Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Liberal Democrat workers needed in Corby

A reminder that Jill Hope's by-election headquarters can be found at 2a Ryder Court, Saxon Way East, Corby, Northamptonshire NN18 9NX

The HQ is open between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days a week. If you go along later tomorrow afternoon, rumour has it that you may meet a deputy prime minister.


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CCTV makes people more anxious

After yesterday's suggestion that turning off street lights late at night cuts crime, here is another possibly counterintuitive idea: CCTV increases people's sense of anxiety.

In today's Guardian Anna Minton writes about a study she carried out on a Peabody Trust housing estate in central London:
What we found independently was that, although increased security, and in particular CCTV, was often very popular with residents, it did not necessarily lead to feelings of increased safety, with residents reporting that the presence of CCTV could instead increase anxiety. 
Security measures including gates and internal doors elicited a similar response, with residents illustrating that "defensible space" can increase fear of strangers. "Because of the doors, if you see someone you don't know, there is an element of 'Who is this?'" one resident commented. 
A practitioner added: "The more you secure a block or an estate, the more it gives a message that something is wrong with that estate." 
Incidents of actual crime were barely mentioned. By far the biggest problem was young people hanging around late into the night in the courtyard of the estate, which is surrounded by housing. On a number of occasions the play area had been vandalised. Because the young people in question were either residents or friends of residents, barring access to the estate through the use of gates did not seem sensible. 
The study suggested that high security was offered as a technical response to a complex social problem, which required a different kind of solution. It was clear that residents felt that "knowing people", whether it be caretakers, youth workers or each other, was the key to creating trust.

'Trick or treat' is a recent idea even in the USA

At this time of year it is traditional for Englishmen of a certain age to moan about the way that Halloween has supplanted Bonfire Night - here I am doing it in the Yorkshire Post a couple of years ago.

Part of this phenomenon is the way that 'trick or treat' has replaced 'penny for the guy'. But it turns out that 'trick or treat' has a shorter history than you might expect even in the US.

Here is Squidoo's Happy Halloween site:
Again, the first records of trick-or-treating or "guising" as it was sometimes called, came in 1895 with reports of immigrant children asking for money, fruit and sometimes sweets door-to-door on Halloween. 
However, the term trick-or-treat to describe the practice wasn't used until 1927 in Canada. In these times, trick-or-treating was only practiced by immigrants and didn't actually catch on with the majority of America until the late 1940s. 
It was with television shows like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and comic strips like Peanuts that brought trick-or-treating into a popular culture. Trick-or-treating only really became cemented as a widespread Halloween tradition in from around 1947 to 1952.

Lee Barron, Labour's PCC candidate for Northamptonshire, forced to withdraw

The Northampton Chronicle & Echo reports:
The Labour candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections has been forced to quit after it emerged he was arrested during a town centre disturbance 22 years ago. 
Football fan Lee Barron was watching England play in the World Cup in a Northampton pub in 1990 when trouble flared. A friend was arrested and Mr Barron, aged 19 at the time, tried to convince police he should be left with him rather than taken into custody. 
Instead, Mr Barron himself was arrested for wilful obstruction and received a £20 fine. 
The details came to light on Tuesday and, following high-level discussions within the Labour Party today, it was agreed he should step down.
The really bad news for Labour is that nominations have closed and it is too late to find a new candidate.

As Top of the Cops points out, the report goes on to offer contradictory accounts of when Barron's conviction came to light.

On the one hand:
The Chron understands Mr Barron informed the Labour Party of the incident before he was selected.
On the other:
A Labour spokesman said: “We are disappointed to learn from Lee today he has a previous conviction which bars him from standing as a candidate.
Top of the Cops also says that Barron's story about a recent change in the law meaning his conviction now disqualifies him when it would not have before is nonsense.

The stream of such withdrawals has done nothing to reconcile me to the idea of police and crime commissioners. There is even something a little sinister, a little James Anderton, about having someone in charge of the police who is supposed to be morally superior to the rest of us

Still, it is hard not to laugh. Here, thanks to Lib Dem Voice, is Labour spokesman Vernon Coaker speaking on the bill that brought them into existence:
Whatever our differences about the role of the police and crime commissioner, this debate is not about whether the model is right, but about the model working as well as it can and the position having credibility if it is set up. All of us would want that, whether we agree with the model or not. 
We cannot overestimate the importance that members of the public will put on the integrity of the person who is standing for police and crime commissioner; it would be inconceivable not to have the most stringent test for a PCC. I am pleased that the Minister agrees and has brought forward the amendment… 
As the Minister rightly said, that is an exceptionally tough condition of eligibility to stand, but it is right.

Book review: Haunted Harborough by Mike Eason

Haunted Harborough
Mike Eason
Gibson Publsihing, 2012, £9.99

Interpreting 'Harborough' widely, Mike Eason introduces us to more than 20 hauntings in the town, district and wider area.

Market Harborough's two major coaching inns - the Three Swans and the Angel - both have the supernatural guests you would expect, with the former perhaps being haunted by its former landlord John Fothergill, whom you certainly wouldn't want to run into on a dark night.

Fothergill's Bar, as it is now called, was a snug and our smoke-filled room when I was a councillor, but it has now been opened out. Perhaps the old monster is objecting to these structural alterations?

What was once the Manor House is also discussed, and the alleged haunting there has even made the national press. Certainly, when I worked at Golden Wonder and the Manor House formed part of its offices, there were several people there who could report uncanny experiences.

There is even supposed to be a ghost in one of the houses across the road from me here in Little Bowden - not somewhere to deliver Focus after dark.

I don't buy the more Derek Acorah elements of Haunted Harborough, but one of the chapters - indeed the very first chapter - is genuinely unsettling.

The Broadway is a street of council housing built between the wars. It was just about the first such street built in the town, and the houses must have seemed like palaces to the families who moved into them from the cramped yards behind the High Street. It was also a good source of Liberal votes in the days when I sat for Market Harborough North.

One house on the street is reported to be haunted by a 20th-century soldier and an old lady, and also to be home to poltergeist activity. These phenomena have been experienced by more than one family. You expect ghosts in creaky old coaching inns but it is harder to laugh them off when they occur in such prosaic surroundings.

I don't know if I believe in ghosts, but in cases like this there is clearly something very interesting going on that cries out for further investigation and explanation. So I would recommend this book to anyone from the Harborough area with the slightest historical or intellectual curiosity.

There is a Haunted Harborough website, but at present that is devoted to an earlier DVD which Mike Wason helped produced. So for the time being you should buy the book via Amazon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

1500 years of Leicester history



From the University of Leicester website:
Earlier this month, Leicester’s City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby visited the University to give a joint lecture on the city’s past 1,500 years with the Director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, Richard Buckley. 
It focused mainly upon the city’s first 1,500 years of existence and it finished at the end of the medieval period. In this lecture Richard talked about how recent research and discoveries have shed new light upon many interesting facets of the city, including the health and diet and lives of the population throughout history. 
Peter Soulsby then detailed the Connecting Leicester plans which aim to reconnect the historical areas of the city that have been separated by developments in the last century.
This is an audio recording only, but there are some good photographs of the city's archaeology and heritage included.

