Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Six of the Best 947

"We aren’t puritans. We aren’t miserable. We aren’t automatons. We are liberals. So why oh why is the party resorting to wringing its collective hands about 'unhealthy' Eat Out to Help Out discounts?" Judging by the reaction on Twitter, Max Wilkinson speaks for many party members.

Peter Franklin calls on the chancellor to repair the public finances after Covid-19 by introducing a form of land value taxation: "If Rishi Sunak introduces it, we’d be facing a truly remarkable moment in British politics: the first step toward a seemingly impossible political philosophy - Tory Georgism."

"A holistic approach is needed to get more people on their bikes, one that makes cycling desirable, accessible and fun. To truly make it safe, cycling in the capital needs to take priority over driving." Caz Nicklin says that if the prime minister wants to get us all on our bikes, he needs to look at what’s been stopping us for so long.

John Boughton looks at the history of council housing in Oxford, which includes a wall built to separate a private estate from the council houses next door.

Alwyn Turner looks at the strange fame of the Italian heavyweight boxer Primo Carnera.

"To get a sense of what it is like, think of an artists’ community in a near-desert of shingle, consisting of houses built from driftwood and old train carriages, all on a storm-battered headland in Kent, with a globally unique ecosystem, a tiny steam railway, and of course those two gigantic nuclear plants dominating the view to the south." Niall Gooch takes us to Dungeness.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

A walk to the source of a buried river in East London

John Rogers follows the course of the Cran Brook through the streets of Ilford to its source near Barkingside.

He says on YouTube:
We start on Wanstead Flats and pass through Aldersrbook, a model Edwardian suburb that is seen as a great example of the vernacular revival. Passing down Empress Avenue we look for the site of the Redbridge Nuclear Shelter near Empress Avenue Allotments. These allotments were used as a location in the Mike Leigh film Another Year. 
The path takes us around the outer perimeter of the Wanstead Park, through the Epping Forest Exchange Lands and near the site of an isolation hospital. We pass beneath the pylons and cross the River Roding into the streets of Cranbrook. 
The Cran Brook makes its confluence with the Roding on Ilford Golf Course which I was unable to access, but the course through the streets here is marked on the map in the video. The name, Cranbrook has its earliest use in 1233 as Cranebroc. We follow the Brook along Empress Avenue, Ilford, through an area called The Wash and into Valentines Park. 
Valentines Park was featured in an episode of the radio show I produced and co-presented with Nick Papadimitriou on Resonance FM, Ventures and Adventures in Topography. It's one of my favourite London parks. Author Thomas Burke described it as The Eastern Queen in his 1920's book, The Outer Circle - rambles in remote London. The Valentines Estate had existed before Valentines Mansion was built in the 1690's for the widow of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 
The Park once had a Lido which was demolished in 1994 and it is said to be the inspiration for the Small Faces song Itchycoo Park. Roman era burials were excavated in the grounds of the house in 1724. The Cran Brook can be seen flowing through the Park into the boating lake. 
From Valentines Park we walk along Quebec Road, the go along the A12 Eastern Avenue and turn into Horns Road. We can see the shape of the river valley from Netley Road, Birkbeck Road and Perkins Road where the river runs beneath the Sainsburys Car Park. 
We follow the alleyway that takes us over the Central Line behind Newbury Park Station and into Oaks Lane. From Oaks Lane we go into a field that leads us to where the springs gurgle to the surface giving birth to the brook not far from Barkingside Station.
John has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway,

Road hauliers will soon need a permit to enter Kent

Remember how Brexit was meant to reduce red tape?

The Department of Transport has issued a document on proposed legislative amendments on enforcing Operation Brock, the scheme to have lorries queue for the channel ports inland if there is a need.

There you will find this gem:
From that point on, the legislation would require any haulier using designated roads in Kent leading to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel to be in possession of a ‘Kent access permit’ (KAP), which would be digitally issued to drivers receiving a ‘green’ or ‘amber’ result from the SF service.

Each KAP would be valid for 24 hours to cover a single trip, and police and DVSA enforcement officers could issue penalties to hauliers found heading for Dover or Eurotunnel without one. Thus, travelling in contravention of a ‘red’ result (being advised not to travel) or failure to use the SF portal at all and so not having a valid KAP, would be a fineable offence.
That's right. Brexit won't just introduce a hard border with our European neighbours: it will, as far as hauliers are concerned. introduce borders within the UK.

Why didn't business leaders speak out sooner? We heard little from during the referendum campaign.

I suspect they could not believe any government could be this mad. Even Vladimir Putin is wondering if he hasn't gone too far.

