Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Police say they found mafia fugitive on YouTube, posting cooking tutorials


Thanks to a nomination from a reader, Ars Technica wins our Headline of the Day Award for the first time.

Six of the Best 1001

"Most British governments since Thatcher’s have sought to stamp out what they see as a spreading ‘European heresy’: the notion that supreme law should stand above parliaments, that judges in a democracy may reverse the will of an elected government if it violates a constitution." So says Neal Ascherson, reviewing a book by Linday Colley.

What did Richard Kemp know about Liverpool's scandals?

Matthew Pencharz says that Londoners opposed to low traffic neighbourhoods will be glad of them in the end.

Are you local? Sophia Adamowicz explores the blend of the macabre and the mundane in the work of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith.

Huw Turbervill offers his selection of cricket's best (and worst) moments on film and TV: "Peter Davison's fifth Doctor wore a cricket costume and showed his skills in the two-part adventure, 'Black Orchid'. He looks an adequate seamer but could use his front arm more, but is a slogger with the bat. The director Ron Jones errs, though, allowing the umpire to signal a wide when a four is struck."

Look Up London tours the City's orphaned church towers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Lib Dems to call for bailout to support small breweries

At last, a Liberal Democrat policy everyone can support.

When he visits a small brewery in Sunderland tomorrow Ed Davey will call for a bailout for small breweries which have suffered as a result of pubs and bars being forced to close during lockdown.

According to the Irvine Times:

The party is calling for the Government to compensate small breweries losing high levels of revenue up to 80% of their rent costs over the next six months.

It also urged for a brewers’ support fund to be established, in line with calls made by the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba) and similar to that introduced in Scotland.

This would see a direct grant of up to £30,000 provided to each brewer to help compensate for the costs of the pandemic.

Harborough Labour try to disguise photo of their parliamentary candidate who joined the Tories

Top Harborough tweeter Solar Pilchard has shared this corner of a Labour election leaflet.

Look closely and you will see that they have tried to hide one of the people in the photo - he's the one wearing the red rosette.

Who is the mystery man?

Step forward Sundip Meghani, who was the Labour candidate for Harborough at the 2015 general election but has since joined the Conservative Party.

You can see the original photo below.

When he left Labour Meghani said:

After 20 years of activism and public service, I resigned recently as a Labour member. I could no longer belong to an organisation that had become institutionally racist and anti-Indian. 

I could not support a party that had embraced left-wing extremism and become detached from the lives of ordinary working people.

Stalin used to go in for this sort of thing, but maybe they should just have taken a new photo?

What remains of the railway from Ironbridge to Bridgnorth

The other day I blogged about proposals to reopen the railway line between Ironbridge and Bridgnorth.

This video shows you the state of the line today, though it does not mention the new housing that has been built across the route near Bridgnorth golf course. It is this that makes people sceptical about the idea - well, that and the unstable geology around Jackfield.

Still it makes a nice walk - I have done it myself between Ironbridge and Coalport.

And a Shropshire Star article from last year suggests that the route all the way into Bridgnorth could have been preserved if the council had wanted.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Runrig: Dust

There was a time when I got my music from the bargain bin at Woolworth's. So it was that, long before I went to a Runrig gig in Portree, I owned their third album Recovery. Listening to its final track, Dust, makes me very aware of my Scottish roots. 

At the time of the referendum on Scottish independence I came to dislike the Yes side. Just like Leave in the EU referendum, they refused to address hard economic questions - in their case it was what an independent Scotland would do for a currency.

Still, Scotland is not too wee or too poor to be an independent nation, and I could forgive any Scot who surveyed the grotesques who rule them from Westminster and opted for independence.

The left fears that England is irredeemably Tory and wants the United Kingdom to continue so it has a chance of forming the government. But we cannot expect the Scots to save us from the consequences of our political failure indefinitely,

Anyway, enjoy the song.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Jonathan Meades: Pedro and Ricky Come Again

Shore up your bookshelves. Reinforce your desk. The new Jonathan Meades collection weighs in at 2lb 11ozs - or 1.229 kilograms to my younger readers.

