Friday, July 03, 2015

Vanished Leicester: Humberstone Road station

Copyright © Dennis Calow
Humberstone Road was the first station north of Leicester London Road on the Midland main line.

It closed in 1968, but for many years afterwards you could see this ticket office standing empty at street level below the embankment where the platforms had been.

Eventually it was taken down brick by brick and rebuilt at Shenton station on the preserved Battlefield Line in the west of the county.

There it serves as a station building for the line's southern terminus and an information point for the nearby Bosworth battlefield.

Another great Liberal byelection victory in Hampton Wick

Photo by Sunil060902 
Last night Geraldine Locke gained the Hampton Wick ward of Richmond upon Thames Borough Council for the Liberal Democrats. Until last night, I believe, it was the safest Conservative ward in the Twickenham constituency.

The result in full;

Liberal Democrats     1189     (42.96%)
Conservative             1081    (39.05%)
Green Party                237     (8.56%)
Labour Party               185     (6.68%)
UKIP                           69     (2.49%)
Independent                  7      (0.25%)

The ALDC website tells us all about Geraldine.

It says that though
"the vision and values of the Lib Dems has always been close to her heart, it was the loss of Vince Cable at the recent election that galvanised her into joining the party".
But then in local  it is often a case of identifying the people you would like to stand for you first and persuading them to join the party aferwards.

Anyway, congratulations to Geraldine Locke and everyone concerned in a victory that give me hope that talk of a Liberal Democrat revival is more than wishful thinking.

But the attentive reader will have noticed that the headline of this post refers to "another" great by-election in Hampton Wick. Let me explain...

In 1983 and 1984 I was living in Kew (well, North Sheen) and have great memories of the night the Alliance took control of Richmond council.

Up until 10 November 1983 the Conservatives had been clinging on to control of the council thanks to the Mayor's casting vote. Then one of their councillors from Hampton Wick died and the Liberal Party (as part of the Alliance) won the resultant by-election and took Richmond.

It must have been the first time the Liberals had run a London borough since... I have no idea when.

Out victorious candidate was a pleasant young Australian dentist called Ted Garside. I can remember cycling down the Thames towpath to his house to help in the byelection.

I also have clear memories of the formidable Pat Wainwright (Richmond's agent) not allowing me home until I had made the evening's canvassed returns tallied both across and down on her spreadsheet. (This was before the days of EARS and personal computers, kids.)

Why was Richmond's agent in charge of a by-election in Twickenham? I had a vague memory that there had been a second by-election in Twickenham that night, and I was right.

The byelection section at the end of a London Borough Council Elections 8 May 1986 document shows that there was also a contest in Hampton Nursery that night, which resulted in an Alliance hold.

No doubt that was where the Twickenham agent was. It also explains why we had not taken control as soon as the Hampton Wick seat fell vacant.

So well done Geraldine Locke. Let us hope her victory is the first step on the long road to taking back the council and both parliamentary constituencies.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Tories did not win over all those lost Liberal Democrat voters

A myth is growing up about the Liberal Democrat debacle at the last general election. It holds that we lost almost all of our seats because the Conservatives ruthlessly targeted them and won over former Liberal Democrat voters.

So they did, but there is little sign that our lost voters went to the Conservatives instead.

To find out what really happened, read an article by Seth Thévoz and Lewis Baston on the Social Liberal Forum site.

