Friday, April 19, 2024

Doleham: The least used station in East Sussex

I came back from Hastings via Ashford and the HS2 line to St Pancras. I noticed Doleham because it was the only station between Hastings and Ashford that we didn't call at, so I decided it was time to post this video again.

Until 2005 Doleham enjoyed an hourly service in each direction. But then, until 1959 there was an even more remote station north of Doleham called Snailham Halt.

And things could be worse. I first used the Ashford to Hastings line on the way to a caravan holiday at Winchelsea Beach in 1967, and I clearly remember that there were people collecting signatures against the closure of the whole line.

Lionel King's Biographical Directory of Parliamentary Candidates

Simon McGrath writes on Liberal Democrat Voice:

Following a reference in the Journal of Lib Dem History I recently came across the most extraordinary labour of love, a biographical directory  of   people who have been  Liberal, SDP and Lib Dem parliamentary candidates from 1945-2019.

This is a 20 year piece  of work by Lionel King who I find from the directory is 87, fought Kidderminster in 1964, Sutton Coldfield in 1970, and Walsall South 1987, is  former chair of Birmingham University Liberal Society, worked as a teacher and then TV/Media lecturer in FE and held many roles in the Birmingham and West Midlands Party.

The directory is divided into 14 parts, by region  and gives a fascinating insight into the range of people attracted to become our parliamentary candidates over the years.

I came across Lionel King's directory for the West Midlands myself a few years ago and blogged about it here.

The whole directory is now online. Lionel would love to hear from people who can help him fill out the entries.

GUEST POST: No smoke without political economy

Anselm Anon argues that the Liberal Democrats are wrong to treat the tobacco debate as one simply about consumer choice.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill would "make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born after 1 January 2009". It passed its first reading on 16 April, supported by the five Liberal Democrat MPs who voted, including Ed Davey. 

Yet Lib Dems online have not been unanimous. They have presented some nuanced liberal responses, taking into account concerns for personal liberty, public health, differential laws for different age cohorts and the dangers of the black market in tobacco products. 

Sensible Lib Dems have taken different positions. Some, such as Linda Chambers and Ed Davey, support the bill. Others, including Caron Lindsay and Liberal England’s own Jonathan Calder, have expressed reservations. 

This discussion within the party has centred on consumer choice: 'Should people have the freedom to smoke?' But I wonder if this is a sufficient way for liberals frame the question of tobacco policy. 

This isn’t just a case of regulating consumption, but also of regulating production and distribution. In other words, ‘Should people have the freedom to produce and distribute tobacco?’ or even 'Should people be free from manipulation by the tobacco industry?' 

The latter question has in part been answered by controls on tobacco advertising, in the UK and worldwide. But the chemical effects of addiction remain, and some social cachet too. And the tobacco industry spends a great deal on political lobbying. 

In these terms, the question is less one of consumer choice, and more one of how much freedom we should allow wealthy companies to pursue a socially harmful activity. Tobacco is big business, and the tobacco industry has a poor record, not only on public health, but also on tax avoidance and the environment. The profits of tobacco are in part reinvested in lobbying legislators, in the UK and internationally.

I suggest that Lib Dem discussions of this topic are too focused on consumers, and not enough on considering the political economy of tobacco in the round. 

It is welcome that the Bill undermines the tobacco industry. This is in sympathy with current party policy, which seeks "a new levy on tobacco companies to contribute to the costs of healthcare and smoking cessation services". 

But I’d like to see the Lib Dems address the issue more systematically. It is hard to see a justification for tobacco companies to exist in their current forms. If tobacco is to be produced and distributed, then this should be done by entities which are not devoted to maximising returns for shareholders and payments to directors. 

Rather, they should be in some sense state or social enterprises, driven not by financial imperatives, but by the need to wind down tobacco usage over the years. Within the UK this, of course, means wholesale distribution, rather than production.

The exact form that this would take isn’t something I’ll go into now, but the Lib Dems ideas for water companies are interesting in this context. In short, a more thoroughly liberal approach to tobacco would include the political economy of tobacco, beyond consumer choice.

Anselm Anon has been a member of the Liberal Democrats since the 1990s.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Malcolm Saville and Asa Briggs were neighbours in Winchelsea

I've just got back from three days in Hastings. While I was there I made the pilgrimage to Winchelsea and Malcolm Saville's house there.

I went to look for the blue ceramic plaque that the Malcolm Saville Society installed there. I think I was at the ceremony back in the Nineties, but it still took me a while to find the right house.

And the house next door now has a plaque too. It's in honour of the historian Asa Briggs, who lived there.

Were Saville and Briggs neighbours for a time? It seems they were.

