Saturday, June 30, 2018

Ian Jack goes to a county game at Scarborough

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Ian Jack (whom I have praised before as one of my favourite columnists) has been to a county game at Scarborough:
I’ve been to a few cricket matches, and yet I know very little about cricket. What strikes me is the skill that’s required of the people who watch it, who know the instant they have to stop talking to their neighbour and look across the field just in time to see the ball leave the bowler’s hand in the direction of the batsman, and then to stay focused on the result – hits, misses, runs, catches and so on – until this vital little sequence comes to an end and the conversation can be resumed. 
For instance: “You see, after his wife died, they were very helpful. They got him that house … [pause, click of bat on ball, unrewarded cry of “Catch it!”] … somewhere up Shipley way, and he’s been living there with the lady from Wetherspoon’s ever since.”
It's Alan Bennett meets Murray Bennett.

Reader's voice: Who is Murray Bennett?

Liberal England replies: An obscure Australian spinner Les Taylor caught and bowled in 1985 to regain the Ashes.

Persistent reader: Who is Les Taylor?

Liberal England replies tetchily: Really, if you are not prepared to do the reading there's no point in your coming to these seminars.

Anyway, this gives me another chance to recommend the cricket blogging of Backwatersman, who lives across the road from me.

And for a glimpse of outground cricket in the 1950s, watch the video in my post Frank Tyson in his pomp:
It provides a pleasing portrait of country cricket at an outground in that era. Marquees; adults on deckchairs, children sitting cross-legged on the grass.

So farewell then Kettering Conservative Club

In Kettering last Saturday I noticed that the town's Conservative Club was up for sale and likely to be converted into "luxury apartments".

Unfortunately, I suspect this has more to do with the general decline of licensed premises than it has with the decline of the Conservative Party.

If I remember correctly, the shop next door used to sell secondhand goods and always had a good selection of books. I once picked up a Malcolm Saville there.

The Dukes of Buccleuch own Boughton House near Kettering.

The current holder of the title was recently deployed as a scary rich person in an article on Liberal Democrat Voice to show that we should not require mobile phone networks to provide a good level of service across the whole country.

We should require them to do so, just as Mr Gladstone made the railway companies serve the whole of society.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Malcolm Saville at Clun Castle in 1947

This aerial photograph of Clun Castle was taken in 1947, which was the same year taht Malcolm Saville sent his young heroes there in The Secret of Grey Walls - an exciting story of sheep rustling:
Ten minutes later the Lone Piners passed down Clun's main street towards Castle Hill. The twins, side by side, and in step, led the way with Mackie at their heels. Peter walked between the two boys wile Jenny danced around the party until David complained that she was making him giddy. 
They climbed the hill, trying to guess where the drawbridge would have been when the castle was manned, until they were actually in the shadow of the mighty walls of the keep. 
From here they could look down over the roofs of the little town in one direction, over the river which curled around three sides of the hill in another, and, when they turned right round, they saw the rolling hills and woods which were all that now remained ot Clun Forest, and in the far distance, the gaunt line of the Black Mountains and the other tumbled hilltops over the Welsh border.
Note that Peter was a girl (Petronella) and David could be a bit of a square.

GUEST POST An ideological conflict is coming - time for Liberals to seize the initiative

The remains of the Berlin Wall © Shrevas Joshi
Liberals must start setting the terms of political debate, argues Luke Jeffery.

Throughout modern political history there have been ideologies competing to be the dominant world view: in the 1800s and early 1900s Liberalism competed with Conservatism and Socialism, and afterwards Liberalism was faced with challenges from Fascism and Communism.

The first two ideologies were pushed back after the conclusion of the First World War, which suggested a new Liberal world order backed by the League of Nations would come into being. 

However, as we know, this is not what happened. Instead Communism established itself first in Russia and later in China and other countries, and Fascism rose most notably in Germany, Spain and Italy.

The parallels between the period following the fall of the Berlin wall and after the First World War are striking. After both of these periods many thought that Liberal Democracy had triumphed over the opposing ideologies of the day, but as soon as the economy hit hard times people turned back to the extremes. 

After the 1929 crash, in Germany the Nazi Party and Communist Party increased their combined share of the vote to over 50 per cent by 1932 (not that they worked together as they were sworn enemies). 

This process happened a lot faster in the 1920s and 1930s than it is happening today but the emergence of opposing ideologies to the Liberal orthodoxy are beginning to appear in the form of left-wing and right-wing Populism (verging on Authoritarianism).

