Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Exorcism by Don Taylor

I was 12 when I watched this. It was the scariest thing I had ever seen and that is how I still remember it, having never plucked up the courage to watch it again.

In fact from what I have dared skim through, it looks even scarier today because of those dreadful Seventies threads.

Enlivened by the presence of Mr Bucket, The Exorcism is an interesting marriage of marxist Play for Today and folk horror.

At least I suspect it is. If any reader dares to watch it, please let me know if I am right.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Trainspotting at Euston in 1957

Enjoy the footage of steam haulage at the old Euston. Wonder at the authorities' toleration of unsupervised children in a busy working environment.

I'm fond of sheep myself, but I'm not sure what they have to do with it.

Rutland's MP quits "Muppet Show" parliament

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Sir Alan Duncan, Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton since 1992, will not be defending his seat at December's general election.

He told the Leicester Mercury: "It’s time to put an end to the Muppet show."

I am puzzled by the way people use 'Muppet' as at term of abuse. Kermit and friends put together a variety show every week, often featuring an international star. That would certainly be beyond this Tory government.

Duncan may suggest he has had enough of parliament, but I suspect there is another explanation: the craving for Walker's crisps has become too much for him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

How Jackanory presented Over Sea, Under Stone in 1969

At the weekend Talking Pictures TV screened a documentary about the career of the film director Lindsay Anderson.

One of the people interviewed was David Wood, who had appeared in Anderson's most famous film If.... That's him in the still above with Malcolm McDowell.

This reminded me that I had mentioned David Wood when writing about my memories of watching a dramatisation of Susan Cooper's Over Sea, Under Stone in 1969 and my puzzlement as to the exact format it can have taken.

Well, David Wood - today celebrated as a writer of plays for children - has a website and welcomes contact from the public, so I wrote and asked him.

Today I received a friendly and helpful reply from him that explained everything.

David wrote:
In 1969, not long after the release of If…., Marilyn Fox contacted me from the BBC. She was directing a Jackanory week, and invited me to be the storyteller. The book was Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. Marilyn told me it was the first Jackanory to incorporate filmed scenes with actors. My job as narrator was to link the acting scenes.
He said he had been pleased to be asked, because:
Appearing on Jackanory had become a privilege, with well-known actors queueing up to do it.
And he said that doing Jackanory was quite nerve-wracking because he was on his own in the studio and it was his first experience of using autocue.

Finally, he quoted a letter he received from the producer afterwards which casts more light on the programme's format:
This kind of linking between film extracts is really extremely difficult to do well without the studio parts being a let down. In this case one was really held by your storytelling and was not forever wondering when the next bit of film was coming.
David also reminded me that, though they did not meet because of the format of the programme, Graham Crowden, who played Uncle Merry in Over Sea, Under Stone, had just been in If.... with him.

So if you want to know what happened, ask someone who was there.

Poll suggests Liberal Democrats will regain Cambridge

With a general election before Christmas on the cards, it's time to boost the morale of my fellow Liberal Democrats.

So take a look at this constituency poll for Cambridge, a seat we held between 2005 and 2015.

Labour's support for the Iraq war lost them the seat in 2005, so it's not so fanciful to suggest their luke-warm opposition to Brexit could cost them again in 2019.

Monday, October 28, 2019

England beat the West Indies at Port of Spain in 1968

West Indies vs England in the winter of 1967/8 is the first test series I followed. I was seven.

It marked John Snow's emergence as England's' premier fast bowler and Alan Knott's arrival as an outstanding wicketkeeper and batsman.

The only decisive result in the five-match series was in the fourth test. England won because of a remarkably generous declaration as Gary Sobers asked them to make 214 in 53 overs.

To a team already used to playing limited-overs cricket, it looked eminently gettable.

England reached their target for the loss of only three wickets. Geoff Boycott opened the innings and finished 80 not out, with Colin Cowdrey contributing 71.

Among England's bowlers were Jeff Jones, father of Simon Jones from the great Ashes series of 2005, and Tony Lock, a star from the 1950s who was recalled after Fred Titmus lost some toes in a boating accident.

Standards committee recommends six-month ban for Keith Vaz

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The Commons standards committee has published its report on the conduct of Keith Vaz, the Labour MP for Labour East.

To cut to the chase:
We have found that Mr Vaz acted in breach of paragraph 16 of the 2015 House of Commons Code of Conduct. By expressing willingness to purchase a Class A drug, cocaine, for others to use, thereby showing disregard for the law, and by failing to co-operate fully with the inquiry process, thereby showing disrespect for the House’s standards system, he has caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole. 
This is a very serious breach of the Code. We recommend that the House should suspend Mr Vaz from its service for six months. 
We note that this suspension, if agreed by the House, will trigger the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015 and require a recall petition to be opened in Mr Vaz’s constituency.
The report as a whole is damning. Try this:
At the heart of this case is whether the Commissioner’s conclusion that Mr Vaz’s account of the events of 27 August 2016 is “incredible” can be accepted. In our view Mr Vaz has done himself no favours by his inability to provide a single, consistent, plausible account of those events. 
At various times he has claimed that (a) the media report bore no relation to what actually happened, (b) he has no recollection of what actually happened, (c) the meeting was set up to discuss interior decoration and no sexual activity took place, (d) a spiked drink was administered to him (with the implication that this affected his conversation and behaviour), and (e) even if sexual activity had taken place it would have been part of his private and personal life and therefore not subject to the Code of Conduct. 
It is difficult, to put it mildly, to see how all these separate defences could simultaneously be true.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Henri 2: Paw de Deux

The film critic Roger Ebert, says Wikipedia, called this "the best internet cat video ever made".

