Saturday, May 28, 2016

Northamptonshire wind power

Leicestershire Tory MP says David Cameron is finished as leader

Rather generously calling him "a senior Conservative MP," the Telegraph quotes Andrew Bridgen from North West Leicestershire:
"David Cameron has placed himself front and centre of a disingenuous Remain campaign, setting himself at odds with half of the Parliamentary Party and 70 per cent of our members and activists on the most important issue facing our Country in a generation, 
"Whatever the result, I believe his position will be untenable."
A reminder that, since 1990, civil war has been the Conservative Party's natural state. David Cameron's early years as leader now look like a glorious exception.

The Rio Olympics should be postponed or moved

Yesterday the papers were full of the news that the World Health Organization had been sent an open letter signed by 150 health experts calling for this summer's Olympics to be moved from Rio de Janeiro or postponed.

The experts fear the virus could spread more rapidly around the world because of the influx of Olympic visitors to the Brazilian city, which has a high incidence of the disease Zika.

Today, as I expected, the great and good are telling us not to worry our little heads.

BBC News reports:
Senior WHO official Bruce Aylward told the BBC that risk assessment plans were in place, and reiterated that there was no need to delay the Games. 
The mayor of Rio said disease-carrying mosquitoes were being eradicated.
I expected it because I have seen Jaws (and Peter Benchley had obviously seen An Enemy of the People).

It all sounds very dangerous to me. Just take a look at the opening titles of the original Survivors series above.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Take your hands off our cox"


Each year the winning crew in the Boat Race is invited – “lured” might be a more honest way of putting it – to Rutland Water to challenge the eight from our own University of Rutland at Belvoir. With its jagged rocks, submerged wrecks and wartime mines, the course offers a challenge all its own.

As is customary, Rutland wins.

When the surviving Cambridge oarsmen attempt to introduce one of their customs to the event, I tell them shortly to “Take your hands off our cox.”

You see, the Rutland crew is traditionally coxed by a Well-Behaved Orphan – they may not be that good at steering, but they are all Terribly Light. As I had seen Ruttie (my old friend the Rutland Water Monster) lurking in the deep, and as Ofsted has been asking Awkward Questions lately, I decided that throwing the winning cox into the water might not be such a good idea.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Friday, May 27, 2016

Dereham to Norwich Thorpe in 1968

Another of those films of doomed East Anglian branch lines by Edward "Chib" Thorp, the railway-loving undertaker of Leigh on Sea.

As ever, click on the picture above to watch the film on the BFI website.

The good news is that almost all this track is still open to passengers. Wumondham to Norwich Thorpe (plain Norwich today) never closed.

Dereham to Wymondham Abbey (a new station) is today operated by the preserved Mid Norfolk Railway, which leaves only a mile of track between Wymondham and Wymondham Abbey stations without trains.

And in 2010, as the Eastern Daily Press reported, something rather wonderful happened:
A little piece of transport history will be made when direct trains run between Norwich and Dereham this weekend. 
It will be the first time that through trains have connected city and town since the Dereham to Wymondham branch line closed to passenger trains in 1969. 
The Mid Norfolk Railway, which now runs the line as a heritage attraction, has teamed up with East Midlands Trains to run the services tomorrow and on Sunday.
And Wymondham, as any fule kno, is pronounced "Windum".

Sign up to Cricket Badger

From the Cricket Badger sign-up page:
In July 2008, a cricket magazine started sending out an irreverent weekly email. People liked it. It started off with just a handful of subscribers and ended up with over 20,000. The email no longer goes out, so what do you do if you really enjoy Ian Austin references and cricket quotes taken completely out of context?
The answer is sign up for Cricket Badger. It’s exactly the same as the old magazine’s newsletter but comes from a different website and the author’s doing it for love, not money. What’s not to like?
And from today's email:
Slow learners "Slightly disappointed it's taken us nine years to figure it out." James Anderson after he and Stuart Broad reversed their career-long poor form at Headingley by switching ends

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Reviewing David Laws’ memoirs


A breeze stirs the May blossom, inspiring me to prop open the French windows in the Library. I settle down to review David Laws’ memoir of his time in government for the High Leicestershire Radical and am embarrassed by my inability to find the volume. Only after I have led my staff in a systematic search do I find it propping open those windows.

