Tuesday, September 30, 2014

David Cameron has lost his way and the Tories should split

I have read two good articles today on the problems facing David Cameron and the Conservatives.

Alex Massie writes about how David Cameron has lost his way:
What is David Cameron for? What kind of party, what kind of government, does he want to lead? If he knows, he’s done a grand job keeping his thoughts to himself. 
And yet there were once ideas. There was compassionate conservatism and the Big Society. There was the Global Race. Nor were these necessarily contradictory. A reformed, retooled, Britain is necessary to leave Britain better placed to thrive in the years ahead; that doesn’t mean rejecting social solidarity – social decency – at home. On the contrary, the two could be woven together. 
Events matter. Of course they do. But they need not – at least not necessarily – knock a government off-course. Cameron was elected as a new kind of Tory but, too often, has governed as just another Tory. He has counterfeited his own promise.
And Ian Birrell has a radical idea for curing the party's malaise:
The failure to learn the lessons of the past by banging on endlessly about benefits, Europe and immigration is astonishing. There needs to be more, not less, modernisation. Instead, the Tories focus fruitlessly on these fearful older voters largely lost to Ukip, an inevitably declining sector of the electorate, while reinforcing an image that drives away the younger, female and ethnic minority voters needed to survive and thrive as a political force. 
Ultimately, the question is not why are these MPs defecting, but why do politicians with such divergent views stick together? Perhaps politics is going through a process of disruption similar to that driven by technology in almost every other aspect of life. It does seem absurd to expect our tired model of binary party politics to endure in a time of transparency, with all that tedious tribalism and parroting of lines. 
In the short term, the Tories must decide either to offer an optimistic vision of the future or just pander to the pessimists in a probably doomed bid to win the election. 
Beyond that, it is hard not to wonder if these divisions need to be resolved with a cathartic full-blown split, as with Labour in the early 1980s – although this time it would be the militant tendency on the flank shearing off. As always in politics, there are egos and personal vanities in play. Yet what really binds the many decent and tolerant conservatives to those misanthropes filled with fear and rage against modernity?

Another clip from Brond has appeared on Youtube

A couple of days after I wrote my post on Brond, another clip from series appeared on Youtube. Not only that, it contains the dialogue about the Scottish soldier that I quoted.

There are also some photos of John Hannah in the drama to be found on a fan site.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Well-Behaved Orphans' quiz


I have never been a great lover of school dinners – I date the beginning of my long career in public service to my time on the Escape Committee at prep school – so when I heard about Clegg’s new policy I was less than impressed. I am, however, at a loss to know how to intervene as the man simply won’t listen to me on the subject.

Still pondering, I take myself off to give the prizes at the annual Well-Behaved Orphans’ quiz. There are no shocks and the bookies’ favourite – a bright little nine-year-old – wins by several lengths and secures the traditional bag of toffees.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

NHS boob job mum Josie Cunningham doesn't give birth to Curtis Davis's baby

The Leicester Mercury wins Headline of the Day by a distance.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Marksman: A BBC drama from 1987

The other day I blogged about the Channel 4 drama Brond from 1987. Since then, I have not only had a tweet from John Hannah, I have swapped tweets with the person who played the boy on the bridge in its extraordinary opening:

But there is another television drama I remember from that year that is even more obscure. Some sources even maintain it was never shown, but I know they are wrong because I watched it.

The Marksman was due to be shown in August 1987, but suddenly became controversial because of the Hungerford massacre. Here is Robin Corbett, Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, speaking in the Commons in December of that year:
I suspect that the House will want to take this matter more seriously than does the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale). Does the Minister agree that it would be quite proper to request the BBC to change its decision to start showing the three-part series "The Marksman", which was withdrawn immediately after the violence at Hungerford? The pain and distress that would be caused by that film, which I understand concerns a character who goes round blowing people apart in order to get what he considers to be vengeance, would hit immediately those families in Hungerford and elsewhere who have been involved in shooting incidents.
But the BBC did show The Marksman, though it seems to have been re-edited in the light of events in Hungerford. It remained, however, a gory drama in which a hitman revenged the killing of his young son.

The cast list is impressive: David Threlfall, Richard Griffiths, James Ellis, Leslie Ash, Craig Charles. And the theme music was by Richard Thompson, aided by some poetry written and performed by Charles.

Yet today there is not a clip from The Marksman to be found on Youtube and nor will you find any of Richard Thompson's music there.

What I recall most of all is the performance of Michael Angelis, a stalwart of BBC dramas in those days.

He played a club owner who, after auditioning a new comic, would put an arm around his shoulders and say: "It's not enough to be Irish [or Jewish or whatever]: you've got to be funny." Then he would slip a banknote into the comic's top pocket and say: "But don't ever change."

I think his fondness for that last phrase did for him when he used it in what was meant to be an anonymous phone call.

I don't suppose The Marksman will ever be seen again, but I still use the "It's not enough to be..." line today when I see some new comedians on television.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Chevening Oil PLC


The tang of autumn is in the air and the leaves (or so my private polling informs me) are turning. It is time to think of winter and how I shall heat the Hall. At one time I would simply have ordered so many sacks of nutty slack from my own mines in the North of Rutland, but Ed Davey gave me a disapproving look last time I mentioned them.

So I have decided to use oil instead. I had assumed that, when I asked for quotes that from my own rigs on Rutland Water would come in as the cheapest, but it turned out that a fellow from down Kent way put in the juiciest tender. I phoned the manager of Chevening Oil to give him the good news and have a chat, but he was distinctly cagey about where he sourced the stuff. Still, I placed an order that will fill the tanks here in my cellars.

Afterwards, I wrote a note of advice to Clegg about the importance of keeping warm in winter. I could not help noticing last year that he had a distinctly blue tinge to his face and a permanent drip at the end of his nose.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Six of the Best 466

Stephen Tall looks at Lord Ashcroft's poll of Lib Dem/Tory marginals on Liberal Democrat Voice.

"I suspect ... this is the symptom of an underlying disease - that the media exists entirely within a Westminster bubble. Mr Collins thinks the deficit is a "real" problem not because there's empirical or theoretical evidence that it is, but simply because the groupthink of Very Serious People says so." Stumbling and Mumbling introduces us to the useful concept of 'bubblethink'.

