Thursday, May 30, 2019

YouGov opinion poll puts Liberal Democrats in the lead

Tomorrow's edition of The Times carries a Yougov opinion poll on people's voting intention at the next general election.

This is what it finds:

Liberal Democrats  24 per cent
Brexit Party            22 per cent       
Conservatives        19 per cent
Labour                   19 per cent
Greens                    8 per cent

The usual warnings about not making too much of one poll apply. Remember Cleggmania. Your tenancy may be at risk if you don't vote for Lord Bonkers.

Tributes paid to Paddy Ashdown

A memorial service for Paddy Ashdown took place at St John's Church, Yeovil, yesterday.

Among those who paid tribute to the former Liberal Democrat leader were Val Keitch, the leader of South Somerset District Council, Graham Cole, the former chief executive of Westland Helicopters, and David Laws, who succeeded him as MP for the town.

Somerset Live quotes Laws' words:
"Paddy did some of his best work not just in Yeovil and the United Kingdom, but overseas; in Bosnia; he was a passionate supporter of the European Union and the United Nations. 
“But he was very definitely not the ‘Citizen of Nowhere’ that our current Prime Minister once talked of. 
“He saw no conflict at all in his loyalty to his home village of Norton-sub-Hamdon, his constituency of Yeovil, his county home of Somerset and his country, but also simultaneously to Bosnia, to the European Union, the United Nations, to the children of Africa he fought for in his Unicef role.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Hensall: The least used station in North Yorkshire

I am tired and my internet connection is slooow, so let's go for an easy win.

Hensall is the least used station in North Yorkshire, but has some remarkably fine buildings for a least used station.

The video contains pacers and Portillos.

Lib Dems finish second in the East Midlands and Harborough

There are a couple of things particularly worth celebrating about the European elections if you live in these parts. You can find all the relevant results on the Leicester Mercury site.

The first is that the Liberal Democrats outpolled both the Conservatives and Labour across the East Midlands, with the result that we again have an MEP for the region. And it is again Bill Newton Dunn.

The second is that the picture was just the same in the Harborough constituency. The Brexit Party was again well ahead, but the Lib Dems came above Labour and the Tories.

Of most significance here may be that Labour was beaten into fifth place. If the Lib Dems again emerge as the challengers to the Tories in Harborough, things could get interesting.

At the 2005 general election we came within 4000 votes of taking the seat.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Watch Knighton Free Church being built

On the Saturday before last I went into Leicester to look for St Mary Magdalene in Knighton village. I found the graveyard full of interesting memorials, but the church itself was locked.

Besides, I was more taken with the Knighton Free Church across the road. It was built in what I have called "humane modernism" - you could also call it "Hemel Hempstead modernism".

YouTube has a video that explains the history of this unexpected building and even shows in under construction.

I have posted a segment above, but you can watch the whole thing if you want to. I feel for those early Sixties children in their Sunday best clothes.

Some photos from that Saturday are below.

New bus service for Market Harborough's Southern Estate

The air hereabouts is still thick with talk of cuts to bus services, but today there was good news.

Back in February I blogged about our Liberal Democrat campaign against the reduction in the bus service provided to Market Harborough's Southern Estate. (Every street there is named after someone who fought at Naseby, you know.)

I wrote then:
The service around the Southern Estate ... would probably be best provided by a town service using a much smaller vehicle. But that is not what we are being offered.
Today Harborough FM reported that this is pretty much what is going to happen:
A daytime bus service is to return to Market Harborough’s Southern Estate following a campaign by residents. 
Operator Centrebus will launch the new number 30 service on July 1st, with four off-peak journeys to and from the town centre Monday to Saturday.
This is a welcome development, because the trend is now for long-distance services to take numerous detours in an attempt to replace vanished routes.

Until recently the bus from Market Harborough to Kettering took you down streets in Rothwell that were unknown even to people who had spent their whole lives in that little Northamptonshire town.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Six of the Best 867

"It was the thin orange line of Lib Dem Councillors that held the line. Yes Vince and our team did great things in Parliament but it was resolute and bloody stubborn councillors that both held the line and then began slowly to move us forward leading to the great rush in Lib Dem votes and councillors at the beginning of May and what everyone hopes (except our opponents who dread) will be a great advance when the EU votes are declared tonight." Richard Kemp apportions praise where it is due.