Here are a few extracts:
The Conservative-facing seats showed a remarkably consistent pattern; the main factor at play was Lib Dem collapse rather than Conservative recovery. In each of the 27 seats lost to the Conservatives, the collapse in Lib Dem votes was sizably larger than any increase in Tory votes, by a factor of anything up to 29.
This means that although the Lib Dem position in many Tory-facing seats is dire following a collapse of the party’s vote, the Conservative position is not necessarily ‘safe’ or stable; the Conservatives have won many of these seats on relatively small popular votes, and there still exists in these constituencies a reasonably large non-Conservative vote which could potentially be mobilised around a clear anti-Conservative candidate with a more appealing pitch than that of the 2015 Lib Dem campaign. 
Nor is the Conservative vote appreciably growing much in such areas. In seats like Lewes, Portsmouth South, St Ives, Sutton and Cheam, and Torbay, the increase in Conservative votes was negligible, and Lib Dem defeat can be laid down entirely to so much of the Lib Dem vote having vanished.
In particular, while the Green ‘bounce’ in most of these 27 seats was smaller than the UKIP ‘bounce’, it is noticeable that the rise in Green and UKIP votes taken together – the votes for the two main ‘protest vote’ parties in England – was larger than the Tory votes gained in 26 of these 27 seats. In other words, the Lib Dem loss of the protest vote, and the protest vote being transferred to both UKIP and the Greens, was almost certainly critical in the loss of 26 Lib Dem seats to the Conservatives.
You can argue whether this shows there never was a coherent Liberal Democrat vote or that such a vote exists and we failed to appeal to it. And you should certainly note how poor Labour was at winning our former voters over.

But what is certain that the idea that we would have done better if only we had played down our differences with the Conservatives is false.

Iain Sinclair on the Black Apples of Gower


"The book I didn't know I was going to write" - more at Little Toller Books.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

David Cameron: "No ifs, no buts, no third runway"

One of Justine Greening's leaflets delivered in Putney during the 2010 general election campaign.

Six of the Best 521

The View from Creeting St Peter is far from impressed by Liberal Reform's attempt to give the Liberal Democrat leader a veto over party policy.

"Shropshire Council is busy transferring many of its staff and services to its wholly owned company, ip&e. This company still must respond to freedom of information requests, in almost the same way that Shropshire Council does even if those requests are ‘bizarre’ in the eyes of council leader Keith Barrow." Ludlow's Andy Boddington fights the good fight.

It easy to forget how consistently good Stumbling and Mumbling is. Here he argues that a powerful state is often not in the interest of the workers.

The Intercept believes student (we used to say 'pupil') privacy is at risk in the age of Big Data: "The fear is that the multi-billion-dollar education technology (or “ed-tech”) industry that seeks to individualize learning and reduce drop-out rates could also pose a threat to privacy, as a rush to commercialize student data could leave children tagged for life with indicators based on their childhood performance."

How much sleep do we need? Akshat Rathi once tried an experiment to find out.

Just One More Ten Pence Piece … shows us the Queen's visit to British Celanese and Spondon Station in 1957. (I used to play chess against Derbyshire in the British Celanese canteen.)

Welcome to the new Liberal Democrat bloggers

Could it be that the much-needed revival of Liberal Democrat thinking has reached the blogosphere?

Last month eight (count 'em) new blogs were added to the LibDemBlogs aggregator - many thanks to Ryan Cullen for sending me the list.

Here are the eight:

A Liberal Renewal (written by David Shaw) went to its first two Liberal Democrat meetings at the start of June and has not blogged since. I hope those two facts are not connected.

A Liberal Take (written by Mike Brown) first appeared last year and has recently come back to life. What really catches the idea is a tweet of his from 2010: "The reason I joined the Lib Dems was so that I could help build them back up after they get annihilated after the next election."

Jenni Hollis is chiefly concerned with politics in Haringey and draws lessons from Lynne Featherstone's defeat there in May: "we need to fight smartly as well as working hard, pounding the pavements. And monitoring effectiveness, testing messaging/techniques and adapting plans – rather than just ticking monthly KPI boxes – is key to this."

LibDemFuture (written by Ed Joyce) has a violent yellow background and has already featured guest posts by Gareth Epps and Lembit Opik.

Liberal Thoughts (written by Ceri Phillips) writes on the lack of diversity in the Lib Dem parliamentary party: "it's not so much that it is 'too' anything so much that it 'isn't enough' something else!"

Merry Liberal (written by Peter Stitt) has not seen a post since mid-May. Perhaps he has been two merry?

Some Ramblings (written by Rebecca Plenderleith) has some strong things to say about the Scottish government's failures on child mental health.

