Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Alan Duncan, the Tory MP for Rutland and Melton, got rather carried away in his opposition to the plans for more congestion charging in the leaked Liberal Democrat pre-manifesto:

"I am very concerned about these leaked proposals which would decimate trade and local businesses across Rutland."

Read the full story here.

Not just in Shropshire

A few weeks ago the Guardian carried a piece on a campaign against California's 'three strikes and you're out' law.

Among the prisoners whose cases are highlighted are:

Richard Morgan, 25 years for shoplifting a baseball glove;

Herman Clifford Smith, 25 years for trying to cash a forged cheque for $193;

Gilbert Musgrave, 25 years for possession of a stolen video recorder;

George Anderson, 25 years for filing a false driving licence application;

Johnny Quirino, 25 years for stealing razor blades;

Eric Simmons, 25 years for possessing three stolen ceiling fans.

There are more horror stories in this article from Time.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Lunch interval

David Milliband is growing up. He thinks it would be a good idea if pupils remained in school during the lunch break.

For what it is worth, I agree with him. These sort of views come to all of us in the end. At some point in your thirties you catch yourself thinking that a group of children look nice and smart in their uniforms, and it is all downhill from there.

I am alarmed, though, by what Milliband (Lord Bonkers writes: the son of my old friend Sir Ralph Millipede) thinks those pupils should be doing at lunchtime. He commended arrangements at Swanlea School in London where there is "a lunchtime programme of activities, including sporting activities, language and literacy classes and mentoring from local business people".

This is a reminder that socialism - at least Milliband's middle-class variety - is based upon fear of the working class and the young. Unless they are taught and mentored half to death, they will fall into crime and the economy will collapse.

Save our orchards

A depressing item from the Guardian (come to that, most items from the Guardian...).

So much green discourse is busy dealing with "saving the planet" that it does not notice the loss of valuable landscapes and habitats around us. I would happily Kick All Agricultural Subsidies, but if we have to have them they should at least be directed towards farming that improves the environment.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

British justice

Yes this is really is about Shropshire, England. From the Shropshire Star:

A Shropshire man who was jailed for life after stealing T-shirts from a shop has had his sentence overturned on appeal in London.

More on public space

An essay on the CABE report after my own heart. It is written by Josie Appleton on the Spiked website.

House Points

I have just posted my latest House Points column.

"Cavanagh has much in common with this column. A reviewer described him as a contrarian: 'one who makes great play with contradictions in the conventional wisdom, does not put forward a coherent alternative, but nonetheless makes authoritative-sounding pronouncements on public policy.' That’s House Points!

That's enough snuggery (Ed.)

James Graham points us towards a particularly good example.

I have also added a neat summation of the case against snuggery in the Spectator on my other blog Serendib.

In theory the whole of the Spectator is available on its website if you register. I have tried to do so twice but have not had the necessary e-mail back. Raise your game, Boris.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Meanwhile in the desert...

I'm gonna get you in my tent tent tent tent tent
Where we can both experiment ment ment ment ment

With acknowledgement to Neil Innes and the BBC.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Why snuggery matters

Today's Guardian reports:

"Twitchy local authorities, obsessed with safety and frightened of compensation claims, are turning urban areas into 'fun-free, soulless' spaces, says a campaign launched today.

Cabe, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, says local councils are scared of litigation and fearful of hidden dangers lurking in old trees, boating lakes, adventure playgrounds, markets, water features and public art."

You can read more about the campaign in Cabe's press release and their Manifesto for Better Public Space.

The Guardian also covers a report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which claims that "choking traffic, new superstores and bland new buildings are threatening England's market towns".

The juxtaposition of these two stories highlights the way that the professional left and corporate right both act to erode the richness and variety of public space and, it might be added, our private lives. Together they foster a homogeneity that is the natural enemy of all good Liberals.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

More snuggery

From the Daily Mail via India:

"I think banning ball games in the playground is a sensible idea. These days everybody is looking for someone to blame so if you don't take due care with young people you have to face irate parents."

And people wonder why children are fat and you can't get your chimney swept!

