Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Scarthin Books of Cromford has been saved from collapse

Not the business, the building.

BBC News reports:
An acclaimed bookshop that was in danger of collapsing under the weight of its own books has experienced a huge revival, its manager has said. 
Owners of Scarthin Books, in Cromford, Derbyshire, were told in 2015 that "emergency work" was needed to preserve the 150-year-old building. 
It prompted a crowdfunding campaign which led to £12,000 being raised by people all over the world. 
Manager David Booker said the shop had a 20% sales increase after the appeal.
Meanwhile, my scheme to move the Houses of Parliament to Arkwright's Mill at Cromford appears to have stalled.

Paddy Ashdown draws parallels between Britain today and 1930s Germany

The Guardian reports the former Liberal Democrat leader's comments at the Hay Literary Festival today:
“My next book is about the German resistance to Hitler, so I’m knee-deep into research of the 1930s and I am horrified by the parallels. I’m horrified." ...
"The way that we have retreated from internationalism to ugly nationalism in Britain. The way that we have retreated from international trade to protectionism. The sense that somehow or other democracy is failing. 
"The habit of lying in our public discourse. What was it Goebbels said? Tell it often, tell it big ... stick it on the side of a bus perhaps and drive it around the country. I’m not saying Hitler is around the corner, of course I’m not, although you might conclude the conditions for something like that to emerge are there."
I suspect that what happens after this election may be a lot more interesting than what has happened during it. And that Paddy fancies himself at the centre of affairs.

As to these comments... They ring true, don't they?

Jeremy Corbyn and the Provisional IRA

The Conservatives clearly believed that Jeremy Corbyn’s history of links with Irish Republican terrorists was their trump card against him.

For that reason they held off playing it before the general election and even before the final two weeks of the campaign.

It has not turned out quite like that, but that has far more to with the passage of time than it has to do with the virtues of Jeremy Corbyn’s reaction to the revelation of those links.

The point that commentators have missed is that such views were wholly commonplace, in fact almost obligatory, on the Trotskyite left and the hard Bennite left of Labour in the days when Jeremy Corbyn was making his name there.

At every Student Union meeting I attended at York there seemed to be a motion from those sources on Northern Ireland. It began by expressing concern about the judicial system and civil liberties in Northern Ireland – concerns good Liberals shared – and ended by calling for victory for the armed struggle.

You can see an authentic relic of those years in the Diane Abbott quotation that has been circulating recently:
"Ireland is our struggle. Every defeat of the British state is a victory for all of us. A defeat in Northern Ireland would be a defeat indeed."
Note that Northern Ireland was seen as only part of a wider struggle against the existing, capitalist order.

You can find plenty more such quotes from John McDonnell in another post on this blog, where I wrote:
Maybe the IRA bombing campaign on the mainland is too long ago to move voters. But I was working in London at the time shoppers and workers were being killed by it. 
The very least I expect from the party of the workers is that it condemns those who murder them. That was too much to ask of Mr McDonnell.
It was a long time ago and the Provisional IRA bombing campaign is history to younger voters. As Patrick Maguire says in the New Statesman:
For better or worse, the [Martin] McGuinness most people have seen the most of is the man who chuckled with Ian Paisley, governed Northern Ireland alongside his mortal enemies, shook hands with the Queen and was eulogised by Bill Clinton. 
The lay public’s memories of the Troubles have now softened to such an extent that he is now portrayed as a likeable, wisecracking wag in a Hollywood film about his relationship with Paisley. The same could well be said, to a lesser extent, of Adams's idiosyncratic tweets.
And to keep with the showbiz clich├ęs, at least McGuinness had been on a journey. They had taken some personal risks to move the political process on and, you hope, learnt some wisdom.

You get no such feeling with Corbyn. Whenever I discuss his politics, I think of the comment by Peter Harrison:
"I knew him when we were 18 or 19, and his views have not changed. We are talking about the thick end of 50 years ago."
He has not been on any journey at all. Even Diane Abbott, in her clumsy way, admitted she had changed her views on Ireland.

Not only was Corbyn’s tolerance of Irish Republican terrorism obligatory in making his way on the far left when he was a young man, I suspect there was an element of electoral calculation about it too,

When he first stood in Islington, the arrival of the SDP was a serious challenge to Labour’s hegemony there. Being seen with Republican hardliners may have helped shore up his support among a section of Irish voters.

What that dalliance was not was a sort of peace process ahead of its time, as Corbyn now claims. The idea, as he suggested last night, that the commemoration for Provisional IRA fighters killed during an attempted terror attack in Loughgall he attended in 1987 was in reality staged to honour everyone who died in Northern Ireland during the conflict, is not believable.

Nor do his supporters attempts to equate Corbyn's grandstanding during the Provisional IRA bombing campaign with ministerial meetings after the peace agreement convince.

Let’s leave the last word to John McDonnell:
"An assembly is not what people have laid down their lives for over thirty years…the settlement must be for a united Ireland."

Six of the Best 695

Peter Sloman makes an important point: "If centre-left politicians are ever to regain support for progressive and internationalist policies, they will have to find new ways of engaging with provincial Britain – with its economic needs, its sense of place, and its estrangement from the corridors of power."