Unbound, the publishers of Pedro and Ricky Come Again: Selected Writing 1988-2020, say:

This landmark publication collects three decades of writing from one of the most original, provocative and consistently entertaining voices of our time. Anyone who cares about language and culture should have this book in their life.

Thirty years ago, Jonathan Meades published a volume of reportorial journalism, essays, criticism, squibs and fictions called Peter Knows What Dick Likes . The critic James Wood was moved to write: 'When journalism is like this, journalism and literature become one.'

Pedro and Ricky Come Again is every bit as rich and catholic as its predecessor. It is bigger, darker, funnier and just as impervious to taste and manners. It bristles with wit and pin-sharp eloquence, whether Meades is contemplating northernness in a German forest or hymning the virtues of slang.

From the indefensibility of nationalism and the ubiquitous abuse of the word 'iconic', to John Lennon's shopping lists and the wine they call Black Tower, the work assembled here demonstrates Meades's unparalleled range and erudition, with pieces on cities, artists, sex, England, France, concrete, faith, politics, food, history and much, much more.

I loved Jonathan Meades, though ultimately what you will get from this book is not a body of doctrine so much as an attitude to life.

But then that is true of many celebrated philosophes too.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Plan to reopen railway from Ironbridge to Bridgnorth

The enthusiasm for reopening long-closed railways has reached Shropshire. A plan has been published to reopen the line up the Severn Valley from Bridgnorth to a station serving new housing on the site of Ironbridge power station.

According to the Shropshire Star:

The plan would create a 10-mile route, with six new stations, and ambitions to link with the Severn Valley Railway in Bridgnorth.

It could also connect to Telford, if plans from Telford Steam Railway to extend its line are developed.

You can find the full plan on the Ironbridge Railway Trust website.

From the outside, reopening the line from Bridgnorth to the industrial museums of the Ironbridge Gorge has long looked like a natural ambition for the Severn Valley Railway. But its Wikipedia entry suggests the idea was long ago written off by them as impractical,

And a link to the Birmingham to Shrewsbury line at Telford is surely vital if this scheme is to go ahead. This line existed unril recently and was used to bring coal to Ironbridge power station.

French monks locked down with 2.8 tonnes of cheese pray for buyers

Our Headline of the Day Award goes to the Guardian.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The up tunnel at Great Oxendon with rails

This photo was taken looking north from the up tunnel at Great Oxendon on the old line from Market Harborough to Northampton.

The shiny rails show that I took it before the line closed in August 1981. (I was on the last train.)

OK so the line was only open at certain times of day by then and I am facing any possible traffic: I still have to add a firm: Don't Try This At Home, Kids.

But then, for better or worse, there was much more tolerance of trespass by railway enthusiasts in those far off days.

Six of the Best 1000

Congratulations on reaching number 1000? Up to a point. 

I seem to recall that something went wrong with the numbering of this feature early on and I am increasingly embarrassed by its title.

I sometimes think that the best links should get there own post and the average ones should just be a tweet, but I enjoy putting Six of the Best together and with so much of my time spent looking after my Mum these days I am not in the mood for radical changes,

Edward Docx says Boris Johnson is a clown: "Instead of uniting his country, he now finds himself facetiously hastening its breakup. And it is the Conservative and unionist parties that have facilitated him. They licensed their comforting fool and told themselves that he could restore a glorious past. But a leader who personifies tomfoolery and nostalgia is eloquent of sharpening decline not renaissance."

"There are now political academics who use the term ‘distributist’, shorn of its Catholic accretions, as a shorthand for the bearded sandals wing of the party. As one of that persuasion myself, I feel myself increasingly alone and misunderstood by either technocratic wing – neither right nor left seem to understand why I might be against big business but in favour of small, why I might be in favour of entrepreneurs but against corporates." David Boyle is drawn to the liberal distributist tradition in British politics.

Former BBC journalist Patrick Howse believes the corporation’s biggest mistake was to court and give a platform to extreme voices.

A bus for every village, every hour is possible argues the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

David Southwell, landscape punk and creator of Hookland, is interviewed by the Spirit Box podcast.

