Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Emily Fermor chosen by Maidstone and the Weald Lib Dems

Kent Online reports that Emily Fermor is the new Liberal Democrat PPC for Maidstone and the Weald.

That was the seat at which the party threw a lot of money last time round, perhaps because the candidate, Jasper Gerard, had written an admiring book about Nick Clegg.

Emily Fermor was the campaign organiser then and takes over from Gerard, who is now the party's head of press.

She told Kent Online:
"I am incredibly proud to have been selected as the candidate in my home town. It would be a huge honour to represent the people of Maidstone. 
"I am proud of our County Town and I believe we need a local person representing us, with energy, enthusiasm and a commitment to the area – something we have not had for a number of years.
"We have a new army of committed activists who will be joining me on the doorstep, making the case for a strong local campaigner who will fight for Maidstone and The Weald."

When did small boys stop refighting the Second World War?

Phil Aisthorpe writes on Liberal Democrat Voice:
The EU referendum was decided by the baby boomers, the generation to which I belong and a generation that has spent a lifetime romanticising about a conflict in which it had little or no involvement. I spent my boyhood immersed in the glory of World War II.
'Baby boomer" is now used too widely and I am not sure I see cause and effect here.

But it is true that in the 1960s I spent many primary school playtimes refighting Word War II. Whenever we played war we knew the enemy was the Germans.

That is certainly not the case now. Schools are not keen on playing war and I even here stories of ones that are not that keen on playtime.

So when did things change?

Hunted (1952) and Portpatrick harbour

There is a story on the Guardian website today about the way Portpatrick harbour has been saved by the people of the village:
In Portpatrick, a local seaside village, tiers of pastel houses stretch down to a small harbour where boats are moored. The place is so picture-postcard pretty, it’s hard to imagine that the harbour was almost left to rot – and with it, the future of the village – until local residents raised enough money a year ago to buy it. 
As the closest port to Northern Ireland, Portpatrick was once the main crossing to Donegal. But over time the ocean smashed away two grand piers as well as Portpatrick's future as a transport hub. When the crossing moved to nearby Stranraer, sailor numbers dwindled. 
Villagers knew that to get them back, they needed to improve the harbour with modern moorings and improved toilet facilities while keeping its charm, or risk losing precious tourist revenue to competing harbours up and down the coast. 
The harbour's private owners, Portpatrick Harbour Ltd, had applied in 2007 to build a 57-berth marina and fix pontoons to the listed harbour floor. Councillors quashed the plans, saying it was “completely inappropriate for the conservation of the area”. 
Locals then looked for a way to bring the harbour into community ownership where it could be maintained and improved in keeping with the village.
The video below will tell you how they did it.

I though the location sounded familiar, and the photograph above shows why.

It is a still from the 1952 British film Hunted. It is an early Dirk Bogarde picture and is worth seeking out, not least for its use of long-vanished industrial landscapes.

Portpatrick harbour featured in the film and the photo shows the Dirk's young co-star Jon Whiteley there.

Shami Charkrabarti goes to Eton

The latest episode in the slide in Shami Charkrabarti's reputation came on Newsnight yesterday evening when Michael Crick put it to her that she had tried to get her son into Eton.

Her non-denial denial - she just said Crick had "spent too long reading the internet" or something like that - suggests the charge is true.

The story turns out to come from Heat Street a month ago:
A source has told us: "I took my son to Eton to sit the entrance exam a couple of summers ago and was very surprised to soo Shami Charkrabarti there accompanying her son. There is no question it was her. I had assumed Shami was so Left-Wing that Eton was possibly the most offensive four-letter word known to her, but obviously I was wrong."
Heat Street has tried to contact card-carrying Labour member and Corbyn ally Chakrabarti on several occasions to discuss this but she either isn't available or won't return calls.
I had assumed that Charkrabarti was a liberal, which makes her embrace of Corbyn and the regressive left all the sadder.

And she is, of course, free to send her son to school where she likes. It's just that politicians who urge egalitarianism on the voters without practising it themselves are always going to be problematic - see my recent post on the grammar school debate.

