Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Six of the Best 903

"Take the train that derailed at Hatfield on 17 October 2000, a tragedy in which four people died. That led to huge media interest, massive upheaval on the railways, and, ultimately, as the renationalisation of Railtrack, whose failings had caused the crash. Yet more than twice as many people will have died on the roads that day. Nothing was written about those deaths." Chris Sharp asks why the government has accepted that it’s OK to kill or be killed on our roads.

Patrick Kidd experiences Christmas.in prison and meets the Revd Jonathan Aitken's in his new career as a chaplain.

"The reason some people got their collective knickers in a twist about Stormzy, and the BBC’s A Christmas Carol and Worzel Gummidge is because they are either ignorant or prejudiced, or both." Drew Gray on race and Christmas TV.

"Perhaps, for you, it was way back on the first day of the Premier League season that the doubts set in, when Raheem Sterling’s armpit was deemed offside in Manchester City’s game against West Ham." Rory Smith dissects the VAR system.

Bob Fischer celebrates the reissue of Usborne's book on ghosts.

Nicholas Whyte reminds us that the mother of Captain von Trapp's children was English. (Lord Bonkers adds: If she had lived they would have gone to boarding school and not been cavortin' round the Alps dressed in old curtains.)

Neil Ascherson remembers Jonathan Miller

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In the current London Review of Books Neal Ascherson remembers his friend Jonathan Miller:
I first met Jonathan’s knees. This was because Cambridge sofas in the 1950s had broken springs. Once they had buoyed up culture heroes like Rupert Brooke, John Cornford or Guy Burgess. Now, as we trudged across the great Gromboolian plain of the 1950s, they had given up the struggle. 
Modish undergraduates perched on the arms. Jonathan, new to the place, tried to sit down and slid backwards into the depths. All I could see was these twin gatepost knees towering up. And then, peering over them, I saw the head of red curls and two urgent eyes searching – as they always did – for information.

Liberal England in 2019: Part 4


There were calls for the reopening of the Market Harborough to Northampton railway line and I shared my photos of the last train on it from 1981.

I photographed a striking shop window display in Nottingham.

We laughed at Ann Widdecombe in the 1990s, but her cartoon image pointed the way for future Conservative politicians:
Since then we have had Boris Johnson as a minor P.G. Wodehouse character, Jacob Rees-Mogg as Lord Snooty's grandfather and Geoffrey Cox as the famous actor you can't remember seeing in anything. 
These personae are a calculated armour designed to disguise their wearers' politics and shield them from conventional criticism.
I don't want to worry you about the hard left, but they grew up regarding concerns about race, gender or sexuality as a distraction from the class struggle and learnt nothing from Michael Foot's defeat in 1983.

Public schools used to pride themselves on the character of their former pupils. Today it is their greatest weakness.

Did you know that Susan Cooper's Over Sea, Under Stone was dramatised by the BBC in 1969? With some help from David Wood, I rediscovered this production.


I celebrated Auberon Waugh - not something your average Liberal Democrat blogger would do - and Beeston Weir on the River Trent.

Kenneth Clarke had his say on David Cameron:
"He had the style and presentational skills, but he could never answer the question - what does he believe in? What is he doing it for? The real answer was he was doing it because it was fun and he had risen effortlessly to the top."
Wandering around Leicester I came across the lock and weir at Freeman's Meadow and a tram shelter that never saw a tram.

Albert and Squeaky, the (separteley) abandoned puppy and kitten who are fiends gave us some solace in dark times.

And a bus ride took me to South Kilworth and a ravishing derelict house.


The Methodist church at Higham Ferrers was fun and I mourned the death of Bob Willis.

Tickencote church was protected and Ironbridge power station was demolished.

A radio programme hailed John Arlott as "One of the great English radical Liberals of the 20th century" and I discovered an article by Peter Sloman on the Liberalism on the left behind:
If the party’s sociological heartland is middle-class and cosmopolitan, its geographical heartland lies in the windswept constituencies of the Celtic fringe. It was here that Nonconformist farmers and shopkeepers stuck with the party through the 1940s and 50s, and that the party found it easiest to turn votes into seats during the 1970s and 80s. 
The Lib Dem showing led to a spate of great guests posts, including one from Leicestershire's own Michael Mullaney:
Seats where campaigners and candidates had worked for years, winning councils were ignored in favour of seats where we often had no or very few councillors.
The year ended with everyone attacking Iain Duncan Smith, but I said George Osborne was the real villain.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Goodbye to Neil Innes

Another hero of mine who has always been there is gone. Neil Innes died at his home in France yesterday.

As the New York Times says:
Mr. Innes, a multi-instrumentalist, was a particular type of songwriter: one who excelled at satirical songs and parodies of other people’s music but who could also write a pretty good straight song. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference. 
In the early 1960s he was one of the first members of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, also known as simply the Bonzo Dog Band. He wrote its biggest hit, “I’m the Urban Spaceman,” which climbed into the Top 10 on the British charts in 1968. 
In the 1970s he wrote material for Monty Python, the six-member comedy troupe. Midway through that decade he and Eric Idle, a Python, came up with the Rutles, a deadpan parody of the Beatles; the group not only recorded albums but made films, including the mock documentary “The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash” in 1978.
His "I've suffered for my music and now it's your turn" here has entered the language.

Responsible Child and moves to raise the age of criminal responsibility

If the test of a good drama is that you find yourself thinking about it days later then Responsible Child passes that test.

It is quite the saddest play I can remember seeing - like a version of Oliver Twist with no Mr Brownlow.

And I really think that Billy Barratt's depiction of Ray is the best performance by a child actor I have ever seen.

In an interview the director of Responsible Child, Nick Holt, said he wants to highlight Britain's low age of criminal responsibility and start a discussion: :
I think it’s interesting that very few people know that the criminal age is 10. I think that even fewer know that this is from a piece of law since 1963. If you or I had a mental age of a 10-year-old, we’d be deemed unfit to try. It’s an extraordinary, extraordinary hangover from a very old piece of law.
Twenty-five years ago everyone knew the age of criminal responsibility was 10 because of the murder of James Bulger and demanded that it should remain so.

In any new debate the images from that trial may prove stronger than those of poor, wronged Ray, but there are signs of movement on the issue.

A report in The Times (£) last Friday said a paper from the Youth Justice Board is calling for a review of the age of criminal responsibility in the hope that it will be raised from 10 to at least 12.