Ed Caesar tells the story of the the thwarting of the Fascist plot to murder the Rosie Cooper MP.

Employee-owned companies perform better, but are resisted by banks, lawyers and governments, says Jonathan Michie.

"For nearly thirty years the rebellious outcast Sophie Curly could be found in Nottingham’s city centre pubs. You might remember her, a bag lady with a smiley face furnished with bright pink lipstick and a milky eye, ranting about Thatcher and preaching free love." She was also a literary discovery of Virginia Woolf. Nottingham City of Literature tells her story.

The actor James Fox turned 80 the other day. Adam Scovell chooses 10 essential film appearances by him from The Magnet to Sexy Beast.

Yahoo Over Cow Corner voyages to the Isle of Wight to watch Hampshire play Nottinghamshire.

Tim Buckley: Buzzin' Fly

You might introduce Tim Buckley by saying that he is best known as Jeff Buckley's father too, but I suspect that Jeff is now sliding into obscurity too.

This track is from Tim Buckley's 1969 album Happy Sad, though he wrote it some years before that.

As with Dolphins, which appeared on this blog years ago, the instrumental accompaniment here is as good as Buckley's voice.

Stamford crew called out to school book on fire

Stamford before the fire

Our Headline of the Day Award goes to the Stamford Mercury.

The judges were complimentary about this new excuse for not having done your homework.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Richard Beckinsale remembered in Beeston

I have been on holiday this week, but a poor internet connection at home has made it hard to upload and download photographs. Hence the number of dull political posts recently.

Yesterday I was in Beeston and one of things I went to see was this memorial to the comic actor Richard Beckinsale who, already famous, died in 1979 at the age of only 31.

The Nottingham Post explains:
Three icons of Beeston have been given a stunning lasting tribute in its town centre as part of the Beeston Street Art Festival. 
The late actor Richard Beckinsale, the late singer/songwriter Edwin Starr, and fashion designer Sir Paul Smith were spray painted by international street artist Zabou to celebrate their creative contributions. 
The street art on Station Road was commissioned by Broxtowe Borough Council as part of its Beeston Square Redevelopment project.
You can see Richard Beckinsale's This is Your Life appearance on this blog.

We should not be afraid If policy differences emerge between Jo Swinson and Ed Davey

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With characteristic benevolence, Caron Lindsay on Liberal Democrat Voice looks forward to a "friendly" Lib Dem leadership contest.

Being of a meaner disposition, I though about a post I wrote last year:
It looks to me as though we Lib Dems are too scared of rocking the boat to have really informative leadership elections. 
Some like to talk of the "Lib Dem family," but in my experience happy families are those that can have lively discussions, even rows, and make their peace afterwards. 
We Lib Dems, by contrast, resemble an unhappy family where everyone is sat around the dining table on their best behaviour and terrified of saying the wrong thing.
Reading the post today, I can see that I should also have mentioned Norman Lamb's sceptical view of the European Union when discussing our 2015 leadership election.

I've never been sure quite what Norman believes here or whether his attempts to distance himself from the rest of the party arise simply from the prevailing view of the matter among his electors in Norfolk. But some of the names that worked on his campaign do make you raise your eyes. 

Had he been elected in 2015, I suspect his view of the EU would have been at least as big a problem for the party as Tim Farron's worries about gay sex turned out to be.

I don't know if there are policy difference between Jo Swinson and Ed Davey. I hope some do emerge and that they will be robustly debated.

If we can be robust and friendly, so much the better.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Why did Theresa May want to be PM in the first place?

I surprised myself by being forgiving when Margaret Thatcher died and Tony Blair resigned, but I find it hard to say anything obliging about Theresa May.

She came to power speaking of burning injustices, yet we never heard them mentioned again or saw any action to right them.

At the Home Office and then Number 10, her reign was characterised by measures that made life harder for people who had settled in Britain from abroad. So much so that it is hard to resist the conclusion that she is personally racist.

And then there is Brexit.

May kept her head down during the referendum campaign, but before then was a sensible for for Remain.

