Sunday, June 20, 2021

Corby woman steals cactus before attacking man with it in town centre

For this vignette of life in the county, the Northamptonshire Telegraph wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Talk of cacti reminds me of Lord Bonkers' entry on Nick Clegg's teenage delinquency.

Prelude: After the Gold Rush

Prelude were a folk group, formed in Gateshead in 1970 and active until recently.

This 1974 a capella version of a Neil Young song was their finest hour. It charted around the world, reaching number 21 in the US and number 22 in the UK.

What is it about? Wikipedia offers a choice of answers:

Dolly Parton (who was in the process of recording a cover of the song along with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt) has said, "When we were doing the Trio album, I asked Linda and Emmy what (the song) meant, and they didn't know. 

So we called Neil Young, and he didn't know. We asked him, flat out, what it meant, and he said, 'Hell, I don't know. I just wrote it. It just depends on what I was taking at the time. I guess every verse has something different I'd taken.'"

However, in his 2012 biography Young reportedly gave a different explanation of the song's origin and meaning, describing the inspiration provided by a screenplay of the same name (never produced), which apocalyptically described the last days of California in a catastrophic flood. The screenplay and song's title referred to what happened in California, a place that took shape due to the Gold Rush. 

Young eventually concluded that “After The Gold Rush is an environmental song... I recognize in it now this thread that goes through a lotta my songs that’s this time-travel thing... When I look out the window, the first thing that comes to my mind is the way this place looked a hundred years ago.”

Ed Davey's blue wall was couriered from Grantham

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I like this detail at the end of an interesting Guardian article on the likely impact of the Liberal Democrat triumph in Chesham and Amersham:

It amused Lib Dem staffers that the boxes that made up their blue wall prop had been delivered by courier from Grantham, birthplace of another true-blue export, Margaret Thatcher..

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Building Coventry Cathedral

Historic England introduces this video on YouTube:

Using photographs from Historic England’s Archive, KS2 students learnt more about their local heritage. The students carried out oral history interviews with people who constructed Coventry Cathedral and together they visited the building.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Lib Dems storm to victory in Chesham and Amersham

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It wasn't even close! Congratulations to Sarah Green on a stunning victory:

Sarah polled 21,517 votes to the Conservative candidate's 13,489 - a majority of 8028 and a swing of 25 per cent.

This result reminds us that, for all the talk of a progressive alliance, the most satisfying way of winning Tory seats is by converting former Tory voters.

It also reminds us that, if the voters are determined to get rid of the Tories, they will organise themselves without outside help.

Georgie Fame reminisces about his Flamingo Club days

Choosing Yeh Yeh as Sunday's music video, I came across this discussion between Georgie Fame and Jamie Cullen.

Fame tells how he escaped the world of Larry Parnes, who gave him his stage name (his real name is Clive Powell), for the most authentic jazz scene London had to offer.

It's interesting to heat that Bad Penny Blues influenced him too.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Joy of Six 1012

"Lib Dems in cities (and remember, a lot of politically active centre-left folk live in cities) see municipal Labour as unimaginative, entitled, tribal, machine-based and sometimes corrupt. Labour people see local Lib Dems as unprincipled, incoherent opportunists and dirty campaigners." Lewis Baston looks at the prospects for inter-party cooperation against the Conservatives.

"Few political parties around the world have endorsed UBI as the Liberal Democrats have, and in releasing this discussion paper with specific policies, they have taken that endorsement to an unprecedented level of seriousness." UBI Center praises our policy paper on universal basic income.

William Francis makes the Liberal case for the mass ownership of property.

Andy Kroll says the Forever Trump movement has captured the Republican Party.

"As far as facilitating inclusion and diversity is concerned, it is better to support employees in dealing with past behaviours than it is to 'name and shame' them in the national press. The ECB could have done more to protect their players and show that it is serious about challenging prejudice, but it has shown itself unable to do either." Andrew Page on the Ollie Robinson affair.

Samuel E Pheby-McGarvey examines the tensions between modernity and folk horror communities in Children of the Stones.

Monday, June 14, 2021

MP bullied Commons staff because he is very tall

Daniel Kawczynski, the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, today made an apology on the floor of the Commons for bullying parliamentary committee staff.