"Every day in Dacre’s paper, the people who make up the population of Britain, the people who teach your children and bandage your wounds, drive your trains or clean your floors, are described as aliens and forgers and scum." Andrew O'Hagan skewers the Daily Mail and its editor.

CNN and Fox News were wrong to show so much footage of screaming teens after the Manchester Arena bombing, argues Will Oremus.

Denis Fischbacher-Smith reports on the collapse of British Airways' IT systems.

Dawn Scott explains how foxes have adapted to life in the cities we have built around them.

Andy Peake - son of Market Harborough, top division footballer and police officer - is interviewed by John Hutchinson.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The importance of John Noakes

Some 20 years ago the BBC showed a history of Blue Peter. It was the one revealed that Daniel the Blue Peter baby had grown up into an agreeable, hippyish character who had once done time for drug offences.

At work the next day we were all rhapsodising over our memories of John Noakes. A South African who worked with us remarked that she thought she understood British culture pretty well, but every now and again something like this came along. Our adoration of Noakes was a mystery to her.

But John Noakes was an important figure. His death somehow feels like the final death of my own childhood.

Lucy Mangan explains his appeal well:
If his co-presenters Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton stood in televisual loco parentis, Noakes was your beloved, daredevil uncle, with energy and enthusiasm to spare for the kind of spontaneous, crazy projects your parents could never quite bring themselves to get behind. 
And like all the best uncles, he had a dog, Shep – the only one who could match him for energy and enthusiasm. Often, indeed, overmatching him; hence the emergence of Noakes’s most common and famous utterance: "Get down, Shep."
The Blue Peter Noakes joined was a staid affair. As I once remarked of the disposal of Petra's litter of puppies in those days:
It all sounds like an aristocratic family: Patch stayed at home as the heir and the other dogs were found respectable careers.
But Noakes helped to change that and the Sixties do strike me as an unusual decade in that the British rather liked children then.

As I wrote in another post, no doubt too grumpily and nostalgically:
In the 1960s Blue Peter's presenters were undoubtedly on your side, but they knew lots of interesting things that you didn't and shared them with you. You don't make good children's television simply by giving children what they think they want - you end up with Tiswas if you do that. 
Today's Blue Peter producers put me in mind of Outnumbered, whose scripts will one day be studied as a key text in the uselessness of middle-class parenting in the early 21st century: 
What these modern middle-class parents are saying to their children is: "You are on your own. I have nothing to teach you, no wisdom to impart. You are already much better and cleverer than I am." It is not listening, but a total abdication of their responsibilities.
Noakes will be remembered for his extraordinary stunts - the most famous of them can be seen above, But he had his gentler side too,

Go With Noakes, a spin-off programme for him and Shep, had its share of stunts too. But I remember it best for the weeks when the two of them drove through beautiful countryside and met interesting people.

Life should be more like that.

Helping Daisy Cooper win St Albans

Feeling in the mood for delivering this morning, I went down to St Albans to help the Liberal Democrat candidate Daisy Cooper.

If you can go there too, your help will be well used. You will find the Lib Dem election HQ at 9 Hatfield Road, St Albans AL1 3RR.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mason Crane bowls the ball of the 21st century

Today Mason Crane took 5-40 to help Hampshire beat Somerset and confirm his potential.

He also produced what will probably turn out to the ball of the 21st century. There aren't many bowlers who can turn it square and york someone with the same delivery.

Police quiz Tory MP over claim he got a dog drunk and brawled with friend

We have our Headline of the Day. They'll be rejoicing at the Daily Mirror tonight.

Since you ask, the MP in question is Mark Menzies from Fylde.

An unexpected hero: George Osborne at the Evening Standard

When George Osborne was appointed as editor of the Evening Standard I grumbled that it was like something out of Putin's Russia - a politician from the governing party editing a major newspaper.

Sure, I reasoned, he might have some fun at Theresa May's expense because she had sacked him from the cabinet. But Tories are Tories, and come the next election the Standard would be relentlessly on message.

But things didn't quite turn out like that.

First, Theresa May called an unexpected general election. I am not saying this was done solely to force Osborne out of the Commons - he could not combine editing a London newspaper with being MP for a Cheshire constituency - but it was certainly a welcome bonus for her.

Second, even with the general election, Osborne has proved himself unexpectedly independent.

As Ian Burrell writes:
In the City, business leaders talk of his paper as “the unofficial opposition”. As arguably the best informed critic of a Conservative Prime Minister who he intensely dislikes, he has common cause with Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan, whose election as London Mayor the pre-Osborne Standard opposed. It is an extraordinary turn of events.
Maybe it is personal spite, maybe it is the strength of Osborne's convictions.

I am still not convinced that Osborne would be in the same party as most Liberal Democrats in a world where the parties were divided on more rational lines.

But he is certainly a welcome presence at the Standard.

Burrell also writes interestingly on the challenges facing the newspaper as a business.

A reminder of Amber Rudd's chequered business career

With Theresa May revealed as a weak and wobbly leader, the Conservatives are keeping her out of Wednesday's leaders debate on BBC television.

