Thursday, May 31, 2018

The allegations against Greville Janner have been known for years



There has been a concerted attempt to make us think the allegations that Greville Janner abused children emerged only recently and from an apparently unreliable source.

The truth, as this BBC East Midlands report makes clear, is that they were first made public in the proceedings against Frank Beck in 1991 and were circulating locally before that.

Now read two journalists' memories of Greville Janner and the trial of Frank Beck.

Six of the Best 795

"We ought to recognise that all three parties have collaborated in the myth that decent public services could be provided without higher and more progressive taxation." William Wallace tells us it's time to talk about tax.

Amy Zimmerman on how Roseanne Barr abandoned reason and embraced the alt-right.

Peter Walker explains why forcing cyclists to wear helmets will not save lives.

"As Dostoyevsky implored through his novels and reporting, it is not only our task to support the innocent or wrongly convicted but also to recognise the humanity of the guilty and the shared sense of responsibility that we have for one another." Jennifer Wilson says the great Russian novelist predicted the ‘true crime’ craze.

"The perception is that he is difficult, obscure and intense, severe and mystical, charismatic and strange, driven and tragic, with his charisma and difficulty bound up with his character and his life." Ian Ground considers the legacy of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Mr Barlow listens to a Michael Nyman lecture: 'Music which has influenced me, but which I have never heard.'

George Osborne explains Evening Standard editorial policy

London’s Evening Standard newspaper, edited by the former chancellor George Osborne, has agreed a £3 million deal with six leading commercial companies, including Google and Uber, promising them “money-can’t-buy” positive news and “favourable” comment coverage, openDemocracy can reveal.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Cornelia Frances (1941-2018): Memories of 1970s daytime television


There were certain programmes in the 1970s that you only watched if you were off school with a cold.

There was Crown Court, which is now being lovely chronicled by Ivan Kirby at Fulchester Crown Court.

There was a Scottish soap opera called Take the High Road that seemed to have undergone a complete cast change every time you saw it.

And there were two Australian soaps in these days before Neighbours made them cool.

There was The Sullivans, which I remember for opening titles that featured a photograph coming to life.

And there was the Young Doctors, which I remember for a ferocious nursing sister in an improbable headdress.

Last night I was on a website devoted to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

There I read about Powell's niece Cornelia Frances, who had appeared as an extra in a couple of his later films before emigrating to Australia and becoming a successful actor.

Searching more widely I found it was she who had played that ferocious sister - Sister Grace Scott - in The Young Doctors.

I also learnt that she had died the day before.

The best obituary of Cornelia Frances I have found is in Metro. It tells you she also played Morag Bellingham in Home and Away. as well as being the equivalent of Anne Robinson in Australia's version of The Weakest Link.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Dartmouth from the river


Another photograph from a walking holiday in the 1990s.

This one must have been taken looking back at Dartmouth - the large building is the Britannia Royal Naval College - from the ferry to Kingswear.

In praise of cutting interviews with politicians short



Well done to Richard Madeley for cutting short his interview with Gavin Williamson because the amorous fireplace salesman turned defence secretary was determined not to answer a straight question.

Broadcasters should do it more often.

Peter Allen used to (rather more elegantly) when he was co-host of the BBC Radio Five Live breakfast show. It is far more damning than the bluster many interviewers go in for.

Tur Langton village hall and Merton College, Oxford

Today's news about the extraordinary wealth of Oxford and Cambridge colleges reminded of the story about Tur Langton village hall I have covered here a couple of times.

In 2012 I reported that Merton College, Oxford, which has considerable landholdings in this part of the world, might not allow the village to take out a new lease on the hall site.

When I visited Tur Langton again in 2016 there was still a banner saying 'Save Our Hall' on display.

The good news, reading the newsletters on the Tur Langton Parish Council website, is that the villagers have now secured a new lease and is improving what was rather an overgrown site.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Secret Lives: Jeremy Thorpe



First broadcast in 1996, this documentary tells the story behind A Very British Scandal.

