Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Joy of Six 1247

"The party’s organizing basis since the first day Trump took office has been to treat him as a civic emergency. This is the basis for demanding donations, volunteering, and sacrifice. If they are not willing to endure the relatively modest discomfort of a contentious intraparty debate to minimize the chance of a second Trump term, they’ll have broken faith with their supporters." Jonathan Chait says the Democrats will be making a terrible mistake if they stick with Jo Biden.

Paul Bernal warns against heeding Tony Blair's call for the introduction of digital ID cards.

"Doing the right thing economically ... meant Labour opened the door to the Conservatives who enthusiastically exploited popular frustration with austerity - as articulated in the famous 1949 Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico. This allowed the party to appeal especially to middle-class voters who had supported Labour for the first time in 1945." Steven Fielding warns Labour against repeating the mistake made by Clement Attlee.

Humanists UK provides a history of non-religious prime ministers and other politicians.

"As she sings in Backwoods Barbie (2008), 'Don’t judge me by the cover cause I’m a real good book.' When fans dig into Parton’s songs, books, films, and autobiography, they uncover an egalitarian vision of social cooperation." William Irwin examines Dolly Parton's philosophy.

Katya Witney thinks England chose the right time to retire James Anderson: "In the last Ashes series in Australia, Anderson took eight wickets in the three Test matches he played. He hasn’t played more than three Tests in an Ashes since the 2017/18 series, a calf injury limiting his participation in 2019 and being less effective than Mark Wood and Chris Woakes keeping him out of the XI last summer."

Friday, July 12, 2024

Lower Robert Street: A hidden way in London's West End

Jago Hazzard eschews (hem hem) his usual subject of railways and shows us instead a secret road in the West End.

To explain Lower Robert Street's existence and obscurity, he reveals the interesting history of the Adelphi district. 

Londonist has an article on The Adelphi Story and the district's Wikipedia entry lists the famous people who lived there.

You can support Jago's videos via his Patreon page.

Write a guest post for Liberal England


The general election is over and there are 72 (count 'em) Liberal Democrat MPs.

What should Lib Dem strategy be in this brave new world? Is there a policy you would like to see us adopt? Any heretical thoughts you want to confess?

You're welcome to share your ideas in a guest post for Liberal England. 

I'm happy to entertain a wide variety of views, but I'd hate you to spend your time writing something I wouldn't want to publish. So do get in touch first.

And, as you may have noticed, I'm happy to cover topics far beyond the Lib Dems and British politics.

These are the last ten guest posts on Liberal England:

Thursday, July 11, 2024

A scarecrow duel and a child actor's memories of making the Worzel Gummidge television series

I've not finished with Worzel Gummidge yet, because I've discovered that The Laughing Stock YouTube channel has most of the episodes from the four series that Southern made between 1979 and 1981. There are lots of other good things on there too, so I have subscribed to it.

This extract comes from The Return of Dafthead in series 3. It illustrates the folk horror aspect of this version of Worzel that appeals to me.

Don't worry: Worzel doesn't die and does get his head back. The Crow Man is a benign deity, giving life too and overseeing the scarecrows.

I've also come across an episode of the Distinct Nostalgia podcast that interviews Jeremy Austin, who played the boy John in Worzel Gummidge. His sister Sue was played by Charlotte Coleman, who died aged only 33 having enjoyed great success as both a child and an adult acting in television and films.

Austin talks about his fortuitous casting, the fun of making the programmes and his eventual admission that he was not going to sustain an acting career as an adult.

Listening between the lines, Jon Pertwee was a perfectionist and could be hard to work with. But he never lost his temper with the children and made a point of introducing them to any guest stars himself to emphasise their importance to the show.

And it has to be said that Pertwee is superlatively good in Worzel Gummidge.

I'm also intrigued by when the series is set. It's clear from the cars and the children's clothes that it's not 1979 - and when Worzel tries to do away with Dafthead in another episode by dropping him off a bridge in front of a train, it is a steam train.

But nor is there anything to anchor the series in a precise decade. I like my nostalgia precise, but this diffuse approach may be more emotionally appealing.

Steve Darling on Jennie: "I'm afraid to say she is a tart"


By common consent, the star of the new Liberal Democrat intake is Steve Darling's guide dog Jennie.
Here Steve gives a candid portrait of her and of her many splendid qualities.

This was tweeted by Matt Chorley of Times Radio. You can hear the full interview on his podcast Politics Without the Boring Bits.

GUEST POST This blog is not suitable for kids

With the open web under threat in Britain, Laurence Warner argues that it may be time to make it a child-free zone. 

Last year I warned Lib Dem Voice not to follow Iran in banning encrypted messaging like Signal and WhatsApp. Ofcom now can, since the Online Safety Act passed near intact through parliament. 

Just as Big Tech finally adopts encrypted messaging - with Apple on Google’s RCS and Meta the Signal protocol - Britain’s two illiberal governing parties called law’n’order on progress. 