Molly Nolan is the new Lib Dem Holyrood candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross

Molly Nolan has been chosen to contest the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross seat for the Liberal Democrats in next May's Holyrood elections. This is largely the seat Jamie Stone represents at Westminster.

If you want to know more about Molly Nolan the natural place to turn is the John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier.

There you will read that she was a pupil at Dingwall Academy and Plockton Music School before going to Harvard University and that Jamie Stones regards her as a "shining example of the next generation of Highlanders".

Molly tells the paper:
"With the coronavirus crisis leaving so many Highland residents facing financial hardship, it is more important than ever to address the inequalities in our communities. We must ensure no-one is left behind.

"I know that challenges in the Highlands have never been more acute, from the fragility of our tourism industry to increased cuts in local services. These issues are not being addressed by the SNP government, which for the past 13 years has prioritised the centralisation of powers in Edinburgh over dealing with everyday concerns.

"I am determined to listen to as many people as possible and stand up for what matters. Liberal Democrats will protect jobs and services, safeguard our natural environment and ensure every young person across the Highlands has the opportunity to get on in life.”

Monday, August 03, 2020

HItchcock's Sabotage (1936) and the 7/7 bombings

Talking Pictures TV continues to be a marvel. The other day it showed Hitchcock's Sabotage, made in 1936 before he left for Hollywood.

The film is loosely based on Conrad's novel The Secret Agent, which I blogged about in the aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings of 2005. As the film shows the destruction of a bus, it is even more reminiscent of those outrages.

Reading that post 15 years on confirms the past is a foreign country, because I quote an article by Brendan O'Neill with approval.

Well, I did write a couple of articles for Spiked in 2001 and I would still recommend Frank Furedi's Culture of Fear as an analysis of what happened to Britain in the 1990s. His view has much in common with that of Adam Curtis in that it emphasises the role of government in talking up threats so that it can then claim credit for protecting us

Sabotage is on YouTube and I recommend it, just as I recommend Conrad's original novel.

After you have seen the film you may enjoy the Hitchpod episode on it. It contains spoilers (which I have tried to avoid here), but the two hosts both rate if highly among Hitch'sfilms.

Finally, don't worry about young Stevie, the unwitting carrier of the terrorists' bomb. The actor who played him, Desmond Tester, grew up to be a big name in Australian television, particularly children's programmes, and gave Rod Hull and the Bee Gees their first breaks.

The Edge: England's rise to the top of world cricket

Last night BBC2 screened The Edge, a documentary about the rise of Andrew Strauss's England team to number one in the test rankings.

Any cricket fan will enjoy it as the makers managed to interview just about every significant England player from that era. The only absentee I noted was Chris Tremlett, who is now a forgotten figure but was a key member of our attack in the later tests of the 2010-11 Ashes series.

The Edge is very good on the pressures of elite sport, though I am not convinced by the link it makes between Jonathan Trott's intense, introverted style at the crease and his mental health problems.

Because probably the best known England player to suffer such problems is Marcus Trescothick, whose confident, aggressive batting at the top of the order in 2005 did much to send the message that we were no longer afraid of the Australians.

So maybe you can't spot someone's vulnerability to mental health problems from their batting style after all.

Anyway, The Edge will be on the BBC iPlayer for the next year.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

US report finds 'sustained and deliberate' Russian disinformation campaign against the UK

Embed from Getty Images

Here's a report on Russian influence in the United Kingdom that the Conservative Party can't suppress for months.

It's published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington DC.

The report's conclusion begins:
For the last 15 years or so, Russia has waged a sustained and deliberate disinformation campaign in the United Kingdom that is designed to weaken the United Kingdom internally and diminish its position in the world. Specific disinformation efforts have included exploiting minority grievances, encouraging separatist movements, amplifying anti-EU sentiments, and trying to inflict reputational damage upon the United Kingdom’s role in NATO and the value of its relationship with the United States. Through these efforts, Russia hoped to sow division within the United Kingdom, exacerbate distrust between the public and leaders, and distort the public conversation. 
However, Russia did not create the conditions that allowed disinformation and other malign influence activities to thrive in the United Kingdom. Rather, it merely capitalized upon longstanding divisions, political and societal vulnerabilities, regulatory gaps in campaign financing and advertising, and a less regulated social media landscape to further its objectives. This suggests that identifying and repairing a country’s specific vulnerabilities may be equally if not more important in combating malign influence activities than identifying which malign influence activities have the greatest impact. 
And it ends:
In the end, disinformation and other influence activities are not about a single incident but rather the cumulative effect. Left unchecked, it will gradually erode the United Kingdom’s position in the world as well as internal measures of resilience. These include the credibility of the government and elected leaders, citizens’ confidence in democratic processes, the existence of free and fair elections and an independent judiciary, a diverse and independent media environment, and vibrant public discourse. If the distinction between false and genuine is permitted to erode—and the commitment to pursue the truth is abandoned—the broader consequences for open, democratic societies will be severe.
It does feel strange to have lived long enough to see a Conservative prime minister play down the threat from Moscow.

