Thursday, December 27, 2018

Liberal England in 2018: Part 1


The year began with a Headline of the Day about a fare-dodger getting his penis stuck in the barriers at Covent Garden Tube station, Things could only get better after that.

They did. I discovered that a forgotten Liberal MP who had died the previous summer, James Davidson, had enjoyed a remarkable life.

The Liberal England was quoted without acknowledgement on the Today Programme by a Prominent Political Journalist, who pointed out how little interest most people take in politics. I did not mind, but I was miffed when he unfollowed me on Twitter after I blogged about it.

So I took myself off to Whittlesey and its Straw Bear Festival:
I saw the straw bear dance and caper, led by his keeper and followed by musicians playing his own loping tune. 
And it turned out that Whittlesey, like Play School, has a big bear and a little bear. 
Beyond that the day is a festival of dancing. There were the inevitable morris dancers, but also clog dancers (almost military in their noise and precision) and mysterious molly dancers.
You can see the Straw Bear dance and hear that loping tune in another post.

I asked if the nest Liberal Democrat leadership contest would be between two women and mourned the death of the Argent, Kinks and Zombies bassist Jim Rodford.

We were, I am sure, all proud to learn that Lib Dem peers swear the most on Twitter.

In other news, I blamed Enid Blyton for Brexit, a naked man was arrested in Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough, and I recalled that Alexei Sayle had once likened Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to a comedy double act whose members were "locked into working night and day with somebody they now hate".


The month began with Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council announcing emergency spending controls and then being attacked by the county's Tory MPs. And all the Tory members of Desborough Town Council resigned.

Alice Hawkins, the Leicester suffragette, was honoured with a statue in the city and Jo Swinson got the better of John Humphrys on the Today programme.

I went to the open day at Foxton Locks, which had been drained for maintenance and took the chance to
walk in areas that are usually under deep water. You can ... see the paddles that are raised to let water into the locks from the side pounds used at Foxton. ...
I also learnt that rather being cut into the hillside, the locks were largely built on the surface and then had earth heaped up against them. 
It is notable that the brick floor of the chambers probably dates from 1814 when they were opened and that the piece of metalwork at the bottom of one of them is the work of an early 19th-century blacksmith
One of the pleasures of 2018 for me was the television channel Talking Picture TV (Channel 81 on Freeview). In February I wrote about the film Violent Playground, which starred a young David McCallum:
among McCallum's gang you will find Melvyn Hayes and a boy called Fred Fowell. After a spell in a minor Merseybeat band he emerged in the 1970s as the comedian Freddie Starr.
Meanwhile, Tory Wandsworth wanted to fine children for climbing trees, flying kites and playing cricket in its parks.

I photographed the Saxon cross shaft in Rothley churchyard and revealed that Ben Bradley, the Tory vice-chairman who libelled Jeremy Corbyn, was not some working-class hero: he attended an expensive private school.


We should not play along with his act by calling him "the Member for the 18th century" or anything like that. It is just how he wants to be seen.
I was right about Jacob Rees-Mogg, but no one seemed to take much notice.

Ian Jack wrote a good article about the causes of Brexit and I paid tribute to Do Not Adjust Your Set, the ITV children's programme from the 1960s.

4 Cowley Street, where I used to drop in when it was the Lib Dems' HQ and I wrote for the party newspaper, is now a £36m mansion.

Ken Dodd died and I told the story of the quadruple murderer who appeared on Bullseye,

I grumbled that the concept of "the Lib Dem family" means that we do not debate our differences properly, even at party leadership elections and asked, not for the last time, if Remain had changed enough to win a second referendum.

The Saxon church at Earls Barton provided another photographic opportunity.

I defended the idea that teenagers should have Saturday jobs, which all right-thinking people had taken against purely because Esther McVey had supported it.

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