Whilst a Lib Dem Lord who watched the act sail by assures me Ofcom’s "expert" won’t pull the plug until (implausible 'cake and eat it') tech is in place, I believe we need to be proactive at encouraging Ofcom to direct their new regulatory powers in one specific area: children’s safety. 

The internet is not, and probably cannot be, safe for children. Being reached by bad people - cyberbullies or predators - and bad content – addictive or Adult material - is putting a generation in danger. 

I know this first-hand: I was exposed to Adult content online - like a quarter of British GenZ - by age 11. We only know this shocking statistic due to a Children’s Commissioner survey that Ofcom commissioned; it’s still a taboo topic for many parents like mine. 

Only through paternal supervision (an internet firewall and therapy) was I able to kick the habit. It’s why on my upcoming 2024 collection of Big Tech diss-tracks Ctrl-Alt-Rap, I’m taking aim at porn barons in Recovered to inspire us to destroy their business model of addicting young people like our parents were by Big Tobacco. 

Look, deregulation has been a great strength of the web: permissionless publishing and access, coupled with encryption, has been the unlikely open-closed blend that’s made the web a place where Brits want to spend a quarter of their waking lives. 

But if we continue to let youth harms spiral, those building blocks - of free expression and the right to privacy - will be entirely swept away for everyone by a Chinese approach infantilising all citizens. 

I believe Ed Davey’s care-full Liberal Democrats can strike a winning balance on this: maintain core digital privacies like encryption and rights to access content for adults, whilst actively seeking to protect children from such harms. 

Ofcom has floated efforts to cherry-pick age-gating Adult websites. And though these are popular in principle (80 per cent of voters), Open Rights Group - whose Don't Scan Me! campaign I supported at parliament - warn that botched implementations might threaten all citizens' privacy. We may need to consider more radical approaches that ask whether any of the web - including social media - should be accessed by children. 


Any such radical policies would involve thorny implementation questions: such as whether the age cutoff would 13, the earliest age US law lets Silicon Valley grab their data, or 18, the age which Tristan Harris’s Center for Humane Technology is advocating. I personally think 16, the age at which Brits gain the majority of citizen freedoms such as being able to leave home, seems like a realistic target. 

Until then, the government should build upon their phone-free classroom policy and force caregivers (90 per cent of whom currently abdicate their responsibility) to use Big Tech’s monitoring tools at home too. 

How likely would such a seemingly paternalist policy be from our Liberal party? At Spring Conference’s tech policy huddle in York, I saw both sides: on the regulation side, a concerned mother from the Smartphone-free Childhood community worried about her kid turning 9, versus an employee who wants to protect Big Social’s ability to operate amongst over-13s and trusts in Asimov's First Law (AI can protect young humans). 

The only sensible approach is that liberal policies shouldn’t automatically be applied to children to whom we owe care, as even Rousseau argued. 

Gen Alpha is just turning 11: this year we have an opportunity to help them spend the next five or seven years free of unsought exposure to Adult content (and degenerate adults), until they gain full citizenship rights to choose to access it. 

We would do better to target internet regulation specifically at children rather than risk the whole of Western society going behind a Great Firewall. 

Sorry kids, you won’t like this. 

Laurence Warner is a singer-songwriter-rapper at LaurenceWarner.com, currently making Alternative-Rap about Big Tech’s social impact. He’s also a Lib Dem member in his hometown Eastleigh and blogs about the arts and tech at wa.rner.me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The Joy of Six 1246

Richard Kemp says the Liberal Democrats must be a party of the major cities as well of the shires and suburbs: "We will only be a truly national party when we represent people in all areas and from all walks of life. We will now have a greater resource than at any time in my political career to begin to achieve this."

Jason Beer KC discusses being crowned Barrister of the Year, the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry and what it has done for public understanding of the role of barristers.

"If you don’t already have generational wealth, your kid will feel it sooner or later. The average fee for an independent school is £16,650. If the schools pass on the VAT increase, that will mean an extra £2,500 a year. If that is too much for your family, then you are better off not sending your kid to a substandard private school." Stella Tsantekidou has some advice for parents.

"There is ... only one sustainable future for the series and the now completed volumes for England, Scotland and Wales, and that future is digital. A small group of supporters are actively pursuing this prospect. Should the project succeed, subscribers will benefit from corrections and updates and a GPS locator." Gillian Darley looks to the future of Niklaus Pevsner's Buildings of England series.

"From writer-director Cy Enfield’s desire to capture native customs on film to the acknowledgement of Cetewayo’s tactical expertise, the picture depicts the Zulus in a manner far removed from the way Africans had been previously depicted on film." Richard Luck defends the politics of Enfield's 1964 film Zulu.

