Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Six of the Best 997

"Many Liberal Democrats don’t know that the late great Paddy Ashdown leaned heavily on the concept of a Basic Income as a fundamental component of his 'Citizens' Britain', arguing that 'every step we take towards a basic income liberates power in the hands of the citizen.'" Daniel Mermelstein believes universal basic income is a fundamentally liberal policy and a vote winner.

Shane Burke says the status quo in undercover policing threatens political rights.

"It seemed obvious to me that despite what everyone said, schools were not primarily about education. Formal learning made up a minimal fraction of the activity there (and the part adults later find the least memorable). The real purpose and priority of the school system was to instil the habit of obedience, of deference to our superiors. Learning was to be discouraged if it interfered with this end." Lorna Finlayson explains why she walked out of school at 13.

Henry Grabar looks at what New York could do if it took a quarter of its roads away from cars.

"Upon arrival in Scotland, Heron was thrown in for his debut against Morton in a League Cup tie; the Jamaican adding Celtic’s second goal in a 2-0 win with a 20-yard first-half strike." Did you know Gil Scott-Heron's father played for Celtic? Craig Stephen will tell you all about him.

Stefan Sagrott looks at Edinburgh's Innocent Railway.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Dempsey Arlott-John wins Name of the Day

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Cricket fans of a certain age will be amused to learn that there is a promising young player on the books of Leicester City called Dempsey Arlott-John.

Young person's voice: I don't get it.

Liberal England replies: Listen to this programme about the great John Arlott.

Write a guest post for Liberal England

I welcome guest posts on Liberal England and I'm happy to publish posts on subjects far beyond the Lib Dems and politics.

If you would like to write a guest post for this blog, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Liberal England guest blogger to lead partnership to save curlews

Photo: Andreas Trepte
Leading conservation organisations have come together to launch the Curlew Recovery Partnership.

Urgent action is needed. Eurasian Curlew is one of the most pressing bird conservation priorities in the UK, where nearly half the breeding population has been lost over the last 25 years and where range contraction has seen curlews disappear from many traditional sites.

This partnership is the outcome of two summits hosted by Prince Charles. It will provide coordination and support for those engaged in curlew conservation, while also providing benefits for other threatened species and habitats and helping people connect with nature. 

Its chair is Mary Colwell, who once wrote a guest post for this blog on the case for a GCSE in Natural History.

The call of the curlew - described by Prince Charles as "hauntingly evocative" - reminds me in particular of my discovery of the Shropshire Hills in the late 1980s. When I heard it, particularly in the Stiperstones, I knew I was approaching somewhere remote.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Rosalind Franklin and Herbert Samuel feature in Trivial Connection of the Day

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Because of sexism and her early death, it took years for the contribution of Rosalind Franklin to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA to be properly acknowledged.

Her latest posthumous accolade is our prestigious Trivial Connection of the Day Award, because Franklin's great uncle was the Liberal Party leader Herbert Samuel.

Cupid's Inspiration: Yesterday Has Gone

Here's a song that anyone who likes sixties music will know, even if many will be pushed to remember which band had a hit with it.

Yesterday Has Gone was originally recorded by Little Anthony and the Imperials, though the strong vocal by Terry Rice-Milton makes it reasonable to prefer this cover version.

What really interests me about Cupid's Inspiration is that they came from one of my favourite nearby towns: Stamford in Lincolnshire.

And to prove it, here is a 2019 story from the Stamford Mercury:

Original members of the Sixties band Cupid's Inspiration are returning to their roots with a show at Stamford Corn Exchange Theatre.

Lead singer Terry Rice-Milton and bass guitarist Laughton James will take to the stage with a new line-up as part of the Sixties Invasion show.

The Stamford-based band shot to fame in 1968 when their hit Yesterday's Gone reached number four in the charts. Their follow up song My World reached number 33 a few months later.

The band has performed on and off with various line ups over the years but as a Stamfordian Terry is looking forward to playing again in his home town.

He said: "It means a lot to come back. A couple of years ago I remember pulling up at the traffic lights and hearing someone shout my name.

"It's strange to still be recognised after 50 years!"

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Six of the Best 996

Sally Dawson pays tribute to Maureen Colquhoun, Britain’s first openly lesbian MP, who died earlier this month. She sat for Northampton North between February 1974 and 1979.

The coming Holyrood elections should be about the life draining from Scotland's hills and glens and the need for rewilding, argues Adam Ramsay.

"Politically speaking, Popper had lived through much. He had seen the dissolution of the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy. He was part of the subsequent intellectual revolution that, among other things, produced the Vienna Circle, of which he was a peripheral part. He witnessed first-hand the rise of the Nazis and, with equal dismay, the rise of Communism." David Cohen remembers Karl Popper.

Caitlin Green looks at the evidence that there were people named Muhammad in medieval England.

Adam Chapman studies an apparently innocent landscape by Ronald Lampitt and finds a wealth of information about the changes to British agriculture after the second world war.

"If Leeds was somewhere to escape from then the Yorkshire Dales were somewhere to escape to. Jake Thackray’s Swaledale was similar to James Joyce’s Dublin: a quasi-magical place rooted in a real geography containing the world’s multitudes." Will Ainsley celebrates the genius of Jake Thackray.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

From Wagner to Kim Philby: Meet the Comyns Carrs

The other day I told the story about Sir Arthur Comyns Carr and the 1958 Liberal Party Assembly. Newly elected as the party’s president, he had expressed his intention not to say anything that might exacerbate tensions in China.

Sir Arthur deserves to be remembered for more than that. He stood for parliament many times and his one victory saw him sitting for Islington East between 1923 and 1924. His last contest was at Shrewsbury in 1945, where he captured a quarter of the votes cast.

Wikipedia says that hi expertise in National Insurance led him to co-author a book on the subject in 1912 to which David Lloyd George wrote the preface. He was a member of the Liberal land inquiry committee of 1912 and also sat on the land acquisition committee in 1917.

Outside politics he was a prosecutor in the trials of German and Japanese war criminals after the second world war, and it was for this that he was knighted for this work in 1949. And long before that his cross-examination in a libel case speeded the downfall of the corrupt Liberal MP Horatio Bottomley.

But then the Comyns-Carrs are an interesting family all round. Arthur’s father was Joseph Comyns Carr, a drama and art critic, gallery director, author, poet, playwright and theatre manager. Wikipedia describes him as “a vigorous advocate for Pre-Raphaelite art and a vocal critic of the "short-sighted" art establishment”.

As an adviser to the Royal Opera House, he was responsible for the first English performance of Parsifal.

Arthur’s son Richard worked for MI5 in the same section as Graham Greene, overseen by Kim Philby. His wife, a writer who published under the name Barbara Comyns, explained that this association did little for Richard’s career:

Comyns claimed that MI6 dropped her husband in 1955 because of his association with Philby … : “Oh Kim was a delightful man. So funny. Always here playing cards. Neither of us had a notion! When he disappeared – to Moscow, you know – they sacked my husband. They said that either he must have known and therefore was a traitor, or that he hadn’t spotted it and therefore must have been a fool.”

And, in an essay on Boundless, Lucy Scholes celebrates “The forgotten genius of Barbara Comyns”:

With every new reissue of her novels, the ranks of dedicated Comyns fans swell and strengthen, proof that it’s little more than a stroke of bad luck that so much of her work languishes for the most part unknown. She’s an author of rare genius, ripe for rediscovery, her novels not so much a gentle breath of fresh air, but rather a chilling, bracing blast.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Listen to Timothy Garton Ash on saving liberalism

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On Opinion, the Parlia podcast, talks to  Timothy Garton Ash about the state of liberalism - its past failings, the threats it faces from Left and Right today, and whether it can be rebuilt for the 21st Century.

He argues that liberalism is to blame for its troubles - over-exporting free-market ideas, and under investing in culture, community and politics in a world of massive, destabilising change. He argues for a “conservative-socialist-Liberalism” - a civic patriotism focused on the common good deeply embedded in national communities.

On the back of his recent manifesto for liberalism’s renewal in Prospect magazine, he discusses:

  • Whether liberalism can survive in the 21st Century
  • Whether Joe Biden’s America can still hope to lead the "free world"
  • The demise of liberal ideas in the student body
  • Equality of esteem alongside economic security
  • Levelling up (Dahrendorf’s idea of the "common floor") vs levelling down
  • Civic virtue
  • Patriotism vs nationalism
Liberalism is certainly in need of saving, and Garton Ash offers an interesting agenda to take that effort forward.

Desborough and the railway

A charming video from Stephen Richards.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Norman Baker on the rural buses

The former Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker turned up in an item on rural bus services on Farming Today last week - the item starts at 6:05.

Now the adviser to the Campaign for Better Transport, Norman calls for a reform of the funding of bus services to prevent further cuts.

St Leonards man told to take down ‘Eiffel Tower’ in front garden - pictures

The Hastings & St Leonards Observer wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Six of the Best 995

Martin Barrow argues that the privatisation of children’s services is bad for children and bad for taxpayers.

Charlie Brooker and Adam Curtis discuss Curtis' new six-part BBC series 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World'.

"In the suburbs of Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia, the problem isn't that the children do not play in their front yards; the problem is that they don't even play in their backyards. And it is not because those backyards are unsafe but because their parents could be deemed 'neglectful' simply for allowing their children to go outside beyond their direct purview." Bridget Foley says childhood independence is on the verge of extinction in America.

Tim Dee celebrates the achievements of the environmental writer Richard Mabey.

"We had Moore, Hurst and Peters at their peak and the incomparable Gordon Banks in goal. Extravagant young talents like Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson and Charlie George were also on tap, so what could possibly go wrong?" Brian Penn looks back at England's failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup.

Robert Andrews on the hunt for the medieval fa├žade of Wakefield's bridge chapel.

John Rogers on London’s Little Italy and the Legends of Islington

John Rogers describes this walk on YouTube:

A walk through London's Little Italy up to the fields of Islington, starting at Chancery Lane Station on High Holborn. We go into the curious anomaly of Ely Place, owned by the Bishops of Ely and once technically part of Cambridgeshire. We visit the Old Mitre Pub where Sir Christopher Hatton danced with Elizabeth I. 

The walking tour goes along Hatton Garden, the centre of Britain's diamond trade, and into Leather Lane Market. The walk through Little Italy takes us in search of Fagin's den in Saffron Hill, a place visited by Charles Dickens who drank in the One Tun pub. We walk along Hatton Wall into Portpool Lane where the Kings Ditch ran and through the Bourne Estate.

The heart of London's Little Italy lay in the streets falling away from Clerkenwell Road into the Fleet Valley - Back Hill, Eyre Street Hill, Herbal Hill. From here we go up Crawford Passage to Coldbath Square and Mount Pleasant. We stroll through Spa Fields - now Exmouth Market and Wilmington Square where Merlin was said to have a cave in the heart of the hill. The Merlin's Cave Tavern stood in Merlin House on the site of Charles Rowan House. 

Next we walk through Lloyd Square to Percy Circus where Lenin stayed in 1905. Back on Amwell Street we recount E.O Gordon's powerful mythology of London at the head of the Pen Ton Mound, now the New River Head Upper Reservoir on Claremont Square. Passing down Penton Street our walk ends at White Conduit House, once a celebrated pleasure garden and the true home of cricket.

Thirty years ago Liberator was put together on a Saturday and the day began with a cooked breakfast at a cafe in Leather Lane. Those were the days.

John has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway.