Sunday, May 31, 2015

Secrets Of The Overground part 2

I posted part 1 a few days ago.

The results of 7 May were so bad that traditional Liberal Democrat campaign tactics will no longer work

No more two-horse races?

One of the pleasures of general and local elections as a Liberal and then a Liberal Democrat used to be going out for a coffee the following Saturday, buying the Guardian and going through the results. There were always plenty of seats and councils where we had made progress.

It wasn't like that this time. In fact, I haven't had the courage to look at the results from 7 May too closely.

So thank you to Seth Thévoz for looking at them for me on the Social Liberal Forum site. But his conclusions make you turn to something stronger than coffee:
While the party came fourth nationally, on a constituency level the results were even more sobering, with 54% of Lib Dem candidates coming fourth; and an even more galling 26.5% actually coming fifth; and more sixth places than first places. In numerous cases where the party came fourth or fifth, there were only four or five candidates standing, and so the Lib Dems came bottom of the poll.
Some Lib Dem seats won in 2010 did exceptionally badly. In four cases, Lib Dems came third (Aberdeenshire West and and Kincardine; Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk; Brent Central; and Bristol West), and in one case (Norwich South) they came fourth. In all but one of these five seats (Brent Central), the incumbent MP was seeking re-election, so the much-vaunted ‘Lib Dem incumbency bounce’ did little or nothing to stem the collapse of the party’s vote.
In five seats that were held during the 2005-2010 parliament, but lost in 2010, the Lib Dems fell back to fourth place: Camborne and Redruth (the successor to Falmouth and Camborne, with Julia Goldsworthy re-standing after having lost by just 66 votes in 2010); Chesterfield; Dunfermline and West Fife; Hereford and South Herefordshire (the successor seat to Hereford); and Rochdale.
His concludes, surely rightly, that the debacle of 7 May means that the tactics we have relied on for the last 30 years or more are going to have to change:
If the party is to survive in first-past-the-post elections, and to even keep more than half of its deposits (let alone begin winning elections in new areas), its campaigning tactics will have to adjust dramatically. 
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceTactical squeezes, which were so catastrophically ineffectual in keeping 49 of the 57 held seats, are not enough. Voters will only start considering voting for the fourth- or fifth-placed Lib Dem candidate if given positive, inspiring reasons to do so.

More photos of Tim Farron and his band

A commenter on a post on Liberal Democrat Voice has left this priceless video.

I do not recognise the music,but the photographs are clearly of a young Tim Farron and his band - one of them has already appeared on this blog.

Thanks to David-1 for leaving the comment and also to Zefonik for uploading the video to Youtube.

Jethro Tull: Jack In The Green

After yesterday's excursion to Pitsford I have to choose the song that introduced me to the Jack in the Green.

It comes from Jethro Tull's 1977 album Songs from the Wood and is here performed live in Germany in 1982.

In the version on the album, Ian Anderson plays all the instruments. As I once blogged, there was a time when I thought that Songs from the Wood was just about the best LP ever,

Searching for the Jack in the Green in Pitsford

Gothick Northamptonshire by Jack Gould says of Pitsford:
Within living memory, on May Day there were chosen not only a May Queen and King but a mysterious figure called 'Jack in the Green'. 
A boy wore a cane construction about 4 feet ... high with leather straps inside to fit over his shoulders. This was made by a blind man in the village and covered by branches of laurel, barberry and other evergreens. It was possibly a reminder of the Elizabethan 'man in the oak'.
Gould goes on to say that the Jack in the Green should not be confused with the Green Men you find in churches, but other sources do connect them.

Anyway, I looked for the Jack in the Green in Pitsford yesterday, but I'm not sure I found him.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tim Farron as a pop star - the photo they all wanted

A thousand thanks to the reader who sent me this. 

His email was headed "Tim Farron's band from 1987," and that is indeed what it appears to be.

Read more about Tim Farron's music career.

Later. Someone has turned up more photos of Tim and the boys.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Even later. Those photos soon disappeared, but now you can hear the band.

Six of the Best 514

The government has gone full cockwomble on the Psychoactive Substances Bill, argues The Domestic Extremist.

"Do you know the first point I remember our values being defended, espoused, passionately and movingly during this campaign? Nick's resignation speech." Kevin McNamara, who fought Ealing North, dissects the Liberal Democrat general election campaign,

Dominic Collard is one of the twelfty million who have joined the Lib Dems since the general election.

"Sub-national government in the form of combined urban authorities and county regions headed by DEEMs will be more easily manipulated by central government than would be a system of local government." George Jones makes the case against directly elected executive mayors.

"Children are not projects, nor are they hothouse orchids, but they seem to be increasingly treated as such by anxious and well-meaning parents who are highly invested in outcomes." Bracing good sense on the value of boredom from Lori Day.

Clarendon Spark has some then and now photographs of the Leicester suburb of Clarendon Park.

"A fourth-rate New Order": The mystery of Tim Farron's band

[Later. A reader has sent me a picture of Tim and his band.

Even later. Listen to the band!]

