Saturday, September 21, 2019

Bishop's Castle Town Council declares a climate emergency

The Shropshire Star reports:
Following in the footsteps of other councils across Shropshire including Shrewsbury, Clun and Ludlow, the Bishop's Castle Town Council declared a climate emergency at a meeting this week after a public led campaign.
Going by my experience of Bishop's Castle, the important thing is that they got there before Church Stretton.

A reader adds dismissively: You're just blogging this so you can post another photograph of Bishop's Castle.

Friday, September 20, 2019

England regain the Ashes in 1971

Going in to the final test 1-0 up, England set Australia 223 runs to level the series.

Though England's outstanding fast bowler John Snow was injured early on, it proved beyond them.

Without Snow, the England attack consisted of the fast bowlers Peter Lever and Bob Willis (plucked from Surrey's second XI on John Edrich's recommendation when Alan Ward had to go home injured), the spinners Derek Underwood and Ray Illingworth, and the golden-armed medium pacer Basil D'Oliveira,

NHS managers who defrauded health service of £800k using names of U2 band members ordered to pay back more than £500k

Embed from Getty Images

Not for the first time, the Shropshire Star wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Old joke: Why did Bono fall off the stage?

Emily Thornberry and the Taliban: It's all my fault

Embed from Getty Images

The Daily Mirror tells us that
Jo Swinson has hit back at Labour's Emily Thornberry after she branded the Lib Dems 'kind of Taliban' over their Brexit policy.
And the Liberal Democrats have been united in their outrage.

Trouble is, I have had a nagging feeling all day that it may be my fault.

Because this is how I began my Lib Dem Conference diary for the Guardian website back in 2001:
Fierce, bearded and wedded to an impenetrable ideology. Not a description of the Taliban, but the average commentator's view of the Liberal Democrats.
Clearly, I am the one who put the idea into what we may loosely call Thornberry's mind.

Searching this blog I find that Rory Stewart - AKA Lawrence of Belgravia - made the same comparison in 2010 in the course of a Westminster lecture.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Six of the Best 884

"Swinson’s policy has, if nothing else, achieved two things. It has introduced a measure of clarity to our politics that many have been craving, when so many of our politicians still cling to what the late Sir Geoffrey Howe called in his resignation speech the endless search for separating words from meaning. And it has given committed Remainers a clear political home." Joe Zammit-Lucia thinks our new Brexit policy has a lot going for it.

Larissa Lockwood argues that London’s streets should be for the majority, not a car-owning minority. She's right.

"Every year, more than a century after its heyday, ‘The Land Song’ is the opening number at an event with good claim to be the country’s best political sing-song, at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference." Andrew Whitehead tells the story of the Glee Club's favourite anthem.

Matthew Smith looks at the strange career of Ritalin, the drug that has been sold as a tonic for worn-out housewives and a treatment for hyperactive children.

Tim Worthington takes us back to 1991 and a live recording of Lee and Herring's Lionel Nimrod’s Inexplicable World.

Watching Leicestershire, says Backwatersman, resembles stumbling through the deep gloom of an abandoned railway tunnel, though with less danger of being run into by a manic cyclist or bitten by a rat.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Brexit Party candidate for Rutland believes Britain can increase its wealth by discovering new lands

