Sunday, April 30, 2023

Billy Fury: Suzanne in the Mirror

We've heard Billy Fury singing David Bowie's Silly Boy Blue, and this is another of the singles he recorded with Parlophone after the hits had dried up.

Suzanne in the Mirror was released in 1967. It's very much of that year and was produced by Tony Visconti, but failed to trouble the charts. 

Perhaps it lacked the simplicity of most good singles?

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Leicestershire police accused of giving trolls the green light to target politician's children

An extraordinary story from the Guardian:

The Labour MP Stella Creasy believes police have given online trolls "the green light to target the children of politicians” after she was subject to a baseless complaint to social services.

And sadly it is Leicestershire police who are responsible.

As the Guardian explains, a man who uses the alias Lance Jones contacted Waltham Forest council to complain that Creasy's "extreme views" would damage her children and said that they should be removed from her care. "Jones" has no personal connection to Creasy or her two young children.

Creasy, who is MP for Walthamstow, has been a prominent campaigner on misogyny, violence against women and her right to be allowed to bring her breastfeeding baby into parliament.

Parliamentary police investigated, Creasy explained to the newspaper, but when "Jones" was found to live in Leicestershire the case was passed to his local force.

Creasy told the Guardian what happened next:

"Leicestershire police, in their infinite wisdom, decided that this man was entitled - was the word they used - to raise concerns about my views.

"So they were very clear, because I’ve never seen the actual original complaint he made, it was entirely about my views and the risk to my children of me having what he considered to be extreme views and indeed what the police in Leicestershire said could be considered extreme views ... i.e. being a feminist.

"The consequence of it is that my kids now have a social services record because of this man’s belief that if you disagree with somebody, the thing you do is threaten to get their kids taken away."

When asked what she thought about the police response, the Creasy replied: "I think they've given the green light to targeting the children of politicians if you don’t agree with them."

The targeting of politicians' children in this way is unacceptable. If it becomes widespread it won't just be Leicestershire police who need to take a hard look at their policies and the training of their staff.

Friday, April 28, 2023

The Joy of Six 1128

"With every echoing step, British parliamentarians are reminded by these weighty premises of their own importance. It is rather rare, however, that one of them makes their way from the halls of parliament into the underworld of the old palace, which was once built on a swampy island in the Thames. Here, in the low-ceilinged, labyrinthine catacombs, the foundation of Britannia’s democracy is literally rotting away, largely out of sight and out of mind. Most of the structure is contaminated by asbestos, while thick tangles of cables hang chaotically from the ceiling and pipes suddenly come to an end, seemingly in the middle of nowhere." Jörg Schindler sees Britain facing a perfect storm of struggle, with millions sliding into poverty and little to suggest that improvement will come anytime soon.

David Gauke has little time for Dominic Raab's defence against bullying charges.

Elon Musk's attempt to monetise the Twitter blue tick is a master class in business failure, argues Alex Kirshner.

Richard Vinen reviews Rory Carroll's Killing Thatcher: "There was a curious sense in which the IRA did kill Thatcher at Brighton. Magee and his comrades described the high-security units in which they were imprisoned as 'submarines', because they were so cut off from contact with the outside world. Thatcher’s own security team put her in a submarine of sorts, and it was one that dived ever deeper after Brighton. Isolation from ordinary life was one of the things that accounted for the erosion of her political instincts in the late 1980s and, eventually, her fall. 

"How did she do it? That’s the question that inevitably comes to mind when watching such moments of feminist audacity in a film written and directed by a woman working within the mainstream British film industry of 1957." Melanie Williams celebrates the achievements of the film director Muriel Box.

Joel Morris sees the culture war invade tributes to dead comedians.

Mark Oaten is a council candidate in South Gloucestershire

Mark Oaten, the former Liberal Democrat MP, is standing for the council in South Gloucestershire next week. He is in one of our two candidates in the Conservative-hold Severn Vale ward.

In 1997 he won the Winchester constituency for the Lib Dems. The contest held on general election day, which he won with a majority of 2, was declared void by the Election Court. Oaten won the resultant by-election with a majority of 21,556, gaining 68 per cent of the vote.

He was involved with the think-tank Liberal Future and the Orange Book, which led to his being seen as one of the people determined to shift the party to the right - see the archive of the writings of the late great Simon Titley on the Liberator website.

Oaten was briefly a candidate for the leadership of the Lib Dems in 2006, following Charles Kennedy's resignation, and then resigned from the front bench amid sexual scandal. He did not defend Winchester in 2010.

Enough history. I wish Mark - and all Lib Dem candidates - the best of fortune on Thursday.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Post-war London as an exotic city: The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay

The great novel of London's bombsites just after the war is Rose Macaulay's The World My Wilderness. I read it years ago and recently bought a copy, which is now on my pile of books to read.

Luckily, you don't have to wait for me, as I've found an essay on the novel by Lucy Scholes for The Paris Review.

The novel opens in France in 1946, where 17-year-old Barbary and her younger step-brother Raul have grown wild from running with the Maquis. Their mother decides to send them to live, separately, with relations in London in an attempt to civilise them.

Scholes describes what happens next:

Later, in London, they escape their homes and their guardians, hiding from the police in the blitzed ruins of Cheapside. This uninhabited no-man’s-land is "a wilderness of little streets, caves and cellars, the foundations of a wrecked merchant city, grown over by green and golden fennel and ragwort, coltsfoot, purple loosestrife, rosebay willow herb, bracken, bramble and tall nettles, among which rabbits burrowed and wild cats crept and hens laid eggs."

It’s here among the "dripping greenery that grew high and rank, running over the ruins as the jungle runs over Maya temples, hiding them from prying eyes," that Barbary finds what Macaulay, in a letter about her novel to her friend Hamilton Johnson, calls the girl’s "spiritual home." These "broken alleys and caves of that wrecked waste" offer the traumatized, homesick Barbary a safe haven: "It had familiarity, as of a place long known; it had the clear, dark logic of a dream; it made a lunatic sense, as the unshattered streets and squares did not; it was the country that one’s soul recognised and knew."

Barbary and Raoul swear their loyalty to fringe groups - first the Maquis in Provence, then the ragtag band of deserters, thieves, and black marketers they meet in London. They are united by their refusal to adhere to convention, law, and order. In the novel, tradition is juxtaposed with modernity. The annihilation of Barbary and Raoul’s childish innocence, and of society’s outdated Victorian sensibilities, is shown alongside the destruction of culture and civilization that the war has wrought. 

