Monday, November 18, 2019

Lib Dems may win seats "nobody expects" on election night

So said Peter Kellner when interviewed by Eddie Mair on LBC today

A mud wall in South Kilworth

The other day, on a whim, I caught the bus to South Kilworth. I am glad I did, because I was able to add to my collection of mud walls.

It ran along one side of the approach to the church - that tin roof would originally have been slate or thatch.

There was also a wall bounding a stretch of the churchyard whose roof looked in need of replacement.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Rolling Stones: Ruby Tuesday

I was on a little bus yesterday and the driver had decided to entertain his passengers by playing a selection of Sixties classics.

This was one of them and it sounded good.

But who was Ruby Tuesday?

According to Keith Richards she was his girlfriend Linda Keith, who was a Vogue model and has another claim to rock fame. It was she who introduced Jimi Hendrix to his future manager, Chas Chandler of the Animals.

Linda Keith was the daughter of Alan Keith, an actor and disc jokey, who was a stalwart of Radio 2 into his nineties.

Alan Keith was the brother of the better-known actor David Kossoff, who later became a campaigner against drugs.

David Kossoff campaigned against drugs because his son Paul Kossoff, the lead guitarist with Free, died from an overdose at the age of 25.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Six of the Best 894

Alan Rice finds Black American troops were welcome in Britain during the second world war, but Jim Crow wasn't: "The pub was a place of sanctuary for black troops where they mingled with, mainly friendly, locals, and where the segregation many had to endure in the American South was thankfully absent."

Schoolgirl debating societies gave girls a political education in the years before women's suffrage, argues Helen Sunderland.

"A young miner who was a member of the Ashington Debating and Literary Improvement Society in Northumberland, and who was killed by a fall of coal in 1899, died with a translation of Thucydides in his pocket, the page turned down at Pericles’ funeral speech." Edith Hall shows that a classical education was never just for the elite.

George Eliot's 'provincial' novels have much to teach today’s divided Britain, says Kathryn Hughes.

Fifty years on, Michael Hann celebrates the Fairport Convention album Liege & Leaf.

Dan Roberts explores the short Football League career of Middlesbrough Ironopolis.

Observer says London polls show surge to the Lib Dems

Tomorrow's Observer reports the results of polls in three London constituencies: Kensington, Wimbledon and Finchley and Golders Green.

It says:
In all three, the Conservatives now hold narrow leads; in all three, the Liberal Democrats are close behind.
The paper goes on to explain that those polls reveal a similar pattern in all three seats
  • Most Labour and Lib Dem supporters are prepared to vote tactically if their preferred party is out of the running.
  • Labour supporters are willing to switch to the Lib Dems in overwhelming numbers – in all three seats by enough to give the Lib Dems victory.
  • Lib Dem supporters tend to prefer Labour, but far less decisively. If they can’t have a Lib Dem MP, quite a few would vote Conservative, in each case by enough to increase the Tory majority.
Could it be that Brexit has forced the Lib Dems to adopt a core-vote strategy and that this strategy is bearing fruit?

Friday, November 15, 2019

John Betjeman goes north: Leeds in 1968

In 1968, John Betjeman was asked by the BBC to make a television programme about Leeds.

The resultant film was never broadcast

Lord Bonkers' Diary: What I have always taken to be hamwees are in fact wheways

The end of another week with Lord Bonkers. Maybe one day he will get his hamwees and his wheways straight.


I snatch some respite from the fray and take a walk by the shores of Rutland Water.

Who should I find in one of the hides but that keen birdwatcher and leading MEP Sheila Ritchie? She kindly explains that what I have always taken to be hamwees are in fact wheways and that what I have always taken to be wheways are in fact hamwees. Or was it the other way round?

Whatever the case, I enjoyed our chat and was pleased to offer her a nip from my flask of that most prized of Highland malts, Auld Johnston.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

People in Southport are fuming over a 'dangerous' cat hotel

Our Headline of the Day comes from the Liverpool Echo.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Leicester's Mile Straight

North of Freeman's Meadow weir, the navigable arm of the Soar has been canalised.

