Friday, September 20, 2019

England regain the Ashes in 1971

Going in to the final test 1-0 up, England set Australia 223 runs to level the series.

Though England's outstanding fast bowler John Snow was injured early on, it proved beyond them.

Without Snow, the England attack consisted of the fast bowlers Peter Lever and Bob Willis (plucked from Surrey's second XI on John Edrich's recommendation when Alan Ward had to go home injured), the spinners Derek Underwood and Ray Illingworth, and the golden-armed medium pacer Basil D'Oliveira,

NHS managers who defrauded health service of £800k using names of U2 band members ordered to pay back more than £500k

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Not for the first time, the Shropshire Star wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Old joke: Why did Bono fall off the stage?

Emily Thornberry and the Taliban: It's all my fault

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The Daily Mirror tells us that
Jo Swinson has hit back at Labour's Emily Thornberry after she branded the Lib Dems 'kind of Taliban' over their Brexit policy.
And the Liberal Democrats have been united in their outrage.

Trouble is, I have had a nagging feeling all day that it may be my fault.

Because this is how I began my Lib Dem Conference diary for the Guardian website back in 2001:
Fierce, bearded and wedded to an impenetrable ideology. Not a description of the Taliban, but the average commentator's view of the Liberal Democrats.
Clearly, I am the one who put the idea into what we may loosely call Thornberry's mind.

Searching this blog I find that Rory Stewart - AKA Lawrence of Belgravia - made the same comparison in 2010 in the course of a Westminster lecture.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Six of the Best 884

"Swinson’s policy has, if nothing else, achieved two things. It has introduced a measure of clarity to our politics that many have been craving, when so many of our politicians still cling to what the late Sir Geoffrey Howe called in his resignation speech the endless search for separating words from meaning. And it has given committed Remainers a clear political home." Joe Zammit-Lucia thinks our new Brexit policy has a lot going for it.

Larissa Lockwood argues that London’s streets should be for the majority, not a car-owning minority. She's right.

"Every year, more than a century after its heyday, ‘The Land Song’ is the opening number at an event with good claim to be the country’s best political sing-song, at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference." Andrew Whitehead tells the story of the Glee Club's favourite anthem.

Matthew Smith looks at the strange career of Ritalin, the drug that has been sold as a tonic for worn-out housewives and a treatment for hyperactive children.

Tim Worthington takes us back to 1991 and a live recording of Lee and Herring's Lionel Nimrod’s Inexplicable World.

Watching Leicestershire, says Backwatersman, resembles stumbling through the deep gloom of an abandoned railway tunnel, though with less danger of being run into by a manic cyclist or bitten by a rat.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Brexit Party candidate for Rutland believes Britain can increase its wealth by discovering new lands

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Over to the Grantham Journal to hear the platform of the newly selected Brexit Party candidate for Rutland and Melton:
 "I will campaign tirelessly for a clean break Brexit as this will give us the greatest chance of world-class free trading success. Let’s not forget, in the first Elizabethan era, we discovered new lands, vanquished malevolent enemies and brought untold wealth back to our fantastic island. 
"And with a clean break Brexit, we can do exactly the same again, bringing huge prosperity into our midst, amongst many other things, helping our cash strapped public services achieve unparalleled proficiency."
I am reminded of a 2016 diary entry by Lord Bonkers:
I recently heard a Conservative politician who has been Members of the European Parliament since they were 14 say that Brexit will make us a “buccaneering” nation again. Well, we remember those days hereabouts and dark they were indeed. 
Merchant vessels carrying Stilton and pork pies out of Oakham across Rutland Water were set upon by pirates, who stole their cargo, made the crew walk the plank and went “Arrr!” in a most annoying fashion. (I suppose they wanted they wanted the foodstuffs to feed their parrots.) 
I grant you those days were not without glamour: every Rutland schoolboy knows the story of how one of my ancestors ordered a footman to lie down in a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth would not get her pretty shoes muddy. Yet every fair-minded person will admit that the elimination of piracy in Rutland is one of the European Union’s greatest achievements and entertain no wish to see its return.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Changing Leicester: The story of how Leicester's past has been revealed

This film tells the story of how, amid all the redevelopment of the 1960s and 1970s, Leicester has come to have a greater appreciation of its history.

New Lib Dem Brexit policy convinces Tory mayor to join us

Last week it was the Duke of Wellington. This week it is the Mayor of Wellington.