Victor Ambrus, book illustrator and the resident artist on Time Team, is eulogised by Britain is no Country for Old Men: "He was in Budapest during 'The Siege', the 50-day-long encirclement by Soviet Russian and Romanian forces in which about 38,000 civilians died through starvation or military action, before it unconditionally surrendered in. He later recalled 'the smoke and the rubble' he had seen and would have then witnessed Russian soldiers and tanks on the streets of Budapest."

The House of Lords television experiment of 1968

We take it for granted now that parliament is televised, but it is a recent phenomenon.

The Lords was televised on a trial basis in January 1985 and the experiment was soon made permanent.

Elected members took longer to be convinced of its virtues. The possibility of a trial broad cast of Commons proceedings was debated and rejected later that year

In 1988 the idea came up again and this time MPs voted in favour, and the experiment began late the following year. Again, it became a permanent arrangement.

But that is not the whole story. Because cameras were allowed in the Lords as early as 1968 and this is a sample of what they saw. The experiment lasted three days but was not taken any further.

You can follow a transcript of the proceedings in this video on parliament's website: search for 'Shoeburyness Range' to find where it begins.

The peer who asks the question on Shoeburyness is Frank Byers, one of the most prominent Liberals of the day. He had been MP for North Dorset between 1945 and 1950, trivia fans may like to note that he is the grandfather of Labour's Lisa Nandy.

The minister who answers him is Edward Shackleton, son of the Antarctic explorer.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Farewell to Tony Greaves

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There was sad news yesterday. We learnt that Tony Greaves - Baron Greaves of Pendle - had died suddenly at his home in Trawden.

Besides his service as a councillor and peer, Tony played two important roles in the development of the Liberal politics of his era.

As a Young Liberal he helped develop the ideas behind community politics - it was he who moved the motion at the 1970 Liberal Assembly that saw the party vote to adopt the approach. Our huge advances in local government over the next 40 years owed much to this approach.

Then Tony became the first staff member of the Association of Liberal Councillors. This was the group you joined if you were serious about getting elected in the late Seventies and early Eighties.

Like Tony, the ALC was deeply independent and relations between it and the Liberal Party leadership were often less than collegiate.

As I recall it, my first Liberal Assembly (Bournemouth in 1984) saw a rapprochement between the two organisations. The ALC (which became the ALDC after merger with the SDP) was to lose its whiff of brimstone while remaining indispensable to ambitious Liberal Democrat campaigners.

Tony himself was the original curmudgeon with a heart of gold and I have happy memories of him coming to my house in Market Harborough. He was also a dealer in political books and had come to buy some from me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Tony Robinson's Time Team memories

I have been filling the time between sessions of caring for my mother by watching old episodes of Time Team on YouTube.

It really was a remarkable programme as it turned an obscure activity into popular entertainment and lasted for two decades.

Here Time Team's presenter, Tony Robinson, talks about his memories of its 20 series.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Days by Philip Larkin

Just squeezed in before closing time, a nod to World Poetry Day.


What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:   
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor   
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin

Jimmie Vaughan: Astral Projection Blues

Turns out white blues was not just British phenomenon, though this track dates from as recently as 1998.

Jimmie Vaughan is a Texan, a Republican and the older brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Think of this track as a warning on the perils of raising your consciousness.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Lembit Opik has gone over to the dark side

Nation Cymru reports that Lembit Opik, former Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire and leader of the Welsh Lib Dems, has spoken at a meeting billed "How to Stop the Lib Dems with Lembit Opik."

The website says he was introduced by Chris Grayling: it's sad to see a man fall so low.

Over to Alison Alexander, the Lib Dem Senedd candidate in Montgomeryshire:

"Many people here have fond memories of the good Liberal and Liberal Democrat MPs and MSs did for the constituency and I think they’ll find his comments very sad. ...

"As for the Tories, they should be worried about stopping us. We are rebuilding rapidly ... and it’s only natural they see their Senedd and council seats under threat."

Lembit describes himself as gravitating "towards common sense and liberty". I'll give him liberty. Common sense, not so much.

Today has been the first World Rewilding Day

From Nature Today:

Very few people were talking about rewilding in Europe a decade ago – today an ever-growing number of people are promoting it, with high-profile advocates including Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg. But what is rewilding?

Rewilding is about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems, and restore degraded landscapes. It doesn’t have an absolute end point, it’s more about moving up a scale of wildness, where every step represents progress. ...

Rewilding is not just about landscapes and wildlife, but people too. We rely on the natural world for water, food and air, while connecting with nature keeps us mentally and physically well. Rewilding means understanding that we are just one species among many, bound together in an intricate web of life that connects us with the atmosphere, weather, tides, soil, fresh water, oceans and every other living creature on the planet.

The Church of England border polls of 1915-16

I have a new favourite group of elections.

The disestablishment of the Church in Wales was a favourite cause of Lloyd George Liberalism. Why should the majority of the population, who were nonconformists, pay tithes to support a church in whose doctrines they did not believe?

Disestablishment was secured by the passing of the Welsh Church Act of 1914, which was put into effect n 1920.

But there was a problem in the shape of a number of parishes that straddled the border between England and Wales. What do to with them?

The solution was to invite the residents to vote, so 18 local elections were held in 1915 and 1916 to see if residents wanted to stay with the Church of England or try their luck with the new disestablished Church in Wakes.

Some of the parishes polled were in my favourite part of the world, being half in Shropshire or Herefordshire: Brampton Bryan, Churchstoke, Hyssington with Snead.

Seventeen of the eighteen parishes voted to remain with the Church of England. The only exception was Llansilin, which is on the Montgomeryshire border near Oswestry.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The District Line branch to South Acton

Jago Hazzard traces the course and history of this short branch, which closed in 1959.

Despite his choice of thumbnail, I'm not convinced that the Railway Children went anywhere near this line.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Six of the Best 999

Stephen Williams makes the case for abolishing Bristol's elected mayor.

Samantha Rose Hill examines Hannah Arendt's writings on the links between loneliness and totalitarianism: "Arendt’s argument about loneliness and totalitarianism is not an easy one to swallow, because it implies a kind of ordinariness about totalitarian tendencies that appeal to loneliness: if you are not satisfied with reality, if you forsake the good and always demand something better, if you are unwilling to come face-to-face with the world as it is, then you will be susceptible to ideological thought."

With evidence for efficacy so thin, and the stakes so high, why is electroshock therapy still a mainstay of psychiatry? John Read explains.

"Nottinghamshire has a long history of libraries, from the old penny libraries prior to the establishment of a public library service. If none of these had existed and I could design a new world the first thing I would want in my utopia is a place where knowledgeable staff help you choose books you can read *for free* then take them back for someone else to have the same pleasure." Ross Bradshaw on the wonder of public libraries.

Aris Roussinos.argues that Paul Kingsnorth has emerged as Britain’s foremost critic of industrial modernity and the  literary heir to a strain of thought that has survived in the English imagination, on both Left and Right, since the very beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Didn't you used to be Josh McEachran? The former Chelsea starlet reflects on his career and why things did not work out for him at Stamford Bridge,

Former Labour MP is Lib Dem council by-election candidate

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One of the more principled Labour MPs in the Blair and Brown years was Andrew Mackinlay, who sat for Thurrock between 1992 and 2010.

Time moves on and in 2019 he joined the Liberal Democrats.

Now he is the Lib Dem candidate in a Kingston by-election on 6 May. He is hoping to be the new councillor for the Chessington South & Malden Rushett ward, which the party won the last time it was contested.

It turns out that Andrews has lived in Chessington for many years and that his children attended local schools.

Chessington is some way from Thurrock, but then I remember from my canvassing days in Richmond that a predecessor of his as Labour MP for that constituency had a house on Kew Green.

Call for reopening to provide direct rail service between Leicester and Northampton

Another day, another call for the reopening of a stretch of East Midland railway.

This time the line in question is the old Great Central between Rugby and Leicester to provide a direct service between Leicester and Northampton. The new line would also serve Broughton Astley, Lutterworth and the vast Magna Park distribution centre.