Squiffy Liberal (written by Mike Green) wants a hub airport in the North, an end to pointless legislation and to be treasurer of Liberal Youth,

Do visit these news blogs. And if you have a new blog you would like to appear here, please add it to LibDemBlogs.

Ian Allan (1922-2015): The man who invented trainspotting

From the Telegraph obituary for Ian Allan:
Ian Allan, who has died the day before his 93rd birthday, triggered the post-war explosion of trainspotting as a British pastime by publishing the first booklet of engine numbers in 1942 and starting a club which had 230,000 members by the time steam gave way to diesel.
Perhaps he did not invent the pastime - I have a friend whose father remembered collecting locomotive names before the war - but he certainly codified and popularised it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Raw Dykes - Roman Leicester's water supply

These two earth banks with a ditch between, to be found beside the Aylestone Road, are all that remains of a water course that brought supplied the Roman city of Leicester.
The Eccentric Leicester Tour on the University of Leicester's website says:
The current earthworks are a fragment of very much larger works. The surviving stretch of the Raw Dykes is about 100 metres of linear earthworks comprising two parallel earthen banks (double vallum) with a channel (Fosse) measuring about 6 metres between them. The height of the bank varies between 4 and 7 metres. 
The earliest known documentary reference to the earthworks is contained within the Lord Mayor's accounts for the Borough of Leicester of 1322 which refer to the 'Rowedick'. The etymology is considered to suggest that the name was originally derived from the linearity of the earthworks, the present form 'Raw Dykes' representing a corruption of this. 
Excavations in 1938 recovered pottery suggesting that the earthworks were constructed during or immediately after the first century AD and consisted of banks defining a broad ditch within which was a much narrower central channel. The layout and nature of the earthworks are considered to suggest that the narrow cut within the centre of the ditch represented the main water channel and was designed to increase the flow of water by concentrating it within a constricted space.
To view the Raw Dykes you have to make your way down a path to a little viewing area, surrounded all the time by chain-link fencing.

Alfreton cow rescue hindered by 'randy' bulls

We have our Headline of the Day, thanks to BBC News.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Disused railway stations in the East Riding of Yorkshire

One of the best so far.

Not that there was anything wrong with Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, Hampshire, Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, CornwallRutlandNorthumberland, Shropshire and Suffolk.

Norman Lamb and the right to die

Norman Lamb's support for assisted dying legislation has assumed a strange importance in his campaign for the Liberal Democrat leadership.

I presume this is because his supporters believe this view will be popular with Liberal Democrat members - and also believe it is country into which Tim Farron will not be prepared to follow him.

G.F. Watts: Love and Death
In view of this, it is a surprise to read the more measured tone Norman adopted when talking to the Eastern Daily Press in March of last year:
People who are terminally-ill and suffering should have the right to end their lives with the support of their families and medical professionals, says health minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. 
Today, he explains to EDP readers why he has changed his mind on this emotive subject in advance of a vote in the House of Lords on a bill on assisted dying which could herald a change in the law. He says: "If I found myself in that situation, I know that I would like to have the choice." 
In the past, I have opposed any attempt to legalise "assisted dying". I share the concerns many people have that any change in the law could result in frail older people being put under pressure from relatives. I have sympathy with those who say that the risk to many vulnerable individuals of legalising assisted dying outweighs the benefits. And I also understand those who object to this on religious grounds. 
All of these concerns are legitimate, and must be considered carefully. But in recent years, I have changed my mind on this issue of such profound importance.
Yes, it is a hugely different issue - and certainly not one that should be made a litmus test of your liberalism.

For what it is worth, I agree with Norman on the principle that "it is right to give people choice about how they end their lives where they are terminally ill and suffering".

But how you frame and enforce the "rigorous safeguards" he calls for, goodness alone knows.

I attended a riveting panel debate on just this subject in my day job earlier this year.

"Good doctors break the rules sometimes," said someone confidently from the floor.