It is the exotic landscape I remember most from The World My Wilderness. We are told that London after the war was grey and miserable, but here the city has lush vegetation at its heart and new vistas of Italianate churches opened up by enemy bombing.

Don't wait for me: read the book yourself.

Andrew Bridgen vs Lee Anderson - it's the fight you wish both sides could lose

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Yesterday I tweeted the Independent's account of the Westminster altercation between Andrew Bridgen and Lee Anderson. In it, one wtiness described Anderson as "aggressive and out of control".

In the interests of balance, here (via GB News) is a very different view from Nana Akua:

The altercation was in fact initiated by Andrew Bridgen, who came over to our table opening the conversation with what I thought was a warm welcome.

He stood beside me, leant over and put his arm around my side in a welcoming gesture. However, it was anything but that, it was in fact a rouse for an abusive tirade directed at Lee Anderson.

Andrew was clearly very angry and accused Lee of expelling him from the party.

Lee was caught off guard as we all were as Andrew continued to badger him aggressively but with a smile on his face.

Despite Lee stating clearly that he was not aware that Andrew had been expelled and that this was the first he had heard of it, Andrew persisted.

... I don’t have the exact transcript or wording of the conversation, but it was an offensive, aggressive and deeply unpleasant tirade directed at Mr. Anderson. Andrew was spoiling for a fight.

I hope they have their fight and that they both lose.

Blue Wall latest: Lib Dems turn their fire on Eton

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Sup up your beer and collect your fags,
There's a poll going on down near Slough.

i News is getting excited about one ward in particular:

The Eton and Castle ward in Windsor - which covers the college - is a key target for the Liberal Democrats who believe that if things go their way they could wipe out all three conservative councillors there. Such a move would certainly lead to some schadenfreude, but it would also point to a wider problem for the Conservative party: the threat to the blue wall.

BBC News has been in Berkshire too:

All 43 seats on West Berkshire Council are up for election. The Conservatives currently have 24, Lib Dems 16 and Greens hold three. The Lib Dems think they've got a strong chance of seizing control.

The article is full of vox pops gathered at a Newbury race meeting, an event at which you're more likely to find Conservative voters. So let's hear it for Eddie Campbell:

Round the corner from the stands, we meet Eddie Campbell who is more firmly enthusiastic about the Liberal Democrats.

"They are more aligned with what my sort of beliefs are politically."

He's also impressed by their "ground game". "I've seen more of them, you know, just walking down the high street. I know we have Conservative at the moment, but I haven't seen any Conservative activity," he says.

For Eddie, the cost of living, cuts to public services and the environment are major voting issues.

Little room for masterly inactivity in Market Harborough

Do the authors of this volume of the Cambridge Urban History know how gloomy a book they have written? Pessimism suffuses these pages from start almost to finish.

That was Andrew Saint, reviewing volume 3 in that series for the London Review of Books in 1981.

But things looked up later on:

It is often a corrective as well as a relief to read about local experience and activity. Thus Stephen Royle’s chapter on small towns, heavily based on Leicestershire, seems at first to paint a picture of stagnation (Hinckley’s ‘stinking state’ in 1840 etc) and cultural decline. 

Then abruptly he tells us that Edwardian Market Harborough, a town just short of 8000, boasted Sunday schools, friendly societies for young men and girls, a Church Lads' brigade, a Territorial Army branch, a debating society, a reading society, a choral society, an opera society, a brass band, an angling 'society', clubs for cricket, football, tennis, golf, polo, water polo, bicycling and point-to-point riding, a swimming-bath and a roller-skating rink, and regularly put on carnivals, flower, produce and horse shows and swimming galas. 

I abridge. There can have been little room for masterly inactivity in Market Harborough.

 I would only add that the swimming bath was given to the town by my hero J.W. Logan MP.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

When Jethro Tull played Market Harborough

This advertisement appeared in the Leicester Mercury on Wednesday 20 November 1968. 

As the address given for the Frolickin Kneecap is The Square, Market Harborough, the club must have been meeting at the old County Cinema, where the Walker Brothers lost their shirts.

Sunday afternoon concerts appear to have been controversial. Another Leicester Mercury report from earlier in the year (18 April 1968) said that the police had asked all 'Sunday clubs' in the county to

look carefully at the regulations covering music, singing and dancing on Sundays. This is a warning that they might be infringing the law.

The report also says that Harborough's Frolickin Kneecap had decided to shut up shop because of this, but clearly it was back again later in the year.

In 1968 Jethro Tull sounded like this.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Martin Amis is no Mike Brearley

I got interested in Martin Amis's collection The Rub of Time when I saw it had an index. With his love of both high and low culture, Amis had the potential to produce indexes every bit as good as those you find in Mike Brearley's books.

It's the juxtapositions I look for in an index: the unlikely couples who find themselves paired in consecutive entries.

Sadly, Mart let me down.

Yes, he showed promise, and I enjoyed:

Camilla (Parker Bowles), Duchess of Cornwall
Camus, Albert

Keane, Roy
Keats, John

Sade, Marquis de
Sampras, Pete

but there weren't many more. Maybe tennis just isn't as literary game as cricket?

Anyway, hurry off and enjoy the indexes of Brearley's books On Cricket and On Form.

The Tories' Blue Wall is turning into a Ballardian nightmare

Fred Skulthorp has visited the Blue Wall for Unherd and found it to be a land of discontent:

Travelling through Surrey, from the quiet villages nestled in the North Downs to its London border in the north, it resembles not a cliché of suburban aspiration, but a capsule of all England’s problems: the demise of its ruling party, a lost generation of millennials, polluted waterways and a cost-of-living crisis. In these leafy streets, decline and affluence have become entwined.

And Tory hegemony there is under threat from social change:

Alongside the material decline of the Home Counties, a further dimension to the campaign has opened up. As London ages and gentrifies, and a "parasitical housing market" bites, an exodus of young families, millennials and renters unable to afford life in the capital have found themselves pushed beyond the sprawl of London and out into the Tory shires.

Skulthorp emphasises that this is not the traditional move to the suburbs that comes with economic maturity and that people driven out of the capital arrive in a Surrey that is very different from the stereotype of Surrey comfort.

That hegemony is also under threat from ferocious Liberal Democrats.