It would be great to see two new stations in the Harborough district, and it takes a ridiculously long time to get from Leicester to Northampton by train, but how much demand would there be for such a service?

And if there is a good demand then it just strengthens the argument that the line from Market Harborough to Northampton should never have been closed.

It's also not clear that we should pay much attention to these stories. Though there seems to be plenty of money for feasibility studies, there is little sign of the much larger sums that would be needed to reopen lines.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Dark Secrets of a Trillion Dollar Island: Garenne

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This evening BBC4 is showing Dark Secrets of a Trillion Dollar Island: Garenne in its documentary series Storyville.

The film was made by Camilla Hall, who wrote about its genesis in the Financial Times:

As I dug back into Jersey, I wanted to know what the hell had happened at Haut de la Garenne. A covert police investigation had begun in 2006, going public in late 2007.

The tabloid reporters alongside me had reported on mass graves and a “house of horrors” but the whole story disappeared after the Mail on Sunday reported that what had been referred to as a fragment of child’s skull was just a piece of wood or coconut.

Why did the media stop caring when it turned out to be a sexual abuse story rather than murder? Why did children have to die for us to care? What was normal about any of this? There were so many unanswered questions that I couldn’t comprehend but they all pointed back to Jersey, this tiny island that was at the same time a huge financial powerhouse.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Beth Orton: She Cries Your Name

There's something about East Anglia - the long, straight roads; the pounds of decrepit lorries beside them - that recalls what US liberals mustn't call the flyover states. So it's not such a surprise to learn that Beth Orton grew up in Norfolk.

As Pitchfork said in 2009:

The disconnect between how Beth Orton was pitched to us and the way her music actually sounded was as vast as the barren landscape she fetishized. Instead of a lonesome troubadour traversing the desolate American West from carpark to carpark, Orton was a Norwich-born theatre chick who found herself in the midst of a rapidly-changing mid-90s UK pop scene.

A version of She Cries Your Name appeared on a first LP (released in Japan only), and this one appeared on her first UK album Trailer Park.

Pitchfork said of it:

Even more than a decade later, "She Cries Your Name" still sounds great, with [William] Orbit's luxuriously gloomy string arrangement-- especially the way the cello's low-end signals the entrance of the chorus like stage curtains parting-- and the deft production hands of UK electronic scenester Andrew Weatherall and Bad Seeds' Victor Van Vugt providing the perfect context for Orton's cozy, impressionistic Americana sketches.

It's now 25 years later and the song still appeals.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Ed Davey calls on Cressida Dick to resign

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Following the Metropolitan Police's use of force to break up a vigil for Sarah Everard this evening, the Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has called on the Met's Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign.

In a letter also signed by Alistair Carmichael and Luisa Porritt he says:

This was a complete abject tactical and moral failure on the part of the Police.

Gossip on Twitter suggests that the police in Lambeth sought to engage with the organisers so the vigil could go ahead safely but received orders from on high to break it up.

And this when a serving Met office has just been charged with Sarah Everard's murder.

Cressida Dick should go, but the real problem is the government. You suspect she was seeking to please Priti Patel in allowing this evening's dreadfully misjudged operation to go ahead.

Friday, March 12, 2021

A Market Harborough man's memories of Christmas on the Western Front

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The BBC website has a priceless account of English and German soldiers meeting peacefully at Christmas on the Western Front in World War I.

It comes from Arthur Tugwell, who was still a name in the town when my mother and I moved to Market Harborough in 1973.

I used to slip away from Welland Park College with one of his grandsons. who must be the brother of the 
Tim Tugwell interviewed by the BBC, to listen to prog rock.

He, incidentally, was the ally I mentioned in a blog post about my education:
When I moved to the upper school I found I had been put in a CSE set for maths. Having done mathematical aptitude tests in later life, I can say objectively that this was a crime.

Fortunately, I had an ally in the same situation and we fought and won a campaign to be moved up to an O level set.
The last time I was at the top of Lubenham Hill I looked for the two houses where the Tugwell family lived but failed to recognise them. Either they have been redeveloped or my memories have faded.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Six of the Best 998

"Not so long ago, Britain was the envy of the world. It had the world’s best healthcare system. You could walk down the street, go to the doctor, and literally have the world’s best healthcare on your doorstep. It had the world’s finest public broadcaster - the BBC. The middle class was expanding, growing in wealth and happiness. It was part of the world’s most successful political union, the EU - and Brits had the right to live and work across Europe, something that many Americans would kill for." Umair Haque on how Britain became the dumbest society in the world.

Matthew Green says the Royal Family is a factory of human misery. He's right.

Eliane Glaser argues that homeschooling has revealed the absurdity of England’s national curriculum: "Six- and seven-year-olds are now expected to know prepositions, conjunctions and subordinate clauses; eight- and nine-year-olds, noun phrases expanded by the addition of modifying adjectives, preposition phrases, fronted adverbials and determiners; nine- and 10-year-olds, modal verbs and relative pronoun cohesion. I don’t even know what some of these terms mean, and I’ve got a PhD in English."

An internet that promotes democratic values instead of destroying them - that makes conversation better instead of worse - lies within our grasp, say Anne Applebaum and Peter Pomerantsev.

Andrew Nette chooses his top 10 British gangster films.

"Hidden away in the valley close to the village of Chilworth, near Guildford, are the ruins of an industry that dominated the area for almost 300 years – the manufacturing of gunpowder." Caroline Swan of Flickering Lamps takes us there.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Trevor Peacock, songwriter

I was never a fan of The Vicar of Dibley, but the obituaties for Trevor Peacock, one of its stars, have taught me what a remarkable career he had.

In particular, he was deeply involved in the pop scene of the early 1960s - an era that is often written off but interests me more and more.

He wrote the scripts for Six-Five Special and songs for leading artists, including Adam Faith, Herman's Hermits and Jess Conrad.

The best known of those songs, Mrs Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter, topped the charts in the US for Herman's Hermits.

But the original version was recorded by Tom Courtney for a television play called The Lads.

Thanks to Nedemus Grandage on Twitter.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Andrew George to stand for Cornwall Council

Andrew George, who was the Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives between 1997 and 2015, is to stand for Cornwall Council in May local elections.

Cornish Stuff reports that he is to contest the new seat of Heamoor, Gulval, Ludgvan, Zennor, Morvah and Madron.

One of his opponents will be the Conservative who sat for the previous ward that covered much of this part of West Penwith.

Cornwall is currently run by a coalition of Lib Dems and Independents, though the Conservatives are the largest party on the council.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

REM: Near Wild Heaven

Can it really be 30 years - half a lifetime - since REM became for a while the world's most popular band?

Near Wild Heaven, a minor hit in the UK, is to be found on the band's 1991 album Out of Time.

All Music pronounces it:

a rare hit of sunshine pop smack in the middle of one of R.E.M.'s darker albums, and unlike the thematically similar "Shiny Happy People," [Mike] Mills' wide-eyed declarations of love manage to sound uplifting without being smarmy. 

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Exploring Great Oxendon's railway tunnels

Those nice people from Trekking & Towpaths have returned to the old Market Harborough to Northampton line to explore the railway tunnels at Great Oxendon.

They have already covered the tunnels at Kelmarsh, which lie three miles to the south.

Like Kelmarsh, Oxendon has two parallel single-line tunnels. The up tunnel carries the Brampton Valley Way, but Trekking & Towpaths first explore the abandon down bore. There are some striking mineral colours on the walls and the accompanying music is suitably dramatic.

Incidentally, the line from Market Harborough to Great Oxendon climbed a steep gradient - you could hear the diesel locomotives slogging up it all across the town. On the first night back from university the sound would keep me awake.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Sefton Lib Dems put up a big tent

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Welcome to the Liberal Democrat and Progressive Alliance Group.

In Your Area reports an interesting development from Southport:
Sefton’s Liberal Democrat Group is opening its membership to progressive independent councillors as it aims to provide stronger opposition.