This was where Malcolm Saville lived for some years before his death in 1982 - his office was on the second floor.

And the particulars for Brigg's house on an estate agent's site say that he lived there until 1981. 

The Joy of Six 1222

"What they got was a journalist with access to the upper reaches of the Government, with a determination to get on air and tell everyone the whispers that she had heard from ministers, advisors and officials – before Sky or ITN. What the BBC needed was someone who could take a step back, away from the scrum, and tell audiences when they were being lied to." Laura Kuenssberg has been a catastrophic failure as the BBC's political editor, argues Patrick Howse.

Jonn Elledge asks if the Tories are deliberately posting terrible social media: "It's worth noting, though, that the most damning comment I heard from anyone while reporting this piece came from a Tory strategist: 'The conspiracy theory I’ve always liked the most is the one that presumes that behind something inexplicably dumb there must be some grand plan or deep rooted super secret scheme designed in these smokey backrooms of government. It’s terrifically flattering,' they explained. 'My god, I wish it were true. I mean, have you met us? We really are just this shit.'"

Andrew Kersley meets the parents of truant children hit by the single justice procedure: "Imagine receiving a letter through the post, informing you that you’re about to be prosecuted for a crime you did not commit. Your defence and plea of not guilty won’t be considered. Instead, you will be found guilty in a private ruling, with only a single judge present in the room. There’s no prosecution, no defendant, no press, and no witnesses. And after all that, you will be left with a criminal record that could cost you your job."

"In Thinking to Some Purpose, Stebbing took on the task of showing the relevance of logic to ordinary life, and she did so with a sense of urgency, well aware of the gathering storm clouds over Europe." Peter West on the neglected British philosopher Susan Stebbing.

Jessica Kiang celebrates Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, which was released 50 years ago.

"The poet W.H. Auden (1907-1973), an undergraduate at Christ Church in the mid 1920s, would bring visitors here to show them what he considered to be the embodiment of 'The Waste Land' described in TS Eliot's poem of the same name, of which he was a great admirer." Local History in South Oxford takes us to St Ebbe's Gasworks.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Oxford to Market Harborough by water in 1950

Another transport video that I've posted before and is overdue a repeat.

This colour film shows a journey from Oxford to the National Festival and Rally of Boats held at Market Harborough held at 1950. 

Enjoy footage of the old railway swing bridge over the canal at Oxford and then the canal through city, with the campanile of St Barnabas easily recognisable. 

Then it is on to some some broad locks that must be on the Grand Union somewhere near Braunston. This part of the film is then repeated, but no one will mind, I am sure.

After that it is on to Watford locks, Foxton locks and the canal basin here in Market Harborough.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Forget abandoned railways: this is an abandoned Sheffield road

Another outing with Trekking Exploration - find out how to support this channel.

Dominic Guard on The Go-Between

Another video that is worth another posting.

The Go-Between was filmed in 1971 by Joseph Losey. In this video, Dominic Guard, who played Leo, talks about the experience of making the film.

It's required listening for anyone who admires the film or the novel. And, as Guard grew up to be a child psychotherapist, it has things to say about the issues they raise.

Monday, April 15, 2024

The last days of Melton Mowbray North

I posted this video on Liberal England a decade ago: it's so good I should repost it every six months.

Melton Mowbray North was the town's station on the Great Northern and London and North Western Joint line. From it you could catch a direct train to Market Harborough and on to Northampton. 

The Joint line carried lots of freight, notably iron ore destined for the steel plants of South Wales.

Regular passenger services were withdrawn 1953 - I once quoted John Baldock MP mourning them in the Commons - though summer specials from Leicester Belgrave Road to the East Coast resorts survived until 1962.

This film, YouTube says, features Mr Lilley, the last signalman, and his grandson Nigel. It was shot by Nigel's father, and he must have done so shortly before goods facilities were withdrawn in 1964.

There's a wonderful picture on Flickr of the decaying station taken in 1966.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Joy of Six 1221

Matthew Pennell still says no to ID cards (and so do I): "I’ve always noticed that those who advocate for ID cards are exclusively white British males living in Britain who in pretty much every respect are in the cultural mainstream, nothing would mark them out as being part of any social group on the fringe of society. Such people would not feel threatened being approached by a police officer or would never have to talk to other arms of the state, such as a housing officer, to avail themselves of certain public services." 

Many of us have the mistaken idea that previous experience of poverty makes it easier for someone to take further hard knocks, argues Nathan Cheek.

Remember Amazon's 'just walk out' grocery stores? As James Bridle explains, they were not what they seemed: "An employee who worked on the technology said that actual humans - albeit distant and invisible ones, based in India - reviewed about 70 per cent of sales made in the 'cashier-less' shops as of mid-2022."