Take Chris Coughlan, who will fight Mole Valley at the next general election: he may be, in Skulthorp's words:

the product of the Surrey incarnation of the suburban dream; the son of a stockbroker, he grew up in the village of Peaslake, joined the army and then the Conservative Party, and had a stint in the City.

But his verdict is clear:

"The Tory party needs to die."

Or at greater length:

Coghlan certainly says it a lot and so do other Tory defectors. Young families are using food banks in Dorking; the River Mole that runs through the Surrey Hills is one of the most polluted in the country. When Ed Davey came to visit Mole Valley, he was taken to a swimming pond in Fetcham, which is now, as one local told me, “full of shit”. The arrival of England’s decline in these once-protected suburban idylls is now as visible as it is pungent.

Some of this new mood Skulthorp findsin the Home Counties may be an unwind from Brexit. 

The referendum wasn't won by Leave because of working-class voters in the North: it was won because great swathes of comfortable Southern England voted against their own economic interests.

Given what has hit the country since that vote, there must be many who are sick of the sight of sleek figures like Gove and Raab.

Monday, April 24, 2023

The development of the Barbican Estate after World War II

The streets around St Paul's Cathedral in London were devastated by the Blitz. This 1969 film from the London Metropolitan Archives documents the redevelopment of the area after the war.

It makes it clear that one aim of the project was the repopulation of the City of London, which had once been the most densely populated part of the capital but had later been taken over by offices.

If you remember my post on children and bombsites in British films, the Barbican covers the site where Jon Whiteley found a gun and accidentally shot a playmate and Unit Four Plus Two filmed their video for Concrete and Clay.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Joy of Six 1127

"The row over LTNs isn’t a culture war, it’s a microcosm of a much more fundamental question. How does a society built on fossil fuels shift its behaviour quickly enough to have an impact on the looming climate change catastrophe? It’s a question that’s not going to go away." Flip Chart Fairy Tales on the outcry over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.

James Ball says the government's online safety bill will annoy voters and may lead to messaging apps withdrawing their apps from the UK.

Norman Lebrecht argues that Arts Council hostility has added to the problems caused for opera by Covid and Brexit: "A climate of hostility towards opera was created. A state of siege set in and confidence sank. In mass media, opera was once again presented as a pastime for the privileged." 

Sixteen-year-old Jack Cornwell, who died after being wounded at the Battle of Jutland, was posthumously awarded the VC. Alex Churchill finds that his decoration was the result of newspaper clamour for a hero after the losses at Jutland and that the photograph of Cornwall that was used everywhere was actually of one of his brothers, because no photograph of him existed.

Richard Luck thinks The Day of the Jackal is an assassination movie without equal.

Think of Benjamin Britten and you think of Suffolk, but John Finn takes us to he several Islington houses where he and Peter Pears lived when they had to be in London.

When Boris Johnson's aides feared he was going to kill the Queen

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Pippa Crerar is the political editor of the Guardian, but in June 2021 she was at the Mirror. And there she wrote a story saying that Boris Johnson had tried to have his weekly audience with the late Queen in the usual face-to-face way at the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020, even though he was himself going down with the virus.

Only when he was persuaded that he could be responsible for the death of the Queen did he abandon the idea.

No 10 told her the story was "completely untrue," but she stood by it and the Mirror published it.

Today Crerar tweeted extracts from Anthony Seldon and Raymond Newell's Johnson at 10: The Inside Story that show her story was true:

The previous day he had been due to meet the Queen for their weekly audience, with Palace and No 10 official going back and forth about whether the meeting could take place in person. 

Johnson was eager not to be restricted by the new laws or his apparent symptoms, to the dismay of Palace officials deeply concerned at the risk of exposing the elderly Queen to the virus.

After some convincing, both from the Palace and Cummings, the prime minister agreed to hold the conversation by phone. The content of a prime minster's audience with the sovereign is sacred, with no advisers in attendance and no official record of the discussion. 

The sanctity of this one would be easier to keep than most: afterwards the Queen turned to an aide and commented that she couldn't hear a word of what Johnson said, he was coughing so much.

We know Johnson was willing to sacrifice the truth to burnish his self-image as a man of courage: he claimed to have shaken hands with Covid patients at Kettering General Hospital, even though it had no such patients when he visited it.

But it seems that, for the sake of that image, he was even prepared to put the life of his sovereign at risk.

Ottilie Patterson: St Louis Blues

The late British jazz singer George Melly used to ask his audiences: "Who is the greatest blues vocalist Britain has ever produced?" He'd tease them, asking, "Mick Jagger? No! Steve Winwood? No! Van Morrison? No!", before suggesting the greatest of all time was Ottilie Patterson.

Me neither, but you can read about her career - it's a sad story - in a Guardian article. And there's a documentary about her on the BBC iPlayer, My Name Is Ottilie.

I don't know when this was recorded, but Patterson is singing with her husband Chris Barber's band.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm to reopen next spring

There are plans to reopen Acton Scott Historic Working Farm next sprint, reports the Shropshire Star.

Before it closed in the summer of 2021, the historical attraction near Church Stretton welcomed thousands of visitors. It received UK-wide attention after the BBC series Victorian Farm was filmed there in 2008.

Now Shropshire Council has handed it back to the Acton Scott Estate, which plans to establish a not-for-profit body and reopen the attraction during the spring of 2024.

The Acton Scott Estate website tells readers:
We're fixing leaking roofs, woodworm infestations, drainage issues, weeds, asbestos, the blacksmith's forge, the threshing barn floor and much more. We're working as quickly as we can to get the site open to visitors again.

The Estate has decided to purchase the Dairy Shorthorn Cattle, Shropshire Sheep and poultry from Shropshire Council and then hand them to the new not-for-profit organisation when the time comes. In the meantime, they will be looked after with love and care.

We are proud to be a Rare Breeds Survival Trust accredited farm. This means that we look after and breed animals which are not commonly found in the UK.

Barry Humphries (1934-2023)

What a career Barry Humphries had! An avant-garde artist and actor in Fifties Australia, then part of the satire boom in Sixties London and after that best known as the manager of housewife gigastar Dame Edna Everage.

One achievement that may get overlooked in the tributes is that in 1960 he was in the cast of the original production of Oliver! and then went to Broadway with the show. He played Mr Sowerberry the undertaker, and Lionel Bart liked him so much that he wrote this song for him.

If you don't know it, that may be because it's not in Carol Reed's film or on the Broadway cast album.