Instead Amber Rudd, now seen as a safer pair of hands, will take part.

Which makes this Daily Mirror story from October 2016 interesting all over again:
The Daily Mirror has examined Mrs Rudd’s record before she entered politics in 2005. 
We found she was the director of a city firm which went bust in 1992, owing £537,581 – including £67,977 to the Inland Revenue. 
Mrs Rudd was also a "corporate advisor" at a biodegradable plastics firm during a failed "major expansion" that was later criticised as being “too swift”. That firm went into liquidation owing £4.8million, mostly to shareholders. 
And she also set up a financial services company which was shut down in the High Court over its £1.2million debts, including to the taxman.
At about the same time the Guardian was reporting that:
Amber Rudd is facing growing calls to clarify the extent of her involvement in tax havens following the Guardian’s disclosure that she had been a director of two companies in the Bahamas.

Marillion: Senses Working Overtime

 Being a dude I liked XTC and did not have much time for Marillion.

But I have to say this a tremendous live cover of Senses Working Overtime, which was a hit for XTC back in 1982.

I have skipped the first 40 seconds where Dave Gregory, for many years the guitarist with XTC, is introduced.

Many thanks to Colin Smith for tweeting this video.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bonkers Home for Well-Behaved Orphans helps with latest Liberal Democrat election poster

Harold Macmillan on Oswald Mosley's uniform

Marina Hyde, in her demolition of Katie Hopkins, quotes P.G. Wodehouse's immortal paragraph on Roderick Spode's Black Shorts:
Katie’s spiritual analogue is Roderick Spode, PG Wodehouse’s piss-take of Oswald Mosley, and a chap to whom Bertie Wooster is moved to remark: 
“The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting ‘Heil, Spode!’ and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: ‘Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?’”
Which reminds me of Harold Macmillan's remark when the real Oswald Mosley told him that he was going to put his supporters into a black-shirted uniform:
"You must be mad. Whenever the English feel strongly about anything they wear grey flannel trousers and tweed jackets."
I first read it in Julian Critchley's memoirs A Bag of Boiled Sweets.

Armed police on the streets of Leicester

There are no immediate plans to deploy military personnel on to the streets of Leicester, Leicestershire or Rutland, the Leicester Mercury reported yesterday.

I can't speak for Uppingham or Oakham, but I did not see any troops in Leicester today.

What I did see were police armed with automatic weapons.

If this was a response to the level of terrorist threat, then fair enough. But if it was meant to be reassuring, then in my case it failed.

I suspect it is a generational thing. I am old enough to imagine I remember the England of Gideon and Dixon of Dock Green - a country where we were proud that our police did not carry guns.

Seeing those weapons just reminds me how much things have changed. (Somehow the decades of Irish Republican terrorist attacks on the mainland get forgotten in this reaction.)

Someone younger than me, without that baggage, would have taken it more in their stride or even have had the reaction the authorities desire.

But these things are very personal. I work with someone who grew up in Northern Ireland. He says the sight of armed police makes him feel nostalgic.

Doug Bracewell blames killing of pet cockatoo by dogs for drink-driving

The Guardian wins Headline of the Day.

Doug Bracewell is a New Zealand cricketer. Readers of my generation will think of him as the son of the fast bowler Brendan Bracewell (who toured England in 1978 but soon faded because of injury) and the nephew of the spinner John Bracewell.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Leicester lunchtime photographs

People who follow me on Twitter will know that I am in the habit of tweeting a photo from my lunchtime walks.

Having been told, perhaps a little generously, that the first one here is a "masterpiece", I thought I would share some of them here.

The “Katie Hopkins” project was bound to end in tears

I have put her in scare quotes because I have no idea if Katie Hopkins really holds the repugnant views she puts forward.

She was required to be continually outrageous but to avoid being so outrageous that she became a problem for the mainstream radio station that employed her. It is a wonder she lasted as long as she did.

And to keep up the “Katie Hopkins” brand she had to be equally outrageous on social media without any training in journalism or any editorial or legal support to fall back on. Again, it is no surprise she ended up in the libel courts.

But then “Katie Hopkins” was born out of The Apprentice, the programme where wannabe celebrities pretend to be Britain’s brightest young entrepreneurs.

If they were, they would be far too busy making money to compete for the doubtful privilege of a place in Alan Sugar’s company (as the prize was in those days).

Put her down as a victim of her own ambition and our amoral media world.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Peak at Glendon Junction

This photograph must have been taken in the early 1980s. A Peak (class 45 diesel) has come from Corby and is about to join the Midland main line.

Note the semaphore signal and that the line to Corby was double track. It was later to be singled, only to be doubled again.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Try one of my setters, they’re milder"

Today is our last day for a while in the company of Rutland most celebrated fictional peer. How long ago the start of the general election campaign now seems.


I spend the aboard the Liberal Democrat Battle Bus, visiting some of our best prospects in South West London and taking the opportunity to pick ‘High Voltage’ Cable’s brains about my investments.

I remain convinced that Farron would take the pews out of St Asquith’s and have as all singing ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ given half a chance, but he is the most engaging of companions. No wonder the mint cake workers of Kendal vote for him en bloc.