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Over to the Grantham Journal to hear the platform of the newly selected Brexit Party candidate for Rutland and Melton:
 "I will campaign tirelessly for a clean break Brexit as this will give us the greatest chance of world-class free trading success. Let’s not forget, in the first Elizabethan era, we discovered new lands, vanquished malevolent enemies and brought untold wealth back to our fantastic island. 
"And with a clean break Brexit, we can do exactly the same again, bringing huge prosperity into our midst, amongst many other things, helping our cash strapped public services achieve unparalleled proficiency."
I am reminded of a 2016 diary entry by Lord Bonkers:
I recently heard a Conservative politician who has been Members of the European Parliament since they were 14 say that Brexit will make us a “buccaneering” nation again. Well, we remember those days hereabouts and dark they were indeed. 
Merchant vessels carrying Stilton and pork pies out of Oakham across Rutland Water were set upon by pirates, who stole their cargo, made the crew walk the plank and went “Arrr!” in a most annoying fashion. (I suppose they wanted they wanted the foodstuffs to feed their parrots.) 
I grant you those days were not without glamour: every Rutland schoolboy knows the story of how one of my ancestors ordered a footman to lie down in a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth would not get her pretty shoes muddy. Yet every fair-minded person will admit that the elimination of piracy in Rutland is one of the European Union’s greatest achievements and entertain no wish to see its return.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Changing Leicester: The story of how Leicester's past has been revealed

This film tells the story of how, amid all the redevelopment of the 1960s and 1970s, Leicester has come to have a greater appreciation of its history.

New Lib Dem Brexit policy convinces Tory mayor to join us

Last week it was the Duke of Wellington. This week it is the Mayor of Wellington.

The Shropshire Star reports:
Wellington mayor Anthony Lowe has defected to the Lib Dems after more than four decades with the Conservative party, due to the national Brexit turmoil. 
His decision comes after the Lib Dems pledged to cancel Brexit if they come to power at the next general election. 
Councillor Lowe, who joined the party in 1975, follows in the footsteps of six MPs who have joined the party in the last few weeks including ex-Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna and former Tories Phillip Lee and Sam Gyimeh.
I am heartened by the reason Lowe, who joined the Conservatives in 1975 because he supported British membership of the European Economic Community, gives for changing parties:
"It is absolutely a wrench for me to leave after so many years, but the position adopted by the Lib Dems at conference to revoke Brexit if they achieve a majority at the next election was the clincher for me. It is time to nail my colours to the mast."

Monday, September 16, 2019

Lord Bonkers' foreword to the new Liberator Songbook

Down at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth, the Glee Club is underway.

As always, a new edition of the Liberator Songbook is on sale for the event and, as always, Lord Bonkers has written a foreword to it.

Bonkers Hall
Tel. Rutland 7

Welcome to all our new members! I hope you enjoy your first Glee Club and, a word of reassurance, please don’t worry: It’s Meant To Be Like This.

I have already met many of you when you attended one of my basic training camps on the shores of Rutland Water. The party has signed up so many new recruits recently that I had to send out for extra tents.

After a week of training in committee room theory and practice, Focus delivery and guerrilla warfare – all conducted under the beady eye of Sergeant Major Carmichael – new members need fear nothing they will encounter as a Liberal Democrat activist.

As one graduate put it to me: “After that, a closely fought West Country council by-election felt like a vicarage tea party”.

Mind you, he had never been to one of the Reverend Hughes’s tea parties.


Can it really be 50 years since the Rutstock free festival? When it comes to the Sixties, they say that if you can… To be honest, I can’t remember what they say about the Sixties.

What a gamut of bands I brought to the Bonkers Hall Estate in 1969! There was Rutland’s own Credible String Band, Susan J. Kramer and the Dakotas, The Crazy World of Jeremy Browne, Jamie and the Family Stone, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

The last-named, my solicitors, proved invaluable when some of those bands complained they had not been paid.

Above all there was Jimi Hendrix playing ‘The Land’. His performance is justly famous and I flatter myself that my accompaniment on the spoons has played no little part in that.

Tonight let us endeavour to recapture the carefree spirit of the Sixties. Stick it to The Man, say Bollocks to Brexit and sing, sing, sing!


Bryan Magee interviewed in 1999: Part 2

This is the second part of Bryan Magee's RTE interview from 1999. Persevere past the alien attack that comes halfway through.

My conclusion after listening to this is that I should read Magee's book on Schopenhauer. I have read his short book on Wagner and it is very good.

You can listen to part 1 here.

