Friday, September 24, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "You should have stood down in more seats"

The sooner we get Lord Bonkers back into action the better, if you ask me. And when I read this entry I was hopeful of doing so.

"You should have stood down in more seats"

At the count I also met my old friends Freddie and Fiona, those ultimate Liberal Democrat insiders. They were full of their plans for a 'Progressive Alliance'. 

"All we need do," said the latter, "is change the Labour Party constitution, have all the parties agree a common manifesto and then get them to stand down wherever we think they should."

I reminisced that the Liberal Party had stood down in half the seats in the country in 1983 and a fat lot of good came from it. "The trouble with you old-fashioned Liberals," replied Freddie, "is that you lack ambition. You should have stood down in more seats."

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Independent panel says Keith Vaz should be ashamed of his behaviour towards Commons clerk

Embed from Getty Images

Because of the background of his victim, the Belfast Telegraph has the fullest report of today's findings against Keith Vaz, the former Labour MP for Leicester East.

The newspaper says:

A former MP bullied a member of parliamentary staff in a “hostile, sustained, (and) harmful” way, a report has found.

An independent panel said former Labour MP for Leicester East MP Keith Vaz bullied and harassed Northern Ireland woman Jenny McCullough, who has waived her right to anonymity, to such an extent that she left her career in the House of Commons.

And the panel said Mr Vaz should be “ashamed” of his behaviour as it ruled he should never again be allowed to hold a parliamentary pass.

Mr Vaz had likened Ms McCullough to a prostitute, told her she could not do her job because she was not a mother, and threatened to take photographs of her drinking alcohol to show to her boss.

Sir Stephen Irwin, chair of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which decided on the sanctions to be levelled against Mr Vaz, said his actions had a “real and enduring psychological impact”. 

The IEP was appointed after the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards concluded that Vaz had, on several occasions between July 2007 and October 2008, breached the bullying and harassment policy in his interactions with Jenny McCullough, the second clerk of the Commons committee for which Vaz was chairman.

You can read the full report on the parliament website.

And you can read Keith Vaz's response, which appears to deal with matters of process rather than contest the truth of the findings against him, on Twitter.

If you find yourself on a train journey and at a loss for some sensational reading, try the Wikipedia entry on Keith Vaz or his label on this blog.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Mounted elves and vegans

This is more like it! The old boy has clearly stumbled upon the Chesham and Amersham by-election and staged a decisive intervention.

It's a pity about that faux pas with Ed Davey, but at least we know who to thank for that much-demolished representation of the Blue Wall.

Mounted elves and vegans

Naturally, I took command of the nearest committee room and rallied the troops. I had no cavalry at my command, but was able to commandeer some bicycles and routed the Conservatives – I shall employ mounted elves and vegans at every by-election in future whatever the ALDC says.

I bade farewell to Elvis, who had to return to Rockingham Forest on urgent business, and hurried to the count. Who should I meet there but Ed Davey? “What are you doing with yourself  these days?” I asked, only to sense a certain froideur in his reply. 

Still, we had a chinwag and I suggested that, in the event of a Liberal Democrat victory, it might be a good idea to have himself photographed knocking down a wall of blue bricks with a hammer.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Jenny Agutter interviewed in 1981

Over here to promote An American Werewolf in London in London, says the blurb on YouTuhe, Jenny Agutter spoke to David Childs about her film career.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The beechwoods of the Chilterns

I wouldn't say Lord Bonkers was away with the fairies this summer, but he was certainly away with the elves.

The beechwoods of the Chilterns

And Elvis was right. We walked all that afternoon through woods and never heard or saw a motor car at all. As dusk fell we entered an elven settlement in what I calculated to be the Northamptonshire Uplands, though quite where all those trees had come from I never worked out. That evening I was treated to an elven banquet and a harp concert - Aeolian cadences and all that. I returned their hospitality by teaching the assembled company to sing The Land.

I passed the next week with Elvis and we travelled with Gypsies, spent a night with poachers and conversed with foxes and badgers. At length, we reached the beechwoods of the Chilterns and my companion went into Chesham to sell some elven waybread to a vegan supermarket he knows there.

He returned shaking his head. "You humans are funny. In the town there is a special building and all your kind are going in there, putting a cross on a piece of paper and dropping it into a box. What strange ritual is this?"

"Ritual, man? – sorry, elf," I returned. “That’s not ritual: it’s a parliamentary by-election!”

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Walking the Hackney Brook with John Rogers

The YouTube blurb for this video says:

This lost river walk along the Hackney Brook is guided by Tom Bolton's book London's Lost Rivers - A Walker's Guide, Volume Two. Thanks Tom. 

The course of the river starts just off Holloway Road in North London and then crosses the road cutting across Seven Sisters Road to Tollington Road and from here to Hornsey Road and round the Arsenal Emirates Stadium. 