John Lewis-Stempel makes a plea on behalf of eels and for a change in human thinking about nature: "Like everything about the eel, the reasons for its calamitous decline - 95% globally since the 1970s - are mysterious, although shifts in the oceanic currents which bring the elvers to Europe and the pollution of waterways are causal contenders. And it is the eel’s bad luck to be enigmatic rather than charismatic."

Sorry Liz Truss: Barking dogs don't keep drones away from prisons

Remember this? Sadly the claim that barking dogs deter drones seem no to be true, as we still have a problem with drugs, phones and other illicit good being smuggled into prisons that way,

From the Leicester Mercury:

A drug dealing gang used drones to smuggle around £1 million worth of contraband into prisons. Among the group's targets was HMP Gartree in Leicestershire.

The group was led by 47-year-old Lucy Adcock who organised 22 drops in a month across six UK prisons. HMP Gartree, in Market Harborough, was among the mum's targets before she was eventually apprehended, reports Wales Online. ...

Adcock's other targets including the troubled Welsh prison HMP Parc in Bridgend. It was in April last year when prison staff discovered a dropped package containing illicit items valued at £50,000 on the prison market, including Class A and B drugs and mobile phones.

Turns out it wasn't just the dogs who were barking.

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

ChessFest draws 23,000 people to Trafalgar Square

Starring nine-year-old Bodhana Sivanandan, who's just been selected for the England women's team, the annual ChessFest event attracted 23,000 people to Trafalgar Square on Sunday. That's an increase of 8000 over last year.

The English Chess Federation site says:

Bodhana was joined by a host of top UK grandmasters and three other young English super-talents: 15-year-old Shreyas Royal, who is on the brink of becoming England’s youngest ever grandmaster, fast-rising under 10 Supratit Banerjee and Ethan Pang, the world’s number-one under-9 player.

British Champion Gawain Jones and England’s number-one Nikita Vitiugov, both world-class grandmasters, treated the crowd to a display of blindfold chess. There was also an appearance from Anthony Mathurin, from the BBC show The Traitors, who is a chess coach.

The festival, now in its fourth year, drew chess enthusiasts from across the country, including many of the country’s top grandmasters, for a day of fun suitable for every level of player. 

It was organised by the charity Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) with support from the Mayor of London and XTX Markets.

With an upsurge of interest in chess - attributed to The Queen's Gambit television series and to people rediscovering the game online during lockdown - and a crop of outstanding junior players, it looks as though Britain is heading to the top again. In the 1990s we were second as a chess power only to the old Soviet Union.

Malcolm Pein, chief executive of CSC, said:

"It was wonderful to see over 23,000 people enjoying what is the Glastonbury of chess in Trafalgar Square. A mid-afternoon downpour did not stop play, unlike the cricket!"

The photographs here were taken by Andrew Moss and are used with his permission and that of Malcolm Pein, chief executive of Chess in Schools and Communities.





Frank Duckworth, co-deviser of the Duckworth Lewis method, lodged with John Lennon and his Aunt Mimi

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Liberal England's Trivial Fact of the Day is taken from the Guardian obituary of the mathematician Frank Duckworth.

It was he who, together with the cricket statistician Tony Lewis, devised the Duckworth-Lewis method. This is a formula used to ensure that the side batting is second is set a fair target in rain-affected matches.

The obituary reveals:
After graduating in the early 60s he stayed on at Liverpool to study for a PhD in metallurgy, sharing a house for a time with John Lennon, as a lodger of Lennon’s aunt Mimi ("not that we had much to do with him, although we heard him plucking his guitar occasionally").
When Duckworth moved on, it was to share a flat with Johnny Ball.

The Duckworth=Lewis method is now known as the Duckworth–Lewis–Stern method because of the later contribution of the Australian mathematician and statistician Steven Stern.

GUEST POST The Lib Dems must meet the challenge of the Greens in the new political landscape

How can the Lib Dems continue to grow after last week's historic advance? Anselm Anon argues that, to do so, we must meet the challenge of the Greens.

There is plenty for liberals to celebrate in the general election: the end of a wretched Tory government, lots of splendid new Lib Dem MPs (including one in Wales), third-party privileges in the Commons and idiosyncratic politics in Leicester which will continue to enliven Liberal England. 

Despite some frustrating near misses, and the loss of an Alliance MP, overall the news is good. But we shouldn’t lull ourselves into thinking this is a repeat of 1997, and not only because we secured only 12 per cent of the national vote, as opposed to 16.8 per cent.

The results bring into focus a serious and growing problem for the Liberal Democrats. We are no longer the UK’s third party, but one of three middle-sized parties. To summarise:

Reform              5 MPs 4 million votes

Lib Dem     72 MPs 3.5 million votes

Greens           4 MPs 1.9 million votes

Although Reform are morally and politically objectionable, they don’t appear to be depriving the Lib Dems of seats or votes in any numbers. If the Lib Dems had (unwisely) focused on maximising national vote share rather than seats, we could have overtaken Reform’s total, at the unacceptable cost of sacrificing dozens of MPs.  