Neal Ascherson says Brexit threatens the Union

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Neal Ascherson, one of my favourite political commentators, writes in the Guardian:
Theresa May went around preaching about "our precious, precious union". This puzzled me, given massive English indifference. Ask somebody in Durham or Exeter why the union matters, and you get a blank stare, a shrug and perhaps a mumble. 
Then I understood: it wasn’t Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland that was "precious" to her, but "the union" in the abstract – a sort of legitimising halo hovering over Westminster’s anointed. It's a cult confined to Britain’s ruling caste and, of course, to Scottish and Irish unionists who genuinely have something to lose. 
The "great rest of England" seem to have felt for many years that if the Scots want to leave, "it seems a pity but it’s their right". Few southerners would feel diminished.
And he concludes:
If England in 2019 can no longer remember why the union with Scotland and Northern Ireland once made sense, Brexit has delivered the United Kingdom to the hospice of history.
No country last for ever - read Norman Davies' Vanished Kingdoms if you doubt me - and I suspect that one day soon the Scottish Liberal Democrats will have to start thinking about what a liberal Scotland would look like rather than just defending the union.

Half Man Half Biscuit: Bad Losers on Yahoo! Chess

Dennis Bell of Torquay,
Too late
With your knight at e3.
Good game sir
Do you want another bout?
Well Dennis ain't replying
'Cos he just signed out,
Half Man Half Biscuit's songs mirror my life.

Not only have I often found myself engaged in a descent of the Stiperstones, I have also run into bad losers on Yahoo! Chess.

This comes from the band's 2008 album CSI:Ambleside.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Photographs of old Leicester

Accompanied by a slightly unnecessary cover of A White Shade of Pale by Annie Lennox, here are some photographs of vanished Leicester.

Wigston Glen Parva was on the line to Birmingham, a little to the west of the present-day South Wigston station.

I am voting for Mark Pack as Lib Dem president

Liberal Democrat members will have received an email giving them details of how to vote online in the party's internal elections. The polls close at 5pm on Friday 8 November.

So many people tried to vote this morning that the system fell over, so I have decided to wait until things calm down.

When they do, I shall be voting for Mark Pack as party president.

  • I have known him since the glory days of Lib Dem blogging.
  • He knows the party inside out.
  • He is a strong organiser and campaigner.
  • Along with David Howarth, he has pushed for the party to build a core of liberal supporters rather than try to be all things to all people. (Simon Titley was calling for this back in 2004.)
And there is one negative reason:
  • Christine Jardine is an impressive MP, but I have never believed that party president is a job for an MP.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The public schools' greatest weakness is now the character of their old boys

Britain’s public schools began as charities set up for the education of the poor. In the 19th century they squirmed their way out of that obligation and set about educating the children of the rich instead.

But this is not just a story of privilege, for the squirming coincided with the rise of the British Empire and the public schools took on the task of producing the caste that would run it.

That caste had to be tough, self-sufficient and independent of any ties of home. Hence the classic public school regime of cold baths, corporal punishment and compulsory team games. It produced just the type of men required, albeit at great psychological cost.

The quality this regime instilled was venerated as 'character'. It was something that the caste possessed and the rest of us did not.

This regime persisted long after the Empire had dwindled. As a young teenager in the 1970s I felt vaguely sorry for the boys of my age I saw on the station in winter, off to Saturday morning lessons in short trousers.

I can recall an old Conservative MP saying that by the time you had been through prep school, public school and been shouted at by the Regimental Sergeant Major in the Guards, you had a pretty accurate idea of your importance in the scheme of things.

That is not true of privately educated young Tories today. They think they are entitled to all the good things the world has to offer, and nothing in their education has disabused them of this idea. They have enjoyed the finest of everything and known no hardship.

Take a look at the men this system now produces.

On the surface Jacob Rees-Mogg has the charming manners the products of public schools were once noted for. But if he is crossed to the slightest degree, then the rodent teeth appear.

While Boris Johnson is a walking compendium of character failings, beginning with compulsive lying and sexual infidelity.

Which suggests that the public schools’ greatest weakness is now the character of its former pupils.

A plaque for Thomas Babington Macaulay

Historian and reforming Whig politician, Thomas Babington Macaulay is one of Leicestershire's greatest sons.

He was born and lived in the county at Rothley Temple, now the Rothley Court Hotel. When I visited it I was chiefly concerned with its inglorious place in English cricket history.

'The Whig view of history' has been out of fashion for as long as anyone can remember, and the past few years have been enough to cure anyone of the notion that progress is inevitable.

Nevertheless, if you dip into Macaulay's works you will find them full of good things.

Today Charnwood Borough Council put up a plaque in his honour at his birthplace.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Six of the Best 890

Peter Oborne explains how British journalists have become part of the Johnson government’s fake news machine.

"He comes across as motivated by an anarchic curiosity, ready to trash his current political vehicle and possibly to break up Britain just to see whether anything interesting and useful results." James Meek on the strange ideology of Dominic Cummings.