Rutland vs Ronald McDonald

BBC News reports on McDonald's bid to open a drive-through outlet on the outskirts of Oakham, the county town of Rutland:
"It's such a small town to have a McDonald's," said Gaz Ali, who has managed Indian takeaway Eastern Delights for 20 years. "And at the end of the day it's going to bring riff-raff."
Rutland is wealthy, but one of the nice things about Oakham is that it is a proper working town. It's not twee.

The county's second town, Uppingham, dominated by its public school, would rather like to be twee. But it falls well short - I mean, Iain Sinclair's early novels were published there.

One of the abiding concerns  of small-town shopkeepers is to keep competition at bay.

When I was a councillor in Market Harborough more than one older resident told me that the former urban district council, which was dominated by the town's business interest, had actively dissuaded national chains from coming to the town.

The worry was that they would provide competition for existing traders and - horror!- put up wages.

So this is a battle where I have some sympathy for both sides. I shall not be heartbroken if McDonald's does come to Rutland.

"What we need, comrades, is Brexit"

The Liverpool Echo provides us with a reminder that Labour's hard left is every bit as much opposed to British membership of the European Union as the Conserservatives' hard right.

Paula Barker, a regional convener with Unison, is the favourite to be the next Labour candidate for the city's Wavertree division, the seat currently occupied by the newly Liberal Democrat MP Luciana Berger.

She is favourite not least because she has been backed by Momentum.

The Echo reports on a speech she gave last gives us some highlights from a speech she gave last year:
"If the left and the Labour party retreat into soft Brexitism or continue calls for another referendum, we are helping to create an environment where the far right can thrive." 
"May's deal is a bad deal, not because it moves us too far away from the EU, it is a bad deal because it continues to bind the UK to pro-market EU rules." 
"We should be very wary of those trying to shift Labour's position on Europe towards having a second referendum. What we need, comrades, is Brexit."
You can watch the speech in the video above.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

David Gower: The best England batsman I have seen

David Gower is in the news today because Sky Sports have let him go.

Many readers will know him as a classy and latterly avuncular broadcaster, but I am lucky enough to remember Gower the batsman.

When he pulled the first ball he faced in test cricket for four, John Arlott exclaimed "Oh, what a princely entry!"

And 'princely' describes the young Gower of those days so well.

There were times, such as the summer of 1985 when he captained England to victory over Australis and scored a double century and two centuries in the process, that he appeared invincible - the best England batsman I have ever seen.

But there was a fragility about him too. When you watched him playing for Leicestershire at Grace Road you were on the edge of your seat, determined to enjoy every shot, every ball, in case some misjudgement cut his innings short.

Here he is scoring his first test double century against India in 1979, his second summer of test cricket.

The bowling looks distinctly ordinary, but oh the shots he plays!

Lord Bonkers' Diary: How to get out of a sheep costume that has shrunk in the rain?

And so another week at Bonkers Hall draws to its close.

If any reader in Mid Wales is accosted by a sheep begging them to ring Lib Dem HQ in London, please take pity on it.


Ever since I played old Jofra in the early episodes of The Archers, I have taken a keen interest in the wireless. I used to be a major shareholder in the pirate stations that broadcast from the middle of Rutland Water – who can forget Susan J. Kramer and the Dakotas? – and am now Chairman of Radio Rutland.

It happens that I have my own weekly show and this afternoon I call into our Oakham studios to record the latest edition. My interviewee is the Wise Woman of Wing, who solves people’s personal problems (‘Anguished of Tickencote’ – you know the sort of thing), pronounces on the day’s news and offers her celebrated racing tips.

A reversed-charge call from a Radnorshire telephone box brings a question about how to get out of a sheep costume that has shrunk in the rain, but unfortunately it is cut off before the Wise Woman can give her answer.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Kirsty MacColl: A New England

This Billy Bragg song was released on one of his albums in 1983 and, with an extra verse he wrote for her, was a hit single for Kirsty MacColl the following year.