Charlie Clinton on the campaign to defend small music venues.

Anne Billson presents six films from the 1980s that should be better known: "Mike Hodges’s offbeat gothic thriller isn’t so much a film that has fallen into obscurity as a a film that never got a decent shot in the first place." 

"The Trip stands in Brewhouse Yard which was part of Nottingham Castle until the 17th century when the present building and caves were created. The earliest reference to its use as a pub, called the Pilgrim, comes from 1751. By 1799 the name had been changed to the Trip. The earliest mention of the Trip as the oldest pub in England comes from around 1910 when the landlord drummed up trade with new signage." James Wright goes in search on the oldest pub in England - it's clearly not the one shown here.

Ruby Turner, Steve Winwood and the Jools Holland Big Band: Something's Wrong With My Baby

This is from a hootenanny long ago.

The Ronnie Scott's site tells us about Ruby Turner:

Ruby Turner began a successful run as a solo artist in the late 1980s, landing a chart-topping hit with "It's Gonna Be Alright," and releasing numerous respected albums and singles over the coming years that traversed soul, gospel, and pop. She became a frequent collaborator with Jools Holland and performed with an array of high-profile stars from Mick Jagger to Steve Winwood.

Her debut album, Woman Hold Up Half the Sky (1986), was a critical and commercial success, and she went on to release another 13 albums over the course of the next three decades, including 1989's Paradise, which peaked at number 39 on the Billboard R&B chart. She also charted eight singles throughout the '80s and '90s, the most successful of which was "I'd Rather Go Blind," which made it to number 27 in England in 1987.

On 4 June 2012 Ruby performed 'You Are So Beautiful' with Jools Holland at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace in London. In autumn 2012 Ruby was a guest judge on BBC 'The Choir: Sing While You Work with choirmaster Gareth Malone' and in 2013 Ruby was a guest judge on BBC 'Songs of praise gospel choirs competition.  In June 2016 Ruby was awarded an MBE.

Ruby Turner was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and in 1967, at the age of nine, moved with her family to Handsworth in Birmingham. She has also enjoyed a substantial acting career.

Steve Winwood may be familiar to regular readers of this blog.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

A day at the cricket: Leicestershire vs Sussex

On Friday I went to see the first day of Leicestershire vs Sussexc in Division 2 of cricket's County Championship.

I had planned it as a sort of existential protest against starting the cricket Championship so early to make room for The Hundred in midsummer. I expected to be wrapped in woollens and sipping a thermos of Bovril. As it turned out, the forecast was for a dry and sunny day.

The weather didn't quite live up to that - the morning was lovely, but it clouded over after lunch and eventually the floodlights came on - yet I've been much colder at cricket matches later in the year than this.

And I met my old council colleague Mark Cox on the gate. It turned out that, just as it was when I was 13, it you're not a member you have to walk down a dismal alley and pay at the other end of the ground.

I don't begrudge county members their privileges: they may be the only people who resist the England and Wales Cricket Board's plans to get rid of half the first-class counties, Leicestershire and Sussex included.

Leicestershire won the toss and batted, with their opener Rishi Patel making a stylish 87. After he was caught behind for 87 early in the afternoon, they found scoring much harder. Sussex did well to keep up their intensity, because the pitch didn't appear to be doing very much. The ended with the game evenly poised: Leicestershire were 326/8, with the stubborn Liam Trevaskis not out on 82.

I went to the cricket here twice in 1973. I saw the a day each of Leicestershire vs Derbyshire and Leicestershire vs Middlesex.

To be honest I don't remember the Derbyshire game at all, beyond speculating with the friend I went with about whether Fred Trueman, who had turned out in the Sunday league for Derbyshire, might be playing, He wasn't.

I must have seen the second day of the Middlesex game because I remember seeing Mike Smith - M.J. Smith- score a century before lunch. It was also one of John Emburey's first games for the county. Despite Smith's feat, Leicestershire went on to win the match comfortably. 

In 1973 Leicestershire were as strong as any county, and their attack was dominated by spin. In the Derbyshire game they fielded two England off spinners - Ray Illingworth and Jack Birkenshaw - and two left-arm spinners - John Steele and Chris Balderstone.

Sussex used only one spinner: Jack Carson from County Armagh.

Robb Heady: History's unluckiest hijacker

Embed from Getty Images

When it comes to American mysteries, second only to 'who shot JFK?'* comes "Did D.B. Cooper get away with it?"