Doubtless Reform’s leadership would gladly swap their seat:vote ration with us. But the Greens are another matter.

In much of the country it is the Greens rather than LibDems who are now attracting liberal-minded voters and activists, and building networks in new areas. By my sleep-deprived calculations, the Greens secured more votes than the Lib Dems in at least 267 English constituencies (out of 543). 

In most of these, neither party will have been working hard, but this just illustrates that latent Green support is similar to ours, if not higher.

Unlike us, the Greens have shown the capacity to grow at the expense of both Labour (from whom they won Bristol Central) as well as the Tories (from whom they won two other seats). The Lib Dems failed to advance in Sheffield Hallam, our only realistic prospect against Labour.  

We now have no MPs in big cities outside London and Edinburgh, and only four seats in the north of England, three of which are demographically very similar to our southern English strongholds. 

Alex Folkes has explained why he is hopeful about our prospects of holding our gains, but Liberal England’s list of potential targets contains only one Labour-held seat (Burnley).

The Greens secured numerous double-digit percentage vote increases against Labour, and will be in a good position to win seats from them as Starmer's government becomes unpopular.  

They also have political momentum across a wide range of demographics, which is difficult for us to match outside those areas where we already have an established network. “Pick a Ward and Win It” is currently far more achievable for Greens than Lib Dems. 

Crucially, the Greens convey a distinct sense of their own political profile. They are seen as anti-Tory, but also associated with a distinct political approach. This doesn’t appeal to everyone, but being all things to all people is no route to lasting political success.

Much Lib Dem success in 2024 relied on opposing the Tories. The challenge has now changed: we have sensible and popular policies, with some clear differences from Labour, for instance on Europe, electoral reform, water companies and ending the two-child benefit cap. 

We can be more sensible and more popular. Articulating and developing clear liberal policies, based on our radical and social liberal approach, is essential. Otherwise the Greens will flourish at our expense.

Anselm Anon has been a member of the Liberal Democrats since the 1990s.

Monday, July 08, 2024

Walking the Mardyke Way in Essex with John Rogers

John Rogers's blurb on YouTube:

A Walk following the Mardyke Way from Purfleet, Essex through the countryside on the edge of Greater London to the village of Bulphan. The Mardyke is an ancient river that has been following its course for over 30 million years. 

The route I took from Purfleet was around 11-miles followed by around another 3 miles to West Horndon Station. This is great walk through fields, meadows and fens.

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

Church plan rejected by council over bat concerns




And this story's from Leicester too! No wonder it's our Headline of the Day.

Well done, BBC News.

GUEST POST The Lib Dems achieved a wide and remarkably deep success

Alex Folkes looks at the performance of Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens in last week's general election.

The main attack line being levelled at Labour following their success on Thursday is that their majority is broad but shallow. Corbynites point to the larger number of votes the party achieved under the former leader, whilst Tories highlight the lower share of the vote that the new government won.

Both of these are to ignore the key fact that Labour won just about the largest majority it could. And it did so through rigorous targeting. In the last few days of the campaign there were complaints from non-target seats that they were being denied access to the party canvassing software unless they moved wholesale to a designated target seat. 

Such centralised planning might have been excessive - and there were a few seats which were won despite being locked out in this way - but an election campaign is not a democracy. 

To be at its most effective, it needs to be brutal at times. The aim of the Labour campaign was to ensure the biggest number of seats, even if many of them were won by small margins. Inevitably there would be surplus votes piled up in safe seats, but the party tried its best to send activists from these to more marginal areas.

So Labour may have stored up some problems for the 2029 election, but they will (rightly) be happy with the outcome.

What is interesting is the contrast with the Liberal Democrats. Like Labour, the Lib Dems won just about as many seats as they could reasonably think possible. With the exception of Godalming and Ash - where Jeremy Hunt spent both all of his time and a considerable amount of his own money - there was no seat that the party failed to win where they were tipped by at least four of the MRP polls and many others which were much more of a shock.

But, in contrast to Labour’s broad but shallow outcome, the Lib Dems have a wide but remarkably deep success. Their 72 MPs have an average majority of 8267. Of course, this figure masks some seats which were won by just a small amount. But there are only five Lib Dem MPs sitting on majorities of less than 2000. The days of there being ‘no such thing as a safe Lib Dem seat’ are behind us.

That this success was due, in part, to the huge amount of tactical voting that took place is undeniable. But the cushion given to Lib Dem MPs by such votes and a hugely effective central campaign means that, even if many voters return to their ‘natural’ party of choice in the future and turnout improves, most should be able to survive so long as they work their patch well. 

The party won’t have the problems inherent in being a junior partner in government, as they did in 2015, and under Ed Davey they seem better at articulating a policy message that resonates with the public. The test will be whether they are able to use their new Parliamentary strength to further that.

