Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Stanlow and Thornton: The least used station in Cheshire

Stanlow and Thornton was opened in 1940 to serve a plant producing aviation fuel for the RAF.

In those days there were extensive sidings here, but they vanished  as the plant turned into Britain's second largest oil refinery. It is still served by jetties on the Manchester Ship Canal though.

This week the Stanlow refinery has been in the news, as its owners Essar Oil UK have been hit by a "deepening financial and corporate governance crisis".

Anyway, enjoy the video. The general views in the YouTube comments is that the road to the refinery is open to pedestrians and bicycles, but not to cars. 

And, whatever the views of Stanlow's owners, it's hard to get new third-rail electrification approved anywhere these days.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: 36, 24 and 3/6 a pound

A second day Bonkers Hall and we meet inhabitants of Rutland Water that we have not come across before.


I awaken in a sunnier mood and, after the eggs and b and a read of the High Leicestershire Radical, I go for a brisk walk on the shores of Rutland Water. There is a first hint of spring in the air and, sure enough, it has brought out the mermaids. 

They sit upon the rocks combing their long hair and polishing their scales. How splendid they look! It is a pleasure to hear them singing  each to each and they kindly sing to me too. 

I am tempted to return the favour by telling them the old joke about their vital statistics being 36, 24 and 3/6 a pound, but recall just in time that it Went Down Badly the last time I tried it on them. (I still have the dent in my bean from the rock that was flung.) 

On the off chance, I ask if any of them has seen Ed Davey. “Darling,” comes the husky-voiced reply, “the only Davy we know is Davy Jones.” 

At least I tried and, bearing no ill will, I tip them off that the gossip on Oakham Quay is that the inshore fisherman will try their luck in these waters at low tide.

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

Earlier this week...

Police hunt after world's largest rabbit stolen

Today's Headline of the Day Award proves once again that all the best news comes from Shropshire - or at least the Shropshire Star.

Farewell to Shirley Williams

Embed from Getty Images

I was very sorry to hear of Shirley Williams' death. Her warm, sensible, conversational style reminds us of what has been lost from British politics in recent years.

Her Guardian obituary speculates that she might have made a more attractive leader of the nascent SDP than Roy Jenkins, which makes a lot of sense.

Yet I cannot remember this possibility being talked about at the time. Put it down to sexism.

It also worth pointing out that Shirley Williams was not an insipid moderate. 

In her Labour days she was seen as being in the mainstream of the party and received a lot of trade union support in its internal elections.

Her decision to leave was down to her strong opposition to Trotskyism and belief that it had no place in the Labour Party.

Again, the existence of a politician with principles and deeply held beliefs reminds us of what we have lost.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Under the dining table with a bottle of my best cherry brandy

Another week at Bonkers Hall. I intend to make the diary entries individual posts this time, but apologies in advance if my new caring responsibilities mean they come out in lumps.

Anyway, our first entry finds our old friend combing the Bonkers Hall Estate. He doesn't find anything, but it looks much neater when he's finished.


Another depressing day searching for the leader of the Liberal Democrats. As no one has seen or heard of Ed Davey for months, I have given orders for a search of the whole Bonkers Estate to be conducted.  No stone has been left unturned: 

Meadowcroft’s potting shed, the crypt under St Asquith’s, the cellar of the Bonkers’ Arms and even the shaft of an abandoned Stilton mine have all been scrutinised, but we have found neither hide nor hair of the man. 

When two Well-Behaved Orphans go missing, it is a good bet that they will be found either at the railway station standing on one another’s shoulders in an adult’s overcoat or under the dining table with a bottle of my best cherry brandy. I have personally searched both locations and did not find Davey at either of them.

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

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Doves: Black and White Town

Doves, says Wikipedia, are an alt rock band from Manchester. Black and White Town was a 2005 single taken from their album Some Cities and reached number 6 in the UK singles chart.

It has also been widely used by BBC Sport - this video was directed by Lynne Ramsay and shot on the Summerston estate in Glasgow.