The Who: I Can't Explain

This was The Who's first single under that name - up till then they had recorded as The High Numbers.

Wikipedia is enlightening of the song's genesis
In the album's liner notes, [Pete] Townshend noted the song's similarity to the contemporaneous hit "All Day and All of the Night" by the Kinks: "It can't be beat for straightforward Kink copying. There is little to say about how I wrote this. It came out of the top of my head when I was 18 and a half." In a 1994 issue of Q magazine, Roger Daltrey echoed Townshend's comments regarding the Kinks' influence: 
We already knew Pete could write songs, but it never seemed a necessity in those days to have your own stuff because there was this wealth of untapped music that we could get hold of from America. But then bands like the Kinks started to make it, and they were probably the biggest influence on us – they were certainly a huge influence on Pete, and he wrote 'I Can't Explain', not as a direct copy, but certainly it's very derivative of Kinks music.
The entry also comes to the conclusion that Jimmy Page is playing rhythm guitar here but the lead is all Peter Townshend.

Hey teenagers! If you like this then check out Substitute, The Kids Are Alright and I'm a Boy.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Pointing it at Sandy and hoping for the best

We end our week at Bonkers Hall with the old boy pondering the future of Liberator.

Published as a printed magazine for 50 years, it will in future be a free online publication. Sign up to Liberator's email newsletter and you will be told whenever a new issue appears.


So this is to be that last printed edition of Liberator. It seems only a few years ago that every street corner had its barefoot newsboy selling the magazine. I well remember their shrill cries of "Eleven reasons Clement Davies must resign – you won’t believe number seven" and "North Devon shooting: we interview Rinka’s mother."

I once heard them crying "Rutland fraud case: shock new developments" and had to tip them half a crown a piece to desist, but we need not go into that here.

In future, or so the amusing young people who put the magazine together tell me, you will have to download Liberator from the ether by means of the electric internet. I hope to see you nexttime, but In my experience this can be a tricky business: it’s not just a matter of pointing it at Sandy and hoping for the best.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Colour film of Brighton in the Blitz

The blurb for this film on the British Film Institute site runs:
This truly amazing colour film features Brighton's Blitz, with domestic and public buildings taking the full force of Hitler's bombs. ARP personnel, aided by policemen and volunteers, rescue victims from the rubble while others work on salvage and repair. A rooftop observer reports to a Control Room, where men and women co-ordinate warnings and the rescue effort. An incendiary is shown burning as victims of the Blitz are seen salvaging their battered belongings.
Click on the image above to view it there.

The Argus has a page on the bombing of Brighton and Hove in the second world war.

'Hitler's alligator' that survived Battle of Berlin dies in Moscow

Thanks to an eagle-eyed Liberal England reader, Deutsche Welle win our Headline of the Day Award for the second day in a row.

This tweet from Moscow Zoo says:
Our Mississippi alligator Saturn died of old age yesterday morning. He was about 84 years old - an extremely respectable age. The Moscow Zoo was honoured to contain Saturn for 74 years. He saw many of us as children. We hope we did not disappoint him.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: They have all gone to Market Harborough

Future scholars puzzling over this entry should read news reports such as this one from the mighty Harborough FM:
Police say they will deal robustly with anyone causing problems in Market Harborough town centre this weekend.

It follows disorder on the High Street last Saturday night that left a man with serious injuries and officers imposing a Dispersal Order.

Officers say the majority of people behaved well, although a minority caused problems.

Police have rubbished reports in the national media that suggested hundreds of people had travelled from within the lockdown zone in Leicester, where pubs remain shut, to Market Harborough last Saturday.


Amid great rejoicing, the Bonkers’ Arms reopens today. As its landlord’s landlord I am invited to pull the first pint of Smithson & Greaves Northern Bitter to be served there for months. Not only that: I stand everyone present a drink – after all, they do not all enjoy the benefit of a secret passage that emerges in the pub’s cellar.

I take the precaution of posting pickets in case hordes descend upon us from Leicester, Oadby and Wigston, but all is quiet. It later transpires they have all gone to Market Harborough.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary: