.

Six of the Best 659

Nick Tyrone says ALDE made a historic mistake by not allowing Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement to join. I think he may be on to something.

"The President-elect really is very 'well-connected,' with an extensive network of unsavory global underground connections that may well be unprecedented in White House history." James S. Henry examines Donald Trump’s Russian connections.

Elizabeth King on the concept of the 'tomboy' and what it tells us about the history of race and gender in America.

"In recent years, almost without anyone noticing, a great deal of broadcast drama has put art or entertainment second to propaganda." Dan Atkinson has had enough of preachy television.

"Ancient oaks are often hollow – a fungus attacks the core of the tree, causing the wood to rot away, but the tree does not die and unless felled by the wind, an oak can live for centuries with a hollow trunk." Flickering Lamps visits Sherwood Forest and the Major Oak.

D.J. Taylor reviews Alan Bennett's Keeping On Keeping On.

Labour group leader quits party over Corbyn's leadership

Sue McKendrick, leader of the 10-strong Labour group on North West Leicestershire District Council, has resigned from the party and will now sit as an Independent.

She told the Leicester Mercury:
"I have been finding that as leader of the Labour group on the council, I was finding it hard to maintain the national party line. 
"I feel Jeremy Corbyn has not been clear about what he has been asking of us. 
"On Brexit, I and others were out campaigning hard to remain, but it was hard to relay that to the voter when Jeremy Corbyn's position on the issue was unclear. 
"He did have quite a lot of support on the doorstep, but many people were saying while he was leader they simply wouldn't vote Labour and that saddened me."

Rebecca Hanson chosen as Lib Dem candidate for Copeland

From the News & Star:
A west Cumbrian councillor who has been fighting to save maternity services in Whitehaven has been chosen as the Liberal Democrats candidate for Copeland MP. 
Rebecca Hanson was last night selected to stand in the upcoming by-election, which was called following the shock resignation of current Copeland MP Jamie Reed. 
Mrs Hanson, a Cockermouth councillor, has strongly opposed Success Regime plans to remove services, and particularly consultant-led maternity, from the West Cumberland Hospital.
The paper quotes her as saying:
"This by-election is a chance for people to send a strong message against a hard Brexit that damages local jobs by pulling Britain out of the Single Market." 
It's also an opportunity to reject this Conservative government's underfunding of our NHS and say no to plans to move vital services like maternity and A&E from West Cumberland Hospital to Carlisle. 
"I am passionate about standing up for west Cumbria, and recognise the vital role that the nuclear industry plays in our local economy. 
"I'm proud to be have been selected as the candidate for the Liberal Democrats, the only party fighting to protect the economy by staying in the Single Market and calling for a long-term solution to the crisis facing the NHS."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Wye Valley in 1948

Monnow Bridge, Monmouth

This lovely colour film follows the river upstream from Chepstow to its source.

Click on the still of the Monnow Bridge in Monmouth above to view it on the British Film Institute site.

The film was produced by The National Savings Committee, so we get a lecture on the importance of thrift when we reach the confluence of Wye and Elan.

Tim Farron responds to Jeremy Corbyn's speech



I'm just a party loyalist, me.

Could the Conservtives win the Copeland by-election?



Last week, in the person of Harry Phibbs, Conservative Home was playing down Tory chances in the Copeland by-election:
Victory will surely be a challenge. Labour starts out with a lead among local councillors – and the grassroots network of support that goes with them.
Now Andrew Gimson has been to the constituency, sniffed the wind, talked to a few voters and come to a different conclusion:
Perhaps by the time the by-election is held, this favourable estimate [of Theresa May] will have worn off, and there will be a reversion to traditional voting patterns. But it is striking that just now, these profoundly traditional Labour voters respect May more than they respect their own leader. 
It is possible to imagine a by-election in which Labour voters abstain in such numbers that they let the Conservative in. If Corbyn fails to raise his game, he could find himself humiliated by the very people who until recently were his party’s core working-class supporters.
Meanwhile, this is a good point to recommend again the post by Mark Pack on what the Lib Dem strategy should be in Copeland.

Jeremy Corbyn is stuck up the Wrekin



The most endearing thing I have ever heard about Jeremy Corbyn was a story told to the Shropshire Star by his teenage friend Peter Harrison:
We were drinking and it was May Day the following day, and asking what we were going to do to celebrate, and next thing you know one said, 'Why not go up The Wrekin and plant the red flag?' 
"If I remember correctly one of them made the red flag and we took it to the top of The Wrekin and tied it to the trig point and we all sang the Red Flag and came down, and went to the Raven and had a few more pints."
But there was something Mr Harrison added that has stayed with me too:
"I knew him when we were 18 or 19, and his views have not changed. We are talking about the thick end of 50 years ago."
In other words, what Jeremy Corbyn is offering the British people is unreformed 1970s left-wing Labourism.

Some have been outraged today that Corbyn has "changed his mind" on Europe and now supports Brexit.

But I suspect that was his view all along. Left-wing opinion in the Labour Party in the 1970s was deeply suspicious of the European Economic Community.

Jeremy Corbyn's politics are still stuck up the Wrekin.