It features interviews (to camera or from the archive) with Thorpe and two of his co-accused, as well as Norman Scott and Andrew Newton.

You will also see Liberal Party figures, including David Steel, and the journalists Daniel Farson and Auberon Waugh.

Waugh Stood against Thorpe for the Dog Lovers' Party at the 1979 general election.

Six of the Best 794

"So that’s three ideas, none of which are that radical, all of which are flawed to some degree, being presented to members as part of an opaque and closed process that only gives them a couple of days to vote on them." No, Nick Barlow is not a great fan of the Ashdown Prize.

Anthony Costello looks at how the Irish referendum on abortion was won: "Early polls suggested that voters across the country were greatly influenced by the personal stories of women mediated throughout the campaign, whilst personal relationships and experiences also had a significant influence on voter choice. There was little or no expression of the rural vs. urban divide."

To continue their revival, argue Nicholas Boys Smith and Maddalena Iovene, Liverpool and Manchester should invest in heritage and transport but not build cul-de-sacs.

"England's defeat at Lord's was an accident waiting to happen," says George Dobell. "It was a culmination of several years' of ECB policies that have disrespected Test cricket."

"In the wilds of Leicestershire, a horseshoe's throw from Rutland, lies the market town of Melton Mowbray. It's a proper agricultural town, with a long history of fox-slaughtering, but what it's best known for is cheese and pies." Diamond Geezer risks leaving London.

Eoghan Lyng celebrates the 50th birthday of the Small Faces album Ogden's Nut Gone Flake. Deep joy.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A 2015 encounter with Andrew Newton

Photo of Redhill Airfield from Geograph © Carl Ayling


What with the events depicted taking place some 40 years ago, many of the protagonists in the real-life events in A Very English Scandal are now dead.

Norman Scott is still with us and has been interviewed about the series, but Jeremy Thorpe, David Holmes and Peter Bessell are all dead.

What has become of Thorpe and Holmes's co-accused John Le Mesurier (no, not the actor) and George Deakin is a mystery to me, other than that the latter's nephew was the guitarist in Black Lace.

I thought Andrew Newton, who shot Rinka and according to the prosecution case tried to shoot Scott, was dead, but I can find no source for this.

What I did find was what looks very like a recent encounter with him.

Newton last appeared in the papers in 1994, when he gave evidence at an inquest into the death of a woman on the Eiger. We then learnt he had changed his name to "Hann Redwin".

Which makes this 2015 article from Pilot about Redhill Airfield very interesting:
While I’m waiting I get into conversation with Hann Redwin whose Pipistrel motorised glider I spotted in a small hangar near the Tower. He’s here with his companion Patsy Frankham to conduct some tests on the Pipistrel. 
Hann used to fly for the airlines and is a serial homebuilder with what sounds like a superbly-equipped workshop (a lathe is mentioned) in Newgate. After completing two homebuilds and almost finishing a third, a Zenair, if I understood him correctly, he’s abandoning aircraft building to concentrate on sailing, which I gather is more Patsy’s thing.
Given that Andrew Newton had been an airline pilot, this must be him.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

What became of Jeremy Thorpe's son?

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Rupert Thorpe's editors had some terse words for him before he left for Prince Harry's Invictus Games in Toronto: "Get that effing picture." 
That picture — the money shot, as Thorpe calls it — is the first one of the prince and his Toronto-based girlfriend, Meghan Markle, side by side, in their first official public outing as a couple.
Rupert Thorpe? Yes, this CBC story is about that Rupert Thorpe.

The son of the former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe with is first wife Caroline, Rupert is now a press photographer.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceIn fact he appears to be something of a paparazzo. He was one of the four photographers involved in Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones's famous court case over their wedding pictures.

You can visit his website Rupert Thorpe Photography.

Gladys Knight and the Pips: Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me



It's summer and the radio is playing in the next room. You hear harpsichord-like notes opening a new song.

What is it? It's this Motown classic.

