Monday, August 02, 2021

The Joy of Six 1019

"You can mock Lindell, dismiss him, or call him a crackhead, but none of this will seem particularly funny when we truly have an illegitimate president in the White House and a total breakdown of law and order." Anne Applebaum meets the billionaire who is funding Trump's fantasies about stolen election.

Lewis Binnie explains why he has joined the Liberal Democrats and left the Scottish National Party.

"The vast pictures of the battles of Waterloo and Trafalgar in the Royal Gallery also convey images that disappeared from 'England’s story' in the century that followed. Waterloo is presented as a joint British-Prussian victory, with the Duke of Wellington shaking hands with Field Marshal Blucher on the battlefield.  The dying Admiral Horatio Nelson is surrounded by black as well as white sailors, with women also on board HMS Victory." William Wallace looks at the contested history of the Palace of Westminster's artworks.

Older workers are at risk of being dumped as furlough comes to an end, reports David Hencke.

"As cities invest in green infrastructure to ameliorate environmental harm, wildlife is increasingly occupying novel niches including green roofs and constructed wetlands and colonizing former brownfields and vacant lots." Janet Marinelli says cities can play an important role in fostering biodiversity.

Jane Nightshade on The Innocents, the extraordinary film Jack Clayton made from Henry James's The Turn of the Screw.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Drupi: Vado Via


Beach Baby, my choice of two weeks ago, generated a response, so here is another excursion into the charts of 1974.

That January, Vado Via made number in the 17 UK singles chart, making it a rare foreign language hit. (The previous one had been Steeleye Span's Gaudette, which was in Latin.)

Maybe the Italian lyrics helped it. You can tell something emotional is going on, but are not sure what, leaving you free to write your own story.

Drupi took his name from the cartoon character Droopy - he was born Giampiero Anelli in Italy. As an adult he lived in Austria and worked as a plumber when not singing in bands.

He performed Vado Via at the 1973 Sanremo Music Festival. It finished last in the competition, but that didn't stop it becoming a hit across Europe.

Judging by his website, Drupi was still in the music business well into this century..

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Motorists given emu warning after sightings near Ludlow





The Shropshire Star, inevitably, wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Well done everybody.

Geoff Boycott, John Edrich and fake trivia

In adding a note about his slip fielding to my post marking the passing of Mike Hendrick, I exploded one of my favourite pieces of cricket trivia.

You see. in the summer of 1977 two English batsmen - Geoff Boycott and John Edrich - scored their 100th first-class centuries.

And I used to believe that the same batsmen was at the other end when they did so.

Certainly, Graham Roope was batting with Boycott when he reached 100 in the Ashes test at Headingley. You can see him in the clip above, jumping over the ball as Sir Geoffrey on drives Greg Chappell to the boundary.

At the time is was widely reported that Rooper had also been at the other end when Edrich reached his 100 for Surrey against Derbyshire at The Oval.

But in 2004, the late, great Bill Frindall wrote:

Thanks to Jerry Lodge, Surrey CCC's Librarian, I can confirm that Graham Roope was NOT the batting partner when John Edrich reached his 100th century (v Derbyshire in 1977) ... Jerry writes: To the eternal shame of the Oval authorities, all of Jack Hill's scorebooks have been destroyed.

I have spoken to David Baggett who holds all the Derbyshire scorebooks and he confirms that Geoff Howarth was batting when John Edrich completed his century.

This is also in line with the mounted scorecard that hangs in the corridor outside the Library at The Oval.

Five reasons the right should be ridiculed for its lack of patriotism

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The best decades I have lived through are the 1960s and the 1990s.

One thing they have in common is that the Union Jack did not belong to the far right or the establishment. It belonged to everyone and was often used playfully.

Can it happen again?

Well, here are five reasons the Conservatives and the wider right can be ridiculed for their lack of patriotism.

  • On Tuesday Boris Johnson used the unveiling of a memorial to police officers who died on duty as the occasion for a comic turn with an umbrella
  • Johnson and Priti Patel have made it clear they have no objection to people booing the England football team,
  • The right has spent the five years since the Brexit referendum attacking the BBC, a British institution that is respected around the world.
  • Now they have turned their fire on the Royal National Lifeboat Institution - volunteers who risk their lives to save people in danger at sea. The RNLI is about as good as Britain gets.
  • Campaigners have taken the government to court in an attempt to stop them driving a tunnel under Stonehenge. Yesterday they won their case.

If the opposition parties cannot do something with this little catalogue, they may as well give up.

We needn't wrap ourselves in the flag, but we should rip it out of the hands of the right.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Conserving the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs

Historic England's YouTube blurb says:

The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs were the first-ever life-sized reconstructions of extinct animals, revealing to the public their first glimpse of lost worlds.

Today these magnificent Victorian sculptures continue to surprise and engage visitors on how science and history intertwine.

After Meg the Megalosaurus’ jaw collapsed last May, Bromley Council successfully secured a grant of £19,870 from the Culture Recovery Fund to undertake emergency repairs.

Watch our video to see how the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, Bromley Council and conservation specialists Taylor Pearce have used their funding to temporarily repair the Megalosaurus.

You can glimpse the dinosaurs in one of my favourite obscure films: Jack Clayton's Our Mother's House from 1967.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Mike Hendrick (1948-2021)

The death of Mike Hendrick today will not have come as a surprise to anyone who read Mike Atherton's unexpectedly moving article on the England team that won back the Ashes in 1981.

Atherton told us that Hendrick had been suffering from liver and bowel cancer for a long time and, in his own words, was "in the departure lounge, but the flight has not left yet".

Hendrick was a fine seam bowler with career figures to prove it. In tests he took 87 wickets at 25.83 and in first-class cricket 770 wickets at 20.50.

One oddity of his test record is that no bowler has got so many wickets without taking five in an innings.

There were those who said this confirmed the impression that Hendrick was a uniquely unlucky bowler who beat the bat over and over again without finding the edge. Others said that if only he had bowled a little fuller and a little straighter he would have taken even more wickets.