We follow the river as it runs parallel to Gillespie Road, past the old Highbury Stadium then crosses Blackstock Road bound for Clissold Park in Stoke Newington. 

The Hackney Brook runs along the northern edge of Abney Park Cemetery, crosses Stamford Hill, Hackney Downs, Amhurst Road, Mare Street and runs parallel to Morning Lane in Hackney. 

We then walk along Wick Lane into Hackney Wick. The Hackney Brook makes its confluence with the River Lea just past Old Ford Lock.

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

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "We shall travel by the old roads"

Yes, the sly old fox had us all fooled. I hope Nanny, who spent weeks knitting him a fisherman's jersey, will not cut up rough.

"We shall travel by the old roads"

I had planned to follow Ashdown’s lead and spend some time working aboard a Grimsby trawler, but the passage from Rutland Water to the North Sea is a treacherous one and not to be undertaken without the services of an experienced pilot - that may be why it does not appear on many charts. Besides, from what I hear, the Grimsby skippers have all tied up their vessels, left for Norway or become Uber drivers. Some have done all three.

So I arranged instead to be dropped off as soon as I was out of sight of the Quay, and waiting for me on the beach were my old friends the Elves of Rockingham Forest. They had promised to show me the real England - the Ancient England – and I was grateful for the offer.

Their leader, an elven prince named Elrond or Elvis or something like that, told me that we were to travel on foot. "What about the A6 and the A14?" I asked. "We shall have to cross them somewhere." "They won’t trouble us," Elvis replied. "We shall travel by the old roads."

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Monday, September 20, 2021

GUEST POST Saving Church Langton's open space from the Diocese of Leicester

Anthony Lawton on a Leicestershire village's campaign to defend its only open space.

I know far too little about my mother who, a single mother after being widowed when I was three, died herself when I was eighteen. I do recall she was a self-professed liberal and Liberal, committed to being active in the community. She also brought me up within the Church of England. 

However, although the impact of her liberalism and community action endures, fifty years on from teenage confirmation my church going days are long gone. A year of bewildering and stubborn behaviour by leaders and institutions in the Diocese of Leicester has seriously eroded what little faith that endured still, or at least in the church hierarchy beyond the parish.

For decades the grass, Thorpe Path Field and The Bucket, has been the one accessible open space within our village boundaries in rural Church Langton in Leicestershire. A public footpath crosses the land. There villagers of all ages walk and talk, congregate and play, and exercise dogs of many types and sizes in ways they cannot, despite appearances, in the privately owned farming land all around.

Donated, I believe, by the Revd William Hanbury to his charity founded in the 1750s to pursue grandiose plans for a national centre of learning to rival Oxford and Cambridge, the field was for many years part of the playing fields of the local school founded in the 1870s. In the early 2000s it passed from the stewardship of the Hanbury Charity to fellow charity, the Leicester Diocesan Board of Education (LDBE), in an asset-swap to facilitate the building of a new Langton Community Hall next to the school

LDBE trustees want to realise the value they think the field has as building land, despite it being formally designated ‘Open Space for Sport and Recreation’ by Harborough District Council, and despite the council leader asserting he sees no prospect of successful evasion of the implied responsibilities. To date, two planning applications and an appeal to the National Planning Inspector have been vigorously and successfully opposed by the community.

The Board of Education’s leaders have stated on the record, several times, that they have no intention to renew planning applications for the “foreseeable future”. The Board professes in its vision statement to work “with” local communities. Yet the it has in the last couple of years sought to exclude villagers from the field — save for access to the public footpath — against the wishes of the local community, in order to seek to graze livestock, without disclosing how this helps advance their long-term interests. 

Trustees have rejected all offers from villagers and the Parish Council to rent the land for village recreational use until such time as the Board is successful, if ever it is, in winning building permission. Some twenty four trustees, including the Bishop of Leicester, have resisted all the supportive entreaties of the local conservative MP, local district and county councillors, the leader of Harborough District Council, even the church’s own lay incumbent and the local parochial church council.

Despite numerous requests, and formal complaints to trustees and the Charity Commissioners, still no-one outside the charity has been given a clear, persuasive reason why the Board persists so stubbornly to reject community offers. One of the two formal objects of LDBE is always to embody the principles and doctrines of the CoE. I can recall no principle or doctrine which favours being untransparent, so disrespectful of local community interests, and so stubborn.

We "need to pray passionate prayers to change stubborn situations," wrote one local Reverend in a regular church column in the local paper. Characterising myself now as an unbeliever, and ever-influenced by my mother’s liberalism, I prefer to put my faith rather in the power of collective community action.

Mind you, the Diggers who in the 1600s actively opposed enclosures by the church and other landowners, believed in both prayer and action, in pursuit of their belief that "no man has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain". 

That may be a belief too far for many. However the not-for-financial-profit Charity Board of Education trustees are stewards and custodians of the land which the board holds in trust for public benefit, not private gain. They should not be so focused upon profit-maximising.