As the Shropshire Star explains:

The Tory MP made the statement for acting in a "threatening and intimidating manner" towards the complainants after he was unable to join a committee hearing due to technical problems.

A disciplinary report said the Shrewsbury and Atcham MP consumed a "significant amount of alcohol" on the day and phoned the manager of the committee staff while under the influence, behaviour that was "grossly unprofessional".

The incident occurred in April 2020, as Parliament was adapting to new remote working during the coronavirus lockdown.

I was struck by his argument against being forced to make a public apology:

Mr Kawczynski failed in an appeal against the recommended sanction that he should apologise in the House, claiming that he was under great pressure at the time due to Brexit and flooding in his constituency.

The appeal suggested the 6ft 9in MP was "very conspicuous" due to his height, making him a target for "extremely vicious" attacks from members of the public.

Anyway, you can watch the apology below.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames: Yeh Yeh

I can remember being aware of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames as a small boy in the 1960s - I think there was something about the fame/flame combination in their name that intrigued me.

Almost 50 years later I saw Georgie Fame play at Market Harborough Leisure Centre with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings.

The Blue Flames were originally Billy Fury's backing band. When he sacked them, Fame took over as singer and they enjoyed great success.

Yeh Yeh topped the UK singles chart in 1964 and may well be the record that first introduced me to them.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Craft gin is illegal

Writing about food and politics in Britain, Pen Vogler:

The governments of the day experimented vainly with taxation, until alighting on legislation that outlawed small-batch distillation. (The current craft gin craze is thanks to Sipsmith who took on HMRC and persuaded it to deviate from its strict adherence to this 1751 Gin Act.)

Of course, the really great thing about craft gin is that it makes a bottle of ordinary gin seem so cheap.

Lib Dems would gain five seats with new constituency boundaries

A rare piece of good news for the Liberal Democrats is to be found in a New Statesman article by Ben Walker.

He says that we are set to gain from the new constituency boundaries proposed by the Electoral Commission.

By his calculations, if the 2019 election had been fought on these boundaries the Lib Dems would have gained Sheffield Hallam from Labour and Esher and Walton, Finchley and Muswell Hill, South Cambridgeshire and Wimbledon from the Conservatives.

Other commentators have suggested that Tim Farron will have trouble finding a winnable seat in Cumbria, and there will be more subtle losses and gains across the country,

But it is worth noting Ben Walker's conclusion that "these boundary changes aren’t dramatically helpful for the Conservatives, nor disastrous for Labour".

Friday, June 11, 2021

The loneliness of Roding Valley

Jago Hazzard explains why the Central Line's Roding Valley is the quietest station on the London Underground. You can support his videos via his Patreon page.

Oh and Geoff Marshall has been to Roding Valley too.

Simon Hughes wins phone-hacking damages from The Sun

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From the Guardian:

The publisher of the Sun has paid a substantial sum to settle a phone-hacking claim brought by the former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Simon Hughes, who claimed he was illegally targeted by reporters wanting to out his sexuality.

Speaking to Byline Investigates, Simon said:

‘This was to do with unlawful obtaining of phone bills by The Sun.

‘This explains what happened 15 years ago when The Sun came to me and said they had information about my relationships.

‘In this case, we know that it wasn’t just private investigators – it went right to the top. The people at the top were quite clearly involved.’

Byline Investigates also explains exactly what went on between Simon and The Sun.

In 2006 the paper had found out the numbers that he called frequently, as well as call times and durations:

The sensitive data was bought from a notoriously illegal private investigator firm called ELI.

At the beginning of the case, Hughes was shown this disclosure and was ‘deeply troubled and shocked.’

ELI (Express Locate International) was a private detective company, which has been linked in other litigation to phone hacking, and which sold illegally-acquired private and personal information to newspapers across Fleet Street.

In the middle of a leadership contest in January 2006, Trevor Kavanagh told Mr Hughes that they had obtained private and sensitive data, but did not reveal how.

Based on this, the journalist said the paper was going to publish a story that Hughes had engaged in homosexual activities.

Hughes ‘believed that with or without his agreement,’ The Sun would publish the story anyway, according to a statement read in open court.

He felt that ‘he had no choice but to cooperate and this resulted in a front page article on January 26 2006.’