The Shropshire Star reports:
Wellington mayor Anthony Lowe has defected to the Lib Dems after more than four decades with the Conservative party, due to the national Brexit turmoil. 
His decision comes after the Lib Dems pledged to cancel Brexit if they come to power at the next general election. 
Councillor Lowe, who joined the party in 1975, follows in the footsteps of six MPs who have joined the party in the last few weeks including ex-Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna and former Tories Phillip Lee and Sam Gyimeh.
I am heartened by the reason Lowe, who joined the Conservatives in 1975 because he supported British membership of the European Economic Community, gives for changing parties:
"It is absolutely a wrench for me to leave after so many years, but the position adopted by the Lib Dems at conference to revoke Brexit if they achieve a majority at the next election was the clincher for me. It is time to nail my colours to the mast."

Monday, September 16, 2019

Lord Bonkers' foreword to the new Liberator Songbook

Down at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth, the Glee Club is underway.

As always, a new edition of the Liberator Songbook is on sale for the event and, as always, Lord Bonkers has written a foreword to it.

Bonkers Hall
Tel. Rutland 7

Welcome to all our new members! I hope you enjoy your first Glee Club and, a word of reassurance, please don’t worry: It’s Meant To Be Like This.

I have already met many of you when you attended one of my basic training camps on the shores of Rutland Water. The party has signed up so many new recruits recently that I had to send out for extra tents.

After a week of training in committee room theory and practice, Focus delivery and guerrilla warfare – all conducted under the beady eye of Sergeant Major Carmichael – new members need fear nothing they will encounter as a Liberal Democrat activist.

As one graduate put it to me: “After that, a closely fought West Country council by-election felt like a vicarage tea party”.

Mind you, he had never been to one of the Reverend Hughes’s tea parties.


Can it really be 50 years since the Rutstock free festival? When it comes to the Sixties, they say that if you can… To be honest, I can’t remember what they say about the Sixties.

What a gamut of bands I brought to the Bonkers Hall Estate in 1969! There was Rutland’s own Credible String Band, Susan J. Kramer and the Dakotas, The Crazy World of Jeremy Browne, Jamie and the Family Stone, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

The last-named, my solicitors, proved invaluable when some of those bands complained they had not been paid.

Above all there was Jimi Hendrix playing ‘The Land’. His performance is justly famous and I flatter myself that my accompaniment on the spoons has played no little part in that.

Tonight let us endeavour to recapture the carefree spirit of the Sixties. Stick it to The Man, say Bollocks to Brexit and sing, sing, sing!


Bryan Magee interviewed in 1999: Part 2

This is the second part of Bryan Magee's RTE interview from 1999. Persevere past the alien attack that comes halfway through.

My conclusion after listening to this is that I should read Magee's book on Schopenhauer. I have read his short book on Wagner and it is very good.

You can listen to part 1 here.

Rutland vs Ronald McDonald

BBC News reports on McDonald's bid to open a drive-through outlet on the outskirts of Oakham, the county town of Rutland:
"It's such a small town to have a McDonald's," said Gaz Ali, who has managed Indian takeaway Eastern Delights for 20 years. "And at the end of the day it's going to bring riff-raff."
Rutland is wealthy, but one of the nice things about Oakham is that it is a proper working town. It's not twee.

The county's second town, Uppingham, dominated by its public school, would rather like to be twee. But it falls well short - I mean, Iain Sinclair's early novels were published there.

One of the abiding concerns  of small-town shopkeepers is to keep competition at bay.

When I was a councillor in Market Harborough more than one older resident told me that the former urban district council, which was dominated by the town's business interest, had actively dissuaded national chains from coming to the town.

The worry was that they would provide competition for existing traders and - horror!- put up wages.

So this is a battle where I have some sympathy for both sides. I shall not be heartbroken if McDonald's does come to Rutland.

"What we need, comrades, is Brexit"

The Liverpool Echo provides us with a reminder that Labour's hard left is every bit as much opposed to British membership of the European Union as the Conserservatives' hard right.

Paula Barker, a regional convener with Unison, is the favourite to be the next Labour candidate for the city's Wavertree division, the seat currently occupied by the newly Liberal Democrat MP Luciana Berger.

She is favourite not least because she has been backed by Momentum.

The Echo reports on a speech she gave last gives us some highlights from a speech she gave last year:
"If the left and the Labour party retreat into soft Brexitism or continue calls for another referendum, we are helping to create an environment where the far right can thrive." 
"May's deal is a bad deal, not because it moves us too far away from the EU, it is a bad deal because it continues to bind the UK to pro-market EU rules." 
"We should be very wary of those trying to shift Labour's position on Europe towards having a second referendum. What we need, comrades, is Brexit."
You can watch the speech in the video above.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

David Gower: The best England batsman I have seen

David Gower is in the news today because Sky Sports have let him go.

Many readers will know him as a classy and latterly avuncular broadcaster, but I am lucky enough to remember Gower the batsman.