It also wants responsibility for children who get into trouble with the police to be passed from the Ministry of Justice to the Department for Education.

The same issue of the paper carried a letter (£) from two consultant psychiatrists, a professor of psychology of cognitive neuroscience, and the crossbench peer the Earl of Listowel.

It says of a child of 10 charged in an adult court:
his extreme youth, continued brain and cognitive development and likely adverse childhood experiences mean that he is unlikely to be truly fit to plead to the charges and to conduct his own defence in line with his human right to a fair trial. 
It goes on to say that such a child defendant may show the 'blanked out' traumatised presentation depicted in Responsible Child.

The writers of the letter ground their case for change in neuroscience and how the brain development of a 10- or 12-year-old differs from that of an adult.

Will England and Wales be able to have a civilised debate and raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 12?

I hope so, though what happens to young offenders under any new regime will need to be scrutinised.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Liberal England in 2019: Part 3


Exploring the University of Northampton's new Waterside campus, I came across a restored railway engine shed.

I found another tin tabernacle in Leicester. You can imagine how excited I was.

No, the Victorians did not photograph corpses as part of family groups.

I was there when England beat Pakistan at Headingley in the 1979 cricket world cup.

You know who are to blame for the rise of Boris Johnson? Have I Got News for You and Ian Hislop, that's who.

Bryan Magee, who popularised Karl Popper's thought in Britain, died:
When I wrote the entry on Popper in Duncan Brack and Ed Randall's Dictionary of Liberal Thought, I had no idea that Magee had been evacuated from Hoxton to Market Harborough during the war and  lived literally round the corner from where I lived as a teenager.


Ian Hislop's tribute to Christopher Booker revealed the problem with Private Eye's view of the world - or so I argued.

As Whaley Bridge cowered beneath a dam that threatened to collapse, I remember meeting the former Lancashire captain Jack Bond there:
Ray Illingworth, who was born in the same year as Bond, had just come out of retirement to captain Yorkshire at the age of 50. 
I asked Bond if he had plans to do the same thing with Lancasthire. 
"No, he replied. "I've got more sense."
I mourned the disappearance of the bookshops on Nottingham's Mansfield Road.

The row over Leicestershire's Bradgate Park rumbled on.

Plans for anti-sex toilets in a Welsh seaside town turned out to have been submitted in error - or so the council claimed.


Someone suggested that the song that was number one on your 14th birthday defines your life. In my case the top three UK singles that day were all about death.

There is no reason for the Liberal Democrats to hurry to allow a general election. 
And there is a very good reason why we should put if off for a good while: Boris Johnson is desperate for it to take place soon.
John Major gave the eulogy at Paddy Ashdown's memorial service.

There was a battle to keep McDonald's out of Rutland.

I visited 78 Derngate in Northampton - the only house Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed in England.

Visiting the Nottinghamshire village of Farnsfield, I photographed the grave of a deeply obscure writer called Vaughan Wilkins.

The commuter cats who became fur-mous

Over on BBC News you will find an article under this title on cats that frequent public transport.

Scroll down and you will find they have used (with permission and a credit) a cropped version of the photo above, which I took on Oakham station 10 years ago.

The House Of Love: Shine On

This was the first single from The House of Love.

It failed to trouble the top 100 on its release in 1987, yet somehow became well known and still sounds good today.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Blame George Osborne for Universal Credit not Iain Duncan Smith

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My Twitter feed is exploding with outrage at Iain Duncan Smith's knighthood. Why should the architect of the hated Universal Credit be honoured?

But that outrage has been turned on the wrong target.

Universal Credit, which takes six benefits to which working-age people may be eligible and merges them into one payment, has long been advocated by welfare experts.

The problem lies not with the system but on the government's unwillingness to provide enough funds to make it work humanely.

Remember that IDS resigned from the cabinet over this issue in 2016.

Here is part of his resignation letter:
Throughout these years, because of the perilous public finances we inherited from the last Labour administration, difficult cuts have been necessary. I have found some of these cuts easier to justify than others but aware of the economic situation and determined to be a team player I have accepted their necessity. 
You are aware that I believe the cuts would have been even fairer to younger families and people of working age if we had been willing to reduce some of the benefits given to better-off pensioners but I have attempted to work within the constraints that you and the chancellor set. 
I have for some time and rather reluctantly come to believe that the latest changes to benefits to the disabled and the context in which they've been made are a compromise too far. While they are defensible in narrow terms, given the continuing deficit, they are not defensible in the way they were placed within a Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers. They should have instead been part of a wider process to engage others in finding the best way to better focus resources on those most in need. 
I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest. 
Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working age benefit bill. There has been too much emphasis on money saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government's vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced. 
It is therefore with enormous regret that I have decided to resign. 
It is George Osborne who should be the target of Twitter's outrage tonight.

Liberal England in 2019: Part 2


"I am a Liberal. I want to be able to get on a train at St Pancras and take a pork pie anywhere I damn well please." I had a go at those elitist Remoaners you here about.

And I got all philosophical on my readers' assess: "Things are transient: we are more permanent."

I found the site of Stamford's medicinal spring beside the Welland.

Donald Trump was invited to pay a state visit to Britain and I pointed out that we used to know how to deal with such unsavoury visitors. Read how the people of London dealt with General von Haynau.

The Independent Group or Change UK or... was already in trouble:
The overwhelming impression the Tiggers give is one of amateurism. Everything had been done in a hurry and nothing has been done very well. 
But then I suppose if you are parachuted into a safe seat, as so many Tigger MPs were, you are likely to acquire an exaggerated sense of your own skill as a politician.
The Edwardian Liberal John Hobson was in the news as commentators rushed to condemn Jeremy Corbyn for contributing a foreword to a reprint of his book Imperialism because of its antisemitism. But there is more to Hobson than that.


I continued my exploration of the place of bombsites in post-war British cinema by looking at The Heart Within - an early treatment of race featuring a teenage David Hemmings.

Three more efforts by my own person Thirties poet W.T. Nettlefold came to light.

The residents of Bishop's Castle turned to civil disobedience to protect their bus service.

I worked out that our continued poor performance in Eurovision is not down to Brexit but to Simon Cowell:
Back in the day, the international stars who did Eurovision for the UK had their own shows on Saturday evening television. 
Today those slots are filled by reality shows, so it is their competitors and winners who are known to the British public and who get chosen for the contest. 
As they are unknown across the rest of Europe and often not great singers, it is little surprise that they do so badly.
Richard Beckinsale is remembered with a mural in his home town of Beeston.


