Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Clangers: Vote for Froglet

The second general election of 1974 took place on 10 October. That day a special episode of The Clangers, which saw them trying an election of their own and not much liking it, was broadcast that evening.

I do not know if it was shown after the polls closed, but in an interview Oliver Postgate said it was not shown at the usual time for children's programmes.

Vote for Froglet has long been thought lost, but the good news is you can watch  the whole thing on the British Film Institute website.

Sense About Science: Making Sense of Crime

From the Sense About Science website:
Making Sense of Crime brings together experts in the causes of crime and measures to reduce it, who share insights from reliable research evidence. This evidence reveals how misleading the political debate on crime is. 
The guide reviews how the media influences what politicians and the public think about crime, discusses the most reliable ways to judge how much crime is happening, and looks at how some of the common claims about crime and ways to reduces it stack up against research evidence. 
Making Sense of Crime also analyses some measures to tackle crime that are supported by evidence. 
Insights from the evidence in the guide include:
  • Most types of crime are falling across developed countries and have been for around 25 years 
  • ‘Criminals’ aren’t a separate group from the rest of society
  • Police statistics are not the best way to judge crime rates 
  • Crime isn’t caused by a single factor such as poverty, bad parenting, inequality, government cuts or influences such as video games 
  • The most effective ways to cut crime might lie outside the criminal justice system
You can download Making Sense of Crime from the Sense About Science website,

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Teignmouth in 1960

I was born into a Britain of patronising narrators and nondescript film scores. Where have they all gone?

Ed Miliband takes my advice

The Daily Mail scoffs:
Whether he is in a car park, a factory or even a field, Ed Miliband is never far from a lectern during the election campaign. 
The Labour leader has been touring the country with the prop in an attempt to make him appear more statesmanlike. 
He has delivered key speeches in the campaign stood behind the lectern. But it has also been deployed when he is just making some brief remarks or holding question and answer events with members of the public.
Maybe he is taking it too far, but he has taken my advice.

Back in September of last year, after Ed Miliband forgot to mention the deficit in his speech to the Labour Conference I suggested it was time for him to give up his stunt of delivering his conference speech from memory:
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.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

An interview with Pete York from the Spencer Davis Group

Pete York, the drummer with the Spencer Davis Group, talks about his career.

Richard Jefferies Museum reopens to the public

FLIC Wiltshire reports:
The Richard Jefferies Museum in Swindon will reopen to the public today following refurbishment. 
The Museum is housed in the farmhouse at Coate, where Richard Jefferies was born in 1848. Situated within the surroundings of Coate Water, the Museum features some of the memento's of Richard Jefferies (1848 -1887), one of England's most individual writers on nature and the countryside. 
The Museum includes first editions of many of Richard Jefferies writings, the manuscript of 'Wood Magic' and family photographs and memorabilia. Parts of the building have been restored to create the atmosphere of a mid to late 19th Century farmhouse with a cheese room. 
The museum will be open to the public on the second Wednesday of each month, 10:00am – 4:00pm and every Sunday, 2:00pm – 5:00pm.
Jefferies is one of this blog's heroes. I wrote my Masters dissertation on him many years ago.

Six of the Best 507

Alistair McGuire and John Van Reenen say that continued expansion of the NHS is only going to be viable through further efficiency savings of some kind – and even then it is not clear how resource levels will be maintained.

"The more macho elements within Labour are fond of quoting Michael Corleone, in the Godfather Part II, when dealing with the corrupt Senator Geary. 'My offer is this,' says Corleone: 'nothing'. But to make that approach work Michael Corleone had to be willing to murder a prostitute and dupe the Senator into thinking he’d killed her. Rosie Winterton is a very effective Chief Whip but she won’t go quite that far." Philip Cowley on the practicalities of minority government.

Vernon Bogdanor calls for a constitutional convention.

Julia Belluz examines why doctors and scientists are so anxious about the rise of popular science.

"On the night of February 28, 1944, war broke out on the streets of Leicester as black and white American soldiers fought pitched battles. It was the first race riot of the modern age." The Leicester Mercury reprints a 2004 feature by Adam Wakelin.

Andy Marshall photographs the angels of St Nicholas' Chapel, King's Lynn.

Conservative candidate for North Devon once called rural voters "straw-sucking yokels"

I suspect the Liberal Democrat campaign in North Devon will be greatly heartened by a story in the Western Morning News:
A Conservative candidate in one of the South West's most rural constituencies once derided the countryside as populated by "chinless foxhunters, straw-sucking yokels and whingeing farmers". 
In a newspaper column, Peter Heaton-Jones, a would-be MP in North Devon and former BBC DJ, launched an attack on the huge countryside march through central London in 2002, arguing if rural life is "so bad" they should "move to the town".
Heaton-Jones' defence is that the articles he wrote for the Evening Advertiser in Swindon were designed to provoke a response - he was also a 'shock jock' for BBC Wiltshire - and were "not my views".

But if you put your name to views you do not really hold, you can hardly complain if they later come back to bite you,

The evasions of Alison Saunders

Nigel Dudley has written three fine posts examining the evasive language used by Alison Saunders and her spokespeople in announcing and defending her decision that Greville Janner should not be prosecuted.

They are:
To give you a taste of them, here is a quotation from the second:
First lets look at the phrase: "The DPP (Saunders) was not unduly influenced by anyone…". 
Note the use of the passive tense which makes it possible to evade identifying who has done the influencing - the phrasing is clever as it initially has you nodding in comfortable agreement. 
Then you notice that the stement says "unduly influenced." In this particular case the DPP should state who has "influenced" Saunders’s decision, rather than cower behind the passive tense – I find it interesting that the DPP is admitting that she can be influenced but does not feel the need to say who has done the influencing. 
Then there is the use of the extraordinary word "unduly," which means either "without cause or justification," or "unrightfully, undeservedly" or "to excess, beyond the due degree." Those words imply a very extreme degree of behaviour and allows an enormous scope for what could be deemed "due" influence. 
In other words the phrasing reveals nothing. Look at the gaps that are revealed when you use an active verb and meaningful adverbs.