Yet when she came to power she adopted the most hardline pro-Leave position possible. There was no attempt to unite a nation split almost down the middle. Notoriously, those who like to think of themselves as citizens of the world, were dismissed as citizens of nowhere.

At the same time, she painted herself into a corner with red lines that ensured that any deal she signed up to was bound to be narrow and harmful to Britain.

And all these attempts to appeal to the pro-Leave right failed, as they were always bound to. They take any concessions as a sign of weakness and harden their demands.

The overwhelming feeling I am left with by Theresa May's career is one of puzzlement. Why did she want to be prime minister? What did she imagine she was going to achieve?

Her claim today that "I was driven to make the United Kingdom a country that works not just for a privileged few but for everyone" is impossible to reconcile with the evidence.

And her quoting of Sir Nicholas Winton was toe-curlingly embarrassing given her record on refugees.

So my puzzlement remains. Why did she want to be prime minister in the first place?

Change UK spent £1300 on Facebook ads saying it was campaigning to remain in the UK

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There are welcome signs that the experience of the European election has unbounced the Tiggers.

Change UK are now making noises about the importance of cooperation, and I look forward to working with them and, I suspect, eventually absorbing them. We shall acquire some good and interesting people in the process.

But while we can still laugh at them, let me repeat this story from the Guardian:
Change UK has run a last-minute Facebook advertising campaign to try to shore up its support amid dismal poll ratings for the European elections, but most other parties have mostly avoided large spending on online campaigning. 
The upstart pro-EU political party, formerly known as the Independent Group, spent £87,000 on Facebook adverts in the seven days up to Wednesday, becoming the biggest single political advertiser on the social networking site, following predictions it could fail to elect a single MEP and faced with the potential resignation of the party’s interim leader, Heidi Allen. 
Not all Change UK’s adverts have hit the spot. In one example highlighted by iNews, the party spent at least £1,300 promoting Facebook adverts saying it was campaigning to “remain in the UK”.

You plonker, Danny

With the polling stations having been closed for almost 24 hours, I think it is safe to call Sir Daniel Grian Alexander a plonker.

You plonker, Danny.

We will debate the rights and wrong of going into coalition in 2010 as long as there are Liberal Democrats.

For my own part, I would say the electoral arithmetic, Labour's unwillingness to talk and our own wariness about a second election made some sort of deal with the Tories inevitable. And I said so at the time.

There does seem to be a consensus now that we were too anxious to show how responsible we were and that a confidence and supply arrangement would have served us better.

And I would suggest that our arrival in government showed that we lacked a core of Liberal Democrat policies that we all wanted to see implemented. We have tended of late to be stronger on values than policy.

But all that said, in a week when we had lifelong Labour voters seriously considering voting for us, Danny's tweet was not helpful.

Hang out with old friends by all means, but you needn't tell everyone about it until after the polls have closed.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Ghost signs for Parkinsons Pills in Leicester and Telford

When I photographed this ghost sign in Clarendon Park on Saturday it rang a bell.

Sure enough, I found that I had already photographed another one for Parkinsons Pills at Madeley in Shropshire. You can see it at the bottom of this post.

The Lancashire Telegraph once told the firm's history:
Parkinsons’ pills, manufactured in Burnley, were once known throughout the land – and even overseas. 
The company claimed that it sold more pills than any other business in the world, with millions being produced annually. 
It was also the first anywhere to coat tablets with sugar to make them more palatable.
Parkinsons’ range of products included ‘female pills’, ‘blood and stomach’ pills, soda mint tablets, and Red Indian ointment. 
The firm was founded by Richard Parkinson in 1848 as a chemist and dry salter, in Brierfield, before it moved to Nelson, and then into Curzon Street, Burnley.
And it seems that it did leave a notable legacy of ghost signs. A blog devoted to the company has a post about them with lots of photographs. They include the two here.

Why granting more planning permissions doesn't cut house prices

If you want to know why I admire Ian Jack so much as a writer, try his London Review of Books piece on The New Enclosure: The Appropriation of Public Land in Neoliberal Britain by Brett Christophers.