The Greens will feel they had a similar outcome. Their four MPs were elected from the four target seats and all have a majority of 5000 or more (the average being 9,046). In addition, the party came second in a further 42 seats and, whilst many of those second places are quite distant, there is a considerable amount to build on for 2029. 

Crucially for the Greens, in none of their almost 50 held or second place seats are they battling the Lib Dems. If the next election turns out to see a lot more ‘protest’ votes against a still unpopular Tory Party and a Labour government which is perceived as under-achieving, then both parties should be set fair.

Alex Folkes is an international election observer and former campaign manager for the Liberal Democrats and single-issue campaigns.

Sunday, July 07, 2024

A letter for Worzel Gummidge

To celebrate the 105th anniversary of Jon Pertwee's birth, here's a clip from Worzel Gummidge.

Geoffrey Bayldon is the Crow Man, the benign god of the scarecrows, and the children are Charlotte Coleman and Jeremy Austin.

Poor Worzel lost his heart to the heartless Aunt Sally, but he should have gone off with Dolly Clothes-Peg, who really loved him.

Talking Pictures TV have just run the four series of Worzel Gummidge, and they turned out to have a touch of darkness that appealed to me. Call it folk horror,

Yet I'm struck by how beautiful everything in this clip looks - it was shot by the great Wolfgang Suschitzky.

This time the Lib Dem leadership kept its discipline during the election campaign

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The Liberal Democrats' targeting strategy was an extraordinary success. I believe Jeremy Hunt's Godalming and Ash was the only seat to evade us.

Those who devised the strategy and communicated the rationale for it to the membership deserve congratulation.

In some quarters there was clearly a worry that the membership would lose discipline and start campaigning in their own constituencies rather than work in the target seats they were asked to.

But the striking contrast with 2019 this time round was that the Lib Dem leadership kept its discipline.

In retrospect - and Michael Mullaney said so on this blog immediately after the election - the change from backing a second referendum to a policy of revoking Brexit was a mistake. But it was approved enthusiastically enough by that autumn's party conference.

That was not true of the decision to allow Boris Johnson the general election he craved, which was described by Nick Harvey as "a catastrophic mistake".

Nor was it true of Jo Swinson's declaration at our campaign launch for the 2019 election that she could be the next prime minister.

And our targeting strategy in 2019? Liberator 397, the September 2019 issue, asked:

Are some people getting carried away by trying to extrapolate the European election results into Westminster terms and then wondering how randomly first-past-the-post might work with four parties in contention?

A briefing to peers indicated a startlingly high number of seats shown as potentially winnable in some scenarios if such trends continued. This has led to some seats suddenly being judged winnable that look, to put it politely, speculative.

These include Battersea (8 per cent), Chipping Barnet (5.4 per cent and a close Tory-Labour marginal too) and even more remarkably Cardiff North (3.3 per cent).

I think the answer to that question was yes.

Five years later it's wonderful how far we have come thanks to a leader with good judgement and a consistent strategy that has been properly communicated to members.

Steve Winwood: Night Train

It's strange how some music dates and some doesn't. You still hear the Spencer Davis Group singles Gimme Some Lovin' and I'm a Man in television commercials, and they're used to convey modernity rather than nostalgia.

By contrast, Steve Winwood's Eighties records now sound dated. Winwood has said himself that he was still doing what he had done in Traffic - combining folk and rock and blues and jazz - but the production of the day gave those Eighties records a surface gloss that has not aged well.

Arc of a Diver was Winwood's second solo album and the one that established him as a solo star - it sold more in the United States 

The title track has magic for me, because the lyrics are by Viv Stanshall, but Night Train is more representative. What I like about it is that it features Winwood as a guitarist - he played all the instruments on Night Train.

This reminds me of a story I read online recently. An American remembered watching some Eric Clapton's Crossroads guitar festival on television, but missing the name of the brilliant guitarist he'd been listening to.

He found out a few days later that it had been Steve Winwood - that guy all of whose records his Mom had and who he hated.

Saturday, July 06, 2024

The Joy of Six 1245

"Lots of people left that meeting thinking: 'Fuck him. Fuck the PM. Fuck all this. I’m going to go look for a job.'" Emilio Casalicchio has talked to the people who watched the Conservative election campaign unravel from the inside.

James Graham offers some hot takes on the election result. Impressively, this post was written before a vote had been counted.

"While these accounts can no longer draw on RT or Sputnik for information, as they have been banned in the UK since Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine began in 2022, both these Russian influence accounts draw heavily on GB News and its presenters." Peter Jukes investigates Russian interference in the election.

Alison Bagley examines the rise and fall of Northamptonshire's Chief Constable: "He embellished his ‘modest’ Naval career, adding eight years’ service and claimed to be a 'Commander' who had piloted a boat as a Coxwain in charge of junior officers, had been a military negotiator in Haiti – a country to which he had never been – and fought in the Falklands War."

