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.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Tur Langton in the springtime


I photographed this glorious horse chestnut back in 2010.

Somewhere beneath it is the only fragment that remains of Tur Langton's old church.

Lib Dems do limited deals with Labour in Milton Keynes and North East Lincolnshire

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News of what the Liberal Democrats have done on two councils where no party has a majority following this month's local elections.

From About Milton Keynes:
Milton Keynes Labour Party Leader Peter Marland and Lib Dem Leader Douglas McCall today signed a new 12-month Partnership Agreement. 
Under the new Enhanced Partnership, the Milton Keynes Labour Group will continue to run the Council in return for delivering the whole of the Lib Dem manifesto and giving the Lib Dems an enhanced role in formatting future Council policy. 
And from the Lincolnshire Reporter:
The Liberal Democrats group on North East Lincolnshire Council will support the Labour Party as part of a confidence and supply arrangement. 
This means the Labour group will continue to run the council as a minority-led authority but with voting support from the Liberal Democrats on key issues. 
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceLeader of the council, Ray Oxby, will now form a cabinet from the Labour group and support the nomination of Liberal Democrat councillors to hold key scrutiny board and select committee positions as part of the agreement.

Oakham School's theatre is an old canal warehouse


North of Leicester the River Soar is joined by the River Wreake. The Wreake used to be navigable as far as Melton Mowbray, where there was a basin beside the railway station. From there a canal ran to another basin close to the centre of Oakham.

The Queen Elizabeth Theatre of Oakham School is housed in an old warehouse that stood beside that basin. I managed to get a couple of photographs of it on Saturday, though the theatre is now surrounded by other school buildings.

There has been talk of restoring navigation to Melton, which certainly looks possible. Getting all the way back to Oakham would be more of a challenge.

The conventional wisdom has it that the Leicester to Peterborough railway was built along the bed of the Oakham Canal. But a well-informed thread on Canal World suggests this is not the case.

When a railway company bought up a canal in the 19th century it usually had more to do with removing competition and avoiding law suits arising from the interruption of water supplies than with taking over the exact route of the canal. So much of the route of the Oakham Canal survives.

Read more about the prospects for restoration on the website of the Melton and Oakham Waterways Society.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Market Harborough ghost sign


Frank Taylor's fish and chip shop in Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough, said the 1981 edition of Travellers' Britain, was the second oldest in the world.

I don't know where they got that from, and it didn't do the best chips in town, but it is remembered today by this ghost sign.

The building is now occupied by the excellent Duncan Murray Wines and Wine Bar.

Let's leave "gammon" off the menu

Let's say we get our way and there is a second referendum on Brexit.

Could we win it?

Maybe not, because so far we do not have appeared to have learnt the lesson of Remain's defeat in the first one. All we have done so far is to turn Project Fear up to 11.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post that cited various pieces of psychology research and concluded:
The implication of all this, I suspect, is that if we want to persuade people who are tempted to vote Leave to vote Remain, we should frame our arguments in terms of concepts like patriotism and the continuity of British history and not laugh at them and call them "fruitcakes" - as this blog is prone to doing.
Since then we have seen the demise of "fruitcake" and the rise of "gammon".

Gammons, we all know, are red-faced, racist and ridiculous. You see them participating in Question Time and leaving comments on the Daily Mail website.

Above all, gammons are what we Remainers are not like.

So the existence of the concept does wonders for our self-esteem. It's just that I do not believe it does anything to encourage anyone to vote for us.

If there is another referendum we need to do things like give Jeremy Clarkson a central role and make a concerted effort of engage older voters. 

No, we have to tell them, this is not the world you grew up in and it is not one you feel particularly at home in. But it is the one your grandchildren have taken to and shouldn't you think of them too when you vote?

Some will remain convinced that the good old days were better and believe that they can bring them back for those grandchildren, but some will be convinced by these sort of arguments.

Calling them "gammons" will not convince one.

Saxon and after: St Andrew, Brigstock


My tactic of getting off the bus at the first stop in a small town or village and walking into the centre paid off at Brigstock because I found St Andrew's by following a path beside a stream.

It is not Brixworth, but it is still a fine church with Saxon remains and a similar circular stair tower. You can read all about the architecture in its Grade 1 Listing.

Inside (besides the monument to a Liberal cabinet minister) there is a carved wood screen that is said to have come from Pipewell Abbey.

Outside in the churchyard there is a magnificent tree. Does anyone recognise the species? I assumed it would be a yew, but the leaves are wrong for that.







The Clash: Career Opportunities



Career Opportunities was a track on The Clash's eponymous first LP from 1977. But not this version.

The singers here are Luke and Ben Gallagher, the young sons of the keyboard player Mickey Gallagher, who played on the 1980 LP Sandanista! where it appears.

Mickey Gallagher was best known as a member of Ian Drury's Blockheads. I saw him playing with the The Animals and Friends with Spencer Davis when they played Market Harborough leisure centre.

You can see him playing keyboards below.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Class 27 stabled a mile south of Leicester station


This locomotive in green livery appeared in the sidings at Knighton Junction, a mile or so south of Leicester station, a couple of weeks ago.

Whatever call it is, it was not a familiar sight on English rails in my trainspotting days.

Thanks to some helpful people on Twitter I can tell you that it is a British Railway Class 27 originally known as D5410.

Rather wonderfully, it is owned by Sandwell MBC. You can read all about it on Wikipedia:
D5410 was built by BRCW as Works No DEL253 of 1962. It was allocated to Cricklewood East in August of that year, working Tilbury Boat trains and Cross-London freight services. After re-allocation to London (Midland) in 1965 and Nottingham Division in 1968, D5410 moved to Eastfield Depot in Glasgow in March 1969.
In fact all the Class 27s were based in Scotland in the days when I cared about such things, which is why I hardly saw them.

These new siding at Knighton Junction, incidentally, were put in to replace the ones removed from Market Harborough to allow the new car park to be built.

I can see myself spending the next week or more trying to get a better picture of it than this.

Wallis's Mill, Brigstock


Here's an unexpected building to find in a rural village like Brigstock, even if its pale stone is characteristic of the place.

Pevsner says it was built for the clothing firm Wallis & Linnell in 1873-4 and notes that it was made thirteen bays long but only two wide so there was maximum light for all the workers.

He also says the building was converted to offices in 1982, but it appears empty today.



Happy St Pancras Day


As John Betjeman once wrote:
St Pancras was a 14-year-old Christian boy who was martyred in Rome by the Emperor Diocletian. In England, he is better known as a railway station.
Today is St Pancras Day.

What with that and its being Steve Winwood's birthday, it is no wonder 12 May is a public holiday here on Liberal England.

Friday, May 11, 2018

London Rock (1970)



A fantastic documentary featuring The Faces, Marc Bolan, Linda Lewis, Matthews Southern Comfort and Fairport Convention.

St Andrew, Brigstock, has a monument to a Liberal cabinet minister


Brigstock has a Saxon church. It's not Brixworth, but it's still worth a visit.

Inside you will find this monument to Robert Vernon, 1st Baron Lyveden, who held office under four prime minsters. Since you ask, they were Grey, Melbourne, Russell and Palmerston.

Vernon's original surname was Smith - he was a nephew of the great Sydney Smith. He was MP for Tralee 1829-31 and for Northampton 1831-59.

Despite what Wikipedia says, this is not his tomb inside St Andrew's. But in the churchyard you can find the family vault where he lies.