Matt Dathan, the Independent's online poliitlcal reporter, tells us
Tim Farron is the leading contender to replace Nick Clegg as the new front of the Liberal Democrats but yesterday he revealed he fronted a rock band in the 1980s. 
It could have been a very different rise to fame for one of the few remaining Lib Dem MPs if his three-piece had not been written off “as a fourth rate New Order” three decades ago. 
And he has left would-be fans in the dark over the true identity of the band, refusing to reveal the name of the band but teasing fans by simply saying: "you can find it on YouTube".
I am not sure research is Mr Dathan's strong suit, as Tim gave the names of his band in an interview with Total Politics back in 2012 or thereabouts:
"I was once nearly a pop star,” Farron says. 
Really, I ask, breathing deeply. 
“Well, I say nearly. My band got offered a recording session with Island Records. In the blur of all the stuff, we didn’t do it…” 
What was the band called? “We had a variety of names. We were called Fred the Girl, for some reason. We were trying to be obscure. There were no girls in our band. We were also called The Voyeurs… We thought it sounded good until we worked out what it meant.”
I'm not sure this quite adds up: if a band was really serious then the possibility of recording with a major label like Island would be everything they had ever dreamt of.

But if Tim is not having us on, and if you are better at searching Youtube than I am, you may be able to find a video of him fronting Fred the Girl or The Voyeurs.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Happy Birthday G.K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born on 29 May 1874.

To celebrate this anniversary, let me quote again his remarks on political canvassing in his Autobiography:
Charles Masterman used to swear with derisive gusto that when we went canvassing together, he went all down one side of a street and up most of the other, and found me in the first house, still arguing the philosophy of government with the first householder. ... 
It is perfectly true that I began electioneering under the extraordinary delusion that the object of canvassing is conversion. The object of canvassing is counting. The only real reason for people being pestered in their own houses by party agents is quite unconnected with the principles of the party (which are often a complete mystery to the agents): it is simply that the agents may discover from the words, manner, gesticulations, oaths, curses, kicks or blows of the householder, whether he is likely to vote for the party candidate, or not to vote at all.
If you want to know more about G.K. Chesterton and his writings, a good place to begin is the resources page for him on the De Montfort University website.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Secrets Of The Overground part 1

"In this video (the first of two parts) we find a one-a-day train, an abandoned curve of track which could be re-instated, a disused viaduct, and show you where on the Overground you can pass through Zone 1 and not be charged for it."

Now watch part 2.

Could a Devon and Cornwall XI become the 19th first-class county?

When people talk of reform of cricket's County Championship they normally have one thing in mind: a reduction in the number of first-class counties.

As Leicestershire and Northamptonshire would be prime candidates for a cull, this makes me nervous. (My house is in Leicestershire, but was in Northamptonshire when it was built.)

So it is good to read this article by Tim Wigmore:
ECB discussions about whether the County Championship could be extended to include 21 teams in three divisions of seven have stirred the interest of Ireland and Scotland, who are eager to consider any opportunities to join England and Wales' professional system. But even if agreements could be reached with both countries the ECB would still need to find a 21st Championship team - and that would mean persuading a Minor County to put their suspicions behind them and take the plunge. 
Twenty-three years after Durham became the 18th first-class county there might now be an opportunity for another minor county - or even two or three - to be elevated. The ECB's chairman Colin Graves is known to be intrigued about whether a national pyramid‎ is possible of the sort that broke down football's closed shop when the re-election system that largely protected the status quo was finally abandoned in 1986. 
The mood in cricket is much more conservative, with a number of leading minor counties doubting their potential to join the County Championship, but if the ECB take that route they could find salvation in the furthest south-west of the country where Cornwall and Devon officials believe they could potentially combine to field a joint side.
I am all in favour of the idea, and the parallels with Durham are encouraging. They may have started with ageing players brought in from other counties, but they soon started fielding quality young players born and bred in the county.

Today they are one of the strongest county teams and Chester-le-Street hosts tests.

When David Cameron crawled to Sepp Blatter

A news report from 2010, when England was bidding to host the 2018 World Cup.

Badger creeps through cat flap, opens fridge and steals Bakewell tart

And still they come. Metro wins Headline of the Day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Robert Herrick and Richard III

One of my favourite posts on this blog is one I wrote in June 2012. It ended:
And, somewhere under the paving stones, the body of Richard III may well be close by.
It did, and on 4 September 2012 they found it. Yet when I wrote those words I did not know that a dig was even planned.

As that post explains, the site of the monastery where Richard was buried was later occupied by a house and garden belonging to one of Leicester's leading citizens, Robert Herrick.

I have wondered ever since whether that Robert Herrick was related to the poet Robert Herrick.

After hearing a guide take a party round Leicester Cathedral on Saturday and chatting to her afterwards, I now know that Robert Herrick of Leicester was the uncle of the poet.

Take it away, nephew:
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

Flags lowered to half mast in memory of duck who lived for 25 years in Compton Martin pond

The Bristol Post waddles away with Headline of the Day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Disused railway stations in Shropshire

We had to reach Shropshire eventually.

Along the way we have visited Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, Hampshire, CumbriaCambridgeshire, KentLincolnshireCornwallRutland and Northumberland.