He begins, characteristically, with a little bit of autobiography, remembering his childhood in Fife:
A single-track road ran across it, looping downhill through the gorse and wild raspberries to a beach where many of us learned to swim. Elsewhere, mysterious holes in the ground and abandoned military architecture proved ideal for games that involved imaginary rifles and the great thrill of hiding, and of hunting those who hid. 
Then one day the local paper carried a small item reporting the sale of this extensive territory to someone who was never named and therefore became ‘a mystery buyer’. Our families wondered who it might be, and why they would want to buy such a ruin-filled and unkempt acreage. 
The newspaper didn’t enlighten us, and for several years nothing at all happened to what we called ‘the barracks’, until in 1964 the first of the road bridges opened and our part of Fife became commutable by car from Edinburgh. Over the next decade crescents and avenues of showy villas with built-in garages and first-floor sitting rooms transformed the army’s old patch, spilling down to the beach and erasing many of our paths and hideouts.
Jack then sets out Christophers' argument at length, without making it sound as though the ideas in it are entirely his own. Some other LRB reviewers should take note of his technique.

But what struck me most in this piece was this passage, which explains why the unaffordability of housing in Britain has little to do with the Nimbys that haunt the opinions of many young activists:
In Christophers's words, "The private sector does not lack land; and nor, more significantly, does it lack land that is suitable for commercial development, or for which planning permission has been granted."
A report in the Times last year showed that out of more than 1.7 million applications for residential planning permission granted between 2006 and 2014, fewer than half had been completed after three years. According to the Local Government Association in 2016, councils consistently approved more than 80 per cent of major residential planning applications; but the difference between the number of houses being approved and those actually being built was almost 500,000 – ‘and this gap is increasing.’ 
The hardly radical figure of Oliver Letwin identified the real brake on house-building when he published the interim conclusions to his inquiry into low completion rates last year. What governed the numbers, he decided, was the absorption rate – "the rate at which newly constructed homes can be sold into (or are believed by the house-builder to be able to be sold successfully into) the local market without materially disturbing the market price". 
For ‘materially disturbing’ read ‘lowering’: to protect profits, developers are sitting on land that has been given planning permission. ‘Efficiency’ in this instance is a concept confined to the shareholder.
Letwin later published his review of housing development, which made limited suggestions for improving the 'absorption rate', but fell some way short of offering a comprehensive solution to the problem.

What more can you ask of a favourite writer than that they provide you with the facts to defend views that you already hold?

The Attenborough Arboretum, Leicester

Passing the University of Leicester's College Court conference centre on Saturday, I saw discreet signs directing visitors to the Attenborough Arboretum. So I went to take a look.

The arboretum occupies a large site, around five acres, that once belonged to Knighton Hall's Home Farm. Named for Leicester's favourite son Sir David Attenborough, it was opened by him in 1997.

The university's website explains how it is laid out:
The planting scheme at the Arboretum is designed to display our native trees in the sequence in which they arrived in this country following the ending of the last ice-age, approximately 10,000 years ago. 
Thus among the first trees you will meet on going for a walk around the arboretum will be Scots Pine, Juniper, Hazel and Birch; among the last is the Beech, which apparently crossed from France just before the English Channel formed about 7,500 years ago.
I had the place to myself and found out why after I had left it and passed the main entrance on Carrisbrooke Road. As the sign says, it is not open to the public at the weekend.

So I was lucky not to be locked in.

I could now be passing my days swinging from tree to tree, clad in rude garments fashioned from squirrel skins. My diet would be nuts and berries, leavened with the occasional latte I frightened a passing student into dropping. There are worse ways of life.

Anyway, fans of arboreta will be pleased to know we have one in Market Harborough too.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Alistair Carmichael will not stand for the party leadership

Having talked this possibility up the other day, I suppose I had better talk it down again.

Alistair Carmichael, says The Press and Journal, has "poured cold water over rumours he intends to run for the Lib Dem leadership".

He told the paper:
"I have said several times already that I am not standing and that has not changed. 
"Obviously it is flattering to be asked to stand for the party leadership but I have learned over the years to enjoy flattery without allow (sic) it to affect my judgement."

Eurovision: Blame Simon Cowell not Brexit

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It's tempting to blame our last place in this year's Eurovision on Brexit. But as Chris Dillow pointed out, our slump in the contest dates back some years.

If you are going to link it with any geopolitical event, it makes more sense to choose Tony Blair's enthusiasm for the US attack on Iraq.