The group’s leader, Cllr John Pugh, says the decision is designed to enable more effective scrutiny of the Labour-run council as well as to welcome new people and ideas.

The Lib Dems are currently the largest opposition group on the council, ahead of the Conservatives and Independents, and Cllr Pugh says it would welcome any current or future councillor who shares a progressive agenda and similar values.

As a result of welcoming the new members ahead of the local elections on May 6, the group is to be renamed the Liberal Democrat and Progressive Alliance Group.
It goes on to quote John Pugh, who was Lib Dem MP for Southport between 2001 and 2017, as saying:
“Working together outside the party political bubble may be a risky step but it is certainly worth making the attempt and we are prepared to make it.“

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Welland Valley Rail Partnership calls for Rutland reopening

A short stretch of reopened railway line in Rutland could reconnect the communities of Kettering, Corby, Stamford, Peterborough together with Luffenham, Whittlesey, March and Wisbech.

That's the claim of the Welland Valley Rail Partnership, which describes its plans like this:

The largest piece of infrastructure is a 3.5 mile section of track between Seaton and South Luffenham. This section is a small part of the Rugby & Stamford railway, opened in the 1800s, closed by Beeching in the 1960s.

This track is required because trains coming from Corby in the south can’t turn right at Manton junction to head towards Peterborough ...

There are 8 houses on the historic trackbed, but we have identified two alternative routes that would avoid any houses. 

The next stage of the project would be a feasibility study to evaluate these alternatives running past South Luffenham, along with the viability of the entire project.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Six of the Best 997

"Many Liberal Democrats don’t know that the late great Paddy Ashdown leaned heavily on the concept of a Basic Income as a fundamental component of his 'Citizens' Britain', arguing that 'every step we take towards a basic income liberates power in the hands of the citizen.'" Daniel Mermelstein believes universal basic income is a fundamentally liberal policy and a vote winner.

Shane Burke says the status quo in undercover policing threatens political rights.

"It seemed obvious to me that despite what everyone said, schools were not primarily about education. Formal learning made up a minimal fraction of the activity there (and the part adults later find the least memorable). The real purpose and priority of the school system was to instil the habit of obedience, of deference to our superiors. Learning was to be discouraged if it interfered with this end." Lorna Finlayson explains why she walked out of school at 13.

Henry Grabar looks at what New York could do if it took a quarter of its roads away from cars.

"Upon arrival in Scotland, Heron was thrown in for his debut against Morton in a League Cup tie; the Jamaican adding Celtic’s second goal in a 2-0 win with a 20-yard first-half strike." Did you know Gil Scott-Heron's father played for Celtic? Craig Stephen will tell you all about him.

Stefan Sagrott looks at Edinburgh's Innocent Railway.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Dempsey Arlott-John wins Name of the Day

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Cricket fans of a certain age will be amused to learn that there is a promising young player on the books of Leicester City called Dempsey Arlott-John.

Young person's voice: I don't get it.

Liberal England replies: Listen to this programme about the great John Arlott.

Write a guest post for Liberal England

I welcome guest posts on Liberal England and I'm happy to publish posts on subjects far beyond the Lib Dems and politics.

If you would like to write a guest post for this blog, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Liberal England guest blogger to lead partnership to save curlews

Photo: Andreas Trepte
Leading conservation organisations have come together to launch the Curlew Recovery Partnership.

Urgent action is needed. Eurasian Curlew is one of the most pressing bird conservation priorities in the UK, where nearly half the breeding population has been lost over the last 25 years and where range contraction has seen curlews disappear from many traditional sites.

This partnership is the outcome of two summits hosted by Prince Charles. It will provide coordination and support for those engaged in curlew conservation, while also providing benefits for other threatened species and habitats and helping people connect with nature. 

Its chair is Mary Colwell, who once wrote a guest post for this blog on the case for a GCSE in Natural History.

The call of the curlew - described by Prince Charles as "hauntingly evocative" - reminds me in particular of my discovery of the Shropshire Hills in the late 1980s. When I heard it, particularly in the Stiperstones, I knew I was approaching somewhere remote.