"Yes," said one of the panelists, "but the trouble is bad doctors break them too."

Mike Brearley and Michael Vaughan on cricket captaincy

I am very much looking forward to this programme on BBC Radio Five Live tomorrow evening  at 9pm:
Two of England's most successful captains, Michael Vaughan and Mike Brearley, talk about the art of captaincy.
In fact the two best England captains of the past 40 years.

A trial of facts when a former MP is unfit to plead

If you think the idea that Greville Janner should face a trial of facts if he is unfit to plead is fanciful, you may be surprised to learn that a former MP faced just such a trial very recently.

As Ian Pace reminds us:
In 2012, the former Labour MP for Luton South Margaret Moran faced 21 charges of false accounting and forgery of parliamentary expenses involving sums of over £60,000. However, following a psychiatrist’s report, Moran was found to be suffering from a depressive illness, with extreme anxiety and agitation, and as such was unfit to stand trial. Nonetheless, a trial went ahead in her absence (a so-called ‘trial of the facts’) and it was found that she did indeed falsely claim more than £53,000.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Patrick Macnee and the Sixties

Despite all that has happened at the Telegraph, its obituaries are still the best.

Here it is on Patrick Macnee's childhood:
His father was a racehorse trainer, a diminutive man known as “Shrimp” Macnee whose dapper wardrobe his son later recreated for Steed. He had a taste for gin and enlivened his dinner parties by levelling a shotgun at those guests he suspected of pacifist tendencies. 
Macnee’s mother took refuge in a circle of friends that included Tallulah Bankhead and the madam Mrs Meyrick, before absconding with a wealthy lesbian, Evelyn. Young Patrick was brought up by the pair and was instructed to call Evelyn “Uncle”. He managed to resist their efforts to dress him as a girl, wearing a kilt as a compromise. His father fled to India, from where he was later expelled for urinating off a balcony on to the heads of the Raj’s elite, gathered below for a race-meeting. 
Evelyn financed Macnee’s education, at Summer Fields — where he first acted, playing opposite Christopher Lee — and then Eton. His corruption began when he was introduced to whisky by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, who had escaped into the garden with a bottle when brought in to consecrate Evelyn’s private chapel. Macnee was then expelled from Eton for running a pornography and bookmaking empire.
All of which made Matthew Sweet suggest:
That seems exactly right to me.

Where to find out what is really going on in the Liberal Democrats

If you want to know what is really going on in the party, the first place to turn is the Radical Bulletin pages at the front of each issue of Liberator.

Here are a few nuggets from the current issue:
  • "The announcement of the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto in February created a minor news story. Unfortunately its content was also news to the Federal Policy Committee ... which is supposedly in charge of the manifesto."
  • "Liberator has received persistent complaints, the truth of which is a matter of conjecture, that huge sums were diverted into holding Nick Clegg's seat in Sheffield Hallam, into a doomed attempt to save his closest political associate Danny Alexander... and into [Jasper] Gerrard's campaign in consideration of his having written an admiring book about Clegg.
  • "The continuing Liberal party some years ago morphed into a rabidly anti-EU group, a stance quite at odds with that of the pre-merger Liberal Party. This spring the party's Cornish branch withdrew its candidates in favour of Ukip, a move that led to the withdrawal of its nomination rights but not yet to any further action.
You may also enjoy the late Standards  Board for England's verdict when blink-and-you'll-miss-it Labour leadership candidate Mary Creagh gave evidence before it  in 2006:
"Councillor Creagh was not an impressive witness. The Tribunal agrees with the Respondents' assessment of her as an insensitive witness, lacking in balanced judgement and one who prepared to make assumptions about the honesty and integrity of others without any proper basis."
You can read more about Liberator in a recent Liberal Democrat Voice article you can subscribe via the magazine's website.

Long ago, before even my time with Liberator, Radical Bulletin was a separate publication.

Paul Rooney: Lucy Over Lancashire

This isn't a music track. It's a:
Sound work for radio and red vinyl 45rpm 12” record (blank 'A' side, single track on 'B' side), stereo, 16 mins, 2006-2007.
Because Paul Rooney is an artist, you see.