The Mile Straight is a landscape of bridges, student flats and converted mill buildings, but there is still the odd hint of the industry that used to dominate these banks.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The mint cake workers of Kendal

Whether this is news from the past, present or future, you have to admit the old boy made the most of his time away from the Hall.


I enjoyed Uxbridge, particularly the crowd of mothers and children I found hammering on the door of the Conservative campaign headquarters. Down in Devon I ran into the Attorney General and found his theatrical mien puzzlingly familiar. It was only this morning that I remembered where I had seen him before: he was playing the rear end of a cow in Aladdin at the Alhamba, Bideford.

Then I travelled to Witham in Essex, where the sitting Conservative offered me a lift in her sleigh and some Turkish delight. I insisted on being set down so I could catch the Green Line bus instead.

In Somerset I tipped the local urchins sixpence apiece to follow Jacob Rees-Mogg around, point at him and double up with laughter. Eventually his Nanny chased them off and I ran too – you know what Nannies are.

Passing through Leeds I bought Richard Burgon a colouring book, before spending a day with our own Tim Farron canvassing the mint cake workers of Kendal. I am pleased to report he has a considerable following amongst them.

Then it was Scotland for a night at my house Brig o'Dread, before I finished my tour delivering leaflets in Orkney for Alistair Carmichael. I was dispatched to the islands of Papa Westray and Papa Lazarou.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Norman Lamb honoured alongside The Archers

Norman Lamb, who has just stood down as Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, received the 'Making a Difference' award at last night's Mind media awards.

This award is made each year to someone in the media who has set the agenda and initiated change.

Other winners included The Archers, which won the award for soaps and continual series.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Finding solace in Albert and Squeaky

In these dark days of Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and The Hundred, we need some solace.

I have found mine by following Shannon Miner on Twitter and through him the adventures of Albert the puppy, Squeaky the kitten and Onyx.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: An amusing limerick told to me by Herbert Gladstone

Textual critics - perhaps those from the Department of Long Books at the University of Rutland at Belvoir - who pore over these diaries will discover that this entry is headed 'Friday' in the current issue of Liberator, but Thursday here.

My thinking was that having two consecutive entries headed 'Thursday' would emphasise that time had passed between them, but the production staff at Liberator HQ found it too confusing. And who is to say they were wrong?

Besides, there is a deeper mystery here. The issue of Liberator containing this diary arrived on my doormat less than a week after I sent the copy off, yet in the course of it a whole week elapses.

This does lend support to theory that Lord Bonkers is a Time Lord and suggests this and the subsequent entries in this week's diary are dispatches from the future.


Back to the Hall at last after my tour – this electioneering business is hard work and this time is proving deeply confusing.

First I went to Buckingham – a place that always reminds me of an amusing limerick told to me by Herbert Gladstone – and found Stephen Dorrell knocking on doors. He was for many years Conservative MP for Loughborough and our paths crossed from time to time, so naturally I engaged in some good-natured chivvying about the shortcomings of the Tory view of the world. Blow me down if he didn’t turn out to be the Liberal Democrat candidate!

Then I visited Finchley and ran into Luciana Berger. I demanded to know why she wasn’t In Liverpool and added some salty comments on the leadership of the Labour Party… It all proved rather embarrassing. I shall draw a veil over my encounter with Sam Gyimah in Kensington.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The tram shelter that never saw a tram

When I blogged about the tram shelter at Humberstone Park I wrote that there are several more such shelters scattered across Leicester.

I also said there was one that had been put up to serve a tram route that was never built.

Here is that shelter. It stands above the canal on Western Boulevard, deep in De Montfort University country,

An old Leicester Mercury article explains the history of the shelters. They were given to the city by the hosiery manufacturer Robert Rowley.

That article also says that someone was given planning permission to sell coffee from the Western Boulevard shelter, but nothing more came of the idea.

I am sure the students would appreciate a coffee shop here, but then a tram service into the city centre would be useful too.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: He had fashioned a rope from the bedclothes

Could this be the first sign of tension between Lord Bonkers and the party's new leader?


Back to events in Bournemouth. Really, Jo might have told me that the Tory MPs she was after had to want to join the Liberal Democrats. Such a change in policy to something altogether softer should have been debated amongst the membership before it was enacted. I do hope this will not prove typical of her leadership.

My plans fell flat in any case: when I returned to my hotel room to fetch the aforementioned Tory MP so I could drag him on to the conference stage, I found he had fashioned a rope from the bedclothes and made his exit through the window.

Anyway, tomorrow morning I set off on an election tour of the country and will not see Rutland again for a whole week.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

The Sun says Lib Dems are set to oust Emily Thornberry

Image from #Islington
From the Sun:
[Emily] Thornberry is trailing behind the Lib Dems in her north London seat of Islington South and Finsbury.
A senior Labour source said local internal polling conducted by the party found that Mr Corbyn’s chaotic Brexit policy has led the constituency's voters to switch to the Lib Dems due to their unequivocal pledge to reverse the 2016 referendum result.
This may sound fanciful, given that Thornberry had a majority of more than 20,000 over the Conservatives, with the Liberal Democrats further back in third place. But in 2005 we came within 500 votes of winning this seat.

Then it was the Iraq war that separated many Labour voters from their traditional loyalties.

It looks as though the party's failure to oppose Brexit has done the same thing.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Shepherd's Bush: The home of British entertainment

A walk with John Rogers and Adrian from Shepherd's Bush Calling.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: From Whissendine to Essendine

You have to hand it to the old boy: he called this one right.


Never mind Bournemouth: the talk of the Bonkers’ Arms when I call in this morning is the rumour that Boris Johnson is to desert Uxbridge and stand for Rutland and Melton instead.

One regular tells me the prime minister is already known to have fathered children from Whissendine to Essendine; another has it on good authority that he has been taking technology lessons in the red-light district of Uppingham; a third tells me Johnson has given the address of the crime correspondent of the High Leicestershire Radical to a school friend so he can have him beaten up.

By the time I return to the pub this evening it has been settled by the regulars that this rumour is what the young people call ‘fake news’.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Six of the Best 893

Our politics and culture have been convulsed by Brexit for the last three years and will be for years to come, yet the election campaign looks set to avoid any serious discussion of Brexit, argues Chris Grey.

Dave Troy reads Christopher Wylie's Mindf*ck: "At stake in the Cambridge Analytica saga is the very idea of agency. Whether or not we humans have free will, freedom of thought, and capacity to shape our destiny is at the heart of our legal system and the very idea of democracy."

"He seemed to be in a very bad temper and was unhappy about the fact that we had told people about his voting record on climate change." David Watts meets Robert Jenrick.

"Outside of their loyal fan base their music is seen by some as shallow, irritating and puerile, but a new ten CD box set, Givin’ It That, collects the Rockney duo’s nine studio albums and a bonus CD of rarities that goes a long way to setting the record straight." Nick Roseblade takes another look at Chas & Dave.

The idea that the broadcast of Orson Welles' adaptation of The War of the Worlds caused mass panic is myth, says Martin Chilton.

Huw Turbervill fears it may be too late to save cricket's county championship: "It’s like watching a beloved pet suffer an agonising death. It’s the last thing I want to see, but maybe a mercy killing would be best before it suffers any further indignity."

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Freeman's Meadow Lock and weir, Leicester

Freeman's Meadow Lock, which is right next to a weir, is still a remarkable spot. I took lots more photos there today and will share them with you another time.
So I wrote back in August having failed to recreate a shot from a 1967 issue of the Inland Waterways Association's Bulletin.

That time has come as I start to share my photos from my travels during that August holiday.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Buckled inside the large wicker hamper

A local newspaper says Rutland and Melton Conservatives have selected a counterterrorism expert as their candidate to succeed Sir Alan Duncan. 

You can see why.


When Jo ‘Gloria’ Swanson tipped me the wink that we would be parading newly converted Conservative MPs to the Liberal Democrat Conference, I naturally decided to join the fun. I hired a van from Oakham’s leading Chinese laundry and bade a brace of gamekeepers join me; we motored up to Town and lay in wait outside the Carlton Club.