Paul Flynn on why Bronski Beat's Smalltown Boy still resonates after 40 years: "Smalltown Boy documents in empathetic, kitchen-sink detail the feelings of rejecting one archaic value system and moving to the big gay city to find your own. The choirboy falsetto of singer Jimmy Somerville, set against the chiming electronics of the musical moment, have resisted fossilisation."

"A meeting of the vestry concluded that Thomas Telford was exaggerating, and only the most rudimentary support was given to the cracked column. On the 8th of July [1788], during a funeral, the bells shook the tower so violently that the church was evacuated. The following morning, the clock struck 4am, the bell rang and the tower collapsed, taking a good chunk of the church with it." Steve Bishop finally gets inside what remains of Old St Chad's in Shrewsbury.

Friday, July 05, 2024

Those Lib Dem targets for the next general election in full

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Michael Mullaney, who was our candidate in Hinckley and Bosworth on Thursday, has tweeted a list of the Liberal Democrat near misses at this election. They form a handy list of targets for the next election.

The second column gives the number votes we were adrift of the winner, and the third the percentage swing needed to win it next time. It is this latter figure that determines a seat's ranking in the list.

All these seats are held by the Conservatives except Burnley, which is held by Labour.


                                                                         %

Godalming and Ash                         891         0.81

Farnham and Bordon                     1349        1.27

Hampshire East                              1275        1.27

Shropshire South                            1624        1.57

Dorset North                                   1589        1.60

Romsey and Southampton North    2191        2.19

Cotswold North                               3357        3.34

Torridge and Tavistock                    3950        3.89

Burnley                                            3420        4.31

Hamble Valley                                 4802        4.35

Hertfordshire South West                4456        4.62

Salisbury                                          5285        5.27

Buckinghamshire Mid                      5872        5.44

Sevenoaks                                       5440       5.45

Hinckley and Bosworth                    5408       5.66


When I blogged about Gordon Birtwistle, who was our candidate in Burnley having been MP for the town between 2005 and 2010, I wondered about his claim that the contest was between him and Labour, But he turned out to be quite right.

Bit of a cock-up on the counting front in Dingwall: Lib Dems wait for their 72nd win to be declared

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BREAKING... Drew Hendry has conceded that the Lib Dems will win the seat after the recount, so 72 it is.

One general election result remains to be announced: it's the one from the Scottish Highland constituency of Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire. A second recount will be held there tomorrow morning.

The delay does not appear to be caused by an exceptionally close result, but we are still having to wait for what sounds as though it will be a 72nd seat for the Liberal Democrats.

The Press & Journal describes what  went on at the Highland Football Academy in Dingwall in the small hours of this morning:

Jamie Stone held on to his seat for the Lib Dems around 5am and a result in the neighbouring constituency was expected to follow shortly after.

However, election count officials were seen looking exasperated shaking their head as the delay wore on.

The candidates for the election were also left in the dark, unable to say what exactly was the problem.

Counters were left twiddling their thumbs and to grow increasingly frustrated as speculation about the next step filled the air. ...

At 6.30am a recount was announced.

That was due to take around 90 minutes but shortly before 10am, returning officer Derek Brown announced that another recount was needed.

The reason given was a “discrepancy between the number of verified votes totalled and provisional counted votes”.

A fresh recount will now take place at 10.30am on Saturday.

The Press & Journal says the Lib Dems, whose candidate is Angus MacDonald, are confident of victory - is closest challenger is Drew Hendry from the SNP.

And the Inverness Courier report suggests why:

Count agents have widely credited Liberal Democrat Angus MacDonald with having pulled off a major upset and secured the Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire seat ahead of the SNP’s Drew Hendry. ...

The calculus is quite simple as by the end of the night Mr MacDonald had between three and four more boxes than Mr Hendry – in each box there are 500 ballots so the margin of victory was likely between 1500 and 2000 votes.

Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire covers much of the area that was represented by Charles Kennedy. It would be good to reclaim it, just as we took back Paddy Ashdown's Yeovil yesterday.

71 Liberal Democrat MPs were elected yesterday


Yesterday was an extraordinary day. We now have the largest Liberal or Liberal Democrat representation in the Commons since the brief revival of 1923-4. A total of 71 Lib Dem MPs were elected, and that could rise to 72, depending on the result of a second recount tomorrow in Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire. Only one piece of music will do.

This is a vindication of the party's strategy and general election campaign. I was sceptical of the imaginative use being made of opinion polls, but in the end this still underestimated the hunger of the prosperous South to get rid of the Conservatives.

I voted Labour in Harborough - given our party's pleas to Labour supporters to vote for us in our target seats, it would have felt hypocritical not to - but the Tory held on here. As I suspected, Labour just didn't have enough activists here to win.

Britain's most unpredictable seat - Leicester East - was won by the Conservatives. A year ago, following the gains they made there in Leicester City Council elections, this would have been no great surprise. But, from what I heard, there was a feeling that the Tories had chosen a weak candidate for the parliamentary seat. True or not, this didn't stop her winning.

Labour also lost Leicester South, where Jonathan Ashworth lost to an Independent who stood in protest against the party's policy on Gaza. It is worrying that voting in the city is beginning to reflect religious affiliations, a process perhaps encouraged by the Tories' courting of the Hindu community.

And a word too for Matthew Green, who came close to winning South Shropshire (which is largely the old Ludlow seat that he represented between 2001 and 2005). Next year's county council elections in Shropshire should be interesting.

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

An early Lib Dem victory in North Shropshire

The Bailey Head in Oswestry is the new Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) West Midlands Regional Cider Pub of the Year, says a press release from the British Guild of Beer Writers.

Well done to the pub's owners Grace Goodlad and Duncan Borrowman, who will be known to many readers of this blog. 

Grace and Duncan were both Liberal Democrat councillors in Bromley. Duncan is also a former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate and was a member of party staff at Cowley Street for many years.

The Bailey Head is also the reigning CAMRA Shropshire County Pub of the Year and Shropshire County Cider Pub of the Year.

Ed Davey: Tomorrow's election is a once-in-a-generation chance to put an end to years of Conservative chaos

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In an article posted on the Guardian's website this afternoon, Ed Davey describes tomorrow's election as "a once-in-a-generation chance to put an end to years of Conservative chaos":

It is tempting to look at the opinion polls and the shambles of a Conservative party election campaign and think that history is assured. But absolutely nothing has been decided yet. 

There are seats in former Conservative heartlands across the country – such as Bicester and Woodstock, Frome and East Somerset, and Mid Sussex – where seats are on a knife-edge between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. A handful of votes could be the difference between beating the Conservatives and them clinging on.

This historic chance for change is dependent on some people voting tactically for the party best placed to beat the Conservatives in their area. In many areas of the country, among them parts of the home counties and the West Country, Labour cannot and will not win. 

Only the Liberal Democrats are capable of bringing change. In many constituencies – such as Didcot and Wantage, St Neots and Mid Cambridgeshire, and Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe – the only way to beat the Conservatives tomorrow is to vote for the Liberal Democrats.

Ed says he is grateful to Labour voters who are voting Liberal Democrat this time. He adds that he's encouraged by how many are doing so "not just tactically but enthusiastically, because of our progressive plans for the country".

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The media must start holding Reform and Nigel Farage to account, says Hardeep Matharu. The normalisation of racism and dog-whistles will only get worse if the press continues to treat Farage as an entertaining figure representing the 'real views' of the British people.

Imran Mulla and Peter Oborne examine Rishi Sunak's worrying links with India's far right.

"Compared to similar size towns in the UK, Clacton has a limited heritage and cultural offer. It has a wonderful but very small museum space run by active volunteers in the public library. There’s room for about five visitors at a time, and it’s open just twice a week. Sadly, other venues where Clacton’s hidden heritage was celebrated have shut, such as museum dedicated to Pirate Radio which closed in 2016." Tony D. Sampson and Andrew Branch argue that Nigel Farage’s populism distracts from what people in Clacton are really proud about.

"Across the world there must have been so many of us who experienced a similarly uncanny sense of déjà vu upon reading Nineteen Eighty-Four for the first time. That is because for those of us who come from “wounded democracies” or autocracies-in-the-making or downright dictatorships, Oceania was never some far-fetched dystopian land set in an unforeseeable future, but something closer, much more visceral. And frightening too. It was not even a prescient warning about where things might lead if politics went unexpectedly wrong. For us, Nineteen Eighty-Four was already here. It was already happening." Elif Shafak on the undiminished power of George Orwell's novel remains as powerful as when it w

Richard Williams pays a visit to Robert Wyatt in Louth.

The King's Cross district of London got its name from a memorial to George IV that everybody hated and which lasted only 15 years, explains Matt Brown: "The octagonal base survived two further years after the statue was removed. It served variously as a police station, beer shop and advertising space. When it was pulled down in 1845, few people mourned. Newspaper accounts of the removal were scarce and short."

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Reform and The Man Who Was Thursday

If you believe Reform's leaders, then its activists and candidates are either plants or actors. At least, that's the leadership's defence whenever a new piece of controversy about the party hits the headlines.

It reminds me of the way conspiracy theorists of the left look at the news media. If a story's being covered, that proves it is a dead cat to distract us from something more damaging to the authorities. And if it's not being covered, that proves that someone powerful has taken out a super-injunction.

Perhaps Farage and Tice fear Reform will turn put to be like the Anarchist cell in G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. In the course of the book, it's revealed that the cell's members are all police agents, there to keep an eye on the others.