Six of the Best 513

"Britain's main liberal party is probably about to elect an evangelical Christian as its leader. If you're someone who follows US politics, you may want to read that sentence back a couple of times to check you got it right." Christian Today on Tim Farron's faith and politics.

Martin Petts is supporting Tim, but he wants to see a second leadership election soon - one where the candidates do not have to be MPs.

"There was general agreement across broad divides of opinion that Snowden - love him or hate him - had changed the landscape; and that change towards transparency, or at least 'translucency' and providing more information about intelligence activities affecting privacy, was both overdue and necessary." Duncan Campbell reports from the Ditchley House conference on intelligence, security and privacy.

Jonathan Freedland pays tribute to Tony Judt.

Spitalfields Life photographs some of the area's buildings, 40 years after Dan Cruickshank led a campaign to save them.

The Leicester Mercury has a feature on the city's lost railway stations.

Seven MPs elected at the 1955 general election are still with us

Today is the 60th anniversary of the 1955 general election, won by the Conservatives under Anthony Eden.

The BBC Politics channel has announced that it will be showing the results programme this evening (though it is currently showing a live feed from Stormont).

Discussion on Twitter day seems to have concluded that seven MPs elected in 1955 are still with us:
John Eden (the nephew of Anthony Eden) and James Ramsden were already MPs, having both been elected at byelections the previous year.

Robin Chichester-Clark was one of the few members representing a Northern Ireland constituency to be a British government minister since the Government of Ireland Act 1920 - his PPS was Norman Tebbit.

When he was elected Tom Mitchell was serving a sentence in HM Prison Belfast following an IRA raid on British Army barracks in Omagh, County Tyrone.

Thanks in particular to @ConHistGrp and @AmIRightSir on Twitter.

Police investigating Greville Janner seized film and videos

From today's Leicester Mercury:
Leicestershire Police has made its first move in its legal bid to overturn a decision to not put Greville Janner on trial for alleged sexual abuse of children. 
The force today wrote to the director of public prosecutions, (DPP), – who last month ruled out taking action against the 86-year-old peer because of his ill-health – to explain why it believes the allegations should be tested in court. 
The DPP, Alison Saunders, has 14 days to respond to the force's submission and to say whether she intends to reverse or stick by her decision. 
In a statement issued this morning, the force said: "Subject to her response, the force reserves its right to seek a judicial review of the decision.
The report goes on to give details of the investigation of the allegations against Greville Janner (which he and his family deny):
Last month, Leicestershire Police revealed it had launched an investigation, codenamed Operation Enamel, in 2013 and traced 25 people who allege that they were sexually abused by the former Labour MP for Leicester West as long ago as 1970. 
Officers spoke to more than 2,000 people and took 442 statements. 
About 600 items seized as part of the investigation included cine film and videos, police said.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Vanished Leicester: Trinity Church School, Regent Road

Copyright © Dennis Calow

The University of Leicester Special Collections say this building was in Regent Street, but I suspect it occupied the corner of Regent Road and Duke Street.

The photograph was taken in 1971.

Time for the Liberal Democrats to end their obsession with raising the personal allowance

When Gordon Brown was still prime minister, the Liberal Democrat emphasis on raising the personal allowance served us well.

As I once blogged:
One of the problems Labour regularly runs into is that, despite its rhetoric, it is difficult to make the rich pay more. Of course, there are things you can do, such as taxing property rather than income, but the result is that increased public spending tends to increase the burden on lower earners until they become unwilling to bear it.
But time has moved on - I suspect it had already moved when I wrote that in 2012 - and I do not think this flagship policy serves us well today.

First a minor point. Raising the personal allowance is only a mechanism and a crude one at that. It does lighten the burden  on low-earning taxpayers, but it also lightens the burden on high-earning taxpayers. Even if reducing the tax burden on the low-paid remains your aim, you should be open to the possibility of their being a more effective or elegant way of achieving it.

But there is a deeper problem with tax cuts. As soon as the Coalition was formed the Lib Dems accepted the Conservative narrative. Britain's economy was in danger of going the same way as Greece because public spending was too high.

Once we had accepted the need for severe austerity, raising the personal allowance was in danger of looking nonsensical. Governments afraid of going the way of Greece because of the public-sector deficit do not tax cuts: they increase them. Just ask the people of Greece. The old and the new Liberal Democrat economic stories did not fit together.

Finally, this policy does not fit with the new realities of life the Liberal Democrats. It is hard to see a short-term  future for us that does not include a great deal of local campaigning, and those campaigns are bound to involve standing up for local services against cuts in central government funding. (Remember the worst of such cuts are yet to be felt.)

If we are calling for more public spending locally, then calling for lower taxes at Westminster would stretch even out reputation for saying different things to different audiences.

So it's time for some new Liberal Democrat thinking on the economy.

Buskers 'face £1,000 fine for not smiling' under new town centre protection order

The Evening Standard wins our Headline of the Day Award for this account of developments in Oxford.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The making of The Singing Detective

Lyndon Davies played the young Philip Marlowe in The Singing Detective with a heartbreaking shaved-above-the-ears haircut.

He went on to enjoy an acting career for a while on the strength of it, notably in the Sharpe series of TV movies.