This all sounds authoritative, but I just heard it on Radio 6 Music and liked it. But then another Doves song has already been a Sunday music video.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Download the new Liberator now

The new Liberator can be downloaded free, gratis and for nothing from the magazine's website.

While you are there you can sign up for its email newsletter so you will know as soon as a new issue is posted.

Issue 406 includes tributes to Tony Greaves and articles on the Conservatives' importation of American voter-suppression tactics, British arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the 40th anniversary of the SDP's founding.

The magazine always carries a wide range of articles, but I usually turn first to Radical Bulletin, which has news and gossip about the Liberal Democrats you will find nowhere else. 

This time you can read about:

  • a presentation made to various party committees by the Lib Dem director of strategy
  • disgruntlement among MPs with the party's media operation
  • what Tony Greaves said about Lembit Opik

In case that all sounds too good be true, there is also Lord Bonkers' Diary.

Good news for harebells, yellow mountain pansies, stonechats and skylarks in the Stiperstones

The Stiperstones ridge is the site one of 10 new projects across England and Wales to be funded by the Wildlife Trusts Coalition, reports the Ludlow & Tenbury Wells Advertiser.

It will see Shropshire Wildlife Trust is to restore 12 acres of unsprayed fields above Tankerville to allow harebells, yellow mountain pansies, stonechats and skylarks to thrive.

You can hear John Hughes from the Shropshire trust talking about this project on BBC Radio Shropshire's breakfast show. The item starts at 2:17:20.

I don't know when I'll be able to visit Shropshire again, but I can still blog about it.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Lib Dems promise universal basic income trial in Wales

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have promised to undertake a trial of universal basic Income.

The party's 2020 Senedd manifesto says:

Our economy must support secure, well-paid work and good public services. It must recognise that work is not a guaranteed route out of poverty. We want to see an economy that ensures that work pays and that there is meaningful support for those that are unable to work, working with the UK Government to create a genuine social security system based on values of dignity and compassion.

Jane Dodds, the party's leader, told Nation Cymru:

"The Welsh Liberal Democrats will put recovery first which will mean; an economic recovery, a green recovery and a recovery for mental health that will benefit everyone in Wales,

"The past year has been tough, life as we know it has changed, but I know Wales is a resilient country and we have the chance to build a better future for our children and our children’s children."

Clare Balding, Rick Minter and British big cats

Out recording her Ramblings radio programme near Ross-on-Wye one day, Clare Balding came across what she described as an "enormous black cat".

In the latest edition she talks to Rick Minter, who runs the Big Cat Conversations podcast. I have already praised it on this blog:

What emerges from all this is a picture of sober country people and professionals coming across big cats in the countryside but not making too much fuss about it. They don't want the press or trophy hunters descending on them and they don't want officialdom snooping around their farms.

As they walk through the Gloucestershire countryside, Minter sets out the case for believing that a breeding population of big cats exists in Britain.

The recording that Balding made after seeing her enormous black cat is impressive.

Ten years ago, another Ramblings saw Clare Balding walking in the Shropshire hills with members of the Malcolm Saville Society.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Six of the Best 1002

"The scenes we all saw of the police using force against those at the Clapham Common vigil were entirely foreseeable, preventable and unnecessary." Brian Paddick is critical of the inspectorate report on the policing of the vigil for Sarah Everard.

Alison Faulkner offers a depressing analysis of the Commons debates on the review of the Mental Health Act 1983. 'The Expert' - the psychiatrist - was characterised in the debates by knowledge, training and an assumed trustworthiness, while 'The Patient was associated with non-compliance, potential risk and impaired decision making.

Stefan Collini reviews two books on meritocracy: "There have long been individuals from less advantaged social backgrounds for whom education has been the route to advancement (‘the scholarship boy’ was one of the most celebrated, and most obviously gendered, of the tropes used to represent this possibility). This, too, is an important truth, not simply to be disparaged as ‘elite recruitment’. But the fact that such individual stories stand out is an indication that education does not work in this way for the majority."