He asks if I would like to smell his spaniel, whereupon I reply: “Try one of my setters, they’re milder.”

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Market Harborough school drops 'hands behind back' rule

Judging by the lively comments on my post on the subject, it was late with the story.

But the Leicester Mercury said yesterday that a Market Harborough primary school has withdrawn its policy that children should walk with their hands behind their backs:
The Mercury has now learned that after "consultation" with parents, pupils are now required to walk in with their hands held in front of them. 
A spokesman for the diocese said: "The policy was only ever introduced in the first place with thought for safety at its heart and for ensuring a calm atmosphere for the school, especially the youngest pupils, when they were walking about. 
"I believe parents have been sent a letter regarding the change."

Paul Keetch has died

Sad news this evening. Paul Keetch, Liberal Democrat MP for Hereford from 1997 to 2010, has died.

Liberal Democrat Voice points us to a report in the Ross Gazette:
Paul was a liberal, a democrat and an internationalist and amongst Liberal Politicians, a rarity in that he had never lost an election. 
He was elected to Hereford City Council at the age of 21, making him the then youngest City Councillor in the UK. 
As a proud Herefordian, born and raised in the city, there was only one place he wanted to represent in Parliament and he became the MP for Hereford at his first attempt in 1997. He defended the seat twice in 2001 and 2005, before standing down prior to the 2010 election.
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoicePaul was the most senior Liberal Democrat to campaign for a Leave vote in last year's referendum.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A ride over Stainmore Summit in 1961

The line from Darlington to Penrith via Barnard Castle and Kirkby Stephen East was the highest passenger railway in England.

This film was shot in December 1961, a few weeks before it closed,

For more on the line, watch Snowdrift at Bleath Gill,

Lord Bonkers' Diary: What a scandal that was!

Today the old boy remembers a March visit to the banks of the Ouse and the Foss.


Were you in York for the Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference? Perhaps I met you there?

It is always a pleasure to visit that historic city, take tea at Betty’s and enjoy an Old Peculier in one of its many public houses.

I also think of Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate whenever I am there. What a scandal that was!

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Lib Dems and Independents take back control of Cornwall

This month's county elections left Cornwall with 46 Conservative councillors, 37 Liberal Democrats and 30 Independents.

As the largest party the Conservatives had first go at putting together a ruling coalition. But, reports BBC News, their proposal was rejected by the Independents unanimously.

The Liberal Democrats and independent councillors have regained joint control of Cornwall Council following two weeks of uncertainty. 
Adam Paynter from the Lib Dems is the new leader following a secret ballot by councillors on Tuesday. 
Independent councillor Julian German is to take on the role of deputy leader.
The council was run by a Lib Dem and Independent coalition before the elections.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Diane Abbott's ‘Coppers for Coppers’ scheme

Lord Bonkers occasionally complains of overzealous policing on Boat Race night, but for the most part he is a staunch supporter of the boys in blue.


I meet PC McNally on his beat, as he helps an old lady across the village high street – it not being the apple scrumping season, this is how he spends most of his time at present. (Incidentally, the walls around my orchard are at a sporting height to allow a fair contest between the aforementioned constable and the local urchinry.)

Poor McNally is a far from laughing policeman as he tells me that Diane Abbott has launched Labour’s new ‘Coppers for Coppers’ scheme. “They’re going to pay us just £30 a year,” he tells me with a sob in his voice. “I’ll need a new bicycle soon and even a second-hand truncheon costs a packet.”

I reassure him that there is no possibility of Labour winning the election with Corbyn and ‘Semtex’ McDonnell at the helm, leaving him in a happier frame of mind. Incidentally, while we are talking, the old lady re-crosses the road under her own steam and then scuttles away when PC McNally catches sight of her.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

The general election campaign must resume tomorrow

It was right that there should have been a pause in the general election today, but it must resume tomorrow.

A longer pause - some have even suggested we should wait six days - would hand ISIS a propaganda victory and encourage further outrages at election time.

It would also suggest that we do not hold our democratic traditions very dear if our first reaction at a time of national distress is to abandon them.

The campaign so far has been dull, but the right to be bored by democratic politics was dearly won and should not be discarded.

Later: From Liberal Democrat Voice:
The party is advising candidates tonight that, while national campaigning remains suspended, local campaigning can resume tomorrow.

Roger Moore and The Persuaders

This is how I remember Roger Moore best: starring in The Persuaders opposite Tony Curtis.

How enticing those Continental locations and their playboy lifestyle seemed on British television back in 1971!

Moore and Curtis played it mostly for laughs as they righted wrongs and fought crime, yet the wonderful John Barry theme has an unexpected sadness to it.