Humphries was also Ron Moody's understudy in that original production and was later to play Fagin himself in revivals of the show.

I've also learnt a pleasing piece of trivia today. Humphries' widow (his fourth wife - they were married for 33 years) is the actress Elizabeth Spender. She appeared in Terry Gilliam's Brazil and is the daughter of the poet Stephen Spender.

She once suggested that the fiercely intellectual Humphries had married her for her books.

Is Dominic Raab about to prove that a bully is always a coward?

From the Herald:

An MP since 2010, Mr Raab barely held his Esher and Walton seat in 2019, as the Liberal Democrats cut his majority from 23,298 to just 2,743. 

The knife-edge Surrey marginal is now a prime Lib Dem target for 2024.

Mr Raab's refusal to confirm he is standing again in the seat suggests he may be thinking of leaving the Commons or potentially trying to find a safer Tory candidacy elsewhere. 

As headmasters used to say, a bully is always a coward.

Friday, April 21, 2023

My first photograph: The view from the aqueduct at Cosgrove in Milton Keynes

Posting Paul Whitewick's video of the aqueduct over the Great Ouse at Cosgrove in Milton Keynes the other day reminded me of something. I snapped my very first photograph from it as we crossed in a boat.

I must have been 10 or 11 when I took it on the family camera and, to be honest, it's not one of my best.

As Google Street View includes the towpath of the Grand Union, I can revisit the scene today. 

Milton Keynes barely existed when I took my photo., and I feared that the scene would now be an urban jungle of multimodal logistic hubs and concrete cows. But, as you can see below, it is still countryside, though more of a park, The river seems to have been tamed a little too.

Reader's voice: Are you sure it's the same scene? Your photo is rather blurred (and I doubt it was from the sheer speed of the boat).

Liberal England replies: Look at the dark trees on the horizon and the silvery green one on the left of the picture.

So I can tell you that I took my photo looking South West from the aqueduct, which is upstream on the Great Ouse.

Adam Dance aims to recapture Yeovil for the Lib Dems

Yeovil Liberal Democrats have chosen their prospective parliamentary candidate for the next general election.

It is Adam Dance, who runs his own gardening and landscaping business and is a Somerset councillor. He holds the public health and equalities portfolio on the Lib Dem-run authority.

Mike Hewitson, the chair of Yeovil Lib Dems, told Somerset Live:

"We are thrilled to have selected Adam as our candidate for the next general election. Adam is a passionate local community champion who makes things happen. He brings real world experience, common sense and hard work to his campaigning. 

"Adam has a long track record of winning elections for us in Somerset and our team looks forward to campaigning alongside him to win the Yeovil constituency at the next general election."

Yeovil, of course, was the seat represented by Paddy Ashdown between 1983 and 2001, and by David Laws between 2001 and 2015.

Its current MP is the Conservative Marcus Fysh, who faces a struggle to be confirmed as the party's candidate in Yeovil.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Brixworth: Britain's most feared workhouse is now a cafe

It's almost 14 years since I first came across Brixworth Workhouse. When I came back from that encounter, I wrote a blog post that quoted the website of the village's history society:

The first Master of the Brixworth Union Workhouse in 1837 was a Mr Baillie with his wife appointed as the Matron, and the first meeting of the Board of Guardians took place in the Workhouse on May 4th of the same year. Within five years of the Workhouse opening the cost of "out relief" in Brixworth had been reduced to £0-9s-0d a week for those entitled to it. By 1902 the figure had dropped to £0-5s-0d for a single person and £0-7s-0d for a couple, with cases of as little as £0-2s-5d not uncommon.

Soon after the Workhouse had opened the Secretary of State had to send a Bow Street Runner to Brixworth to investigate the strict policy being adopted by the Guardians regarding the payment of "out relief" to the poor and needy of the parish. Brixworth became known as the "dark portion of rural England" due to its almost complete withdrawal of "out relief".

Conditions inside the building were often criticised too as being prison like and spartan and Mrs Briddon, one of the cooks, described the food as meagre and tasteless. It was an institution feared by the old and needy, a place where families were split up and accommodated in single sex dormitories.

I went to have a look at it today, to find that it has become a cafe called The Workhouse - "a place to meet for brunch, lunch or sweet treats throughout the day."

This was too much irony for me to handle, but I will have a coffee next time I'm in Brixworth.

And the brand's doing well, because you can buy sandwiches from The Little Workhouse on the Northampton Road.

Reader's voice: You mean people asked for more?

Book review: The Premonitions Bureau by Sam Knight

The Premonitions Bureau: A True Story
Sam Knight
Faber, 2023, £9.99 pbk

After the Aberfan disaster of 1966, it was reported that two of the 116 child victims had experienced some form of premonition of their deaths. 

The day before, ten-year-old Eryl Mai Jones had told her mother: "I dreamt I went to school and there was no school there. Something black had come down all over it." Two weeks before, the girl had said, out of the blue, that she was not afraid of dying.

And weeks after the disaster, the parents of another child victim, eight-year-old Paul Davies, found a drawing of massed figures digging in the hillside under the words 'the end' that he had made the night before it took place.

People far from Aberfan claimed to have had some form of premonition of the tragedy too. Some even said they had seen the name of the village.

John Barker, a psychiatrist working at Shelton Hospital just outside Shrewsbury, became fascinated by the claims of foreknowledge, both because of his interest in unusual mental states and because he wondered if it might be possible to act on them.

With the help of an Evening Standard journalist, Barker collected accounts of dreams and visions from members of the public that seemed to foretell death and destruction. Though the overall results were disappointing, he did recruit two people who seemed to have a genuine gift for anticipating such events.

The idea of acting on premonitions causes a logical problem: if you prevent an event taking place, how can people have foreknowledge of it?

And what exactly is it that people experience? Is it the event itself or the weight of public grief after it has taken place? One woman claimed to recognise the image that had come to her before Aberfan in a television report broadcast from among the debris.

Barker emerges as a progressive professional for his era: he was instrumental in ending the use at Shelton of electroconvulsive therapy without anaesthetic. Yet he performed leucotomies and had an interest in aversive treatment to change behaviour. At least the behaviours that worried him, gambling and adultery, cause more harm than those usually targeted by psychiatrists.

Knight paints an unforgettable picture of Shelton Hospital. A vast institution designed by George Gilbert Scott a couple of decades before he produced the hotel at St Pancras, it became a dumping ground for unwanted people from across the county. In its design and its governance, it most resembles Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast.