Monday, April 27, 2015

David Cameron and the Flashman factor

Anoosh Chakelian is not impressed by the new, pumped-up David Cameron:
As soon as he starts ranting and turning scarlet, viewers are reminded not of a slick, safe statesman, but of a bully on the rampage. A tyrannical lord of the manor who’s been awoken from his slumber by an improperly-timed dinner gong.
I was blogging about David Cameron as Flashman back in 2009, and judging by that post Michael White had made the connection before that.

So let us see Flashman in action in the 1971 BBC adaptation of Tom Brown's Schooldays...

Imagine David Cameron standing on your child's foot - for ever

I have this from a colleague and it concerns her daughter's friend's cousin, so it is practically first hand.

At a recent school visit David Cameron stood on the child's foot, made her cry and then just walked away.

I think that is a good metaphor for Conservatism.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Edwards Hand: Friday Hill

Rod Edwards and Roger Hand were originally leaders of a band called Piccadilly Line, releasing in 1967 an album with a very 1967 title The Huge World of Emily Small.

In 1969, after the band had broken up, they released a first and eponymous LP as a duo.

Reminding us of how fast music moved in those days, Bad Cat Records says of it:
Powered by the pair's strong vocal harmonies, comparisons to early Bee Gees, or The Hollies during their psychedelic phase were quite apt. That gave the album a somewhat dated sound - way more 1967 than 1969. 
Great material if you liked the genre, but probably a bit too pompous, sentimental, and fey if you were looking for a more rock-oriented attack. For what it was worth, I like the results quite a bit.
And they particularly like Friday Hill:
Starting out as a fragile, flute-propelled ballad, 'Friday Hill' quickly morphed into a catchy slice of pop-psych. Even better, the pair's harmony vocals were simply to-kill-for. 
Besides, when was the last time you heard an oboe arrangement that complimented a pop song?
As it happens, I was listening to The Summerhouse by the Divine Comedy the other day, which even has a cor anglais solo, but I know what they mean,

The Post Office Tower in 1967

Back in 1967 the Post Office Tower was a great symbol of British modernity. They put it on stamps and the revolving restaurant at the top was the coolest in London.

Thanks to Dirty Modern Scoundrel for posting this film of it from that year.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Six of the Best 506

Jay Rayner on the uncharacteristic silence of Keith Vaz.

"Boosting economies and vindicating the human rights of women and girls is the very real impact of aid in developing countries. The UK being the first G7 power to enshrine in law a commitment to spend 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on aid every year is something of which the British people should be justifiably proud." Jenny Tonge celebrates overseas aid.

Did Nick Clegg drop two clangers yesterday? Keynesian Liberal thinks so.

"Adolf Hitler said: 'I have sent my Death’s Head units to the east with the order to kill without mercy men, women and children of the Polish race or language ... Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?' Giles Fraser asks why the government is so afraid to speak of the Armenian genocide.

Frank Furedi rehearses his familiar (and correct) argument that modern society curbs children's freedom to a ridiculous extent.

Duncan Weldon examines the economics and politics of Thomas the Tank Engine.

David Cameron and Tony Blair pretending to be football fans

First, let us pause a moment to enjoy David Cameron's discomfort today. Remember, he is supposed to be an Aston Villa supporter:

Not that he knows much about the Villa. Remember, he was 15 when they won the European Cup. If he really was a fan, that would have been one of the greatest nights of his life:

The truth, I suspect, is that David Cameron is not a Villa fan at all.

As I wrote when discussing Tony Blair's equally unconvincing claim to be a Newcastle United fan:
Football may be classless today, but when the young Blair was at prep school and public school it was less common for someone of his background to follow the game.
And the same is true of the younger David Cameron.

This just in...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Disused railway stations in Lincolnshire

A particularly fine crop this time. I have visited Stamford East myself, though not accompanied by Strauss.

There are many more of these slideshows to enjoy on this blog: Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, HampshireCumbria,Cambridgeshire and Kent.

Bookends, Nelson Street, Market Harborough

This shop in Nelson Street, Market Harborough, has been an Indian takeaway for as long as most residents can remember. Today it appears to be undergoing a refitting to become some form of fried chicken shop.

But for two or three years in the late 1970s it was a secondhand bookshop. When I was in the sixth form I had a Saturday job there, serving what customers there were and cataloguing books.

It all sounds rather unlikely now and too long ago for the internet to help me prove the bookshop really existed.

But a search in Google Books brought up this priceless fragment of my past from a 1978 issue of Antiquarian Book Monthly Review.

Greville Janner's supporters melt away

Thanks to Spotlight for the illustration.

After the allegations against Greville Janner had received their first public airing during the trial of Frank Beck in 1991, he received extraordinary support from a group of colleagues in the Commons,

In recent days two of them who are still active in politics have backed away from supporting him again.

In 1991 Keith Vaz told the House:
The people of his constituency do not believe the lies. They are with him now, and they will be with him in the future, because they know of his unstinting service to anyone who approaches him, for whatever cause. He has vindicated himself, and all of us, in what he has said tonight. ... 
My hon. and learned Friend, too, is a brave man in what he has done, said and endured over the past weeks and months. Every one of us should be grateful to him, because ... what has happened to my hon. and learned Friend could happen to any one of us, so we should all be aware of it.
Now, according to BBC News, he supports the comments of Leicestershire police and crime commissioner, who wants the case to be reconsidered.