I find the book has three heroes: Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and, above all, Laws himself. (Poor Huhne and High-Voltage Cable, who must be admitted to know how many beans make five, do not get a look in.)

Still, one has to admire the mordant wit of Jonny Oates, as quoted by Laws: “Your constituents will be mad if they do not re-elect you, Danny. And if they don’t, we should ask for all that money back that has been sprayed around your area – the extra ski lifts and the gold-lined roads.” Except that, if you have been to Badenoch lately, you will know that Oates was speaking no more than the truth.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Yes, it's Chat-Show Tim

Charles Kennedy found that the path to public approval passed through chat-show studios. Now Tim Farron is taking it too.

The other day he appeared on Matt Forde's Political Party.(Me neither. Apparently it's something the young people listen to.)

You can hear how Tim did for yourself above.

He appears at around 19:30 if you find Forde's opening set palls after a while. He turns out to be a better interviewer than he is a comedian and Tim comes over very well.

And on Sunday he will be the latest guest on Ruth and Martin's Album Club.

That is a site where people are asked to listen to and write about a famous album they have somehow never heard.

Tim will be reacting to Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.

Funnily enough Lord Bonkers recently wrote about the film of the same name - or at least something very like it:
Today I attend the Oakham premiere of a film I helped finance: ‘Straight Outta Nick Compton’. It tells the story of an opening batsman who is unjustly treated and records the controversial single “Fuck tha Selectors” as a result. I see from its evening edition that The High Leicestershire Radical (which I happen to own) has given it five stars.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Disused Railway Stations in Dumfries and Galloway

There are plenty more of these slideshows on this blog.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The jellyfish of the Lakeland fells


“There are no jellyfish in the Lake District,” our own Tim Farron told the prime minister the other day, displaying a strange lack of knowledge of his own constituency. Cameron, you may recall, told everyone to holiday in the North of England following the recent floods, before jetting off to Lanzarote himself.

Last time the PM was there he was stung by a jellyfish – I presume it had been reading about his welfare policy. Incidentally, if stung by the feared Rutland Man o’ War when swimming in Rutland Water, the consensus is that one should urinate upon the affected area or ask a friend to do so if it proves Hard to Reach. I am not sure if it makes it sting any the less, but it tends to take your mind off it.

Where was I? Oh yes, jellyfish in the Lake District. When the Kendal Mint Cake industry was established in the mid 18th century, its product was a beige colour. However, public taste changed and, by the accession of Victoria, had come to demand the pristine white bars we know today. It was found that the only safe and effective way of bleaching the cake was by the use of an extract of jellyfish, so they were introduced to the area. Ullswater and Thirlmere were soon simply teeming with the things.

Other means of whitening the mint cake were later found, which is why these lakes are today mercifully free of jellyfish. By then, however, some had escaped to the fells, where they live to this day. The unwary walker who strays too far from the path may yet find himself suffering a nasty sting.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Jasper Gerard is the Liberal Democrats' new head of press

Apologies if I am late to the party, but I have not seen this reported anywhere in the media or the Lib Dem blogosphere.

The new Liberator reports that Jasper Gerard is the Liberal Democrats' new head of press. The magazine sources the news to an email to party staff by its communications director James Holt.

Gerard will be remembered as the party's candidate in Maidstone and the Weald at the last election. This is a historically safe Conservative seat, but Peter Carroll had got a good result there in 2010.

Because of that we convinced ourselves that Gerard stood a good chance of winning and funded his campaign accordingly. In the event he finished more than 10,000 votes adrift.