The response from established centre-left and centre-right parties across Europe has been either to keep following status quo policies or to begin to pander to the populists. This process has been particularly brutal for the centre-left social democratic parties of Europe many of whom were in power during, or seen to be responsible for, the 2008 crisis.

Austerity was not a comfortable fit for the centre-left. Whereas fiscal responsibility was always considered a centre-right trait, hence the relative stability in the vote share of centre-right parties. 

However, the populist right has begun to significantly eat into the vote share of the centre-right making gains across Europe. This can be seen most notably in France (although Front National failed spectacularly in the parliamentary elections) and Germany.

The UK has certainly been different in that new parties have not sprung up to oppose the established parties but that is mainly a function of the first-past-the-post electoral system. Instead Labour and the Conservatives have had internal ideology changes with both adopting some characteristics from the populists. 

This leaves us with the question of what should Liberals do to make sure they are prepared for the showdowns against Populism which are still to come?

The primary issue for Liberals is that they have been too willing to simply react to these changes in public opinion, or simply point to logical or fiscal holes in the populist arguments to try to discredit them. 

While these holes certainly exist in their lines of argument this comes across as being dismissive of the concerns of the people backing these parties, as Michael Gove infamously said, “people in this country have had enough of experts”.

Liberals need to start setting the terms of the debate and articulating a positive, liberal view for the future which moves away from the status quo and actually helps to address the issues which have lead to people backing populists. This includes reducing regional inequality and making sure those who feel left behind by globalisation can start to reap the rewards that the system undoubtedly produces for some.

If Liberals can learn anything from the politics of the last few years is that we can succeed when we make the positive case for liberal values in the face of an extreme threat, like Macron’s victory over Le Pen. 

Otherwise we fall into the errors of the Remain campaign and hark on about the risks of not backing them without making really making the positive, hopeful case for our own values and we will lose. 

An ideological conflict is coming between the various shades of Liberal Democracy and Populism, Liberals need to be prepared for this conflict to prevent a triumph for Populism.

Luke Jeffery is Vice-Chair of Devon and Cornwall Young Liberals and the Youth Development Officer for Tiverton and Honiton Liberal Democrats - follow him on Twitter.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Steve Winwood on the Hammond organ, Hendrix and his daughter

A pleasant recent interview with the great man from a New York radio station.

Winwood's musical background - a father who played jazz and time served in a church choir as a boy - is typical of many figures of the Sixties generation.

Six of the Best 801

Rafael Behr explains why Britain needs fewer Boris-style bullshitters and more backstage legal bores.

Banning plastic straws may be hip, but there are much better ways to fight pollution, says Adam Minter.

"During the 20th century, there were dozens of camps in Britain, which housed tens of thousands of Belgians, Jews, Basques, Poles, Hungarians, Anglo-Egyptians, Ugandan Asians, and Vietnamese." Jordanna Bailkin uncovers the history of British refugee camps.

Zeitgeist Tapes podcast reviews A Very English Scandal.

"Radical Essex sets about showing us a different side to the county, and introducing us to alternative figures from its history." Read the review by Natalie Bradbury.

David Youngblood on Casablanca: "When I think of the film, the first thing that comes to my mind isn’t 'Here’s looking at you, kid,' or 'We’ll always have Paris,' or the song 'As Time Goes By,' or any of the other often best-remembered parts. For me, it’s always 'La Marseillaise' - the duelling anthems between French refugees and their German occupants singing 'Die Wacht am Rhein.' I’ve never found a movie scene yet that can match it."

Theresa May opposed Brexit and a third runway at Heathrow

Theresa May warned during the EU referendum campaign that
if we do vote to leave the European Union, we risk bringing the development of the single market to a halt, we risk a loss of investors and businesses to remaining EU member states driven by discriminatory EU policies, and we risk going backwards when it comes to international trade. But the big question is whether, in the event of Brexit, we would be able to negotiate a new free trade agreement with the EU and on what terms.
She also gave a clear warning of the problems Brexit would lead to at the Irish border.

And. as the video above shows, she also opposed a third runway at Heathrow.

Once you could also read of this opposition on Maidenhead Conservatives' website, but that page has strangely disappeared.

But some kind person has preserved it.
Does Theresa May believe in anything? The causes have both been dropped, just like the promise she made to tackle those burning injustices when she became prime minister.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The threat to council services in Church Stretton - and everywhere else

The Liberal Democrat peer Julie Smith - Baroness Smith of Newnham - visited Church Stretton in Shropshire earlier this month.

I have been sent some photographs from her visit. See if you can spot the common factor.

That's right. This small Shropshire town is faced with the loss of its library, swimming pool and ohter facilities because of spending cuts by the county council.