What this story reminds me of is one of the SWP activists at York when I was a student there. He was never seen without his donkey jacket and cut quite a figure at student union meetings.

Then someone recalled he had seen him in a suit and tie when they had been trying to get into the same Oxbridge college. We saw him differently after that,

Man bitten on penis by spider for second time

The judges had no hesitation in awarding Headline of the Day to the Evening Standard.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Foxfield Railway Autumn Gala 2016

Loads of industrial steam goodness to enjoy.

Read about The Foxfield Railway on its website. I first came across this line by accident in 1988.

Six of the Best 629

Alwyn Turner paints a portrait of Tom Watson - "an overfed Che Guevara".

"I started out drawing clear lines linking schoolmates to flatmates, Bullingdon buddies and policy wonks, but pretty soon exactly the same people started popping up in new guises — as fellow MPs, cabinet colleagues, party donors — and the lines started to veer into ever more deranged spirals as everyone turned out to be linked, several times over, to everyone else." Emily Hill on the rise and full of the Cameron chumocracy.

Ferdinand Mount reviews a new biography of Karl Marx: "By the end of his life, his was a name to strike terror into bourgeois hearts across Europe, which gave him no little satisfaction. Yet at his funeral in Highgate Cemetery there were only eleven mourners."

In 2013 the poet Geoffrey Hill, who died earlier this year, was interviewed by Sameer Rahim.

"As soon as I saw those huge rust-coloured bridges stretching across the Tyne I knew this was Jack’s manor. Tough, ruthless and uncompromising." Mike Hodges talks to Adam Scovell about Get Carter.

John Fleming tells the sad story of the fallen Blue Peter presenter Christopher Trace.

Nick Clegg to host HIGNFY on 7 October

Nick Clegg is to guest host Have I Got News for You, reports the Radio Times. He will be in the chair when the show returns for a new season on Friday 7 October.

The Chortle website adds:
Last year, Clegg appeared on The Last Leg with Josh Widdicombe, Adam Hills and Alex Brooker and held his own, despite some embarrassing questioning. 
And he is also due to appear in Dave's new political show Unspun with Matt Forde.
I don't know if this is a shot at political redemption or being done with an eye to a media career after Nick leaves parliament, but I wish him well.

HIGNFY, for me, long ago passed from being the sort of show you stay in to watch to being one you catch if it is on.

In fact, it is now in the "Is that still being made?" category.

As David Waywell once observed:
Brass Eye ran for seven episodes, causing more merry hell during that time than HIGNFY has caused in 25 years. Longevity can imply toothlessness or, worse, becoming part of the establishment.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Blow-Up, pareidolia and the grassy knoll

This is the latter part of the bewitching key sequence of Blow-Up. David Hemmings' unnamed photographer thinks he has spotted something suspicious in a photograph he has just taken.

He enlarges a detail again and again until he reveals a murder taking place, then goes to the park and duly finds a body.

On his return to the studio he finds the enlargements have been stolen, except for the very last. Shorn of its context, it reveals little more than a patter of light and shadows.

When he returns to the park for a second time the body has vanished.

In recent days I have been reading about the assassination of President Kennedy and it has made me think of Blow-Up.

Some of those who are dissatisfied with the official account that JFK was assassinated by a lone gunman - Lee Harvey Oswald - have seized upon a photograph taken at the moment the President received the fatal shot.

They claim that if the background is blown up at the right point it reveals the real assassin** ('Badge Man') on the famous grassy knoll. Some claim to be able to detect two or even three figures there.

I can now make out Badge Man, but only because I have seen so many fanciful renderings of that enlargement. In reality it reveals no more than David Hemmings remaining image. Blame pareidolia.

Once you go down the rabbit hold of conspiracy theories on JFK, there is now way back.

The Zapruder film (taken by a bystander and revealing the effect of the two shots that hit the President) was once taken as proof of a conspiracy. Today you will find many sites telling you it is part of that conspiracy - an obvious forgery made to cover the truth.

There mysteries that puzzle me about the affair. Could Oswald really have got from his sixth-floor perch to the first floor*** without anyone seeing him on the stairs in the short space of time available?