Shelton closed in 2012, but a friend of mine, who was head of the clinical psychology service in Shropshire for many years, had his office in a former nurses' home there when I first met him in the 1990s. He later moved to less stigmatising premises near the centre of Shrewsbury.

Barker's story is never less than engrossing, and Knight tells it wonderfully well. He is equally at home summarising Kant's account of perception and discussing the Bee Gees' first single.

He follows that story to its end, where tragedy, foreseen or not, both institutional and personal, breaks in.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The wife of Tory health minister and MP for Harborough Neil O'Brien works for a private firm awarded NHS contracts

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From the Mirror website this evening:

The wife of a Tory health minister works for a private firm that has been handed NHS contracts, it has been revealed.

Neil O’Brien’s spouse is GP engagement lead for Circle Health Group, which operates taxpayer-funded services.

Circle Health was the first private firm to take over an NHS hospital.

It has 54 private hospitals across the UK and advertises that NHS patients can request to have their operations at its sites.

"NHS England Patients can be treated at Circle Health Group offering specialised hospitals with experienced consultant surgeons," it states on its website.

"If you choose to have your NHS treatment at one of our hospitals in England, all the costs will be covered by the NHS."

The Mirror says the Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment on its report.

Scottish ultra-marathon runner blames injury and jetlag for using car in race

Our Headline of the Day Award goes to the Guardian for its coverage of an interesting innovation in distance running.

The Joy of Six 1126

"Johnson has already inflicted considerable damage on Britain's constitutional practices. A second period of office for this flawed and flamboyant politician would be even more disastrous for British politics." David Sanders studies the consequences of Boris Johnson's assault on our political system.

Amy Silverstein writes a moving and personal essay on the shortcomings of transplant surgery: "These transplant drugs (which must be taken once or twice daily for life, since rejection is an ongoing risk and the immune system will always regard a donor organ as a foreign invader) cause secondary diseases and dangerous conditions, including diabetes, uncontrollable high blood pressure, kidney damage and failure, serious infections and cancers."

Our traditions around the dressing of boys and girls are more recent than we realise, argues Matthew Wills: "Exploring the biographies of men as disparate as Tsar Nicholas II (b. 1868), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (b. 1882), and Ernest Hemingway (b. 1899), you’re apt to come across pictures of them as young boys looking indistinguishable from young girls. Their hair is long and they’re wearing dresses."

Fergus Butler-Gallie discusses some members of the clergy featured in recent films and television shows.

"'People in the past were not just like us,' she wrote. 'To pretend so is an evasion and a betrayal, turning our back on them so as to be easy among familiar things.'" Miranda Carter on the historical novels of Mary Renault.

Ingrina Shieh takes a walk from Henley-in-Arden to Stratford-upon-Avon: "If the Slow Ways community has taught me anything, it’s that you never assume anything about a route. Routes are mere lines on a map until people bring them to life by walking and wheeling them, feeling the landscapes through their senses, and interpreting their own experiences of walking to share with others."

The assumptions behind Sunak's determination that all young people will study Mathematics until they are 18

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It's a mark of the lack of intellectual ambition among British politicians that debates about our economic performance so often centre on micromanaging the school curriculum.

The latest example is the prime minister's claim that Britain has an "anti-maths mindset" that costs our economy tens of billions of pounds a year.

Given that Mathematics is the most popular A-level subject, I'd like to see the evidence for these claims.

The Guardian report goes on to say:

Sunak is expected to point to statistics showing the UK is below average for numeracy among industrialised countries, with more than 8 million adults having maths skills below those expected in schools for a child of nine.

If that is true, then surely the conclusion is that we need a) better maths teaching in our primary schools and b) to put a lot of money into adult education classes in simple mathematics.

It's hard to see how Sunak's pet policy of making everyone study maths until they are 18 will touch the problem.

Behind this current skirmish lie three assumptions that Liberals should be wary of:

  • that the curriculum should be dictated by central government;
  • that the purpose of education is to fit young people for the world of work as it currently exists;
  • that young people are an undifferentiated mass, without individual interests or talents, that can be shaped however government or wider society chooses.

But we never hear these assumptions questioned. Instead, we get opposition parties mocking the government because there are not enough maths teachers available to deliver Sunak's plans.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Peter Freeman, George Thomas and the NUT President who caned 199 innocent schoolboys

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Let's begin this story with Peter Freeman.

Freeman won Brecon and Radnor for Labour at the 1929 general election, but lost it two years later after Ramsey MacDonald's formation of a National Government split the party.

He returned to the Commons as MP for Newport in 1945, having beaten Roy Jenkins to the Labour nomination, and represented the seat until his death in 1956.

In 2004 Mike Bloksome published a biography of Freeman under the title The Green Casanova. The blurb on Amazon describes its subject as:

arms manufacturer, cigar producer, international tennis player, MP, theosophist, animal rights and green issues campaigner - and ladies' man of renown!

An article about the biography on Wales Online said of Freeman:

In the 1930s, '40s and '50s, he was considered too extremist to be ministerial material. Now his views on animal rights, pacifism and banning capital punishment would be considered progressive or orthodox. 

It turns out Freeman was also an opponent of corporal punishment and a champion of children's rights, though any reasonable person would be alarmed at a case he brought up in the Commons in 1954:

The Leicester Mail for 20 July 1954 reported his intentions:

Caned 200 boys: MP's question 

Mr. Peter Freeman, Labour MP for Newport, is to question the Minister of Education (Miss Florence Horsbrugh) on Thursday about the punishing of 199 innocent schoolboys. 

He will ask "whether her attention has been called to the action of Mr. Oliver Whitfield, of the Secondary Modern School, Durham, who caned 200 boys became he was unable to discover a misdemeanour alleged to have been made by one of them: whether such mass corporal punishment cf children has her approval: and whether she will issue instructions for the dismissal of this headmaster for punishing 199 innocent boys."

And ask it he did on 29 July 1954.

In reply, Florence Horsburgh said:

I have seen reports of the incident in the Press. Disciplinary matters of this kind are within the discretion of the headmaster and of the local education authority, and I would not wish to intervene. In any case, I have no 668power to require the dismissal of the headmaster.