Why crime goes down when street lights are turned off

In the past I have supported the idea of turning off street lights in the deep of the night. This is not just because it saves money, but also because it may give us back the experience of seeing the awesome nighttime sky.

And in May I reported a counterintuitive claim from West Mercia Police that crime goes down when street lights are turned off.

But now there is a convincing theory as to why this is the case (found via Conservative Home).

Because This is Bristol quotes a city councillor, Ron Hardie:
“The police have told us they have not seen any notable increase in crime. 
“In fact, in some areas, there has been a reduction of 20 per cent. 
“I understand from the police that burglars don’t like it when it’s dark. 
“They like to be able to see their escape route and they like to ‘case’ a premises before they strike. 
“They would attract too much attention if they were using torches.”
Mr Hardie is a Labour councillor. His sensible attitude contrasts with his party's attempts nationally (encouraged by the Observer) to drum up a scare about street lights being switched off in the middle of the night.

In politics negative opinions outweigh positive ones

In my day job I issued a press release about a paper in the British Journal of Social Psychology. It had a Friday morning embargo, but I forgot to write about it here.

Fortunately it was picked up by several journalists, most notably Richard Alleyne in the Daily Telegraph:
Scientists have found that when it comes to politics and other issues we deeply care about, negative opinions carry more weight than positive ones. 
A phrase such as "I don't like Obama" is likely to be more strongly held than a positive view such as "I like Romney", the study by the British Journal of Social Psychology found. 
And once we hold a negative opinion it is only like to strengthen over time. This is in direct contrast to positive thoughts. 
The phenomenon could explain why politicians tend to have shelf life – and why when they are sliding out of favour, there is no going back.
The report (and my release) went on to quote the lead researcher, Dr George Bizer from New York's Union College:
"Our research showed that framing an opinion in terms of opposition yields stronger attitudes than does framing it in terms of support. 
"The most interesting point from our latest research is that this effect is actually stronger when people process the messages more deeply – when they are motivated and have been able to think about the issue. 
"But when people are not motivated and able, the effect goes away. 
"So, perhaps counter-intuitively, the people who care the most about the issues or candidates seem more likely to be affected by the bias."
I hope Dr Bizer is safe in the current New York emergency: it is rare to send a draft release to an academic and have it come back shorter.

The Catholic Church and Jimmy Savile

November 2011

October 2012

It seems churches are no better than political parties.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Six of the Best 290

Remember the campaign buttons that Cowley Street used to provide for Lib Dem bloggers? HQ stopped updating them ages ago and they became so out of date that I removed them from Liberal England. The good news is that Mark Pack has set up some new buttons, which I have now added here.

Daniel Furr on Liberal Democrat Voice says that secret courts are the final path towards the police state.

"Not only was it a matter of social justice, Ford wrote, but paying high wages was also smart business. When wages are low, uncertainty dogs the marketplace and growth is weak. But when pay is high and steady, Ford asserted, business is more secure because workers earn enough to become good customers. They can afford to buy Model Ts." Hedrick Smith in the New York Times writes of an era when capitalists had a better understanding of their own interests.

Brian Moore, the former England rugby international, has a notably sensible take on the Savile affair in the New Statesman.

In the Guardian, Martin Scorsese  tells Joe Queenan why restoring Powell and Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is part of his duty to cinema

Backwatersman visits Lincoln Cathedral and finds it embarrassed by its most famous son, Little St Hugh: "Nowadays, when a child is killed, their shrine takes the form of a spontaneous eruption of flowers and soft toys.  In Lincoln they did things more formally and erected an impressive four storey Gothic edifice over the box containing Hugh’s bones."

My first polling station was in York



This is St Paul's Church of England Primary School in York, according to its website an "exciting and forward thinking school" with "around 166.6 pupils".

I shall leave that mystery for the present, as my reason for writing about the school it housed the first polling station at which I took numbers of a Liberal candidate. He was the late Julian Cummins, and that contest took place as part of the local elections of 1980. We lost narrowly to Labour.

The school is still used as a polling station for Holgate Ward, serving the terraced streets behind York station, though I cannot swear that was what the ward was called all those years ago.

Something else has changed since then. The school used to nearer the railway lines and, when voters were sparse, I would climb the stairs to the first-floor window on the far left of the photograph and watch the trains go by.

No, for once I am not misremembering: the railway really was closer to the school in those days. Since I was a student activist some of the goods lines around York station have been lifted and houses have been built on the land.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Spencer Davis Group: Mean Woman Blues



Rather to my surprise, I find that I have never chosen this track as a Sunday music video.

It comes from a concert filmed for Finnish television early in 1967, when Steve Winwood was 18. He soon left the Spencer Davis Group to form Traffic, having tired of what was essentially copying Black American records.

But while he was with Spencer Davis, no British musician was better at this copying, as a singer, keyboard player or guitarist, than Winwood.

As to why I was surprised... Five tracks from that Finnish concert have been featured here before:


  • Dust My Blues
  • I'm a Man
  • Georgia On My Mind
  • Keep On Running
  • Together Till the End of Time
  • Headline of the Day visits Rutland

    The Rutland Times does hard news:

    Avenue of yew trees suffers 
infestation of voles

    Saturday, October 27, 2012

    Six of the Best 289

    Paedophilia at the BBC? Nothing new, says Andrew O'Hagan in an alarming essay for the London Review of Books.

    Unless workers are encouraged to speak up, we will continue to see people turning a blind eye to wrongdoing in the workplace, argues Cathy James on the British Politics and Policy at LSE blog.

    "When McDonald's execs first struck up their lucrative business partnership with the Coca-Cola Company in 1955, they were thinking small—literally. At the time, the only size of the beverage available for purchase was a measly 7-ounce cup. But by 1994, America's classic burger joint was offering a fountain drink size  six times  bigger." Azeen Ghorayshi gives the background to current moves to limit the size of soft drink servings on AlterNet.

    Milo Yiannopoulos on The Kernel says there’s as much money to be made from tagging and blocking pornography as there is from making it, if a new wave of entrepreneurs and lobbyists is anything to go by.

    Wartime Housewife has a seasonal recipe for chestnut and bacon soup.

    "A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to visit this pair of old estate cottages hidden deep in a wood in Buckinghamshire. It's collapsing. There are trees growing through the roof. It has no services. It's amazingly beautiful, but also quite scary." See the photograph on Old Churches are Cool.

    Friday, October 26, 2012

    The poet W.T. Nettlefold

    When I was a teenager - I would guess this was in 1977 - my mother and I went to visit her cousin and aunt who lived close to one another in Bexleyheath. Also present at the lunch was a neighbour of theirs called Bill Nettlefold.

    He turned out to have been a poet as a young man and to have moved in London literary circles. After serving in World War II he had taken up a respectable career in the civil service. He had recently retired from that and, as I recall, had lost his wife too.

    We got on well and after lunch, to escape the family for a while, I went back to his house for a cup of tea and to talk about writers. It was heaven for a bookish sixth former who was just discovering the figures he had met.

    I can recall two of his stories. He used to go drinking with Dylan Thomas and Thomas never bought his round. And he had once sent some poems to Orwell at Tribune, but Orwell never replied.

    He also said that he was a Nettlefold as in Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds, but that none of the family money had come down to him.

    Years later I bought a copy of Robin Skelton's Penguin anthology Poetry of the Thirties. It has an introduction in which Skelton discusses the movements and controversies of the decade.

    And one point he talks about the sense of betrayal that many felt when T.S. Eliot, seen as the leading Modernist, turned to religion and Conservatism.

    Skelton writes:
    Moreover, behind the jokes there was often, one feels, real shame, real anger, as perhaps in: 
    FAN MAIL FOR A POET 
    To he read over a network of high-power Radio Stations by an American Hot-gospeller
    HOW NICE for a man to be clever,
    So famous, so true
    So sound an investment how EVER
    So nice to be YOU.

    To peer into basements, up alleys,
    A nose for the search.
    To chal1ene with pertinent sallies,
    And then JOIN the Church.

    First comes Prufrock. then Sweeney. and then
    Thomas à Becket.
    How frightfully nice of the good men
    In cloth to forget it.

    The broad-hacked hippo so weak and frail
    Succumbed lo the shock.
    But the TRUE Church now can never fail,
    Based upon ‘THE ROCK.

    As a POET you visit today
    The NICE Portuguese.
    You can help England so in this way
    I DO hope you please.

    You WILL watch Spain’s terrible border;
    Take care where you tread.
    How AWFUL for England if you were
    Shot down for a RED’

    I like you, and whats more I READ you:
    There are such a few
    Christian Poets so nob1e indeed you
    Must know it — YOU DO.

    How nice for a man to be clever
    So famous, so true
    So sound an investment how EVER
    So nice to be YOU.

    W. T. NETTLEFOLD
    This poem is a lament for a lost leader. Eliot had betrayed the admiration and respect shown him by the thirties men, not only by turning to orthodox religion after his mockery of it, but also by visiting a fascist country which was helping Franco in the Spanish Civil War. This again illustrates the way in which a poet was regarded as a person whose actions were as publicly important as his poems.
    I don't suppose there were two poets called Nettlefold active in the 1930s, so this must be my Bill Nettlefold. It is not great poetry - I suspect you had to be around at the time to understand this sense of betrayal - but I was delighted and astounded to find it in the Penguin book.

    Another book, Modernism and Mourning by Patricia Rae, mentions a Nettlefold poem ("Lullaby for a Poet Born in 1937") in a footnote, and he also had something included in a 1944 anthology Poetry London X.

    Those are the only traces of Bill Nettlefold I can find on the internet, but I am glad that I met him.

    Damning Review of the Day

    Brian Logan reviews John Bishop's new show in the Guardian:
    If 1970s-style comedy with additional James Corden anecdotes floats your boat, the night will fly by.

    Headline of the Day: Shark Falls from Sky onto Golf Course

    Congratulations to Sky News.

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    The BBC has lied and lied and lied

    It seems a lifetime ago, but it is only three weeks since ITV broadcast its documentary on Jimmy Savile. And it is worth reminding ourselves of how the BBC first responded to the story.

    Here, as quoted at the time by the Guardian, is the statement it issued in the run up to the screening of that documentary:
    "The BBC has conducted extensive searches of its files to establish whether there is any record of misconduct or allegations of misconduct by Sir Jimmy Savile during his time at the BBC. No such evidence has been found. 
    "Whilst the BBC condemns any behaviour of the type alleged in the strongest terms, in the absence of evidence of any kind found at the BBC that corroborates the allegations that have been made, it is simply not possible for the corporation to take any further action."
    Given that, a year ago, Newsnight recorded interviews with several women who claimed to have been Savile's victims, this is a thumping great lie.

    Perhaps "files" had a technical meaning here, much as "sexual relations" had for Bill Clinton, that made the corporation feel it was not lying.

    Perhaps the hierarchical nature of organisations - particularly the byzantine structure of the BBC, which reduced MPs to mirth when George Entwistle appeared before them - means that those singing off media statements have no idea of what is really going on.

    And certainly, the BBC would have talked to its lawyers, who will have told them not to admit anything in case it was sued. That is what lawyers always say. Public relations professionals, which I am in my own small way, favour openness, but the lawyers will always overrule that approach.

    The trouble is, even before the ITV programme was broadcast it was clear that line could not be held, so ever since the BBC has suffered from the damage done by this original lie.

    Note to the patronising "it is simply not possible for the corporation to take any further action", which confirm every prejudice you ever had about the BBC being full of Oxbridge types laughing down their nose at you.

    Then there was the second lie. As recently as 20 October the BBC was still maintaining that the Newsnight report was not investigating Savile's abuse, but accusations that Surrey Police had not investigated him properly, and that it was dropped because that story did not stand up.

    When emails were released that showed this was not true, how did the BBC respond? The Daily Mail quoted its statement:
    "This ridiculous story in no way casts doubt on what the BBC has previously said on this. It is simply an exchange between a junior press officer and the Newsnight producer asking for further information about the Jimmy Savile investigation."
    But it was not ridiculous - note the arrogance again. The emails proved the BBC had been lying again.

    And even today we a third lie has been revealed. Grant Shapps. the Conservative party chairman, complained that the BBC had sent him an email warning him not to criticise the corporation over the Savile case on Question Time. The BBC, as quoted by the Guardian, replied:
    "The BBC's head of public affairs was simply doing her job of keeping MPs of all parties across BBC issues that could come up on the programme."
    But go to Guido Fawkes and you will find the original email sent to Shapps. And once more we see the BBC has issued a public statement that is not true. And note that word "simply" again.

    As an Englishman of my generation with a conservative temperament  I am an instinctive supporter of the BBC. But its conduct in the past three weeks has been shameful and points to the need for fundamental reform of its management.

    When you prove yourself to be less trustworthy than Grant Shapps, you really are in trouble.

    Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

    Headline of the Day

    We have a new winner in the shape of the Hunts Post:

    Cambs children at risk are safe, council insists

    The National Railway Museum, York


    I mentioned the National Rail Museum while choosing Petite Fleur as one of my Sunday music videos:
    In my student days the museum used to run slide shows about railway history, with a musical accompaniment of brass bands and jazz tunes to give a period feel. This tune, in fact this very version of it, was one of those used.
    Though those slide shows are no more, I was surprised at how little the museum has changed. It is bigger, certainly, but the atmosphere is the same and there were
    fewer computer simulations and the like than I had expected.

    One welcome change is that you can now get to the museum from York station. When I knew it you had to walk down the busy Leeman Road and under the wide railway bridge along a narrow pavement. Calder's First Law of the National Railway Museum held that whichever side of the road you took, you would meet a school party coming the other way/

    Another welcome innovation, at least on a wet day, is this road train, which takes visitors into the city, stopping outside the Minster.

    Less welcome was the discover that the Minster has changed more than the museum, now charging £9 for entrance. I made my excuses and left.

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012

    Steam on the London Underground in 2012



    This video was filmed at Baker Street on Sunday 25 February 2012, says Leon Daniels.