In November 1971, during the 'golden age of hijacking', D.B. Cooper** hijacked an internal US flight and demanded $300,000 and two parachutes. He got them, leapt from the plane at altitude and was never seen again.

Nine years later, some of the money he had been given was found buried in the banks of the Columbia River in Washington State.  This may suggest that the rest of the money and Cooper's body lie somewhere nearby, but there are good reasons why the mystery refuses to die.

The first is the Cooper demeanour throughout the hijack. He remained perfectly cool and in command, suggesting to many that he had a background in special forces. For them, even the knowledge that it was possible to jump from the rear steps of a Boeing 727 in flight suggests he had been involved in operations in Vietnam.

The second is that Cooper inspired a dozen copycat hijackings, and the perpetrator of everyone survived the parachute jump.

One of the copycats was Robb Heady:

On June 2, 1972, Robb Heady, a 22-year-old former Army paratrooper and Vietnam War veteran, hijacked United Airlines Flight 239 from Reno to San Francisco. Carrying his own parachute and using a .357 revolver, he demanded $200,000 in ransom money. Because the hijacking occurred at night while banks were closed, FBI agents were forced to secure the ransom money from two local casinos in Reno. 

Once he had received the ransom, Heady directed the pilots on a very specific flight path. However, the pilot intentionally altered the flight path by half a degree, causing Heady to miss his drop zone. Heady was captured the next morning. 

The money bag containing Heady's ransom was jerked from his grasp when he pulled the ripcord and was recovered by FBI agents two days later. In September 1972 Heady pled guilty to aircraft piracy and was sentenced to serve 30 years in federal prison

What that Wikipedia account omits is how Heady was recaptured. The FBI worked out from the flight path he had demanded where he had intended to land and searched the area. There they found a car parked in a remote area that was of particular interest to them, so they kept it under observation.

Sure enough, a man eventually arrived at the car, retrieved the keys from beneath a nearby rock and let himself in. The man was Robb Heady.

And what had drawn the interest of the FBI to the car? A 'Member of the U.S. Parachute Association' bumper sticker.

Which makes him history's unluckiest - or most careless - hijacker.

* If, like me, you wonder why more has not been made of Lee Harvey's time in the USSR and visit to Cuba, read the guest post by Jack White.

** The hijacker actually gave his name as Dan Cooper, but for some reason this faulty newspaper transcription stuck.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Fish and chips by Walmgate Bar

More biting satire: I find it hard to see Ed Davey holding on to the leadership after this. It's a good thing this entry marks the end of this visit to Bonkers Hall.

How strange it is that Lord Bonkers should have discovered my student haunts in York! When I went back some years ago, I found that Jimmy's Fish Bar had become Jenny's Fish & Chips. I don't know if the business is in the same family, but in my day Jimmy was a small Italian and Mrs Jimmy was a large Yorkshirewoman. We speculated that she had captured him at Anzio.

Also new was the security on the pubs' doors. When I knew them, they all had fierce landladies who everyone was a little scared of and there was no trouble.


What a pleasure it was to be in York for our Spring Conference! Though I devoured the debates and speeches, I will admit that I made the time to visit the pubs of Fossgate and enjoy some fish and chips by Walmgate Bar. 

And a good thing I did. While I was sampling said delicacy among the daffodils, Freddie and Fiona turned up with an orange bulldozer and then set about painting a stretch of the city’s celebrated walls bright blue. 

“What are you two up to now?” I called across. “It’s a stunt for after Ed’s speech. Liberal Democrats knocking down the Blue Wall. The media will love it.” “Well the Lord Mayor and the good people of York won’t. Wash that paint off at once and then take the bulldozer back to where you hired it.” 

I cannot resist adding: “Perhaps Ed should have thought about this first?”

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

Earlier this week...

Flooded farms in England refused compensation as ‘too far’ from river

By some distance, the Guardian wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Well done everybody in showbiz North London.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Joy of Six 1220

"People who are gender non-conforming experience stigmatisation, marginalisation, and harassment in every society. They are vulnerable, particularly during childhood and adolescence. The best way to support them, however, is not with advocacy and activism based on substandard evidence. The Cass review is an opportunity to pause, recalibrate, and place evidence informed care at the heart of gender medicine." Kamran Abbasi has written a British Medical Journal editorial on the Cass review.

Charlotte Tobitt reports that newspaper editors have come together in a bid to improve Labour MP Wayne David's Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation Bill, which has reached its committee stage.

"There’s no doubt that many academics are feeling very pressured, highly anxious, and deeply insecure about their profession and its prospects. For some, suffering perhaps worse than others, a feeling of desperation, of being cornered, is setting in. Why is this happening, and what can we do about it?" Glen O'Hara on the crisis of morale among academic staff in our universities.