Europe's domination of the Ryder Cup means the event is losing popularity in America, explains Art Spander for Bleacher Report.

Internet Curtains visits the north Nottingham suburbs of Bulwell, Highbury Vale and Basford.

"These North Country witches have no need for fancy, expensive props and familiars, instead relying on their ‘Woolworth’s broomstick and a tabby cat’." The Downstairs Lounge celebrates the genius of Jake Thackray.

A Guiding Life attended the recent revival of Arts Fresco here in Market Harborough.

Introducing Clegg's children

According to Radical Bulletin in the new issue of Liberator (and I know of no more reliable source), the deputy prime minister's special advisers are known among disrespectful Liberal Democrat MPs as "Clegg's children".

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Steam in the Lune Gorge

Some wonderful footage from the 1950s.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Danny Alexander in the gym


Whilst I attribute my rude health to my annual bathe in the spring that bursts from the hillside above the former headquarters of the Association of Liberal Councillors in Hebden Bridge, and admit that a certain cordial sold to me (at no small cost) by the Elves of Rockingham Forest has done no harm, I like to visit the Westminster gymnasium from time to time to keep in trim.

Who should I meet there this morning but our own Danny Alexander? He is not wearing glasses and his hair is now a rich chestnut. He nods to me whilst attempting to clean and jerk a particularly heavy set of barbells (not to be confused with the fish, which are, in my experience, far lighter). Fortunately I am able to steady the First Secretary to the Treasury before he does himself a serious mischief. I must admit he looks better for the face lift – or is it just the effect of vitamin pills?

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Leicester Mercury column on devolution and local government

I forgot to check, but I was due to have this First Person column printed  in Friday's Leicester Mercury.

Bring back proper local government

Because the three party leaders panicked in the last week of the referendum and promised the Scottish parliament more powers, everyone is saying something must be done about England.

Some want only English MPs allowed to vote on laws that affect only England. Others want an English parliament. And some want regional government.

There is something to be said for all of these ideas, though English votes on English law would make little difference in practice. And, while I like the idea of an English parliament meeting in York or Manchester rather than Westminster, I doubt people would want to pay for a whole new level of government.

The same goes for regional assemblies, and they have another problem. If you want to start a pub argument, ask people where the boundaries of the East Midlands are and which city should be its capital and home to its regional assembly. (We both know the answer is not Nottingham, but you try convincing them of that.)

But the problem with the government of England goes deeper than any of these proposals allow. The real problem is the decline of local government that has been going on for decades.

The Labour government of 1945 is remembered for nationalising privately owned industries like coal, steel and the railways. But it also nationalised many services that had been run by local councils: water, gas, electricity and health.

In those days a city like Leicester also ran its own buses and trams. Now even schools have effectively been nationalised. Central government sets the curriculum and, if the secretary of state is Michael Gove, tries to tell pupils and teachers what to wear.

Meanwhile the government is so afraid of being blamed for council tax rises that it has made it next to impossible for councils to vary that much too.

What England needs is a reversal of this process. Responsibility must be returned from national government to local government. That way we should have more diversity and experiment, and elected representatives would be closer to the people they serve.

It would also lead to a revival of interest in local politics, because who ran your council would suddenly matter a lot more. It might also attract more impressive candidates to stand for the council, because those councils would wield real power.

One thing voters, politicians and the media would have to do is agree to give up complaining about a “postcode lottery”.

Different councils would have different spending priorities and come to different decisions. But that’s the real point about local government. It’s local.

Jonathan Calder blogs at Liberal England 

Wreckless Eric: Whole Wide World

Thanks to Mark Reckless for reminding me of this single from 1977.

Wreckless Eric (real name Eric Goulden) was a stalwart of Stiff Records in those days. He later fell out with the company and moved to France and then the United States, where he still plays.

Man gets his arm stuck in Newport postbox

A clear winner of our Headline of the Day Award.

But which Newport is it?

Newport in Gwent? Newport, Isle of Wight?

No, it's Newport in Shropshire.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tyseley Motive Power Depot open day, September 1968

Crowds of spectators wandering around the depot, and not a high-visibility jacket in sight.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Abolishing the trolls on the Severn Bridge

What is that thump on the doormat? It is the conference issue of Liberator, complete with some fitting tributes to Simon Titley.

Which means it is time to begin another week at Bonkers Hall.

You have been warned.


I am delighted to read that the Welsh Liberal Democrats are proposing to abolish the trolls on the Severn Bridge. For many years I have been urging just this move upon them, but without any joy. “The time is not right,” said Mike German. “There are other priorities,” said Kirsty Williams. “Wibble, wibble: are both those feet mine?” said Lembit Opik.

It is certainly good news for travellers to and from the Principality. For myself, whenever obliged to cross the Severn, I obtained three billy goats from Chepstow Goats (“No ifs, no butts, good service”) and was able to ward the trolls off; others, perhaps less well prepared, have had less happy experiences.

Incidentally, I was once unable to obtain any billy goats when returning from giving a speech in Ystradgynlais and decided to improvise by summoning Nanny. I don’t know what she did to the trolls, but she certainly terrified me.

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

Why few in the charitable sector are mourning the resignation of Brooks Newmark

A Guardian report from earlier this report explains:
David Cameron's new minister for civil society has been branded patronising and dismissive after he told charities to "stick to their knitting" and keep out of politics. 
Brooks Newmark, who was appointed in the summer reshuffle, made the comments amid worries among charities that the new Lobbying Act that will limit their ability to campaign on issues of the day. 
In his first major speech since he took on the role, Newmark used the opportunity to criticise charities who "stray" out of their remit of helping people. 
Asked about the ability of charities to campaign, he said: "We really want to try and keep charities and voluntary groups out of the realms of politics. Some 99.9% do exactly that. When they stray into the realm of politics that is not what they are about and that is not why people give them money." 
In comments first reported on Civil Society, he added: "The important thing charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting and doing the best they can to promote their agenda, which should be about helping others."

The difference between Brooks Newmark and Mark Reckless

Newmark was reckless: Reckless is a no mark.

Comedian Seann Walsh cancels gig after catching train to Hereford instead of Hertford

I have never heard of Mr Walsh - perhaps he is popular with the young people? - but he has helped the Mirror win our Headline of the Day Award.

Not only that: he has reminded me of the acquittal of Jeremy Thorpe at the Old Bailey.