    David Elstein on the BBC and Savile

    The news that the Guardian is moving towards compulsory redundancies amongst its journalists strengthens the impression that The Times's paywall represents the future model for quality journalism on the web.

    So I won't moan too much about David Elstein's article about the BBC and Jimmy Savile being locked behind that wall. It is a very good article and here are a couple of quotes from it:
    One shudders to think what might happen to hundreds of BBC staff were a fire to break out in Broadcasting House as executives argued whether the evidence of smoke was or was not conclusive proof of dangerous flames, and in whose department the safety regulations were held
    And:
    Before we go overboard about the excellent edition of Panorama on Monday, which Mr Entwistle lauded as evidence of the BBC's "unmatched" capacity to interrogate itself, let's not forget that it was a Panorama team that refused to be interviewed by the BBC Trust's interviewer, but provided only written submission, over a programme on child labour in the garment industry - an investigation that concluded that a key sequence in the film had likely been faked. No one was fired, or even disciplined, for that act of defiance. Perhaps Newsnight should investigate.
    He is also very good on the corporation's "innate sense that it is above criticism" - something I shall return to in a future post.

    Jersey: An interview with Lenny Harper (part 2)



    Yesterday I posted the first part of the interview the Jersey blog Voice for Children conducted with Lennie Harper, the island's former deputy chief police officer, and senior investigating officer of its recent child abuse investigation.

    This is the second and final part.

    Six of the Best 288


    Owen Paterson’s announcement on the delay of the badger cull is good news for badgers and for the Liberal Democrats says Andrew Wigley on Liberal Democrat Voice.

    "The SNP Government is  not in a good position two years out from the Referendum. There is no cause for complacency in the Better Together camp but the First Minister's personal and political credibility has taken a huge dent. His glib assertions that everything would be fine in an independent Scotland have been shown not to be nothing more than hot air." Caron's Musings gives Alex Salmond both barrels.

    Max Atkinson has clips of Conrad Blak's interviews with Adam Boulton and Jeremy Paxman.

    "In a less than a decade, building on Richard Louv’s thought-provoking phrase ‘nature- deficit disorder’, the issue of getting children back outside to play has garnered public, government and media attention." Bob Peart writes on the Children and Nature site.

    Talking Philosophy remembers when Lord Russell met Lord Russell - thanks for the photo.

    The holloways of Cornwall are explored by Frames of Reference.

    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

    Fowl perversion: A street scene in Leicester today


    Jersey: An interview with Lenny Harper (part 1)



    The Jersey blog Voice for Children has an interview (billed as the first of two parts) with the island's former deputy chief police officer, and senior investigating officer of its recent child abuse investigation, Lenny Harper.

    Voice for Children says:
    Yesterday Mr. Harper was permitted a short interview on BBC State Radio which left a number of listeners with the belief that Mr. Harper was levelling criticism towards the States of Jersey Police by suggesting an independent Police Force should be recruited to investigate the Jimmy Savile case in Jersey. 
    Not for the first time the BBC had given those listeners the complete wrong impression, as Mr. Harper explains in part one of this in-depth interview, he has nothing but the upmost respect for the SOJP, as a force, and believes the problems lay with the island's "political masters" so we are happy to undo any damage that might have been caused to the reputation of the SOJP by the BBC. 
    Mr. Harper, in this interview, gives us a chilling account of an alleged suspect in the Child Abuse Inquiry where around a dozen victims have given a statement against the person, who Mr. Harper tells us, just the mention of his name causes "Absolute Fear" amongst victims but still remains in a position to harm others. 
    The Former Senior Investigating Officer goes on to tell us that, in his opinion, "The Victims are the ones who are being targeted by the Jersey Government and the abusers are the ones who are being protected." 
    What is the real BIG story here, is it that Jimmy Savile abused children in Jersey, or is it that the government allowed, and possibly still allows paedophilia to go unpunished if one has the right connections?
    Meanwhile, on a planet far away, Stephen Tall praises Jersey's model of policing.

    Saturday at the Battle of Ideas

    I spent Saturday at the Battle of Ideas, an annual two-day intellectual event put on by the Institute of Ideas, It is best described like a party conference without the main hall –  you are offered is several streams of enticing fringe meetings throughout the weekend.

    And the lack of partisanship is welcome. Last year, for instance, I listened to a panel that included Anne Atkins. She is not to my taste, and I suspect she was not to the taste of most people in the audience, but she was received with perfect politeness, which is something hard to imagine at a Labour or Liberal Democrat event.

    The Institute of Ideas grew out of the website Spiked, which in turn grew out of the magazine Living Marxism (LM). In the days before the internet that magazine brought a welcome draught of libertarianism to the debate, even if those ideas are now pretty commonplace.

    And Living Marxism grew out of the old Revolutionary Communist Party. For this reason some see the group of people around Spiked and the Institute of Ideas (Clare Fox from The Moral Maze is now the best known amongst them) as sinister. But I once wrote a couple of articles for Spiked! and never received any Serbian slush money.

    My complaint against Spiked these days is that it offers contrarianism by numbers: you know it will take the consensus view on any subject in the news and argue the opposite. But at least these people are being good Marxists in wanting to see the capitalist system developed to its fullest, because Marx himself argued that revolution would not come until that stage has been reached.

    Anyway, Saturday. The event took place at The Barbican in London, and everything they say about the place being a maze is correct. But I managed to navigate it tolerably well even so.

    After collecting my free press pass I entered the room halfway through a discussion with Frank Furedi (another key Spiked! and LM figure), Zoe Williams from the Guardian and David Lammy the Labour MP.

    When I came in the discussion was cantering on Lammy’s recent book Out of the Ashes: Britain after the riots. In it, someone was arguing, Lammy recognises that the last Labour government’s attempt was trying to do too much – attempting to “nationalise society” – yet he ends by calling for the state to have more powers.

    Zoe Williams was having none of it: Labour had not nationalised society but privatised it. Look at local authority children’s homes. Perhaps this is another instance of Calder’s Second Law of Politics: the more power the government takes for itself, the more arbitrary the exercise of that power becomes. So Labour took on too much and found it had to make some functions over to the private sector.  We should not be so surprised that those functions were chosen more or less at random.

    I found Lammy more impressive than I expected, with his emphasis that poor children need help that goes beyond the purely academic if they are to make their way in life. He also said that if you come from a middle-class family and have good parents and a good school then a little gangsta rap will do you no harm.  But if that is the only influence you are subjected to then you are in trouble.

    Given the labyrinth of the Barbican, I decided to stay in my seat for the next session. This was a panel discussion on parenting that included the filmmaker Roger Graef. The panel contained a wide variety of views, which was good in its way but meant that there was little meeting of minds. If a theme emerged it was in the contributions from the floor that suggested that, yes, some families did need professional help, but that the most extreme cases were being treated as though they were typical and showing that no parents could cope.

    After that I wandered off to a pub for lunch, unwinding a ball of wool behind me as I went. When I returned I happened upon a discussion on the situation in Syria.

    Then I went to a session on “Telling off the grown ups”. Again the panel held a very diverse set of views, but this time the discussion took off. And a lot of it chimed with my fogeyish view that our modern concern to hear the views of children is in part due to our lack of confidence in ourselves as adults.

    Finally, I listened to Frank Furedi talking about the Jimmy Savile affair. I have long been an admirer of Furedi and his 1997 book Culture of Fear: Risk Taking and the Morality of Low Expectation in particular. Its analysis of the way that our preoccupations with abuse and risk have harmed society and left us feeling no safer was acute and prophetic when you looked how Britain developed under Blair.

    But on Saturday Furedi offered a canter around these themes without really engaging with the strangeness or enormity of the Savile story. Only when he touched upon the absurdities of celebrity culture did he add something new

    Still, Saturday was a good day and I am grateful for the free press pass I was given. If you find yourself frustrated by the tribalism of party politics, the Battle of Ideas offers a welcome change.

    Panorama blocked by BBC from using all its evidence on Savile

    This evening's Panorama was a brave piece of television by BBC employees but the Daily Telegraph suggests they were not allowed to use all the evidence they had gathered:
    The Daily Telegraph has learnt that a series of emails sent by the BBC reporter Liz MacKean to an unnamed friend were blocked from featuring in a Panorama investigation into the BBC’s treatment of the scandal, which was broadcast last night ... 
    One of the emails sent by Ms MacKean that did feature on Panorama made clear that Peter Rippon, the Newsnight editor, felt his superiors were not happy with his programme’s investigation of Savile.
    That email, dated Nov 30, was sent on the same day Mr Rippon was starting to doubt whether the investigation should be broadcast. It said: “PR [Peter Rippon] says if the bosses aren’t happy ... [he] can’t go to the wall on this one.”
    The Daily Telegraph has learnt that Ms MacKean sent three other emails expressing further concerns about management interference to the same person. All were censored by Panorama’s lawyers.
    The lawyers are understood to have blocked publication of the emails because of concerns about the potential for legal action over the content of the messages. Ms MacKean declined to comment.
    So were BBC lawyers afraid that BBC executives would sue the BBC? That makes the Today programme discussing Panorama's investigation of Newsnight look almost straightforward.

    Later. The Daily Mail has the story too:
    It also emerged last night that the BBC ‘censored’ a series of emails that indicated senior executives were involved in the decision to axe a Newsnight investigation into Savile. 
    The emails were due to be included in last night’s Panorama programme but were pulled at the insistence of corporation lawyers.

    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Conkers on a wall


    I saw these in Little Bowden the other day.

    They make a good photo, but there is something sad about the scene too. They had been gathered up and placed on the wall by an adult, not scavenged by children.

    Six of the Best 287

    "Nick Clegg has ceased to act as a chief spokesman for the coalition as a whole. That is working to Mr Clegg’s benefit and Mr Cameron’s disadvantage. Without Clegg constantly reminding us that he is part of the show - his Lib Dem colleagues have also gone more low profile - we are left with the impression of a bunch of Tories, and a pretty second rate bunch at that, in charge." Nick is benefiting from a decision that he will no longer act as the Coalition's lightning conductor, argues Alastair Campbell.

    If you watched Trumped on BBC last night you will be interested in a post on Love and Garbage about Alex Salmond's attempt to win Donald Trump's support for the release of Abdelbasset Al Megrahi.

    The truth has finally caught up with Lance Armstrong, writes Paul Kimmage in the Irish Independent.

    Northumberlandia celebrates Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood - "A pious, just and exemplary man".

    While Anita Harris and her marvellous juicy melons are celebrated by The Downstairs Lounge.

    Song of the Paddle takes a canoe trip down the Welland from Market Harborough to Ashley.

    Bird of the Day

    Give it up for the sociable lapwing.

    I shall be having a drink with one later this evening.

    Sunday, October 21, 2012

    York's oldest and ugliest churches


    One of my favourite parts of York is Bishophill, an enclave of terraced streets within the city walls and near the railway station. It is also home to the York's oldest and ugliest churches.

    St Mary Bishophill Junior, says the useful Wikipedia page on the Medieval Parish Churches of York, is:
    situated within what was the colonia or civil quarter of the Roman garrison of Eboracum and pieces of Roman tilework can be observed found in the Tower. The tower itself is of the late Anglo-Saxon period with masonry of very mixed materials, including blocks of brown sandstone and limestone blocks, some laid in herringbone fashion; the quoins are mainly of brown sandstone laid in a "side-alternate" fashion and with no buttresses, factors which often mark Anglo-Saxon architecture ...  Inside the church is reported "the finest pre-Conquest tower arch". There are also fragments of pre-Conquest stonework inside this church.
    Intriguingly, the page also says:
    Adjacent to this site there was formerly St Mary Bishophill Senior, with early Anglo-Saxon features such as monolithic construction, on the base of a Romano-British wall which could possibly also have been a church. There is now no trace of this, although it was reported to stand as a ruin in 1961.
    And the ugliest church, formerly known as the Methodist Wesley Chapel (says York Stories), is The Rock of York.

    Looking at its website, I find myself irresistibly reminded of Darren Betts in Rev.


    Leonard Cohen: Closing Time



    What is it about Canadian singer-songwriters?

    Two weeks ago I wanted a song about disillusionment and found it natural to choose Joni Mitchell. Today I wanted something to express the sense that we are living through the decline of the West, and it seems equally natural to choose Leonard Cohen.

    "Closing Time" comes from Cohen's 1992 album The Future, which was the one that led me to discover his work. Ostensibly the lyrics are about some hellhole of a bar, but I have always read it as being about something deeper than that - closing time in the gardens of the West or something like that.

    Anyway, Cohen seems remarkably cheerful at the prospect in this live performance - much more cheerful than when he sings about love.

    Headline of the Day: Yorkshire housewife 'raised by monkeys in jungle'

    From the Daily Telegraph website:

    Yorkshire housewife 'raised by monkeys in jungle'

    I wonder if those scare quotes are there because the Telegraph subs do not wholly believe the story that follows?

    Richard Jefferies Society Birthday Lecture, 3 November

    Rebecca Welshman, who once wrote a guest post about Richard Jefferies for this blog, is giving this year's Richard Jefferies Society Birthday Lecture at Liddington Village Hall in Wiltshire on Saturday 3 November:
    The lecture will present an account of Jefferies’ antiquarian interests, and his mystical engagement with nature in archaeological landscapes. The first part will explore how Jefferies used maps and objects to explore the human place in a locality. The second part will consider how archaeological sites and objects feature in The Story of My Heart (1883) and After London (1885), and how archaeological language and phraseology – gleaned from Jefferies’ knowledge and understanding of the discipline – both informs and develops his literary expression. 
    For Jefferies, archaeological objects and sites were points of contact with the past. More than this, however, archaeological thought aided the expression of his philosophical meditations on the human condition. The lecture will explain the significance of places and sites in his work, including the Isle of Wight, Pevensey Castle, Ditchling Beacon, Beachy Head, Liddington Hill and the Wiltshire Downs.
    You can read more on the Richard Jeffieries Society website. I gave this lecture myself back in the 1990s.

    Saturday, October 20, 2012

    Mayor of Louth who greeted Olympic Torch in 'penis' costume will open Lincolnshire Sausage Festival

    You may recall - how could you forget? - that This is Lincolnshire won our prestigious Headline of the Day Award on 2 July 2012 for its

    Mayor of Louth's sausage costume to greet Olympic Torch 'looked like a penis'

    Yesterday the website (which is the Lincolnshire Echo by other means) returned to the story, quoting Jill Makinson-Sanders, the mayor in question, as saying:
    "I didn't dress up for the Torch Relay to be offensive, I just wanted to stick up for the Lincolnshire sausage and I wish the publicity had worked where we needed it to.
    And there is some good news:
    She is now set to appear as the 'Sausage Lady of Louth' at the BIG Tastes of Lincolnshire Sausage Festival at Lincoln Castle on October 27. 
    Unfortunately she hasn't been able to secure the costume for the event due to short notice but there will be an alternative sausage costume available on the day for her to wear. 
    Mark Brewer, organiser of the sausage festival said: "Luckily we hire our 'Mr Sausage' costume from the British Pork Executive, which myself and other members of the rotary club take turns in throughout the day. 
    "Of course Mrs Makinson-Sanders will be welcome to get into it if she wants to."
    More about the BIG Tastes of Lincolnshire Sausage Festival at Lincoln Castle on Visit Lincolnshire.

    Friday, October 19, 2012

    St Pancras in the October sun


    The old pile was looking particularly fine as I was coming home from an event at the Wellcome Trust earlier this week.

    Jimmy Savile and British Rail









    Such is the Conservatives' luck at the moment that no sooner is Sir George Young named as their new chief whip than a picture appears of him and his young children with Jimmy Savile. Well, almost.

    But this leaflet is a reminder of Savile's ubiquity in those days. In particular, he was the face of British Rail in all its advertising.

    When I was a student I had a theory that you could judge the importance of a station by the number of likenesses of Savile you could find on posters there. A major junction like York would be comfortably into double figures.

    Does George Osborne have previous on train fares?

    Thanks to @kaygeeuk on Twitter.

    Andrew Mitchell faces the inevitable

    Two days ago I sent this tweet:
    This evening, in his resignation letter, Mitchell wrote:
    Over the last two days it has become clear to me that whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter I will not be able to fulfil my duties as we would both wish.
    I am not gloating over his fall - the Police Federation has not won my admiration over this affair - but he really was a fool.

    A chief whip should be a largely anonymous figure, working behind the scenes. Francis Urquhart is a good role model.

    George Osborne and Thomas Isaac Mardy Jones

    There has been much merriment today at George Osborne's antics aboard the train to Euston.

    As BBC News tells it:
    George Osborne has been forced to pay for an upgrade after sitting in a first class train carriage with a standard class ticket. 
    An aide to Mr Osborne initially refused to pay the £160 supplement and said the chancellor did not want to move into standard class, Virgin Trains said. 
    ITV reporter Rachel Townsend, who was on the same train as the chancellor, Tweeted about the incident. He is lucky he is not living in the 1920s.
    Back in 2005 I wrote about the fall of Thomas Isaac Mardy Jones in a House Points column:
    In 1922 Mardy Jones was elected Labour MP for Pontypridd. He had begun work in the mines at the age of 12, and like many working-class Members found life difficult financially. 
    Payment for MPs was one of the Chartists’ demands in the 1830s. It was not introduced until the Liberal government’s 1911 Parliament Act. In Jones’ day the salary was small, but MPs did receive a perk in the form of vouchers that could be exchanged for railway tickets between their constituencies and Westminster. As Matthew Parris reports in his Great Parliamentary Scandals, those tickets were strictly non-transferable. 
    Mardy Jones broke the rules. He sent two tickets to Wales to allow his wife and young daughter to make a rare trip to London. Unfortunately, one of them was six weeks out of date and the Great Western Railway pressed charges. 
    Despite an ingenious defence involving vital papers that had to be brought to him, Jones was found guilty and fined £2 plus costs. Worse, he was obliged to resign his seat before the case came to court.
    Mardy Jones did fight the 1931 general election as an Independent Labout candidate, but came third in the poll.

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Twenty is plenty in Manchester - and elsewhere

    I was pleased to see from the Cllr Victor Chamberlain blog that the Liberal Democrat candidate in the  Greater Manchester police and crime commissioner election, Matt Gallagher, is calling on the area's councils to tackle their "scandalous" road safety record by implementing a 20mph speed limit on all residential roads.

    Victor gives some of the reasons for Matt's call:
    Greater Manchester has the North West’s highest rate of overall pedestrian casualties. Last year 744 people were needlessly killed or seriously injured on Greater Manchester’s Roads and over 7000 people were hurt. Matt is calling for 20mph to become the speed limit on all residential roads, excluding major routes. Lowering urban and residential speed limits to 20 mph has been found to decrease child pedestrian accidents by up to 70%. In Portsmouth the 20mph limit on all residential roads has reduced casualties by 22%.
    Beyond this argument from safety, there is a strong case that winning back city streets from the dominance of the car is an important part of building stronger and more civilised communities.

    There is more evidence and campaign news on 20's Plenty for Us.

    Six of the Best 286

    "An independent cafe has little in the way of clever ruses to dodge taxes.  But multinational chains can siphon off profits via various company charges to head office for use of the brand name, loan interest or inflated prices for raw materials." Stephen Williams MP will not be buying his lattes from Starbucks for a while.

    A Lanson Boy describes his part in the downfall of Alec Robertson, Conservative leader of Cornwall council...

    ...and Computer Weekly gives the background to Robertson's demise.

    Where now for Public Service Broadcasting? Professor Peter Lunt, Head of the University of Leicester's Department of Media and Communication gives his answer on Leicester Exchanges.

    "It is often stated that the Union Flag should only be described as the Union Jack when flown in the bows of a warship, but this is a relatively recent idea. From early in its life the Admiralty itself frequently referred to the flag as the Union Jack, whatever its use, and in 1902 an Admiralty Circular announced that Their Lordships had decided that either name could be used officially. Such use was given Parliamentary approval in 1908 when it was stated that 'the Union Jack should be regarded as the National flag'." Cdr Bruce Nicolls OBE RN (Retd) nails a modern myth for the Flag Institute.

    The Passion of Former Days has some photographs of St Andrews in the 1840s.

    Headline of the Day and Hamlet of the Day

    The Shropshire Star has the story of Robert Maund, an 80-year-old who now uses a little mechanical help to get around and look after his herd of cattle.

    It's headline?

    One farmer and his moo-bility scooter

    Read the report and you will also come across our Hamlet of the Day: Betton Strange near Shrewsbury.

    Watch Traffic in the Magical Mystery Tour



    On Monday I mentioned that one of the outtakes included on the new Magical Mystery Tour DVD shows the band Traffic. Thanks to the wonders of Youtube I can now show it to you.

    It begins with an absurdly young Steve Winwood and he is soon joined by Chris Wood, Jim Capaldi and Dave Mason.

    Mason came and went a couple of times in the band's history, but essentially he was thrown out by the others because they hated his song "Hole in My Shoe" so much. It is sad that it is for that song that Traffic tend to be remembered in Britain, even above their wonderful single "Paper Sun".