This is a good chance to recommend the BBC Radio 4 Great Lives programme on MacColl.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "My message to everyone who sits on the sofa and shoots at the television"

It's not just Tim Farron and pews Lord Bonkers goes on about: he is always telling us the reasons for his remarkable longevity.

There have always been readers who worry about his age, but it has never troubled me. What does trouble me these days is my own age.

I still find it natural to refer to Wallace Lawler, Nesta Wyn Ellis and the Great Torrington by-election in these diaries, but how many Liberator subscribers or Liberal England readers have heard of them?


I am, as my more attentive readers will have realised, more than 75 years in age. I put my longevity down to my annual excursion to bathe in the Spring of Eternal Life that bursts from the hillside above the former home of the Association of Liberal Councillors in Hebden Bridge – that and the cordial sold to me, at rather a stiff price, by the Elves of Rockingham Forest.

Where was I? Oh yes. Being of mature years I am entitled to a free television licence, which is a bit of a nonsense when you consider that I own a Landed Estate, oil wells on Rutland Water and Europe’s second-largest Stilton mine.

However, I have to say that I get very poor value from that licence, because (like any red-blooded  Englishman) I keep a loaded shotgun by my chair and let fly at the screen whenever one of an increasingly long list of politicians or a member of the Dimbleby family appears. The result, of course, is that the set rarely works.

It was with this in mind that I ghosted the following passage in an article by Jo Swinson: “And my message to everyone who sits on the sofa and shoots at the television when watching Johnson’s blustering bravado is clear: politics is not a spectator sport.”

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Inside St Andrew's, Tur Langton

Last time I visited Tur Langton it was to meet Charles I.

I was back there today and, because it was the day of Ride+Stride for Churches, I found the village's Victorian church unlocked for the first time.

Inside I found some pleasing use of contrasting bricks, and I have always liked the way that the windows that face across the fields are much larger than those that look out on to the village's main street.

But my chief memory will be those terrifying ladders.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Bryan Magee interviewed in 1999: Part 1

This is the first of two interviews Bryan Magee gave to Andy O'Mahony from RTE in 1999.

His ability to make philosophical ideas clear to the lay listener is well in evidence.

Ignore the video's discouraging appearance: it will play.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Jardine will not hesitate to give the criminal one up the snoot

The old boy celebrates the promotion of Douglas Jardine, the brains behind the Bodyline tour of Australia.

I never had him down as a Liberal myself.


My old friend Jo Grimond proved a splendid leader of the Liberal Party, so I have great hopes of Jo Swinson. Already she has shown good judgement by appointing me to the Outer Space portfolio in her Shadow Cabinet and, and this morning I hurry up to Town for its first meeting.

Looking around the table I am heartened by the faces that return my gaze. A fellow called Davey (I didn’t catch his second name) is our Chancellor, while our Foreign Secretary is one Chuka Umunna (note to self: look him up).

I am particularly cheered by the appointment of Douglas Jardine to the Home Office brief. He, I feel sure, is the man to lead the fight against crime: Jardine will not hesitate to give the criminal one up the snoot if he threatens to hang around.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Beverley Wrigley-Pheasant wins Name of the Day

Two wriggly pheasants yesterday

Yesteday she came second for the Liberal Democrats in a Rutland by-election, but now Beverley Wrigley-Pheasant has gone one better.

Congratulations to the winner of our prestigious Name of the Day Award.

Lib Dems hold Bishop's Castle with 71 per cent of the vote

Because of my caring commitments I find it hard to get to Shropshire these days. And I am worried about what will happen next time I try to visit Bishop's Castle.

I envisage finding a grassy hillside and a conversation with a passing shepherd something like this:
Where's the town gone? 
Yes, Bishop's Castle. 
Never heard of it.
But it was here. The high street ran up this steep hill. There were two pubs that brewed their own beer and the best second-hand classical record shop I know. Oh and the Liberal Democrats got 71.4 per cent in a local by-election here recently. 
It doesn't sound very likely, does it?
Here is the evidence that I have not imagined the bit about the by-election at least.
You will see that 71.4 per cent actually represented a slight fall in the Lib Dem vote.