Hendrick was playing when I saw my first day of test cricket - the fourth and final day of the 1974 Edgbaston test against India. England took eight wickets to win by an innings and Hendrick got three of them.

He was also part of the most exciting day's play I have ever seen live - England's victory over Pakistan in the 1979 World Cup. You can see the four wickets he took in the video above.

And below you can see a long interview with Hendrick about his career that he recorded only last month.

Later. I should add that Mike Hendrick was a superb slip fielder. He would scoop up any chance that came near him with his big, seam bowler's hands and make hard catches look easy.

I remember Mike Brearley, Tony Greig and Hendrick from the 1977 Ashes as the finest England slip cordon I have seen. But Graham Roope, who was generally regarded as the best slip catcher in the country in those days, played in the last two tests of that series, so there must have been changes to accommodate him.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

GUEST POST Is a Yellow Wall emerging?

Matthew Pennell asks if the Liberal Democrats are in the business of building walls as well as knocking them down.

The media is obsessed with presenting events as dramatic and unprecedented, therefore it reported on the weakening of Labour’s hold on industrial heartland seats with alacrity. You’ve probably seen the phrase ‘Red Wall’ in print a thousand times since the 2019 General Election. 

Two years on and it has a generals-fighting-the-previous-battle quality to it. All walls can fall down and we’re now seeing the cracks in the Southern Blue Wall that Liberal Democrats were hoping in vain to chip away at in 2019. 

No one ever talks about a Yellow Wall because our Westminster power base isn’t substantial enough to represent a heartland, we have a cluster in South West London, that’s it.

In a post on my own blog about Lib Dem local election success in the countryside, I mentioned the jam doughnuts around university towns. Now in the Thames Valley, Cotswolds and Avon hinterland we have more of a family-sized lasagne dish emerging. 

The Oxfordshire halo spreading out from the county town nearly merges with the block of Gloucestershire Lib Dem-held county divisions, which in turn is connected to a number of councils in Somerset we gained in 2019. 

Now it’s possible to ramble from the Monmouthshire-Herefordshire border in an Easterly direction and walk 150 miles through 95 per cent Lib/Lab/Independent county council divisions until you’re within sight of London on the Southern flank of the Chilterns. 

This area might not be solidly Lib Dem when it comes to Westminster elections but it’s certainly more than a cluster, taking in Somerset, North West Wilts, Gloucestershire, parts of Hereford and most of southern Oxfordshire.

There has been plenty of commentary about the centre of gravity shifting for the party, away from our traditional South West England homeland and more towards the South East of England. 

Certainly, opportunities now abound in Surrey, Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Hertforshire - things are tough for us in Cornwall and I don’t really have an answer as to how we turn things around in the land of my fathers (my surname is Cornish for hilltop). 

Recent success in Oxfordshire, Shropshire and Gloucestershire suggests to me we're not limited to the London Home Counties commuter-belt that certain pundits say we are. 

The various clusters that have grown to the point where they connect on the local elections map - a new Thames/Severn/Avon Valley heartland - how much does it matter that they form a wall? 

At the most basic level if you can win in a wide geographical area it’s more durable than one small area, or outpost of support. You win in one area, make it safe, then send your activists next door to win in a social-economically similar place. 

It’s no coincidence that we won St Albans in the last General Election then picked up Chesham and Amersham 20 miles away, this would’ve been much more difficult if the nearest Lib Dem seat was 50 or more miles away in terms of mobilising support and convincing locals it was possible. 

While most people aren’t focussed on politics most of the time, at street level the general public see multiple amber diamond stakeboards up in your constituency, that creates visibility for hundreds driving through who live in the neighbouring seat.

If the Lib Dems centre of gravity is really shifting east is this a problem? 

Some are uncomfortable at us being portrayed as the party of leafy suburbia, spa towns, university towns and heritage towns. I’d say this is only a problem if the party’s success is so lop-sided towards affluent areas there was mission creep in our policy platform and we became less progressive. 

And we have to start somewhere - in the 1980s it was breaking out of our Scots/Welsh/Cornish Celtic fringe to win in every region and nearly every major city of mainland Britain. 

Anyway, here’s hoping in the next few years we’re not just knocking down other people’s walls but putting up a few of our own.

Matthew Pennell blogs at returnoftheliberal and you can follow him on Twitter.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Alphaville: Forever Young

I don't believe in the concept of "guilty pleasures" anymore as I'm no longer trying to impress the imaginary cool people in my head, as Alexei Sayle once put it..

After last week's Beach Baby, here is another song that I once felt guilty about liking.

I first came across it in the early 1990s via an unlikely source. The great East Midlands broadcaster John Shaw was giving up is Sunday night show Here Be Dragons because it no longer suited the management of the independent station Leicester Sound.

This was the penultimate record he played and, as he said, it sounded good going out into a dark Sunday night.

He finished with The Levellers:

Got to go go, get out of here
Go away, they don't want me here
Got to go go, get out of here, cos
This means nothing to me
The way we were is the way that I wanna be

John Shaw, who died in 2013 aged only 56, later broadcast Here Be Dragons on Saga Radio. I'm sorry I didn;t know this at the time, as he certainly helped widen my musical horizons in his Leicester Sound days.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Joy of Six 1018

"Emmett Till was killed early on the morning of August 28, 1955, one month and three days after his 14th birthday. His mother’s decision to show his body in an open casket, to allow Jet magazine to publish photos - "Let the world see what I’ve seen," she said - became a call to action." Wright Thompson visits the barn where Emmett Till was killed. It is now used to store the owner's Christmas decorations 

"Britain’s postwar economy created so many white collar jobs in the public and service sectors that it required no unusual ability or hard work or overwhelming ambition to fill one of them: they sucked us in like a sponge." Ian Jack on his experience of education and social mobility.

Ian Forth was asked 20 years ago to look at ways of widening cricket's appeal. Based on his research then, he says The Hundred is not the answer.

Katie Marshall shines a spotlight on the witches of Belvoir Castle.