I posted a video from the New Economics Foundation that explains why house prices are so high. Clue: It's not the fault of the planning laws.

Did you know Boy George's uncle was the Catholic priest in Market Harborough. I got it from a taxi driver who got it from two nuns.

William Simons, the first actor I ever saw on stage, died.

I visited an exhibition on the Mod scene in Leicester and Nottingham.

The Park is a Victorian housing estate close to the centre of Nottingham:
It feels like the sort of place Soviet spies would be sent to live after capture to wait until an exchange to be arranged. Their lives would be pleasant, but if they tried to escape they would be shot. 
It feels like Patrick McGoohan’s Village transferred to central Nottingham.
My post went on to prove it is actually in the hands of a foreign power.

The Lib Dems have not been tribalist enough, I argued in contrarian fashion. And I still think I was right.

Then it was back to my memories with a post on the Brecon and Radnor by-election of 1985 - and Nigel Tufnell.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Monastery of St Antony and St Cuthbert in the Stiperstones 3

Time for a third video from the Monastery of St Antony and St Cuthbert in the Stiperstones, what with it being Christmas and all - though not in the Orthodox calendar.

Liberal England in 2019: Part 1


I began the year blogging about a 1993 council by-election on the Isle of Dogs. I said it was an Awful Warning to the mainstream parties about what can happen when they talk up the chances of the far right.

Mike Brearley's new book offered some entertaining consecutive entries in its index: Barrington, Ken and Bartók, Béla; Hogg, Quintin and Hogg, Rodney; Wittgenstein, Ludwig and Woakes, Chris.
"One cannot expect the London proletarians to allow themselves to be blown up in honour of Fenian emissaries."
So Karl Marx once said. I took it as a criticism of Jeremy Corbyn's position on such matters.

I took Charles I back to the well at Tur Langton that he last visited when fleeing Naseby in 1645.

Karl Popper, particularly his Paradox of Toleration, was suddenly popular with the left.

The Liberal Democrats kept calling no Corbyn to show some backbone on Brexit. But I argued that he had always been in favour of it and that it was Labour MPs who needed stiffening.


I posted a couple of photos of the remains of Stourpaine and Durweston Halt on the Somerset & Dorset that I took in 1982. The sign has since been moved to a local park.

Lady Bay Bridge is a little way downstream of Trent Bridge cricket ground. In 1982, I discovered, it served as the bridge over which Karla entered West Berlin in the BBC adaptation of John le Carré's Smiley's People.

I reviewed Jonathan Coe's Middle England for Liberator.

The launch of The Independent Group - later to become Change UK and several other things - struck me as being more sad than hopeful:
Rather than the launch of a new movement, I see seven individuals who have succumbed to the hard left's perennial tactic of making life so unpleasant for those who oppose them that they eventually walk away from the fight.


Now firmly in my anecdotage, I blogged about the Birmingham Northfield by-election of October 1982.

Buying a new cooker in South Wigston, I came across a striking old shop.

In Liberator I reviewed the BBC series A Very English Scandal:
So while Whishaw was wholly convincing as Scott the fashion model in Sixties Dublin and touching in the scenes that showed the failure of his marriage, we never heard the tones in the real Scott’s voice that told us he had spent time among the horse-riding classes and desperately wanted to pass as one of them.
I formally proposed Calder's Sixth Law of Politics:
All Liberal Democrat leadership elections are reruns of Steel vs Pardoe.
and Scott Walker died.

I found myself becoming intrigued by the treatment of children and bombsites in British films.

On a similar note, it turned out that the authorities planning the restoration of the Palace of Westminster do not have to worry about finding the bodies of climbing boys in its chimneys.

Six of the Best 902

"Modern medicine is increasingly called upon to address a spiritual, perhaps even economic and political, malaise." Sophie McBain looks at how loneliness became an epidemic.

Too many of our town centres have become hollowed-out, windswept deserts, argues Nicholas Boys Smith, but if we make them fit for people they will return

Lenore Skenazy on the worst and best Let Grow parenting moments of 2019: "Hard-boiled lawyers made sure no kids could participate in the University of California-Berkeley's campus Easter egg hunt without parents first signing a waiver acknowledging the potential risk of 'catastrophic injuries including paralysis and death'."

Johannes E. Riutta reviews books about the British government's extraordinary war on badgers.

"This is the best Christmas single of the 1970s, and that’s an objective fact," says Alwyn Turner of Wombling Merry Christmas as he concludes his month-by-month survey of the charts in 1974. Read how the Wombles brand was damaged that winter by a plethora of inferior stage shows.

Richard Williams pays tribute to Martin Peters.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Steam at Derby in the summer of 1958

From the blurb on YouTube:
Here we see three very different types, starting with something of a surprise - an ex-GCR LNER class A15 Pacific tank (no. 69816 of Lincoln shed) passing through with a pair of six-wheeled vans and three non-corridor coaches. 
It's followed - to the great excitement of the Locospotters at the lineside - by BR class 7 "Britannia" class Pacific no. 70021 "Morning Star" on an express and, finally, a true "Derby" machine in the form of LMS 2P class 4-4-0 no 40416 shunting a solitary coach.

Prominent lawyer Jolyon Maugham clubs fox to death while wearing kimono

It's not very Christmassy, but the Guardian supplies our Headline of the Day.

On a happier note...

A year of decision: Lord Bonkers in 2019

It is customary, or so he assures me, for Lord Bonkers to spend those lazy days between Christmas and the new year looking back on his adventures over the past year.

So here goes...

A reader alerted me to this Double Diamond television commercial from the 1960s, which was shot in the library of the National Liberal Club.

He suggested, surely correctly, that Lord Bonkers had arranged the filming to alleviate one of the club's regular financial crises.