I persist in believing they might be brought to their senses about their own diocese-wide interests, as well as the interests of the local community, by concerted community action, including the lobbying of political representatives of all persuasions and none. 

We will as committed active citizens continue actively and insightfully to collaborate to change this “stubborn situation”. But, inspired as I am by the Diggers and mindful of the local Reverend’s advice, I have said publicly I might just try some "passionate prayers" too.

You can follow Church Langton's Keep Our Open Space Open campaign on Twitter..

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Meadowcroft was heard to blow his nose loudly

The last time I spoke to Lord Bonkers he was full of his plans to travel round Britain. Since then I 've received only the odd postcard from him.

That is, until this diary was put through my door late one night. I heard it drop through the letterbox and looked to see who had have delivered it, but elves are good at blending with background foliage.

How long Lord Bonkers will be away, I do not know. Nor do I know if my flaky internet connection will allow me to post all these entries.

But here goes...

Meadowcroft was heard to blow his nose loudly

Summer was still young when I set out to discover England – and, indeed, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. I had in mind writing a book along the lines of Paddy Ashdown’s Beyond Westminster – or Beyond Our Paddy, as it was affectionately known to his many admirers. I still miss the man and those letters of his marked ‘Top Secret: Burn Before Reading.’

A gratifyingly large crowd had gathered on Oakham Quay that morning to see me leave Rutland aboard the Saucy Sarah Olney; Cook was inconsolable and even Meadowcroft was heard to blow his nose loudly. (The Well-Behaved Orphans, by contrast appeared to be Bearing Up Well.) How everyone waved as I sailed away!

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

Climax Blues Band: Couldn't Get It Right

The Climax Chicago Blues Band was formed in Stafford in 1967 to play blues standards. In time, it shortened its name and broadened its repertoire into blues-tinged rock.

Couldn't Get It Right reached number 10 in the UK singles chart and number 3 in the US in 1976. Wikipedia tells a fanciful story about its genesis:

The song was recorded for their eighth studio album, Gold Plated, which was named after Pete Haycock's Veleno guitar and produced by Mike Vernon. The song was specifically written and produced after the manager of the band, Miles Copeland III, demanded that the band append a radio-friendly song to the track listing. 

The band at the time had released eight albums and although that had translated into fame, they did not have a great impact on the charts. Copeland suggested a cover version of an Elvis Presley song; this suggestion was ignored, and instead the band came up with an original composition "from absolutely nowhere".

It was simply a case of sitting in the studio, conjuring up a rhythm, appending the traditional dual vocals for which Climax Blues Band were known, and coming up with a couple of hooks. The sudden emergence of the song irritated the producer, as he thought the band had been withholding a hit from him.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Llandudno goat selfie warning from coastguard

A goat yesterday.

BBC News should thank a Liberal England reader for nominating them for our coveted Headline of the Day Award.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blogging may be light...

I'm having problems with my internet connection at home.

This is no bad thing, in that it encourages me to go to bed when I get back from caring for my mum, but it does mean blogging is likely to be light for a few days.

In the mean time, you can always find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

North Yorkshire Police phone lines deluged with ‘people complaining about each other’

Embed from Getty Images

Our Headline of the Day Award goes to the website YorkMix.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A fascinating 1980 interview with Leonard Rossiter

Leonard Rossiter is best remembered as the creator of Rigsby and Reggie Perrin, but before he was a sitcom star he was a celebrated actor on stage and screen. He has a habit of turning up in films (King Rat, 2001, Barry Lyndon) where you do not expect to find him. 

Click on the image of Rossiter as King John above to watch an interview, recorded in 1980, in which he talks about his career. 

Rossiter died in 1984, during a performance of Joe Orton's Loot. He was playing Inspector Truscott and I had seen him in the role only a few weeks before.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Joy of Six 1026

Contrary to popular and academic belief, says Deborah Boucoyannis, Adam Smith did not accept inequality as a necessary trade-off for a more prosperous economy: "The key principles of Smith’s system work against the concentration of wealth - they also speak to the top issues in economic policy today: profits, taxes, and the minimum wage."

Clio Chang argues that the past decade has seen all that was most fun about the internet destroyed by an increasingly unsustainable media ecosystem built for the wealthy.

Why are boys more likely than girls to be deemed to have special educational needs? James Redburn investigates.

In 1973 W.H. Auden was interviewed on Parkinson and David J. Collard has the transcript: "I was walking across a field at school with a friend of mine who later turned into a painter called Robert Medley, and he said 'Do you ever write poetry?' and I said 'No, I've never thought of it' and he said 'Why don’t you?' and at that moment I knew that was what I was going to do."

Emily Knight reviews a new biography of Joseph Wright of Derby, the "painter of light".

Roger French fails to reach Britain's most westerly bus stop.