    By contrast, in America they are remembered for chemically advanced tours de force like this.


    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    Walmgate Stray and The Retreat, York


    This is Walmgate Stray, an area of common land you can find not so far outside York's city wall. I entered if via a gate on Heslington Road and The Retreat (which we came across when discussing the Tuke family lies behind the wall on the left.

    In the distance you can see the edge of the university campus. When I was there it was much smaller - one of the attractions of York was that it was quite a small university with a pleasing mix of state school successes and private school failures.

    The wall of the Retreat keeps you company all the way down the hill. Follow it round to the left and you will see this plaque. I expect there are some Tukes in there too.

    Have I got news for Ian Hislop

    Ian Hislop, his puzzled face much in evidence, seemed rather pleased with the way he dealt with the Jimmy Savile story on Have I Got News for You last week. (The good news is that the link will take you straight to that segment of the programme: the bad news is that it will work for only a couple more days.)

    The central point of his argument ran:
    "The truth is no one actually knew - and if they did they should be prosecuted."
    But this will not do. It is becoming increasingly clear that many people did know about Savile. Among them were his victims, who should certainly not be prosecuted.

    Ian Hislop edits a magazine with a strong investigative strand - that is the reason I still buy Private Eye, because the humour element rarely cuts it for me these days.

    And if you edit such a magazine you need a good instinct for judging which of the many rumours that swirl around celebrities may have something in them and the courage and tenacity to investigate them. From that point of view neither Hislop's performance here nor this week's issue of his magazine (which concentrates on mocking the press over Savile) are particularly encouraging.

    What we needed was the approach of David Walsh, the journalist who, in 1999, first questioned Lance Armstrong’s remarkable performance in the Tour de France:
    “Everybody would say, ‘what evidence have you got?’ I would say, ‘well I don’t have enough evidence to ever prove to anyone that he’s guilty…I just feel that I have huge responsibility, a huge need, to go and ask a lot of questions’.”
    That quotation comes from a post on the blog of Stuart Syvret, who has certainly shown courage and tenacity in pursuing the delinquencies of the authorities on Jersey.

    He quotes them in a characteristically long post that questions BBC Jersey's strange unwillingness to investigate the sacking of the island's two senior police officers by its government following Jersey's child protection scandal - a scandal in which the government was inescapably complicit.

    If anything good comes of the Savile affair it may that the Jersey authorities are forced to hold the inquiry they promised at the time of the scandal. They have been backsliding ever since.

    A podcast on Richard III and his era

    WAMC (not to be confused with WOLD) has a podcast by Professor Norman Housley from the University of Leicester discussing what the discovery of what appears to be the skeleton of Richard III may mean for our understanding of this king and his era:
    The rather whimsical name, ‘The Wars of the Roses’, has had the unfortunate effect of disguising the sheer bloodiness of this conflict. Finding a royal skeleton that bears the marks of such violence will be a perpetual reminder of the grim reality of this war.
    Thanks to the University of Leicester Twitter feed for the link.

    Chris Morris reports the death of Jimmy Savile - in 1994



    Let us recall the BBC's original statement on the matter:
    The BBC has conducted extensive searches of its files to establish whether there is any record of misconduct or allegations of misconduct by Sir Jimmy Savile during his time at the BBC. No such evidence has been found. 
    Whilst the BBC condemns any behaviour of the type alleged in the strongest terms, in the absence of evidence of any kind found at the BBC that corroborates the allegations that have been made, it is simply not possible for the corporation to take any further action.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    Missile sites at Harrington and North Luffenham listed


    BBC News reports that two Cold War missile sties near Market Harborough have been given listed status:
    The former RAF sites - in Harrington, Northamptonshire, and North Luffenham, Rutland, are the most intact examples of Thor missile bases in England. 
    They were put on alert as the Soviet Union and the US came to the brink of nuclear war in October 1962. 
    The USSR eventually agreed to remove its missiles from Cuba and the US pledged not to invade the island. 
    The Thor missile site at the former RAF North Luffenham, Rutland, has been given a Grade II* listing. 
    And the site at former RAF Harrington, Northamptonshire, has been listed as Grade II. 
    The two sites still have concrete launch pads and blast walls, along with mounting bolts for the platforms that would raise the missiles into a vertical firing position
    I have written twice before about Harrington - in February and March 2010. And I have again used the extraordinary photograph of a missile being driven through the blameless streets of Rothwell that I must have borrowed from the Harrington Aviation Museum website.

    Lord Bonkers adds: They will be pleased in North Luffenham. At present South Luffenham gets most of the tourist traffic because of its connections with Herman Goering and Matt Monro.

    Cameron and Osborne in cat fight





    Says BBC News:
    Downing Street has denied rumours of a feud between cats belonging to the chancellor and prime minister after they were pictured fighting. George Osborne's Freya was photographed slugging David Cameron's Larry with a nasty-looking left claw, the evidence being posted on Twitter.
    And here is the picture - thanks to @PoliticalPics - though, to be honest, it looks a little too good to be true.

    Still, never believe anything until it has been officially denied...

    Later. The Daily Telegraph assures us the photo is genuine.

    Nick Clegg rubbishes cash-for-seats deal story even more effectively

    From BBC News:
    Mr Clegg yesterday slapped down the idea and insisted that all 50 Liberal Democrat MPs will vote against boundary changes in retaliation for the Conservatives' failure to support House of Lords reform. 
    He went on to mock Mr Shapps with a reference to the MP’s controversial history of running a business under an alias that sold advice on how to make a quick fortune. 
    "I suppose finally that's a get-rich-quick scheme which he is actually prepared to put his name to," Mr Clegg said.
    I wonder if something is stirring in what we may loosely call the minds of right-wing Conservative MPs. Are they beginning to realise that blocking any reform of the Lords was not such a bright idea after all?

    Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    St George's Catholic Church, York


    St George's was designed by Joseph Hansom and his brother Charles and opened on 4 September 1850. A month later, says the church's website, the Catholic Hierarchy was re-established in England (read more on The Victorian Web) and
    the See of Beverley was created and St George’s became the cathedral church for the whole of Yorkshire, a status it enjoyed until the present St Wilfrid’s was built in 1864.
    The church, like its neighbouring girls' school, was built to serve the growing Irish population in the Walmgate area of York. The Walmgate Story describes what the nuns who came to teach their found:
    A disorderly crowd of little creatures, for the most part bare-footed and bare-headed, shouting and screaming, mounting every available projection upon which they could perch themselves.
    The nuns calmed them by singing, as Julie Andrews must have read before me. The church website also records:
    The church takes its title from the medieval church of St George at Beanhills which was suppressed in 1547. The Churchyard may still be seen opposite the present church and is the burial place of Dick Turpin, the notorious 18th Century highwayman.
    And it seems you can still find his grave there - something to look for next time I am in York.

    Queen, Liberals and badgers






    Adrian Sanders tweeted this picture of himself and Brian May earlier today. It was taken at a Westminster meeting to plan the campaign against the cull of badgers.

    It reminded me that an earlier post on this blog featured a future member of Queen and a future Liberal MP.