His lordship paid tribute to Paddy Ashdown:
The obituaries will tell you how Sir Paddy Ashplant fused the community politics promoted by the Association of Liberal Councillors with his expertise in jungle warfare to win a string of by-elections and raise the Liberal Democrats from the ruins of Steel’s grand strategy. 
What they will not tell you is how my domestic staff loved his visits (Cook would frequently announced that he made her “come over all unnecessary”); how he stood his round in the Bonkers’ Arms and entertained the locals with his favourite joke; how he allowed the Well-Behaved Orphans to question him for hours about his time in the Special Boat Service (they were always particularly interested in the escape techniques he had been taught lest he be captured by the enemy).
He also met Nick Clegg:
He turns out to be full of his new job, telling me how Satan’s chief operating officer Mephistopheles called him while he was walking in the Alps last summer and invited him to fly to Hell to meet Satan himself. "I said to them, if you're prepared to let me into the inner circle, in the black box, and give me real authority, then I'm interested." 
Clegg describes Satan to me as "a shy guy" and "thoughtful", before adding: "The thing that persuaded me to do it is Satan and  Mephistopheles asking the right questions for the right reasons."


The old boy, who is far more trenchant than I would ever be, was not taken with our new recruit Chuka Umunna:
I curled up with a pamphlet he has just published. It soon transpired that he is one of these hearty public school types who want to send the nation’s youth off to camp. Sleeping under canvass; washing up in a bucket of cold water; doing PT with your shirt off… You know the type. 
By the time I had finished reading, it I was clear that the man is worse than that. He wants to haul in the country every teenager off to the Jack Straw Memorial Reform School, Dungeness. Why in Gladstone’s name are our people delivering for him?


What is the reason for Lord Bonkers' longevity?

He always talks about his annual bathe the spring of eternal life that bursts from the hillside above the former HQ of the Association of Liberal Councillors and the cordial sold (at a steep price) by the Elves of Rockingham Forest.

But a reader suggested another explanation.


Milkshaking was the talk of the summer. As so often, Lord Bonkers was there first:
A journalist rings to ask what I think of this modern tactic of pouring milkshakes over far-right politicians. I reply that the milkshake is an American import we could well do without and that if one is going to dispose of it then tipping it over a passing Fascist seems as good a way as any. 
Warming to my theme, I recall that I was once obliged to sit next to Oswald Mosley at dinner. Things were distinctly frosty between us from the get-go and when he made a disobliging remark about Herbert Samuel I tipped my knickerbocker glory over his head.


Lord Bonkers played a prominent part in our victory in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election:
What a splendid night! It was touch and go at the start of the count, but when the boxes from Ystradgynlais were opened it became clear we had triumphed. We toasted our victory in the finest Welsh champagne and sang our Liberal anthems: ‘The Land’, ‘Woad’ and ‘Cwm Off It’. 
One pleasure of this contest has been rediscovering the delightful countryside of Mid Wales. More than once by memory has been jogged by places I saw in the last campaign I fought here – I went through Three Cocks in the 1985 by-election.
He also contributed his customary foreword to the Liberator Songbook:
Welcome to all our new members! I hope you enjoy your first Glee Club and, a word of reassurance, please don’t worry: It’s Meant To Be Like This. 
I have already met many of you when you attended one of my basic training camps on the shores of Rutland Water. The party has signed up so many new recruits recently that I had to send out for extra tents. 
After a week of training in committee room theory and practice, Focus delivery and guerrilla warfare – all conducted under the beady eye of Sergeant Major Carmichael – new members need fear nothing they will encounter as a Liberal Democrat activist.


Defections to the Liberal Democrats were all the rage, so the old monster did his best to encourage them:
When Jo ‘Gloria’ Swanson tipped me the wink that we would be parading newly converted Conservative MPs to the Liberal Democrat Conference, I naturally decided to join the fun. I hired a van from Oakham’s leading Chinese laundry and bade a brace of gamekeepers join me; we motored up to Town and lay in wait outside the Carlton Club. 
In the middle of the afternoon a red-faced character sporting an Eton tie stumbled down the steps. I thumbed through Jane’s Conservative MPs and identified him as fair quarry. The gamekeepers moved in, and when he proved resistant to their orders a tap on the napper with an orchard doughty rendered him more pliable. He was bundled into the van and buckled inside the large wicker hamper with which it had come equipped.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

From Pleasley Colliery to Bolsover

Two days ago we went on a walk from Sutton-in-Ashfield to Pleasley Colliery.

Today, with the same guides, we carry on from Pleasley to Bolsover.

Lindsay Hoyle calls for John Bercow to be given peerage

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There is something very shabby about Boris Johnson's act. His refusal to follow precedent and grant John Bercow the customary peerage given to retiring Speakers is just one more example.

So I am pleased to see that Bercow's successor Lindsay Hoyle has called for the precedent top be followed.

The Evening Standard quotes Hoyle as saying:
"My view is every speaker has been offered a peerage, so custom and practice says that's what's always happened. 
"It doesn't have to be taken but, personally, I think if that has always happened then we should continue with that. 
"I think it should be offered to him. He has served the House, he served for 10 years, he did some great things. And that's what makes the difference."
Good on Sir Lindsay. I was afraid that he would be one of those speakers who comes over as a character but is in reality a bit of a pussy cat towards the government. But maybe there is more to him than that.

For he has played down reports that he will ensure Big Ben will ring the UK out of the European Union on 31 January:
"What I'm willing to do is allow the House to make that decision. 
"But the story suddenly was, 'Lindsay Hoyle was going to bong Big Ben himself', by the sounds of it."

Steeleye Span: Gaudete

I was in Sainsbury's this time last year when Gaudete came on. I groaned.

Then I realised:
  1. I really like it;
  2. It was then 45 years since it had been in the charts;
  3. A lot of the people around me weren't even born then so it will be a novelty to some readers.
Wikipedia explains that Gaudete dates from the 16th century and is doubly rare in being a UK hit single (it reached no. 14 at Christmas 1973, trailing behind Slade and Wizzard) that was a capella and sung in Latin.

Responsible Child and moral philosophy

Lord Bonkers' Well-Behaved Orphans were originally a bit of a joke against myself.

Because of an unhappy period in my own childhood, I used to be overfond of Oliver Twist and other tales of wronged children.

I have largely cured myself of that taste, but still watched Responsible Child this week.

There is no doubt where the play's sympathies lay, but as Jasper Rees said in the Telegraph:
there was no one making the case for trying children in adult courts. Perhaps that’s because there isn’t a good one to make.
Another Telegraph article, this one behind its paywall, reveals:
Lord Navnit Dholakia, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, has campaigned for a Private Members’ Bill that would see 11 and 12-year-olds tried in a new court “specially designated for young people” to help them understand what is going on. 
“Psychologists and others have found that [children below 12] are not capable of understanding the seriousness of what they’ve done, it passes beyond them,” he says. “I’m very keen that there is a rehabilitative process.”
The play was inspired in part by the case of 14-year-old Jerome Ellis, who was sentenced to six years in detention for his part in the killing of his stepfather.