Monday, March 22, 2004


In my House Points column for 30 January I invented a new word - "snuggery" - defined as an exaggerated concern for safety.

It was named after a Hampshire vicar, the Revd David Snuggs, who had an ancient yew in his churchyard cut down in case paedophiles hid in its branches and pounced on the choirboys. (I paraphrase.)

The latest example of snuggery comes from Blackburn, where what the BBC website calls "swimming pool chiefs" have banned the backstroke because it is too dangerous.

Lord Bonkers: "It could be me, couldn't it?"

If I have got the hang of Blogger, a cartoon of the old brute by Howard Woodall will appear here.

Lord Bonkers' Diary

I have just posted Lord Bonkers' latest diary on his website.

Please click here and then on "The Latest Diary" when you get there.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Mad world, part 94

Fears sparked by new Jesus movie

Shropshire movie-goers are to be offered counselling sessions amid fears that they will be emotionally scarred by a controversial new film about the crucifixion of Jesus.

Church leaders are setting up a telephone helpline for people who complain of being distressed by Mel Gibson's graphic new movie, The Passion Of The Christ.

A waste of time

Discuss the connection between these two stories:

Charles may be quizzed in Diana probe

Britain's top policeman has indicated that he might interview Prince Charles as part of his investigation into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens said he hoped to conclude the investigation into the circumstances surrounding Diana's death by the end of this year.

Europe too slow on terror, says Sir John

Just days after he warned that an attack by extremists on the UK was "inevitable", Sir John Stevens said the European response to the terrorist threat had been too slow.

House Points

I have just posted my latest House Points column from Liberal Democrat News.

"Viewed in this light, the Palace of Westminster resembles a grotesque Victorian mill full of seething boilers, flailing machinery and ragged children dodging the wheels. The raw material of our national life is brought up the Thames on barges, then hammered, stamped and rolled until neatly packaged facts emerge at the far end."

Thursday, March 18, 2004

So farewell then Barrie Blower

The head of Walsall Hospitals NHS Trust has resigned after saying that agency nurses "kill more people than they bloody save".

Leave aside the minor technicality that he is wrong - at least I hope he is - and look at the arguments of those who were outraged by him. They run something like this.

Nurses are wonderful people who can do no wrong.

Therefore anyone who questions this is wicked.

Therefore we need not listen to him.

Therefore nurses are wonderful people who can do no wrong.

You will often see this form of argument employed when people question the power of professionals.

Saxon is the new Roman

These days I fall asleep in front of The Time Team. This is the second sign that you are getting old. (The first is when you start watching The Time Team, and the third is when they come round and dig you up.)

What I have seen of the programme suggests the old idea that the Ancient Britons were driven westwards by wave upon wave of invaders from mainland Europe is simply wrong. On the whole, people stayed put and adopted the mode of living of their overlords, be they Roman or Saxon.

Support for this revisionist view comes from the excavation of a Medieval cemetery in Yorkshire reported on the BBC website.

It's always nice to see your teachers proved wrong, and those of us who revel in a multicultural Britain will have to stop using the "we have always been a nation of immigrants" argument.

Today's Grauniad

I'm not among Simon Hoggart's greatest fans. Mostly it's jealousy, but I do find him a little too keen on easy targets. I suspect he would enjoy an afternoon shooting fish in a barrel or taking penalties with no goalkeeper there.

All that said, this morning's sketch on David Blunkett's dog and Michael Howard's reply to the Budget speech is laugh-out-loud funny.

Elsewhere in the paper Zoe Williams, proves with her first nine words that she is not worth reading any further: "I didn't even know there was a Mother's Union..."

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

There are no panthers in Leicestershi...

I am worried about one of my favourite websites: Leicestershire and Rutland Panther Watch.

It carries a log of sightings of big cats in the two counties, but this has not been updated since July last year.

You don't think the Webmaster has been eaten, do you?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Monday, March 15, 2004

A belated comment on this week's cricket

C. L. R. James, Peter Tosh, V. S. Naipaul: Your boys took a hellllll of a beating!

Silence: golden or tarnished?

