Saturday, May 23, 2015

The tomb of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral

I decided to let the fuss die down before I paid my respects again to Richard III. Last time I saw him, on my birthday, his coffin was display in Leicester Cathedral.

Today I saw his tomb, which seems to me to get the balance between modernity and heritage just right, and to avoid canonising a controversial figure.

The Cathedral has been remodelled inside to give Richard prominence and it looks better as a result. It used to be rather compentalised but now feels spacious.

The building is a largely 19th century reconstruction of a medieval church, yet it looked remarkably attractive throughout the television coverage of Richard's burial.

And some pleasing Pagan touches have survived all this rebuilding and restoration.

Six of the Best 512

"Labour activists were receiving emails beseeching them to go and help in the marginal seat of South Ribble (which Labour failed to take) but choose instead to work their socks off in Southport where the only outcome which they could hope to achieve would be to reduce the Lib Dem vote and let the Tory in." Iain Brodie Browne takes Labour tribalism to task.

The floggings will continue until morale improves - or something like that. Caron Lindsay is rightly outraged by an email sent to the party's candidates straight after the debacle of 7 May.

Britain has resigned as a world power, says Fareed Zakaria.

Adam Gopnik explains the crumbling of America's infrastructure.

"What, then, took the gold out of British detective fiction? P.D. James points to the simple fact that the police got better at their job. Both she and Ruth Rendell, the two recently deceased queens of the genre, observed the fact by making their series heroes professional flatfoots." John Sutherland on the demise of amateur sleuth in crime fiction.

Jamie Ross pays tribute to Balustrade Lanyard, who died this week.

Cheating husband leaves mistress sex tape on North Yorkshire bus

York's The Press wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Which route was it? I hear you ask.

The Press reports:
The bag containing the evidence of his infidelity was left on a number 17 bus, a circular route from Scarborough town centre to nearby villages Eastfield and Osgodby.

Friday, May 22, 2015

"Monkey on the car"

I had intended to write a post this evening laying out how the Liberal Democrats can recover their fortunes.

Instead I have posted this...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Down Street underground station

"Down Street is an abandoned station on the Piccadilly line, which TfL is considering opening up to the public. We got to explore it, one of the many 'ghost' stations on the network, discovering stairs that haven't been used for decades, a World War Two typing pool... and is that Winston Churchill's old bath?"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How tobacco firms woo parliamentarians

An investigation published by The British Medical Journal this evening looks at the way the tobacco industry seeks to influence parliamentarians.

It shows that, since 2010, 38 MPs - 29 Conservatives, eight Labour, and one independent - have accepted over £60,000 worth of tobacco industry hospitality, including tickets to the Chelsea flower show, high profile sporting events and rock concerts.

More than half of these MPs are from constituencies where the number of smoking related deaths exceeds the national average of 289 per 100,000.

Read the full report on the BMJ website.

Disused railway stations in Northumberland

If you like This Sort of Thing there's Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, Hampshire, CumbriaCambridgeshire, KentLincolnshireCornwall and Rutland.


Yes, Rutland.

Confused peacock called Felix tries to squeeze through cat flap at Aberdeenshire house

The Herald wins Headline of the Day for this account of life in Inverurie.

Thanks to Jo Swinson on Twitter.

Happy Birthday John Stuart Mill

The great Liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill was born in Rodney Street, Pentonville, on 20 May 1806.

To mark the day, let me point you to an article I wrote about the old boy for Liberator some years ago:
It seems we have become obsessed by Mill’s harm principle. Yet it is only a small part of On Liberty: the essence of that work is not concerned with curbing liberty at all but is a glorious hymn in favour of its expansion. 
Writing in Prospect magazine last year, Richard Reeves put it well: 
for Mill, liberty consists of much more than being left alone. It requires choice-making by the individual. "He who lets the world… choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation," he writes. "He who chooses his plan for himself employs all his faculties." For Mill, a good life must be a chosen life. 
Or as The Levellers said more recently: "There's only one way of life, and that's your own, your own, your own."
As it was to turn out, Reeves was a very good Mill scholar but less skilled as a special adviser to Nick Clegg.

The Guardian praises Norman Lamb's record as a minister

Norman Lamb, says the Guardian's David Brindle, will go down in the annals of social care as a good, arguably very good, minister:
Once in post, Lamb threw himself into the role with gusto. He combined a heavy Westminster workload – not least ensuring passage of the watershed Care Act – with a remorseless programme of visits to observe care practice and engage with professionals, carers and people who use services. He always seemed accessible: approached by strangers on the train from his North Norfolk constituency to London, he would happily set aside his papers and chat. 
Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, says: “Norman combined insight and integrity to help ensure a landmark piece of social care legislation was delivered with people across the sector. The time he took to listen to those working at the frontline was always invaluable and appreciated. He can look back knowing that he made a difference.” 
One difference that Lamb undoubtedly made, or at least helped in no small part to make, was the greatly enhanced profile of mental health. Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, describes him as “a fantastic advocate” who was clearly passionate about the cause. “As minister, he was involved in a number of key drives to improve mental health services, from the crisis care concordat to the introduction of the first waiting times and access standards for mental health.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How we're priming some kids for college — and others for prison

Another talk from the TED site:
In the United States, two institutions guide teenagers on the journey to adulthood: college and prison. Sociologist Alice Goffman spent six years in a troubled Philadelphia neighborhood and saw first-hand how teenagers of African-American and Latino backgrounds are funneled down the path to prison - sometimes starting with relatively minor infractions. In an impassioned talk she asks, "Why are we offering only handcuffs and jail time?"

What can the Liberal Democrats offer all those new members?

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't.
Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne 

Back in 2008 the Liberal Democrats' Party Reform Commission, chaired by Christopher Bones, filed its report.

In his executive summary Bones wrote about how Liberal Democrat members saw their party:
membership was defined by one respondent to the Commission as joining a "leaflet delivery cult", by another as "just being asked for cash by Chris Rennard".
Later, in what has some claim to the greatest blog post ever written, Fred Carver took this analysis many steps further:
Campaigners have a strict uniform which consists of looking as scruffy as possible. In part this is to signify their indispensability (much as the U boat commanders of the Kriegsmarine did); in part this is because they spend half their life fixing broken printers. Campaigners are responsible for the electoral success of the party and, as such, look down upon anyone (such as researchers and candidates) who aren't. 
Campaigners also have nothing to do with policy and, as such, are looked down upon by anyone (such as researchers and candidates) who do. 
About half a campaigner’s job is logistical management – the basic strategy being to batter your electoral opponent into submission by sheer volume of literature. Thus the best campaigners are those that do not make the better the enemy of the good, and always prioritise quantity over quantity. 
The other half of a campaigner’s job is graphic design. For this reason most campaigners are terrible graphic designers. 
Campaigners work around 90 hours a week and there is a machismo culture around who can do the longest hours. Unsurprisingly Campaigners live on a diet of nicotine, alcohol, coffee, and anything with lots of sugar in it. Perhaps surprisingly Campaigners have not yet discovered crystal meth
I thought of these posts when I heard about all those new Liberal Democrat members - 13,000 and counting since the debacle of 7 May.

Some are old members rejoining, but most are new to the party. What do they expect to find when they join us?

A clue to the answer can be found in the survey of new members the party has published. As well as gathering demographic data, the party asked them what they would be interested in doing for or in the Liberal Democrats.

The most popular answer, beating 'Volunteering in your local area' into second place, was 'Helping make policy'.

Looking back at my post on the Bones Commission, I find that I had limited time for the idea that the party could change from the donation-and-leaflet-delivering model.

No doubt the fightback will involve a lot of traditional activism, but I hope it will not only involve that.

If the Liberal Democrats are to have a future - if we are to deserve a future - then it will not be enough to serve the community and exploit localised grievances. We must also have something coherent to say on important issues that face the country as a whole.

We are lucky in that there will be plenty of national campaigns for us to fight that will unite the party - support for membership of the European Union and opposition to the Snoopers' Charter are too obvious examples.

But there will be harder issues for us to tackle and we will need to be able to show potential supporters a clear and appealing Liberal approach to them.

More and more mindless activism will not save the Liberal Democrats: we have to become a thinking party too.

Teenage boys who smoke cannabis end up four inches shorter

Metro wins our prestigious Headline of the Day Award.

Lord Bonkers adds: It seems my housemaster was right after all.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Industrial railways at Lamport, Scaldwell and Hanging Houghton

Precious footage of these long-vanished railways in operation.

This complex of lines tapped the ironstone of the countryside around the Market Hatborough to Northampton line.

And you have to admit that Hanging Houghton is a great name for a village on the side of a hill.

Dennis Skinner vs the SNP? Phtt

Trouble in the Commons today as the massed ranks of new SNP MPs took over the bench where Dennis Skinner is used to sitting.

But it really was nothing.

This, from a 2005 Liberal Democrat News column of mine, shows what a real Commons skirmish is like...
Picking a fight On 27 July 1893 the debate on the committee stage of Gladstone’s second home rule bill ended. Joe Chamberlain compared Gladstone to Herod. T. P. O'Connor, the Irish Nationalist who sat for a Liverpool constituency, called Chamberlain "Judas". The division bell rang, but arguments still smouldered in the chamber. 
At this point one of my political heroes entered history. J. W. "Paddy" Logan was Liberal MP for Harborough. A major railway contractor, he began as a Conservative. But when he visited Ireland he was so shocked at the condition of the people that he returned a Radical. 
Logan had won Harborough from the Tories at a by-election in 1891 and held it until he resigned in 1904, his health affected by a hunting accident. He returned at the second general election of 1910, only to resign again six years later. 
Nationally, he was known as a sportsman. He won the House of Commons steeplechase and founded the most celebrated bloodstock line in pigeon racing. Locally, he gave Market Harborough its swimming baths and donated land for the town cricket ground. 
He lived at the village of East Langton, where he gave another cricket ground and a village hall. He also maintained a cottage home for the children of men killed on his works. 
On the night of 27 July, as he waited for the throng to clear, Logan crossed the chamber and sat down truculently beside Carson on the Conservative front bench. Hayes Fisher, a Tory MP, pushed him away. Logan elbowed back and was grabbed by more Tories, whereupon the Irish Nationalists waded in to support him. 
For the next 20 minutes elderly, frock-coated MPs belaboured one another. Hats were flattened, coats torn and faces bruised. Onlookers in the galleries began to hiss and eventually the Serjeant-at-Arms restored order.
The cartoon above shows William Hayes Fisher, whom fair-minded observers will agree was responsible for the whole unfortunate episode,

In which I pass the Homophobic Monk twice

Leicester Crown Court, Wellington Street
© Copyright Mat Fascione
I passed a figure in robe and sandals on the way to work this morning and wondered.

At lunchtime, when he was also furnished with an umbrella, I passed him again and was sure.

It was the Homophobic Monk!

Remember him? He even has his own label on this blog.

The Leicester Mercury explains his presence in the city:
A 'monk' who posted an allegedly homophobic leaflet and a letter to two women at their home in Leicester has appeared in court to face a harassment charge. 
Damon Jonah Kelly, 53, appeared at Leicester Magistrates' Court yesterday in a black full-length robe to face a single charge of harassment. 
He is accused of posting an offensive leaflet to the women's home, confronting the recipients in the street and sending them a letter, which was also said to contain allegedly homophobic content, two weeks later.
Note the cruel scare quotes the Mercury puts around 'monk'.

According to Church Militant, Kelly is on of a group called the Black Hermits.

They were first welcomed into the 'diocese of Corby' (I suspect the website means Northampton) but now face eviction from the Corby presbytery where they have been living.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Disused railway stations in Rutland

Not the longest slideshow in this series, but surely one of the best.

But then you can make your own comparisons: Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, HampshireCumbria,CambridgeshireKentLincolnshire and Cornwall.

Six of the Best 511

"I don't understand the point of a political party that doesn’t learn from its mistakes, and while I can understand why many aren’t really excited by the prospect of introspection right now, someone has to do it." James Graham points to three things the Lib Dems could have done to avoid the disaster of 7 May.

The Liberal Democrat leadership election will be closer than we all think, says Craig Dearden-Phillips.

Above the Law asks why copyright law has made the best version of Star Wars illegal.

Dennis Potter would have been 80 today. Love and Garbage pays tribute to him.

Anne Wagner visits Salt and Silver, the exhibition of early photography at Tate Britain.

" The players coming in during the next few years come from a generation deprived of free to air cricket. This generation will have come in on the echoes. Soon it will be a privileged generation: in the main sons/daughters of club cricketers and sons of parents able to afford a very expensive education, or sons able to win scholarships to such institutions." Down at Third Man fears for the future of English cricket.

Van Morrison: Coney Island

A good track for a lazy Sunday morning. It comes from Morrison's 1989 album Avalon Sunset.

I have chosen this video because it has photographs of the locations Morrison mentions. As a bonus you get Days Like This too.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

Amanda Burden: How public spaces make cities work

There are loads of good talks on the TED site.

This one by Amanda Burden is introduced there like this:
More than 8 million people are crowded together to live in New York City. What makes it possible? In part, it’s the city’s great public spaces — from tiny pocket parks to long waterfront promenades — where people can stroll and play. 
Amanda Burden helped plan some of the city’s newest public spaces, drawing on her experience as, surprisingly, an animal behaviorist. She shares the unexpected challenges of planning parks people love — and why it's important.

Vince Cable, Danny Alexander and Simon Hughes refuse peerages

The Guardian reports that a number of senior Liberal Democrat MPs who were defeated at the election have turned down peerages:
Four senior Liberal Democrat politicians defeated in the general election, including former business secretary Vince Cable, have turned down the offer of a peerage from Nick Clegg in the dissolution honours list. 
It is understood that David Laws, the former education minister, Simon Hughes, the former justice minister, and former Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander have also decided to reject a chance to sit in the House of lords.
Norman Baker has also let it be known that he is not interested in a peerage.

The report says the Liberal Democrats most likely to accept peerages are Alan Beith and Ming Campbell. Don Foster would also be a likely candidate on length of service.

Elder statesman have their role, but wouldn't it be a good to give peerages to the younger voices we most want to be heard in public debate.

My first candidate would be Maajid Nawaz - no doubt you have your own ideas.

Owen Patterson does his best to break up the Union

The Shropshire Star reports the contribution of Owen Patterson, Conservative MP for North Shropshire and former cabinet minister, to a television discussion.

In between sensible points on the effect of health decisions by the Welsh National Assembly on neighbouring parts of England and the likely effect of full fiscal autonomy on Scottish politics, he had this to say:
"The Scots can run around promising free healthcare, free holidays to Lanzarote and expect the English to pay."
You can see why the Conservatives have done so badly in Scotland for so long.

Would the Tories be happy to see Scotland leave the United Kingdom if that made it more likely they would govern the rump that was left?

Perhaps some of them do not care how low the dunghill is as long as they are cocks of it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Vanished Leicester: Railway lifting bridge, Soar Lane

Copyright © Dennis Calow
This bridge used to take goods wagons across the Grand Union Canal near Leicester West Bridge station. It is photographed here in 1965.

Movable Bridges in the British Isles says it used to be preserved at the Leicester Museum of Technology and was transferred to Snibston Discovery Park near Coalville.

What will become of it now that Snibston is to close?

That site also quote an old newspaper article:
On January 23rd 2009 the Leicester Mercury published an item about this drawbridge in which local resident Roy Rains recalled his childhood in the streets close to Soar Lane Bridge.
Mr. Rains describes how the boys living in All Saints Road and Pingle Street used the area around the drawbridge for swimming during the summer holidays. He recalls watching the bridge in operation and the horses pulling the wagons back and forth during shunting operations.

Dan Hodges goes inside the Milibunker

Everyone else thought Michael Foot was a disastrous leader of the Labour Party, but legend has it that he was convinced he had won the 1983 general election. In fact he almost came third.

Writing in the Spectator, Dan Hodges says Ed Miliband and his inner circle were equally convinced they had won.

On the way, he tells a couple of great stories:
Most of the blame, inevitably, is being aimed at the leader’s office. ‘When the campaign started we were told we had to clear all leaflet design past the leader’s office,’ said one party worker. ‘We thought that would be a nightmare, but for the first part of the campaign it worked really well. We’d email the art, and about an hour or so later we’d get the response, “Great. Go with this.” 
Then one day someone got the message, “Excellent. All good.” But when they went to respond they realised they’d failed to insert the original attachment. All the time, Ed’s team had been signing off the leaflets without bothering to look at them.’
Another Labour insider told of the scene in the press office when Miliband posed with the notorious Ed stone, the 8ft 6in slab of limestone upon which his six key election pledges were inscribed. When it appeared on TV, a press officer ‘started screaming. He stood in the office, just screaming over and over again at the screen. It was so bad they thought he was having a breakdown.’

Six of the Best 510

"I have no regrets at all, and if someone had told me in 1987 that the deal was that I would be a Councillor for 16 years, council leader for 6, an MP for 18 years, and a Minister for four and a half years, I would have said that that was a pretty good deal." Norman Baker says goodbye to his political career.

Jennie Rigg offers a reading list for all those new Lib Dem members. (The comments are good too, hem hem.)

Hereford Heckler remembers the Archenfield Review.

The duped party in a forgery is not all that duped, argues the great Jonathan Meades.

Caitlin Green looks at the changing coastline of Lincolnshire in the later medieval period, with a focus on some of the modern villages and churches that were lost to the sea and drowned in that era.

"Paul Jones, manages to capture the wonder and the longing of the situation as well as the bewilderment. I love the, ‘Huh!’ he inserts as he contemplates whether he really could and whether she really would!" The Immortal Jukebox writes on Bruce Springsteen, Manfred Mann and Pretty Flamingo.