"In line with other children’s drama of this era, this adaptation tackles, head-on, themes of death, bereavement, isolation and displacement alongside physical and mental child abuse with strong undercurrents of the supernatural and creeping threat." Robert Taylor looks at the BBC's 1988 adaptation of Helen Creswell's Moondial.

Flickering Lamps finds the graves of Alexander Kerensky on the edge of Wimbledon Common.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Earl Cameron interviewed at the BFI

The long career of the actor Earl Cameron, who has died aged 102, mirrored changes in both British cinema and society. His debut, playing a West Indian merchant seaman, was in the ostensibly modest film noir Pool of London (1951). 

In retrospect it can be seen as a milestone in its depiction of a relationship between a black worker and a young white woman – the first time the subject had been sensitively handled in a British film.

The opening of Earl Cameron's Guardian obituary (he died last year) tells us of his social importance, but it's worth emphasising that he was a very fine actor too,

Cameron was interviewed by Dylan Cave at the British Film Institute in 2015 for this video, when he was a stripling of 97.

As well as Pool of London, Cameron talks about making The Heart Within (one of my key children-and-bombsite films) with James Hayter and a young David Hemmings.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Department for Transport halts work on East Midlands leg of HS2


The Birmingham Post reports:
Work on the eastern leg of the High Speed Two rail line has stopped, the project's chief executive has admitted. Officials are busy preparing plans to extend the HS2 line north west to Manchester, but they have been told by the Department for Transport to halt work on the planned section between Birmingham and the East Midlands, and onwards to Leeds.

HS2 Chief Executive Mark Thurston said: "We wait to be guided by the Department on what we do with the eastern link."
It has been rumoured for some time that the East Midlands leg of HS2 is under review. And, as someone who has always found this project hard to love, I am not heartbroken at this news.

I know the arguments about HS2 increasing the capacity for regional services, it's just that they appear not to hold true here in the East Midlands.

As Jones the Planner blogged back in April 2013:
The HS2 business case claims that 80% of passengers from Nottingham will transfer from MML to HS2, and to help this heroic punt come true, hidden in with the small print, you find the assumption that direct trains from the new Nottingham Hub to St Pancras will be cut by half. Well, that will do a lot for city centre competitiveness, I don’t think. 
So actually Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield get a worse train service to their city centres, where most people want to be, than they do now - but great if you want to drive to a Parkway station. Leicester, a city of some half a million people will no longer have a mainline service as such. 
It is bizarre if not surprising that a project which started with the aim of boosting provincial cities should end up promoting plans which will hugely undermine city centres and urban economies and positively promote exurban motorway sprawl.
For this reason I would rather see money spent on the electrification of the Midland main line all the way to Sheffield and on local improvements, such as the proposed 'diveunder' at Nuneaton to allow a direct from Nottingham and Leicester to Coventry.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Runaway Railway (1966)

A hybrid of The Titfield Thunderbolt and The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery made for children in 1966, you say? With Ronnie Barker and Jon Pertwee in the cast? Count me in.

Pertwee is not the film's only link with Doctor Who. Among the child actors is Roberta Tovey, who appeared in the two films in which Peter Cushing played the Doctor.

Sadly, I did not see Runaway Railway when Talking Pictures TV screened it as part of their Saturday morning pictures the other day, but I was alerted to it by a Twitter thread from Tim Dunn.

There is a short article on the film with stills on the Obscure Train Moves blog and you can enjoy the first few minutes above.

Then you can watch the whole thing online, but I didn't tell you that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

How bus privatisation has failed Brtiain

Gwyn Topham, the Guardian's transport correspondent, writes:

Britain’s bus services outside London were so damaged by privatisation that people were unable to access basic needs such as work, education and healthcare, according to a scathing report by the former UN special rapporteur on human rights.

Many people in Britain had lost jobs and benefits, been forced to give up on education, or been cut off from communities and healthcare as bus services grew more expensive, unreliable, and dysfunctional after the 1985 reform, the inquiry found.

The report, Public Transport, Private Profit: The human cost of privatizing buses in the United Kingdom, is published by New York University's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice.

It provides more evidence that the Thatcherite model of privatisation, which imagined powerful corporations being reined in by publicly appointed regulators, has been a failure.

This chart, which is included with the Center's press release for the report, by drawing on the findings included in the government's new bus strategy for England, shows how it has failed in the bus industry.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The First Class: Beach Baby

There was a meme on Twitter a while back about the five albums in your collection that meant most to you when you were 17.

I doubt that I owned five albums at that age - blame poverty and the lack of anyone to guide me. And I am certain that when I was 14 I relied on Radio One and (under the bedclothes) Radio Luxembourg for my music.

Thanks to them, I have fond memories of this single from 1974. It may be an obvious Beach Boys pastiche, but it reached 13 in the UK singles chart. And in the US, where you think they'd have a good nose for such things, it got as high as number 4.

The song was written by John Cater and his wife Jill Shakespeare. Carter had already written Funny How Love Can Be for The Ivy League and Let's Go to San Francisco for The Flowerpot Men.

He had also sung the lead on Winchester Cathedral (in reality recorded by a group of session musicians but credited to The New Vaudeville Band) and backing vocals on The Who's I Can't Explain.

The First Class did not exist any more than The New Vaudeville Band or a number of other groups credited with Carter's hits had, so when Beach Baby made the charts a group had to be assembled to appear on Top of the Pops, (The Bonzos, incidentally, turned down the chance to tour as The New Vaudeville Band.)

I can see what attracted me to Beach Baby when I was 14: the production is stylish and it uses plenty of fun elements from The Beach Boys' back catalogue. But it's interesting that in 1974 we were already looking back to a golden age of pop and youth culture:

Just like before
We could walk by the shore
In the moonlight

Our legal correspondent writes: If the theme that enters just after the three-minute mark sounds familiar then consider yourself cultured, It was lifted from Sibelius's Fifth Symphony and the estate of the Finnish composer accepted a settlement out of court. Perhaps fortunately for the song's writers, most radio plays had faded out by then.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Walking London's lost River Peck

John Rogers goes in search of the course of the lost River Peck, which gives its name to Peckham in South London:

The Peck is said to rise near One Tree Hill in Honor Oak and then flows above ground across Peckham Rye before re-entering its culvert as it flows through the streets of Peckham just to the west of Copeland Road. Our walk then goes past Peckham Bus Garage to Kirkwood Road and picks up the course of the river again at Asylum Road near Queens Road Station. 