In 1991 Alex Carlile said:
I can but echo the tributes that have been paid to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). He is a man of determination and enthusiasm, whose integrity and will power have crossed party lines. I for one value the friendship that he has given me in the eight and a half years that I have been a Member of the House, despite the fact that we are in different parties and disagree on many issues. ... 
I respectfully suggest to the Solicitor-General that a clear and simple change can be made to the law which would protect those who are not the parties to a trial—third parties outside a trial. It would in no way inhibit the right of a defendant to make his defence, however dishonest. It would in no way inhibit his right to instruct his solicitors, however egregiously. But it would prevent the press from publishing calumnies which cannot be answered, as in the Beck case, sometimes until weeks or even months after the allegation is made in the public arena of a court.
Now, according to the Telegraph:
Lord Carlile last night said evidence since gathered by Leicestershire police meant he would “not make the same comments today”. ... 
He said: “This was 24 years ago. At that time, there was absolutely no evidence that would stand up in a court of law against, as then was, Mr Janner.”
And, though he was not around in 1991, it is worth noting the interview Norman Lamb gave to LBC saying Janner should have been prosecuted earlier.

That is because, as my Trivial Fact of the Day once revealed, Norman worked for Greville Janner after leaving university.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Borough of Wimbledon in 1951

Londonist explains:
This lovely short film shows what life was like in Wimbledon in 1951. Made by Wimbledon Cine Club, it has recently been digitised by London’s Screen Archives (LSA). 
Over 12 or so minutes it covers what happens when you put out the bins and where your waste water goes as well as the provision of more bucolic amenities such as Wimbledon Common and Cannizaro Park (“a close rival to Kew Gardens” — but is it actually pictured in the film? LSA aren’t sure). Local sports facilities get a look in too, with tennis courts (outside of those in the All England Club), bowls greens and cricket pitches all being well used. It concludes with four full minutes on the “ancient ceremony of Mayor making” in the Council Chambers.

Praise for Liberal Democrat policies on mental health

The Psychiatry SHO has been through the different parties' manifesto commitments on mental health and comes to this conclusion:
It doesn’t take a PhD in politics to work out that the Lib Dem manifesto is head and shoulders above the Conservatives and Labour in terms of engagement with the issue and promises made. They have ticked pretty much every one of the Mental Health Policy Group’s boxes for suggested improvements. 
Again, there is an infatuation with wellbeing, but the groundwork done by Norman Lamb with his Crisis Care Concordat has gone some way to engendering trust in the party when it comes to tackling more weighty issues.
But, as he adds, the real question is whether we will have any power to implement these changes on 8 May.

Final meeting on the rewilding of the Welland through Market Harborough

From the Harborough Mail:
Residents are being invited to a public meeting next month to hear more about the £500,000 renovation of the River Welland in Market Harborough. 
The stretch of the river through Harborough has been greatly improved over the past two years through a £500,000 project headed by the Welland Rivers Trust. 
The trust is holding its final community open evening at The Angel Hotel in High Street, from 7pm to 9pm on Wednesday, May 6. The trust wants to hear people’s opinions about the project and its design team will present some brief displays on wildlife and habitat recovery, management and maintenance, and sustainability. 
There will also be a short film about the community’s involvement with the project and a question and answer session.
Thanks to this project you can now hear the Welland tinkling or babbling or whatever it is young rivers do as it passes through the town.

Lutfur Rahman with Keith Vaz, Jon Ashworth and Sir Peter Soulsby

BBC News reports:
An east London mayor has been removed from office and a poll declared void after he was found guilty of electoral fraud. 
An Election Commissioner concluded Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman breached election rules and must vacate his post immediately.
You can read Richard Mawrey's full judgment on Trial by Jeory.

In 2010 Rahman was chosen to be the Labour candidate for mayor of Tower Hamlets, but was deselected shortly afterwards amid concerns about the selection process and his alleged links with extremist groups.

In November 2010 he stood against the official Labour candidate as an independent and won the election.

Which made it odd that he travelled to Leicester the following year as an honoured guest of the city's Labour bigwigs. His visit came as the city was facing council elections, its first mayoral election and a parliamentary by-election in the Leicester South constituency.

I blogged about this visit at the time, linking to a video of it on a blog written by David Maclean, then the Leicester Mercury's political correspondent.

That blog has vanished, taking the video with it, but today I found this report of the event from Channel S, an Asian news station.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Joshua Rozenberg and people outside the Law

Joshua Rozenberg has written a reasoned defence of the decision not to prosecute Greville Janner, though he does not explain why 10 men with dementia have been prosecuted for sexual offences this year.

I was struck, however, by the headline "Critics of Lord Janner decision misunderstand justice system". Rozenberg will not have written it, but it is a fair summary of his argument.

If educated lay people do not understand the justice system, isn't that a problem for the justice system too? Or are we just meant to accept that lawyers are innately superior to the rest of us?

I am reminded of the England and Wales Cricket Board and its complaint about "people outside cricket".

On the stump with Michael Moore

Jim Crace paints a sympathetic picture of Michael Moore as he fights to hold Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk:
Every conversation, though, invariably comes back to the coalition. The Scots are not as keen to forgive as many Lib Dems would hope. In public Moore remains resolutely on message – “I don’t believe in cutting and running” – and tries to talk up his party’s achievements. 
But his heart doesn’t seem wholly in it: he knows the party made a huge mistake over university tuition fees and if he could turn back time, he would. But what’s done is done, and Moore is determined to make the best of it – though there’s a noticeable reluctance to bring the names of Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander into any conversation. 
If Moore is going to retain his seat, it will be on his own achievements.

Ukip hates Britain - and that includes Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear

You would expect Ukip, with its concerns about immigration, to be a big supporter of established British traditions. But it is not.

Here is Nigel Farage quoted in the Independent today:
"I would like to see the BBC cut back to the bone to be purely a public service broadcaster with an international reach, and I would have thought you could do that with a licence fee that was about a third of what it currently is."
And that, of course, would mean no Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear.

To most of us the BBC is an important part of our shared national life, but to the kippers it is a seething nest of lefties who invite studio audiences who laugh at their views. (That the kippers are outraged at this is a neat illustration of Calder's Fourth Law of Politics.)

If the kippers are loyal to anything it is a Britain from an imagined past. I am older than Nigel Farage and I don't remember it. You get the feeling that, for Ukip's more senior members, about the time they found a cure for diphtheria.