A three-minute silence has been held across the UK and European Union for those killed by the Madrid train bombs, reports the BBC.

Terrible as the events in Madrid were, it is worth asking why it was three minutes. There used to be a well-established convention that the dead of the two world wars were accorded two minutes and anyone else got one.

As Patrick West says in this interview (when he can get a word in edgeways):

"He notes that the traditional minute's silence is now becoming 'two minutes, even three and occasionally 10'. 'They are getting longer and we are having more of them, because we want to be seen to care.' He notes that where there was one minute's silence across much of America in 1912 for those who died on the Titanic, EU countries observed three minutes' silence for the victims of 9/11 in 2001, while friends of the murdered British schoolgirl Milly Dowler gathered for a five-minute silence in her memory in 2002. 'Does this mean the 9/11 disaster was three times as bad as the Titanic disaster', he asks, 'or that the horrible death of an innocent girl was five times as tragic?'.

For West, such public displays of grief do not show that we have become more altruistic, but more selfish. The deaths of celebrities and strangers 'serve as an opportunity to (in)articulate our own unhappiness, and, by doing so in public, to form new social ties to replace those that have disappeared'. At a time when 'binding institutions such as the Church, marriage, the family and the nation have withered', says West, we seek new outlets for public connection."

It is also interesting that so many football matches now begin with a minute's silence. This honour used to be reserved for long-retired heroes; now it is seems to take place more often than not. It is as though football fans have to constantly given opportunities to show that they are not so bad really. "The silence was impeccably observed."

It is in the same spirit as the governors of open Borstals used to send their lads out to work in the community.

New link

I have just added a new link to Lord Bonkers' links page.

I am not sure I understand The Midnight Plumbers, but they have kindly linked to me.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Antidepressant medication

Richard Brook, The chief executive of Mind, the mental health charity, has resigned from a review of modern antidepressant drugs, accusing the British medicines regulatory body of negligence reports the Guardian.

His resignation came in protest at what he considered a cover-up by the regulators, after months of pressure on him not to reveal the review's findings that Seroxat has for years been prescribed by doctors in an unsafe dose and that the regulators had the evidence in their possession for more than 10 years.

He was warned in a letter last Monday from the MHRA that he could risk prosecution under the Medicines Act 1968, which protects the commercial confidentiality of information from drug trials.

But Lord Warner, the health minister, to whom Mr Brook had expressed his concerns, intervened, and on Thursday the CSM put out a "reminder" to all doctors that they should prescribe Seroxat only at the recommended dose, which is 20mg. Last year 17,000 people were put on a higher dose by their doctors, running the risk of increased side-effects, which some have alleged include agitation and thoughts of violence and suicide.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Spectator sports

Today's Spectator comes with a little booklet of quotations from its regular columnists. There is an awful lot of Boris Johnson - a writer better taken in small doses - and too much Deborah Ross. But then almost any amount of Deborah Ross is too much.

Editor's note: Deborah Ross was once rude about Jonathan Calder's creation Whittington.

I have posted some of the better quotations (from Frank Johnson, Rod Liddle and Matthew Parris) on my other blog Serendib ("Much loved, little visited"), but something in today's magazine also deserves preservation.

Simon Jenkins writes: "Mr Blair's continued pretence that he was really helping the UN is like a lynch mob claiming to 'be helping the judge'."

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Britain's oldest Liberal Democrat?

Lib Dems get new recruit aged 104

One of Mid Wales' oldest residents swapped her birthday party for a political party when she became the oldest Liberal Democrat in Britain reports the Shropshire Star.

At the grand old age of 104, Newtown resident Anita Taylor decided to kick-start a career in politics.

Lembit Opik, Montgomeryshire MP and Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, visited Ms Taylor this week to help mark her milestone birthday and was surprised to come away with a new party member.

"Anita Taylor joined the Liberal Democrats on Sunday on her 104th birthday. I was at her party, and now she's in ours.

"I believe she is the oldest Liberal Democrat in Britain," he said.

Lord Bonkers writes: Nonsense!