Meanwhile, Barclays is planning to close the last bank in Church Stretton.

Julie Smith said during her visit:
"Facilities like the pool, the library, the children's centre and the visitor information centre all play an important role in the life and health of the area. Their contribution is very significant to the town’s wellbeing and to its economy, yet they are all under threat from Shropshire Council’s plans. 
It is very much to be hoped that Shropshire Council will  step back from these damaging proposals which, in the scheme of things, will make an insignificant contribution to the council’s financial problems."
And Heather Kidd, chair of the local Lib Dem constituency party, said:
"Our small market towns are being hollowed out. Their vibrancy, their attractiveness to businesses, are imperilled. Yet the large towns, which have many times the population, could finance their own services at very little extra on their council tax. Our small towns simply do not have the tax base to do so. Already, Church Stretton’s band D is £174 , while Shrewsbury’s is only £45."
England’s mainly Conservative-run county councils have warned ministers that the "worst is yet come" over cuts to services and that several authorities risk going bust unless steps are taken to shore up budgets.
To end on a happier note, we can agree with what Julie Smith said after visiting the Shropshire hills:
"This is a stunningly beautiful part of the country."

Woman threatens man with someone else's crutch outside McDonald's in Loughborough - because she thought he had stolen her TV

Our Headline of the Day comes from the Leicester Mercury.

Just another day in Loughborough.

A Kettering ghost sign and the ghosts of lost commerce

The Carey Memorial Baptist Church is surrounded by terraced streets that once housed Kettering's boot-and-shoe workers. Some of the factories where they worked can still be found there.

Once every street corner was home to a shop - the streets must have been buzzing with commerce. What drained that spirit from these streets. Supermarkets? Planning laws?

This former shop still bears some signage from the days when it was open for trade. Was it a family butcher?

Even the street name sign higher on the wall has a spectral companion. The ghost of an earlier prince?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Prince Charles suggested Viv Stanshall as poet laureate

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The heir to the throne as risen in my estimation because of this story in yesterday's Daily Mail:
Prince Charles proposed Vivian Stanshall, the eccentric leader of the Sixties cult pop group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, as a possible Poet Laureate, says the singer's widow. 
Ki Longfellow-Stanshall tells in a new book of memoirs about her husband that "sometime in the early 90's' he received a phone call from 'a representative of the Prince of Wales". 
"The voice said, 'If you were asked, Mr Stanshall, would you accept the post of Poet Laureate?", she said. 
"I watched V's face, when, not missing a beat, he replied in his best and most majestic tone, 'I should be honoured.'"
Well, Prince Charles was a fan of Goon Show.

As Ki Longfellow-Stanshall told the Mail:
"Surreal humour is not the best policy when dealing with politicians and royalty, unless it's Prince Charles, 
"Charles was a fan. He'd added V's name to the list of possibles when the time came to appoint a new poet laureate. 
"No one but Charles took it seriously… It was one of Vivian's proudest moments."
He never got to be Poet Laureate, but Viv Stanshall did write the lyrics of two Steve Winwood songs that have appeared on this blog: Dream Gerrard and Arc of a Diver.

And, young readers, click here to read more about Viv Stanshall.

Forgotten Stations: Manchester Mayfield

Mayfield station still stands beside Manchester Piccadilly.

The latest plans involve it being incorporated into a new urban park.

Monday, June 25, 2018

When and why did "like" replace "you know" among footballers?

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Back in the 1970s there was a league table for the most times "you know" was said during a short Match of the Day interview.

I can't remember who topped it, but I remember that the count ran into dozens.

If there were a similar table today it would be the number of times "like" was said that would be counted.

We all do it to some extent, as an Indpendent article by Olivia Blair explains:
Professor Michael Handford, a professor of applied linguistics and English language at Cardiff University, says there are two main reasons people use these filler words. Often these are known as “discourse markers” (‘you know’, ‘so’) or “filled pauses”( ‘um’, ‘er’). 
“The functions they fill are often interactional and cognitive,” he told The Independent. “The interactional function is to do with politeness. If you invite somebody to a party and they say no without any of those markers they will appeal rude probably. If you say ‘um, well, you know, sorry’ it makes it much more polite. They play a really important politeness function.” 
The cognitive use of the words is when the person is trying to process information that might be more complex. 
“This is important for the speaker and the listener as well,” Professor Handford says. “If you did speak how people write people wouldn’t be able to understand you as we can’t process that much information."
This being England, there is a class angle: "er" - at least as in "Could you pass the, er, butter?" - is a middle-class usage.

But what I really want to know is when and why did "like" replace "you know" among English footballers?