Nine-year-old selected to play for England women's chess team

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From the Guardian:

She is a nine-year-old British prodigy, who has already caused a commotion in the chess world with her fearless play and string of spectacular victories. Now Bodhana Sivanandan, a nine-year-old from Harrow, is set to make history as the youngest person to represent England in international sporting competition.

Sivanandan, who only took up chess in lockdown, is one of five players chosen for England’s women’s team to play in the Chess Olympiad in Budapest in September. The next youngest player, Lan Yao, is 23, while the other members of the team, Jovanka Houska, Harriet Hunt and Kata Toma, are all in their 30s and 40s.

“I’m so pleased to be picked for England,” said Sivanandan, who has set her sights on becoming a grandmaster and winning the women’s world title. “It’s a great honour and I’m looking forward to being part of a team.”

Malcolm Pein, one of the selectors, suggests that Bodhana "must surely be the youngest to be selected to represent England in any international sporting competition," and the Guardian's researches suggest he is right.

South Shropshire Lib Dems and the future of England fast bowling

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The England selectors have included the uncapped Nottinghamshire seamer Dillon Pennington.in their 14-man squad for the first two tests against the West Indies this summer.

Pennington joined Notts at the end of last season, having played for Worcestershire before that. And his profile on Cricinfo reveals that he is originally from Shropshire:
Dillon Pennington possesses the natural strength and height to become an imposing fast bowler of international quality. He was part of Worcestershire's satellite academy in Shropshire - coached by Paul Pridgeon - which has been so prolific in producing young players in recent years.
And Matthew Green, who was Liberal Democrat MP for Ludlow between 2001 and 2005 and is fighting South Shropshire in the current election, recently revealed on Twitter:

Shropshire Lib Dems are on such a roll at the moment they're even finding fast bowlers for England.

Monday, July 01, 2024

The glorious medieval leaves of Southwell Minster

Southwell Minster is at once one of England's least known cathedrals and one of its finest.

Its glory is the wonderful medieval stone carving of leaves, green men and more in the chapter house.

This video by Allan Barton gives a brief introduction to both the building and its carvings.

De Montfort University expert tips Lib Dems to win Leicester East

If there is a seat where anything could happen on Thursday, it's Leicester East. There, two former Labour MPs for the patch (Keith Vaz and Claudia Webbe) are taking on the party's official candidate, while the Conservatives, after recent promising local election results, seem to have blown things by selecting an unimpressive candidate at the last minute.

But, quoted in a comprehensive feature about the contest on the Great Central Gazette site, Alistair Jones, associate professor in politics at De Montfort University, says:

This constituency will be tight. There are ten candidates, including two ex-Labour MPs for Leicester East, the actual Labour candidate, a Conservative and an ex-Conservative standing, as well as Reform UK. 
This fight is not just Labour vs Conservative, but it is also about Keith Vaz and his desire to return to frontline politics. The result is likely to be too close to call. Expect demand for recounts. Zuffar Haq, Liberal Democrats, will squeak through on a minuscule majority.

And it could happen. Zuffar is an experienced candidate with a strong record of campaigning across the city.

Reece Stafferton wrote a Liberal England guest post about the plans for the Great Central Gazette a couple of years ago.

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"The ABC shared its findings with disinformation experts, who said the network's activity had the hallmarks of a Russian influence operation." Michael Workman and Kevin Nguyen reveal the Australian broadcaster's research into Russian interference in the general election and how - suddenly - the Tories are concerned about it.

"Starmer has picked his battles well and, for the most part, won them. For instance, the Labour leader has pledged to restore the UK’s net zero targets to their more ambitious former selves - prior to Sunak’s tinkering. Meanwhile, he continues to rubbish the government’s Rwanda deportation plan as an expensive, overly elaborate gimmick." Josh Self argues that Keir Starmer's part in the collapse of the Conservative Party should be not be overlooked.

Gary Hutchison discusses his research into violence in Victorian elections.

Hazel Marsh, Esbjörn Wettermark and Tiffany Hore on the way Romani Gypsy and Traveller people have shaped Britain’s musical heritage: "In 1907, after hearing Romani Gypsy Betsy Holland sing in Devon, Cecil Sharp (a key figure in the first English folk revival) wrote: 'Talk of folk-singing! It was the finest and most characteristic bit of singing I had ever heard.'"

"Knife is a clear and unsurprising departure. We have a defiant Rushdie, still, but also a vulnerable one. It’s a vulnerability he didn’t allow in his 2012 autobiography Joseph Anton, a highly readable book but whose third-person narration sounds as affected on the page as he would in person." Shehryar Fazli reviews Salman Rushdie new memoir.

Amy Lim says that, for all the nostalgic prettiness of her watercolors, Helen Allingham was a highly professional, pioneering woman artist: "In her lifetime, through a combination of talent, hard work and shrewd marketing, Allingham enjoyed immense critical and commercial success. She was also, for many years, a single mother, supporting her children through her art."