A decade later Gladys Knight was mellow and middle of the road, but this 1966 single is a thumping celebration of female sexuality.

There's Dark and then there's Darker Street


There's Dark and then there's Darker Street. Blake would have understood.

You need a drink at The Salmon afterwards.








Friday, May 25, 2018

Stand By Me is not a good film

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I felt a little guilty after I posted TISM's (He'll never be an) Ol' Man River. Hadn't River Phoenix died tragically young and hadn't I enjoyed Stand By Me when it came out?

But I was going through a phase in connection with my own childhood at the time. Though it's now overlain by two levels of nostalgia - the baby boomer nostalgia in which it was steeped by its makers and the nostalgia of today's parents, who first saw it when they were children - Stand By Me is not a good film.

If you doubt me, listen to the Deja Review podcast.

It is particularly strong on the nonsense of the film's plot and the awfulness of Corey Feldman.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Home for Penitent Females, Stoneygate Road, Leicester


I have more than once noticed and photographed this official-looking building on the corner of Aber Road and Stoneygate Road in Leicester.

Today it is occupied by a Montessori school, but what was it originally?

A tweet from the Stoneygate Conservation Area Society today gives the answer:


The journal is a big pdf to download, but the article Rescue and Redemption: Saving Leicester’s
Fallen Women 1846 to 1900 by Shirley Aucott makes it worth the effort:
Local architect, William Beaumont Smith, was commissioned to design a red brick Gothic style building, and in October 1881 the management committee eventually achieved its ambition to move to premises away ‘from the associations of the town’ and the ‘narrow, dark situation in Blue Boar Lane. 
This position, near to green fields, they thought would be of great benefit to the inmates, as they were now beginning to understand that ‘a healthy moral life depended upon a healthy physical one.’ 
The accommodation was much more spacious as it contained a work room (used as a chapel on Sundays), a kitchen, a dining hall and dormitories. All of this came at great expense causing the management committee to go deeply into debt for several years, despite generous donations from such people as Mrs Perry Herrick who had donated £1,000 towards the overall cost which was somewhat in excess of £7,000.
For another Leicester institution of this period, read about the Children's Receiving Home in Mill Hill Lane.

Vince Cable: Lib Dems will be running Sheffield within five years


The Sheffield Star has an upbeat report on Vince Cable's visit to the city yesterday, when he called in at the party's HQ to congratulate activists and councillors on their gains in the local elections:
There is a sense of optimism in the room - spurred on by ongoing public anger at the lack of transparency on offer from the authority’s ruling Labour Cabinet, on matters from tree-felling to the group’s dealings with Chinese investors. 
But there is also a feeling that the Lib Dems are on their way back, after Nick Clegg’s disastrous dealings with the Conservatives took the party almost to the brink.
The paper quotes Vince:
“Five years from now we will have had a general election and I am sure we will have a Liberal Democrat MP representing Sheffield again in Parliament, and I would be very disappointed if we weren’t running the city by that stage as well,” he said. 
“We took three seats back this year and will make more progress next year throughout the city. We want to run Sheffield and we will again, but it doesn’t happen overnight. 
“The Labour cabinet are not making any friends over this toxic issue with the trees - it’s just no way to run local government.”
If you follow me on Twitter you will know all about Sheffield Labour's war on trees. If you don't then read this primer on the issue.

Vince also gave a well-deserved hoofing to the Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, Jared O'Mara, who has managed the difficult feat of being both controversial and invisible.

But as the Lib Dems won every ward in Hallam in this month's elections, O'Mara will not be resigning any time soon.

Why I don't care about the over rate in test matches



It began with Simon Mann, but now the whole Test Match Special team is obsessed with the over rate.

If a day's play does not include the regulation number of overs, they are up in arms on behalf of the paying public.

I just don't get it. When I have been to the cricket I have no idea what the over rate has been and I don't much care.

What you remember are individual shots and catches, and brief, intense passages of play. If the day contains none of those you will probably have left before the end anyway.