Jasper Gerard will also be remember as the author of a book with a spectacularly inaccurate title: The Clegg Coup: Britain's First Coalition Government Since Lloyd George.

Simon Titley reviewed it when it came out and was not impressed:
Gerard’s basic thesis is that the coalition government was the product of a carefully orchestrated ‘coup’ by Nick Clegg and his allies. But coalition was inevitable sooner or later. The two-party system reached its peak at the 1951 general election, when 97% of the electorate voted either Labour or Conservative. Since then, the two-party vote has slowly shrunk, reaching a post-war low of 65% in 2010. ... 
Gerard’s claim that the coalition was possible only because Clegg “had transformed his party and dragged it to the centre ground” simply doesn’t stand up. Indeed, the incompetence of the party’s general election campaign, the net loss of seats, and a popular vote share no better than 2005 (and lower than that won by the Alliance in 1983) suggest that coalition happened despite rather than because of Nick Clegg’s leadership. 
And the loss of Short money shows that the party was not as well prepared for coalition as Gerard claims.
Still, Gerard is an experienced journalist and I wish him well in his new job.

This item can be found in the Radical Bulletin section of Liberator. There you will also read of the internal tensions in the Young Liberals, how Nick Clegg turned down a favourable deal on party funding and of a hefty bill the party must pay before vacating Great George Street.

The moral is clear. You should subscribe to Liberator.

Warning sheep high on cannabis could cause havoc in Swansea Valley village

Congratulations to the South Wales Evening Post, which wins our Headline of the Day Award.

A sheep adds: Like baa, man.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Two by-elections: Gideon's Way (1964) and Clacton (2014)

One of the more interesting episodes of Gideon's Way is The "V" Men, which deals with a right-wing political party - the Victory Party.

As Archive Television Musings, a blog that shares my recent obsession with the series, writes:
Although this was made some fifty years ago it could just as easily been set in 2015. The Victory Party has several aims (which appear to have been designed to alienate as many people as possible) – keep Britain white, kick out the financiers (especially the Jews) and also deal harshly with the pacifists.
In my first post on Gideon's Way I suggested the lead character was something of a liberal.

One reason for that conclusion is this episode and Gideon's obvious dislike or mistrust of an officer who says of the left-wing demonstrators who are confronting the Victory Party:
“I’m sick and tired of these people trying to push everyone around. Why don’t we shove the lot of them into jail?”
That officer is played by Allan Cuthbertson, who you will recognise from dozens of film and television appearances, including gourmet night at Fawlty Towers.

 I also wrote in that post that:
Gideon's family feature regularly. Political trivia fans may like to note that his younger son was played by Giles Watling, who was the unsuccessful Conservative candidate against Ukip's Douglas Carswell in the 2014 Clacton by-election.
You can see the young Giles Watling in the clip above.

As well as being a Conservative councillor in Tendring (he won an open primary to be the party's candidate against Douglas Carswell in the Clacton by-election), Watling is still an actor. He appeared regularly in Bread.

Market Harborough to Corby bus route under threat

The Fox Inn, Wilbarston

The 67 bus route, which runs from Market Harborough to Gretton via Corby and Rockingham, is to be withdrawn this summer after the decision by Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) to remove its subsidy.

Andrew Royle, the chairman of Gretton parish council, told the Harborough Mail:
“NCC were surprised by Centrebus’s decision to withdraw the whole of service 67 after July 23 as their understanding had been that the single vehicle operation on Monday to Friday was commercially viable, and Centrebus had given them no indication otherwise when they informed them of the likely withdrawal of their support for the service before Christmas.”
Campaigns against the decision have been set up in both Gretton and Wilbarston.

I did use this bus occasionally to get out into the countryside when there was a Saturday service, but that was withdrawn some years ago.

I wish the campaigners well in their attempts to save this route, but it is the massive cuts in central government funding for councils that are at the root of this.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Freddie and Fiona at Remain

The new Liberator has landed on my doormat, so it is time to spend another week in the company of Rutland's most popular fictional peer.