Howard Jacobson on Manchester

The novelist writes about his home city and last night's terrorist outrage for The New York Times:
The eruption of indiscriminate violence in a peaceful place is terrorism’s purpose and our greatest dread, the horrible intrusion of menace where we had no reason to expect it, no matter how often we tell ourselves that nowhere is safe now. The unnaturalness of terrorism is its essence. It means to strike out of a clear blue sky. It means to shatter those bonds of commonality we have to take for granted or we cannot live. 
So, this is terrorism’s perfect expression: the random massacre of kids coming out of a pop concert they’d no doubt been looking forward to and talking animatedly about for weeks, kids united only moments before in music and fun. 
Manchester, my home town, is a music city, at the forefront of musical innovation for decades. When I was growing up there, those who weren’t aspiring musicians themselves lived next door to someone who was. I was exceptionally unmusical, but my brother played lead guitar for a well-loved band called the Whirlwinds which, after time, morphed into 10cc. They practiced in our living room.
And he later says:
All that Manchester was best at, all its versatility and unexpectedness, all its artfully concealed sophistication, found a home in Tony Wilson, who read English at Oxford, taught drama at a school in Oldham, near Manchester, and founded Factory Records and the Hacienda Club. 
If I had to define the soul of modern Manchester, I’d point to Tony Wilson: down to earth and dandified, of the people and rarified, all at once; sharp-tongued, honorable, hedonistic, more interested in art and conversation than celebrity and wealth. It was thanks to Wilson that Manchester became known as “Madchester.”
You can read more about the Whirlwinds on All Music.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Not as strong and stable as she thought"

The prime minister visits Rutland in today's entry. With hilarious consequences.


Despite the blustery weather, I call on one of my neighbouring landowners - the fellow is a died-in-the-wool Tory, but a Decent Sort in his way. I find him in a state of great excitement as the prime minister is also on his estate.

"She has come to Rutland to meet the voters," he explains. "And where is she?" I ask. "She's locked herself in my gardener’s potting shed and refuses to come out." After I have offered the observation that Meadowcroft would never put up with it, we brave the wind to see how she is getting on.

A cluster of journalists surrounds the door - occasionally one jots a question on a piece of paper and slides it under the door - but of ordinary voters there is no sign. "She wanted me to have my domestic staff lined up to listen while she made a speech, but somehow that didn't seem quite cricket to me," my host observes.

Just then a tremendous gust lifts the shed clean off the ground and deposits it several fields away in a duck pond. "Not quite as strong and stable as she thought," I remark, as we watch a muddy figure wade to the shore with a mallard on her head.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

The Financial Times lists Theresa May's nine U-turns

Henry Mance, political correspondent of that well known left-wing publication the Financial Times, has helpfully listed Theresa May's major policy shifts over the past 12 months.

They are:
  • Brexit
  • A British bill of rights
  • Hinkley Point
  • Workers on boards
  • National insurance
  • Early election
  • Energy price caps
  • Social care
  • Foreign worker lists
The sad thing is that where May is in the right, such as on Europe and workers on boards, she lacks the courage to stand up for her views.

A North Korean flag is flying above Ingleby Barwick - and nobody knows why

Our Headline of the Day comes from the Middlesbrough Gazette,

Thanks to a reader for the nomination.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A train passing the Magic Roundabout, Hemel Hempstead

First there was a train crossing the old A41 and the canal on the way from Boxmoor gas works to Heath Park Halt.

Then there was a train crossing the viaduct over Marlowes.

This one shows a train passing the Plough Roundabout, which was known as Moor End Roundabout when I went to primary school nearby and later became famous as the Magic Roundabout.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Freddie and Fiona at the New New European

The old boy's young friends turn up in all the most important places.


To the offices of the New New European. Who should I find working there but my old friends Freddie and Fiona? "We've written an article about Skegness," says one. "You won't have heard of it, but it's a funny little place in something called 'Lincolnshire'." "All the people there voted for Brexit, so we had a good laugh at them." "And now Paul Nuttall has decided to stand there, so we have laughed at them even more."

I ask if they have ever been to Lincolnshire. "Oh no, we’ve never been to the North." "Well, I did go to Hertford once, but I didn't like it. You couldn't get artisan quinoa."

"And do you think," I further ask, "that laughing at the good people of Skegness will make them less likely to vote for the odious Nuttall? Don’t you want them to change their minds and support Europe as they did in 1975?"

"That’s not what the New New European is about. What we are interested in is selling our newspaper in North London."

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Six of the Best 694

"There can’t be many people who realise their dad has Alzheimer’s from listening to the BBC’s Today programme. But six years ago, hearing my brilliant and erudite father, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Goodhart, stumbling and pausing through his interview with John Humphrys, I knew something was very wrong." A moving article and a suitable tribute to his father by Benjie Goodhart.

Amelia Tate asks if 'dark ads' on Facebook will really swing the general election.

The peerless Ian Jack discusses the derided British Rail sandwich and its part in the privatisation of our trains.

Nicholas Barber on 'universe-shrinking': "What happens is that the characters in a science-fiction or thriller franchise are initially sent off on adventures in the wider world. James Bond goes after Goldfinger, Doctor Who defends the Earth against the Daleks, and so on. But after a while that world grows smaller and smaller until there is nothing in it which isn’t connected to the protagonists."

"He thinks you were before your time. Personally, I don’t think we’re ever going to reach the time that you’re in." Andy Murray introduces to Anthony Newley, an important but largely forgotten figure in post-war culture, and in particular his 1960 television series The Strange World of Gurney Slade.