I was going to say "You can see why I like this town," but the ward also takes in the countryside all the way north to the Stiperstones.

Unless I imagined those too.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Leicestershire Line of the Grand Union Canal

Some photos from my walk last Saturday.

I also visited the Wistow church and the little church at Newton Harcourt.


Lord Bonkers' Diary: Paul sometimes Went On A Bit

I have seen no evidence that Tim Farron wants to rip out the pews at St Asquith's and make everyone sing ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’, but Lord Bonkers is clearly obsessed with the idea.

He is also on record as saying he is not prepared to kiss the person next to him in church - "unless it’s Alan Beith, of course".


Whenever I leave the village I fear for what I shall find at St Asquith’s on my return. I am pleased to report the Revd Hughes is still firmly in charge: his curate Farron has not ripped out all the pews and made everyone sing ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ after all. The Revd chooses as the text for his sermon Galatians 6:9 - ‘And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.’

I have to say that Paul sometimes Went On A Bit - I  wonder if his correspondents were wholly delighted to see another of his letters arrive in the post, even if their children did enjoy collecting the stamps. In this case, however, I am happy to concede that he was spot on.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

KIng's Cross and its approaches in the 1950s

Wonderful stuff.

Early on we see the extraordinary clutter outside the station, including a show home that was used to promote the new suburban estates along the lines to the north.

Then it is the scene of the robbery in The Ladykillers before the steam locomotives take over.

The books will tell you that Mrs Wilberforce's house was a set, but I am sure I spotted it later on in this film.

Canterbury Lib Dems told to delay candidate selection

There's an intriguing story on Kent Online:
The selection of a Liberal Democrat candidate to contest the Canterbury seat at the next election has been unexpectedly put on hold. 
A selection meeting was scheduled to take place tomorrow, but has been postponed indefinitely. 
It is understood local association party chiefs were contacted this week by the national party and told to cancel the selection meeting but were given no explanation why. 
There is speculation the party has acted to keep some seats open in the event of further high-profile defections from other parties amid the Brexit chaos.
You have to be an optimist to see Canterbury as a Lib Dem candidate target. But politics is in such  flux at the moment, who knows?


Thanks to a reader for this...

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Frozen haddock, fashionable yoghurts and Bjork CDs

You may recall - you probably don't - that there was a controversy in August over whether Britain exports pork pies to Iceland and Thailand. The conclusion, as far as my researches went, is that we used to in a small way but don't any more.

Lord Bonkers, as so often, has a different take on the matter.


Those who believe we do not export pork pies to Iceland should take a stroll along Oakham Quay, as I did this morning. The Arctic Fleet was newly in port, its rigging still sheathed in ice.

If I am honest, our local delicacy is a hard sell in Reykjavik as the locals prefer a slap up meal of decaying shark, but we still maintain the trade. The ships I saw this morning had returned from Northern waters laden with frozen haddock, fashionable yoghurts and Bjork CDs.

As a young man I was involved in the illicit pork pie trade, smuggling them into the United States in defiance of its petty regulations. Disguised as lumberjacks, we floated rafts of them across the Great Lakes.

Today, I prefer to look for less dangerous markets – an old Thai friend of mine tried a pie only the other day and pronounced it delicious when fried in a wok with garlic, lemon grass and holy basil. I leave for Bangkok next week.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

From Southwold to Dunwich via Walberswick

Another walk with John Rogers. This one follows in the footsteps of W.G. Sebald and his book The Rings of Saturn, taking us from Southwold to the lost city of Dunwich via Walberswick.

It is a walk I have done myself, thinking of Peter Greenaway's Drowning by Numbers and Malcolm Saville's Sea Witch Comes Home.