Here he remembers the making of the Dennis Potter series.

Later. And here is the finished scene from the final episode of The Singing Detective.

"He would come and show us magic tricks and tell us to make sure our parents voted for him"

As the Leicester Mercury reported on Friday, Peter Farrands, a former teacher and scout master who sexually abused two schoolboys, has been jailed for seven years.

One of the victims, Robert Gibb, has waived his anonymity:
The court heard Gibb eventually told the defendant to stop the abuse when he was 13, and told his parents who complained to the headmaster – but he dismissed the boy as a liar. 
The defendant, headmaster and scout commissioner then visited Mr Gibb's family. 
The defendant begged them to take the matter no further, saying his wife would leave him.
This is a sickening demonstration of how the authorities used to collude to cover up abuse.

Farrands' case has attracted interest because of speculation that he is somehow connected with Greville Janner, the former Leicester MP against whom allegations of abuse have been made. (He and his family have always denied them.)

According to the Daily Mirror:
A spokeswoman for Leicestershire police refused to be drawn on whether the case is linked to Operation Enamel, the investigation into the Labour peer. 
She said: "As Operation Enamel is an ongoing investigation we would not identify any parties involved – victims, witnesses or suspects."
Robert Gibb remembers Janner:
"He would come and show us magic tricks and tell us to make sure our parents voted for him. I didn’t think anything of it at the time but looking back now it doesn’t look good."

France Gall: Poupée de cire, poupée de son

While are heads are still full of Eurovision, here is one of the contest's more interesting winners.

"Poupée de cire, poupée de son" was the Luxembourg entry in 1965. It was written by Serge Gainsbourg, whose protégé Gall was.

Wikipedia is enlightening about the song:
As is common with Gainsbourg's lyrics, the words are filled with double meanings, wordplay, and puns. The title can be translated as "wax doll, rag doll" (a floppy doll stuffed with bran or chaff) or as "wax doll, sound doll" (with implications that Gall is a "singing doll" controlled by Gainsbourg). 
Sylvie Simmons wrote that the song is about "the ironies and incongruities inherent in baby pop"—that "the songs young people turn to for help in their first attempts at discovering what life and love are about are sung by people too young and inexperienced themselves to be of much assistance, and condemned by their celebrity to be unlikely to soon find out."
And if Gall is not securely in tune all the way through her winning performance, doesn't that just add to our sense of her as an ingénue?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The tomb of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral

I decided to let the fuss die down before I paid my respects again to Richard III. Last time I saw him, on my birthday, his coffin was display in Leicester Cathedral.

Today I saw his tomb, which seems to me to get the balance between modernity and heritage just right, and to avoid canonising a controversial figure.

The Cathedral has been remodelled inside to give Richard prominence and it looks better as a result. It used to be rather compentalised but now feels spacious.

The building is a largely 19th century reconstruction of a medieval church, yet it looked remarkably attractive throughout the television coverage of Richard's burial.

And some pleasing Pagan touches have survived all this rebuilding and restoration.

Six of the Best 512

"Labour activists were receiving emails beseeching them to go and help in the marginal seat of South Ribble (which Labour failed to take) but choose instead to work their socks off in Southport where the only outcome which they could hope to achieve would be to reduce the Lib Dem vote and let the Tory in." Iain Brodie Browne takes Labour tribalism to task.

The floggings will continue until morale improves - or something like that. Caron Lindsay is rightly outraged by an email sent to the party's candidates straight after the debacle of 7 May.

Britain has resigned as a world power, says Fareed Zakaria.

Adam Gopnik explains the crumbling of America's infrastructure.

"What, then, took the gold out of British detective fiction? P.D. James points to the simple fact that the police got better at their job. Both she and Ruth Rendell, the two recently deceased queens of the genre, observed the fact by making their series heroes professional flatfoots." John Sutherland on the demise of amateur sleuth in crime fiction.

Jamie Ross pays tribute to Balustrade Lanyard, who died this week.

Cheating husband leaves mistress sex tape on North Yorkshire bus

York's The Press wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Which route was it? I hear you ask.

The Press reports:
The bag containing the evidence of his infidelity was left on a number 17 bus, a circular route from Scarborough town centre to nearby villages Eastfield and Osgodby.

Friday, May 22, 2015

"Monkey on the car"

I had intended to write a post this evening laying out how the Liberal Democrats can recover their fortunes.

Instead I have posted this...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Down Street underground station

"Down Street is an abandoned station on the Piccadilly line, which TfL is considering opening up to the public. We got to explore it, one of the many 'ghost' stations on the network, discovering stairs that haven't been used for decades, a World War Two typing pool... and is that Winston Churchill's old bath?"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How tobacco firms woo parliamentarians

An investigation published by The British Medical Journal this evening looks at the way the tobacco industry seeks to influence parliamentarians.

It shows that, since 2010, 38 MPs - 29 Conservatives, eight Labour, and one independent - have accepted over £60,000 worth of tobacco industry hospitality, including tickets to the Chelsea flower show, high profile sporting events and rock concerts.

More than half of these MPs are from constituencies where the number of smoking related deaths exceeds the national average of 289 per 100,000.