The writers do not seem to have strayed far from the facts of that case. A report this week in the Sun said the boy's teachers:
gave witness statements which revealed Jerome was often hungry and that he was a young carer for his mother and his siblings.
By making Raphael - or Ray - only 12 in Responsible Child they tipped the scales a little, but that change may have been made because they found such an extraordinary actor of that age - Billy Barratt - to cast.

You could also mention that, like Oliver Twist himself, Ray sometimes appeared to be from a higher social class than those around him.

One thing that interested me is that the play raised an issue in moral philosophy that has always troubled me.

Altruism is sometimes presented as the greatest good, but to me it is not necessarily a good thing. In the play, Ray took part in the killing of his stepfather out of love and concern for his older brother.

It turns out that one can do wrong out of love for others just as much as one can do wrong out of self-love.

I usually attribute that insight to Joseph Butler, though I have no idea where he said it.

Finally, a Trivial Fact of the Day. As has been widely reported, Billy Barratt is the grandson of Shakin' Stevens.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Six of the Best 901

You know Britain's problems? Chris Cook argues that they are all David Cameron's fault.

Stian Westlake says the Conservatives' new concern for declining towns has not been thought through: "The problem is not the politics: it’s the economics. Many of the political pundits seeking to Make Towns Great Again have got themselves into a terrible confusion both about the economic problem they’re trying to solve, and about what policies will work to fix it."

"Italy has closed down its psychiatric hospitals, unlocked the doors of secure units, stopped restraining patients and recently became the world’s first nation to end use of forensic psychiatric hospitals." Ian Birrell looks at an alternative approach to mental illness.

Nicholas Whyte celebrates the fourth and final series of Blake's 7.

"Other than his striking leonine hair, the other defining characteristic possessed by Miles was an inveterate disregard for authority, which he displayed on and off the board." Paul Lam remembers Tony Miles, Britain's first chess grandmaster, who died in 2001 aged only 46.

Tim Worthingon loves Blur's Modern Life is Rubbish.

Friday, December 20, 2019

From Sutton-in-Ashfield to Pleasley Colliery

A drop of East Midlands disused railway goodness.

We are taken on a walk along the track bed of the disused line from Sutton-in-Ashfield to Pleasley Colliery.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

A walk from St.Paul's through Islington to Highgate

John Rogers takes us from St. Paul's tube station to a haunted pub at Highgate.

Six of the Best 900

"This is a time to proclaim centre-left values, and to try to unite the anti-Tory vote in key seats for a Liberal Democrat surge in 2024." Will Barter says the Liberal Democrats should forget about equidistance.

Paul Pettinger argues that concentrating on trying to win soft Conservative votes will always lead the Liberal Democrats to failure.

Dan Jackson explains why the Labour voters of North East England are different: "What made the unions of the Great Northern Coalfield so distinctive was how cautious and non-confrontational they were – in sharp contrast to other areas, notably South Wales and Yorkshire."

"South Africa’s extraordinary scrum-half, the bottle-blonde Faf de Klerk - out of Miss Piggy by former teen idol David van Day - may be only 5ft 6ins but he weighs 14 stone and isn’t scared to kick the sand back in the bigger boys’ faces." Team spirit leaves Jonathan Meades cold.

Adam Scovell visits W.G. Sebald's grave.

"Diana Dors simply excels as the horrific Mrs Wickens, in just one of many demonstrations of how Swindon’s first sex symbol embraced unflattering character roles once she shed her blonde bombshell status." James Gent introduces The Amazing Mr Blunden, which Talking Pictures TV is showing at Christmas.

GUEST POST Unionism is making the Scottish Lib Dems irrelevant

Mark Stephens says it is time for the Scottish Liberal Democrats to abandon 'me too' unionism and engage with Scotland’s constitutional future

The Liberal Democrats once played a prominent role in Scottish politics. The party played a full role in the Constitutional Convention which 'acknowledge[d] the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs' and paved the way to the Scottish Parliament. The party was in coalition with Labour for the first eight years of the new parliament up to 2007, with Jim Wallace serving as Deputy and periodically Acting First Minister.

Twenty years on from the restoration of the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Liberal Democrats are - bluntly - irrelevant.

The party played an undistinctive role in the Better Together campaign during the 2014 independence referendum. Then was the time to articulate the case for a federal UK, but this 'core objective' was set aside for some ad hoc proposals dressed up as 'principles' that the party fed into the post-referendum Smith Commission. (The commission was set up in the aftermath of the independence referendum to deliver the UK party leaders' 'vow'.)

Contrary to the expectations of the UK parties, the defeat of independence in 2014 did not mark a return to politics as usual. Instead, it established independence as the principal fault line in Scottish politics.

This has played to the advantage of the SNP (obviously), which has now replaced the Labour Party as the principal centre-left party in Westminster as well as Holyrood elections, and Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party as the most authentic voice of unionism.

In 2016 Brexit opened up a second constitutional fault line. In response, Nicola Sturgeon unambiguously positioned the SNP as the main anti-Brexit party north of the border. Given that one-third of the Yes vote in 2014 voted for Brexit in 2016, Sturgeon’s leadership may be contrasted with Corbyn's ambivalence. Consequently, there has been some churn in the pro-independence support bringing it into closer alignment with pro-EU sentiment.

The Liberal Democrats (like Labour) have failed to adapt to this new landscape. The party has effectively become a 'me too' unionist party. This may make sense as a strategy to unite the unionist vote in the handful of seats in which it is competitive, but it is catastrophically limiting as a national strategy.

What is the point of the party everywhere else in the country if the Tories (or Labour in the case of Edinburgh South) are best placed to stop the SNP? A perusal of the results across Scotland provides the voters' clear answer.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats managed to get themselves into a complete fankle over these two constitutional issues during the 2019 election. The SNP supported a second EU referendum, and indeed played a leading role in Westminster opposing Brexit and challenging in the courts the government’s attempt to prorogue parliament.

It also argued that since Scotland voted very clearly (by 62 per cent) to remain, being taken out of the EU constituted the material change required in its 2016 Holyrood manifesto to justify a second independence referendum.