In the middle of the afternoon a red-faced character sporting an Eton tie stumbled down the steps. I thumbed through Jane’s Conservative MPs and identified him as fair quarry. The gamekeepers moved in, and when he proved resistant to their orders a tap on the napper with an orchard doughty rendered him more pliable. He was bundled into the van and buckled inside the large wicker hamper with which it had come equipped.

Thus arranged, we pointed the bonnet for Bournemouth.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Close to the Wind: Harbour Folk Band

I know this song from Fairport Convention, but this version is by the Harbour Folk Band. They turn out to be the house band of The Irishman, a pub in Stavanger, Norway.

Close to the Wind was written by Stuart Marson and the story it tells is based in fact.

The Culworth village website tells the story of the Culworth Gang:
Writing in 1841, Alfred Beasley sets the scene for what [John] Smith’s move to the village would bring: 
"In the lovely undulating countryside of the southwest corner of Northamptonshire, seven miles from Banbury, lies the quiet village of Culworth. The long attractive street with its houses of contrasting dark and light bands of stone makes a pleasing picture. Times were not always so quiet for the inhabitants of Culworth, for in the latter part of the 18th century a band of robbers had their headquarters in the village." 
At its largest, the gang consisted of about fifteen individuals, although membership varied and several died off across the period of the gang’s existence. They had first come together for poaching, but then they moved on to housebreaking and highway robbery.  
And also of their deaths in Northampton:
At 10 a.m. in the morning of Aug. 4th, 1787, a mournful procession made its way from the county prison at Northampton along the Kettering road to the gallows, (now the area in Northampton known as The Racecourse). The older John Smith, aged 53, and the two  younger  men, Law and Pettipher, travelled in one cart, whilst Bowers, aged 36, and two other criminals (David Coe and John Hulbert) went in the other tumbril. 
On reaching the place of execution, on the corner of the race course, opposite the White Elephant public house (which still stands), they found a huge crowd of 5,000 awaited them. 
The hangings took place at mid-day, when each man was “launched into eternity,” to use the contemporary euphemism. A rope was put around each man’s neck, which was fixed to a cross beam, as they stood up in their cart. Then the signal would be given by a person dropping a hat and the cart would be driven off, leaving the man to hang a few feet from the ground.
The racecourse closed in the Edwardian era but remains as an open space near the centre of the town.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Well-Behaved Orphans have been carefully measured

It was only last Sunday that I sent Lord Bonkers' latest diary off to Liberator HQ in London. On Friday the printed magazine arrived.

Which means that I can offer you what may fairly be described as topical satire.


This is usually a quiet time of year in Rutland. There is nothing to hear but the chatter of hamwees massing on the telegraph wires before they fly south for the winter (or are they wheways returning from the Arctic?), the swish swish of Meadowcroft’s broom as he sweeps up the fallen leaves and his grumbling when  he has to put back the sundial in my walled garden.

This year, however, is very different. As soon as the general election was called I had the Green Ballroom readied for action. Banks of telephones were installed along with the very latest electric computers, and the room is now dominated by a map of Rutland Water and its shores - pretty WAAFS and Wrens push little models of destroyers and fighter planes across it.

Meanwhile, the Well-Behaved Orphans have been carefully measured to see what depth of snowdrift would prevent them from delivering leaflets. The balloon may have only just gone up, but we are ready for action.

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

Ken Clarke on David Cameron

Embed from Getty Images

The Times has a valedictory interview with Ken Clarke behind its paywall today.

He says things that will please Liberal Democrats:
"I like Jo [Swinson], she’s very nice and very bright ... The Conservative Party is more right wing and the Labour Party is more left wing than at any time in my lifetime so for the Lib Dems ... this is the opportunity of a lifetime."
But I was taken by his dismissal of David Cameron:
"He had the style and presentational skills, but he could never answer the question - what does he believe in? What is he doing it for? The real answer was he was doing it because it was fun and he had risen effortlessly to the top."
And on the referendum:
"All Etonians have this terrifying self-confidence; David had always won everything in his life ... it didn’t cross his mind he’d lose."
I suppose an Old Etonian for whom everything has gone swimmingly will be likely to attribute his success to his own personal qualities rather than a happy accident of birth.