When he pulled the first ball he faced in test cricket for four, John Arlott exclaimed "Oh, what a princely entry!"

And 'princely' describes the young Gower of those days so well.

There were times, such as the summer of 1985 when he captained England to victory over Australis and scored a double century and two centuries in the process, that he appeared invincible - the best England batsman I have ever seen.

But there was a fragility about him too. When you watched him playing for Leicestershire at Grace Road you were on the edge of your seat, determined to enjoy every shot, every ball, in case some misjudgement cut his innings short.

Here he is scoring his first test double century against India in 1979, his second summer of test cricket.

The bowling looks distinctly ordinary, but oh the shots he plays!

Lord Bonkers' Diary: How to get out of a sheep costume that has shrunk in the rain?

And so another week at Bonkers Hall draws to its close.

If any reader in Mid Wales is accosted by a sheep begging them to ring Lib Dem HQ in London, please take pity on it.


Ever since I played old Jofra in the early episodes of The Archers, I have taken a keen interest in the wireless. I used to be a major shareholder in the pirate stations that broadcast from the middle of Rutland Water – who can forget Susan J. Kramer and the Dakotas? – and am now Chairman of Radio Rutland.

It happens that I have my own weekly show and this afternoon I call into our Oakham studios to record the latest edition. My interviewee is the Wise Woman of Wing, who solves people’s personal problems (‘Anguished of Tickencote’ – you know the sort of thing), pronounces on the day’s news and offers her celebrated racing tips.

A reversed-charge call from a Radnorshire telephone box brings a question about how to get out of a sheep costume that has shrunk in the rain, but unfortunately it is cut off before the Wise Woman can give her answer.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Kirsty MacColl: A New England

This Billy Bragg song was released on one of his albums in 1983 and, with an extra verse he wrote for her, was a hit single for Kirsty MacColl the following year.

This is a good chance to recommend the BBC Radio 4 Great Lives programme on MacColl.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "My message to everyone who sits on the sofa and shoots at the television"

It's not just Tim Farron and pews Lord Bonkers goes on about: he is always telling us the reasons for his remarkable longevity.

There have always been readers who worry about his age, but it has never troubled me. What does trouble me these days is my own age.

I still find it natural to refer to Wallace Lawler, Nesta Wyn Ellis and the Great Torrington by-election in these diaries, but how many Liberator subscribers or Liberal England readers have heard of them?


I am, as my more attentive readers will have realised, more than 75 years in age. I put my longevity down to my annual excursion to bathe in the Spring of Eternal Life that bursts from the hillside above the former home of the Association of Liberal Councillors in Hebden Bridge – that and the cordial sold to me, at rather a stiff price, by the Elves of Rockingham Forest.

Where was I? Oh yes. Being of mature years I am entitled to a free television licence, which is a bit of a nonsense when you consider that I own a Landed Estate, oil wells on Rutland Water and Europe’s second-largest Stilton mine.

However, I have to say that I get very poor value from that licence, because (like any red-blooded  Englishman) I keep a loaded shotgun by my chair and let fly at the screen whenever one of an increasingly long list of politicians or a member of the Dimbleby family appears. The result, of course, is that the set rarely works.

It was with this in mind that I ghosted the following passage in an article by Jo Swinson: “And my message to everyone who sits on the sofa and shoots at the television when watching Johnson’s blustering bravado is clear: politics is not a spectator sport.”

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Inside St Andrew's, Tur Langton

Last time I visited Tur Langton it was to meet Charles I.

I was back there today and, because it was the day of Ride+Stride for Churches, I found the village's Victorian church unlocked for the first time.

Inside I found some pleasing use of contrasting bricks, and I have always liked the way that the windows that face across the fields are much larger than those that look out on to the village's main street.

But my chief memory will be those terrifying ladders.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Bryan Magee interviewed in 1999: Part 1

This is the first of two interviews Bryan Magee gave to Andy O'Mahony from RTE in 1999.

His ability to make philosophical ideas clear to the lay listener is well in evidence.

Ignore the video's discouraging appearance: it will play.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Jardine will not hesitate to give the criminal one up the snoot

The old boy celebrates the promotion of Douglas Jardine, the brains behind the Bodyline tour of Australia.

I never had him down as a Liberal myself.


My old friend Jo Grimond proved a splendid leader of the Liberal Party, so I have great hopes of Jo Swinson. Already she has shown good judgement by appointing me to the Outer Space portfolio in her Shadow Cabinet and, and this morning I hurry up to Town for its first meeting.

Looking around the table I am heartened by the faces that return my gaze. A fellow called Davey (I didn’t catch his second name) is our Chancellor, while our Foreign Secretary is one Chuka Umunna (note to self: look him up).