"As any football manager will tell you, 'A win is a win'. Or even, as Gertrude Stein liked to say during her brief spell in the hot seat at Turf Moor 'A win is a win is a win'." Backwatersman follows the progress of the 2017 cricket season.

Squeeze: Pulling Mussels (from the shell)

They do it down on Camber Sands,
They do it at Waikiki
A live version of the Squeeze single that got to no. 44 in the charts in 1980.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A hard border

A second day at Bonkers Hall, and his lordship considers the significance of Brexit for his native county,


Rutland, of course, will remain in the European Union. Every day ships laden with pork pies and stilton set sail from Oakham Quay to cross Rutland Water and then the North Sea. They return with wines, exotic spices and all the things that make life jolly. Why would anyone want to throw that away?

This afternoon I join a party of military engineers to inspect out border with Leicestershire. Some have spoken of a 'hard border' after Brexit. Surveying its  tank traps, minefields and the Rutland Military Canal, we conclude that it would be difficult to make it any harder.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Friday, May 19, 2017

Eddie McCreadie returns to Stamford Bridge

Eddie McCreadie was the left back in the glamorous Chelsea team that won the FA Cup in 1970 and the European Cup Winners Cup the following year.

Move on to the 1976/7 season and things had gone sour. The club was heavily in debt, could not afford to sign any new players and been relegated.

But Chelsea got back into the top division at the first attempt. The team consisted of a few survivors of the glory years (Peter Bonetti, Ron Harris, Charlie Cooke) and a host of youngsters. It was captained by an 18-year-old Ray Wilkins and managed by Eddie McCreadie.

Something went wrong - legend has it that Chelsea refused to buy him a car - and McCreadie left as manager. He has lived in America for the past 40 years and never been back.

Until now.

Yesterday's Daily Mirror reported:
Chelsea legend Eddie McCreadie is making an emotional return to Stamford Bridge this weekend for the first time in 40 years. 
The Blues hero landed at Heathrow this morning on a flight back from the United States.
And today's Sun says:
Chelsea legend Eddie McCreadie has been back to Stamford Bridge – for the first time in 40 years ... 
McCreadie, 77, still lives in the States in Tennessee keeping one eye on his old club. 
McCreadie told TalkSPORT: “I watch all the games in the United States. 
“I’m absolutely thrilled with the success they’ve had. I’ve come back here and the stadium, the facilities, it’s a remarkable change.” 
McCreadie was back at the Bridge on Friday to check out his old stomping ground and will appear at a special night on Saturday to mark the launch of a new book.
On Saturday McCreadie will be at the launch of a book about him and his era at Chelsea. You can here all about it on the Chelsea Fancast.

The Sun also suggests he will be at Stamford Bridge on Sunday when Chelsea are presented with the Premiership trophy.

Leicester West's Tory Spartans turn into snowflakes

Remember Jack Hickey, chair of Leicester Conservatives?

He was the one who told the Leicester Mercury:
"West is the target. It's where we think we can do well. 
"We are huge underdogs. We are outnumbered, we are outmatched but we are like the 300 Spartans. 
"We are fewer but we are better."
Well, things have moved on. First, because Hickey also told the Mercury that he would not seek to be a candidate himself and then emerged as the Tory candidate in Leicester West.

And second because the Spartans of Leicester Conservatives have turned out to be more like snowflakes.

Here is today's Leicester Mercury:
The Tories have accused a national pro-EU pressure group of trying to 'skew the vote' in the battle for Leicester West. 
Conservative candidate Jack Hickey has raised concerns about Open Britain's aim to get anti-Brexit supporters to travel to the constituency in the run up to the election on June 8 to support Labour's Liz Kendall who is defending a majority of just over 7,000. 
Open Britain itself says it is not trying to skew the vote but simply campaigning against what it describes as a 'a hard, destructive Brexit'
That's right: a candidate for the party that brought you the Battlebus2015 operation is now whingeing because activists are travelling to his constituency to campaign for another candidate.

This far from Spartan reaction confirms what I am hearing about the Conservatives campaign's failure to make progress in Leicester West.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: At the top of my hawking tower

With the latest issue of Liberator on its way to subscribers, it is time to spend another week with Lord Bonkers. We arrive on his estate to find preparations for polling day in full swing.


I am writing this at the top of the hawking tower at Bonkers Hall; I have set up my HQ here for the local elections. The view commands a sweep of country from the shores of Rutland Water to the Uppingham road. Armed with a pair of field glasses or a sharp-eyed orphan, I will get an early warning if any other party has the cheek to put up in the Bonkers Hall ward.

With the Bonkers Patent Shuttleworth Press installed in the room below, and a spiral staircase giving easy access to the kitchens, I decided to run the local general election campaign from here too.

Looking out, I see my tenants queuing to collect today’s Focus leaflet. I am gratified that they even come out in the rain, though my tried and tested slogan 'Remember your rents fall due on Lady Day' probably has something to do with that.

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Six of the Best 693

"Our new manifesto offers some serious proposals to address some fundamental causes of racial unfairness in society. This shows that Lib Dems are keen to walk the walk on equality." Lester Holloway looks at the party manifesto's proposals for making Britain a more racially equal society.