The evidence in the case suggested that the supposed hitman, Andrew Newton, had looked for Norman Scott in Dunstable rather than Barnstaple.

And failed to find him.

Lord Bonkers on the Mitford sisters

Writing in 2009, the old brute said:
I seem to recall that one of them married Hitler; they were an absolute scream

Friday, September 26, 2014

All Saints, Margaret Street, London W1

This video from the Khan Academy introduces us to an extraordinary High Anglican church just off Oxford Street.

The Sporting Memories Network

I missed it at the time, but on 10 July this summer Tony Jameson-Allen from the Sporting Memories Network was the lunchtime guest on Test Match Special.

He spoke about the work of the organisation, which was established to promote and develop the use of sporting memories to improve the wellbeing of older people and to help tackle dementia, depression and social isolation.

I can't embed in, but you can listen to the interview here. Listen in particular for Bill's Story.

The other guest was the great South African allrounder Mike Procter, who spoke about the work of his own Mike Procter Foundation.

National Railway Museum stages controversial exhibition... on trainspotting

From York Mix:
“We’ve not tackled anything quite like this before,” is the first thing Amy Banks says when asked about the National Railway Museum’s brand new project. 
“It was quite a controversial subject that we realised we needed to talk about. We wanted to get across a sense of travel and adventure. That desire to record and document what’s happened”.
And what is the controversial subject the NRM is tackling? Trainspotting.

Time I think to reprint a column I once published in Clinical Psychology Forum as Professor Strange...


Trainspotting, autism and what it means to be normal

Saturday afternoon on Platform 1. Freight trains and passenger trains coming and going. My notebook filling with engine numbers. The packet of sandwiches that Mother made me. The summer sunshine burning my bare knees. An excited shout goes up. I rush to join the throng and taste again the oily tang of steam.

Yes, I enjoyed my visit to York last Saturday and may well go again this weekend. Yet when I look around me, I see that trainspotting is thoroughly out of fashion.

I do not refer to the adventures of Begbie, Spud and Sickboy: they are very much in fashion. Though, as I said in my review in Steam Railway Quarterly, anyone who watches the film of Mr Welsh’s book in the hope of gaining an insight into the operation of Gresley’s A4 Pacifics on the LNER is likely to be sadly disappointed.

Rather, I refer to the hobby which enthralled generations of schoolboys. It flourished in the decades after the Second World War as families became affluent enough to spare the cash for their children to explore the railway system.

That sort of trainspotting is more than out of fashion: it is rapidly being turned into a mental illness. The other day I was looking at a piece on the narrow gauge railways of North Wales written by Bill Bryson. He said: ‘I had recently read a newspaper article in which it was reported that a speaker at the British Psychological Society had described trainspotting as a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome.’

It is just as well that he or she did not describe it in those terms in my hearing, but we have come far from the days when boys were expected to be interested in trains. I can recall, as a young practitioner, having families referred to me because the son did not want to be a train driver when he grew up. ‘We’re at our wits’ end, Doctor Strange,’ the tearful parents would say. ‘We have tried everything, but he’s just not interested in railways.’

I was able to reassure them, puffing on my pipe, that it was just a phase the lad was going through and that they should not worry too much – though some parents had found Strange’s Herbal Supplements™ wonderfully efficacious in similar cases.

Not that trainspotting was without controversy. Popular stations could be overrun with children in the holidays. Questions were asked in the House about problems at Tamworth, and when overzealous spotters were picked up wandering around locomotive depots, magistrates would call for the hobby to be banned.

Yet it is not the criminogenic properties of trainspotting that have led to its decline, nor has it been the result of advances in the understanding of autistic spectrum disorders. In part it is because we are all – children included – far too cool to be interested enough in anything to call it a hobby. And in part it is because there has been a change in our idea of what it means to be normal.

When I was young, to be normal was to be male, white and upper middle class and to wear a tweed jacket and smoke a pipe. I must say that always seemed perfectly reasonable to me, but as I was male, white and upper middle class, wore a tweed jacket and smoked a pipe, I suppose it would.

Today to be normal is to be female and quite often it is to be a mental health professional too. Just think of the articles which treat a willingness to take part in workshops as a sign of normality in psychiatric inpatients when this activity plays no part in the lives of 99 per cent of the population.

So ‘normality’ is a slippery concept, and what it means has changed markedly over the years. That is why I have never made any great efforts to appear normal myself.


That's quite enough from Professor Strange, but for more on trainspotting I recommend the book Platform Souls by Nicholas Whitaker. In a just world it would have done for the hobby what Fever Pitch did for football.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Channel 4's Brond from 1987 - John Hannah and Stratford Johns

We are used to films and television programmes being available to watch pretty much whenever we want to view them. But I have strong memories of a series that was shown only once in 1987 and has never been issued on video or DVD.

Brond marked the first screen appearance of John Hannah as Robert and a late starring role for the mighty Stratford Johns.

I remember it most for its stunning opening, which Notes from New Sodom describes for us:
it opens with a young John Hannah ... as a young Glasgow Uni student who's out jogging. He stops to catch his breath on a bridge ... where a wee kid is leaning over, looking down into the river. 
As the Hannah character watches we see Stratford Johns (from classic British cop show, Z-Cars) walk down the road towards him and, in passing, with the utterly casual callousness of a one-handed shove, push the kid over the edge. And then wink at Hannah as he walks on.
It is that wink I remember most of all. In winking at Hannah he is also winking at the camera and us the viewers.

The plot was hard to follow and hard to recall after so many years - I must have watched it on a snowy portable someone lent me shortly after I bought my own house. But I recall that it involved Scottish and Irish terrorism and Stratford Johns as Brond was an intelligence boss or gang boss or quite possibly both.

The video above is the only extract from Brond I can find online (there is another television series from 1987 I shall blog about one day where nothing seems to remain).

But there are stills on a couple of unlikely websites. VHiStory goes through an old video tape - and shows Brond flipping the boy off the bridge - and IMCDB is interested in the cars used in the production.

Notes from New Sodom quotes some dialogue from the series that has a contemporary resonance:
BROND: You shouldn’t upset him like that. He’s a good man. 
ROBERT: A good soldier. He told me before. 
BROND: Oh yes. Kilts and trumpets at dawn. Loyal and brave. A Scottish Soldier. 
ROBERT: How can he be so stupid? Doesn’t he know how much you despise him? 
BROND: He has medals, did you know that? Soldiers get them. And he has some that are not given easily, or for nothing. He went to the wars and came home again. He’s a patriot. He’s been going to war a very long time. He’s the man who built the British Empire. 
ROBERT: What’s the British Empire to do with this? 
BROND: He’s fought against Napoleon, and in the Crimea. In the last war he fought in the desert. In 1916 he fought on the dry plains of the Somme and drowned in its mud when winter came. Kenya, Korea –- he’s been there. He’s still in Ireland. And only last week he came back from a little group of islands in the South Atlantic. And every time he came home, he found things were worse that when he’s gone away – but he had never learned to fight for himself.
What I remember above all about Brond is its atmosphere. And that had a lot to do with this extraordinary theme music by Bill Nelson and Daryl Runswick.

Even later...
Later still. Another clip from Brond has appeared on Youtube.

And yet later. The whole of Brond is now on Youtube.

When did 'offence' become a trump card?

A protest campaign and blockade has forced the Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B at the Barbican.

Lord Bell was Hilary Mantel investigated by the police because she has published a short story about Margaret Thatcher.

It has not been a good week for supporters of free expression in the arts.

A protestor against Exhibit B is quoted by the BBC as saying:
"It's not educational, it actually causes huge offence."
Meanwhile, says the Guardian:
Tory MP Conor Burns told the Sunday Times that the story represented a grave offence to the victims of the IRA.
It seems the merest Tory backbencher has learnt what left-wing activists have long known: if you can claim 'offence' in modern Britain, that is a trump card.

How and when did that come about?

Nick Clegg's case for military action in Iraq

In his email to Liberal Democrat members - kindly reproduced by Lib Dem Voice - Nick Clegg gave three reasons why we should support renewed military action in Iraq:
  1. the threat from ISIL to Britain has already been made clear by the sickening sight of British hostages being executed on television;
  2. unlike the 2003 war in Iraq this intervention is legal – we are responding to a direct request for help from the legitimate Government of Iraq and Parliament will vote before any action is taken;
  3. we’re acting as part of a broad coalition of countries, including many Arab countries, to deal with a real and immediate threat.
Points 2 and 3, of course, will only reassure those who think the action is wise in the first place.

And point 1 does not convince me. ISIL is an appalling movement, but it surely poses more of a threat to the Kurds and the Yazidis than it does to Britain. And as far it does pose a threat to Britain - seizing hostages, fomenting terrorism here - it is not clear that bombing will reduce that threat.

I am not a pacifist and will support humanitarian military action if it is clear what the goal is. But is it clear in Iraq today? Are we looking to contain ISIL or destroy it? And is that latter idea any better than a fantasy?

More than that, I think that Western leaders have lacked a strategy in the Middle East. We are afraid of the rise of Islamism, yet we have swept away the dictators who acted as a bulwark against it - Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi and there were plenty who wanted to bomb Bashar Assad only last year.

At one time we were seeking a rapprochement with Gaddafi - one of the very first posts on this blog made fun of Tony Blair's meeting with him. But we seem to have concluded that both sides are pretty appalling and fought both in a piecemeal fashion.

And our leaders seem to lack historical perspective. Compare that with Paddy Ashdown, who recently wrote:
What is happening in the Middle East, like it or not, is the wholesale rewriting of the Sykes-Picot borders of 1916, in favour of an Arab world whose shapes will be arbitrated more by religious dividing lines than the old imperial conveniences of 100 years ago.
That is surely right. Have we really gone to war to defend those borders?

Still, have a look at the video of Nick Clegg and decide for yourself. His arguments there are more developed and more convincing than those in his email.

Chief constable was ordered not to investigate Greville Janner

A story partly behind The Times paywall this morning quoted Mick Creedon, chief constable of Derbyshire, as saying that, as a detective sergeant in 1989, he was ordered by his superiors not to investigate Greville Janner, then Labour MP for Leicester West.

The Needle has a little more of the report.

The date of 1989 may be significant. Frank Beck was not arrested until April 1990 and did not accuse Greville Janner in court until November 1991.

I should add that Mr Janner has always denied allegations of this sort when they are made against him.

Has the homophobic monk been to Lincoln?

We have previously blogged about sightings of a homophobic monk in Brighton, Cambridge and Market Harborough.

Now The Lincolnite reports:
Leaflets depicting homosexuality as “the Devil’s delusion” are sparking anger from Lincoln residents who received them in the post. 
Police are investigating reports, which suggest the Park Ward area of Lincoln has been targeted with the “offensive” flyers. 
The leaflets, which do not state the involvement of a particular church, states that: “All sexual activity outside of the matrimonial union of one man and one woman is sin, and therefore immoral.”
No mention of a monk, but the leaflet the website reproduces looks very like the ones he gives out.

Thanks to @blackwellharb on Twitter.

Later. Thanks to @Backwatersman for pointing me to this report in The Sentinel from Stoke-on-Trent. No mention of a monk's habit though.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Saville Theatre where Steve Winwood and I sang

The other day I came across a blog post about my first (and so far only) appearance on the West End stage.

I was 8 and the family had gone to see Danny La Rue in Queen Passionella and the Sleeping Beauty. I was one of the children asked up on to the stage to sing during this (sort of) pantomime.

Thinking about it, given La Rue's slightly risqué reputation, there probably weren't many children there, which made it more likely I would be chosen. (But then I must have been one of the few children who was allowed to stay up to watch Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii!)

Reading about Queen Passionella after rediscovering that post, I found that it was staged at the Saville theatre.

The Saville was in Shaftesbury Avenue and had a remarkable history. Opened in 1931, it was leased by the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein in 1965.

According to Wikipedia, he presented:
both plays (including works by Arnold Wesker) and rock and roll shows. The venue became notorious for its Sunday night concerts. During one by Chuck Berry, members of the audience stormed the stage and the police were called to clear the theatre. 
The venue saw the last UK appearance of The Jimi Hendrix Experience in August 1967, before their groundbreaking Monterey Pop Festival performance. The Move and Procol Harum also appeared on the bill. An eclectic mix of bands such as Nirvana, Cream, Fairport Convention, the Incredible String Band and The Bee Gees, also appeared there.
The Beatles borrowed the Saville to make their "Hello, Goodbye" promo (an early music video) in November 1967, and on 8 December 1967, Yoko Ono performed her The Fog Machine: Music of the Mind there, which included a projection of her film Bottoms (Film No. 4) in the men's room during the concert. The Rolling Stones played two shows on 21 December 1969. 
The theatre was sold in 1969, and returned to presenting theatrical productions and under the new management it presented the London première of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, a production that brought Leonard Rossiter to public attention.
Then I saw this tweet:
That's right: Traffic's first appearance was 47 years ago today and at the Saville Theatre. That is about 18 months before my appearance there.

Today the Saville theatre is a cinema - the Odeon Covent Garden - but I am sure that it remembers me and Danny and Steve.

Advice to Ed Miliband: Get a lectern

Whether Ed Miliband forgot to mention the deficit or decided to drop that passage because he sensed a restive audience, I don't know. But whatever the reason for that omission, the time has come for him to drop the stunt of giving his conference speeches from memory.

The first time he did it, people were impressed. But once you have seen it done a couple of times, you are not impressed at all. It begins to look like showing off.

Ed Miliband's defence of the technique is that it makes it easier for him to connect with people. But that sounds to me like a hangover from the early days of his leadership when we were told he was a brilliant communicator.

He is not, though he is not an awful one either. Miliband's real weakness is that people think he lacks leadership qualities.

In short, he needs to acquire some gravitas. And speaking from a lectern with a written speech - a speech that is not afraid to mention the deficit - would be a good first step.

County council launches proceedings against David Parsons

Read the Leicester Mercury for the latest twist in the saga of David Parsons - former Conservative leader of the county council and former Ukip prospective parliamentary candidate:
Legal proceedings have been launched against former Leicestershire County Council leader David Parsons to recover £1,500 he still owes the authority. 
Officials at County Hall say Mr Parsons has stopped paying monthly installments to clear the costs of 26 trips he made using the council’s chauffeur-driven car during his nine-year stint as leader. 
The trips were deemed "not sufficiently connected" to his role as leader after an investigation by officers. 
Officials found two more trips were deemed to be inappropriate for the use of the council chauffeur, because of the short distances involved.
Much more about David Parsons on this blog.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Six of the Best 465

Mark Pack says the party's federal executive has submitted a mess to conference on one member, one vote. He wants your help to sort it out.

"Somehow or other, the next government is going to have to find us a more effective, more innovative form of government, handing powers out widely to cities and counties, as part of a wider settlement that is far more important than the development of an English parliament at Westminster (another kind of centralisation, it seems to me)." David Boyle on the United Kingdom after the Scottish referendum.

"In 2013, Jersey quietly rose to the top spot of the global rankings of offshore tax shelters, as measured by the Global Financial Centres Index, edging out the Cayman Islands, Monaco, Gibraltar, the British Virgin Islands and Cyprus. Yet because it is so small and tends to shirk publicity, many have never heard of it." Leah McGrath Goodman takes us inside the world's top offshore tax shelter.

Museworth remembers 1989, when Mstislav Rostropovich played Bach among the rubble of the Berlin Wall.

"By the time Caruana won his fifth straight game to open the tournament, destroying Nakamura while playing with black, the commentators were struggling to situate this performance in historical context." Seth Stevenson reports on the Sinquefield Cup, one of the most remarkable chess tournaments ever held.

Flashbak lists the greatest songs ever banned by the BBC.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mike Nesmith as Frank Zappa, Frank Zappa as Mike Nesmith

From episode 57 of The Monkees, which was first broadcast in America in March 1968. The series was a staple of children's television in Britain for a few years after that.

Austerity: Will Labour activists still stick their fingers in their ears?

For those prepared to listen it has always been clear that a Labour government would implement austerity policies too.

During the last general election campaign Alistair Darling conceded that if Labour were re-elected it would its  public spending cuts will be "tougher and deeper" than those implemented by Margaret Thatcher.

And in October 2013 Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and business secretary, vowed to be tougher on benefit claimants than the Tories.

Yet through all this Labour activists have clung to the belief that austerity was all down to the personal wickedness of Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers and would be reversed as soon as Labour came to power.

Will Ed Balls' speech today finally make them return to the same planet the rest of us live on?

I quote:
People know we are the party of jobs, living standards and fairness for working people. 
But they also need to know that we will balance the books and make the sums add up and that we won’t duck the difficult decisions we will face if they return us to government. 
Working people have had to balance their own books. 
And they are clear that the government needs to balance its books too. 
So Labour will balance the books in the next parliament. 
These will be our tough fiscal rules. We will get the current budget into surplus and the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next parliament. 
Tough fiscal rules that our National Policy Forum endorsed in July, demonstrating that, however difficult, our party can unite in tough times to agree a radical, credible and fully costed programme for government. 
And we will legislate for these tough fiscal rules in the first year after the election and they will be independently monitored by the Office for Budget Responsibility. 
So in our manifesto there will be no proposals for any new spending paid for by additional borrowing. 
No spending commitments without saying where the money is coming from. 
Because we will not make promises we cannot keep and cannot afford.
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceIt ought to, but my money is on their continuing to stick their fingers in their ears and go "la la la".

Wok This Way wins Chinese Takeaway of the Day

Today's winner can be found in High Street, Oakham.

Direct rail service from London Euston to Shrewsbury returns

Welcome news in the Shropshire Star today: the Office of Rail Regulation has given its approval for a direct rail link service between Shrewsbury and London.

There will be two workings each way from Monday to Saturday, and one on Sunday.

The good news for me is that the service will call at Coventry. When I first started going to Shropshire I used sometimes to catch a train from Leicester to Coventry and pick up the Shrewsbury service there.

These days getting from Leicester to Coventry involves a change of trains at Nuneaton, but it will still be well worth it to avoid the experience of changing at Birmingham New Street.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rev comes to Market Bosworth

From the Leicester Mercury:
An unholy row has erupted after a parish priest announced that a ceremony to mark his civil partnership is to be staged at his church. 
A local parishioner has said that the service to celebrate the partnership between the Reverend Dominic McClean and his male partner at St Peter’s Church in Market Bosworth amounts to a “gay wedding”.
Thanks to...

...for giving me an excuse to use one of my photos of St Peter's, Market Bosworth.

The English question and the whale in the bathtub

The West Lothian question should not trouble a Conservative over much. Why overturn a constitutional arrangement that works in the name of abstract principles like ‘fairness’ or ‘justice’? That’s the sort of folly that Liberals and Radicals go in for.

But David Cameron had to act on it and act quickly. Because today large parts of the Conservative Party are hardly Conservative at all. The brighter among them do care about abstract principles, but most are Angry White Men who believe the disappointments of their lives and the failings of British society are the fault of Europe or the Scots or some other group institution or group.

It is from this latter group that most Conservative activists and increasing numbers of their backbench MPs are drawn. Such people believe the Scots already get more than their fair share from the English taxpayer – hence the imperative on Cameron to be seen to offer the English something once he had decided to issue a pledge in an attempt to buy off the Yes campaign in the Scottish referendum.

And if he hadn’t acted, not only would his own party have been in revolt against him, Nigel Farage would likely have emerged as the champion of the disaffected English.

So it looks as if we are to have English votes for English laws. In theory this is a fair reform, but the practical problems are that it will either make no difference (that would be the situation in most parliaments) or that it would lead to the UK being governed by one party and England by another and prove to be unworkable.

So, much as the idea of an English parliament meeting in York appeals, I cannot see it as a sensible option. Nor am I attracted by the idea of artificial English regions, each with its own assembly and capital.

I agonised about these problems in a book review in Liberal Democrat News a few years ago:
What to do about England in the new devolved United Kingdom is a question that will not go away. A Useful Fiction quotes Anthony King’s description of the country under the current settlement as “a huge whale in a small bathtub”, and without the counterbalance that the new parliaments offer in Scotland and Wales, it is England that has suffered most from the demise of local democracy. 
The traditional Liberal answer is to call for assemblies to be set up in the English regions, but I do not find this attractive. There are problems on agreeing where the boundaries should be drawn and the inconvenient fact that on the only occasion when plans for an assembly were put to the public (in the North East in 2004), they were voted down decisively. 
More than that, the regional system Labour has set up acts like a shadow, unelected variety of local government that makes it easier for Whitehall to force new infrastructure projects through in the force of popular opposition.
Perhaps the real problem is that English regional government appeals to those who do not feel comfortable with Englishness at all. Many on the liberal-left who are indulgent to Celtic nationalism still fear that England is too big and too irredeemably Tory to be allowed a modern constitutional form. They would rather see English identity hobbled by a collection of smaller assemblies.
If we are not to have an English parliament or a comprehensive system of regional government, then we shall have to learn to live with a looser solution where large cities and counties that want more power are given it and those that do not continue under a regime much like the one that exists at present. At the very least, we are going to have to give up the expression ‘postcode lottery’.

And as for coming to terms with Englishness, I commend a Spectator article by Nick Cohen:
The danger for Labour is that it could find itself portrayed as the enemy of the English. It is a novel position for the party. Most Labour politicians are wary of the left intelligentsia – and vice versa – and know the dangers of the electorate thinking them unpatriotic. But patriotism is changing. It is not enough for a political party to show that it loves Britain; it has to show that it loves each of its constituent parts. For Labour, the only national party with strong roots in England, Wales and Scotland, the balkanisation of Britain, represents a moment of danger. 
The question now is no longer: does Labour love Britain? But does Labour love England? Maybe not enough to allow fair treatment for the English electorate.  Labour is giving every indication that it will not accept English votes for English laws. It wants to devolve more powers to English cities and regions, as do the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.  But it is not contemplating a federal Britain, and is refusing to cooperate with David Cameron’s attempts to answer the English question. 
I sympathise with its reasons. I don’t want to see Welsh and Scottish politicians excluded from English life, not least because they are the men and women most likely to forward left wing interests. I hate the prospect of the petty, almost racist, populism of the Scottish nationalists spreading south. But my Britain is going or gone. The Labour Party cannot expect others to stand by an archaic system, rigged for the left’s benefit.
Who will benefit from the new system born from Salmond’s populism and the panic of the leaders of the UK parties in the face of it remains to be seen. But that is the battle we must now fight.

Leonard Cohen: Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye

It seems odd to be wishing a 1960s musician a happy 80th birthday, but we had better get used to it. Even Steve Winwood is 66 these days.

Here is Leonard Cohen at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 and he is just as cool today as he was then.

I have chosen two other Leonard Cohen songs as Sunday music videos - I must be grown up:

John Leech to speak at East Midlands Lib Dems conference

The autumn conference and annual general meeting of the East Midlands Liberal Democrats will take place in Hinckley on Saturday 1 November.

The keynote speaker will be John Leech, Lib Dem MP for Manchester Withington, and the four candidates to be the party's new president have also been invited.

Book via the East Midlands Lib Dems website.

“It was as black as the night sky”: The Beast of Harborough returns

The Hatborough Mail reports that the Black Beast of Harborough was seen near Lubenham on two consecutive evenings earlier this month.

We have previously reported sightings of the Beast near Arthingworth and Foxton.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Peter Capaldi travelling in time before Doctor Who

Each episode of the second series of The All New Alexei Sayle Show, broadcast in 1995, featured a Drunk in Time sketch. This was a parody of a long-forgotten American series called The Time Tunnel.

As well as Alexei Sayle, they featured Jenny Agutter and Alfred Marks as the controllers and Jim Carter as an historical figure. Here he is King Herod.

And Sayle's fellow traveller in time was played by an actor called Peter Capaldi. Whatever happened to him?

The street name signs of Oakham

In Oakham today to visit the Dowager Lady Bonkers in hospital, I noticed that at one time the practice in the town was to paint street names on the side of houses.

Some, like Station Street, are well preserved. Others, like Kings Road, have decayed.

And some, like Long Row, have been imaginatively vandalised.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sandy Denny

Over the years I have posted several songs by Sandy Denny (photographed here in about 1970):
Read more about Sandy Denny.

84 per cent Yes vote in Billesdon

Church Street, Billesdon © Andrew Tatlow

No, Billesdon is not an enclave of Scottish Nationalism. It is a village in Leicestershire and it had its own referendum yesterday.

In it, local residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposed neighbourhood plan. The 84 per cent Yes vote came from a turnout of 55 per cent.

I hope the plan will give them real control over the development and preservation of their village.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The skeletons found holding hands

Hallaton © Graham Horn

Today's newspapers loved the story of the two skeletons that were found holding hands. But even more interesting is the place that they were found.

The University of Leicester Archaeological Services website explains:
ULAS archaeologists have been working with local volunteers to uncover the lost chapel of St Morrell overlooking the small village of Hallaton in east Leicestershire. The Fourth year of excavations with the Hallaton Fieldwork Group (HFWG) has revealed the full plan of the chapel as well as the cemetery and evidence that the hillside has been used since at least the Roman period. 
The location of the chapel was unknown before research by local historian John Morison suggested it might be on Hare Pie Bank where the annual Easter Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking take place. Geophysical survey by HFWG showed a square boundary (approximately 36m across) with features inside it. Subsequent excavations by ULAS and the group have uncovered the chapel thought to be a place of pilgrimage in the medieval period and a pilgrim badge with ‘Morrell’ inscribed on it was found within the walls of the chapel. 
The excavations have identified the walls and tiled floor of the chapel as wells as fragments of stone masonry, wall plaster, tiles and lead from the windows. A number of silver pennies dating between the 12th – 16th centuries have also been found on the site indicating when the chapel was in use.
And Dr Graham Jones will tell you all about St Morrell. His seems to have been a local cult, and he is not marked anywhere beyond Hallaton:
The name in English is derived from French and means 'small, shrivelled dark thing' - compare the name of the Morello cherry. Queen Elizabeth I of England was known (not entirely pejoratively, perhaps) as 'a little morrella'. Because of the name's unusual flavour in the context of an English local church, the conjecture has been canvassed that it is a corruption of some Old English name such as Merewalh. This was a name borne by a Mercian sub-king on the Welsh marches of England. These lie in the far west Midlands rather than the east, but Merewalh was a benefactor of an east Midlands saint, Botolph of Icanho (what later became Boston), and several of his relatives were commemorated in Leicestershire and its neighbouring counties. 
However, a much more plausible explanation, and one with evidential support, is that Morrell, 'Mawrell' in 1532, represents St Maurilius of Angers, a fifth-century bishop and patron of that French town, whose legend purported that he sought exile in England where he worked as a gardener for an English noble. The families of Norman lords of Hallaton originated in that region of France. Also, land in Leicestershire and neighbouring Warwickshire was given in the eleventh century to the monastery of St Nicholas of Angers.

Hear Alex Salmond make the case for an independent Scotland

You are welcome.

Is this Britain's most prolific father? Bus driver fathers 26 children by 9 women

The Daily Mirror wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Reader's voice: It's not your usual sort of story, is it?

Liberal England replies: No, but it gives me an excuse to use this picture.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Charlotte Barnes to contest Ludlow for the Liberal Democrats

From the Shropshire Star:
Charlotte Barnes, Shropshire Councillor for Bishop's Castle, has been selected by Ludlow Liberal Democrats to contest the MP Philip Dunne's seat in the Ludlow constituency. 
A mother-of-two, Mrs Barnes has built a reputation as a local campaigner on issues such as unwanted housing, the Bishop's Castle Youth Club and the future of the town's business park. She is currently pressing the mobile provider EE over their poor signal in the area. 
She said: "It's a great honour to be selected to represent the Lib Dems in next year's contest. 
"I will be following in the footsteps of great local campaigners such as Matthew Green and Heather Kidd. "We face some real challenges in this rural part of Shropshire. 
We are often neglected by both Central Government and the County. The threat of our hospital services disappearing, falling school rolls and a chaotic slash and burn council are just some of the problems our area faces."
I had a drink with Charlotte when I was on holiday in the county a couple of summers ago. I am sure she will make an excellent candidate.

My Scottish forebear who defied Queen Victoria

It feels a good evening to honour my great great grandmother's brother Sandy Campbell, who is described in Robert Smith's book A Queen's Country:
Sandy Campbell sported a magnificent beard. Queen Victoria didn't like it and asked him to remove it. She said she liked all her stalkers and ghillies to be clean-shaven. But Sandy refused to part with his beard, saying he had never shaved all his life and didn't intend to start now. He told the Queen that he would rather go back where he came from. The matter was quietly dropped and Sandy and his beard stayed at Balmoral ... 
Sandy Campbell was a favourite with Queen Victoria. In his years at Loch Muick he met many members of the Royal Family and their VIP guests, but he was probably known as much for his hobbies as he was for his skill as a stalker. He dabbled in taxidermy in an age when "stuffers" were much in demand. The animals and birds he stuffed were put on display, along with other curios, in the Glassallt Shiel's coach-house - "the Loch Muick Museum", Princess Alexandra called it. 
Stones found in the hills, cairngorms, quartz, pieces of rock-crystal and rock-salt, deer antlers and the horns of sheep and goats, foxes' masks and brushes - they all found their way into the museum. I never discovered what happened to Sandy's collection in the Loch Muick Museum. If it had survived the years it might have found a place in the visitors' centre at the Spittal. 
"He was a bit of an eccentric," said John Robertson. He planted honeysuckle away out towards the Dubh Loch, halfway between in and the Glass-alt, beside a cairn of stones. He also planted holly trees along the lochside. John thought that only two of them had survived. 
Today, the museum has gone and everything in it, but if things had been different Sandy might have been remembered by one of the cairns he would put up at the drop of a hat. "If he parted company with somebody," said John, with a grin, "he would build a cairn." He erected one at the lochside and called it Campbell's Cairn, but his self-made monument was demolished by an avalanche about 1957.
The illustration shows the ballroom at Balmoral, which today houses an exhibition of royal artefacts. Among them is a silver figure of a Highland games athlete by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm.

It is labelled "S. Campbell," and I like to think my forebear was the model for it.