If you care about the over rate above all else then you might do better to go and watch public schools cricket, where the boys are scurrying about to please the games master.

I don't want to see the players hurrying through test matches. Isn't seeing the fielding captain hold up play to move a fielder or have a word in the bowler's ear part of what make the game enticing?

Besides, as Tony Cozier used to say, you would rather watch a dozen overs of Holding and Roberts than 18 overs of medium pace.

The demand that the public should get  value for the large sums now charged for test match tickets is an honourable one, but you do not measure entertainment just in terms of the number of overs bowled.*

This attitude reminds me of the great actor in the Monty Python sketch who measures the difficulty of a Shakespeare role purely by the number of words they contain.

I have added that sketch above. It contains the word "coon", which surprises me even though it is from the 1970s.

Let's be charitable and say they are mocking the way old actors then talked.


* There is a joke to be made somewhere around here about "a lot of balls".

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Six of the Best 793

Darren Hughes on the lessons of this month's voter ID trials: "Aside from showing a worrying distrust for voters, the ID trials are riddled with flaws. They must not be a fait accompli for a national roll-out."

"The fact that I have lost contact, irrevocably, with so many of the people with whom I grew up tells me we are not doing enough to ensure the future of care leavers. People who feel loved and cared for, who are full members of society, do not simply drop off the map." Daniel Lavelle sets out to trace the people he grew up with in care.

Miriam Mirwitch, the chair of Young Labour, explains why she is calling for a Labour Conference vote on Brexit.

Rory Cormac lifts the lid on Edward Heath's dirty war in Ireland.

"More than 100 years after the villages of Musa Dagh waged a successful resistance and survived the mass killings of Armenians during World War I, Vakifli is the last remaining Armenian village in Turkey." Kirsten McTighe on a remarkable story of survival.

Jenny Uglow visits the Tate Britain exhibition 'All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life'.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Kenneth Clarke and Tom Brake to speak on Europe in Spalding

Kenneth Clarke and Tom Brake will be two of the panel at a meeting on Europe to be held at the South Holland Centre, Spalding, on Friday evening (7.00pm, 25 May).

It is organised by the European Movement under the title "The Brexit Dialogue: Explaining the Facts, Exposing the Myths, Exploring the Options."

The other speakers will be Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, and James Torrance, one of the founders of the new party Renew. (Me neither.)

It will be chaired by that excellent Liberal Democrat George Smid, who chairs the European Movement in the East Midlands.

For free tickets, says Spalding Today, go to the South Holland Centre booking office or phone 01775 764777.

Or you can reserve tickets for a small charge on the South Holland Centre website.

Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to receive £38k grant


Good news from the Shropshire Star - and an excuse to use one of my photographs of the area from the 1990s.

Jeremy Thorpe on a 1974 Liberal Party election poster

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This poster comes from the February 1974 general election, when Jeremy Thorpe was the Liberal Party's chief asset.

For the second general election of that year, held in October, the Liberals fought under the less felicitous slogan "One More Heave".

Monday, May 21, 2018

Leicester before the King Power Stadium


Taken in 1927, the photograph shows Leicester Power Station. Leicester City's King Power Stadium now occupies the site.

You can also see the Filbert Street stadium where City used to play and the Aylestone Road ground where Leicestershire Country Cricket Club used to play.

The bridge over the river carries the line to Coalville, Ashby and Burton upon Trent, which is still open to freight. The sidings and wagons belong to the vanished Great Central main line.

James Johnson wears bra and fills hotel bath full of potatoes during 'bizarre' binge


The judges, while not convinced Mr Johnson is famous enough to merit a mention in the headline, were happy to award the Southern Daily Echo Headline of the Day for this effort.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Two Kettering ghost signs


Bass in Bottle and Ace Petrol Pumps can be found on the same town centre building.


Mike Hancock fails to assist European inquiry into his conduct

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From the Portsmouth paper The News:
Former Portsmouth MP Mike Hancock faces censure after not taking part in a vote-rigging corruption inquiry. 
The former Portsmouth South representative, who was resigned from the Lib Dems, faces losing his ‘honorary associate’ title at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (Pace).
He also faces being denied access to its buildings.
That's an odd way of putting it: "was resigned from the Lib Dems".

What happened is spelt out in this 2014 BBC News report:
Liberal Democrat Mike Hancock has resigned from the party, officials have confirmed. 
The Portsmouth South MP, who had faced allegations he sexually assaulted a constituent, handed in his resignation earlier in the week. 
The news was only revealed in answers to questions posed by the Independent newspaper on Thursday. 
In June, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg told the BBC Mr Hancock had "no future" in the party and he would be expelled. 
Mr Hancock had already had the whip removed and is expected to remain in the Commons as an independent.
Hancock fought Portsmouth South as an independent at the 2015 general election but received only 716 votes.

The News report does not make it entirely clear, but it seems the inquiry has been instigated by the Council of Europe:
An independent investigation was set up to look into allegations of paid-for favourable votes for Azerbaijan’s government at Pace. 
The report said another investigation had said others and Mr Hancock ‘had been seen as friends and frequent guests of (the Azerbaijan capital) Baku’ and had ‘defended’ the autocratic country’s record. 
It found Mr Hancock was among the most ‘prominent apologists for Azerbaijan’. 
Mr Hancock was investigated in the report for speaking to journalists outside a polling station before the election had finished.
According to The News, Hancock says he chose not to get involved with the inquiry because of poor health.

I blogged about Hancock's record of support for Putin's Russia and Azerbaijan twice in early 2014:
There you will find details of his extraordinary actions and opinions, right down to denial of the Armenian Genocide, and of his habit of employing beautiful young Russian women as assistants.

Listen to a podcast about On Liberty to celebrate Mill's birthday

Let us pass rapidly over Richard Reeves spell as chief of staff to Nick Clegg and instead celebrate him as a leading scholar of John Stuart Mill, whose birthday it is today.

You can hear Reeves talking about Mill and On Liberty in a short Philosophy Bites podcast.

The point he makes that the Harm Principle is not what is most interesting or important in the essay cannot be made often enough.

I once wrote an article for Liberator on why John Stuart Mill is the greatest Liberal that owed an indecent amount to Richard Reeves' ideas.

Richard and Linda Thompson: The Dimming of the Day



A track from their third album Pour Down Like Silver, which was written shortly after they had converted to the Sufi strand of Islam.

The Wikipedia entry for Pour Down Like Silver talks about the effect this had on their music.

It says of Dimming of the Day:
The understated and elegant "Dimming of the Day" was sung by Linda Thompson on this album, but Richard Thompson has continued to feature it in his own live shows for many years - an indication of its deep personal significance. This song is an example of Thompson writing in a centuries-old Sufic tradition of expressing divine love in earthly terms. 
On the album "Dimming of the Day" segues into a solo guitar performance of Scots composer James Scott Skinner's "Dargai" that perfectly matches the mood of the song and serves to bring the album to a contemplative conclusion.
Now listen to Richard and Linda Thompson sing A Heart Needs a Home.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

St Michael and All Angels, Kettering


I did not make this discovery through urban wandering but by reading Pevsner. He says Kettering's St Michael and All Angels dates from 1907 and "has distinct charm".

He is right. In today's sunshine and with a garden planted around it, this corrugated-iron church - to be found not far from Harry Potter House - had more appeal than many conventional urban churches of the period.







Six of the Best 792

"The fact that the Windrush generation is not our outgroup du jour means that they are available to be treated as a human interest story of the type that sells newspapers and enables (some of) us to feel good about ourselves, without (probably) actually changing anything." Rob Parsons tells it like it is.

Tim Holyoake says our political discourse is being poisoned by childish name calling.

"One reason the film's ending seemed so odd to its first critics is that - in what is ostensibly a mystery-story - it denies the mystery-story's need for punishment and retribution. Instead its ending is full of blessings; and at the end of a pilgrimage, sin is swallowed up in grace." Eleanor Parker penetrates deeper into the magic of A Canterbury Tale.

Cynthia Ozick reviews William Trevor's final book of short stories.

Lionel Nimrod's Inexplicable World, a radio comedy from the 1990s that starred Stewart Lee and Richard Herring, is celebrated by Tim Worthington.

"I don’t think that I have ever seen a side as affected by a result as Leicestershire were by this one. Carberry looked in a terrible state, and some of the younger players seemed on the verge of tears." Backwatersman watches that rare thing: a Leicestershire victory in the county championship.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Pedestrian crossing at Braybrooke


I took this on a soft day in the early 1980s.

A few years ago this pedestrian crossing was replaced by an overengineered footbridge. I suspect that few people use it.

In search of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhoods of 1986-94



We Liberals say we believe in local control, but no one has done more to put that ideal into practice than the Liberal and then Liberal Democrat administration that ran the London Borough of Tower Hamlets between 1986 and 1994.

As LCC Municipal explained at the end of last year:
in 1986, the Liberals took control of the Borough, with a one vote majority. Their manifesto “Power to the Hamlets” proposed a radical new form of decentralised local government. 
Seven Neighbourhoods were to be created: Bethnal Green, Bow, Globe Town, Isle of Dogs, Poplar, Stepney and Wapping. Each would be run by an autonomous local committee. 
Each would be given its own Chief Executive and almost all services, and a number of “back office” functions would be devolved down to Neighbourhood level.
That post includes some valuable links to academic evaluation of the experiment, though its account of history can be questioned. The BNP's success on the Isle of Dogs owed much to Labour's talking up its prospects in an attempt to hold a difficult by-election - one in which I delivered for the Lib Dems.

But it's all a long time ago, parts of the borough have changed out of recognition and its politics have been taken over by characters who make Eric Flounders, who led the Liberal administration, look like Mother Teresa.

The point of this post is to send you to a second LCC Municipal article that sets out to see what traces of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhoods remain today. It find a surprising amount.

Rather than steal any of its photographs, I have posted here a favourite video of mine. I delivered for the Lib Dems in that controversial Isle of Dogs by-election and really liked the area.

There is more about it in Patrick Wright's A Journey Through Ruins. At least I think there is - I am too busy cooking to go and check.

Sir Edward Lord Garnier has always been an opponent of Brexit

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Sir Edward Garnier, who was Conservative MP for Harborough until he stood down at last year's election, is included in the list of new peers announced today.

I suppose, following the pattern set by Tennyson, he will become Sir Edward Lord Garnier.

The Guardian report says the peers have been appointed to "bolster her party’s fragile position in the House of Lords".

Yet Sir Edward Lord Garnier has always been an opponent of Brexit.

The day before the referendum he said:
The Conservative Party has built its reputation on economic stability that will be the foundation of our ability to govern successfully over the next four years. We cannot afford to put the British people's hard-won economic security at risk by leaving the EU. A vote to Remain is about safeguarding jobs and our nation's prosperity. 
Nor is it easy to imagine him as lobby fodder in the Lords.

Here he is quoted in the Harborough Mail in November 2016:
Harborough’s Conservative MP Sir Edward Garnier says he is “surprised and disappointed” at his own Government’s reaction to the High Court ruling on Brexit. 
Sir Edward, also a prominent lawyer, said judges were perfectly entitled to make a decision on whether Parliament should discuss and vote on how the UK starts the process of leaving the European Union. 
He added he welcomed a Brexit debate in Parliament. 
“The court expressly said we are not here to discuss whether it’s a good or bad idea to be in or out of the EU” explained Sir Edward. 
“The ruling was to do with Parliamentary approval. The court reached the conclusion that the Government alone can not, through use of the Royal Prerogative, change statute law. 
“It needs to be approved by the whole of Parliament. The whole point of the Civil War (Crown versus Parliament) was to do with that!” 
It would be entirely characteristic of Theresa May's hapless premiership to appoint someone to bolster their position only for him to turn out to be an effective critic of its central policy.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

By Slip Coach to Bicester



This extract from the BBC television series Railway Roundabout shows the very last slip coach to operate on Britain's railways, which dates the filming to 10 September 1960.

Read all about slip coaches on Mike's Railway History.

A Very British Scandal begins on Sunday



In the days when we Liberal Democrats still imagined we might come out of the Coalition alive, I wrote in the Leicester Mercury:
Crisis? What crisis? When I joined the Liberal Party in the late 1970s we were finishing behind the National Front in parliamentary by-elections and our former leader was about to go on trial at the Old Bailey for conspiracy to murder. That’s a crisis.
As it turned out, Jeremy Thorpe did less harm to the party's long-term prospects than did Nick Clegg.

The extraordinary story of Thorpe and the conspiracy to murder which he initiated is to be told in a three-part BBC drama A Very British Scandal. The first part goes out on Sunday at 8pm.

Russell T. Davies, who has written the series, is interviewed on the We Are Cult website:
There are a lot of books written about Norman Scott and Jeremy Thorpe and they’ll tell you what happened – but as a writer, I thought I’d tell you why they happened. If I have a career as a writer it’s through understanding people, having psychological insights and being able to understand why characters and people do the things that they do. That’s what I brought to it. 
Norman Scott is still going strong and is not entirely happy with the was Davies has portrayed him.

A Very British Scandal is based upon John Preston's book of the same name, which I reviewed briefly a couple of years ago.

I occasionally see promises of startling revelations in the Thorpe Affair, but really the full story has been known for decades.

Even the fact that Team Thorpe had first approached another potential hitman was revealed by Auberon Waugh as long ago as 1981.

Still, I suspect the story will startle many viewers and I shall certainly be watching.

Liz Kendall's Leicester West constituency party grows restive

From the Leicester Mercury:
Grassroots Labour members in Leicester have called on Liz Kendall to send a letter of support to party leader Jeremy Corbyn. 
The Leicester West Constituency Labour Party (CLP) passed a motion to applaud the Labour leader’s "long track record of opposing all forms of racism and anti-Semitism". 
CLP members agreed to write to Mr Corbyn expressing their support for him in the anti-Semitism row. 
And they requested that the Leicester West MP - who in 2015 ran for the party leadership against Mr Corbyn - do the same.
The Mercury says Liz Kendall attended the meeting but was not invited to speak on these motions. It also quotes her as saying, albeit between the lines, that she will not be writing any such letter.

An anonymous Labour member told the paper that the motions were not an attempt to oust Liz Kendall but that the constituency party does want her to be more supportive of Corbyn and the Labour front bench.

I have never quite bought Liz Kendall's ubermoderate act. I suspect she thought she had identified a gap in the market at the last Labour leadership election, only to find the gap was much narrower than she expected.

Nevertheless, these events in Leicester West may come to be typical of tensions between moderate Labour MPs and their newly expanded and more left-wing constituency parties.

Meanwhile, I have to confess that Mr Corbyn's long track record of opposing anti-Semitism has rather passed me by.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Picture Theatre, Oakham


Wandering the back streets of Oakham (as one does), I came across this corrugated-iron building. As the site is being sold for development, its days are numbered.

An old boy living across the road told me that it used to be a cinema, and he was right.

Cinema Treasures tells us:
The Picture Theatre operated from 1925. It was an extremely modest affair, with the cinema, constructed out of corrugated iron, referred to, no doubt with some affection, as the ‘Tin Tabernacle’. 
The 1931 Kinematograph Year Book lists the owner and manager as Captain Guy Dawson, The Old House, Oakham. At that time, it was open just three days a week, giving six performances in total. It was equipped first with an Edibel sound system in 1930, then by an Imperial sound system manufactured in Leicester. 
The Picture Theatre was purchased by Frederick B. Salt in 1934, but was closed in 1935 with George Arliss in “Alexander Hamilton”.