So let me make this suggestion to patriots in Ukip and all parties, Don't dismantle the BBC: campaign for it to show test cricket again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway

Over half an hour of Shropshire railway goodness.

Six of the Best 505

Richard Morris argues that the Liberal Democrats are being too agreeable when it comes to the prospect of a coalition after the general election.

"Davis had a number of examples of elitism to choose: his gap year, his time at Oxbridge, or his public school education. The choice to fixate upon Clegg's multicultural upbringing, suggesting it to be out of touch with "British" people, made for uncomfortable viewing." Kavya Kaushik is hard on Evan Davis - and quite right too.

City of Sound notices planning notices.

William Turvill on the dying art of newspaper subediting.

"Here she stands, the sweetest and brightest of Joans, a decade before anyone knew that J. Edgar Hoover was carrying a torch for her." Matthew Sweet on Jean Seberg and the gamine look.

Jack Cooke walks a forgotten East Anglian branch line.

Grant Shapps' continuing problems with the internet

In 2012 I blogged about "Grant Shapps' problems with the internet". Judging by this afternoon's Guardian story, those problems continue:
Wikipedia has blocked a user account on suspicions that it is being used by the Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, “or someone acting on his behalf” to edit his own page along with the entries of Tory rivals and political opponents. 
The online encyclopedia, where pages are edited and created by readers, has tracked the changes made by a user called "Contribsx" who has systematically removed embarrassing references on Shapps' Wikipedia page about the Tory chairman’s business activities as Michael Green, the self-styled millionaire web marketer. 
A Guardian investigation found about a third of the contributions made by this user were to Shapps’ own Wikipedia entry while the rest are made up largely of unflattering changes to the online pages to senior political figures – including prominent figures in the Tory party such as Philip Hammond, Justine Greening and Lynton Crosby.
I suspect it is the suspicion that he has been doing down his internal party rivals that will prove more damaging.

I should add that Mr Shapps denies knowing anything about Contribsx, but then he has denied things "over firmly" in the past.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Lord Bonkers' Diary: My secretary does not get up to That Sort of Thing

The end of our latest visit to Rutland's most celebrated fictional peer. I must thank him for the confidence he expresses in me here.

My secretary does not get up to That Sort of Thing

I see the Duke of Rutland has had the rozzers crawling over his Estate after one of his employees turned out to be a former Conservative MP with a conviction for caning rent boys.

This shows, I feel, the importance of insisting upon references before offering someone employment. I have every confidence that my own Secretary does not get up to That Sort of Thing.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...
  • Richard III, Twycross Zoo and Foxton Locks
  • "Bomb on the Buses"
  • "My friends just won't leave me alone"
  • Lamb's friends have a lot to answer for
  • Vanished Leicester: Bedford Street Ragged School

    Two more photographs from the University of Leicester Special Collections. These were taken in 1965.

    As far as I can make out, the Ragged School stood on the corner of what are now Bedford Street North and Upper George Street.

    Ten men with dementia convicted of sexual offences this year

    Last summer, when tales of a peer who faced accusation of the sexual abuse of children but might escape justice because of dementia began to appear, I blogged about the case of Michael Collingwood.

    In that post I quoted a 2010 report from the Western Morning News:
    A Devon man has been found guilty of abusing six under-age girls in a trial held in his absence at Exeter Crown Court. 
    Jurors yesterday unanimously found that Michael Collingwood, now 69, of Tedburn St Mary, near Exeter, committed 23 sex offences, including raping one girl. 
    Judge Paul Darlow instructed the jury to formally enter not guilty pleas to the other six sex offence allegations. 
    Jurors heard the trial in Collingwood's absence after being told he suffers from severe dementia.
    I am not a lawyer, and it may well be that there are important differences between the case of Collingwood and of the peer we now know to be Greville Janner.

    But ever since the director of public prosecutions announced her decision, people have been tweeting links to other cases where men with dementia have been convicted of sexual offences against children.

    And now the Daily Mail has drawn the cases together under the shouty headline:

    Why is Labour Peer Lord Janner not being prosecuted because he has dementia? At least 19 defendants suffering with the disease have been convicted for sex crimes... and TEN were in the past year

    You might think that someone with dementia should not be prosecuted as he will not be able to understand proceedings or instruct lawyers, but - rightly or wrongly - that does not appear to be the practice in Britain today.

    I would welcome some lawyerly comment on this, but it is becoming impossible to resist the conclusion that Greville Janner has been given special treatment.

    And if that is the case, then Alison Saunders should resign.

    Robert Humm of Stamford on the move

    For as long as I have been visiting Stamford, my first stop has been at the specialist railway bookseller Robert Humm. First stop, because it is housed in the town's railway station.

    Now comes news that their lease on the station buildings is running out and they are moving to premises elsewhere in the town:
    The process will take most of this year; we hope to be fully established in our new shop by the start of October. There will be a spell during the summer when neither Station House nor the new shop will be open, but we mean to continue trading through the web site, as long as we can keep tabs on where the stock is. 
    So – where are we going? Not very far. We have bought an odd little house (it used to be a pub) at the main crossroads at the northern edge of the town centre. It’s about 10 minutes walk from the station.
    In my experience Robert Humm & Co. are very good booksellers. They found me a copy of Eric Tonks' Snailbeach District Railways (before it was reprinted) when a shop in Shrewsbury had told me it was not worth taking my name because the waiting list for it was so long.

    And one advantage of this move is that I shall no longer risk being spent out on a day in Stamford before I have left the station.

    Parents let off steam after porn film is shot at vintage railway

    Headline of the Day goes to the Telegraph.

    An honourable mention to the Standard for:
    Mysterious model of Taj Mahal made out of toast discovered on south London street corner

    Sunday, April 19, 2015

    Alexei Sayle: Thatcher Stole My Trousers

    Good news: Alexei Sayle is working on the second volume of his memoirs. After Stalin Ate My Homework will come Thatcher Stole My Trousers.

    You can here the great man reading an extract from it here, preceded by one of his short stories.

    Sayle is not just a comedian trading on his celebrity: he is a proper writer and I have twice heard him read from his collections of short stories.

    The Lib Dem manifesto is the one with the fewest clichés

    The people at Polifiller have measured the party manifestos against their database of political clichés. This was compiled with the help of political correspondents, editors and opinion formers.

    The exercise produced the following league table:

    Conservatives - 200 clichés
    Labour - 58 clichés
    UKIP - 51 clichés
    Greens - 49 clichés
    Plaid Cymru - 48 clichés
    Liberal Democrats - 44 clichés
    SNP - yet to publish
    Well done to the writers of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. Among the clichés they let through were "package of measures," "those who need it," "there is more to do" and "a return to boom and bust".

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Lamb’s friends have a lot to answer for

    Lord Bonkers continues his visit to Norfolk.

    Norman Lamb’s friends have a lot to answer for

    At this point we are interrupted by a woman whose daughter was at school with Lamb’s son and wants to urge… I expect you can guess what she wants to urge Lamb.

    When she has done urging and left, I tell Lamb: “It is clear to me that you have no alternative. If your neighbours are ever to enjoy a normal life again, you will have to make an announcement that you will be a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats the very next time there is a vacancy. Only then will your friends leave you alone.”

    I return to my hotel confident that he will do the right thing. Really, I think Norman Lamb’s friends have a lot to answer for!

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

    Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...
  • Richard III, Twycross Zoo and Foxton Locks
  • "Bomb on the Buses"
  • "My friends just won't leave me alone"
  • Counting Crows: Round Here

    You can't get much more Nineties than David Letterman holding a Counting Crows CD.

    It still sounds good, even if their lead singer Adam Duritz does tend to overact in live performances.

    Memories of Greville Janner and the trial of Frank Beck

    Two journalists who were in Leicester for the trial of Frank Beck in 1991 have been writing about the event.

    Dani Garavelli was then a junior reporter on the Leicester Mercury. In Scotland on Sunday today she recalls:
    As part of his defence, Beck claimed he had acted to protect a 13-year-old from Janner, who had groomed and abused the boy over two years. The evidence against Janner amounted to allegations made by Beck and the boy, a witness who overheard Beck telling the boy to stop seeing the MP, and affectionate, but not sexually explicit, letters written by Janner to the boy. 
    The development opened up many dilemmas for a regional newspaper. On the one hand, the claims were explosive. On the other, Janner was a highly respected figure. Not only was he an MP, but he had co-founded the Holocaust Education Trust. In journalistic terms, he was an important contact. And, he hadn’t been charged with anything. Ultimately the Mercury, like everyone else, had no choice but to play it straight, reporting only what was said in court. 
    In the end, the Beck jury was told the Janner allegations were a “red herring” and he was exonerated. The narrative was he had been the victim of a smear campaign by Beck, and other Leicestershire MPs, including Keith Vaz, rallied to his defence.
    And what an effective defence it was! Jay Rayner, then a young freelancer working the Independent on Sunday, writes in the Observer:
    The establishment, in the shape of his fellow MPs, men such as Labour’s Keith Vaz, Tory David Ashby and the then Lib Dem MP now Lord Carlile, closed ranks. Janner was a barrister and MP, a man who campaigned for justice for the victims of the Holocaust. It simply couldn’t be true. That Frank Beck was eventually found guilty of horrendous abuse charges and sent to prison (where he later died of a heart attack) aided them. Clearly Beck had been trying to save his own skin. The possibility that Janner had also been guilty didn’t seem to occur to them.
    He goes on:
    All reporters have stories that get away from them. The Janner story is mine. At the pub meeting, I was given copies of letters from Janner to one of his alleged victims. Only if you had been told a backstory do those letters look incriminating. They make arrangements to meet in hotels, talk of “mutual understanding” and sign off with expressions of “love”. My expectation was that these letters would be tested in court alongside other evidence. 
    Getting Beck’s shouted accusation about Janner suited my purposes. Since it happened in open court it put something on the record that at some point could be used in a story. While the Beck case was ongoing it was all sub judice and nothing further about Janner could be reported. The MP was also bound by the Contempt of Court Act. The moment Beck was found guilty, however, Janner declared in the House of Commons that there was “not a shred of truth in any of the allegations”. 
    What happened next was crucial. There was a (failed) parliamentary attempt to change the Contempt of Court Act to protect people named during proceedings in the way Janner had been. During the debate, many MPs, including Ashby and Carlile, spoke up for him.
    Key was Vaz, MP for the neighbouring Leicestershire constituency, who clearly hadn’t been party to the rumours circulating in his home town. He said his dear friend had been the “victim of a cowardly and wicked attack”. That was it. The story was dead.
    And what of Mr Vaz today?
    Today, Vaz is chair of the Commons home affairs select committee. He enjoys portraying himself as a champion of the voiceless, happy to castigate the Home Office over its handling of the current investigation into child abuse. Last week, I asked Vaz via Twitter whether he had anything to say about Janner, given the CPS announcement. He responded by blocking me. He later unblocked me but, at the time of writing, has still not commented.

    Saturday, April 18, 2015

    Disused railway stations in Kent

    Includes a rare photo of the Southern Railway's Dungeness station. Dungeness, as Lord Bonkers often reminds me, is home to the Jack Straw Memorial Reform School.

    If you enjoyed this slide show, there's also Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, HampshireCumbria and Cambridgeshire.

    William Wallace: Tories tried to rig government report on Europe

    Tomorrow's Observer quotes the Liberal Democrat peer William Wallace's allegations that Conservative ministers and their advisers tried to rig the findings of a government report into the powers of the European Union:
    In a devastating intervention, the respected Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, revealed to the Observer that Tory cabinet ministers and their aides had attempted to impose a “Eurosceptic spin” on the Balance of Competences review because most of the evidence submitted by businesses, foreign governments and other interested parties portrayed the EU as a force for good, which was not what they wanted to hear. 
    Wallace also said that Downing Street had repeatedly attempted to delay publication of the 32 reports that make up the review – and the evidence submitted to them – until MPs were not sitting, in order to minimise the attention that the press and public would pay to them.
    The report quotes William Wallace as saying:
    “The Conservatives wanted the review in the coalition agreement because they thought that the evidence would show a strong demand for repatriation of powers, and that it would provide the basis for a British renegotiation agenda. 
    “However, the exercise demonstrated the opposite of what they had expected, so in some cases they tried to find more critical evidence and, when that failed, they did their best to bury the exercise.”
    It goes on to say that Wallace singled out aides to the home secretary, Theresa May, who tried to block evidence they felt was not helpful to the Eurosceptic case ion the “free movement of people”.

    The carrying out of the Balance of Competencies review was included in the Coalition agreement.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: "My friends just won't leave me alone"

    "My friends just won't leave me alone"

    The North Norfolk coast has long been a favourite stamping ground of mine. I often bring the Great Seal of Rutland to Blakeney Point for a holiday, and as a young man I would go to Cromer to catch the crabs.

    I was summoned here yesterday by a tearful telephone call: “The road has been jam-packed with traffic for weeks. We can’t get in our out of the house. My children are hungry. Please, you must do something.” When I heard the address of my caller, my ears pricked up: it was the very same street in which our own Norman Lamb lives. So I travelled down to the Norfolk coast at once.

    When I arrive at the road in question this morning, I do indeed find it crammed with traffic. So I tap on a few car windows and ask the occupants why they are there. “We are friends of Norman Lamb,” says the driver of the first vehicle. “We have come to tell him that we think he should stand as leader of the Liberal Democrats.” The second car contains someone who was at university with Lamb and says much the same, as do the inhabitants of the third car (a couple who met him on holiday a few years ago) and the fourth (who used to live just round the corner from him when he was at a previous address).

    When I finally manage to get to Lamb’s front door, I find him a worried man. “I don’t want to be leader – the idea had never occurred to me – but my friends just won’t leave me alone.”

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

    Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

    • Richard III, Twycross Zoo and Foxton Locks
    • "Bomb on the Buses"
    • Friday, April 17, 2015

      Vanished Leicester: Carlton Street

      Copyright © Dennis Calow

      Back to the University of Leicester Special Collections for this photograph of Carlton Street before redevelopment in 1965.

      Carlton Street, close to the Royal Infirmary, still exists.

      Official secrecy on abuse in Leicestershire children's homes

      Allegations of child abuse - which he and his family have always denied - against Lord Janner were first aired publicly during the trial of Frank Beck.

      Beck, who was in charge of a number of children's homes in Leicestershire including two in Market Harborough, was imprisoned for serious sexual offences against children in 1991 and dies behind bars three years later.

      But the judge did his very best to ensure that those allegations were never heard. First Mr Justice Edwin Jowitt ruled that the trial could not be reported.

      This ban was lifted only after the Guardian, Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph and Press Association went to the Court of Appeal. You can read a contemporary report of this appeal from the Guardian on the Spotlight on Abuse site - I have also borrowed it as an illustration here.

      Then, Mr Justice Jowitt tried a different tactic. Desiring Progress has a contemporary Press Association report that begins:
      A judge intervened in the Leicestershire child sex abuse trial today to prevent names of “people in high places” being revealed.
      He was unable to do so and serious allegations against Greville Janner were heard in court and reported in the press. See Spotlight on Abuse again for a contemporary report of this.

      After an interlude in the Commons in which Janner was cheered by a claque led by Keith Vaz, there came the public inquiry into abuse in Leicestershire children's homes.

      This was conducted by Andrew Kirkwood QC, who decided that it should hear all its evidence in private. That report became hard to find over the years, although the University of Leicester's library has always had one. Today you can find a copy on the county council website.

      Local rumour had it that when Frank Beck gave his evidence to the inquiry at Gartree Prison he mentioned a number of prominent names.

      I am writing this because I have a strong feeling of unfinished business from the past and also to point you to a couple of sites that have assembled contemporary reports on this and other affairs.

      One reason I am against the idea of a right to be forgotten is that allowing the powerful to scour their pasts will make it harder to gather such evidence in future and harder to right wrongs that the authorities have failed to right the first time around.

      Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Bomb on the Buses"

      Bomb on the Buses

      To my solicitor to discuss the latest turn in my legal action against MegaGalactic Studios of Hollywood, CA. Perhaps you remember the film Speed, which was released some years ago? It concerned a bus with a bomb on board that would go off pop is said bus’s speed fell below a certain figure.

      Well, here’s the thing, that film’s plot, twist for twist, was copied from a film we made at Oakham Studios back in the 1970s.

      Seeking actors who were well versed in the practicalities of operating a bus, I hit upon the idea of recruiting the cast on On the Buses en bloc. The result was that Bomb on the Buses was wildly popular – who could forget the scene where poor Olive is rescued from the speeding bus? Lines of dialogue such as “Blimey, Stan, keep your foot down” and “Don’t you dare touch that brake, Butler” were on everyone’s lips.

      I leave the office having given the instruction to instruct counsel.

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

      Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

      Former MP for Montgomeryshire is a fruitcake

      I know what you are thinking and it's not worthy of you.

      Because the County Times is reporting that the former Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, Delwyn Williams, has been backing the UKIP candidate Des Parkinson’s election campaign in the constituency.

      Williams won Montgomeryshire from Emlyn Hooson in 1979, only to lose it to Alex Carlile in 1983.
      Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

      Thursday, April 16, 2015

      Leicestershire reaction to the decision not to prosecute Lord Janner

      The reaction of Leicestershire Police to the decision not to prosecute Greville Janner has been extraordinary.

      First they issued a media statement quoting their Assistant Chief Constable Roger Bannister:
      Thanks primarily to the courage of 25 victims who have made a complaint and the complete professionalism of the investigation team, we have built a case that the DPP has acknowledged is the result of a thorough investigation, evidentially sufficient and gives rise to a realistic chance of conviction. 
      “There is credible evidence that this man carried out some of the most serious sexual crimes imaginable over three decades against children who were highly vulnerable and the majority of whom were in care. 
      “I am extremely worried about the impact the decision not to prosecute him will have on those people, and more widely I am worried about the message this decision sends out to others , both past and present, who have suffered and are suffering sexual abuse. 
      “We are exploring what possible legal avenues there may be to challenge this decision and victims themselves have a right to review under a CPS procedure.”
      And then they issued an even more extraordinary media statement - here it is in full:
      The following is a statement made by one of the 25 individuals who claimed to have been assaulted in Leicestershire between the 1960s and 1980s and whose claims were investigated by Leicestershire’s Police Operation Enamel enquiry. 
      The man has expressly requested that Leicestershire Police make his statement publicly available. 
      In describing today’s decision as “a disgrace”, he said: 
      “This animal is still being protected because [of his status] and isn't able to stand trial. They say that it's not in the public interest, but isn't it in the public interest to know what his victims have gone through at the hands of this man? 
      “If he was an everyday person with a normal life and job, justice would [have] been served, but as it stands we victims are just being pushed to the ground again and walked over. 
      “Let someone feel the pain and suffering that I've endured and still going to endure for the rest of my life. It's not a case of being found guilty or going to prison - it's about being believed after so long being told that we were lying. Justice needs to be served.”
      Meanwhile, Sir Clive Loader (the county's police and crime commissioner) also waded in:
      The decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to bring charges against a suspected serial sex offender has been condemned as “wholly perverse” by Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Clive Loader. 
      Sir Clive said he believed an overwhelming case had been built during a two-year investigation by the Force to show that the man spent three decades sexually abusing children in Leicester care homes in “the most revolting and hideous” manner. 
      That man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is alleged to have committed his catalogue of crimes whilst holding prominent public office.
      You may question whether the police should be commenting on questions in this way. If, like me, you are sceptical of the whole idea of police and crime commissioners, you may remember that Clive Loader is a Conservative politician attacking a Labour one.

      But unless the authorities can show that it is possible for a prominent politician to be prosecuted for offences against children, such reactions are bound to become more common.

      As a Liberal I cling to the principle that a man is innocent until proved guilty. But if you are not prepared even to attempt to find him guilty, then that principle rather loses its appeal.

      Incidentally, there is no need to invoke a conspiracy to explain the consistent failure to prosecute Greville Janner. The usual combination of fear, snobbery and mediocrity will do it perfectly well.

      Lord Bonkers' Diary: Richard III, Twycross Zoo and Foxton Locks

      The new issue of Liberator arrives, which means that it is time for another visit to Bonkers Hall.

      His lordship's remarks here appear to have influenced my recent column in the Leicester Mercury.

      Richard III, Twycross Zoo and Foxton Locks

      What scenes we have enjoyed in Leicester this week! The eyes of the world have been upon us as we reintered Richard III – and I know for a fact that more than one envious city mayor has given instructions for all his city’s car parks to be dug up Just In Case. I won’t pretend to have agreed with every detail of the celebrations: whilst I agree it was a nice touch to give the old boy a ride round on the Sunday, I couldn't help feeling that taking him back to the battlefield at Bosworth was a trifle tactless. Couldn't he have gone to Twycross Zoo or Foxton locks instead?

      The only sour note was that, on my way to the service, I came upon Polly Toynbee touring the streets of the city on a Fabian 'National Efficiency' Women’s Bicycle waving a megaphone. “Go home, you fools!” she bellowed. "We don’t want a monarchy. We want an elected President like Tony Blair or Gordon Brown or Doctor David Owen of the Continuing SDP." When she stopped and attempted to sell the crowd her latest book A Lot of Figures Showing I am Right About Everything and You Ought to Vote the Way I Tell You, she is pelted with out-of-code pork pies. The citizens of Leicester have much to be proud of.

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

      Beware of Blukip

      A really neat new campaign from the Liberal Democrats:
      David Cameron and Ed Miliband won’t win this election outright. That means that someone else will hold the balance of power on 8 May. 
      That could be BLUKIP – a bloc of right wingers from UKIP, the Conservatives and the DUP. There is a very real danger that Nigel Farage and his friends could hold David Cameron to ransom. 
      The only way to stop this is to make sure there are enough Liberal Democrat MPs to keep the government in the centre ground.
      Read all about Blukip (and the Liberal Democrat alternative).

      Wednesday, April 15, 2015

      Steam in the Vale of Evesham 1963

      A spot of railway nostalgia porn for you.

      The psychology of the general election

      The British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog has put together a collection of links to research that may help us understand what will be going through people's minds in the election campaign and at the polling station:
      Psychology tells us that not only are the parties competing with each other, they also have to contend with the foibles of human nature. 
      Many of us like to think that we vote according to sound reason, perhaps for the good of the country, our own family's best interests, or by selecting the most fair and competent candidate. 
      In fact, there's evidence that our votes are frequently influenced by more superficial factors, from a candidate's looks to the weather on election day.

      Tuesday, April 14, 2015

      Jonathan Meades: The Plagiarist in the Kitchen

      The great man has another project underway with Unbound:
      The Plagiarist In The Kitchen is a recipe book which is also a paean to the avoidance of culinary originality (should such a thing exist), to recipe theft, to hijacking techniques and methods, to the notion that in the kitchen there is nothing new and nor can there be anything new. Anyone who claims to have 'invented' a dish is dishonest or delusional or foaming. The very title is lifted, without permission and with the gracelessness that infects Cooking World, from Julian Barnes's The Pedant In The Kitchen (plenty more to rip off there).

      Six of the Best 504

      Arnie Gibbons remembers Leicester's Professor Bob Pritchard, who died at the weekend.