"The management at ABC spotted something: when they showed a play that was a bit more avant garde or intended to challenge the viewer’s opinions or lifestyle, viewing figures went up. Against the conventional wisdom, it seemed that people in the late 1950s liked having television that took them on full in the face." Russ J. Graham offers an appreciation of Cathy Come Home, 55 years after it was first broadcast.

Richard Coles talks to Lucy Walker about his love of music from Motown to Benjamin Britten.

We look back to the days of Jim Cumbes, Chris Balderstone and the days when it was possible to be a professional footballer and cricketer with Vince Cooper.

The failure of the first Severn Tunnel

In a December Six of the Best I linked to an article about the failure of the first Severn Tunnel.
This video tells the same story and takes you to what remains of the tunnel today.

More from Paul and Rebcecca Whitewick on their website.

Monday, April 05, 2021

The Reunion: Finding Richard III

In June 2012 I wrote:

Today the site of Greyfriars monastery and Herrick's garden is occupied by Greyfriars, Friar Lane and New Street. Leicester Chronicler says:

very little survives of the medieval friary; just an archway in the basement of private property and some stones incorporated into the wall of an open air municipal car park.

I suspect that is the car park behind the social services building in Greyfriars, which was securely locked when I was there this afternoon. But I did find this plaque across the road on the side of the old Nat West bank.

And, somewhere under the paving stones, the body of Richard III may well be close by.

Three months later it was found.

The latest edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme The Reunion tells the story of the dig and the research that proved the identity of the skeleton they unearthed on the first day of the dig.

There is no participant from the Richard III Society: they seem to be like that.

I paid my respects to Richard when his coffin was displayed in Leicester Cathedral and got rather carried away:

It has been a remarkable week for Leicester and Leicestershire. 

When the plans for taking Richard's bones around the Bosworth battlefield and the villages associated with it were announced, I wondered if it was a good idea. But it turned out to be an act of genius and I found myself ridiculously moved.

This, I think, had less to do with Richard III and more to do with the community involvement. Councillors, ex-servicemen, Scouts and Brownies... 

What we saw on BBC News and heard on BBC Radio Leicester was the sort of civic England you fear had been lost to modernisation and the turbo-capitalism.

Because the day was not about celebrating Richard III or the monarchy: it was about celebrating our pride in Leicester and Leicestershire. In the end, the day was about ourselves.

And then Richard's returned to Leicester in triumph, rather than naked over the back of a horse.

Let no one tell you that history cannot be rewritten.

I recommend this programme, though Kirsty Wark neglects to mention that when this story was first covered by Newsnight she asked one :participant:

"Where will Richard be buried? Presumably not Leicester.

Write a guest post for Liberal England

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

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

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: The Night

I was on the way home after settling my Mum down for the night when I called in at a garage whose shop was still open.

A song was playing on the radio. I recognised it and knew that it was by the Four Seasons, but didn't know its name.

It turns out that The Night made number 7 in the UK singles chart in 1975 - I don't suppose I have heard it since.

The song has an interesting history. The Four Seasons (Valli was the lead singer but did not originally feature in the billing) were huge in the early 1960s and enjoyed success through most of that decade.

By 1969 they were in decline and, seeking a revival, they signed to Motown. But it did not work out.

Valli attributed this to Motown's poor promotion of their records. Listening to this wonderfully dramatic song, he has a point. The Night was not even appear as a single in the US.

Originally released in the UK in 1972, The Night became a Northern Soul classic. Not having been a chart hit is central to that status.

In 1974 Northern Soul became fashionable beyond Wigan and began to influence the singles charts. It may be that the success of The Night is down to that.

Anyway, in the mid-1970s Valli and a recast Four Seasons began to enjoy chart success again and he was even asked to record the theme song for the film of Grease.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

'Behave in Market Harborough or we will take your alcohol away'

This worrying effort from the Leicester Mercury wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Montgomeryshire Lib Dems call for canal restoration

The past few weeks have seen the appearance of increasingly optimistic schemes for the reopening of long-closed railways.