A Discursive of Tunbridge Wells podcast discusses involuntary treatment in the mental health system.

Katharine Schwab on the rediscovery of Britain's miles of lost cycleways.

Claire Cock-Starkey wins Name of the Day and examines the 18th-century fashion for hiring ornamental hermits. (They live on at Bonkers Hall, of course.)

Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks was released 50 years ago, The BBC Radio 4 series Soul Music celebrates the anniversary by listening to the poignant, thoughtful and life-changing memories of those who love it.

"The West Ferry Printing Works has always been quite mysterious, when it was open, you seldom saw anyone go in or come out. The dark mirrored glass made it difficult to see inside. It seemed just the place where a Bond villain would hang out." Isle of Dogs Life on the short life of Rupert Murdoch's printing works.

Harborough Mail wins Headline of the Day

The judges, rather than laughing, preferred to treat this as a sad story about the decline of the local press.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Approaching Heath Park Halt over the Marlowes viaduct

Another 1958 glimpse of Heath Park Halt, which was the southern terminus for passengeers of the Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead line.

This time we see a train arriving at the halt from the north. It crosses the viaduct that carried the line across Marlowes, which was just then taking shape as the main shopping street of Hemel Hempstead new town.

Now watch Boxmoor gas works to Heath Park Halt,

The future of Britain: it's in your hands

A vote for the Liberal Democrats on June 8 is a vote to put the future of Britain in your hands.

Boris Johnson moos 'like a cow' and devours cakes on bakery visit

The Daily Telegraph wins Headline of the Day.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Vince Cable on the chances that a new political party will be formed

Interviewed by Ned Simon for Huffington Post, Vince Cable has been discussing the possibility that a new political party will be formed after the general election:
Vince Cable has said the creation of a new political party in the UK depends on how the Liberal Democrats perform at the general election. ...
Cable said “politics after the election may be more interesting than before it” if Jeremy Corbyn refuses to quit and the Labour party “fragments”. ... 
Cable, 74, said it was “possible” a new party could emerge from the ashes of a left-wing collapse at the hands of the Tories as the structure of politics was now extremely “unpredictable”. 
“It depends what happens to us. I’m not predicting that. I think we will do much better. But how much better I can’t say,” he said
The dilemma for Liberal Democrats who are attracted by the idea is that, in order to be successful, a new party would have to win over a large body of Labour MPs, who would then proceed to dominate it.

Indeed, if we don't do well on 8 June then a new party may happen without our participation being seen as that important.

Elsewhere in the interview Vince suggests that Brexit is no longer the main concern of voters as they are focus more on bread-and-butter issues like health and education.

And he is pretty damning about Theresa May's predecessor:
Cable said David Cameron’s decision to hold an EU referendum was “one of the biggest political miscalculations in our history” which has had “devastating consequences”. 
“It was almost as bad as losing America in the 18th Century. He had to go. Of course he had to go,” he said of Cameron’s decision to resign.

Six of the Best 692

Nick Barlow says those hoping for a British Macron have failed to grasp the fundamental differences between French and British politics.

The further away the problem, the easier it feels to resolve the ethics." Matthew Spencer discusses what the environment and development communities can learn from each other when it comes to achieving political impact,

Isabelle Fraser, daughter of the documentary maker Nick Fraser, on his stroke and accepting a special Bafta on his behalf.

David Butterfield offers 10 commandments for the public house. He is right about most things and "the handled glass and its quaint dimples" is an abomination.

"It was a surprise to find, when visiting Marion Park in Charlton where much of the film’s famous park sequences were shot, that Antonioni and his sound recordist, Robin Gregory, had merely emphasised something that was already there." Adam Scovell in the importance of sound in Blow-Up.

In the Middle Ages there was a superstition that the king of England must not enter Lincoln. Caitlin Green examines its origins. She mentions that Leicester had the same superstition. As Richard III discovered, it was well founded.

Oswestry town centre street sealed off because of burning toast

Our Headline of the Day Award returns to its natural home: the Shropshire Star.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Boxmoor gas works to Heath Park Halt, 1958

A valuable scrap of footage.

Boxmoor gas works stood close to Hemel Hempstead station on the Euston main line. But passenger trains from Harpenden never made it that far, terminating at Heath Park Halt.

This video, shot from the footplate, shows the line crossing the old A41 and then the Grand Union Canal before arriving at Heath Park Halt.

The whole line was closed when Hemel Hempstead new town was built, which in retrospect seems an odd decision. It could have linked the town's main line station with its main shopping centre and industrial estates.

Lib Dems stand down in favour of the Greens in Skipton and Ripon

A pact too far?

In return for the Green Party not fielding a candidate in Harrogate and Knaresborough, the Liberal Democrats have agreed not to fight Skipton and Ripon.

As the Craven Herald says:
What makes this deal more remarkable is that the Lib/Dems have been second to the Tories in every general election from 1992 to 2010. And for two general elections prior to 1992 the Liberals were runners up.
Going back a little further, the Liberal Party won the old Ripon constituency in a 1973 by-election and came within a few hundred votes of winning Skipton at the October 1974 general election.

Are we, in an overoptimistic attempt to regain Harrogate, ceding traditional Liberal territory to the Greens? What will the long-term consequences of these local pacts be?