What really did for Dunwich, incidentally, is that its river changed course. If it had faced solely a problem of coastal erosion the city could have been rebuilt further inland.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: I went through Three Cocks

Three Cocks Junction was a railway station in Mid Wales where a line from Builth Wells met the one that ran from Hereford to Brecon. The station closed to passengers in 1962.

When I was working in the 1985 Brecon and Radnor by-election I went through the village from which it took its name.

Back in Leicestershire, I announced to a friend with an even that deeper interest in railways than mine that "I went through Three Cocks when I was in Wales."

Thirty-four years later that inadvertent double entendre has come in useful.


What a splendid night! It was touch and go at the start of the count, but when the boxes from Ystradgynlais were opened it became clear we had triumphed. We toasted our victory in the finest Welsh champagne and sang our Liberal anthems: ‘The Land’, ‘Woad’ and ‘Cwm Off It’.

One pleasure of this contest has been rediscovering the delightful countryside of Mid Wales. More than once by memory has been jogged by places I saw in the last campaign I fought here – I went through Three Cocks in the 1985 by-election.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

John Major's eulogy at Paddy Ashdown's memorial service

A memorial service for Paddy Ashdown was held at Westminster Abbey today, attended by four former prime ministers: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Sir John Major.

Here is John Major's eulogy for Paddy.

Monday, September 09, 2019

The little church at Newton Harcourt revisited

In the shady churchyard is a striking modern monument in the form of a miniature church with spire, porch, windows, and battlements, set up in memory of a boy of eight, a little shrine not unlike a toy building he himself might have tried to fashion with a big box of bricks. We have come upon no other like it in any of our country churchyards.
That quotation comes from the Leicestershire volume of Arthur Mee's The King's England.

I told the full story of the little church at Newton Harcourt when I visited the village in 2012. Unfortunately, that June day was so bright that I could not get a good photo of the shining white monument.

On Saturday, in the course of a seriously loosely planned walk, I found myself back there. The tinge of autumn in the air meant I could get some better photographs.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Young Liberals have been dressed as sheep

Events are moving quickly at the moment. The last time I heard from Lord Bonkers he was holed up with the King of the Badgers ready to give his life if Boris Johnson's tanks came rolling on to his land.

Picture conditions there as something between Rogue Male and The Wind in the Willows.

His diary in the new issue of Liberator, by contrast, beings on the eve of the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.


It’s good to have the smell of cordite and unwashed activist in my nostrils again: I have placed myself in command of a committee room on the front line of the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election. It seems only yesterday since that fine actor Roger Livesey captured the seat for the Liberals, but today we must win it all over again.

Every preparation has been made. Crack platoons of knockers up have been dispatched to every street on my patch; sharp-eared Young Liberals have been dressed as sheep and given instructions to lurk outside the other parties’ HQs to see what intelligence they can gather.

A shout goes up! A Brexit party aircraft has been sighted over Talgarth. I give immediate orders for our ack ack guns to be manned (by women, as it happens) and ring the local RAF station to have a Hurricane sent up.

When the polls close we shall be able to look ourselves in the eye and say we have done everything we can to secure victory for Jane Dodds.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10.

Now the Duke of Wellington has resigned the Conservative whip

My readers are the best.

They put up with my videos of long-vanished branch lines when what they really want is news and opinion about the Liberal Democrats.

They put up with me banging on about politics when all they really want are photos of ghost signs and tin tabernacles.

But through it all they stick with me.

And send me my best stories.

Just now one sent me news that the Duke of Wellington resigned the Conservative whip in the Lords last week. The proof is in the tweet below.

It looks as though the Churchills and the Wellesleys have come to the conclusion that Boris Johnson is a shit.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Back to St Wistan's, Wistow

Seven years ago I wrote:
St Wistan's, Wistow, has Norman fabric but a pleasing Georgian interior, complete with box pews and plain glass.
I was back there yesterday, and my appreciation of church architecture must have come on because I was positively excited by the Norman arch above. It reminded me of those I saw at Breedon on the Hill.