The story ended-up misrepresenting Hughes’ sexual orientation.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Lembit Opik to appeal against expulsion from the Lib Dems?

From Nation Cymru:

A former leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats has been expelled from the party for advising the Tories on how to beat them, it has been reported.

Lembit Öpik, who used to be the MP for Montgomeryshire, upset his former colleagues when he claimed the party had become a “become a parody of itself” and suggested that there is “currently no vaccine against stupidity”.

In the run up to the Senedd election, he spoke at a ‘How to Stop the Lib Dems with Lembit Öpik’ event organised by the Conservative Party.

He was introduced by former Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, Conservative Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell.

His appearance at the event has led to him being booted out, according to a source in Lib Dem HQ that spoke to The Sunday Times.

But that may not be the end of the story. Over to Powys and the County Times:

Mr Opik says he has appealed against the decision to expel him, and believes the party has violated it's own complaints procedure by confirming his expulsion publicly before the result of an appeal has been heard.

"I am astounded to learn this news from the County Times," he said.

"My understanding is that an individual is complaining about me in the party but, as the party itself has confirmed, I have the right to appeal against these complaints through a formal process.

"The party itself has insisted that when dealing with a complaint there's an internal conflict resolution procedure between the complainant, respondent and panel and all communications must be direct between the parties and cannot be conducted with third parties.

"The party is disrespecting the very processes it has insisted on enforcing upon me on June 7."

He added that he still felt optimistic that a resolution could be reached, and said he would respect the outcome of an internal complaints procedure.

If the facts are as reported by Nation Cymru then it's hard to see why Lembit Opik is astounded or why he would wish to remain a member of the Liberal Democrats.

Such have been his antics over recent years - faithfully recorded on this blog - that it's easy to forget there was a time when, helped by his Estonian heritage, Opik seemed an interesting politician.

But his style came to be a poor match for the sensitivities of the traditional Liberal voters of the Welsh Border.

The yawning heights of Boris Johnson

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In my early days with Liberator I reviewed The Yawning Heights, a satire of the Soviet system by the Russian philosopher Alexander Zinoviev.

Its title at least has remained with me all these years, and I was reminded of it when I read Tom McTague's profile of Boris Johnson for The Atlantic.

Because, though Johnson has devoted his life to becoming a 'character', the clear impression of him you get from this profile is that there's nothing there. The man is a vacuum.

McTague has scaled the yawning heights of Boris Johnson.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The length and breadth of these islands

So Lord Bonkers is off on his travels. I don't know how often we shall hear from him in future.

I have been a full-time carer for my mother since Christmas and am finding it hard to spare the time to do anything else - even to act as the old boy's literary secretary.

So I have decided that Lord Bonkers and I are to part our ways, at least for a little while. It may be that he will send me postcards as he makes his journey - I don't know.

Lord Bonkers adds:

Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. Wherever there's a winnable by-election, I'll be there.


If St Asquith’s were open as usual I should have urged the Revd Hughes to hold a service of thanksgiving for Albert’s efforts, taking some lines from Job as the text for his sermon:

Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword.

Soon, as the Covid virus departs with its tale between its legs, we shall be able to enjoy such pleasures again, and I have thought of the perfect way of taking advantage of this regained freedom. I shall travel the length and breadth of these islands and write a book about my experiences. 

Ed Davey was supposed to be undertaking such a journey, but as far as one can tell got no further than his local fried fish shop and Auchtermuchty Zoo, so I shall instead take my inspiration from Dame Peggy Ashcroft’s Beyond Westminster, which saw its author venturing into more challenging locales than this. 

There is no doubt about it: as well as being one of the greatest actresses of her generation, she was the finest leader the Liberal Democrats ever had.

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

Earlier this week...

Carole King: It's Too Late

Choosing No Secrets one Sunday, I blogged:

I suppose if there were an event for albums by females singer-songwriters released in 1971, Carly Simon would win bronze while Joni Mitchell and Carole King disputed gold and silver for Blue and Tapestry respectively.

What is remarkable is that Blue and Tapestry were recorded at the same time in neighbouring studios - the same piano appears on both records.

It's Too Late is the best known track from Tapestry and gave Carole King her only US number one as a performer. Fifty years on, it still sounds great.