New Tory treasurer was involved in legal battle over missing Rolf Harris painting

Our Headline of the Day Award goes to a first-time recipient, The Red Roar.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Who does seizing fake football kits protect?

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More than £240,000 of counterfeit football kits have been seized by our Trading Standards officers ahead of the World Cup.
So begins a press release on the Leicestershire County Council website.

The release goes on to quote Labour peer Lord Toby Harris, who turns out to be the chair of National Trading Standards:
“People across the country are excited about the World Cup and fans should be able to expect that the World Cup merchandise they are buying is genuine. Legitimate businesses should also be able to operate without being undermined by criminal businesses flogging fakes. 
“I want to thank the team at East Midlands Airport for their work to ensure these items were prevented from entering the UK and to thank Leicestershire County Council for their partnership working, which is helping to protect consumers and legitimate businesses across the country.”
I wonder if the public, and parents in particular, will feel the same way.

The football industry has been pretty ruthless at exploiting fans' devotion. Clubs announce a new  strip every year, with home shirts subtly altered and away shirts changed out of all recognition.

When I was young life was much simpler. You were bought a plain royal blue shirt, your mum sewed a number seven on the back and you were Charlie Cooke.

Today's youngsters are more sophisticated and might howl if they saw a stitch out of place on their new shirt.

But I do suspect it is football clubs' interests that are being protected here and not consumers'.

In which case, I can think of better uses of council revenue than pursuing the sellers of fake football strips.

Six of the Best 800

"Months before the United States narrowly elected Trump, the United Kingdom narrowly elected to withdraw from the European Union. Both votes advanced Russian foreign policy goals — in the latter case, by splitting up the Western alliance. (Trump has energetically pursued this strategy, too.) Russia employed many of the same tools to influence both elections." Jonathan Chait joins the dots.

Ray Lakeman’s sons died after taking ecstasy. In an interview with Decca Aitkenhead he says that had the drugs been legal and regulated, it might have saved them

Paul Butler reviews a book on the renewal of urban life in the United States: "The United States is nearly the safest that it has been in 50 years. You would not realise this if you watch local news programs — which still lead with sensational violent offences conducted by young black men — or believe President Trump, who has made the false claim that the murder rate is the highest it has been in 47 years."

The adolescent egalitarianism of Ayn Rand enjoys an undeserved popularity. Skye C. Cleary argues that ignoring her won't do anything to challenge this.

"He treated me not as a freak, but as a person dealing with great difficulties." An Open Culture article looks at the friendship between Helen Keller and Mark Twain.

James Gent celebrates the 45th birthday of David Bowie's album Aladdin Sane by looking at the other artists who influenced it.

A.A. Bondy: Mightiest of Guns

This track comes from When the Devil's Loose, the second album by A.A. Bondy. He was previously lead singer with the band Verbena.

David Raposa says of Mightiest of Guns:
If any tune on this album deserves to be called "Dylanesque" (possibly the most unbearably portentous modifier/honorarium thrown in Bondy's direction), it's this one, with its plainspoken torrent of elusive yet evocative images - "And the shadows go like ghosts across your rope/Or take the world and burn it in a spoon." 
Each verse offers its own portrait of quotidian drama enlivened by Bondy's wracked croon and tasteful strokes of arcing guitar.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Sunday School's out forever in Kettering

Deep in the backstreets of Kettering, the Carey Memorial Baptist Church looks prosperous.

Its old Sunday School next door is another matter.

Why Tim Farron is more efficient than the privatised railways

The Financial Times has been to the Lake District and covered Tim Farron's success in restoring a service to the line from Oxenholme to Kendal and Windermere when Northern Rail could not run one.

Tim told the paper's reporter:
"It was a real window into the fragmentation of the railways. How could we do in a weekend what Northern and the Department for Transport could not? If you have got the will to make things happen you can make it happen.”
I wouldn't underestimate Tim's will, but his first point is the most important one. The management of the railways is now impossibly complicated.

When John Major first decided to privatise the railways (something Margaret Thatcher had always shied away from) his instinct was to recreate the Big Four companies of his boyhood.

But the money men and ideologues got to him and we ended up with the railways being run as much like the air travel industry as possible. Not only was the track owned by a different company from the ones that ran the trains: those trains were owned by other companies and leased to the people who ran them.

With so many joins, the system leaked money all over the place. So government had to step in, with the result that the system is now more centrally controlled than it ever was under British Rail. New trains are now chosen by civil servants, not railway people.

I often hear British Rail condemned by people who are too young to remember it, but it was much better at adapting to meet consumer demand than the railways are today.

There were long holiday trains every day in summer from Nottingham and Derby to Skegness. There was also a Saturday train from Leicester to the West Country on Saturdays in the holiday season.

I once caught it as far as Exeter. got the bus to Bude and had found a room for the night by three in the afternoon.

The renationalisation of the railways could attract me, but I am certain that, whoever owns them, the tracks and trains that run on them should be owned by the same company.

GUEST POST Drinking with Daniel Farson

James Tarry remembers a figure from the glory days of Soho.

A 1996 documentary on Jeremy Thorpe recently posted on Liberal England featured a blast from my past- a short interview with Dan Farson. He was captioned "Friend of Thorpe,” but most viewers would have had no idea who this man was.

There’s quite a bit on the internet about Dan, so no point me regurgitating stuff that’s already in the public domain. This is a bit about my experiences in the late 1980s and early 1990s of being with him in the Soho pub The French.

The initial experience was of a colossally drunken man being incoherent in the bar. Most evenings. I wondered why he was so tolerated- most people who were that pissed were asked to leave.

The first inkling I had that he had any fame and repute was reading a Mail on Sunday and finding he was the art critic. The French had a fair few journos amongst the regulars, and I guessed he was an old mate of the co-owner, Noel Botham, hence why he could be that off-putting and still get served the next day.

As time went on, I learned more about the history of the man who could drink 10 gins in pretty quick succession - his life, his friends - how much he actually achieved and how much more, perhaps, he could have done.

We got to talking when he could talk, which was generally only at lunchtime. One spring day he’d just come up from Devon and spoke quite poetically about the journey up, the trees in blossom, the landscapes, the joy of the English spring.

By the time I left after lunch he was already pretty far gone. Lifting his G&T he said: “My father was an alcoholic- he hated it. I’m an alcoholic but I love it.”

Sometimes he gave me items to look after for fear of losing them, and I still have a few of them that I never got to give him back. A notebook filled with notes for a review of an exhibition, a copy of the screenplay of Love is The Devil, a photo of him and Francis Bacon.

I’ve got the edition of his autobiography Never a Normal Man he signed “To James the Hat from Dan the Rat, signed affectionately in the French House.”

I’ve still got a photo-etching done by Alyson Hunter of me and Dan Farson, titled ‘One o’clock at the French House, 1998.

Sometimes I had to walk him the 200 or so yards from the pub to the hotel he used on Shaftsbury Avenue as he was beyond even that. He never spoke about Jeremy Thorpe in my presence other than to say they were friends.

How much he knew about the conspiracy we’ll never know, although he mentions it in the autobiography and included in the selection of his photos the one he took of Jeremy under his first wife’s memorial, which is now in the National Portrait Gallery.

A couple of other vignettes spring to mind about those times. My best friend at the time, Darrell, looked almost identical to Tupac Shakur. He was a volatile chap, and I was worried about taking him to the French but did anyway, hoping he wouldn’t start a row.

Remarkably, he was disconcerted by the whole experience of walking in to be confronted by Dan, uncontrollably drunk, with the journalist Sandy Fawkes next to him at the ‘deep end’ of the bar. Dan - always after a bit of rough (he ignored wannabe intellectuals and poetasters like me) -made some sort of advance.

“Why is that man barking like a dog?” asked Darrell. Turning round, “Why has that woman got a cat on her head?”

Stepping away from this strange scene he spilled the half of Guinness held by an Irish regular (whose name escapes me - I’m not sure I ever knew it).

The Irishman said ‘you’re a fecking slob, you are. £where you from? Catford?” Darrell asked to leave to go somewhere “normal”.

The other one was going to the French after a day at the cricket with a friend at the Oval. This chap, who I won’t name as he’s still alive, was a Bajan bodybuilder whose physique belied the fact he was actually very intelligent.

Wearing just a string vest and cut-off shorts, he was a magnet for Farson, who approached (again unintelligibly smashed) in a manner my friend quite understood.

Putting his arm around an attractive girl at the bar to demonstrate his allegiances, it all escalated when she couldn’t believe her luck and tried to snog him. (It seems no-one was ever sober in those days.)

This led to one of the two funny things I ever heard Noel Botham say in the 20 or so years I went in there: “Put him down, lady. This is the French House, not the French Quarter.”

The other was when it was suggested a very drunk chap who wasn’t a regular could be sobered up with coffee. Noel said: “Give a drunk coffee and all you get is a wide-awake drunk.”

I guess I’ve strayed way away from the original brief, but these were entertaining times and certainly liberal ones in many ways, though a surprising number of those characters were Tories/ Noel was particularly reactionary.

More information about Dan’s life and times can be found in his books, including Unimpeachable Sauces: The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, and the Indie’s obituary was pretty accurate by my reckoning.
James Tarry is a financial adviser in Northampton. Follow him on Twitter.

Friday, June 22, 2018

More light on the Class 27 at Knighton Junction, Leicester

I look for it every morning and evening as I commute to Leicester and it's still there. The Class 27 at Knighton Junction.

This morning I got talking to someone who knows more about it than I do

Apparently it arrived at its current home on a low loader. And because it has not been passed to run on public railways, there it will sit until another low loader comes back to take it away.

Which makes it an ever odder place to keep a heritage locomotive.

Daniel Craig and Philip Blond star in Trivial Fact of the Day

Rather improbably, it turns out that the current James Bond and the erstwhile guru of Red Toryism are stepbrothers.

Reader's voice: You mean, "My name's Blond, Philip Blond"?


Thanks are due to @jamesinlimbo (protected account) on Twitter for putting me on to this.

The facts are confirmed by a Daily Mail article from 2009:
Mr Craig’s parents split up when he was four; Mr Blond’s parents’ marriage ended when he was a teenager. His father married Mr Craig’s mother 15 years ago.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

There is more to Braybrooke than pylons

That said, I think the Children of the Hum would appreciate the strange creature on the church tower.

The mysterious Darren Grimes

Who is this paying tribute to Charles Kennedy in a BBC Newsbeat interview from June 2015?
"He would have been great in the upcoming EU referendum - he won't be known just for [his problems]. He was so much more than that." 
Why would he have been so good in the EU referendum? 
"He was always pushing for the party to be an internationalist voice. 
"He believed that in an increasingly globalised world, having Britain in Europe was the only way forward. 
"And I think that's the message the party needs pushing. And he was one of the first people to get out there and voice that."
An unremarkable, loyal Liberal Democrat view you might think.

In fact it belongs to Darren Grimes, who was to leave the party a year later and join the Conservatives because he was a "classical liberal".

He went on to head an organisation called BeLeave during the EU referendum. It was supposedly wholly independent of Vote Leave, but its funding and campaigning are now under scrutiny.

It was a remarkable transition, but we may have an intermediate form of Darren Grimes in a Lib Dem Voice article written a month after his Newsbeat interview.

There he appointed himself to speak for an entire generation and backed Norman Lamb for leader.

Which reminds us that Mark Gettleson and Christopher Wylie from Vote Leave both worked alongside Grimes on Norman's 2015 leadership campaign.

It's all very mysterious.

Write a guest post for Liberal England

I welcome guest posts on Liberal England.

As you can see from this list of the 10 most recent ones, I am happy to consider a wide range of subjects.

If you would like to write a guest post yourself, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Six of the Best 799

"Are they hiding something, or is it simply that they are so confused and divided by the outcome of the referendum that they daren’t doubt its legality?" Paul Tyler asks why Labour is silent on the possibility that Russia interfered with the 2016 EU referendum.

Judges in Canada are sentencing youth offenders to chess with promising results, report Monique Sedgwick, Jeffrey MacCormack and Lance Grigg. Chess joke: After 37 consecutive Berlins they break down in tears and promise to go straight.

Talking of Chess, Sarah Hurst looks at the Kremlin's plans to maintain control of world chess.

Ian Visits on the revival of London's pedways.

"The character of Dido was the embodiment of many of that small girl’s dreams, as, when Joan grew up to be a writer she was able to give her all the wonderful adventures she had imagined for herself, and encourage others to be bold and follow their dreams as well." Her daughter Lizza Aiken celebrates Joan Aiken's heroine Dido Twite.

Paul Steele takes us on a walk through some of this blog's sacred places, including White Grit and the Stiperstones Inn.

Harborough Conservative councillor joins the Liberal Democrats

Photo of Broughton Astley from Geograph © Kevin Flynn

Mark Graves, who represents the Astley ward in Broughton Astley on Harborough District Council, has switched to the Liberal Democrats.

Formerly a Conservative, he has joined the Liberal Democrats and joined the Lib Dem group on the council.