As the late great Terry Wogan said, only half jokingly, not long after that war:
"We've invaded too many countries and everyone hates us."
But I think the real reasons are musical - and not just that we consistently enter songs in the wrong key.

I had not heard of this year's UK entrant Michael Rice, which is fine because I have reached an age when I am not meant to have heard of music stars.

So I looked him up - and found that he is not a music star at all.

Rice appeared on The X Factor in 2014, being eliminated before the finals, and then won the BBC's All Together Now in 2018.

As far as I can see, despite this television exposure he has not had a hit single. Which means, unless All Together Now is a bigger deal than I think, he is unknown outside the UK.

Contrast this with Eurovision from when I first remember it. Though they were often given silly songs, our entrants were internationally known recording artists: Lulu, Cliff Richard, Sandie Shaw.

These reality shows trade on the idea that there are lots of undiscovered singers out there with the ability to become stars, but the truth is rather different.

The two most realistic shows in this genre were those that were looking for someone to star in a West End production of a musical: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria and Any Dream Will Do.

Both were won by actors who were already in the business but had not yet received their big break. Neither was exactly an unknown.

But surely Simon Cowell's programmes do feature unknowns?

Only up to a point. A fair number of the acts who appear on Britain's Got Talent are established professionals but are presented as amateurs - Musical Ruth is a good example.

For this reason I suspect that some of the singers in The X Factor are known to the producers before they turn up for their audition. Those producers would be running a huge risk if this were not the case.

Whatever the truth of this, the overall standard in the finals is not that strong.

If you watch from the start you get caught up in the drama of the series and root for your favourites. But if you don't watch it and happen to catch an episode later on, what you here is very ordinary singers being told that they have made astandard their own.

They haven't.

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.

My conclusion is that you should not blame Brexit for our Eurovision malaise but Simon Cowell.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

St Guthlac's and Holbrook Memorial Hall, Knighton

St Guthlac's in not in Knighton village, but is to be found just off the London Road. It was built to serve the large houses and terraced streets that had sprang up here and today form one of the city's most pleasant suburbs.

Completed 1912, it is generally described as the last work of the prolific Leicester architect Stockdale Harrison. He designed De Montfort Hall and many other buildings in the city, as well as the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.

Next door is the Holbrook Memorial Hall, built as a memorial to the men of Knighton who had died in the first world war.

A page about the hall suggests it too is the work of Harrison. If so, it must have originally been planned as a church hall as he died in 1914.

Six of the Best 866

"Time and again, right from the beginning, they have made such basic errors in their thinking, their planning and their execution that if they’re to be remembered by history at all, it will be as an object lesson in how not to launch a political party." David Herdson is damning on the many failures of Change UK.

Mark Paine is one person who was originally attracted by Change UK but soon decided to come home to the Liberal Democrats.

"Children, vulnerable people and general members of the public can suffer long-term effects from participation in these kinds of reality show, and broadcasts can have serious unintended consequences not only for them but also for family, friends and work colleagues too." The psychologist John Oates on the dangers of reality television and the responsibilities of production companies.

Barbara Rich makes the case for keeping Mr Justice Byrne's annotated copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover in Britain. The annotations were made by his wife, Lady Dorothy, who sat beside him throughout the trial.

Simon Matthews has been to see Red Joan

A City relic is traced in deepest Hampshire by A London Inheritance.

The May blossom is out in Market Harborough

One of the glories of the Leicestershire countryside are the drifts of white blossom you see in the hedgerows at this time of year.

It reaches the fringes of the towns too. I took these photographs close to my home - an area, to be fair to another fine county, that was originally in Northamptonshire.

'May blossom' is properly hawthorn blossom - the hawthorn is also known as the 'may tree' - and that explains the slightly puzzling saying: "Ne'er cast a clout till May be out."

Puzzling, because it sounds so cautious. The latter weeks of May can be very pleasant. Surely you can start dressing less warmly by then?

In fact you can, because the saying refers to the may blossom being out. That begins to happen at the end of April and makes it a more reasonable rule.

Séverine: Un Banc, un Arbre, une Rue

When I first became of it, the Eurovision Song Contest generally came down to a battle between a woman singing a sophisticated ballad in French and another singing Bing Tiddle Tiddle Bong for Britain.

Fortunately, the French ballads usually won, but we Britons lived in fear of Cilla Black being chosen to represent us.

Here is the song that won Eurovision for Monaco in 1971 - you get the feeling that the composers of 'I Dreamed a Dream' were aware of it and its wistful mood.

Séverine was something of a gun for hire. She is French, and after winning the contest for Monaco made two attempts to be the German entrant.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Alistair Carmichael considers bid for Lib Dem leadership

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If Alistair Carmichael had stood for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats in 2015 I would happily have supported him

But he was too mired in an election court case brought by SNP sympathisers to consider standing.

Now comes news that he may stand this time.

Could he be our Pardoe? Or should we remember the warning of Alexander Kotov against unexpected third choices?

Friday, May 17, 2019

Football specials at Kettering in 1989

OK so this is mostly diesel locomotive porn. But it is also a reminder that Kettering Town used to be a serious club and that the nationalised British Rail was good at adapting to exceptional demand - much better than the privatised railways appear to be.

On 28 January 1989 Kettering were drawn away to Charlton Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Cup. To cater for fans, British Rail laid on four extra trains.

Mind you, it sounds as though the shuttle to Corby was cancelled to make room for the added workings.

There is no footbridge in sight, so Kettering's Stygian underpass must still have been in use.

Stiperstones Primary School to close

Sad news from Shropshire and the Shropshire Star:
Stiperstones Church of England Primary School is set to shut, with children being moved to Norbury or Chirbury. 
The move came about after the federation in charge of the school said it was struggling with funding. 
The plan is set to be signed off by Shropshire Council’s cabinet at at meeting on May 22.
Back in 2011 I covered the campaign to save the school. Visiting the village that August I wrote that the school was:
convinced that its future is safe because it is entering a federation with  the school at Chirbury. I do hope these celebrations do not prove premature.
Well, it was granted another eight years of life.

Bishop's Castle residents block road in protest against bus cuts

At the start of the month I blogged about Bishops' Castle residents' plans to block the main road to Shrewsbury as a protest against proposed cuts to the service.

That protest duly took place today. More than 70 people - an impressive turnout - blocked the A488 and the Shropshire Star had photographs.

The organiser, Sarah Wilkinson, told the paper:
"It is imperative that this service is maintained. If people lose it not only will those who rely on a bus service have to move, they may also lose their jobs. If they do not have a car they will be stranded in Bishop's Castle. 
"It is a terrifying prospect and it is cruel of the council. This is not practical. If the buses go there will be more taxis on the road. 
"If you want to buy a house in Bishop's Castle you will need to have a car. It is discriminatory against people who rely on the bus, they will not be able to move here. Bishop's Castle has been a market town since medieval times and that could be lost."

"Don't blame me I voted Pardoe"

From the Awkward Squad website:
Calder's Law states that every lib dem leadership election mirrors Steel vs Pardoe: a boring, centrist, reliable, safe-pair-of-hands Steel, vs an exciting, radical, a bit risky Pardoe. Nine times out of ten the Steel wins. 
This t-shirt is for those of us who mourn the tendency of our party towards centrism, and is available in black, white, grey, and tie-dye for those who don't remember the seventies because they were there, man, and really DID vote Pardoe.
Strictly speaking, it is Calder's Sixth Law of Politics, but I am immensely flattered.

I was all set to be a Moranite, but if our next leadership election is to be Swinson vs Dayey I shall vote for whichever candidate emerges as the Pardoe.

As to the T-shirt, even I am not old enough to have voted Pardoe, so I shall settle for the grey.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Campaigning by canal in the 1953 North Paddington by-election

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In 1953 Bill Field, the Labour MP for North Paddington, was convicted of "importuning for immoral purposes". When he failed to overturn that conviction on appeal, he resigned his seat.

The resultant by-election saw the seat being held for Labour by Ben Parkin.

Here his Conservative rival John Eden, who was to sit for Bournemouth West between 1954 and 1983, takes to the Grand Union Canal to address some voters.

Vince Cable must stop advocating a referendum with 'no deal' on the ballot paper

James is right.

A referendum with 'no deal' on the ballot paper was ruled out by the policy motion the party passed at its spring conference.