The river most likely flows beneath Brimmington Park but we continue along Asylum Road to look at the Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution Asylum. The walk takes us along the Old Kent Road to the point where the Peck crosses the road and heads along Ilderton Road to make its confluence with the Earl's Sluice near Bermondsey South Station.

John Rogers has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway.

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Joy of Six 1017

"The Lost History not only gives an account of the different meanings that have been ascribed to liberalism and evoked in its uses, but recovers some of those meanings that have been eclipsed, distorted and eroded." Alex Tebble reviews Helena Rosenblatt's book The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century.

David Edgerton argues that Labour's lost red wall is a myth. The idea that working-class people voted Labour until Brexit came along, he maintains, is a fiction only the Conservatives benefit from.

"Rorty was deeply worried by the widespread but in his view fundamentally-mistaken equation between the questioning of traditional philosophy’s ‘quest for certainty’ on the one hand and the assumption of a truly ‘post-truth’ politics on the other. " Rupert Read on Richard Rorty and how postmodernism helped elect Donald Trump.

Katherine Willis says government policies will promote further loss and fragmentation of the UK's natural environment/

Nick Bartlett has been watching a 1945 Ealing Studios horror anthology: "Dead Of Night is that rare thing – a classic horror film where the hype is completely justified. It’s an unusual film for Ealing, even for the period it was made, but it’s a masterpiece, and aside from a handful of old-fashioned moments, it still stands up today as one of Britain’s very best horror films."

"I feel inspired by this place, it really deserves the restoration and recognition it is now about to receive." Janine Moore takes a walk beside the Bennerley Viaduct in the Erewash Valley.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Lord Bonkers 30 years ago: Banged up at Salisbury police station

Lord Bonkers may be off on his travels, but we can still see what he was up to 30 years ago.

Liberator 198 was dated July 1991 and in it we found that Lord Bonkers had got caught up with the New Age Travellers who were so alarming respectable opinion at the time.

I suppose one can be an Anglican and a member of the Church of Rutland at the same time. Lord Bonkers has always been in favour of having it both ways.

Friday

On the morning of the summer solstice, what should the practising Anglican do but journey to Stonehenge to dance around the hele stone? Unfortunately, when my companions and I near the monument it becomes apparent that the greater part of the Wiltshire Constabulary is arrayed before it with the intent of frustrating our purpose.

As the inclement weather has obliged me to don snorkel, mask and flippers, my attempt to evade capture by fleeing across the Plain prove futile and I soon find myself "banged up" (as I believe the expression is) in a cell at Salisbury police station with the very minimum of domestic staff - I fear that all one reads of poor conditions in Her Majesty's gaols is only too true.

Even so, we manage to improvise a cricket net and keep up our spirits with readings from Morley's Life of Gladstone. At first I am regarded as something of an eccentric, but when I explain that I am a Liberal the authorities appear to understand.

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Jeremy Thorpe had two stepsons on the rock scene

Jeremy Thorpe had an ambivalent relationship with rock and roll, as we saw last week. But he did have a close family relationship with it.

Because when Marion Harewood became his second wife she already had three sons with George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood. Lascelles was a grandson of George V and had been sixth in line to the throne when he was born.

The eldest son, David, duly became the 8th Earl, but it is the two younger brothers who interest us here. Because James and Jeremy were both members of the Global Village Trucking Company and are still on the scene today.

You can hear James Lascelles playing keyboards on the track above and read about his music career on his website.

Below you will find a BBC documentary about the band, which draws heavily upon an earlier one made in 1973.

Jeremy Lascelles features prominently - at the time it was made he was chief executive of Chrysalis Music. In fact, he may well be The Man.

Like Traffic before them, Global Village Trucking Company got it together in the country. But life in a commune had its downsides, as Dinah Jefferies once made clear in a Guardian article.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Lib Dems, the blue wall and the "Boris Johnson toxicity factor"

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"It was incredibly cringe. We all knew that," says one senior Liberal Democrat. "We all thought, this is awful, but it’s also brilliant. And it worked, right?"

Ailbhe Rea - her Twitter handle is @PronouncedAlva - reveals that the blue wall Ed Davey smashed down with his hammer five days was ordered from Grantham five days before the Chesham and Amersham by-election.

And it did work:

Overnight, the "blue wall" was cemented in the political lexicon to name and amplify an idea that had barely been acknowledged before: that the Conservatives are vulnerable in a lot of their traditional, southern seats, and vulnerable in particular to the Liberal Democrats, who are second to them in 79 of those constituencies. 

Which is encouraging, given that I blogged this back in May:

The idea of a blue wall that may crumble will appeal to the media and a Lib Dem victory in Chesham and Amersham will give that idea more credibility.

And that will gives the Tory government a headache as it is faced with defending its gains in the red wall while keeping its traditional voters in the blue wall happy.

Particularly as there is nothing in Boris Johnson's journalistic or political career to suggest that be believes in levelling up anything.

Rea, who sets a new record for the number of "senior Liberal Democrats" consulted for one article, suggests the danger the Conservatives face is actually that they are too interested in pleasing their new red wall voters:

The Conservatives are, famously, pursuing a "Red Wall" strategy, having courted and now hoping to retain voters in Labour’s traditional heartlands. This has been in the expectation that their own traditional voters will stick with them – and in 2019, they did. But the current Conservative government has little to offer these traditional Tories and much to repel them – such as planning reforms, which were a major factor in the Chesham and Amersham contest. 

"They’re leaving their flank open and we’re coming in and having a big good go," Davey told me during the campaign in Amersham. That’s before you look at the underlying demographic shifts in these seats, the gradual post-Brexit realignment of British politics, and the "Boris Johnson toxicity factor", which senior Liberal Democrats identify as one of the biggest current Conservative vulnerabilities among its traditional voters – a factor they think was masked at the last election because of the similar unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn. 

"There’s no doubt that dislike of Johnson in the seat wasn’t just an overnight thing," says a senior Liberal Democrat. "We were also getting the sense that they didn’t like him before. But they voted Tory before because of Corbyn."

"He was toxic. Maybe former Labour people like him. Maybe former Brexit people do. But a lot of traditional Tories don’t like him," they add. Those traditional voters are less keen on Johnson’s entire approach to politics: the conduct of Brexit, the proroguing of parliament, or what they see as a wider culture of impunity in his top team, exemplified by the Dominic Cummings and Matt Hancock scandals. It is a private worry of plenty of Conservative MPs too. 

Maybe they will end up alienating both red and blue walls? That would be fun to watch.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band: Still the Same

Bob Seeger entered the lower reaches of the UK singles chart a dozen times, but this - which I suspect is his best-known song - wasn't a hit over here.

All Music tells us its beauty

comes from its softened piano and half-powered musical flow. It isn't a ballad, but Seger manages to master the tempo to perfection in order to set the song's mood so that it's just right.

Seger wrote the song after traveling to Hollywood and meeting people who enjoyed living the high life -- motivated by power, greed, and the opportunity to take risks whenever possible. 

This type of West Coast attitude had been somewhat foreign to Seger, coming from such a blue-collar city as Detroit, so he used this experience to write 'Still the Same'.

Listen to 50 years of Chelsea history

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If your team wins the FA Cup when you are 10 then the rest of life is bound to prove a bit of an anticlimax.

Those years are being covered by Chelsea Fancast, which is putting up a separate podcast on the club's fortunes since its 1970 victory over Leeds.

The collection is not yet complete, but there are already plenty of good things to enjoy.

I had forgotten just how well we did in the mid-1980s, finishing sixth in the old first division in 1984/5 and 1985/6, while the 1982/3 podcast makes clear how close we came to being relegated to the third tier.

And a theme that runs through many of these shows is that Ken Bates, despite his courting of controversy and rebarbative views, served the club well as chairman.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

The Joy of Six 1016

Nigel Scott on the Liberal Democrats, queer theory and transsexual rights: "The Liberal Democrats’ have adopted a queer theory centred approach to trans rights. This means that the party implicitly opposes women’s sex-based rights, because women no longer exist as a fixed sex class. Accordingly, any man can adopt the status of a woman on demand and because 'transwomen are women' in the words of the party's mantra, there is no longer a rationale for single sex spaces."

"Having been for centuries essentially a comprehensive for the aristocracy, Eton changed into an oligarchical grammar school. With the incomes of the super-rich racing ahead, especially after Thatcher;s tax cuts for the wealthy and ;big bang; deregulation of the City, the sky was the limit for both fees and resources." To understand Boris Johnson you must understand Eton, arguesAndrew Adonis.

Heather Burns says the new Online Safety Bill gives government enormous to redefine, constrain and censor the boundaries of free and legal speech. 

"Today there is no former rust-bucket city, no sometime edgeland, no crumbling dock, no monument to asbestos that has escaped rebranding as a 'creative quarter'." Jonathan Meades pours cold water on fantasies of regeneration.

Jane Nightshade celebrates Nicholas Roeg's 1973 film Don't Look Now.

"In the collection’s final poem ‘Who’ Causley writes of seeing the ghostly figure of himself as a child haunting the places around Launceston he has known his whole life. He sees his younger self wandering beside the River Kensey in old fashioned clothes and has a vision of the fields where he once played, now covered by houses." The Cornish Bird surveys the life and work of the Cornish poet Charles Causley.

Friday, July 09, 2021

New hope of electrification from Market Harborough to Sheffield

Harborough FM, which these days provides the best local news service, reports that the government is again looking at the idea of electrifying the railway from Market Harborough to Sheffield.

A Department for Transport spokesperson has told the radio station:

"Enabling and design work is currently taking place to progress electrification of the Midland Mainline beyond Kettering to Market Harborough, as well as to enable the introduction of the new bi-mode trains to be introduced on the route in 2023.

"Further electrification of the MML to Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield is currently being examined by the Department and Network Rail, and is at an early stage of development.

"This work will be subject to the development of a satisfactory business case."

And earlier this week Construction Enquirer had news of a "market engagement day" for potential contractors for this work.

The Conservatives said during the 2017 general election campaign that the wires would reach Sheffield, even though Chris Grayling had also taken the decision to scrap the project.

Visiting Derbyshire during the 2019 campaign, Boris Johnson suggested that it might go ahead after all.

Our prime minister has a well-established habit of saying whatever will get him through the next 10 seconds regardless of its truth, but maybe he was not lying here.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

The five stations of Hammersmith

Jago Hazzard untangles the railway history of Hammersmith. (You can support his videos via his Patreon page.)

My favourite among the five stations he mentions is the last - Hammersmith and Chiswick, a terminus at the end of its own little branch.

Services here ceased as early as 1917, but the station could be found standing in picturesque decay as late as the 1970s.

Man 'lucky to be alive' after trying to use stun gun he bought from stranger as a 'shaver'

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We have a winner for our Headline of the Day Award. Congratulations to the Manchester Evening News.

The judges also noticed BBC News for its:

Wakefield kitten born without an anus saved in emergency operation

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Jeremy Thorpe, racism and rock and roll

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Here, photographed backstage at the Royal Festival Hall in 1967, are Jimi Hendrix and the then leader of the Liberal Party, Jeremy Thorpe. Other photos taken on the same occasion show Hendrix tutoring Thorpe in playing the guitar.

So was Thorpe keener on rock and roll than Cyril Smith was?

Judge for yourself. Here he is talking about the film Rock Around the Clock on BBC Radio in 1956:

"I am a lover of music; therefore I am prejudiced and don't like jazz. Jazz to me comes from the jungle, and this is jungle music taken to its logical conclusion. This is musical Mau-Mau."

The racism here makes you catch your breath, particularly as Thorpe was a principled opponent of Apartheid in South Africa.

I remember hearing this extract played on the radio more than once when I was a boy - it may be that John Ebdon used it in his creative archive programmes.

In his book The Restless Generation - How rock music changed the face of 1950s Britain, Pete Frame suggests that it comes from an edition of Does the Team Think (DTTT), but that sounds unlikely. DTTT was a sort of parody of Any Questions? with comedians on the panel, so it's more likely that it comes from Any Questions? itself.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Write a guest post for Liberal England


I welcome guest posts on Liberal England and am happy to publish ones on subjects far beyond the Liberal Democrats and British politics.

In fact I could do with some guest posts. I am now a full-time carer, which means I am struggling to find the time to come up with longer posts.

If you would like to write for this blog, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea or DM me on Twitter.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

The Smiths: Rusholme Ruffians

I heard Elvis Presley's (Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame playing in the Co-op today. But I was 17 when the King died and to me then he was just some fat, old bloke, so I have chosen a song a Smiths that was inspired by it.

Smiths on Guitar quotes Johnny Marr on the evolution of that song:

"Rusholme Ruffians came about because my parents used to play 'Marie's The Name' by Elvis Presley and I liked the chord change.

"That was blatantly done. Morrissey said to me, 'Let's do a song about the fair,' and for some reason my association with the fair was to pull out that Elvis riff. We tried, but we couldn't get away from it."

And Victoria Wood. Morrissey Did opines:

Rusholme Ruffians is The Smiths at their sticky-fingered peak. From the alliteratively-alluring Ealing comedyesque title down, it’s a masterclass in Morrissey’s stolen kitchen sink observations backed by a Johnny Marr riff flat-out filched from Scotty Moore via Elvis Presley’s (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame 1961 single.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Patrick Cargill was Robin Jackman's uncle

We have our Trivial Fact of the Day, though the judges admit that you have to have been around in the 1970s to appreciate it fully.

Patrick Cargill (1918-1996) was an actor best known for starring in the situation comedy Father, Dear Father between 1968 and 1973. (Typically for the era, there were also a film in 1973 and series made in Australis in 1978 and 1980.)

He also had a film career, appearing in Carry on Jack, Help! and The Magic Christian.

Robin Jackman (1945-2020), a seam bowler with a brisk, short-stepped run up, was a Surrey stalwart who played for England late in his career.

He played his county between 1966 and 1982, and for England in 1981 and 1982, though he had appeared in a one-day international as early as 1974.

Because he had played and coached in Apartheid South Africa, the Guyanese government refused him an entry visa during England's 1981-2 tour of the West Indies, with the result that the Georgetown test was cancelled.

The two are paired here because I have discovered that Patrick Cargill was Robin Jackman's uncle.

Friday, July 02, 2021

Boris Johnson joins my campaign to have Parliament moved to Arkwright's Mill in Cromford


At last! A big-hitter has backed my campaign for the Palace of Westminster to be allowed to fall to ruin and Parliament to be sent to meet in Arkwright's Mill in Cromford.

As I once wrote of the palace:

Imagine how much more attractive it would be as a ruin alive with feral cats, buddleias and fragments of Gothic tracery.

Until now, I will admit, this campaign has gathered steam only slowly. But tonight all that changed.

Home from caring for my mother, I logged into Instagram and found this on the Cromford Mills account.

OK, it says it's Sir Richard Arkwright, but it's clearly our current prime minister. He's in Derbyshire and pacing out the dimensions of a new debating chamber within the mill.

Forward to victory!

Thursday, July 01, 2021

The Joy of Six 1015

"When the Anglican Church declared its schism  from the Pope in Rome, it unilaterally transferred from Rome to Canterbury the power to appoint bishops, but seems to have forgotten to provide the Archbishop of Canterbury with the power to fire them." Gavin Ashenden examines the crisis that has enveloped the diocese of Winchester.

Tim Farron opposes the Lakeland Clearances.

Charlotte Armitage and and Kenneth Murray talk about growing up in the care system in Scotland: "My records are full of conversations like this. Disputes about whether claims I was making were fact or questioning my motives in a way which seems odd when you remember I was eleven. Throughout my records it’s clear something is missing. My voice."

Shaft, the coolest detective in pop culture history, is also one of the most important, argues Kieran Fisher.

Don't let James Wright hear you say that Nottingham does not have "a proper castle".

John McMahon ventures into the crypt of St Pancras Church in the Euston Road: "This week Ritual Britain, a new exhibition exploring these traditions and reflecting on their potential role at this tumultuous point in our Island story, opens in London. Probably the most complete gallery-based survey of British Calendar customs in over a decade, the exhibition brings together a wide selection of objects and images from the collection of the peripatetic Museum of British Folklore ... and twenty original paintings plus film, photography, and music by the artist Ben Edge."

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

London's Lost Railways: Tooting, Merton and Wimbledon

Geoff Marshall follows the path of the abandoned line from Merton Park to Tooting through Merton Abbey station, which was originally known as Tooting Junction.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Cyril Smith vs rock and roll

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Britain was a little wary of rock ‘n’ roll in January 1957. The previous autumn had seen the film Rock Around the Clock spark riots across the land, and next month the stars of that movie, Bill Haley and His Comets were to land in Southampton, bringing real-life rock to Britain. The consequences were uncertain.

In the lull before the anticipated storm, the spotlight turned on various dancehalls that were running lunchtime rock ’n’ roll events. These were simple affairs: admission cost threepence, tea and soft drinks were available, records were played, and people danced. A good time was had by all.

But, as this old post by Alwyn Turner on Lion & Unicorn tells us, not everyone was happy with these lunchtime events.

Among the critics was a 26-year-old -Labour councillor from Rochdale called Cyril Smith. He was chairman of the governors of two technical schools - one for boys, one for  girls - a "stone’s throw" from the town's Carlton Ballroom:

"Rock 'n’' roll is hitting youth club work," he said. "At the Lea Hall Youth Club we have had to recruit a completely new netball team. The first team are rocking 'n' rolling on Saturday afternoons. Youth club attendances have dwindled alarmingly.’

Smith’s main concern, though, was the age of the dancers at the Carlton:

The management assured me that only those of sixteen would be on the dance floor, but that was not so, for I recognised many as schoolchildren under sixteen. The girls had changed quickly into dresses from school uniform to deceive the management. And on the balcony, to where the under-sixteens were directed, there were twenty-five couples, many as young as eleven, rocking 'n' rolling.

His conclusion was that this had to be stopped. "I propose to recommend that the premises should be placed out of bounds to schoolchildren during school hours," he told the press, and he was as good as his word. The following month, the Carlton’s licence came up before the Rochdale Licensing Justices, and Smith was there to make his objections.

Smith was successful. Alwyn Turner records that the Carlton's music licence was amended to stop the lunchtime dances, permitting it to open only between 2 pm and 11 pm (or 11.30 pm on the weekend).

Turner wrote his post in 2019, when Smith's career as an abuser of boys and young men was in the headlines. 

He tells us that Smith

retained his interest in youth activities, however, and by the beginning of the 1970s – now returned to the Liberal Party, whence he had come – he was chair of the council’s Education Committee, its Youth Committee and its Youth Employment Committee, while also serving on the committees of the Rochdale Youth Opera and the Youth Theatre Workshop. 

Where he had been a governor of two schools, he was now on the board of twenty-nine. And then there was the Cambridge House hostel that he had helped found and that was the site of much of his abuse.

When Cyril Smith died in 2010 I blogged that I had heard him

address a public meeting in Sutton Coldfield in 1982 and he was a terrific speaker. His style of oratory, which no doubt came from Nonconformist preaching, now seems a world away from today's culture of soundbites and glottal stops.

What I remember more today is that he began his speech by saying that he had attended the ninth World Scout Jamboree in Sutton Park in 1957.

This won him murmurs of approval and pleasure from around the hall, but it makes me cringe today,

Monday, June 28, 2021

GUEST POST Why the Progressive Alliance is irrelevant in Batley and Spen

Matthew Pennell says those arguing for a Progressive Alliance in the Batley and Spen by-election don't understand the seat.

I’m a massive track and field freak and I learnt an important life lesson from an Athletics Weekly editorial a while back - it talked about having a ‘no short cuts’ approach to the sport. 

This wasn’t, as you’d expect, about not taking performance enhancing drugs, but weight loss. It’s known that getting on the Slimfast can boost your performance in the short term but what you gain in speed you lose in strength so you’re far more likely to get ill/injured in the long term. Adopt a ‘no short cuts’ approach to life in general and you won’t go far wrong. 

For this reason I smell a rat in the recent calls for a Progressive Alliance in politics as it seems like a classic short cut approach.

You may have already noticed calls for a Progressive Alliance in Batley and Spen, they’re utter drivel and I’ll explain why. Batley and Spen isn’t a classic red wall seat, it’s toggled between Labour and Conservative throughout the years and has never been a particularly safe Labour seat since Mike Wood gained it in 1997. It’s competitive, Labour know it’s competitive, how much does Labour want to win?

What’s the pathway to Labour victory in Batley and Spen? 

This seat has developed a micro-climate which Labour will have to negotiate in order to reach the winning post. Unlike Hartlepoolm there’s no overwhelming Brexit sentiment in Batley and Spen, the Brexit party polled far lower in 2019 and Reform UK isn’t standing this time. There was a major third party, however, last time out - the Heavy Woollen District Independents (HWDI), who polled a whopping 6432 votes. 

This is a rare example of localist politics breaking through at a general election. This smacks of disaffection with the political establishment, but it’s not an overt right-wing Eurosceptic statement - HWDI aren’t standing this time. 

Due to problems with their candidate the Greens aren’t standing this time either, If you aggregate Brexit, HWDI and Green votes from 2019 that amounts to 8800 - this voter cohort will be crucial in determining the result on July 1.

Another ingredient in the micro-climate is the latest chapter in the George Galloway’s Massive Ego show. He’s standing under the Workers Party banner, with what looks like a straightforward Blue

Labour platform, and has already been very active in the constituency. Early polling suggest the Workers Party pulling in 6 per cent of the vote, enough to be a spoiler for Labour.

For those wanting Labour to win, there are four key outcomes:

  • Labour retains its vote from 2019
  • Labour manages to persuade some Conservatives to switch back to them having left Labour due to Brexit and Corbyn
  • Labour wins over 50 per cent of Heavy Woollen District Independents votes 
  • Labour neutralises the threat of the Workers Party

If Labour is successful in doing the above it will win the seat, and quite frankly the voting behaviour of Lib Dems and Greens, who would be shoehorned into a Progressive Alliance, won’t matter. 

The notion of a Progressive Alliance simply isn’t relevant to Batley and Spen, and most of those who do don’t live there, aren’t campaigning there and clearly don’t know its recent electoral past and present.

Matthew Pennell blogs at returnoftheliberal and you can follow him on Twitter.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Adam Faith: I Survived

No, it's not a great record, but it's an interesting one.

In 1974 I was all over Radio One, Radio Luxembourg and the charts, which means I have a lot of half-remembered songs at the back of my mind.

This is one of them and I recently discovered what it is.

Adam Faith was one of the pioneers of British rock, but his ballads suddenly sounded old-fashioned when groups took over the scene.

By 1974 he was better known as an actor than a singer, and a very good actor he was. Talking Pictures channel recently repeated Budgie, his finest hour on television.

I Survived was not a hit in the UK, but here it is on Top of the Tops.

Faith's last top 20 single was ten years in the past by then. In 1974 that was a lifetime to me: today it seems the blink of an eye.