And why did the US authorities make so little of Oswald's connections with the Soviet Union and Cuba?

But stay away from the grassy knoll. That way lies madness.

* JFK's shooting is just about my first memory - I was three and just knew that something very grown up and important had happened.

** This links to a video that examines this claim. It does not show the short that killed JFK, which you can see online in the Zapruder film. We think we know all about violence in the cinema, but it is still hugely shocking to see a man shot in the head for real.

*** In British terms he had to get from fifth floor to the ground floor.

Alan Turing and Emlyn Hooson

On Friday BBC News reported that court files recording details of Alan Turing's convictions for homosexual acts have been put on display at Chester Town Hall.

As Helen Pickin-Jones, chair of Chester Pride, says in the BBC report:
"Just a few simple lines of text reveal the appalling treatment of one of our national heroes."
One of the documents displayed in Chester shows the mathematician admitted "acts of gross indecency" at a trial there in 1952.

Turing was working at the University of Manchester when he was arrested for having a relationship with 19-year-old Arnold Murray at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK.

The version of it on the BBC site has been cropped, but if you look at the full version on the Alan Turing: The Enigma website an interesting fact emerges.

Arnold Murray's defence counsel was E. Hooson. That was Emlyn Hooson, who went on to be Liberal MP for Montgomery between 1962 and 1979.

He appears to have defended his man by trying to place the blame on Turing. Dark days.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Kate Nash: Foundations

If pop paints an accurate picture of youth culture, we have come a long way from "I Want to Hold Your Hand".

Foundations was kept from the top of the singles chart by Rihanna and her silly Umbrella in 2007.

Celebrating 50 years of Joe Orton's Loot in Leicester

I spent today at the New Walk museum and art gallery in Leicester for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Joe Orton's play Loot.

The play had first gone on a provincial tour with an extraordinary cast - Kenneth Williams, Duncan Mcrae, Ian McShane, Geraldine McEwan - but had not pleased its audiences and been beset by constant rewrites in an attempt to put things right.

Williams was a friend of Orton, but it is hard to see how he could ever have made a suitable Inspector Truscott.

Loot was rescued by a new production in Manchester and two veterans of it were in Leicester today. They were its director Braham Murray and cast member Michael Elwyn.

Murray had worked closely with Orton to reshape and rewrite they play and described him as a "shy, sweet man".

The Truscott in that production was Julian Chagrin, and when I chatted to them afterwards they were suitably impressed that I knew he had been one of the tennis players in Blow-Up. (I did not reveal my debt to Nicholas Whyte's enthusiasm  the Double Deckers, which led  me to that knowledge.)

Jake Arnott, whose novels I have enjoyed, talked about the background to Loot and in particular the figure of Harold Challenor, the police officer who inspired Truscott.

But the star of the day was Joe Orton's sister. Leonie Orton Barnett. She read from his letters, including one attacking Loot by his creation Edna Welthorpe.

She is about to publish her own story of gaining an education and becoming her brother's champion under the suitably Ortonesque title I Had It In Me.

The cover, featuring a photograph of her as a young woman, looks like a lost Smiths' single. Which is appropriate, as Morrissey is one of many later artists who have acknowledged Joe Orton's influence.

A mention, too, for Bernard Greaves, the co-author of that Liberal classic The Theory and Practice of Community Politics. I did not get a chance to speak to him, but he spoke movingly of the experience of being gay in the era of Loot.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Leicestershire county councillor leaves Labour after Jeremy Corbyn's re-election

One of the more notable names to have left the Labour Party today is the Leicestershire county councillor Leon Spence.