To be clear the manifesto stated 'the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum ... if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.' With Green Party support, a referendum bill is progressing through the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats argued for a second referendum on the EU, but vehemently opposed a second independence referendum. This inconsistency appeared hypocritical - for the good reason that it was. But Willie Rennie went even further - ruling out another referendum in his lifetime regardless of the outcome of future Scottish Parliament elections.

The Lib Dem response to the dual victory of Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in England and Wales, and the SNP's landslide in Scotland has not been encouraging. Jo Swinson has blamed a "wave of nationalism" north and south of the border, as if Brexit and support for Scottish independence are both sides of the same xenophobic coin.

This bares little scrutiny. Brexit is backward looking, focused on withdrawing from an international organisation, hostile to immigration, led by the political right, and supported by the elderly. Scottish independence is forward looking, founded on a 'civic' view of nation, led by the political centre-left, and supported by the young. The franchise for the independence election included EU citizens, and the SNP wishes to extend it further to everyone legally entitled to live in Scotland.

In marked contrast to the UK's government’s 'hostile environment' to immigrants, Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister has issued a number of open letters to EU citizens living in Scotland, one this week stating:
Scotland values you for the contribution you make to our society, our culture and our economy. Whether you have lived here for months or many years, Scotland is your home, you are welcome here and we want you to stay." 
Characterising expressions of such openly liberal values as xenophobic nationalism is clearly pretty daft, especially when voters in parts of Scotland have shifted allegiances backwards and forwards between the SNP and LibDems in seats such as Ross, Skye and Lochaber, East Dunbartonshire and Fife North East. It seems unlikely that the values of the switchers markedly change.

Perhaps they share the view of former Scottish Lib Dem chief executive Andy Myles, who questioned the "magic spell that says sovereignty must stay with the State Imperial Crown at Westminster, and that it might be better to bring it back closer to the people."

Post-election, it is clear that constitutional questions will continue to dominate Scottish politics. Already some Labour figures are dropping their outright opposition to future referendums, finding the prospect of Brexit and a majority Johnson government to be unpalatable. David Steel has mooted a 'British Isles confederation, replacing the House of Lords with a Senate elected by its component institutions.'

The Scottish Lib Dems could be part of this process, but only if they abandon their outright opposition to a future independence referendum, and enthusiastically enters the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future. This is key to restoring their position in Scottish politics.

Of course the Scottish Lib Dems can carry on with their 'me too' unionist strategy. They can continue to parrot the increasingly tired trope that the independence referendum was only 'once in a generation' even though the party signed up to the post-referendum Smith Commission, which stated that “nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.”

They can maintain that Nicola Sturgeon has no mandate for a referendum despite its manifesto pledge on precisely this point and commanding a majority on this issue in the Scottish Parliament.

The Lib Dems could even claim that the SNP winning 80 per cent of the seats in Scotland in last week’s election, with leaflet after leaflet demanding that Scotland’s future be put in Scotland’s hands represents no mandate, because they 'only' got 45 per cent of the vote.

This would look ridiculous coming from a party that had intended to revoke Article 50 without a referendum on the basis of a majority of seats, not votes.

But if Willie Rennie and his colleagues choose to continue to go down this path, they might reflect on what happened the last time Liberals chose to add the word 'Unionist' to their party’s name.

Mark Stephens worked for Alan Beith at Westminster.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Old stamp machines, Repton

Repton still has its post office and you will find these on the wall outside.

GUEST POST How the Revoke policy harmed Lib Dem chances

Michael Mullaney, our candidate in Bosworth at the general election, says the party's decision to adopt the Revoke policy harmed our chances in many seats.

With the election over I thought  I'd pen some words on my experience of fighting in a strongly leave seat where there was a significant base of Lib Dem support.

I noticed a graph circulating on twitter which appeared to indicate that the Lib Dem vote rose by almost as much in Leave seats as it did in Remain ones. What this failed to pick up was that in the vast bulk of Leave seats the party was starting from a very low base: 2 or 3 per cent in many cases.

Running a Revoke campaign that was aimed at a very small group of the electorate, hard core Remainers, meant that in these seats where we were starting from almost nowhere we were always likely to pick up a percentage point or two. In numerous cases this saved the deposit, so in this sense the Revoke campaign at least had some, limited success.

However the Revoke policy literally killed the party in the seats which voted heavily Leave (55 per cent or more in the referendum) and where we had a significant level of Lib Dem support to start with (15 per cent or more voting Lib Dem in 2017).

There were 19 such seats. Three were held seats: North Norfolk, Carshalton and Wallington and Eastbourne. The remainder were often seats we had held in the recent past, North Cornwall, St Ives, Devon North etc. Or seats we had not held for many decades but where we had built up support through local campaigning and winning the council, such as my own seat in Bosworth.

In these 19 seats the party's vote fell on average by 3.4% compared to a national vote rise of 4.2%. The three seats we were defending North Norfolk, Carshalton and Wallington and Eastbourne were all lost. The excellent Andrew George failed to win back his ultra marginal seat in St Ives and in many recently held seats such as Devon North and Cornwall North the Tories built up huge majorities.

The party’s expected large gains in heavily Remain areas, for which support in these heavily Leave areas was sacrificed, failed to materialise so we ended up net down in seats.

Our policy of revoking article 50 and of disregarding the 2016 referendum result without holding a further vote was extremely harmful nationally, but particularly in these Leave seats where Lib Dems had retained support.

Back in 2017 I spoke against the Revoke policy at conference, precisely because the vast bulk of English and Welsh constituencies voted Leave (and over 90 per cent of Midlands seats voted that way).

In every one, not only would we be accused of disregarding the national verdict but of disregarding the local vote too. At the time the leadership opposed Revoke and it was stopped. By 2019, however, the leadership backed it and its passing was a fait accompli.

I can sort of see why the Revoke policy was pushed through. I'm sure the smart campaigners at HQ thought our problem was we didn't get enough media coverage (true) and this would help get it by being spiky and distinctive and provocative.

They probably thought our problem was that our policy proposals generally were seen as bland and wishy washy and we needed a cutting edge and controversial policy to get ourselves heard.

Now this was probably an argument that could have been defended back in September 2018 when we were still beached at 8-9 per cent in the polls and seemingly going nowhere. However by September 2019 we had broken through, we were polling around 20% or more and had a steady stream of MPs defecting to us.

Then suddenly the Revoke policy happens and we see a steady drift down in the polls and whilst some MPs still defected to the Lib Dems from other parties not as many as expected do and some cite the extreme position of Revoke as a reason for pulling back from the brink of defection to us.