That Georgian interior now includes a tablet in honour of someone I served on Harborough District Council with: Sir Timothy Brooks.

I wrote about him 10 years ago (note the connection to Iain Duncan Smith).

Ruby: BART

Ruby were a band formed by the former Creedence Clearwater Revival member Tom Fogerty, though the lead guitarist here is Randy Oda.

This is a great instrumental track and comes from the band's eponymous first album, issued in 1976.

It's also a fitting tribute to a public transport system: San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit. All we British have is Finchley Central by the New Vaudeville Band.

If BART sounds oddly familiar, there may be a reason. It was often used by the BBC to accompany pages from Ceefax and before that it was the continuity music for the corporation's schools programmes.

It was a good choice. The way the main theme keeps returning gives you confidence that something is about to happen.

There is a story that Fogerty, seeing regular royalty cheques arriving from the UK, reasoned that the band must be racing up the charts over here and hurried to tour. He was disappointed at the reception they received.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Templecombe to Bath Green Park in 1963

This much-mourned line is seen three years before its closure.

Note the glimpse of a working Somerset coal mine.

The new issue of Liberator is out - and why you should subscribe

The new Liberator has arrived, which is pretty impressive seeing as I was still writing for it this time last week.

Soon I will inflict Lord Bonkers' latest writings on you, and maybe my review of the new Social Liberal Forum publication The Wolves in the Forest.

But this evening let's do what every reader does and turn first to Radical Bulletin, the feature that tells you what is really going on in the Liberal Democrats.

There you will find the answer to these questions:

  • Which Lib Dem leadership contended sacked their campaign chief halfway through the recent contest?
  • Which seat says it has been told by party HQ to stand down its candidate in favour of Plaid Cymru?
  • Which seat where we polled 3.3 per cent last time round is being treated as a target?

Once again the moral is clear: subscribe to Liberator.

Phil Knowles chosen as Lib Dem candidate for South Leicestershire

Phil Knowles, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Harborough District Council, has been chosen as the party's parliamentary candidate for South Leicestershire.

I have known Phil for 35 years and served on the council with him, so I can say with some authority that South Leicestershire Lib Dems have got themselves a mighty campaigner.

The South Leicestershire constituency takes in much of the Harborough District. Among its largest settlements are Blaby, Lutterworth and Broughton Astley

Friday, September 06, 2019

82 holes in Ludlow, Shropshire

Liberal Democrat councillor Andy Boddington reports from Ludlow:
Good news on the pothole front. Our town is riddled with potholes and a bumpy ride is quite normal. While a few of the big potholes have been patched, the backlog remains large. The council’s consultants have now identified 82 defects within Ludlow that require repair. ... They will be repaired overnight on 9-11 September.
Which gives me an excuse for posting another photograph of the town and this headline.

Sir Nicholas Soames on Jacob Rees-Mogg

Embed from Getty Images

Over on The Times website you will find this gem:
Sir Nicholas is more horrified by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader. His behaviour this week, lolling on the front bench, was "repulsive", he says. 
"He is in serious danger of believing his own shtick. He is an absolute fraud, he is a living example of what a moderately cut double-breasted suit and a decent tie can do with an ultra-posh voice and a bit of ginger stuck up his arse. You do not behave like that as leader of the House."  
Both men went to Eton but Sir Nicholas says Rees-Mogg’s behaviour has nothing to do with his school. 
"I thought it was bloody bad manners and he of all people should know better. He has had all the advantages and frankly nanny made a serious bish. I wanted to kick him firmly in the arse and say, ‘What the hell do you think you are playing at? Sit up!’ 
"His speech in the Brexit debate was “the lowest form of student union hackery, insolence and bad manners."

Thursday, September 05, 2019

A 1935 railway poster for Bridlington

Embed from Getty Images

A 1935 poster produced by the London & North Eastern Railway. The artist was Septimus E. Scott.