The blurb accompanying an excerpt on Vimeo explains what is going on here:
The record comprises a single voice monologue above and amidst music influenced by dub reggae and Lancastrian post-punk. The voice on the piece is that of Lucy, a ‘sprite of the air’, an airborne spirit, who is possessing the grooves of the record itself, and is damned to endlessly repeat stories about Lancashire she has been told by the evil and shadowy figure of ‘Alan’. She cheerfully relates a twisted tale – partly in Lancashire dialect – in the desperate truth-stretching style of internet conspiracy theorising. 
The tale describes the pivotal role that the English county of Lancashire has in the plans of Satan, ranging from the Pendle witches and the 'dark Satanic mills' of the Industrial Revolution, right up to the bile of the Red Rose Radio phone in shows of Allan Beswick (who also appears on the record). 
Other Lancashire linked characters mentioned within the work, with names changed or slightly distorted, include Lee Scratch Perry, Marx and Engels, Mick Hucknall of Simply Red, The Fall -– particularly the debt that the band owes to dark Lancashire folk-lore -– and the Radio Lancashire ‘On the Wire’ programme itself, whose longstanding commitment to dub reggae provided one of the inspirations for the work, and on which the piece was first broadcast on 18th November 2006.
There are many such excerpts around, but I believe this is the whole work.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Aylestone Road - where Leicestershire used to play

An impressive pavilion for the Leicester Electricity Sports Cricket Club, who were running up an impressive score against the Leicester Centurion club when I dropped in today, you may think. And there is a reason.

This is the ground where, between 1901 and 1939, Leicestershire played their county games. According to the club's website, the great names who played hear include Grace, Bradman, Hammond and Hutton. It was known as the Aylestone Road ground.

In those days Grace Road, where the county played in the 19th century and where it plays today, was thought too far out of the city. It was not bought by the club until 1996. Before then it was owned by the city's education committee, and someone I worked with remembers taking part in his school sports day there.

The county played a couple of further championship games at Aylestone Road after the war and the final first-class match here was between Leicestershire and Cambridge University in 1962. Mike Brearley was a member of the visiting team.

Aylestone Road was dominated by the neighbouring the power station and infamous for the pollution from the neighbouring factory chimneys. The war was hard on it and land was lost to industrial expansion.

The factories have gone and the power station site is not the home to Leicester City's King Power Stadium, though there is still an impressive amount of electrical equipment on the site.

Unmitigated England has written about the ground and so has Down at Third Man. The latter blog includes an aerial photo that shows that the wicket has been turned by 90 degrees since its first-class heyday.

It also shows a stand which was moved to Grace Road and still stands as the homely but loved Meet.

Six of the Best 520

Nick Tyrone asks how the right-wing press will react when David Cameron campaigns to stay in the EU.

Nigel Farage and his senior adviser were caught up by the glamour of the Tea Party – to the fury of some in their own party, say Freddy Gray and Sebastian Payne.

Dominic Minghella stands up for the BBC.

I remember being one of many people who bought a parcel of land in the shadow of Heathrow to prevent the construction of another runway. Gwyn Topham reveals that Greenpeace has sold all that land without telling any of us.

"One morning in March 1921 a large man in an overcoat left his house in Charlottenburg, Berlin, to take a walk in the Tiergarten. A young man crossed his path, drew a pistol and shot him in the neck." Dominic Green reviews a book on the avenging of the Armenian Genocide.

Psychogeographic Review follows the River Gwenfro through Wrexham to find its confluence with town's other river, the Clywedog.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Unless it’s Alan Beith, of course

Another visit to Bonkers Hall draws to a close. How will the old monster get on with the locum vicar at St Asquith's? Time will tell.

Unless it's Alan Beith, of course

It is Farron. I find him in St Asquith’s taking down the signed photograph of Leicestershire’s 1975 County Championship winning team from behind the altar.