    Don't blame the decade for sexual abuse

    "All they wanted me to do was abuse them, sexually, which, of course, I was only too happy to do."
    "Girls used to queue up outside oral sex they were particularly keen on, I remember one of my regular customers, as it were, turned out to be 13, though she looked older."
    Those two quotations (and they are from John Peel not Jimmy Savile) both describe life in the 1960s. Both are taken from a Julie Burchill article on Peel. She attributes the first to a Guardian interview from 1975 and the second to one he gave the long-forgotten Sunday Correspondent in 1989.

    "Well, it was the Sixties," some will say. But people knew better than that in the 1960s - as I once argued in a book chapter, child abuse has been regularly discovered and forgotten over the years.

    And I instantly recalled an example of very different behaviour from that decade.

    Traffic, who embraced the counterculture with more enthusiasm than most, famously rented a cottage near Aston Tirrold in Berkshire to "get it together in the country".

    Q Magazine once published a feature by Johnny Black about this episode - it is reproduced on the Steve Winwood and Traffic Fans site, but they do not have the date.

    In it they interviewed some of the people who had been around at the time - both band members and locals. One of them was a girl from the village called Rosie Roper. Here are some of her memories:
    "I was 15 when Traffic arrived in the village. Everybody was very worried about it at first. I worked in the village shop where they came every day to collect their letters. They were very strange-looking. Chris Wood had these high-heeled boots painted purple. We'd never seen anything like it. My dad reckoned they were a sweaty, smelly lot, but I got such a crush on Chris. Whenever I saw them coming, I'd take off my glasses and hide them under the counter. My dad warned me to keep away from them because of the sex and drugs and that." 
    "One day, Chris came into the shop and said how he really missed home-made apple pie. So me and my sister Marion made two apple pies and took them up to the cottage that Sunday. The next day they came back with the plates and said it had been delicious. I went all red in the face." 
    "If there was any drugs around, I never saw it. One day I was offered a cigarette and, quick as a flash, James Capaldi dives into his pocket and insists I have one of his. I always wondered why that was ..." 
    "James took care of us girls, always making sure we didn't get into mischief. He would send us away before it got dark, and always got me to phone my dad and tell him where I was."
    Perhaps that is why they called him Gentleman Jim Capaldi. And he could sing too.

    Lib Dems rubbish cash-for-seats deal story

    Yesterday evening I blogged about George Parker's claim in in the FT that "senior Conservatives" are preparing to offer the Liberal Democrats millions in state funding in return for Lib Dem support for their cherished plans for boundary reforms.

    Lib Dem HQ has been busy rubbishing the story, pointing us to Nick Clegg's "Nothing will change my mind on that" when answering questions as deputy prime minister last month.

    There has been another, more alarming, story going around about the Tories exploring what they could offer to the Nationalists and Norther Ireland MPs to win their support for boundary reforms. Because, mathematically, it would be possible for these to be passed without Lib Dem support.

    Still, Grasshopper, that is how you win readers for your blog. Report a speculative story one day and report its denial the next.

    Corby railway station


    Corby station closed in 1966, reopened between 1987 and 1990 for a shuttle service to Kettering and was rebuilt on an adjacent site in 2009. It now enjoys an hourly service to St Pancras, with occasional trains venturing north to Oakham and Melton Mowbray.

    If it had been reopened a few years earlier (or today), Corby might have got no more than a couple of bus shelters. But it had the good fortune to have its station built at a time when there was money to throw at such projects, so it got a substantial building complete with coffee bar.

    Because there is no longer a bus from Market Harborough to Corby on a Saturday I had to go to the by-election by train. The connection at Kettering was so good that it was quicker than the bus journey, though I missed the tour of villages along the Leicestershire-Northamptonshire border.

    Sunday, October 14, 2012

    Tories to make cash-for-seats offer to Lib Dems?

    So George Parker reckons on the Financial Times site:
    Senior Conservatives are plotting an audacious “cash-for-seats” offer to Nick Clegg, where the Liberal Democrat leader would back a Conservative-friendly Commons boundary review in exchange for millions in state funding for his party. 
    Grant Shapps, Tory chairman, said on Sunday he had not “given up hope” of winning Mr Clegg’s support for the boundary review, which could give David Cameron 15-20 extra seats at the next election. 
    Although Mr Shapps denied on the BBC’s Sunday Politics that talks were under way, senior Tory figures have told the Financial Times that they believe the cash-strapped Lib Dems would be susceptible to the offer.
    I think it is better to be a party with MPs and no money than one with money and fewer MPs. And wouldn't such a deal make us look a little shabby?

    Still, watch this space.

    Later. Olly Grender has expressed deep scepticism about this story on Twitter.

    Henry Scott Tuke and Lawrence Street Working Men's Club, York


    How about this for a working men's club?

    This is - or rather was - Lawrence Street WMC in York, just outside Walmgate Bar. The club occupied these rather grand premises until it moved to a modest new building next door in 2005 or thereabouts. York Stories has a picture of the club in its original home in 2004 and says the building is now on Save Britain's Heritage's 'at risk' register.

    This house originally belonged to the Tukes, an important family of York Quakers involved with Rowntree's cocoa works, three Quaker schools(Ackworth, Bootham and The Mount) and the nearby Retreat Mental Hospital.

    The Retreat, founded by William Tuke, was opened in 1796 and pioneered the humane treatment of the mentally ill. It is still open as a mental hospital and you can read more about it on Wikipedia.

    William's great great grandson Henry Scott Tuke was born in the Lawrence Street house in 1858. He was best know for painting This Sort of Thing...

    The reshuffle made the Lib Dems feel less like a party of government

    We know Nick Clegg's ambition is for the Liberal Democrats to become "not ... the third party, but ... one of three parties of government".

    Yet one of the reasons I was depressed by the summer's reshuffle (as I blogged when discussing John Kampfner's more optimistic take on it) is that we now seem further from fulfilling this ambition.

    I share Nick Harvey's disappointment that we not longer have ministers at Defence or the Foreign Office. And I am not convinced by the posts we have taken instead.

    Lynne Featherstone will do a good job at Overseas Development if she is allowed. But it may well be that moving Andrew Mitchell away from the department was a prelude to a Cameron decision to drop his pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on overseas aid. There are no signs of it so far, but it would be in line with his strategy of moving right to please his back-benches and core voters.

    And, much as I like David Heath, I fear that becoming the public face of the badger cull will do him or his party no favours.

    But then Nick came out in favour of a cull as long ago as June 2008. As I blogged at the time, I was puzzled by the politics of this:
    I do not know if culling badgers to prevent bovine TB is good science, but I am sure that it is bad politics. It may play well go down well in a few rural constituencies, but it will go down very badly in many more urban and suburban seats. Like Sheffield Hallam, for instance. 
    This feels very much like a return to the 1970s, when the old Liberal Party's fortunes depended on clinging on to a handful of seats where the farming interest was strong. I thought we had all moved on since then.
    Given that the Liberal Party I joined in the late seventies combined that pragmatic defence of local farming interests with high-minded statements about poverty, the changes in the reshuffle feel very much like a case of back to the future.