To London and the office of the Remain campaign. (I judge it a little on the poky side and ask if they have thought of moving.) There I find my old friends Freddie and Fiona, late of the deputy prime minister’s office, ensconced.

I ask how their economic liberal think tank is getting on. “It’s going really well.” “Did you go to our fringe meeting at the Lib Dem spring conference?” “It was all about Uber.” “Do you know it? It’s this wonderful app on your phone.” “You can call at taxi any time.” “And if you don’t like the driver you can give him a low score and he loses his livelihood.” “We call it ‘the sharing economy’.”

 I ask how the campaign is going. “Will Straw is brilliant!” “He says that, a month before polling day, his father phones his agent and tells him to make sure everyone votes Labour.” “So I expect that he will do the same thing with the Remain agent.”

And what of Ryan Coetzee? “Oh, he’s brilliant too!” “Just like he did with the Lib Dems, he is making sure our campaign keeps using the same slogan.” “And then we think he will change it twice in the final week.”

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cambridge to St Ives in 1968

Lovely colour footage of the Cambridge to St Ives branch taken in 1968 - click on the picture above to watch it on the BFI site.

The closure notices were already up, but passenger services survived for another two years.

There was a persistent campaign to reopen it after that, but today the trackbed forms part of the Cambridge guided busway.

Bridge over the Teme collapses near Tenbury Wells

There have been remarkable pictures from Worcestershire, where Eastham Bridge has collapsed. It crosses (or crossed) the River Teme a few miles downstream from Tenbury Wells.

The bridge was a Grade II listed building and was built in 1793. It was a toll bridge until 1907, when it was bought by the county council.

More pictures on the Ludlow & Tenbury Wells Advertiser site.

A modern Leicester ghost sign

A modern-day ghost sign on the old Royal Mail building by Leicester station.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Leicester Oral History Trail 8: Highcross

The latest interview in this series deals with the archaeological dig that took place after the site had been cleared for the construction of the shopping centre Highcross Leicester.

It found the medieval church of St Peter and a thousand skeletons in its churchyard. Today that churchyard lies under the city's John Lewis store.

Six of the Best 599

Iain Brodie Brown is the new Mayor of Sefton: "For 36 years I have worked alongside people with mental health issues on their journey to living a full and independent life. I hope to use the opportunity that the mayoralty gives me to continue to challenge the stigma and ignorance that so often blights their lives inhibiting them from playing their full part in our communities."

"The discovery that, if you cut a ‘winner’ enough slack, eventually they’ll try to close down the game once and for all, should throw our obsession with competitiveness into question. And then we can consider how else to find value in things, other than their being ‘better’ than something else." Will Davies takes issue with the unquestioning promotion of competitiveness.

Andrew Vanacore interviews Scott Santents, a campaigner for Basic Income.

Chrissie Russell talks to Richard Louv about 'Nature Deficit Disorder'.

"The 'great smog' of 1952 may have blighted the lives of thousands of children still in the womb at the time," says John Bingham looking at a new study from Alastair Ball, an economist at Birkbeck, University of London.

Paul Walter defends the BBC - and Bargain Hunt.

What psychology can tell us about voting

With the European referendum a month away, what can psychology tell us about the factors that affect how people vote?

A post on the British Psychological Society's Research Digest (written for last year's general election) sets out the state of our knowledge.

Some factors considered, like the weather and location of polling stations, are ones you would expect..

Others perhaps less so:
Following a dramatic series of shark attacks in New Jersey in 1916, voters punished the incumbent President Woodrow Wilson.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Famous faces in Gideon's Way

I have now watched all 26 episodes of Gideon's Way on Youtube. As I said in my first post on the subject, one of the pleasures of the series is the regular appearance of actors who later became famous in other roles.

So it is that in one episode (Boy with Gun) you will find both Sir Oliver Lacon from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Wally Batty from Last of the Summer Wine.

That first post showed you John Hurt and Michael Cashman. Here are some more familiar faces.