A reminder of why everyone always receives a great reception on the doorstep

There was a rare outbreak of honesty from a general election candidate today as Julian Huppert, who hopes to regain Cambridge for the Liberal Democrats, sent this tweet.

Generally, of course, every candidate reports that they have received "a great reception on the doorstep". So much so that you see people making fun of such tweets whenever they appear.

Why do they do it?

One reason, as I blogged a couple of years ago, is this:
Let me to take you back to a Guardian account of the Hartlepool by-election of 2004 and what happened to the Liberal Democrat candidate Jody Dunn: 
On August 27, Dunn had written in her blog about a dispiriting evening out canvassing with Simon Hughes. "It didn't just rain last night, it poured," she wrote. "In fact the evening became one of the more farcical moments of the campaign. We'd picked what appeared at first to be a fairly standard row of houses. As time went on however, we began to realise that everyone we met was either drunk, flanked by an angry dog or undressed." 
We have all had evenings of canvassing like that. But the account goes on: 
The blog had continued with a joke about how Dunn looked like Worzel Gummidge in the rain. Ed Fordham had checked the copy as usual before posting it online. Nothing he read had sounded alarm bells. 
The Labour printing machines turned again, and this time Hartlepool woke up to the news on its doormat that Dunn had accused them all of being "either drunk, flanked by an angry dog, or undressed". 
And given the opportunity, other parties would no doubt behave just as Labour did. 
So it's much safer always to say you have received a great reception on the doorstep than tell the truth.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Emperor Haile Selassie visits Bishop's Castle

I once quoted Michael Coles' Reminiscences of Wistanstow:
In 1936 the Italians invaded Abyssinia and the Emperor Haile Selassie had to flee, He was given refuge by this country and one day whilst I was at Craven Arms railway station he arrived with his entourage to stay at Walcot Hall on the way to Lydbury North, which was a mansion owned by the Stephenson Ink people.
This film shows Haile Selassie at Bishop's Castle. I suspect it was shot on the same visit, if not on the same day that Michael Coles saw him.

Tim Farron on the stump in Cornwall

Laura Silver from BuzzFeed has been following Tim Farron on the campaign trail in Cornwall:
Amplifying doubts about Brexit could be a pivotal strategy for Farron and his party. [Andrew] George, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, wants to tell the Brexit-supporting fishing industry that the likes of Nigel Farage played a “cruel hoax” on them by suggesting there would no longer be quotas on the number of fish that could be caught if Britain left the EU, or that foreign boats could be banished from British waters. 
“It’s the equivalent of putting it on the side of a red campaign bus. It’s as honest as that,” he added. 
Johnny, a fisherman BuzzFeed News met in Padstow who preferred to not give his surname, said he voted Leave but that his perspective could be shifting as he fears the fishing industry had been “sold up the river”.
Elsewhere she finds Tim Farron's low media profile (almost inevitable in a new leader) and the aftermath of coalition as barriers to votes returning to the Liberal Democrats.

We should listen to Tony Blair's interview with Alastair Campbell

There was a sharp tweet from John Lubbock earlier today:

As a description of debate between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, that is accurate.

But I have the discouraging feeling that Tony Blair may be as good as it gets for the centre left. If that feeling is well founded, it means that both parties will have to come to terms with him.

At any rate, the exchange between Blair and Alastair Campbell in the video above is useful in its honesty about the problems of being in politics and being prepared to oppose the interests of big business.

And one of the few advantages of having been blogging for so long is that I can refer you to what I wrote when Blair stood down as prime minister:
Today's media consensus is that the public has undergone a long process of disillusionment with Tony Blair. 
My own experience has been the reverse. When he was first elected it seemed obvious to me that he was an actor more than a statesman - and a terribly bad actor at that. All those speeches with his voice thick with unshed tears - the best known is his reaction to the death of the Princess of Wales, but there were many more - were so palpably insincere that I was convinced that the public would see through him any day. 
Well, it took years to happen, and by the time it did I started to find myself with a grudging respect for his longevity and skill as a political operator. Still, I cannot pretend to be anything other than delighted that he is going.
Maybe I would not have been so delighted if I had foreseen what was to follow him.

Tom Waits: I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love with You

From Tom Waits' debut studio album, Closing Time, which was released in 1973.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Stalking the Obelisk, Boughton

The Obelisk, which was built by Wentworth as a memorial to his friend William Cavendish, the fourth Duke of Devonshire, loomed up in the distance as I walked around Boughton on Saturday. 
One day I will go back and photograph it close up, though I have the feeling that it is one of those buildings that will move around the landscape if you try too hard to pin it down.
That's what I wrote last summer after visiting Boughton and its follies, just to the north of Northampton.

I went back today, taking the Obelisk by surprise by approaching it from rear via Boughton village and a woodland walk.

If I had attacked it from the front - from among the bungalows that lap at its base - it would surely have seen me coming.

As I wrote last summer it was erected by William Wentworth, second Earl of Strafford, as a memorial to his friend William Cavendish, the fourth Duke of Devonshire. Cavendish was educated at Boughton as a boy.