"Let me make a few things clear from the start," I tell him. "We are not going to sing 'Shine, Jesus, Shine,' you are not removing the pews from the church and I am not going to kiss the person next to me – unless it’s Alan Beith, of course."

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary
  • He had to Put a Bit on Top
  • Why the Liberal Democrats did so badly
  • Coffee with Freddie
  • Grant dines with Cleese, Cleese with Grant
  • "They'll eat you for breakfast"
  • Friday, June 26, 2015

    Shrewsbury to Minsterley disused railway 2

    Poor man. The spam factory and the vast creamery at Minsterley were too much for him. He might have shown us the station master's house though.

    At least Six Bells Junction has a photo of the station in its final days.

    He is also mistaken about the junction with the Snailbeach mineral line at Pontesbury. It was a narrow-gauge railway, so there cannot have been a simple junction with the standard gauge Minsterely branch.

    In fact the lines met a little way to the south of Pontesbury station. The Snailbeach line came in at a higher level so that its wagons could be emptied into standard gauge wagons standing beneath it. Secret Shropshire has a photograph of the remains of this arrangement.

    I visited that site some years ago - I am afraid it must have involved some trespass and suspect this was before new building in Pontesbury made access to the trackbed more difficult.

    In those days it was occupied by a vast salt store owned by the county council highways people. It was up for sale and I wondered when I discovered this video if it is still there.

    Google Street View shows it is and is now part of The Wharf Business Park.

    I have decided I shall be voting for Tim Farron

    Or at least I shall be if my ballot paper arrives.

    I have found this a difficult decision, but have decided to follow my usual practice of voting for the Pardoe rather than the Steel (though I note that David Steel is supporting Tim too).

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: "They’ll eat you for breakfast!"

    It's all change at St Asquith's. I was sure I had stolen the line about Tim Farron believing that every word of the Liberal Democrat manifesto is the literal truth from someone on Twitter, but I cannot find the tweet.

    "They'll eat you for breakfast!"

    The Reverend Hughes calls at the Hall with some disturbing news. He has decided to hand in the keys of St Asquith’s for a while and go off on a Mission. “You ‘re not going to live with the headhunters of Borneo, are you?” I ask sternly, knowing what he was like when he got One of His Ideas. “I did think of that” he replies, “but it seemed so tame. No, I am convinced the Lord is calling me to convert the more primitive tribes of the Upper Welland Valley.” “Don’t be a fool, man,” I tell him. “They’ll eat you for breakfast,” but he is not to be moved.

    I detest such disruptions to the smooth running of things here on the Estate and in the village. I remember when Meadowcroft (or was it his father?) got it into his head to go off to France and grow grapes. Whilst I was busy persuading him to return, a colony of moles established themselves on the lawn in front of the Hall. It took years – and several closely argued pamphlets from Meadowcroft – before I could get them to leave.

    The Revd Hughes is not to be moved, and he tells me he has arranged for a locum vicar to take Divine Service and visit the sick whilst he is away. “He’s young and keen and believes every word of the Liberal Democrat manifesto is the literal truth.” I eye him levelly: “It’s not Farron, is it?”

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

    Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary
  • He had to Put a Bit on Top
  • Why the Liberal Democrats did so badly
  • Coffee with Freddie
  • Grant dines with Cleese, Cleese with Grant
  • Holy Grail found (thanks to Crimewatch appeal)

    We have our Headline of the Day.

    Well done to the Telegraph - and to West Mercia Police.

    Thursday, June 25, 2015

    Patrick Macnee (1922-2015)

    Let us remember Patrick Macnee with the sexiest, most stylish opening titles ever.

    Hedgehog trapped in railings 'misjudged own girth'

    The BBC News Suffolk page wins Headline of the Day.

    Police and crime commissioner model cannot survive a bad back

    Sir Clive Loader, Leicestershire police and crime commissioner, is suffering from severe back pain and will have to step down from the role for a while.

    I wish a swift and full recovery. But his plight has displayed a weakness of the PCC system: who takes his place?