He has announced his decision in an article for Huffngton Post:
No one has to remain a member of Labour, should you disagree with the path the party is taking any member has the right to stop their support. Many decent Labour members did just that under Tony Blair, many others will take the same decision now. 
The time, for me at least, to stop supporting the party has come with the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn. 
I’ve never disliked Jeremy Corbyn, and although I deeply dislike some of the company that he keeps he seems a personable guy, but I firmly do not agree with the direction that he has taken Labour. 
I don’t like Jeremy’s approach to public services where dogma seems far more important than solutions, I don’t like his approach to defence or Britain’s position in the world, I don’t for one second believe he understands what motivates ordinary, hardworking people in communities like mine. 
I can’t ever see Jeremy as a Prime Minister leading our country in tough negotiations or at times of threat.
I wish all the people leaving Labour well, whether they decide to join the Liberal Democrats or not.

It must be an awful wrench to leave a party that has been an important part of your identity.

Trivial Fact of the Day with Petula Clark

As she revealed on Danny Baker's show last Saturday, Petula Clark sang on the Plastic Ono Band's 'Give Peace a Chance'.

You can read how it cane about in an old Guardian piece.

Petula Clark rang me once, you know.

Music in Leicester: A slideshow using a new Getty Images feature

Getty Images has introduced a new feature. You can choose five images, turn them into a slideshow and embed it in your blog.

So, to see if it works, here are five photographs of musicians in Leicester...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Disused railways stations in Sheffield

I remember Brightside from my journeys to and from York as a student. It survived until 1995, as did the nearby Attercliffe Road (which was a different station from the Attercliffe shown here).

In my student days too, the train from Sheffield to Penistone and Huddersfield ran through the disused Victoria station and up the Don Valley.

You tell young folk now and they won't believe you.

Six of the Best 628

The Bog
"There are those who dislike the term Left. I am not one. It is a short hand for those dissatisfied with the status quo. For a season it came, somewhat perversely, to mean political ideas that championed state ownership and regulation." Iain Brodie Brown attended the Social Liberal Forum's Brighton fringe meeting on the realignment of the left.

Dirk Singer offers two questions you should ask Labour MPs who suddenly oppose freedom of movement.

Donald Trump is the second coming of Joseph McCarthy, says Jelani Cobb.

"'Don’t worry, I’ll be back by lunch.' Those were the last words of a Scottish teacher who was murdered at Auschwitz for protecting Jewish schoolgirls, as revealed by the students who watched her being taken away to her death." Esther Addley tells the story of Jane Haining.

Michaelangelo Matos reviews '1966: The Year the Decade Exploded' by Jon Savage and 'Never a Dull Moment: 1971 - The Year That Rock Exploded' by David Hepworth.

Olly Parry-Jones visits The Bog. It's an abandoned mining village. In Shropshire.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Musical Ruth: The video

You've seen her in my photographs. Now enjoy her video.

Incidentally, her appearance on Britain's Got Talent shows what a sham that programme is. Ruth is no wannabee but an experienced artist.

Book her here.

Muff Winwood to be crowned an A&R icon

Good news for Spencer Davis Group enthusiasts from Music Business Worldwide:
Mervyn ‘Muff’ Winwood will receive the prestigious A&R Icon gong at The A&R Awards in association with Abbey Road Studios on the evening of Wednesday, November 2. 
The prize recognises ‘a remarkable individual whose momentous professional feats continue to inspire the UK A&R community’ – a description which perfectly suits the former CBS, Sony Music and Island Records exec.
Muff Winwood, the bass player with the Spencers and Steve's older brother, went on to have a great career on the other side of the microphone.

The website quotes a couple of tributes to him.

Elton John says:
“Muff Winwood is without doubt one of the greatest A&R men in the history of British music. 
“He introduced me and millions of others to countless new talent. He was SO supportive of his acts. 
“He was unbelievably helpful to me and Bernie in our early days which was invaluable and something I will never forget.”
And Mark Knopfler says:
“Muff was hard-working, straightforward and easy to work with and the album was recorded and mixed inside three weeks. 
“I can still hear his Birmingham accent coming over the talk back after a take: ‘If we can’t make a record out of that we’re all custards.’ I still use that one now. 
“Congratulations on the award, Muff, and thank you for everything you’ve done for so many in music.”
All of which is a good excuse to listen to this...

A video of Tim Farron's speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference

The other day I quoted from Tim Farron's speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference.