Alistair Carmichael: Shetland may reconsider its place in Scotland after yes vote

An article published on the Guardian website this evening has, judging by the comments put the cat among the pigeons:
Oil-rich Shetland may want to reconsider whether it stays part of an independent Scotland in the event of a yes vote, the Scotland secretary, Alistair Carmichael, has said. 
In an interview with the Guardian, Carmichael said if the islands were to vote strongly no but the Scottish national vote was a narrow yes, then a "conversation about Shetland's position and the options that might be open to it" would begin. 
The Liberal Democrat MP, who represents Orkney and Shetland in Westminster and has been secretary of state for Scotland in the coalition government since last October, said those options might include the islands modelling themselves on the Isle of Man, which is a self-governing crown dependency, or on the Faroe Islands, which are an autonomous country within the Danish realm. 
Asked if he was suggesting that Alex Salmond should not necessarily take for granted that oilfields off Shetland will belong to Scotland in the event of a yes vote, he said: "That would be one of the things that we would want to discuss. I wouldn't like to predict at this stage where the discussions would go." 
His comments were echoed by Tavish Scott, Shetland's MSP, who, when asked whether Shetland would have to obey the will of Scotland if it voted yes, said: "Will it now? We'll have to look at our options. We're not going to be told what to do by Alex Salmond." 
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceThe option of becoming a crown dependency was "something we will look at", Scott said, though he ruled out considering full independence for the islands.

New blow for Salmond

Wee Jimmy Krankie interviewed in The Big Issue:
Alex Salmond can sod off ’cos I don’t want it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A steam train arrives at King's Cross/St Pancras Underground station

Filmed, I believe, on 13 January 2013.

Former dinner lady jailed for running £150k skunk cannabis factory at her Leicester home

Headline of the Day sees a home win by the Leicester Mercury.

Celebrating Britishness before it's too late

My keyboard is misbehaving today - when I try to type i I get ik7, - but I can cut and paste. So hear is some great comment on the referendum debate.

First, Ian Jack (one of my favourite journalists) mourns the possible end of Britishness:
In the SNP’s big-change but no-change version of independence, nobody’s identity is at risk. If people want to think of themselves as British as well as Scottish, then they can keep calm and carry on. 
As Salmond wrote, soothingly, in the same document: “Much of what Scotland will be like the day after independence will be similar to the day before: people will go to work, pensions and benefits will be collected, children will go out to play and life will be as normal.” 
And of course it will. But gradually British identity will wither. If it survives at all, it will become narrow, eccentric, strident and romantic, like so many other national identities that have been deprived of their states and institutions. I value it too much to want that. 
Gordon Brown erred when, as prime minister, he attempted to enunciate his list of “British values” – which turned out to be the values of most civilised nations. He would have been wiser to have written, as Orwell did, about its characteristics rather than what he imagined to be its longstanding moral beliefs. 
The markers of Britishness for me include empiricism, irony, the ad hoc approach, pluralism, and a critical awareness of its own rich and sometimes appalling history. It’s sceptical, too: it has seen a thing or two and knows nothing lasts. 
But perhaps what recommends it most is the frail senescence that makes it an undemanding kind of belonging, and unexpectedly fits it for the modern world. 
The untangling of the institutions – military, administrative, academic, ambassadorial, commercial, cultural – that have sustained this identity can’t but be painfully destructive. The past 300 years have not been about nothing.
Next, Paul Mason attends #LetsStayTogether in Trafalgar Square:
I’ve been thinking about what was different to the vibe last night and, say, the Olympic opening ceremony designed by Danny Boyle. Boyle’s spectacle was brash, drew on a Brits-via-Hollywood meme, and placed heavy stress on working class culture (Abide With Me) and the folk traditions of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 
The Dan Snow/Bob Geldof version drew much more on poetry, the non-national and even laid claim to internationalism (The Night Mail, by gay, communist conscientious objector WH Auden was read out.) 
So maybe, if you want a Britishness that exists at a higher level than medleys of regional folk songs, this is what you have to accept. 
There was no mention of royalty, or Dunkirk. Nobody shouted “British jobs for British workers”, as Gordon Brown did to the Labour party conference once. You can have strident English nationalism of the EDL and generations of far right football hooligans. 
You can have the progressive English nationalism we saw around Euro 96. You can have the sturm und drang available to both sides in Northern Ireland, or the soaring, class-based patriotism that transports rugby crowds at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
But maybe you can’t have a strident *British* nationalism. Maybe that’s the subtextual mistake all those lectern-banging politicians have been making. Maybe it has to be something quiet.
Then Isabel Hardman dissects "The Vow" made by the three party leaders:
It doesn’t matter how many front pages you sign next to your new promise to Scottish voters, you’ve still only unveiled this offer in the last two weeks. If you had it planned for ages, then why wait until the point that it’s so late you appear desperate? Or if you’ve only cobbled together this promise in the last few weeks, then is it really a good idea.
Finally, Nick Cohen shows that Scottish nationalism is as pernicious as any other variety:
Nationalists build walls to keep their people in and the rest out. They create ‘us’ and ‘them’. Friends and enemies. If you disagree, if you say they have no right to speak for you because not all Scots/Serbs/Germans/Russians/Israelis think the same or recognise their lines of the map, you become a traitor to the collective. The fashionable phrase ‘the other’ is one of the few pieces of sociological jargon that enriches thought. All enforcers of political, religious and nationalist taboos need an ‘other’ to define themselves against, and keep the tribe in line. 
The process of separation and vilification is depressing to watch but familiar enough. Scottish nationalists are preparing a rarer trick, last seen in the dying days of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. They are trying to break up an existing multi-national state and turn neighbours into foreigners. They want people, who have lived together, worked together, loved each other, had children together, moved into each other countries and out again, to be packaged and bound up in hermetically sealed boxes labelled ‘Scots’ and ‘English’.
The notion that Scottish nationalism is always cosy and ‘civic’ has flourished without challenge. Alex Salmond’s greatest propaganda success has been to limit debate. If you are outside Scotland, and disagree with him, you have no right to comment on its internal affairs. If you are inside, you are ‘talking down Scotland’; showing yourself to be a self-hating Scot unfit to serve on its ‘Team’. 
The nationalists have bullied too many into silence. People who know better have not spelt out the costs of separatism, or said clearly that progressive forces will suffer most. 
How can they not? Nationalism will allow capital to remain global, while forcing arbitrary local divisions on labour. Brian Souter and Rupert Murdoch have flirted with Salmond because they can sniff a small state coming that must, whatever its currency turns out to be, run surpluses and build reserves to please the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and, above all, a market that will punish the tiniest step away from neo-liberal orthodoxy. 
The currency question has no answer except deeper and wider austerity. That people who think of themselves as left wing can brush it aside and pretend that working and middle-class Scots won’t suffer is a self-deception so extreme it borders on religious fantasy.
Keyboard latest: the backspace is working again.