A young Donald Sutherland in The Millionaire's Daughter.

Mrs Bridges from Upstairs Downstairs as a criminal boss in Big Fish, Little Fish.

Harry Hawkins from Softly Softly was on of my first TV heroes. Here is Norman Bowler in Morna before that (and long before Emmerdale).

Mr Lucas from Are You Being Served? appeared as a Constable in The Reluctant Witness...

...while Private Walker from Dad's Army was an Inspector in A Perfect Crime.

And here, before Heartbeat, before Yes Minister, before even Basil Brush, is Derek Fowlds in The Nightlifers.

Richard Rorty foresaw the rise of Donald Trump in 1997

My favourite liberal philosopher of recent decades is Richard Rorty, who died in 2007.

An article by Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books quotes a passage from Rorty's 1998 book Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America:
Watching him blather and mug as he casually leaned over the podium in Boca Raton, seeing him cultivate the applause as if directing a symphony and then raise his two hands in thumbs-up gestures as he surfed the waves of applause and the deafening shouts of “USA! USA! USA!,” I recalled a remark that the philosopher Richard Rorty made back in 1997 about “the old industrialized democracies…heading into a Weimar-like period.” Citing evidence from “many writers on socioeconomic policy,” Rorty suggested that 
members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else. 
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots…. 
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion…. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet. 
As Trump put it in Nevada, “I love the poorly educated!”

Simon and Garfunkel: America

The first LP I ever bought was Band on the Run by Wings. Though the title track and Jet were great singles, that rather embarrasses me today.

I suspect the second LP I bought was Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits, which does not embarrass me at all as Paul Simon is one of the great songwriters of the post-war era.

This recording of America is taken from their 1981 concert in Central Park, New York.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Disused railway stations in West Sussex

There are plenty more of these slideshows on this blog.

Leicester march to stop the badger cull

In Leicester today, as a citizen journalist, I went along to see people assembling for the march against the badger cull. Then I met someone I knew and decided to join in.

It's a good cause. The government's cull of badgers has more to do with placating the farming vote than it does with scientific evidence for the best way of eradicating bovine TB.

While we were waiting to set off there was a speech, which turned out to be chiefly about the junior doctors' dispute with the government, and a song. The latter, as far as I could tell, was about Liz Truss having blood on her hands.

One of the attractive thing about green campaigning is that it has the potential to decouple conservative voters from the Conservative Party. That possibility was far from the organisers of today's event, but then moderate conservative people do not organise marches.

We marched from Victoria Park down New Walk to the Town Hall Square and then Jubilee Square. In the two squares where we were addressed by Danny Dyer (Badger Trust) and Mark Jones (Born Free Foundation).

At Town Hall Square a couple had just got married and they insisted on having their photos taken with us.

Later, at Jubilee Square, someone was asked to the microphone to read a poem he had written. I became a citizen journalist again and slipped away.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Loading and hauling ironstone in Corby, 1968

Another glimpse of the industrial steam railways of the Northamptonshire ironstone belt in their last years.

The music is no better than before.

Tim Farron backs Kirsty Williams's cabinet post plan

And he's right.

In the elections earlier this month Kirsty Williams was the only Liberal Democrat to win a seat in the Welsh Assembly.

She increased her majority over the Conservatives in Brecon and Radnor to more than 8000. It's strange to recall that the 1985 by-election, when the seat first turned Liberal, was a neck-and-neck contest with Labour. (I was there.)

Beyond Kirsty's victory, our results in Wales were universally dismal. We are firmly established as the country's fifth party - that rumbling sound you can hear is Lloyd George turning in his grave.

Though I can't find the figures, I believe we finished behind the campaign to abolish the assembly in a couple of regions.

So the opportunity for the only Lib Dem AM to take up a high-profile position like education secretary is a godsend.

The Welsh Lib Dems are holding a special conference tomorrow to vote on whether Kirsty should take up this appointment.