That did not satisfy Freeman who asked a supplementary:

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the statements made by the Home Secretary on this question of punishment a few days ago, when he said: "the two requirements of natural justice that have gone back to the beginning of civilisation are that a person who may be punished should know what the complaint is against him and that he should be given an opportunity to meet it. That is the basis of the rule of law throughout the ages."
Was either of those conditions fulfilled in the case of any one of these 200 children? Is this not a gross abuse of the ordinary custom of justice which is being denied to these children and has not the right hon. Lady the responsibility of safeguarding their rights? What action does she intend to take to prevent this gross abuse of justice?

Despite his eloquence, Horsburgh gave much the same answer.

Then someone else on the Labour benches rose:

Is the Minister aware that the parents in this district are not complaining, and that it would be an advantage if my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Peter Freeman) would leave the teaching profession alone for a while? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Is the Minister further aware that the discipline of this school can only suffer from the publicity given to a Question of this sort?

That MP was George Thomas, the future secretary of state for Wales and Commons speaker.

If you had shares in Thomas, I hope you sold them, because in recent years his reputation has plummeted. 

In 2017, the journalist Martin Shipton published a biography, Political Chameleon: In Search of George Thomas. Among its revelations is that Thomas somehow dodged the call up in the second world war and that he met Stalin as a new Labour MP after 1945. Yet he ended his life as a supporter of Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum Party - a precursor of Ukip.

Thomas's enthusiasm for the caning of innocent schoolboys may make more sense if you listen to his appearance on the Desolation Radio podcast around the time his book was published. He say that when he was a teacher, Thomas had a reputation for brutality.

You may even remember that in 2014, seventeen years after Thomas's death, a man came forward to say he had been raped by Thomas when he was aged about nine.

But Thomas's attitude in that Commons exchange is probably best explained by the fact that he was an official of the National Union of Teachers before he became an MP. You can hear the deafening clang of a profession closing ranks as he speaks. Complaints of individual injustice have little chance against that.

We should not forget that, with the single exception of some Evangelical Christians, the teaching unions were the last people to oppose the abolition of corporal punishment in schools.

And what of Oliver Whitfield, the headmaster? Here's the Daily Mirror for 13 September 1954:

169 bravos for `caning master' 

Headmaster Mr. Oliver Whitfield has received 180 letters from different parts of the world since he caned 200 boys because not one of them would own up that he made a rude drawing on the school wall. 

"And all but eleven of the letters told me I did right," Mr. Whitfield, who is head of the Usworth (Co. Durham) secondary modern school, said yesterday. 

I'm not surprised he received letters - the subject has its enthusiasts - but surely this was the end of his time in the limelight and he then returned to obscurity?

Not a bit of it. Fast forward to 1966 and the Newcastle Journal for 14 April:

Teachers' president a skilled leader

Today the last words will be spoken by the nation's teachers at their annual conference at Eastbourne.

Although he would probably be the last one to admit it, Mr Oliver Whitfield, President of the National Union of Teachers who was born and bred in County Durham has contributed In great measure to its success.

Already his skilled leadership is making itself felt and it is a pretty safe bet that posterity will have cause to remember him as one of the union's great presidents.

Posterity turned out to have better things to do, but if you go to the Wikipedia page for the National Union of Teachers you will find that Whitfield was indeed elected president of the union for 1966-7.

I was going to end by pointing the moral that the social reforms of the Sixties were desperately needed. But we should remember that corporal punishment was not outlawed until 1986 and in all private schools until 2003.

Four In A Bed: Cardiff hotel guests say they won't return after 'cat sat on breakfast'

Thanks to a nomination from a Liberal England reader, Wales Online wins our prestigious Headline of the Day Award.

Monday, April 17, 2023

The iron aqueduct on the canal at Cosgrove in Milton Keynes

Paul Whitewick takes us to the aqueduct that takes the Grand Union Canal across the Great Ouse at Cosgrove in Milton Keynes.

He also looks for the locks that took the canal down to the river and up the other side of the valley before it was built.

There's more about their railway and canal explorations from Paul and Rebecca Whitewick on their website.

The Victorian Society will battle to save Overstone Hall

The Victorian Society says it will fight plans to demolish a large derelict house on the outskirts of Northampton.

Overstone Hall has been in this state since a blaze in 2001 and suffered another fire last month.

The owners, Barry Howard Homes, have applied for planning permission to demolish it, but Guy Newton from the Victorian Society told BBC News:

"England's landscape is littered with ruins. Overstone Hall is now part of that conversation. Overstone Hall could be the next big visitor attraction."

He suggested Overstone could be similar to the National Trust's Clandon Park in Surrey, which was hit by a huge fire in 2015 but is now being restored in part for visitors.

Overstone was commissioned by Lady Overstone in 1860, but she died before it was completed. Lord Overstone was not enthused by the hall.

According to Northants Live:

The hall was designed by the London architect William Milford Teulon. It was highly advanced when new, built with double walls, giving it the earliest known cavity wall insulation. It also had a central heating system, gas lighting and a butler's lift. ...

It had 119 rooms and is surrounded by 35 acres of parkland and grounds. However, Lord Overstone expressed his “unmitigated disappointment” over the building.

In a scathing letter, he wrote: "It is an utter failure - we have fallen into the hands of an architect in whom incapacity is his smallest fault.

"The house tho’ very large and full of pretension - has neither taste, comfort, nor convenience. I am utterly ashamed of it… the principal rooms are literally uninhabitable - I shall never fit them up… I grieve to think that I shall hand such an abortion to my successors."

It sounds as though Overstone Hall, which later become a school and then the headquarters of a Pentecostal church, would do best as a picturesque ruin.

You can see the hall in the video above, which was shot by someone flying a piano over the site.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Tony Hart stars in Trivial Fact of the Day

All Saints, Margaret Street, is an extraordinary Victorian church in the London district of Fitzrovia. Somehow its architect, William Butterfield, fitted the church, its vicarage and a choir school on to its restricted urban site.

Laurence Olivier was famously a pupil at the choir school, and the other day I found another old boy of note. It's Tony Hart, the beloved children's television presenter and artist.

Fontaines D.C.: 'Cello Song

Nick Drake was famously obscure in his brief lifetime, but a few years ago his work was in danger of becoming clichéd, regularly turning up as backing music on BBC programmes.