More than that, it is likely that people attracted by the Bollocks to Brexit on the Lib Dem tin will be put off if they open it and find such a referendum being promised.

As James says, it is entirely wrong to put something in front of the people in a referendum if you believe, as we Lib Dems do, that it will seriously damage the country.

If you put a number of options to the people in a referendum they are entitled to assume that each is viable but has its advantages and disadvantages.

Which is why the person most at fault for the mess in which Britain finds itself today is David Cameron.

Lib Dem and Green administration takes control of York

The Liberal Democrats gained nine seats in York at the council elections, with the result that they and the Greens between them had a majority on the council.

A new administration has duly been formed with the Lib Dems' Keith Aspden as leader and the Greens' Andy D’Agorne as his deputy.

Aspden told The Press:
“Over the coming months and years, we will increase the Council’s focus on improving the city’s frontline services and create the capacity to deliver for our local communities. ... Our team will work on building confidence in the Council by giving residents a greater voice.”
The Lib Dems previously ran York between 2003 and 2007, but we were a long way from that when I helped in my first local election there 40 years ago.

And in those days the Greens were still called the Ecology Party.

Chairman of Leicester Conservative resigns over election results

The chairman of  Leicester Conservatives has resigned over the party's tactics in the local elections held earlier this month.

Leicester Tories lost their only city councillor and failed to come anywhere winning the mayoral election despite choosing a former government minister as their candidate.

You might think the chairman would have had something to do with developing the party's tactics, but when that chairman is this blog's old friend Jack Hickey anything is possible.

Here's what he told the Leicester Mercury:
“We had an awful election. 
"Our campaign was low energy, there was no strategy and we did nothing on social media. 
“We fought on 54 fronts but we didn’t fight smart. 
“A third of our membership were standing for election. 
"We should have concentrated on winnable seats, but we spread ourselves too thin. 
“People worked hard, but they worked in the wrong places.”
And it must have really hurt that his cherished tram scheme did not make the party's' city manifesto.

What is most significant in all this is that the Tories, who in 1983 won all three Leicester constituencies, now have only 150 members across the three of them.

Finally, a word for that defeated Tory councillor Ross Grant. He had spent the past year as the city's ceremonial mayor and is respected well beyond this party.

Why, he once wrote a guest post for this blog!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Deptford Jack in the Green in Greenwich on May Day

Jack, do you never sleep -
does the green still run deep in your heart?
Or will these changing times,
motorways, power lines,
keep us apart?
Well, I don't think so -
I saw some grass growing through the pavements today.
More on the Deptford Jack in the Green.

So Tiggers can change their stripes - at least in Scotland

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David Macdonald, an entrepreneur and independent councillor in East Renfrewshire, was at the top of Change UK's list for Scotland in next week's European elections.

Today, standing alongside the Scottish Liberal Democrats' leader Willie Rennie, he urged Scots to vote Lib Dem instead to avoid splitting the Remain vote.

Change UK,or The Tiggers as I shall always think of them, have already lost their top candidate for Scotland once after someone looked at the tweets Joseph Russo had been sending.

It all adds to the impression that this new party is proving a flop. But I did enjoy Chuka Umunna's headmasterly disapproval of someone changing parties:
“He has let down his fellow candidates and activists."

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Paradise postponed at Airfield Farm, Market Harborough

In 1997 someone put forward a plan for a Christian theme park, including a recreation of the Garden of Eden, just outside Market Harborough.

Nothing came of the idea and eventually planning was given for 924 houses on the Airfield Farm site.

On Saturday I crossed the new canal bridge to see that was happening there.

There were show homes, cycle paths and little else. The effect was rather eerie, but then that was my reaction to the new Leicester suburb of Hamilton when I passed through it while searching for the Humber Stone.

To listen to some, you would believe that little house building takes place because developers are at the mercy of ruthless NIMBYs.

The reality is different, with planning authorities afraid of turning down applications lest they are obliged to pay the costs of an appeal by the developer.

And too often, new estates lack any amenities, any transport but the private car and are blatantly designed to allow further expansion.

This new Market Harborough development will not be like that. We are promised "sports pitches, a country park, play areas, allotments and a local centre which will consist of local shops and services".

But for now the site belongs to the show houses.