I am particularly cheered by the appointment of Douglas Jardine to the Home Office brief. He, I feel sure, is the man to lead the fight against crime: Jardine will not hesitate to give the criminal one up the snoot if he threatens to hang around.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Beverley Wrigley-Pheasant wins Name of the Day

Two wriggly pheasants yesterday

Yesteday she came second for the Liberal Democrats in a Rutland by-election, but now Beverley Wrigley-Pheasant has gone one better.

Congratulations to the winner of our prestigious Name of the Day Award.

Lib Dems hold Bishop's Castle with 71 per cent of the vote

Because of my caring commitments I find it hard to get to Shropshire these days. And I am worried about what will happen next time I try to visit Bishop's Castle.

I envisage finding a grassy hillside and a conversation with a passing shepherd something like this:
Where's the town gone? 
Yes, Bishop's Castle. 
Never heard of it.
But it was here. The high street ran up this steep hill. There were two pubs that brewed their own beer and the best second-hand classical record shop I know. Oh and the Liberal Democrats got 71.4 per cent in a local by-election here recently. 
It doesn't sound very likely, does it?
Here is the evidence that I have not imagined the bit about the by-election at least.
You will see that 71.4 per cent actually represented a slight fall in the Lib Dem vote.

I was going to say "You can see why I like this town," but the ward also takes in the countryside all the way north to the Stiperstones.

Unless I imagined those too.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Leicestershire Line of the Grand Union Canal

Some photos from my walk last Saturday.

I also visited the Wistow church and the little church at Newton Harcourt.


Lord Bonkers' Diary: Paul sometimes Went On A Bit

I have seen no evidence that Tim Farron wants to rip out the pews at St Asquith's and make everyone sing ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’, but Lord Bonkers is clearly obsessed with the idea.

He is also on record as saying he is not prepared to kiss the person next to him in church - "unless it’s Alan Beith, of course".


Whenever I leave the village I fear for what I shall find at St Asquith’s on my return. I am pleased to report the Revd Hughes is still firmly in charge: his curate Farron has not ripped out all the pews and made everyone sing ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ after all. The Revd chooses as the text for his sermon Galatians 6:9 - ‘And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.’

I have to say that Paul sometimes Went On A Bit - I  wonder if his correspondents were wholly delighted to see another of his letters arrive in the post, even if their children did enjoy collecting the stamps. In this case, however, I am happy to concede that he was spot on.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

KIng's Cross and its approaches in the 1950s

Wonderful stuff.

Early on we see the extraordinary clutter outside the station, including a show home that was used to promote the new suburban estates along the lines to the north.

Then it is the scene of the robbery in The Ladykillers before the steam locomotives take over.

The books will tell you that Mrs Wilberforce's house was a set, but I am sure I spotted it later on in this film.

Canterbury Lib Dems told to delay candidate selection

There's an intriguing story on Kent Online:
The selection of a Liberal Democrat candidate to contest the Canterbury seat at the next election has been unexpectedly put on hold. 
A selection meeting was scheduled to take place tomorrow, but has been postponed indefinitely. 
It is understood local association party chiefs were contacted this week by the national party and told to cancel the selection meeting but were given no explanation why. 
There is speculation the party has acted to keep some seats open in the event of further high-profile defections from other parties amid the Brexit chaos.
You have to be an optimist to see Canterbury as a Lib Dem candidate target. But politics is in such  flux at the moment, who knows?


Thanks to a reader for this...

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Frozen haddock, fashionable yoghurts and Bjork CDs

You may recall - you probably don't - that there was a controversy in August over whether Britain exports pork pies to Iceland and Thailand. The conclusion, as far as my researches went, is that we used to in a small way but don't any more.

Lord Bonkers, as so often, has a different take on the matter.


Those who believe we do not export pork pies to Iceland should take a stroll along Oakham Quay, as I did this morning. The Arctic Fleet was newly in port, its rigging still sheathed in ice.

If I am honest, our local delicacy is a hard sell in Reykjavik as the locals prefer a slap up meal of decaying shark, but we still maintain the trade. The ships I saw this morning had returned from Northern waters laden with frozen haddock, fashionable yoghurts and Bjork CDs.

As a young man I was involved in the illicit pork pie trade, smuggling them into the United States in defiance of its petty regulations. Disguised as lumberjacks, we floated rafts of them across the Great Lakes.

Today, I prefer to look for less dangerous markets – an old Thai friend of mine tried a pie only the other day and pronounced it delicious when fried in a wok with garlic, lemon grass and holy basil. I leave for Bangkok next week.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...