That threat seems to have passed, or maybe I just watch less television these days. Anyway, a more promising development is the announcement of The Endless Coloured Ways, billed as:

a collection of songs by legendary singer/ songwriter, Nick Drake, performed and recorded by over 30 incredible artists from a range of different backgrounds, genres, age groups and audiences. From Fontaines D.C to Guy Garvey, and Aurora to Feist, each artist has offered their own incredible take on a timeless classic.

Not all Drake songs are timeless classics, and I doubt all the takes are incredible, but this one by the Irish band Fontaines D.C. is certainly interesting.

The Endless Coloured Ways will appear on 7 July. In the mean time, we can also listen to Nick's mother Molly Drake, who has also had a song featured on this blog.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

In 1981 Ditton Priors in Shropshire was a Soviet nuclear target

In March 1966 Charles De Gaulle, the French President, told the United States government that all their troops must leave France (though not the ones who were buried there).

As a result, the Americans came to Shropshire and reopened an Admiralty armaments depot at Ditton Priors. They stayed for only a couple of years, but this news report from 1981 says it was still a Soviet target in the event of nuclear war.

Click on the still above to watch it the report on the Media Archive for Central England site.

In 2009, after giving the history of the depot, I wrote:

Today the site of the depot is partly occupied by an industrial estate, but there are remains to explore. And if you approach the area from the country end - along the trackbed of the Cleobury Mortimer & Ditton Priors Light Railway - you are still met by a forest of minatory signs.

Ditton Priors, incidentally, is a strange place. My theory when walking is the more remote the place, the more certain you are of finding accommodation. In town a B&B proprietor will simply turn you away. In the country they feel more responsible and do not want you frightening the animals, so they volunteer to phone someone down the road who takes in walkers sometimes.

My theory did not work in Ditton Priors - this is some years ago now. The pub said it had accommodation, but no one answered when I knocked. Eventually, as it came on to rain, a pretty red-haired girl opened an upstairs window and told me they did not do it any more.

So I tried the only bed and breakfast place in the village. They said they were full and made no effort to find me a bed somewhere else in Ditton Priors. Instead, they suggested I should walk to Burwarton. "It's only a mile," they said, when I could see from the map that it was three.

Eventually I arrived at the Boyne Arms. The landlady said they did not do bed and breakfast, but eventually she took pity on me and gave me a bed for the night. In any case, a couple I met in the bar were all for driving me to Bridgnorth, where there is plenty of accommodation. (West Midlanders are the friendliest people I know.)

I once read that they were still persecuting witches in this part of Shropshire until relatively recently.

About 1978, I should imagine.

The Lib Dems will be lying in wait for Boris Johnson if he tries the chicken run to Henley

Boris Johnson's majority in Uxbridge and South Ruislip is only 7,210, and given the steady fall in Conservative support across most of London, Labour fancy their chances of taking the seat at the next election.

So the idea that Johnson may look for a safer seat is back on the agenda. And one possibility is Henley, the first seat he represented before resigned to be London's elected mayor and whose current Tory MP has said he will stand down at the election.

Hence this report in the Observer:

On the off-chance that Johnson decides to head for safer ground on his old turf, local activists are already preparing for an anti-Johnson campaign. Leaflets are being designed and the launch of a "beat Boris" fundraising campaign is set to be unveiled by the local Liberal Democrats, who are the main challengers in the seat. ...

Enthusiastic local Lib Dem activists have dubbed their campaign, which is being aided by the central party, "Operation Yellowhammer". They believe that despite the 14,000 majority, the big Lib Dem increase at the last election – combined with Johnson’s increasingly divisive reputation – could make him vulnerable to an appeal to "kick Johnson out of parliament once and for all". 

South Oxfordshire council is already one of the party’s targets in May’s local elections, where it is fighting to take overall control.

An unnamed and inevitable "party source" says:

"If Boris Johnson thinks doing a chicken run to Henley will help save his skin, he’s got another thing coming,"

The expression the source wants is "got another think coming". Either the Observer journalist's shorthand has got rusty or this source has revealed themselves as the agent of a foreign power. 

No doubt they are committed to an admittedly long-term strategy of overthrowing the British state from within by seizing control of the Liberal Democrats.

Anyway, my money is on Nadine Dorries laying down her life to create a vacancy for a Conservative candidate in Mid Bedfordshire and Johnson sliding in there instead.

Friday, April 14, 2023

The Joy of Six 1125

Nick Cohen gives Matt Goodwin both barrels: "Democracy depends on holding the powerful to account so that an informed electorate can judge them. But in the professor’s formulation, criticising Boris Johnson and Michael Gove meant criticising the people who voted for him. Performing your democratic duty became anti-democratic; holding the elite to account became elitist."

"Given the terrible ordeal that Kara-Murza faces, the resources of courage, conviction and determination that he must have summoned to make this statement, defy comprehension. He knows that Putin’s regime will bury him alive and yet he refuses to flinch." Adam Tooze salutes the courage of the historian Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Karen Shannon on Yuri Gagarin's visit to Manchester.

"Buffalo Bill went in for a drink and expressed concern about having to drink in the pub with a black man, so Charlesworth ordered Buffalo Bill out. It's quite a well known local tale in Glossop." Andrew Aloia tells the story of Charles Ollivierre, the black West Indian cricketer who played for Derbyshire in the game's Edwardian golden age.

Micah Tillman explores what Nirvana can tell us about the philosophy of history.

"Quite fun, involving little more than successfully collecting and dropping off three passengers without being interrupted by Blakey by means of dice, cards, a zany road map, and chunky plastic buses and punters." Tim Worthington remembers the days when sitcoms were turned into board games.

Nuneham Viaduct: Why there are no trains between Didcot Parkway and Oxford

Stuart Calvert from Network Rail shows us the damage to Nuneham Viaduct that has forced the closure of the line between Didcot Parkway and Oxford.

This isn't just a commuter line: it's part of an important passenger and freight route between the North of England and the South Coast.

The video's interesting in its own right and also a cracking piece of corporate communication.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Barry Knight: England's forgotten allrounder

The first home test series I can remember is the Ashes series of 1968, and one of the players I remember from it is the England allrounder Barry Knight. Yet I have rarely heard him mentioned since.

In this video Knight talks about his career both as a player - 29 tests for England between 1961 and 1969 - and as a coach in Australia after that. He was a pioneer of video analysis and worked with the likes of Allan Border, the Waugh twins and Adam Gilchrist.

And given Knight's memories of touring India, it's worth pointing out that the most notorious example of biased umpiring is England's 1970-1 tour of Australia, when Ray Illingworth's side won back the Ashes despite not being given a single lbw decision in the series by the home umpires.