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Joy of Six 1014

"Thatcher ... would often pepper her speeches with talk of Hayek, Popper or Friedman. And that wasn’t mere showboating: such men formed her worldview. It is not at all clear that Johnson has any equivalents (at least not since Juvenal) or even that he and his colleagues are interested in acquiring any." Rutland's own Chris Dillow exposes the intellectual decline of the right.

Nick Cohen warns of the curbs on free speech contained in the government's draft online harms bill.

"He is part of an establishment that operates on the blithe assumption that all skills are transferable, that an aptitude for political schmoozing magically confers any number of lesser competences on its owner - and that the Right Sort of Chap is the right person for the job, even if they’ve proved otherwise, time and again." Sam Leith explains the rise and rise of George Osborne.

Helen Stace on the tragic state of the River Wye and the impact on our wildlife.

"Local resident Gillian Vesey recalled how, as a young barmaid at the Olde Hob Inn, she stood up for African American soldiers against attempts by white Americans to impose discriminatory practices in the pub, insisting that the American white soldiers wait their turn rather than expecting to be served before their black colleagues." Alan Rice says that Black troops were welcome in Britain during the second world war but Jim Crow wasn’t.

Lin Benley looks at the history of 10cc.

Police called after woman rants at Euro 2020 beer tent she wrongly thought was covid testing site

Our congratulations go to the Liverpool Echo.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Secret Islington walking tour: Canonbury

John Rogers takes us on another London walk, This one

takes into a magical realm just off the hustle and bustle of Upper Street Islington as we take a walking tour around the streets of Canonbury. Ed Glinert described Canonbury as ‘The best preserved and most picturesque suburb in inner London’ (The London Compendium). 

In The London Nobody Knows, Geoffrey Fletcher wrote that to walk from Upper Street to Canonbury Square is to ‘move into an entirely different world’.

John Rogers has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway.

Later. A fellow Malcolm Saville enthusiast tells me that Canonbury Square was the model for Brownlow Square, where the Morton family lived.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Joy of Six 1013

Adrian Sanders offers some wise words of caution on a 'progressive alliance': "The problem with pre-election pacts, rather than informal arrangements such as the pre 1997 one between Labour and ourselves where we stand but don’t work in different seats, is that you cannot be sure where, or even if, a voter’s likely second choices will be used the way the pact hoped. There is a danger that in some seats such a narrowing of voter choice will entrench the support of the candidate whom it was hoped would be unseated."

What should a Liberal approach to building a more sustainable economy in a sharply contested world order look like? asks William Wallace.

Rural voters are increasingly comfortable returning non-Conservative councillors, argues Matthew Pennell, He usefully identifies four types of rural constituencies.

Jay Bea reads  Anna Cale's new biography The Real Diana Dors.

Mina Tavakoli reviews The Sparks Brothers - a documentary on Ron and Russell Mael and their band Sparks.

"Flat Holm is full of the beauty of nature. It's home to seabird colonies and retains its wilderness, remoteness and isolation. But alongside the lighthouse and wildlife sits an abandoned and dilapidated former cholera hospital where sick and infectious patients were sent to live and die." Thomas Deacon takes us to an island in the Bristol Channel.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Corby woman steals cactus before attacking man with it in town centre

For this vignette of life in the county, the Northamptonshire Telegraph wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Talk of cacti reminds me of Lord Bonkers' entry on Nick Clegg's teenage delinquency.

Prelude: After the Gold Rush

Prelude were a folk group, formed in Gateshead in 1970 and active until recently.

This 1974 a capella version of a Neil Young song was their finest hour. It charted around the world, reaching number 21 in the US and number 22 in the UK.

What is it about? Wikipedia offers a choice of answers:

Dolly Parton (who was in the process of recording a cover of the song along with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt) has said, "When we were doing the Trio album, I asked Linda and Emmy what (the song) meant, and they didn't know. 

So we called Neil Young, and he didn't know. We asked him, flat out, what it meant, and he said, 'Hell, I don't know. I just wrote it. It just depends on what I was taking at the time. I guess every verse has something different I'd taken.'"

However, in his 2012 biography Young reportedly gave a different explanation of the song's origin and meaning, describing the inspiration provided by a screenplay of the same name (never produced), which apocalyptically described the last days of California in a catastrophic flood. The screenplay and song's title referred to what happened in California, a place that took shape due to the Gold Rush. 

Young eventually concluded that “After The Gold Rush is an environmental song... I recognize in it now this thread that goes through a lotta my songs that’s this time-travel thing... When I look out the window, the first thing that comes to my mind is the way this place looked a hundred years ago.”

Ed Davey's blue wall was couriered from Grantham

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I like this detail at the end of an interesting Guardian article on the likely impact of the Liberal Democrat triumph in Chesham and Amersham:

It amused Lib Dem staffers that the boxes that made up their blue wall prop had been delivered by courier from Grantham, birthplace of another true-blue export, Margaret Thatcher..

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Building Coventry Cathedral

Historic England introduces this video on YouTube:

Using photographs from Historic England’s Archive, KS2 students learnt more about their local heritage. The students carried out oral history interviews with people who constructed Coventry Cathedral and together they visited the building.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Lib Dems storm to victory in Chesham and Amersham

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It wasn't even close! Congratulations to Sarah Green on a stunning victory:

Sarah polled 21,517 votes to the Conservative candidate's 13,489 - a majority of 8028 and a swing of 25 per cent.

This result reminds us that, for all the talk of a progressive alliance, the most satisfying way of winning Tory seats is by converting former Tory voters.

It also reminds us that, if the voters are determined to get rid of the Tories, they will organise themselves without outside help.

Georgie Fame reminisces about his Flamingo Club days

Choosing Yeh Yeh as Sunday's music video, I came across this discussion between Georgie Fame and Jamie Cullen.

Fame tells how he escaped the world of Larry Parnes, who gave him his stage name (his real name is Clive Powell), for the most authentic jazz scene London had to offer.

It's interesting to heat that Bad Penny Blues influenced him too.