I am reminded of the following exchange.

The playwright Alan Ayckbourn, famous for living in the Yorkshire resort of Scarborough and for opening all his plays there was walking along the front there one day, when he was accosted by a stranger.

There ensued this exchange:
Mr Ayckbourn, isn't it? 
It is. 
I was looking at the paper the other day and I noticed that you have two plays running in the West End. 
Yes, that's right. 
I hope you don't mind me saying so, but you must be doing quite well out of that. 
Yes, I suppose I am. 
Mr Ayckbourn, there's one thing that's always puzzled me. If you got all this money, why don't you live in Bridlington?

Former Labour MP joins the Liberal Democrats

Robert Flello was Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South between 2005 and 2017.

Altogether now: "For he’s a jolly good Flello."

Why the opposition parties should make Boris Johnson wait for his general election

Embed from Getty Images

Though the Fixed-term Parliaments Act was necessary to prevent David Cameron ending the Coalition as soon as it suited him, Liberals and Liberal Democrats have long advocated fixed parliamentary terms.

They limit the electoral advantage enjoyed by the governing party, because everyone knows when the next election will be, and they encourage parties to work together.

So there is no reason for the Liberal Democrats to hurry to allow a general election.

And there is a very good reason why we should put if off for a good while: Boris Johnson is desperate for it to take place soon.

You can see why.

His party is falling apart by the day. He looks more ridiculous by the day. And if he can't deliver by Brexit by 31 October a large part of his party will cry "betrayal".

So it is in the opposition parties' interest to keep him in office and powerless for as long as they can. The longer he survives in such a humiliating state, the less chance he has of winning the election when it comes.

Let me end with a chess analogy. Just occasionally, you get a good position out of the opening and your opponent sits squirming and using up time because he cannot find anything to do.

In those circumstances playing aggressively can even help him. If you make a threat his next move is clear: he has to defend against it. Suddenly there is something to do.

So you are better off playing a quiet move (tucking your king into the corner is perfect) and then getting up and strolling round the tournament hall while your opponent continues to squirm and use up time.

Let's just leave Johnson sitting there. He will blunder before long and lose the game. He's not much of a chess player.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Belvoir Castle, Bonkers Hall and garden bus tours

Thanks to a reader for drawing this report in Historic Houses to my attention:
Capability Brown’s spectacular ‘lost landscape’ design for Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire now features in a number of new garden bus tours designed and narrated by Emma, Duchess of Rutland.
I showed it to Lord Bonkers with the following result.

  Lord Bonkers writes exclusively for Liberal England:
I don't know about you, but I have always found the Duke of Rutland's seat Belvoir Castle rather flashy. Nevertheless, when the Duchess showed me around I was he soul of politeness and remarked "Nice Belvoir." 
The gardens at Bonkers Hall are also to be preferred; the local tradition is that they were laid out by Capability Brown's younger brother Incapacity. 
And we were into the garden tour racket long before the Rutlands. I well recall the first Lady Bonkers taking the wheel of a charabanc and chasing Meadowcroft around his favourite shrubbery. 
How the passengers cheered! 

Former Conservative deputy leader of York joins the Lib Dems over his party's shift to the far right

It’s not just in Westminster that leading Tories are leaving the party 
says York Mix.

The website reports that the city's former Conservative deputy leader Paul Healey has joined the Lib Dems. He was a councillor for eight years and has been a Tory activist for 28.

He told York Mix:
"Since the 2016 EU Referendum, the Conservatives have lurched to the far-right of British politics, squeezing out the space for moderate, liberal and pro-European Conservatives. 
"Like many other people across the UK I have been appalled at Boris Johnson’s attempts this week to subvert parliamentary democracy and push through his hard Brexit agenda. 
"That is why I am delighted to be joining a united, tolerant and outward looking Liberal Democrat team here in York, buoyant from recent victories in the local and European elections, leading the campaign for Remain and standing up for communities across the city."