Here is a video of the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Iain Sinclair on William Blake's radicalism

Iain Sinclair explores the historical background to William Blake's radical writings.

This video was filmed at Vauxhall in 2014.

Six of the Best 627

Peter Carrol reviews Ed Balls' memoirs.

"Lib Dem Glee Club is without a doubt, the weirdest event in British politics." Mikey Smith of the Daily Mirror ventures into the belly of the beast.

Roger Hermiston says the Liberal Democrats ignore one of their more recent heroes: Sir Archibald Sinclair. "Ultimately his legacy might well be, like Clegg, that he led the Liberals on a downward electoral path, but his is a compelling story, and there is much to chew over and admire in his years at the top of British political life."

Pop culture has worn out Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, explains Nick Murray.

Mark Cunliffe remembers Thick as Thieves, a 1974 TV sit com starring Bob Hoskins and John Thaw.

"There was always a hint of the West Country lumberjack to Trescothick's batting, defined by hefty forearms, scythes through the off side and a stubborn reticence to move his feet. But his runs underpinned England's progress to their 2005 summit." Tim Wigmore celebrates Marcus Trescothick.

Lethal 4-hour-erection-causing spiders spill out of bunch of ASDA bananas

Thanks to a nomination from a reader, The Register wins out Headline of the Day Award.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Liz Leffman is the Lib Dem candidate for the Witney by-election

The BBC's Peter Henley has just tweeted that Liz Leffman, who fought the seat at the 2005 general election, is to be the Liberal Democrat candidate at next month's by-election.

You can read all about Liz on the party website.

More photographs from Arts Fresco 2016

Arts Fresco wasn't just Musical Ruth, so here are some more photographs from the day.

I even indulged in some audience participation with The Notional Trust.

Tim Farron's speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference today

The party website has the full text of Tim Farron's speech:
So I was in what you might call a reflective mood when I began the meeting. 
There were perhaps 70 people there. Most of them had voted to leave. And most of them pretty much fitted my demographic. 
They weren’t mostly die-hards. I reckon, honestly, that three quarters of them could have been persuaded to vote Remain up until about two or three weeks out. 
One guy said that the clincher for him was George Osborne’s ‘punishment budget’. 
And when he said that, pretty much the whole room chipped in and agreed with him. 
There was near universal acknowledgement that this had been the pivotal moment. 
Here was this guy, George Osborne, who they didn’t really like. 
And who they felt didn’t really like them. 
And he’d appeared on the telly bullying them into doing something they weren’t sure they wanted to do. 
And they reacted.
Later. Watch the video here.

The "right to be forgotten" spreads its tentacles

It's a while since I wrote about the "right to be forgotten" - you can find my earlier posts on the subject by following that link.

Today's Guardian carries a report that reminds us how it came about and reveals that the courts are increasing its reach:
Ever since the European court ordered Google to delist a 16-year-old article about a bankruptcy, web watchers have wondered how the ‘right to be forgotten’ would evolve. 
Mario Costeja González’s ‘Data and Goliath’ victory in 2014 in Spain has meant that human concepts of fairness are now applied to Google Search, which is subject to European data protection laws. 
But there are now worrying new signs from Europe that the right is being applied directly against news websites and not just search engines.
The author, Athalie Matthews, concludes:
Consequently, in Italy at least, ‘the right to be forgotten’ now has a new meaning: the right to remove inconvenient journalism from archives after two years. 
This surely cannot be right. If it was, everyone would demand deletions from news websites and online journalism would be decimated.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Lord Bonkers' foreword to the new Liberator songbook

With the Glee Club about to get underway at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton, it is time to share this with you...

Bonkers Hall
Tel. Rutland 7

Are we downhearted, fellow Liberal Democrats? No we are not!

Every day brings news of fresh triumphs. Why, only last week I read on Liberal Democrat Voice that we had come second in a parish council election in Cropwell Bishop.

With our clear stance on Europe – exemplified by that splendid new group ‘I’m As Much In Favour Of The EU As The Next Man But Did You See The Referendum Result In My Constituency?’ – I have no doubt that we shall return to government before we grow much older.