Read the full report on the BMJ website.

Disused railway stations in Northumberland

If you like This Sort of Thing there's Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, Hampshire, CumbriaCambridgeshire, KentLincolnshireCornwall and Rutland.


Yes, Rutland.

Confused peacock called Felix tries to squeeze through cat flap at Aberdeenshire house

The Herald wins Headline of the Day for this account of life in Inverurie.

Thanks to Jo Swinson on Twitter.

Happy Birthday John Stuart Mill

The great Liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill was born in Rodney Street, Pentonville, on 20 May 1806.

To mark the day, let me point you to an article I wrote about the old boy for Liberator some years ago:
It seems we have become obsessed by Mill’s harm principle. Yet it is only a small part of On Liberty: the essence of that work is not concerned with curbing liberty at all but is a glorious hymn in favour of its expansion. 
Writing in Prospect magazine last year, Richard Reeves put it well: 
for Mill, liberty consists of much more than being left alone. It requires choice-making by the individual. "He who lets the world… choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation," he writes. "He who chooses his plan for himself employs all his faculties." For Mill, a good life must be a chosen life. 
Or as The Levellers said more recently: "There's only one way of life, and that's your own, your own, your own."
As it was to turn out, Reeves was a very good Mill scholar but less skilled as a special adviser to Nick Clegg.

The Guardian praises Norman Lamb's record as a minister

Norman Lamb, says the Guardian's David Brindle, will go down in the annals of social care as a good, arguably very good, minister:
Once in post, Lamb threw himself into the role with gusto. He combined a heavy Westminster workload – not least ensuring passage of the watershed Care Act – with a remorseless programme of visits to observe care practice and engage with professionals, carers and people who use services. He always seemed accessible: approached by strangers on the train from his North Norfolk constituency to London, he would happily set aside his papers and chat. 
Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, says: “Norman combined insight and integrity to help ensure a landmark piece of social care legislation was delivered with people across the sector. The time he took to listen to those working at the frontline was always invaluable and appreciated. He can look back knowing that he made a difference.” 
One difference that Lamb undoubtedly made, or at least helped in no small part to make, was the greatly enhanced profile of mental health. Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, describes him as “a fantastic advocate” who was clearly passionate about the cause. “As minister, he was involved in a number of key drives to improve mental health services, from the crisis care concordat to the introduction of the first waiting times and access standards for mental health.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How we're priming some kids for college — and others for prison

Another talk from the TED site:
In the United States, two institutions guide teenagers on the journey to adulthood: college and prison. Sociologist Alice Goffman spent six years in a troubled Philadelphia neighborhood and saw first-hand how teenagers of African-American and Latino backgrounds are funneled down the path to prison - sometimes starting with relatively minor infractions. In an impassioned talk she asks, "Why are we offering only handcuffs and jail time?"

What can the Liberal Democrats offer all those new members?

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't.
Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne 

Back in 2008 the Liberal Democrats' Party Reform Commission, chaired by Christopher Bones, filed its report.

In his executive summary Bones wrote about how Liberal Democrat members saw their party:
membership was defined by one respondent to the Commission as joining a "leaflet delivery cult", by another as "just being asked for cash by Chris Rennard".
Later, in what has some claim to the greatest blog post ever written, Fred Carver took this analysis many steps further:
Campaigners have a strict uniform which consists of looking as scruffy as possible. In part this is to signify their indispensability (much as the U boat commanders of the Kriegsmarine did); in part this is because they spend half their life fixing broken printers. Campaigners are responsible for the electoral success of the party and, as such, look down upon anyone (such as researchers and candidates) who aren't. 
Campaigners also have nothing to do with policy and, as such, are looked down upon by anyone (such as researchers and candidates) who do. 
About half a campaigner’s job is logistical management – the basic strategy being to batter your electoral opponent into submission by sheer volume of literature. Thus the best campaigners are those that do not make the better the enemy of the good, and always prioritise quantity over quantity. 
The other half of a campaigner’s job is graphic design. For this reason most campaigners are terrible graphic designers. 
Campaigners work around 90 hours a week and there is a machismo culture around who can do the longest hours. Unsurprisingly Campaigners live on a diet of nicotine, alcohol, coffee, and anything with lots of sugar in it. Perhaps surprisingly Campaigners have not yet discovered crystal meth
I thought of these posts when I heard about all those new Liberal Democrat members - 13,000 and counting since the debacle of 7 May.

Some are old members rejoining, but most are new to the party. What do they expect to find when they join us?

A clue to the answer can be found in the survey of new members the party has published. As well as gathering demographic data, the party asked them what they would be interested in doing for or in the Liberal Democrats.

The most popular answer, beating 'Volunteering in your local area' into second place, was 'Helping make policy'.

Looking back at my post on the Bones Commission, I find that I had limited time for the idea that the party could change from the donation-and-leaflet-delivering model.

No doubt the fightback will involve a lot of traditional activism, but I hope it will not only involve that.

If the Liberal Democrats are to have a future - if we are to deserve a future - then it will not be enough to serve the community and exploit localised grievances. We must also have something coherent to say on important issues that face the country as a whole.

We are lucky in that there will be plenty of national campaigns for us to fight that will unite the party - support for membership of the European Union and opposition to the Snoopers' Charter are too obvious examples.

But there will be harder issues for us to tackle and we will need to be able to show potential supporters a clear and appealing Liberal approach to them.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
More and more mindless activism will not save the Liberal Democrats: we have to become a thinking party too.

Teenage boys who smoke cannabis end up four inches shorter

Metro wins our prestigious Headline of the Day Award.

Lord Bonkers adds: It seems my housemaster was right after all.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Industrial railways at Lamport, Scaldwell and Hanging Houghton

Precious footage of these long-vanished railways in operation.

This complex of lines tapped the ironstone of the countryside around the Market Hatborough to Northampton line.

And you have to admit that Hanging Houghton is a great name for a village on the side of a hill.

Dennis Skinner vs the SNP? Phtt

Trouble in the Commons today as the massed ranks of new SNP MPs took over the bench where Dennis Skinner is used to sitting.

But it really was nothing.

This, from a 2005 Liberal Democrat News column of mine, shows what a real Commons skirmish is like...
Picking a fight On 27 July 1893 the debate on the committee stage of Gladstone’s second home rule bill ended. Joe Chamberlain compared Gladstone to Herod. T. P. O'Connor, the Irish Nationalist who sat for a Liverpool constituency, called Chamberlain "Judas". The division bell rang, but arguments still smouldered in the chamber. 
At this point one of my political heroes entered history. J. W. "Paddy" Logan was Liberal MP for Harborough. A major railway contractor, he began as a Conservative. But when he visited Ireland he was so shocked at the condition of the people that he returned a Radical. 
Logan had won Harborough from the Tories at a by-election in 1891 and held it until he resigned in 1904, his health affected by a hunting accident. He returned at the second general election of 1910, only to resign again six years later. 
Nationally, he was known as a sportsman. He won the House of Commons steeplechase and founded the most celebrated bloodstock line in pigeon racing. Locally, he gave Market Harborough its swimming baths and donated land for the town cricket ground. 
He lived at the village of East Langton, where he gave another cricket ground and a village hall. He also maintained a cottage home for the children of men killed on his works. 
On the night of 27 July, as he waited for the throng to clear, Logan crossed the chamber and sat down truculently beside Carson on the Conservative front bench. Hayes Fisher, a Tory MP, pushed him away. Logan elbowed back and was grabbed by more Tories, whereupon the Irish Nationalists waded in to support him. 
For the next 20 minutes elderly, frock-coated MPs belaboured one another. Hats were flattened, coats torn and faces bruised. Onlookers in the galleries began to hiss and eventually the Serjeant-at-Arms restored order.
The cartoon above shows William Hayes Fisher, whom fair-minded observers will agree was responsible for the whole unfortunate episode,

In which I pass the Homophobic Monk twice

Leicester Crown Court, Wellington Street
© Copyright Mat Fascione
I passed a figure in robe and sandals on the way to work this morning and wondered.

At lunchtime, when he was also furnished with an umbrella, I passed him again and was sure.

It was the Homophobic Monk!

Remember him? He even has his own label on this blog.

The Leicester Mercury explains his presence in the city:
A 'monk' who posted an allegedly homophobic leaflet and a letter to two women at their home in Leicester has appeared in court to face a harassment charge. 
Damon Jonah Kelly, 53, appeared at Leicester Magistrates' Court yesterday in a black full-length robe to face a single charge of harassment. 
He is accused of posting an offensive leaflet to the women's home, confronting the recipients in the street and sending them a letter, which was also said to contain allegedly homophobic content, two weeks later.
Note the cruel scare quotes the Mercury puts around 'monk'.

According to Church Militant, Kelly is on of a group called the Black Hermits.

They were first welcomed into the 'diocese of Corby' (I suspect the website means Northampton) but now face eviction from the Corby presbytery where they have been living.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Disused railway stations in Rutland

Not the longest slideshow in this series, but surely one of the best.

But then you can make your own comparisons: Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, HampshireCumbria,CambridgeshireKentLincolnshire and Cornwall.

Six of the Best 511

"I don't understand the point of a political party that doesn’t learn from its mistakes, and while I can understand why many aren’t really excited by the prospect of introspection right now, someone has to do it." James Graham points to three things the Lib Dems could have done to avoid the disaster of 7 May.

The Liberal Democrat leadership election will be closer than we all think, says Craig Dearden-Phillips.

Above the Law asks why copyright law has made the best version of Star Wars illegal.

Dennis Potter would have been 80 today. Love and Garbage pays tribute to him.

Anne Wagner visits Salt and Silver, the exhibition of early photography at Tate Britain.

"The players coming in during the next few years come from a generation deprived of free to air cricket. This generation will have come in on the echoes. Soon it will be a privileged generation: in the main sons/daughters of club cricketers and sons of parents able to afford a very expensive education, or sons able to win scholarships to such institutions." Down at Third Man fears for the future of English cricket.

Van Morrison: Coney Island

A good track for a lazy Sunday morning. It comes from Morrison's 1989 album Avalon Sunset.

I have chosen this video because it has photographs of the locations Morrison mentions. As a bonus you get Days Like This too.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Coalport to Wellington disused railway part 2

The second and final part of this exploration - part 1 is here.

Important human rights cases as plain-English short stories

The Rights Info site is translating the 50 most important human rights cases into plain-English short stories.

Its countdown to the most important case of all has reached number 30.

You may also enjoy this video from Rights Info...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Amanda Burden: How public spaces make cities work

There are loads of good talks on the TED site.

This one by Amanda Burden is introduced there like this:
More than 8 million people are crowded together to live in New York City. What makes it possible? In part, it’s the city’s great public spaces — from tiny pocket parks to long waterfront promenades — where people can stroll and play. 
Amanda Burden helped plan some of the city’s newest public spaces, drawing on her experience as, surprisingly, an animal behaviorist. She shares the unexpected challenges of planning parks people love — and why it's important.

Vince Cable, Danny Alexander and Simon Hughes refuse peerages

The Guardian reports that a number of senior Liberal Democrat MPs who were defeated at the election have turned down peerages:
Four senior Liberal Democrat politicians defeated in the general election, including former business secretary Vince Cable, have turned down the offer of a peerage from Nick Clegg in the dissolution honours list. 
It is understood that David Laws, the former education minister, Simon Hughes, the former justice minister, and former Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander have also decided to reject a chance to sit in the House of lords.
Norman Baker has also let it be known that he is not interested in a peerage.

The report says the Liberal Democrats most likely to accept peerages are Alan Beith and Ming Campbell. Don Foster would also be a likely candidate on length of service.

Elder statesman have their role, but wouldn't it be a good to give peerages to the younger voices we most want to be heard in public debate.

My first candidate would be Maajid Nawaz - no doubt you have your own ideas.

Owen Patterson does his best to break up the Union

The Shropshire Star reports the contribution of Owen Patterson, Conservative MP for North Shropshire and former cabinet minister, to a television discussion.

In between sensible points on the effect of health decisions by the Welsh National Assembly on neighbouring parts of England and the likely effect of full fiscal autonomy on Scottish politics, he had this to say:
"The Scots can run around promising free healthcare, free holidays to Lanzarote and expect the English to pay."
You can see why the Conservatives have done so badly in Scotland for so long.

Would the Tories be happy to see Scotland leave the United Kingdom if that made it more likely they would govern the rump that was left?

Perhaps some of them do not care how low the dunghill is as long as they are cocks of it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Vanished Leicester: Railway lifting bridge, Soar Lane

Copyright © Dennis Calow
This bridge used to take goods wagons across the Grand Union Canal near Leicester West Bridge station. It is photographed here in 1965.

Movable Bridges in the British Isles says it used to be preserved at the Leicester Museum of Technology and was transferred to Snibston Discovery Park near Coalville.

What will become of it now that Snibston is to close?

That site also quote an old newspaper article:
On January 23rd 2009 the Leicester Mercury published an item about this drawbridge in which local resident Roy Rains recalled his childhood in the streets close to Soar Lane Bridge.
Mr. Rains describes how the boys living in All Saints Road and Pingle Street used the area around the drawbridge for swimming during the summer holidays. He recalls watching the bridge in operation and the horses pulling the wagons back and forth during shunting operations.

Dan Hodges goes inside the Milibunker

Everyone else thought Michael Foot was a disastrous leader of the Labour Party, but legend has it that he was convinced he had won the 1983 general election. In fact he almost came third.

Writing in the Spectator, Dan Hodges says Ed Miliband and his inner circle were equally convinced they had won.

On the way, he tells a couple of great stories:
Most of the blame, inevitably, is being aimed at the leader’s office. ‘When the campaign started we were told we had to clear all leaflet design past the leader’s office,’ said one party worker. ‘We thought that would be a nightmare, but for the first part of the campaign it worked really well. We’d email the art, and about an hour or so later we’d get the response, “Great. Go with this.” 
Then one day someone got the message, “Excellent. All good.” But when they went to respond they realised they’d failed to insert the original attachment. All the time, Ed’s team had been signing off the leaflets without bothering to look at them.’
Another Labour insider told of the scene in the press office when Miliband posed with the notorious Ed stone, the 8ft 6in slab of limestone upon which his six key election pledges were inscribed. When it appeared on TV, a press officer ‘started screaming. He stood in the office, just screaming over and over again at the screen. It was so bad they thought he was having a breakdown.’

Six of the Best 510

"I have no regrets at all, and if someone had told me in 1987 that the deal was that I would be a Councillor for 16 years, council leader for 6, an MP for 18 years, and a Minister for four and a half years, I would have said that that was a pretty good deal." Norman Baker says goodbye to his political career.

Jennie Rigg offers a reading list for all those new Lib Dem members. (The comments are good too, hem hem.)

Hereford Heckler remembers the Archenfield Review.

The duped party in a forgery is not all that duped, argues the great Jonathan Meades.

Caitlin Green looks at the changing coastline of Lincolnshire in the later medieval period, with a focus on some of the modern villages and churches that were lost to the sea and drowned in that era.