No Heritage Lottery Fund cash for Taylor's of Loughborough


Bad news from the Leicester Mercury:
An historic Leicestershire business, which is one of the last of its kind in Britain, has been delivered a shocking blow. 
Taylor’s Bell Foundry is reeling from the news it has failed in its bid for a grant for more than £8 million, that was due to be used to secure its future.

The Heritage Lottery Fund cash was set to be used to make the Loughborough business, which has its roots in the 14 century, viable for the future. 
There seems little hope of a similar grant being approved in the future as a decline in lottery ticket sales means the Heritage Lottery Fund will not be giving such large grants out anymore.
A post on the Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust's Facebook page says:
The Grade II* Listed buildings are still on the Historic England Heritage At Risk Register and require substantial investment to undertake the urgent repairs that will secure their future and the future of British bell making.
That may sound a bit apocalyptic, but with the closure of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry last year, Taylor's is, to the best of my knowledge, the last bellfounder in the country.

Did the Lib Dems do less well in the local elections than we think?

I have commented before on the Liberal Democrat weakness for confirmation bias - our tendency to notice results that suggest we are doing well and ignore the ones that suggest we are not.

That post was written after apparently encouraging results in local by-elections were followed by disappointing results in the wider local elections of 2017.

But 2018 was different, wasn't it? The local elections earlier this month were good for the Lib Dems, weren't they?

In a fair-minded article on the LSE's British Politics and Policy blog, David Cutts suggested that the truth is less encouraging:
At 16%, the Liberal Democrats projected national share of the vote was much higher than current nationwide poll ratings and 3 percentage points higher than in 2014. On the downside, it was 2 percentage points lower than in the 2017 local elections. 
Moreover, in terms of nationwide share of the vote, it was one of the worst local election performances since the party’s formation. The Liberal Democrats currently have just shy of 1900 councillors. 
To put this into some context, they would have to more than double that number just to return back to their 2010 local council composition.
He argues that the party's performance earlier this month is in line with an established pattern. We do well in local elections where we are fighting the party in government at Westminster and less well when we are taking on the opposition. And the battleground we fought on last month was rather skewed towards Labour.

Cutts concludes that our real test will come next year:
Next year’s local elections are across a larger number of English shire districts including parts of the south west where the Liberal Democrats will be seeking to reclaim ground lost to the Conservatives since 2010. This will provide a far better indication of where the party stands. 
Given the party’s current low electoral base in these councils, the Liberal Democrats will be looking for at least 200 net gains. 
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceAnything above this and talk of a comeback would have some validity, but gains around the mark achieved in this election will represent a failure and would inevitably lead to questions not only about Cable’s leadership but the long-term viability of the party.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Chapel of St John Evangelist and St Anne, Oakham


I've known for a while that there is a medieval chapel near Oakham station, but a couple of halfhearted attempts to locate it failed.

On Saturday I was more purposeful and located the chapel of the former hospital of St John Evangelist & St Anne.

Today, appropriately, it stands at the heart of a sheltered housing scheme.





Six of the Best 791

The author of Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing, John Boughton, is interviewed about the way providing social housing can fuel economic growth.

Simon Baron-Cohen considers the revelations about Hans Asperger’s collusion with the Nazis,

"It is conventional wisdom that immigration played a central role in the 2016 EU Referendum. But what about the long-term role of European elites and EU institutions in (unwittingly) creating the seismic conditions for the Brexit vote in the first place?" asks Jeremy Richardson.

Carlo Celli and Nathan Richardson on the effect of abandoning coaching children at football: "As the kids were left alone, the quality of play actually increased. The kids began flicking creative passes to their teammates with the tips of their bare toes, looking for nutmegs, turning scissors and Maradona moves, even trying no-look passes on their own, out of the simple joy of the game."

lozmac on the mystery of the Numbers Stations that broadcast on shortwave radio.

The 29 stages of a Twitterstorm are set out by Tom Phillips.