So we have good reason to sing tonight.

Just look at the pitiful opposition we face. The prime minister resembles the ink monitor in a particularly savage girls’ grammar school, while her chancellor must be the most insignificant figure to occupy 11 Downing Street since… What was the fellow’s name?

Someone asked me the other day what I thought of Brexit. I replied that I had always found his plays Terribly Dull. All that stuff about peasants and then an actor shouts at you just as you are dozing off.

Now it seems we need three ministers to deal with the fellow. I can’t see the point myself, but if he is so important why put the three stooges in charge?

And then there is the Labour Party. Can you see Corbyn and ‘Semtex’ McDonnell carrying Middle England?

I cannot either. Come to that, I can’t even see them carrying their own MPs.

So be of good cheer, fellow Liberal Democrats, and sing your hearts out.

The book before you contains all the songs you need to enjoy the Glee Club – many of them printed in a different order from last year’s edition.

The only sour note is the omission of that popular Rutland anthem ‘Hurrah for Lord Bonkers’, which is traditionally sung by the Well-Behaved Orphans when they are brought to St Asquith’s to return thanks to their benefactor.

The first verse runs:
"Hurrah for Lord Bonkers,
Who feeds us on gruel;
He’s ever so jolly
And not at all cruel."
Still, I suppose it will have to do.

Big Brother is watching you - but you don't take any notice

Remember this poster? I came across it on a bright January day this year when I visited Rothwell.

I thought of it when I read this post on the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog:
Imagine there was an honesty box in your coffee room at work, do you think it would make any difference to your behaviour if there was poster of staring eyes on the wall? 
A hugely influential study published in 2006 suggested that it would – that feeling watched, even by a picture of eyes rather than an actual person, increases people’s honesty. In fact, in the study, donations to the box were an average three-fold larger in the presence of an eye poster rather than a picture of flowers. 
The finding even inspired the West Midlands Police in the UK to launch a poster campaign featuring staring eyes and the strapline “We’ve got our eyes on criminals”.
I suspect this study also inspired the poster I photographed in Rothwell.

Trouble is, attempts to replicate the 2006 study have failed. Not only that. As the Research Digest says:
two meta-analyses combined the data from over 50 studies involving collectively tens of thousands of participants and found no evidence overall that watching eyes boost people’s generosity.
So not only was that poster distasteful in its use of Big Brother imagery, it may well have beeen ineffective at changing behaviour too.

Revd J. P. Martin, the Uncle Books and Quentin Blake

An exhibition and conference that celebrate the Revd J.P. Martin's Uncle books are to be held next month at the New Room, The Horsefair, Bristol.

The exhibition will run from 7 to 22 October. It will explore the links between Methodism and publishing in Bristol, celebrate the Uncle books and mark the achievements of the Martin/Currey family, particularly the involvement of James Currey in the African Writers Series.

The theme ‘Writing and Publishing in Bristol’ will run through both the exhibition and a free one-day conference on Saturday 15 October.

Further details can be found on the New Room website.

I am pleased to see these events being held. The other day I came across a new book on Quentin Blake that does not even mention Uncle.

Nicola Horlick jins the Liberal Democrats over Brexit

Judging by the stats for this blog, there is a hunger among my readers for good news about the Liberal Democrats.

So try this story from the Evening Standard for size:
City “superwoman” Nicola Horlick today backed the Liberal Democrats to lead the battle against Brexit and launched a stinging attack on Cabinet minister Liam Fox. 
The financier and mother-of-six has previously shied away from taking sides in the political arena. 
But she says she was stung into speaking out after a “barrage” of abuse on Twitter for warning of the perils of Britain quitting the EU.
The paper does not say she has joined the party, but she could not be clearer in her support:
"I urge all who voted Remain to re-kindle the passion of the protests that followed the vote ... For those who want us to stay in Europe and, at the very least, in the single market, the Liberal Democrats are the obvious choice."
I also like her:
"I find it hard to understand how anyone who cares about Britain’s economic prosperity could remain a Tory."
Later. Nicola Horlick has joined the Liberal Democrats.