    The Leicester Mercury explains:
    Under the law the police and crime panel must appoint an acting commission - for a maximum of six months - from a member of his staff.
    However, the panel was not keen on the idea:
    Sir Clive asked the panel to pick Paul Stock, the chief executive of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), as his successor. 
    He said Mr Stock was willing to take on the role. 
    The police and crime panel however has not followed Sir Clive's wishes. 
    Newly re-elected panel chairman Joe Orson said he hoped Sir Clive would make a speedy recovery but said he was concerned the law only allowed for his replacement to be a member of his staff. 
    He said the Home Office would be lobbied to change the law so that only an unelected official could assume the role.
    I suspect Mr Stock said "an elected official", though what he or she would have to have been elected to is not clear.

    All this shows the weakness of the PCC model. Invest all the authority in one elected person and you have a problem if they fall ill/

    The old police authorities would have dealt with such a crisis without breaking step.

    But then the style of politics they represented - compromise, reconciling different interest groups - is out of fashion.

    Now it is all about czars who will Bang Heads Together and Get Things Done.

    Just pray your czar does not get a bad back.

    Government delays electrification of the Midland main line

    So the Northern Powerhouse did not survive for even two months after the general election.

    The electrification of the Trans-Pennine railway line between Leeds and Manchester has been put on hold.

    So too has the electrification of the Midland main line between Bedford and Sheffield.

    Much work towards this has already taken place. The photograph above shows a bridge at Kibworth being raised and the one below shows the Network Rail track measurement train, which has been frequently seen on the line in recent months.

    Chris Hobson from the East Midlands Chamber told the Leicester Mercury:
    "The Chamber is extremely disappointed and frustrated that the electrification of the Midlands Main Line will not go ahead as planned. 
    "It is disappointed that the original plans couldn't be delivered on time or budget and frustrated that this key project isn't being given the prioritisation that the success of the region demands. 
    "The Transport Secretary, whose constituency is in the East Midlands, has said, however, that the project is still part of his plans. The Government must now clarify exactly when it will be delivered. 
    "The evidence in favour of upgrading this route is compelling. It will significantly reduce travel times between the East Midlands and London, unlocking potential economic benefits of around £200m for the region. 
    "For the past two decades, there has been huge investment in other routes, yet the Midland Main Line has been starved of investment, in spite of the fact that the route connects to London one of the fastest-growing areas in England, which has generated much of the economic growth needed to drive the UK's economy away from recession and created more jobs than any other region. 
    "The Chancellor was in the region only a few weeks ago describing it as the UK's 'Engine for Growth'. Infrastructure is a driver of that engine and to have this key project shunted back into the sidings is a grave concern."
    Here in Market Harborough we want to know how this 'pause' will effect the promised improvement of access to our station.

    As electrification will involve some degree of track straightening through the station, we have to presume that nothing will happen until the electrification work is resumed.

    Meanwhile HS2, which involves massive capital investment in London, will go ahead.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Grant dines with Cleese, Cleese with Grant

    Lord B. explains the consequences of one of the Liberal Democrats' wheezes for wringing money out of us during the general election campaign. How long ago it all seems!

    Grant dines with Cleese, Cleese with Grant

    The bigwigs in the party were very pleased with themselves when they came up with the wheeze of offering the prospect of dinner with John Cleese or Hugh Grant to encourage members to donate money to the general election campaign. The idea was that anyone making a donation would be entered into a draw and the winner would get to break bread with one of other the two stars.

    Being good Liberals, both Cleese and Grant donated money themselves and were consequently entered into the draw. When that draw was made the inevitable happened: Cleese won dinner with Grant and Grant won dinner with Cleese. They dined to together at my club on consecutive evenings and got on Terribly Well, but I feel sure that was not how things were meant to turn out.