Jennie Rigg has personal experience of the poisoning of Britain's political discourse.

"Posters have already appeared announcing the birth of 'Manc-hattan'. But the truth is we are a long way from that uplifting skyline. This is more like something you’d see on the outer ring road of a third-tier Chinese city." Oliver Wainwright says Manchester has sold its soul for luxury skyscrapers.

Hannah Jane Parkinson suggests the #WagathaChristie affair shows that surveillance is no longer the preserve of the private investigator.

Leicestershire's new opener Hassan Azad has been on a long journey from Karachi via Mansfield and a quidditch injury, reports Yas Rana.

Voters will not punish Corbyn if he makes them wait for an election

Jeremy Corbyn is a chicken. Jeremy Corbyn is frit.

The Conservatives are convinced that the voters want a general election just as much as they do, will be outraged if Corbyn fails to allow one at the earliest opportunity and punish him when an election does come.

I suspect this view is mistaken.

If you ask people for an opinion poll most will say there ought to be an election. But that doesn't mean they have given the idea much thought or care a great deal about it.

Most of them certainly do not care half as much as the Conservatives do.

And when the election campaign starts it will be schools and hospitals that dominate debate. The Conservatives will try to confine discussion to Brexit, but fail in that attempt,

What happened in the run up to the election will be largely forgotten.

Transport secretary backs reopening of Market Harborough to Northampton line

OK it's only Grant Shapps, but in the Commons today the transport secretary said he was "very supportive" of the reopening of the railway line from Market Harborough to Northampton.

The idea was recently put forward in the consultation document for the new West Northamptonshire Strategic Plan.

The line closed to all traffic in 1981 - you can see some photos I took on its last day on this blog.

Shapps could not resist having a dig at Labour by pointing out that the Beeching closures took place under Harold Wilson's government.

That is true, but the political force behind Beeching's report was the Conservative transport secretary Ernest Marples. And Marples was making a fortune out of building motorways.

As Lewis Baston once wrote on Conservative Home:
Even by the rather lax standards of conflict of interest and disclosure that prevailed at the time, it was incongruous that the civil engineering firm that built many of the early motorways was none other than Marples Ridgway (a name that was also applied to the new Hammersmith Flyover). 
Marples was pressured to dispose of his shareholding, which he apparently did in 1960, some say by ‘selling’ the shares to his wife, others to an offshore trust under his disguised ownership; the record is not clear. 
As well as building up the motorways and giving Marples Ridgway lots of opportunity to build bridges and mix concrete, Marples ran down the railways. 
Corrupt as hell? You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Sarah Wollaston condemns Boris Johnson for hiding from scrutiny

Boris Johnson is not fit to be prime minister.

He has cancelled his appearance before the Commons liaison committee, whose membership consists of the chairs of all the Commons select committee, for the third time.

Its chair, the Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Wollaston, has replied to his letter in forceful terms:
"Frankly, I am astonished that, at such short notice, you are refusing to face detailed scrutiny from select committee chairs tomorrow morning. This is the third time that you have postponed or cancelled. 
"I have already conveyed the committee's deep disappointment that you did not appear on Wednesday 11th September, despite your suggestion of that date and your later reassurance that you would keep that commitment. 
She added: "Our role as select committee chairs is to ask you detailed questions on behalf of the public and we planned to do so on Brexit, climate change, health and social care. It is unacceptable that you are refusing to be held to account."
Johnson has got to where he is with a mixture of bonhomie, bluster and telling lies in a public school accent.

It's an indictment of Britain and its institutions that this is enough to make you prime minister.

But Johnson's act has hit the buffers. His handlers kept him from the media as much as they could during the Conservative leadership contest because they knew he would not stand up to scrutiny.

Now he is prime minister they are doing the same with the liaison committee and for the same reasons.

Thus demonstrating that Boris Johnson is not fit to be prime minister.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The death of the York to Hull line

The direct line from to York to Hull closed in 1965 and this film shows the line and its fittings being removed for scrapped.

Today it appear high in most people's list of lines that should have been kept open.

More Uncle stories published

I am delighted by the discovery that some hitherto unpublished Uncle stories by the Revd J.P. Martin have appeared in print.

You will find 50 pages of them in the biography J.P. Martin: Father of Uncle, which was written by his daughter, the playwright Stella Currey, back in the 1980s and published last year.

If you are not familiar with the Uncle stories, this post of mine will explain their attraction.

Norman Baker's new book on the Royal Family

Norman Baker, the former Liberal Democrat minister and MP for Lewes, has just published another book.

The Biteback website bills … And What Do You Do? as:
a provocative and hard-hitting analysis of the royal family, exposing its extravagant use of public money and the highly dubious behaviour of some among its ranks, while remaining critical of the knee-jerk sycophancy shown by press and politicians alike.
It also reminds us that Norman is a privy counsellor.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Six of the Best 889

"The Yorkshire Yellow Book 2019 is bursting with ideas about how a future Yorkshire should develop.  Importantly, these ideas are evidence-based and embedded in sound Liberal principles." Nigel Lindsay praises this new publication.

Ian Birrell explains how the birth of a profoundly handicapped daughter changed his politics.

'Impostor syndrome’ is a pseudo-medical name for a class problem, argues Nathalie Olah.

Did Anglo-Saxons establish a settlement in the Crimea after the Norman conquest? Remarkably, says Caitlin Green, the answer appears to be yes.

"His novelistic ambitions didn’t really take off and, although they left some interesting material behind, we can be relieved that they took second place to his poetic talent." Dan Atkinson reads Philip Larkin's 1946 novel Jill.

Simon Ingram studies some willows by Rutland's River Gwash: "Most have derelict trunks, exposing innards, like half collapsed houses. The tree I’m in has a scored base like ancient rock, all deep grooves and lichen, its gaps and hollows filled with spider fluff and the willow-leaf confetti of autumn."

Jacky: White Horses

The White Horses was a Yugoslav children's television series that I swear the BBC showed in every school holiday throughout my childhood. The same was true of Robinson Crusoe and Belle and Sebastian.

It's not a great song - this is mostly about personal nostalgia - but choosing it does allow me to introduce you to the remarkable career of its singer Jackie Lee.

Your can read all about it on The World of Jackie Lee, where you will discover that she sang on Jimi Hendrix's recording of Hey Joe.

Write a guest post for Liberal England

I welcome guest posts on Liberal England.

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

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

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Taste of Honey and well-scrubbed urchins

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Back in 2008 I quoted Hazel Blears' memories of appearing in A Taste of Honey as a little girl:
"The director wanted a couple of street urchins in the film and saw me and my brother playing in the street, asked me mum if we could be in the film and, being the proud working-class woman that she is, she made absolutely sure we had our Sunday best clothes on and were all scrubbed up.
This evening Talking Pictures TV screened a tribute to the wonderful Dora Bryan. In it, Rita Tushingham told the same story of street urchins turning up for the filming in their Sunday best.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Two Fortean tales from the 1915 Quintinshill rail disaster

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Britain's worst railway disaster took place at Quintinshill, just over the Scottish border, in 1915. A double collision followed by a fire killed some 215 people.

The precise death toll was hard to decide exactly. Most of the casualties were members of the Royal Scots regiment, and the roll of soldiers aboard the train was lost in the fire.

In recent days I have come across two intriguing stories connected with Quintinshill.

The first, told on the new Fortean Times message board, talks of a
persistent rumour/legend that a handful of the survivors of the rail crash deserted in its aftermath and travelled east to settle down in the Newcastle area.
It's not impossible: people often use disasters as an opportunity to disappear. And, even with the attentions of the Military Police, it would have been easier to do a century ago than it is today.

But them, as that post suggests, it may just have been a story to console relatives of the diseased. "Our big brother is still alive down in England, but he can't come home."

The second story, mentioned in the Wikipedia entry for Quintinshill, says the bodies of children that were found in the wreckage but never claimed.

This tale is familiar from the Charfield railway crash of 1928, where it is said two children were never claimed, but there were those who said they had seen them aboard the train.

At Quintinshill the children - originally four but now the accepted number seems to be three - are said to have stowed away on one of the three trains involved. It's all very vague.

Still, a memorial has been erected to these unclaimed children and someone is calling for their bodies to be exhumed so that DNA tests can be carried out.

At Charfield the accepted explanation of the unclaimed children seems to be that, after a railway disaster involving a fire, it is hard for the authorities to be sure who or what they are burying and that the children probably never existed.

I fear the same is true of the children of Quintinshill.

The retoxification of the Conservative Party

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Back in 2007, before many of my readers were born, I wrote a post here about the Conservatives' announcement that they would scrap Labour's identity card scheme if they won the next election.
This is good news and the Conservatives are to be commended. But I wonder how this will play with the membership. 
I remember one of my walking holidays around the South-West coast from the early 1990s. I spent the night in Kingsand - a charming village across the Tamar from Plymouth. It was one of those magical evenings where you make friends with the locals and people keep buying you drinks. 
Towards closing time, the local Conservatives came in from a meeting and I got talking to them too. They had been talking about identity cards and asked what I thought. I said (a little pretentiously) that I didn't see why, as a freeborn Englishman, I should have to carry a card to show my right to be in my own country. 
Yes, they said, there was one person at the meeting who had said that, but the rest of us are all in favour of cards. There major reason for supporting them was their belief that the country was overrun with illegal immigrants.
In reply Iain Dale - I had quoted him at the start of the post - said:
Even I was a bit surprised by the general euphoria which has greeted this announcement. The Tory Party is changing.
Maybe it was changing in 2007, but it has certainly changed back. I have not seen a single Conservative question announcement that we shall all have to produce an identity document to vote in future.

Iain himself seems very keen on the idea:
Twelve years is a long time in politics and I don't want to be hard on Iain. In the days when blogging was a thing I always found him friendly and helpful.

He was even, along with Tim Worstall, one of the people I copied when starting to blog. Between them they taught me to write lots of short posts rather than pretend I was writing a comment piece for a broadsheet newspaper - we had them in those days.

But all this does lead me to the idea that the Conservative Party is little more than a ruthless attempt to ensure that those who have wealth and power keep it.

They will take on any shape that helps them - libertarian, nationalist, caring, authoritarian, intellectual, populist - much as Boris Johnson will say anything that will get him through the next 30 seconds.

A true Conservative would rejoice that Britain has such an informal electoral system that commands universal report.

But then, as I have often argues, the real problem with the Conservative Party is that it is not Conservative enough.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The reburial of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral

Liberal England from 2012:
Leicester Chronicler says: 
very little survives of the medieval friary; just an archway in the basement of private property and some stones incorporated into the wall of an open air municipal car park. 
I suspect that is the car park behind the social services building in Greyfriars, which was securely locked when I was there this afternoon. But I did find this plaque across the road on the side of the old Nat West bank. 
And, somewhere under the paving stones, the body of Richard III may well be close by.
When I posted this I did not know that a dig was planned at Greyfriars. Less than three months later, Richard's body was found.

Incidentally, the remains of Greyfriars are not in what was the social services car park, where Richard was found, but on the other side of New Street.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Queen Victoria rarely attended the state opening of parliament

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Yesterday Boris Johnson had a 93-year-old woman dress up in full fig and read a speech to bolster his political fantasies.

But the Queen could and should have said no.

Queen Victoria would certainly have told Johnson what he could do. She rarely bothered to attend the state opening.

As Queen Victoria's Scrapbook explains:
Queen Victoria declined to attend between 1862 (the year following Prince Albert’s death) and 1865, and during these years Parliament was opened by Commission. Between 1866 and 1901, Queen Victoria attended the State Opening of Parliament only seven times.
In the years that she did not attend the state opening, the gracious speech was read by the lord chancellor.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Marvin the Paranoid Android sings the blues

The death of Stephen Moore at the weekend - and the celebration of his career that followed - revealed that he recorded two singles in the character of Marvin the Paranoid from The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy.

Here is the first of them.

A warning to Labour from 1983

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What if the opinion polls are right? Yes, Corbyn did much better in 2017 than anyone expected, but what if Labour finds itself struggling to beat the Liberal Democrats into third place at the next election, much as Michael Foot struggled to outpoll the Liberal/SDP  Alliance in 1983?

You might think that would mark the end of Corbynism and a long march back to the centre ground n Labour's behalf.

Don't bank on it.

Here is Tony Benn's reaction to Labout's catastrophic (the Tories had a 144-seat majority) defeat in 1983:
"The general election of 1983 has produced one important result that has passed virtually without comment in the media,” said Benn. “It is that, for the first time since 1945, a political party with an openly socialist policy has received the support of over eight and a half million people. 
"This is a remarkable development by any standards and it deserves some analysis … the 1983 Labour manifesto commanded the loyalty of millions of voters and a democratic socialist bridge-head in public understanding and support can be made."
This determination of the hard left to learn nothing from defeat was a gift to Neil Kinnock, His reforms of the Labour Party met with little opposition because the only alternative appeared to be perpetual defeat,

But Kinnock commanded a majority on the party's national executive. Whoever succeeds Corbyn, the hard left will enjoy that advantage and may well take Tony Benn's line on electoral defeat.

In which case there will be no easy way back for Labour.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Six of the Best 888

"In her eight years in Stormont, she four times introduced a Human Rights Bill, which would have created structures for human rights accountability in Northern Ireland." Nicholas Whyte discovers the remarkable career of Sheelagh Murnaghan.

The third volume of Charles Moore's biography of Margaret Thatcher is reviewed by Andrew Marr: "Her biggest failure was her attitude to Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the coming together of the communist East and capitalist West is today seen as a pivotal moment of joy and hope. She completely misunderstood it. Her anti-Germanism, going back to her childhood, was so strong she couldn’t see past it."

Fiona Dawe looks at the effect of climate change on the United Nations' sustainable development goals.

Caroline Hickman explains why some adults are reacting badly to young climate strikers.

"The Nicolaikirche is now a place of pilgrimage for many Germans of a certain age, and for good reason. It is from here that the 'Monday demonstrations' (Montags Demonstrationen) that grew throughout 1989 and 1990 evolved." Mike Stuchbery on a Leipzig church's part in the fall of the Berlin Wall.

IanVisits takes us to the Hidden London exhibition at the London Transport Museum.

"A distraction from the class struggle": Women, race and the left

Black, Asian and women Labour MPs have asked for a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn over their concern they are being disproportionately targeted for deselection.

The author of that article, ITV's political correspondent Paul Brand, later tweeted that meeting will take place on Tuesday afternoon.

But how can this be? Surely Labour activists are so woke it hurts?

They may be, but the people who command their loyalty - Jeremy Corbyn and Jon Lansman - cut their political teeth in a very different era.

When they were young, concern with sexual or racial inequality was widely dismissed on the hard left as "a distraction from the class struggle" - googling that phrase is a political education.

So I am not surprised at the MPs who find themselves under threat from Momentum activists. It's is just what someone who remembers the hard left in its last ascendancy - the early 1980s - would expect.

The Monkees: The Girl I Knew Somewhere

By tradition this - the B side of their 1967 single A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You - was the first record on which the Monkees were allowed to play the instruments themselves.

Peter Tork, heard beating the living daylights out of a harpsichord here, was on various tracks before this, but it was their debut as a real group.

I have chosen a clip from the Prefab Four's television series. The action has little to do with the mood and lyrics of the song, but it is a reminder of just what a treat this programme was when it was repeated as part of BBC children's television in the early 1970s.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Dereliction at Langley Mill, 1969

This photograph comes from the January 1970 issue of the Inland Waterways Association Bulletin.

The caption says:
This is the first lock on the Cromford Canal which, with the Nottingham Canal, forms a Y-shaped junction with the Erewash at Langley Mill. Much of the Cromford Canal above Langley Mill is filled in, but this lock could be restored and a good marina developed at the old junction.
And that is what happened. Great Northern Basin is on my list of places to visit.

Stephen Moore (1937-2019)

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I was sorry to hear of the death of Stephen Moore today.

Talking Pictures TV shows Clockwise quite often, and during one of those showings I looked up members of the cast on IMDB.

I was surprised to find that the actor who played the personable young teacher on John Cleese's staff had also been the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

He supplied that memorable voice on both radio and television. It's interesting that the television adaptation, which was regarded at the time as a as brave but unsuccessful attempt to reproduce the magic of the radio production, at the time, is now revered.

Moore's IMDB page revealed a raft of appearances in British films and television. Given how young he looked in Clockwise in 1986, it was a surprise to find that the first of them was in 1959.

Another pleasing discovery was that he appeared (in 1962 and 1998) in what look like two television dramas about the notorious Victorian poisoner - and Rugeley's most famous son - William Palmer.

And he must have had quite a stage career too. The photograph above shows him, instantly recognisable, in the 1980 National Theatre production of Howard Brenton's The Romans in Britain, which was the subject of an unsuccessful legal action by Mary Whitehouse and her barrister, the raving pervert John Smyth.

We seem to have strayed a long way from Stephen Moore, so let me end as I began by expressing my sorrow at the death of a fine actor.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Solarnauts: Derek Fowlds in space

The blurb on YouTube explains:
Well, here's an oddity! An unsold pilot for a proposed 1967 sci-fi actioner out of the UK. Eye-popping costumes and sets belie an overall cheesy but charming tone. Cast of familiar but un-nameable Brit character actors, only Bond-Girl Martine Beswick and a very young Derek Fowlds stand out.

Passenger 'sorry' after breaking wind on Derby bus

Derby bus station yesterday

It may have been a quiet day over at Derbyshire Live, but it has still won our Headline of the Day Award.

Tory leader of Leicestershire wants to abolish our district councils

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Nick Rushton, the Conservative leader of Leicestershire County Council, has not abandoned his dreams of empire.

Today his council published what its press release describes as both a 'detailed road map' and a 'draft ... blueprint' for the abolition of all Leicestershire's district councils.

Some of the benefits claimed sound positively Soviet:
  • 'fewer councillors and fewer elections';
  • 'unity of purpose and a single strategic direction'.
In reply, the county's seven district councils have issued a joint statement:
The seven district councils in Leicestershire continue to work collaboratively to deliver highly-effective and efficient services to residents.
Proposed changes to the structure of local government in Leicestershire failed to receive support last year from district councils or MPs.
It is our view that better and cheaper services can be delivered through greater collaboration while keeping services local to the people who use them. There is an open invitation to the County Council to work with us on ideas for future collaboration.
If I believed centralisation made public services cheaper and more efficient I would have joined the Labour Party.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Exploring the GNR line from Derby Friargate to Nottingham Victoria: Bennerley to Kimberley

Backed in the summer I posted a great video showing a journey along the GNR line from Derby Friargate to Nottingham Victoria in 1964.

This one explores the remains of part of the line today. It takes us from Bennereley viaduct to Kimberley.

Boris Johnson, Leo Varadkar and Coleen Rooney feature in Trivial Fact of the Day

Thank you Laura Kuenssberg. Suddenly the licence fee seems better value.

Six of the Best 887

"Last year, 1584 children were unnecessarily dragged through the courts for possession of cannabis, with four out of five being found guilty, resulting in criminal records that will haunt them for their whole lives." Norman Lamb makes the case for a legal, regulated cannabis market.

David Herdson asks why the European Research Group waved through Theresa May's withdrawal agreement at Christmas 2017.

John Bull on the Harrow and Wealdstone railway disaster of 1952, which led to the development of the modern paramedic.

"The quickest way to an audience’s heart is to kill off one or both of your character’s parents." Manvir Singh looks at the extraordinary appeal of literary orphans.

Jennie Rigg has been to see Alice Cooper.

"These years, late in the century's first decade, may have been the apogee of Trescothick's career. If his health had allowed it, he would still have been young enough and good enough to play for England, but he was forced by circumstances to tread the county game's boards instead." Brian Carpenter celebrates the career of Marcus Trescothick.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Wolves in the Forest: Tackling Inequality in the 21st Century

The current issue of Liberator carries my review of the Social Liberal Forum's new publication The Wolves in the Forest: Tackling Inequality in the 21st Century, which is edited by Paul Hindley and Gordon Lishman.

I won't post the whole review here, just enough of it to explain the splendid title:
David Howarth contributes the introduction here too. He begins by pointing out that it is 110 years since Lloyd George delivered his ’People’s Budget’: 
‘He described a time when “poverty and the wretchedness and human degradation that allows follows in its camp, will be as remote to the people of this country as the wolves which once infested its forests”. The wolves of poverty, wretchedness, human degradation and inequality are still with us. Far from being remote to modern Britain their infestation of modern Britain is becoming more widespread.’
And my conclusion:
Keynes died 73 years ago and L.T. Hobhouse and T.H. Green make their obligatory appearances too. Liberal Democrats are either going to have more recent thinkers to be inspired by or do the intellectual heavy lifting themselves.  The Wolves in the Forest is a welcome sign that we may be prepared to do just that.
You can buy The Wolves in the Forest from the Social Liberal Forum website.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Pilgrim by Sebastian Baczkiewicz

There is nothing of Pilgrim on the BBC website at the moment, so this will have to do us for now.

Boris Johnson and the Russian Mountain

Things may get very entertaining now John Sweeney has left the BBC.

Ginger Baker (1939-2019)

Ginger Baker, the nomination of many as the greatest rock drummer, died yesterday at the age of 80. He was best known from his time with the original supergroup Cream.

The tribute from Steve Winwood - "Beneath his somewhat abrasive exterior, there was a very sensitive human being with a heart of gold" - gives a clue as to the difficulties many found in working with Baker.

Winwood and Baker, along with Eric Clapton and Leicester's Rick Grech - were members of another supergroup - the short-lived Blind Faith. Here they are at their debut concert in Hyde Park in 1969

Do What You Like was written by Baker and so contains the obligatory drum solo.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The last train from Northampton to Market Harborough

The other day I wrote:
Thirty-eight years ago I travelled on the last train from Market Harborough to Northampton. Now comes news from Harborough FM that there is talk of reopening the line.
Discussing the idea with someone on Twitter, we came to the conclusion that restoring the original line through Market Harborough to the station would involve too much demolition,

But it might well be possible to divert the line at Great Oxendon to meet the Midland main line somewhere near Braybrooke.

Anyway, the last train on the line (at least for now) ran on 15 August 1981. These are the photographs I still have from the ones I took that day.

We drove to Northampton to catch the train, which ran through Harborough on the down line to reach the signal box, then reversed on to the up line to reach the remaining LNWR platform.

Eventually it took us all back to Northampton.

Note the people leaning out of train windows and the casual trespassing, both of which I must have been guilty of myself to take these photos. Things were more easy-going on the railways in those days.

Scottish Lib Dems target their lost heartlands

The Quiraing, Skye

The Scottish Lib Dems' election co-ordinator Alex Cole-Hamilton is notably bullish in an interview for Scotland on Sunday.

He says: "We’re very excited about the prospect of a general election whenever it comes."

Among the former Lib Dems Westminster seats he lists as good prospects are Charles Kennedy's old seat of Ross, Skye and Lochaber; Aberdeen South; Argyll and Bute; and North East Fife.

There's more:
The traditional stronghold in the Borders seat of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk – which the party held for decades – is also in play. The Lib Dems are even confident of muscling their way into the Edinburgh North and Leith, the seat held by the SNP’s Deidre Brock.
What is most encouraging is Alex's claim that "It’s true to say that the Highlands are rediscovering their liberal traditions."

Viewed from a distance, the Scottish Lib Dems have so far based their welcome recovery on emphasising their unionist credentials. It is good to see them going beyond that.

Ann Widdecombe looked old-fashioned in the 1990s but was really the future

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How we used to laugh at Ann Widdecombe when she was a government minister!

We didn't laugh at her politics, which were deeply unpleasant, but at her image. It was so hopelessly old fashioned.

As it turned out, Widdecombe was not old fashioned at all. She was an early adopter of a style that has since been deployed by a number of leading Conservatives.

The clue at the time was the number of her university contemporaries who told the press they did not recognise the young woman they knew then in the iron-clad virgin of the 1990s.

Because Widdecombe had turned herself into a cartoon character - a living exaggeration of certain characteristics that appealed to Tory voters and to Tory activists in particular.

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.

That is why people who think they are hurting Rees-Mogg by laughing at him for being behind the times are playing into his hands.

And it is why we should not have laughed at Ann Widdecombe.

The Jam: But I'm Different Now

Sometimes only The Jam will do and this is a live performance of a track from their 1980 album Sound Affects.

But do we believe him? Is he different now?

Saturday, October 05, 2019

A Nottingham shop window

Lib Dems will not oppose Dominic Greive at the next election

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It's all happening behind the Sunday Times paywall tonight:
A leading Tory Brexit rebel has struck a secret deal with the Liberal Democrats in what is the first significant move towards the formation of a “remain alliance” at the general election. 
The Liberal Democrats have agreed to stand aside to help former Conservative Dominic Grieve save his Beaconsfield seat, paving the way for a Brexit showdown at the ballot box.
The article says our adopted candiate, Rob Castell, has agreed to stand down "following talks with party bosses".

We polled just 4000 votes in in Beaconsfield at the last two general elections, but in 2010 we received more than 10,000, so this move may make the difference.

I am not going to oppose this move, but let's beware of thinking that all we need to do is stand down in enough seats and we are bound to win.

Stephen Dorrell has joined the Liberal Democrats

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Stephen Dorrell, who was health secretary in John Major's government and a Change UK candidate in this years's European elections, writes behind the Sunday Times paywall:
The slow-motion disintegration of the Conservative and Labour parties is the key political fact of 2019. Brexit is the immediate detonator, but the underlying causes run deeper and create the opportunity to reshape politics.
He goes on to say that this reshapaing
requires liberal Conservatives and social democrats to break cover from their respective parties and join the Liberal Democrats in a big liberal tent. 
It isn’t just a question of “joining the Liberal Democrats”; by joining, their objective is to expand the Liberal Democrats to include fellow liberals from different backgrounds, all of whom are committed to delivering the reform of our politics that is so urgently needed.
And he concludes:
It is time for them to break their shackles and join with the Liberal Democrats to build an effective voice for a modern, liberal Britain. That is what I have done.
Dorrell was Conservative MP for Loughborough and then Charnwood between 1979 and 2015.