Phil Knowles, who leads that group, tells me he is delighted to welcome Mark to the Liberal Democrats:
"He is committed to working hard for the community and brings with him many talents that will complement the Lib Dem group on Harborough District Council perfectly."
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceNote that I have avoided using the word "defected," which usually appears in such stories. We are talking about local government here, not the Cold War.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Weirdstone (for Alan Garner)

A short film by Adam Scovell:
With the film, I wanted to try and surmise two things that seem inherent to Garner’s work.  The first is the special relationship Garner has with the landscape of his native Cheshire, of Alderley Edge and the surrounding rural locations.  Tying into this was the second aspect, of how this landscape allows the questioning of the role of time, its effect on space and the philosophy behind it

Christopher Chope is the school bully

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Let's give Sir Christopher Chope a hearing:
"The objection was to do with the bill not being given enough time to be heard and debated properly. 
"There are concerns surrounding the details of this bill and these need to be debated properly. 
"If the government want this bill then there is nothing to stop them giving more time to it and I would welcome that. The objection is not to the bill in principle. 
"Any concerns that we do have could be addressed if we are given more time. 
"I’ve got broad shoulders so I can cope with the criticism, but I do feel I have been made a scapegoat in this."
No, he's not talking about his decision to block Wera Hobhouse's bill to criminalise upskirting.

This is Chope talking to his local paper the Daily Echo in 2010 after he had blocked a bill that would have protected Third World countries from "vulture fund" operators.

It's a reminder of just how long he has devoted his Friday afternoons to frustrating the efforts of other backbench MPs to make the world a better place.

He was doing it with the late Eric Forth long before Philip Davies came along.

Why does Chope do it?

Some defend him because he does not believe in these private members' bills at all. But he has moved his own in the past. And since when has a single backbencher got to decide how the house operates?

There are those in the Commons who would abolish the monarchy. Should they oppose all new legislation because they don't believe it should have to receive royal assent?

No, there is something of the school bully about Chope. He takes a delight in coming across shiny-eyed new MPs who are ardent to change the world and showing them that the Commons is no place for such ambitions.

He's like a prep school tough who raids the junior dorm on the look out for teddy bears and photographs from home that he can taunt younger boys with ever afterwards.

Yes, private member's bills can be unnecessary, badly drafted or play to the gallery. But at heart Chope is just the school bully.

Which is why I am not surprised to see he is given to whining about being a "scapegoat" when his activities are exposed.

As prep school headmasters used to be given to observing, bullies are always cowards.

Ireland's libraries to open seven days a week till 10pm: In Northamptonshire 21 are being closed

Add mismanagement by its ruling Conservative group to the huge cuts made to local council funding by the Coalition and Conservative governments, and you have a crisis at Northamptonshire County Council.

One result of this is that the council is proposing to close 21 public libraries across the county.

Meanwhile in Ireland:
The public will be able to use most libraries seven days a week from between 8am and 10pm under new plans to double the number of visitors over the next five years. 
Nearly 200 of the State’s 330 public libraries will open for longer, while the public will be able to take and return books when the libraries are unmanned using scanners. 
The extended hours will give members more opportunities to study, use wifi, hold meetings and, in some cases, use libraries’ free "hot-desking" facilities to work remotely from offices.
It is hard to resist the conclusion that Britain is becoming a more backward country and that Brexit will make this process worse.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Tim Farron makes the trains run on time

Good news from the Guardian:
A vintage train operator that normally runs journeys for enthusiasts has stepped in to provide rail services to the Lake District after the operator Northern cancelled all of its trains following a timetabling fiasco. 
West Coast Railways, which runs charter trains along some of the UK’s most scenic routes, formally launched its first service on the Lakes line on Monday, two weeks after Northern suspended all journeys and introduced a replacement bus service.
A 40-year-old diesel engine and carriages will carry passengers free of charge along the 10-mile route from Oxenholme to Windermere six times a day, from 9.25am to 7pm. It is understood that the Department for Transport will meet the £5,500 daily cost of running the service.
And there's more:
Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, worked with a local passenger group to arrange for West Coast Railways to run services on the line. “We’re nine hours into the service and we’ve been on time throughout the day,” he said. 
“It’s a victory for the can-do over the can’t-do. We’ve shamed the Department for Transport and Northern rail by making something happen. We are doing them reputational damage every time we run a train and they don’t.” 
He added: “Let’s be honest, Northern rail run trains that are a bit less old, but a lot less nice. Northern rail run Pacers, which are a bit less elderly but without the charm.”
Well done to Tim and the local campaigners. If privatisation had allowed more such local initiatives I would find it easier to support it.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Camber Castle from above in 1931: Malcolm Saville there in 1945

When they came up to the gap in the walls which once had been a gateway they saw that nothing but the central tower remained inside, Sheep were nibbling on the very ground where Henry VIII's garrison may have sat down to eat, ivy climbed the walls from which armoured sentinels had watched the Channel, and from the crumbling mortar of the keep lusty wallflowers were swaying in the wind. 
They stood for a moment in the big, grassy space. The sun beat down upon them, and they were sheltered, too, from the breeze which was rustling the leaves above them. The only sound was the monotonous baaing of the sheep and the ceaseless song of the larks overhead. 
Malcolm Saville, The Gay Dolphin Adventure, 1945

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A stable lad and an unstable lad

Our week at Bonkers Hall ends with the old boy's unique insight into the events behind A Very English Scandal.