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

    Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

  • He had to Put a Bit on Top
  • Why the Liberal Democrats did so badly
  • Coffee with Freddie
  • Wednesday, June 24, 2015

    You are the groups you belong to

    In the early days of this blog I wrote:
    I am increasingly aware that what I value is not so much individualism as individuality - the flourishing of different sorts of people and different ways of life. (I believe I came across this distinction in Michael Ignatieff's biography of Isaiah Berlin. It is a useful one.) 
    It is a concept that has something to do with the old schoolmaster's ideal of "character" and I suspect that the development of individuality requires strong institutions, such as schools that are not under central control. Teenage culture does suggest that individualism does not always produce individuality; and it is undeniable that one of the clearest ways we choose to express our individuality is through he groups we decide to join.
    This video from the social psychologist Professor Alex Haslam seems relevant to that argument. He argues that it is our membership of particular social groups that gives us our identity.

    The Clegg catastrophe

    The Guardian has just posted a long article under this title by Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt on its website.

    Though the site no longer has that useful button that told you an article's publication history, I assume it will be in tomorrow's paper.

    Here is a flavour of it:
    Oakeshott regarded the forthcoming electoral drubbing as the last chance to remove Clegg, whom he had long seen as a political disaster for the party. “It felt like the scene in Far from the Madding Crowd when the sheep charge over the hill together,” Oakeshott recalled. “I thought ‘Oh my God, this is it’. In the face of all available evidence – in council elections, byelections and opinion polls – there was collective self-delusion, and the party was going to press ahead to disaster.”
    The party, desperate for votes, then fell into a trap set by the National Union of Students. In November 2009, the NUS persuaded 400 Liberal Democrat candidates, including Clegg, to sign a pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative. To make matters worse, Clegg agreed to be filmed doing so.
    Confident that his LBC training had made him an adept media performer, Clegg agreed to take part in two TV debates against Nigel Farage during the campaign. They were not generally perceived to be among Clegg’s most dazzling performances. Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy and climate change secretary at the time of the debates, was unimpressed. “The disaster over the Farage debate was there was a Liberal Democrat leader who was representing the establishment,” he said.
    I suppose we should be grateful that someone thinks our decline and fall worth documenting in such detail. Now for the fightback.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Coffee with Freddie

    A Liberal Democrat adviser adjusts to the new political landscape.

    Coffee with Freddie

    Who should I meet when I drop into a Westminster coffee bar to treat myself to a cappuccino but Freddie? You remember him: he was one of Freddie and Fiona, the two young advisers upon whom poor Clegg leant so heavily whilst in government.

    I ask him what he intends to do now that Clegg has bought the farm. “I was planning to go into PR because I have such a good contacts book,” he tells me, “but then I realised that all the people in it have just gone into PR too.”

    I give him some advice, wish him the best of the luck for the future and end by saying: “You know, I think I will have some chocolate on top. Makes a bit more of it, don’t you think?” He gives me my change and I find a table and sit down with the Manchester Guardian.

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

    Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary
    • He had to Put a Bit on Top
    • Why the Liberal Democrats did so badly
    • Six of the Best 519

      David Boyle lists his top 10 policy delusions that are shared by left and right. As so often, he is spot on.

      "As Corbyn’s speech on Saturday ... confirmed, he is a perfect reflection of British socialism’s shift from a once-viable challenge to the structural failings of capitalism to a form of welfarist middle-class moralism." Tom Slater is not impressed by Jeremy Corbyn's candidacy for Labour leader reveals the hollow core of British politics.

      The dark web as you know it is a myth, says Joseph Cox.

      "The way characters discuss the ‘wild, cruel, medieval’ magic of the Raven King in the BBC’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell series is starting to seem eerily familiar to me. The terms being used are remarkably similar to what writers in the century and a half after the Restoration say about Shakespeare’s poetry." Richard O'Brien casts unexpected light on a television hit.

      Amy Lawrence remembers Italia 90.

      "King Arthur Pendragon was spotted in the village. Several druids floated down the path that runs across the far side of the ground, one the harbinger of a wicket for our skipper, charging in up the hill as if pursued by King Sil himself." The Old Batsman enjoys cricket at Avebury on the summer solstice.