The biggest damage of all of the Revoke policy though was that it totally undercut our main argument going into the election; that we were a party of moderation against two extremes. The hard left socialism of Jeremy Corbyn and the hard Brexit policy of Boris Johnson both of which would do damage to the economy and living standards.

I went into the campaign expecting the Lib Dems to be fighting as the party of moderation and sweet reason up against the extremism of Corbyn and Johnson. Instead I faced a regular occurrence of people shouting or screaming in my face that we were undemocratic and extreme. I’ve never experienced greater hostility in a campaign.

To enter a campaign when we should have been the spokespeople for moderation, to instead be pushing a policy that was more provocative, more intransigent, more dogmatic than anything Corbyn or Johnson had produced was folly of the highest order.

In a seat like Bosworth where much of our support was based on years of local campaigning we had held some of our Leave voters in 2017 on the policy of a second referendum. We could agree to disagree on Europe knowing they could vote Leave in a further referendum and I would vote and campaign for Remain and they could still vote Lib Dem at the general election.

The Revoke policy of totally ignoring their verdict and instead overturning it without even a further vote was seen as gratuitously offensive to many of our Leave voting supporters. I am sure this must have been the case also in North Norfolk, Eastbourne and Carshalton and contributed to the loss of our seats there.

Running on a platform of moderation against extreme Labour and Tory parties had yielded high votes for the Liberal/SDP alliance in the 1980s - 23-26 per cent - and could have done so again this time, along with many Lib Dem MPs being elected if the strong national vote had been applied to strong targeting.

If the Revoke policy damaged us in many seats, the targeting process certainly didn't help either. In previous elections seats were consulted on whether they wanted to be targets and given opportunities in 'Dragons' Den' events to put forward their case to be a target in front of party decision-makers.

On this occasion no such consultation events took place, a decision was taken it appears on a demographic poll. Seats where we had large general election votes previously and had gained councils in May weren't even given the courtesy of a phone call from HQ to tell them they had not been picked.

Seats where campaigners and candidates had worked for years, winning councils were ignored in favour of seats where we often had no or very few councillors. Whilst demographics are important, targeting should have taken into account local base and candidate profile and at least given these seats a chance to be consulted and to put their case forwards! If we are to encourage people to work hard for the party completely ignoring them does not seem a great strategy for incentivising hard work in future!

A further example of HQs seeming lack of regard for any seat outside chosen targets was their decision to write to all non targets just before the election was called to tell them that they could only spend a very small amount of money on campaigning before the election was called.

This seemed to be to ensure that target seats could get vast sums of national spend spent in them without breaching local spending limits. Whilst this seemed a reasonable enough move in terms of maximising the spend on target seats, the process seemed to have taken place with very little account taken for the relative strength of non-target seats.

So those areas where we held councils, or had large numbers of councillors, or had strong votes at previous general elections appeared to be given very similar or the same, very low, spending limits as seats where we had no councillors, hadn’t come near winning a council seat, and hadn’t had any councillors since about 1995.

Thankfully this policy was overtaken by the general election being called, but it does underline a lack of consideration by HQ for those non-target seats where we often had years of campaigning, a strong local government base and their own money raised locally which they might have expected to be able to spend on local campaigning.

Despite a flagship national policy that did us huge damage locally, getting very little help from HQ and actions which seemed to positively try and inhibit local campaigning we still almost held our 2017 vote in Bosworth, down just over 1%. We also again scored the highest Lib Dem vote share in the East Midlands. This was down to the great work of the local campaigning team over many years and the numerous friends and colleagues from the region who helped in the campaign.

It’s frustrating that the East Midlands now has no second place seat again. The HQ designated target seat in the region, which had masses of paid literature printed and delivered for it, paid staff, paid for social media, a seat deal which got the Greens to stand down in our favour still ended up over 11,500 votes short of second place.

Bosworth however were extremely close, 683 votes, to getting second place back despite receiving none of the help above. Had we got some support we’d almost certainly now have at least one second place in the region for next time.

I guess in the end demographics matter, but so do local campaigning and a local party base built up over years. Not least because with five years before a likely next general election, our big job as Lib Dems is to be winning and holding and gaining councils and council seats across the country and building up our local base.

Local parties that rise to this challenge in the years ahead should be encouraged and rewarded by the party nationally if we want to go forwards as a liberal party with a strong base from which to challenge Boris Johnson’s Tory party in 2024.

Michael Mullaney ia a member of the ruling Lib Dem group on Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and has fought Bosworth at the last four general elections. He is on Twitter as @miketmullaney.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

GUEST POST Why am I a Liberal Democrat?

Simon Beard explains, with help from Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Clarkson.

It seems to me that Liberals have a peculiar obsession with self-justification. Keynes first posed the question "Am I A Liberal?" (he was) in 1925, and many have asked it, or something like it, since.

Indeed, Bertrand Russel felt called to provide two justifications "why I am not a communist" and "why I am not a Christian", while even Margaret Thatcher's favourite Liberal Fredrick Hayek wanted to explain to his readers "why I am not a conservative".

This is hardly surprising. Liberals are, after all, in favour of the individual, while Liberalism is a social movement. We are not natural joiners we Liberals, and so many of us feel the desire to consider ourselves apart.

Yet still, we recognise that what we believe in is worth believing, and what we fight for is worth defending. I think this may be part of the reason why so many 'ordinary people' claim not to know what the Lib Dems 'really believe’. It is not that we do not believe in things; but we feel slightly awkward about it and would really rather discuss something else.

So why am I a Liberal?

First and foremost, I think I am a Burkean. Edmund Burke is often held up as the grandfather of British Conservatism, but that is a load of piffle. Burke was a radical of his day who fought against empire and privilege. He simply did not accept the justification being offered for the French revolution, and that meant he was disowned by other radicals of his day.

Burke's philosophy is not easy to encapsulate in a few words, but let me try. Burke believed in government by agreement and consent; he was a proponent of the social contract. However, in contrast with the doctrine of the time, he saw this agreement as not primarily between the rich and the poor, that would be manifestly unfair. Instead, he proposed a contract between the generations.

Each of us, in turn, takes the place of a dependent child, an independent adult and a supportive elder, and Burke thought that we should view society in this light. He also believed that what the social contract was fundamentally about was building and maintaining institutions that allowed people to get along. However, ultimately, these were only means to the end of a fully flourishing society. As he wrote:
To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind.
When the state takes it upon itself to disregard these institutions and reorganise society around one big idea (as the French revolutionaries tried to do) Burke believed that the social contract was violated and society would fall apart. Now, of course, we might make the same point about our stewardship of the environment, and I think Burke would have agreed.