For myself, I am pleased that no one else seems to have used this "a stable lad and an unstable lad" line about Norman Scott.


This moving moving-television drama about Jeremy Thorpe has awakened some distressing memories, not least of the fate of poor Rinka whom I always found a Good Girl. I did my best to warn Norman Scott, who was a stable lad and an unstable lad, against taking up with Thorpe, but he was not to be told.

What a dismal crew we were in those days! I turned down both Cyril Smith’s and Clement Freud’s applications to become trustees of the Bonkers’ Home for Well-Behaved Orphans, and subsequent revelations have only confirmed my wisdom in so doing.

Equally, if MPs arranged to have a constituent bumped off every time the casework he, or indeed she, generated became a nuisance, representative democracy would soon grind to a halt. No, with certain notable exceptions that I am too modest to mention, the Liberal Party of the 1970s was not a thing of which one could be proud.

At least the screening of the drama has led to my being asked to give lectures on the period over the summer. I shall be alternating “The Peter Bessell nobody knows” and “Ten fascinating facts about Emlyn Hooson” to audiences in a number of our leading seaside resorts. As seems only proper, I shall be arriving at each by hovercraft.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Labour Live? The old Liberal Party got there first

All that coverage of Labour Live yesterday awakened a distant memory. Hadn't there been a Liberal Party fun day at Knebworth round about 1980?

When I tweeted that question I received three replies confirming it had taken place, including this one from someone who had been at the event:

Someone else suggested the Liberal Party had held more than one fun day at Knebworth.

A bit of googling produced the confirming snippet from Campaigning Face to Face by Wynn Hugh-Jones above. (It's a good book. I'm in the index.)

What I most remember from this episode is a fragment of song that used to be talked of in Liberator and Liberal Revue circles.

Set to the tune of Joni Mitchell's Woodstock, it began:
By the time we got to Knebworth
We were half a carload strong.
I think that may have been where it ended too.

Lonnie Donegan: World Cup Willie

I have seen something you will never see: England win the World Cup.

While I have vague memories of World Cup Willie, the 1966 tournament's mascot, I have no memory of this song. You can hear why.

In those more innocent days before the England team has its own official supermarket, the song was not even a hit.

Lonnie Donegan, a figure from the era before the Beatles and the British Invasion, must have seemed an odd choice to sing it even at the time.

Note that in those days the England fans had no problem in wrapping themselves in the Union Jack.

The fashion for the flag of St George dates only from 1996, when both England and Scotland qualified for the European Championship, which England hosted.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Stop Backing Brexit banner unfurled at Labour Live

Congratulations to the young activists who displayed this banner at Labour Live today.

It reminds me of the day a friend and I carried an "Abolish Hunting" banner around the Fernie Hunt Pony Club gymkhana, though I suspect that was rather more dangerous.

Photo stolen from Guido Fawkes' chief reporter Ross Kempsell.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: And the bonus ball will be 22

Today's entry will do nothing to quieten the gossip in the Bonkers' Arms. There have already been allegations that Lotd B. gets racing tips from the Wise Woman of Wing, and this looks like the work of the Elves of Rockingham Forest to me. They are never short of a bob or two.


In view of my comments on Monday, I feel it only fair that I should let you know when I am writing this. It is the afternoon of 19 May and I am about to settle down to watch the F.A. Cup final. I rather fancy Chelsea to win with the only goal of the game, perhaps scored by young Hazard from the penalty spot. 

If anyone were to ask me to forecast this evening’s winning Lotto numbers, I should say 1, 3, 34, 36, 48 and 52. And the bonus ball will be 22.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Braybrooke and the Children of the Hum

The wires are to reach as far north as Market Harborough, as I blogged the other day, because National Grid power lines cross the Midland main line at Braybrooke.

Today I went to look for that spot. Some 35 years ago a footpath crossed the railway there. Today you use a footbridge.

Because I did not take a map with me this afternoon (it was rather a spur-of-the-moment visit) I did not find that bridge.

At least I got so far out of the village looking for it that I decided to walk back to Harborough.

Exploring the village I found a lane I had not encountered before and was very aware of the power lines that cross it.

So here are some photographs inspired by Hookland and the Children of the Hum.