"Paul Jones, manages to capture the wonder and the longing of the situation as well as the bewilderment. I love the, ‘Huh!’ he inserts as he contemplates whether he really could and whether she really would!" The Immortal Jukebox writes on Bruce Springsteen, Manfred Mann and Pretty Flamingo.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Coalport to Wellington disused railway part 1

Part 2 will be along soon.

Two Scottish political jokes - I'm here all week!

How many Scottish Labour MPs does it take to change a light bulb?

All of them.

[This joke works equally well for Scottish Conservative and Scottish Liberal Democrat MPs.]

How many Scottish National Party MPs does it take to change a light bulb?

They don't change it. They just sit in the dark and blame the English.

Thomas Cook's daughter died from carbon monoxide poisoning

This sad story on BBC News
Holiday firm Thomas Cook "breached its duty of care" in the case of two children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday in Corfu, an inquest jury has concluded. 
Jurors returned a verdict of unlawful killing of Bobby and Christi Shepherd, who were aged six and seven. 
The children had been overcome by fumes from a faulty hot water boiler at their hotel in October 2006. 
Their mother said she would always blame the company for their deaths.
reminds me of one of my explorations of Leicester.

The photograph above shows Thomas Cook's house on London Road, Leicester. When I blogged about it I wrote:
There is a tragedy associated with the house. On 7 November 1880 Cook found his only daughter, Annie Elizabeth, dead in her bath. She was 34 and had died from inhaling carbon monoxide poisoning from one of the first gas water heaters to be installed in a house in Leicester.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A happy St Pancras Day to all my readers

And it's Steve Winwood's birthday too.

Fascinating Liverpool: The Liverpool Overhead Railway

I was working at my employer's conference at the Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool in Liverpool last week.

Being in that part of the city put me in mind of the Liverpool Overhead Railway. It ran along the length of Liverpool's dockland between 1893 and 1956.

This film tells its story. You can see archive footage of the line in operation in a video I posted last year.

Leicestershire councillor reported to police over acceptance speech

Bob Fahey, the newly elected Conservative councillor for the Oadby Grange ward on Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, has wasted no time in making his mark.

As the Leicester Mercury tells it:
Police are investigating allegations an Oadby and Wigston borough councillor made racist comments during his election acceptance speech. 
Conservative councillor Bob Fahey was greeted with gasps and shouts of "racist" when he referred to his fellow ward representatives, Rav Thakor and Teck Khong, as an "Indian" and a "Ch***", according to those at the meeting. 
He is alleged to have made the remarks at Parklands Leisure Centre, in Oadby, just moments after being elected to the Oadby Grange ward. 
A witness claimed some of the 100-strong audience, made up of other candidates, vote counters and the public, gasped as the comments were made during the short speech.
Doorstepped by the Mercury yesterday, Cllr Fahey said:
"It's all a fuss about nothing, but I'm not going to comment any further."
I wasn't there, but one answer to the question of how the Oadby and Wigston Liberal Democracts have kept control of the local council for so long must be: "Have you met Oadby and Wigston Conservatives?"

"The general election was bloody awful for the Liberal Democrats"

My First Person column printed in today's Leicester Mercury.

Brace yourselves - the Tories are off the leash

The general election was bloody awful for the Liberal Democrats.

I know politicos are meant to say things like “I’m glad you asked me that” and  “Let me answer that question directly” and “I think the real question is…”, but there are times even a politico has to tell the truth.

For someone like me, who has been a member of the Liberal Party and then the Liberal Democrats for all his adult life, Thursday night was heartbreaking.

And you don’t have to be a paid-up Lib Dem to be sad to see the careers of good men like Vince Cable, Charles Kennedy and Simon Hughes cut off at the knees.

If it had been possible to vote for the Coalition to continue, I suspect the voters would have happily done so. But it wasn’t possible and the result was a wholesale slaughter of Lib Dem MPs

So where do the Liberal Democrats go from here?

If we have a future then it is as a radical, campaigning party. The days of being centrist are over for a while.

The good news for us, though not for the country, is that the Conservative government will no longer be curbed by the Lib Dems. All the nasty things they wanted to do through the five years of the coalition will now be brought forward as parliamentary bills.

Within hours of the election plans to examine cutting a scheme that helps disabled people into work were put forward. Lib Dems exist to campaign against things like that, as well as for human rights and European cooperation.

And there will be plenty more nasty measures. For five years David Cameron had to keep reasonable 
Liberal Democrats happy to get things through parliament.

Now, with his narrow majority, he is dependent on the fruitcake wing of the Conservative Party. It’s the Bones and Hollobones and Reeses-Mogg who hold the balance of power. Good luck with that, Dave.

It’s a long, long way back, but there is already a sign of hope for the Lib Dems. Between the close of polls and Monday evening almost 7000 new members joined them. Some feel sorry for Nick Clegg, some are glad he has gone, but all believe the party has a future.

And it would be wrong to end without a word about Oadby and Wigston which, amid all the carnage, stayed firmly Liberal Democrat.

When we crawl out of the bunkers after the nuclear holocaust, we shall find hyperintelligent ants have taken over the world and that Oadby and Wigston Lib Dems still running the council.

Jonathan Calder blogs at LiberalEngland.