Finally, Burke believed that when we engage in politics, we do so person to person, not thought to thought or idea to idea. Thus, we should choose MPs who we trust to act wisely, not those who would merely represent some pattern or ideal that we share.

Burke was not quite a Liberal in the modern sense of the term, but he certainly was never a Conservative. He was a passionate social humanist, and one of the most profound thinkers our country has produced.

To Burke, I owe my distrust of those (like Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn) who seek to remake our country according to their own designs and who view the institutions we have built up as mere obstacles to be overcome.

Secondly, I am a utilitarian. In my heart and soul what I most believe is that any policy, any choice, must be justified on the grounds that it will benefit the people affected by it, by making their lives fuller and better and contributing to their wellbeing.

However, I am a utilitarian of the school of John Stewart Mill, who saw so clearly that happiness could not be bought or sold or counted or controlled, but had to be cultivated. Our joy, he wrote, will 'come like the air that we breath', but only when we are liberated, supported and empowered, with good health, education, work, a nourishing environment, social connections and a flourishing culture.

I was part of the Federal Policy Committee on Wellbeing and Quality of Life, and one of the things I wanted to say in our report was that government has a huge role to play in supporting people's wellbeing, but that so often people's experiences of the state where that it made them unhappy, by forcing them into a social straitjacket or failing to deliver on its promises.

To the utilitarians, and especially to Mill, I owe my belief in an empowering and enabling state whose job it is to provide people with education, healthcare and financial support, but also to allow them to be who they most want to be. A state that cultivates everyone's garden, but allows their flowers to bloom as they will.

The Liberal Democrats are consistently the party who plan to give most direct support to the poorest in society - while the Conservatives choose to ignore them and Labour focus on implementing their grand schemes - that is as it should be.

Thirdly, I am a Georgist and a Social Liberal. Power, as well as wealth, is distributed incredibly unequally throughout our society, and in so far as we need reform, it should be primarily aimed at removing the blockages built up over centuries to preserve this status quo.

The philosophy and economics of this get terribly complicated; even I struggle with the level of cultishness that can surround them (and that's before we get to the School of Economic Science, an actual cult).

However, two key points are 1) that we pay far too little attention to the distribution of the ownership of land (nature) and its implications on how our society is structured and 2) that corporations are given the same, if not more, protection in how they act than ordinary people and are allowed to get away with massive corruption, even though are without emotions, social connections, family ties and love for humanity and the world around them.

This is not merely about redistribution; it is about calling out the inconsistencies and hypocrisies that lie at the heart of government policy, making it serve the interest of a tiny fraction of the population. Every classical Liberal, from Smith to Mill, envisioned a market of free individuals trading fairly, while every new Liberal, from Green to Beveridge, understood that the distortions of land and corporate power meant this had never been realised.

Yet, somehow people still feel able to describe the deregulation of markets as if it made them freer, rather than more totally controlled by a few special interests.

To the New Liberals, I owe my support for the voices of the small, for small business against big business, for renters against landlords, and for communities against developers. I also owe them my commitment to introducing Land Value Taxation and stronger restrictions on corporations.

These things matter even more than redistributing money, yet they are routinely overlooked by other parties. I think this is also why I am so glad the UK still manages to maintain a third party of national significance and wish we would introduce an electoral system that did not reduce everything to a binary choice, because there is always another perspective on any argument and it needs to be heard.

Fourthly, I am a supporter of human rights. In that old Liberal phrase, I believe that everyone is created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, and I mean everyone and I mean inalienable. Asylum seekers, single mothers, convicted criminals, disabled people, even straight, white, older men, all have the same fundamental rights.

Among these are the right to exist, publicly and as themselves, to pursue their own lifestyle and to play as full a part as possible in society. We must give prisoners the vote; we must give asylum seekers a decent level of support; we must allow gang members to express themselves culturally; we must ensure that everyone can walk the streets safely at night and that people can have a reasonable expectation of being able to get away with making mistakes.

Why? Because we are all human, we are all persons, we fundamentally have more in common than what divides us. And at heart, as those who first codified human rights after the second world war realised, these rights are ultimately protections against the power of others, and in particular the power of the state.

Rights should always stand outside the law and hem it on all sides. From these thinkers, I take an instinctive horror of anyone who sets up groups in opposition to each other, or who adopt dehumanising language for anyone – be they terrorists or billionaires.

Finally, I am an internationalist. Of course, that means I believe in nations, in groups of people who share a culture, a social ideal and a way of life. The hard-straight lines of the state must always be made to bend around the people it claims to serve.

However, it also means I believe that the boundaries of nations and peoples are flexible and fluid and that we realise the best in ourselves when we are open, tolerant and diverse and when we work with others to form a closer international union.

I understand that for many, we need to stay in the EU for economic reasons, for its social and environmental protections, or for peace and security; and I value all these things. However, ultimately, I am with Jeremy Clarkson, of all people, who said:
Whether I'm sitting in a railway concourse in Brussels or pottering down the canals of southwestern France or hurtling along a motorway in Croatia, I feel way more at home than I do when I'm trying to get something to eat in Dallas or Sacramento. I love Europe, and to me that's important.
I love Europe too (though I also love America), and I love what it stands for. I love my village, and my county, and my nation, and my country but I also love that 28 countries have joined together and are trying to form something bigger than themselves. I cannot give up on loving that, and nobody has any right to tell me to do so. Our party cannot give up on loving it either, and that is why I love it too.

This recent election really got me down; not just because of the result (though that was terrible) but because of the way everything seemed to get lost in the question of who could win or who could stop Brexit.

Please Liberal Democrats, do not forget who you are and why you are like that. Do not give up on your history and values and fall into the lie that this was simply a numbers exercise in tactical voting.

We are Liberals, and we have every right and reason to be so. Jeremy Corbyn is not, nor is Nicola Sturgeon. That does not make them bad people, but when it comes to fundamental questions of politics, philosophy and economics, I think it makes them wrong and I feel perfectly justified in saying that!

Simon Beard has a PhD in philosophy and works at the University of Cambridge's Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. He has twice stood as the Lib Dem candidate for Dartford and tweets @simon_beard.