Richard Jefferies, Bevis and bombsites: a letter from 1951

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I have come across a letter published in the South London Observer of 6 September 1951 that reminds me of posts I have written about how children who played on bombsites were seen in films and newspapers:

Camberwell councillors are reported to be anxiously asking why children prefer to play on bomb-sites than on playgrounds especially provided for them. The answer is that children are not civilised but primitive beings and that bomb-sites answer to the primitive in them more nearly than manufactured playgrounds.

At the same time, paradoxically, even in their bombed state the sites are part of the adult world about which children are intensely curious and with which they like to have links. Manufactured playgrounds are no such thing at all. It is the same thing which would make children swarm over a battered old motor-car or lorry rather than play with a new toy one, even if the former wouldn't go and the latter would.

The playgrounds would have been a success if the children had been the ones to find and discuss sites, though not necessarily to make the final decision, and under proper supervision to prepare them, and to find, solicit, collect and transport the junk, and arrange it on the sites. They would then have been really and truly their playgrounds.

Anyone who wishes to understand how to provide for children's recreation would do well to read Richard Jefferies' book "Bevis: The story of a boy."

Jacob J. Berlin, Gordon-rd., Peckham 

Good on Mr Berlin, who looks forward to the adventure playground movement of the Sixties, though his is very much the male view of children and bombsites. Here's an exchange from Passport to Pimlico:

The local bobby visits the home of Stanley Holloway, the future prime minister of this urban village that declares its independence from austerity London, and sees a model of a lido he has built.

"It's an idea for that dump out there," Holloway’s wife (played by Barbara Murray) explains, meaning a bombsite. "Give those kids somewhere decent to play."

The constable looks out at the small boys scuffling in the dirt: "They seem to be doing pretty well as it is."

Murray replies: "I'd have something to say if I was their mother."

And the idea that children are 'primitive' has rarely led to kind treatment.

I found this letter because of the reference to Richard Jefferies. Bevis is a powerful statement of the case for free play in childhood, though I doubt even Mr Berlin would approve of the way the boys made their own gun.

But he has reminded me of two things.

The first is a quote from Hara Estroff Marano that I used in my 2006 essay The problem with children today:

Kids are having a hard time even playing neighbourhood pick-up games because they’ve never done it, observes Barbara Carlson, president and cofounder of Putting Families First. “They’ve been told by their coaches where on the field to stand, told by their parents what colour socks to wear, told by the referees who’s won and what’s fair. Kids are losing leadership skills.”

And the second is that there was an old car on the playing field of my infants school in the Sixties.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Exploring the Aldeburgh to Saxmundham Branch with Em and Stu

The branch from Leiston to Saxmundham opened in 1859 and was extended the four miles to Aldeburgh the following year.

Passenger services survived until 1966, so (pace Em and Stu) you can include it among the Beeching cuts to the network. The 'I'm Backing Britten' campaign of 1968 came too late to save it.

And there is a village at Thorpeness - a select early 20th-century holiday village - but it is some way from the halt that was opened to serve it.

Watch the video and you will see that the line from Leiston to Saxmundham remains open for occasional workings to and from the nuclear power station at Sizewell. I believe they take spent fuel rods to Sellafield for reprocessing.

And you will see at the start that the terminus at Aldeburgh, where festivalgoers must once have alighted, has vanished. You can find some photographs of it on the Disused Stations site.

Just another day in the Conservative Party

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And it's only just gone six!

From the Independent:

Matt Hancock has been placed under investigation by parliament’s standards commissioner – for allegedly "lobbying" the sleaze watchdog to influence its findings.

The parliamentary commissioner for standards confirmed on Wednesday afternoon it was looking into the former health secretary’s conduct for "lobbying the commissioner in a manner calculated or intended to influence his consideration of whether a breach of the code of conduct has occurred".

From South Wales Argus:

A Conservative member of Pembrokeshire County Council, alleged to have said that all white men should have a black slave, has withdrawn from the political group and referred himself to the Ombudsman.

Conservative county councillor for Haverfordwest’s Prendergast ward Andrew Edwards is claimed to have made the comment in a recording, which it is said was then sent to Pembrokeshire County Council’s monitoring officer.

From Lancs Live:

Blackpool South MP Scott Benton is one of three MPs who has been placed under investigation by parliament's standards watchdog.

The politician - currently suspended by the Conservative Party - is under investigation for allegedly misusing his parliamentary email address. According to the Commons standards watchdog, Mr Benton's case opened on Tuesday (April 11) and concerns the "use of facilities [parliamentary email address] provided from the public purse".

From Nation Cymru:

A prominent Young Conservative who tried to become a Cardiff councillor last year has posted a video on social media in which she launches a condescending attack on the people of Wales and its capital city.

Jasmin Cogin, who stood unsuccessfully in the Cyncoed ward in the 2022 Cardiff council election, is seen sitting in a living room with bookshelves behind her and a caption on the screen which reads: "Welsh people have lower IQs. Sorry not sorry x".

From the Guardian:

Henry Smith, a backbench Tory MP for 13 years, is also being investigated for an alleged breach of the rules on using taxpayer-funded stationery. 

Lib Dems choose their candidate for the new Harpenden and Berkhamsted constituency

The Liberal Democrats have chosen local entrepreneur and environmental campaigner Victoria Collins as their prospective parliamentary candidate for the new Hertfordshire seat of Harpenden and Berkhamsted.

The Herts Advertiser reports that she has named her priorities as:

  • saving chalk streams and our canal from sewage discharges
  • cutting ambulance waiting times
  • tackling the cost of living and supporting local businesses.

She told the newspaper

"I am proud to stand for Parliament for my local area and am determined to give this constituency a strong voice in Westminster.

"The towns and villages in this new constituency have been taken for granted for too long by Conservative MPs.

"It is time we had a local champion who will fight to protect our waterways, save our health services and support local businesses.

"We have Liberal Democrat MPs in neighbouring constituencies who are delivering every day for local communities, and I want to follow in their footsteps."

You can see the boundaries of the new seat on Electoral Calculus, and it does indeed border both St Albans (held by Daisy Cooper) and Chesham and Amersham (held by Sarah Green).

Talking of water pollution in this part of the world, when I lived in nearby Boxmoor as a boy there were still commercial water cress beds along the River Bulbourne. Would that be possible today?