But Mongomeryshire Liberal Democrats are calling for the reopening of a canal:
We will continue to support the restoration of the Montgomeryshire Canal and push the Welsh Government to provide increased funding towards the project that would significantly boost the economies of Welshpool and Newtown along with other villages enroute. 
The Conservative's have had 10 years in power to push for this and have not succeeded. 
We will seek to use our influence to push the Welsh Government to provide funding for the project, as well encourage the UK government to attribute funding to the project via the new 'UK Development Fund. 
I am pleased to see this. The Montgomeryshire has been undergoing restoration for as long as I can remember, yet progress has been painfully slow.

You can read about the current restoration plans on the Restore the Montgomery Canal! site.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Andy Hagon is the Lib Dem candidate for the Hartlepool by-election

Embed from Getty Images

Andy Hagon, who fought the seat at the 2017 and 2019 general elections, has been unanimously adopted as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Hartlepool by-election. The contest will take place on 6 May.

The Northern Echo quotes Andy:

"I have decided to stand for a third time so that people have another choice beyond Labour and the Conservatives. 

"There should never be one in three Hartlepool children living in poverty in one of the richest countries in the world, we need a more caring country. 

“If elected, I pledge to stand up for local people.

"In particular, for those who have been unemployed for far too long and desperate for work, and for those who are sick of travelling too far for jobs.

"Our voices matter, and I want to make them heard and get things done.’’

Thursday, April 01, 2021

John Rogers takes us to Bohemian Hackney

From the blurb on YoutTube:

This walk starts with a look around the incredible home of Hackney artist and flamenco dancer Ron Hitchins. Ron was also known as the Prince of Petticote Lane when he had a stall selling the shirts he made. 
We then walk across London Fields to the notorious artists studios in Martello Street when Genesis P-Orridge and Cosi Fan Tutti had studios as well as Bruce Lacey and many others. 
We look at the Pub on the Park, pass Netil Market and London Fields Brewery on our way to Beck Road which was once home to many artists including Genesis P-Orridge and the band Throbbing Gristle, and Helen Chadwick. 
We pick up the Regent's Canal by the grand gasometers and then pick up the Hertford Union Canal which is currently drained while repairs to the walls are carried out. 
Our walk ends with a stroll through Victoria Park in the company of Travis Elborough.

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

Lord Bonkers' Diary from the April 1991 Liberator

It's time to look back30 [gulp] years and see what Lord Bonkers was doing in Liberator 196, the April 1991 issue.

We journey to the glory days of Ronnie Fearn, who was Liberal MP for Southport from 1987 to 1992 and from 1997 to 2001. Also present is a youthful Matthew Taylor, Liberal MP for Truro from 1987 to 2010. The exchange between them at the glee club was exactly as reported here.

Adopted at birth, Matthew was later revealed to be the great grandson of Sir Percy Harris, who was Liberal MP for Harborough from 1916 to 1918.

This was news to me, but I suspect Lord Bonkers knew it all along.


Just as I am preparing to depart for Twickenham, a party of Cornish Primitive Methodist clergy arrives. They express the wish to pass a thoroughly miserable  day, so I can do no other than take themto the "Spring Conference" of the "Liberal Democrats" at Nottingham. 

The journey goes smoothly, with a stop at Melton Mowbray to mortify the flesh, and we arrive in time to attend a lunchtime fringe meeting. My guests enjoy it immensely because the room has particularly uncomfortable chairs.

In retrospect, my decision to take them to the glee club was not well advised. In particular, whilst I found Miss Fearn's  rendition of "If You Were the Only Girl in the World" to Master Taylor peculiarly moving, the appeared somewhat shocked by it.

"Is this really the well-scrubbed fellow we see at Sunday School every week?", they quizzed one another. 

I have to spend the entire journey home  explaining what Miss Fearn had meant when she indicated her tie and said "This isn't the only thing that dangles."

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