Neil Robertson forfeits snooker qualifier after driving to wrong Barnsley

A win for one of the big boys, as the Guardian walks away with our Headline of the Day Award.

The judges were reminded of the time that Andrew Newton, told to seek out Norman Scott in Barnstaple, looked for him in Dunstable instead.

Friday, October 04, 2019

John Betjeman visits Southwell Minster

This programme was broadcast in the BBC Radio series Choirs and Places where they Sing in 1967.

The first six minutes feature John Betjeman celebrating the town and its minster. This is followed by a performance by the minster choir.

Nicola Horlick: Jo Swinson is in talks with lots of Labour and Conservative MPs

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Nicola Horlick, at one time Britain's best-know businesswoman and a Conservative, has just been adopted as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Chelsea and Fulham.

In an interview with the i newspaper she gives us a glimpse of what Jo Swinson is up to:
“A lot of MPs from both Labour and the Tories were talking to Jo Swinson about defecting, but the trouble is we’ve got all our candidates already.”
The answer seems to be for the existing Lib Dem candidate to stand down:
It does seem unfair that someone who has worked so hard at a local level to get to be our candidate may be moved aside for a more well known candidate. It really has to be their decision whether to step aside for a better known figure, someone who may have a better chance of winning the seat. 
“It comes down to whether or not an existing candidate is willing to be gracious and step aside in the interest of the party.”
The trouble is that, after the debacle (hem hem) of the last two elections, there are few winnable seats for the Lib Dems - even though we hope our emergence as England's only major Remain party has changed that.

And the other trouble is that high-profile defectors are rarely such vote-winners as they like to think.

I remember (though I have forgotten his name) that the existing Liberal candidate stepped aside to allow the Labour defector and former minister Chris Mayhew to fight Bath, which even then was a good Liberal prospect, in the February 1974 general election. Mayhew failed to win it.

Equally, everyone expected Bill Pitt to step aside in favour of Shirley Williams when a by-election was called in Croydon North West in 1981. But he insisted on being the Alliance candidate and won the by-election.

I suppose I should be outraged that defectors from both sides threaten to turn the Liberal Democrats into a centre party, but it is hard to be too dogmatic about a party that has so little ideology to begin with. And I am rather pleased that people now want to join us.

Instead, I am excited by the discovery, made in the course of writing this post, that Nicola Horlick's father Michael Gayford was a Liberal candidate.

He fought the Wirral constituency three times: at the two general elections of 1974 and the 1976 by-election caused by the resignation of Wirral's MP Selwyn Lloyd.

Lloyd was Speaker of the House of Commons between 1971 and 1976, which mean that in the two 1974 elections both the Liberals and Labour broke the convention that the Speaker should not be opposed.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Call to reopen the Market Harborough to Northampton line

Thirty-eight years ago I travelled on the last train from Market Harborough to Northampton. Now comes news from Harborough FM that there is talk of reopening the line.

'Steve Jones, Chairman of Harborough Rail Users Group', incidentally, was my companion on that journey in 1981.

The cause of this Harborough FM item is the consultation document for the new West Northamptonshire Strategic Plan, which says:
North - South Rail: The re-opening the Market Harborough to Northampton line would provide the potential for a new national corridor. If pursued, this would link the Midland Main Line northwards – thereby including such places as Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield – and the West Coast Main Line southwards – thereby including such places as Milton Keynes, Watford and London. 
Creating a new set of efficient economic and social connections should have significant positive impacts nationally and for West Northamptonshire. The north-south rail scheme would complement proposals for East-West Rail which are a key element of the vision for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. 
The route of the former railway is used as a 14 mile walking and cycling route known as the Brampton Valley Way. Compensatory provision would need to be considered if the rail scheme were to be implemented. 
If the line was restored on its original route into Market Harborough then there would need to be some demolition and the restoration of a level crossing on the road where I live.

That all that makes it sound rather unlikely, but I would love to see the line reopened.

Six of the Best 886

"Democracy is not just a tool for making decisions and picking between options, it’s an ongoing process of representation and dialogue that’s seeking to establish a way in which we can all comfortably co-exist. Voting is not the be-all and end-all of the process but rather just one stage within it." Nick Barlow says Brexit is a symptom and a result of a much wider malaise in British politics.

With the government doing all it can to raise the political temperature, Gabriel Power offers a list of the MPs who have been murdered in office.

An ethic of wonder that stood at the centre of Rachel Carson's ecological philosophy, argues Jennifer Stitt.

Robin Burgess on the reality of poverty in Northampton.

Catherine Bennett is not a fan of the vox pop: "This eager dissemination of unfounded, unchallenged, occasionally misleading or alcohol-misted opinion only contributes to the impression, reinforced by Question Time, that voter deliberation, if not actively redundant, is decreasingly a BBC priority."

“Chaplin is the only person to have gone down into cinematic history without any shadow of a doubt. The films he left behind can never grow old.” In 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky chose his top 10 films, writes Karen Strike.