      "So much for London’s much vaunted mixed communities - this is social cleansing by another name." Rachel Holdsworth says that the Conservatives' new housing policy will be a disaster fromt he capital.

      In his chapter from a new book, Stephen Tall explains why evidence-based policy is a "Yes, but..." way forward.

      "What modern makeovers are doing, without us even noticing, is stripping maturity away from girls’ heroines and aspirations." Samira Ahmed on the significance of Lady Penelope's makeover.

      "This whole place was once characterised by the warren of alleys and yards which laced the streets. And, when the fancy takes me to enter those that remain, it is in thrall to the delusion that maybe I can find a way back through the labyrinth to old Spitalfields." The Gentle Author continues his explorations.

      Lynne About Loughborough visits Stoneywell, a cottage in Leicestershire designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Ernest Gimson at the end of the 19th century and now owned by the National Trust.

      GUEST POST "You're all the same"

      Katie Barron tries to canvass a particularly self-righteous suburban mum on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. Here is one side of the conversation….

      This is completely unacceptable calling round at this time. Saturday afternoon is family time.

      No she hasn't won anything, George. She wants to win something, that’s why she’s coming round disturbing people.

      It’s not a daffodil, Maisy, it’s a rosette. It doesn't grow in the ground, darling, it’s made of cloth. She wears it to show which party she’s from. No you can’t go to the party, it’s not that sort of party. It’s a political party. No they don’t have presents. Well they’re not supposed to, although sometimes they help themselves to presents.

      It’s a group of people and they want to be the government and then there are other parties and they want to be the government too and they fight it out between them. No, she hasn’t got a gun. She’s just got leaflets. George, behave! Don’t fight the leaflets. Oh I’m sorry. They’re not too dirty are they? I’m afraid they’ve got extra energy because of the rain. They’ve been cooped up too long. It’s not the best time, as I said.

      Not till senior school. They do Civics in senior school. He’ll learn all about all this then. It’s the Romans at the moment.

      Dictators – I s’pose they were – Frank? Frank! I thought we agreed you’d watch the highlights! Now he’s off watching his sport, might as well let the children play with their play stations. Thank-you very much. Yes alright children, go on then.

      Well it does disturb us actually but thank-you for apologising.

      Who was happy to see you? The lady at number five? Well she’s probably lonely.

      Do we visit her? We don’t have much time, that’s why our family time is so precious. We do plenty for our neighbours anyway. Keep each other’s keys. There are a few young families in the street, we go to the park together... What do you do for your neighbours?

      Don’t think standing to be a councillor really counts does it?

      For the community? You politicians don’t care a drop for the community. What about school places? Why can’t they just count how many children there are and have the right number of places for them? But you’re all too busy fighting. It’s worse than little boys in the playground. Sometimes I hear them in Parliament – Frank switches it on, I wouldn’t. It makes me sick. All that braying. It’s all egos. Men, isn’t it. And now women are copying them.

       No I’m not suggesting – of course I’m not suggesting a one party state!

       No I don’t think we should copy Russia. Or Syria.

      No I’m not saying we should have emperors, I’m making a serious point. Why can’t you all work together? We mums worked together on the school fete last week. It was a storming success. Made nine hundred pounds for the school. And we do it for free, whereas you get paid, don’t you. And as far as I’ve heard there are quite a few sweeteners for local councillors on top....

      I’m not accusing anyone, I'm just saying that you’re none of you are saints.

      I don’t think it’s relevant who I heard it from, but I have heard that some of your Liberal Democrat councillors took bribes for the development at Gnomes Wood. But it’s families like ours who’re going to have to live with the chavs.

      Why d’you keep asking me who I heard it from?

      Maybe it was from a Conservative. That doesn’t make it untrue.

       Yes it was on the phone.

      I don’t know if I am a Conservative voter.

      I don’t know why they picked me to ring. There you go with your party politics again.

       Look I’m not taking you to court –

      You could take me to court? I’m not repeating slanders, I -

      I think this conversation is finished, don't you? You asked me if there were local issues bothering me, I’ve told you I’m really worried about what’s going on in Gnomes Wood –

      You would say that you fought it though, wouldn't you? Fact is, it’s happening, and what can you do about it?

      Section what? Now you’re quoting jargon at me. It sounds impressive, but what does it mean for us?

      I am interested. Are there things you could do? What is it Maisy? Well ask George for it back. You don’t need a rosette. Please don’t give it to her, it’s got a safety pin on it. You don’t have children, do you.

      Fairly obvious if you don’t mind my saying so.

      I didn't say you needed to be ashamed. What’s ashamed got to do with it? But maybe there are some things you don’t understand much about. You want social housing for everyone, but do you think about the effect on us, living with those people on the door step? Will I feel safe for Maisy playing in the street?

      George! Where did you get that water pistol from? That’s for the summer. Put it down. George put it down now.

      George – George! She’s soaked! That’s very naughty! Say you’re sorry. 

      Pull your trousers up now!

      Who are you calling?

      The police?

      An ASBO! How dare you!!

      This - 'The Hertfordshire Mum' - is an extract from 'Adventures in Tory Land: Democracy in Middle England, Tales of the Canvassing Trail' by Katie Barron, with caricatures by Asbjorn Gundersen. Buy it now on Amazon.

       See more of Asbjorn Gundersen’s work,

      How to help your social media content go viral

      An article on the Scientific American website reports on research by psychologists into why some social media content gets shared and shared and shared again..

      Let me cut to the chase:
      The take-away message from this work is that if you want your video, press release, news story, blog post or tweet to reach as many people as possible, there are specific things you can do to increase its chances of being widely shared. 
      Make it emotional - ideally triggering emotions like anger, anxiety or awe that tend to make our hearts race; and if you can, make it positive. This may be more even effective than other methods that are currently in wide use like targeting "influentials," or opinion leaders. 
      Crafting contagious content, as this research suggests, may provide more bang for your buck and create more reliably viral content.