Jennifer Gerlach advises us not to try to resolve a conflict by texting.

Taylor Dorrell argues that it was his encounters with Britain’s labour movement that inspired Paul Robeson's socialist and anti-imperialist politics: "The American, who was treated as a second-class citizen by many of his countrymen back home, came to be summoned for a Royal Command Performance at Buckingham Palace and was befriended by Members of Parliament. It was also in London that Robeson befriended anti-colonial leaders, such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Jawaharlal Nehru of India."

"The collected letters also hold human qualities that field notes and published books do not. They reveal humor and uncertainty and, notably, a willingness to discuss ideas with people of many walks of life." Faye Saulsbury hails the transcription and publication of more than 15,000 items of Charles Darwin's personal correspondence.

Harold Wilson's estate owes Roy Wood a fortune

It was the first record to be played on Radio One and reached number 2 in the UK singles charts, but the Move's single Flowers in the Rain didn't earn its writer Roy Wood a penny.

Because, in one of the stunts for which he was famous, the band's manager Tony Secunda issued a postcard promoting the song that showed a naked Harold Wilson, the prime minister of the day, in bed with his political secretary Marcia Williams.

Wilson sued, won his case and the High Court ordered that all royalties from the song be donated to a charity of Wilson's choice. They are still being donated today to a range of good causes chosen by the Harold Wilson Charitable Trust.

While yesterday's revelation of Wilson's affair involved another lady and took place some years after the Flowers in the Rain affair - stay with me - it still paints his character in a different light to that which must have been deployed in the High Court.

I'm not calling for the good causes to repay the money, but shouldn't the meagre royalties on Wilson's books be made over to Roy Wood until he has received his due from Flowers in the Rain?

With thanks to Stuart Whomsley on Twitter.

Reform UK sorry for not knowing York candidate had died

Of course BBC News wins our Headline of the Day Award, but the judges drew this paragraph in the report to my attention:

The spokesperson said: "The simple fact is that we have removed upwards of 50 candidates for complete inactivity and I know those who had been removed for disciplinary measures."

This suggests that Reform UK are not going to able to fight much of a ground war come the general election.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: There were extra buns for tea

Our prime minister always seems to come off second best when encountering children and games. His visit to the Bonkers' Home for Well-Behaved Orphans was no exception.

I suspect the little inmates' facility at cards owes something to Beachcomber's Narkover.


Did you see that picture of the prime minister shaking hands on a bet with the detestable Piers Morgan? Hardly statesmanlike behaviour, was it? You’d never have caught Mr Gladstone having a Yankee on the Berlin Conference on Africa, the Anglo Egyptian War, the Naval Estimates and the Panjdeh incident, would you? 

In truth, though, I have long been aware of a certain innocence in Sunak when it comes to gambling. When he was a newly elected MP, I invited him to visit my Home for Well-Behaved Orphans, and then made the mistake of leaving him alone with the young inmates. By the time I rescued him he had lost all his spare change at three-card brag and was about to surrender his shirt. Of course, I had to pretend to be furious, but there were extra buns for tea.

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

Earlier this week...

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Hear Asquith promote the People's Budget of 1909

I don't think I've heard Asquith's voice before. This is him speaking on the People's Budget of 1909: presumably this recording was intended for distribution as a gramophone record.

It is remarkably clear, and we even catch what sounds like a "Will this do?" at the end.

Football fan accused of role in post-match brawl at station was 'visiting Santa's Grotto'

Embed from Getty Images

The Shropshire Star wins our Headline of the Day Award.

At the insistence of the judges, allow me to point out that the case continues.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Mountains of unsold Stilton

There are those who claim that Lord Bonkers has built up large stocks of Stilton to enable him to withstand a strike by the miners, but I'm sure that's not true. Lord B. does indeed like his Stilton gamey, but that is a taste that export markets have yet to acquire.


You may have noticed – if you’ve had the window wound down you can hardly have failed to – the mountains of unsold Stilton beside the Great North Road in the Far East of Rutland. 

They have accumulated because Liz Truss failed to negotiate a trade deal with Canada that would allow exports to continue after Brexit; their size is a testament to how much the brave Mounties and lusty lumberjacks once enjoyed their Stilton sandwiches. We have tried promoting them as a venue for winter sports with, if I am honest, limited success. 

I can say now that I had my doubts about La Truss from the start. It took me hours to convince her that, however hard she wished and however sparkly her wand, she would never be a real princess. The very next day, in a fit of pique, she strode to the Conference rostrum to demand the instant abolition of the Royal Family.

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

Earlier this week...