If they do anything other than welcome it with open arms, they are madder than Mad Ianto Ap Mad, the winner of this year's Mr Madman competition.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Before we finish, let us pause a moment to mark the defeat of Leighton Andrews, Liberal Gillingham Town fan turned Labour Cardiff City fan, in Rhondda.

Happy birthday John Stuart Mill

Time to post a link to an old Liberator article of mine:
So read Rorty, Popper and Berlin. Read L.T. Hobhouse if you want and pretend to have read T.H.Green if you must. But above all read the Mill of On Liberty.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

See the Little Bowden floods of 1912

I found this video on the Little Bowden Society website.

It combines photos of the village when it was flooded by the River Jordan in 1912 with photos of the same scenes today.

One from 1912 shows buildings close to my house that were long ago demolished. Strangely spooky.

John Creasey, creator of George Gideon, was a Liberal candidate

John Gregson as Commander George Gideon

Writing about the Gideon's Way police series from the 1960s the other day, I suggested that John Gregson played the hero as "a world-weary liberal".

I may have been on to something because, as an article by Ian Millsted from the Journal of Liberal History once revealed, the author of the books the series was based on was himself a liberal - and a Liberal

John Creasey, who wrote the books, once said:
I have been a political animal all my life. At twelve I was organising and speaking at street corners for the Liberal Party.
Creasey fought Bournemouth West for the party in 1950, finishing third with 17 per cent of the vote. This was a very respectable vote for a Liberal candidate in this era, though the party had come second in the seat in 1945.

In the second half ot the 1960s, though he was often seen in Liberal circles, Creasey fought a number of parliamentary by-elections to promote the All-Party Alliance, He had set this up himself in 1996.

Millsted says:
Its principal aim was to see elected a government of the best people from all parties in order to sort out the problems of the day.
In the last of these by-elections, Oldham West in 1968, he beat the Liberal candidate into fourth place.

The aim of the All-Party Alliance may sound naive, but Jeremy Thorpe was to call for something similar in the general elections of 1974.

Famous men behaving badly

Today the Supreme Court overturned a decision by Court of Appeal and ruled that an injunction banning the naming of a celebrity involved in an alleged extra-marital relationship should stay in place.

Over to John Hemming, the former Liberal Democrat MP:
The logical conclusion of this is that gossip about anyone with children will become a criminal offence subject to a potential penalty of 2 years' imprisonment. 
It is important to note that the injunction covers people talking in pubs, gossiping over the garden fence, or twittering on the internet. All of these could potentially see an application for committal for contempt of court. That comes with large amounts of legal costs and up to 2 years imprisonment. One would assume that it would not be assumed that this would only apply to claimants who have a large amount of money, but also everyone else.
And all this despite the fact that anyone who wants to find the identity of the celebrity, or of the married actor who slept with a prostitute and has taken out a similar injunction against the British press, can easily do so.

Delivering the court's judgment, Lord Mance did at least say:
“It is different if the story has some bearing on the performance of a public office or the correction of a misleading public impression cultivated by the person involved."
But there are those who question even that.

Over on Liberal Democrat Voice, Caron Lindsay has argued that there is "nothing of public interest in lurid headlines about SNP MPs".

I find this creeping doctrine that everything printed in a newspaper must be "in the public interest" rather sinister.

Who decides what is in the public interest? Somewhere in the shadows I detect the presence of a committee of the great and good - a retired cabinet minister, the headmistress of a leading public school, a celebrity chef and Dr Evan Harris - deciding what we should and should not be allowed to know.

At its lowest, the argument against the spread of this public interest argument is that laughing at the follies of rich and powerful has always been one of the consolations of the poor and weak.

At its highest it is that character matters immensely in politics. To many voters it is more important than the parties' detailed policy platforms, and I am not sure those voters are mistaken.

The spread of privacy law in recent years has been very much a judge-led initiative with little involvement from parliament. As John Hemmings says, it is time the politicians stepped in and set sensible limits on it.