Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mason Crane bowls the ball of the 21st century

Today Mason Crane took 5-40 to help Hampshire beat Somerset and confirm his potential.

He also produced what will probably turn out to the ball of the 21st century. There aren't many bowlers who can turn it square and york someone with the same delivery.

Police quiz Tory MP over claim he got a dog drunk and brawled with friend

We have our Headline of the Day. They'll be rejoicing at the Daily Mirror tonight.

Since you ask, the MP in question is Mark Menzies from Fylde.

An unexpected hero: George Osborne at the Evening Standard



When George Osborne was appointed as editor of the Evening Standard I grumbled that it was like something out of Putin's Russia - a politician from the governing party editing a major newspaper.

Sure, I reasoned, he might have some fun at Theresa May's expense because she had sacked him from the cabinet. But Tories are Tories, and come the next election the Standard would be relentlessly on message.

But things didn't quite turn out like that.

First, Theresa May called an unexpected general election. I am not saying this was done solely to force Osborne out of the Commons - he could not combine editing a London newspaper with being MP for a Cheshire constituency - but it was certainly a welcome bonus for her.

Second, even with the general election, Osborne has proved himself unexpectedly independent.

As Ian Burrell writes:
In the City, business leaders talk of his paper as “the unofficial opposition”. As arguably the best informed critic of a Conservative Prime Minister who he intensely dislikes, he has common cause with Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan, whose election as London Mayor the pre-Osborne Standard opposed. It is an extraordinary turn of events.
Maybe it is personal spite, maybe it is the strength of Osborne's convictions.

I am still not convinced that Osborne would be in the same party as most Liberal Democrats in a world where the parties were divided on more rational lines.

But he is certainly a welcome presence at the Standard.

Burrell also writes interestingly on the challenges facing the newspaper as a business.

A reminder of Amber Rudd's chequered business career



With Theresa May revealed as a weak and wobbly leader, the Conservatives are keeping her out of Wednesday's leaders debate on BBC television.

Instead Amber Rudd, now seen as a safer pair of hands, will take part.

Which makes this Daily Mirror story from October 2016 interesting all over again:
The Daily Mirror has examined Mrs Rudd’s record before she entered politics in 2005. 
We found she was the director of a city firm which went bust in 1992, owing £537,581 – including £67,977 to the Inland Revenue. 
Mrs Rudd was also a "corporate advisor" at a biodegradable plastics firm during a failed "major expansion" that was later criticised as being “too swift”. That firm went into liquidation owing £4.8million, mostly to shareholders. 
And she also set up a financial services company which was shut down in the High Court over its £1.2million debts, including to the taxman.
At about the same time the Guardian was reporting that:
Amber Rudd is facing growing calls to clarify the extent of her involvement in tax havens following the Guardian’s disclosure that she had been a director of two companies in the Bahamas.

Marillion: Senses Working Overtime



 Being a dude I liked XTC and did not have much time for Marillion.

But I have to say this a tremendous live cover of Senses Working Overtime, which was a hit for XTC back in 1982.

I have skipped the first 90 second where Dave Gregory, for many years the guitarist with XTC, is introduced.

Many thanks to Colin Smith for tweeting this video.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bonkers Home for Well-Behaved Orphans helps with latest Liberal Democrat election poster

Harold Macmillan on Oswald Mosley's uniform



Marina Hyde, in her demolition of Katie Hopkins, quotes P.G. Wodehouse's immortal paragraph on Roderick Spode's Black Shorts:
Katie’s spiritual analogue is Roderick Spode, PG Wodehouse’s piss-take of Oswald Mosley, and a chap to whom Bertie Wooster is moved to remark: 
“The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting ‘Heil, Spode!’ and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: ‘Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?’”
Which reminds me of Harold Macmillan's remark when the real Oswald Mosley told him that he was going to put his supporters into a black-shirted uniform:
"You must be mad. Whenever the English feel strongly about anything they wear grey flannel trousers and tweed jackets."
I first read it in Julian Critchley's memoirs A Bag of Boiled Sweets.

Armed police on the streets of Leicester

There are no immediate plans to deploy military personnel on to the streets of Leicester, Leicestershire or Rutland, the Leicester Mercury reported yesterday.

I can't speak for Uppingham or Oakham, but I did not see any troops in Leicester today.

What I did see were police armed with automatic weapons.

If this was a response to the level of terrorist threat, then fair enough. But if it was meant to be reassuring, then in my case it failed.

I suspect it is a generational thing. I am old enough to imagine I remember the England of Gideon and Dixon of Dock Green - a country where we were proud that our police did not carry guns.

Seeing those weapons just reminds me how much things have changed. (Somehow the decades of Irish Republican terrorist attacks on the mainland get forgotten in this reaction.)

Someone younger than me, without that baggage, would have taken it more in their stride or even have had the reaction the authorities desire.

But these things are very personal. I work with someone who grew up in Northern Ireland. He says the sight of armed police makes him feel nostalgic.

Doug Bracewell blames killing of pet cockatoo by dogs for drink-driving

The Guardian wins Headline of the Day.

Doug Bracewell is a New Zealand cricketer. Readers of my generation will think of him as the son of the fast bowler Brendan Bracewell (who toured England in 1978 but soon faded because of injury) and the nephew of the spinner John Bracewell.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Leicester lunchtime photographs


People who follow me on Twitter will know that I am in the habit of tweeting a photo from my lunchtime walks.

Having been told, perhaps a little generously, that the first one here is a "masterpiece", I thought I would share some of them here.





The “Katie Hopkins” project was bound to end in tears



I have put her in scare quotes because I have no idea if Katie Hopkins really holds the repugnant views she puts forward.

She was required to be continually outrageous but to avoid being so outrageous that she became a problem for the mainstream radio station that employed her. It is a wonder she lasted as long as she did.

And to keep up the “Katie Hopkins” brand she had to be equally outrageous on social media without any training in journalism or any editorial or legal support to fall back on. Again, it is no surprise she ended up in the libel courts.

But then “Katie Hopkins” was born out of The Apprentice, the programme where wannabe celebrities pretend to be Britain’s brightest young entrepreneurs.

If they were, they would be far too busy making money to compete for the doubtful privilege of a place in Alan Sugar’s company (as the prize was in those days).

Put her down as a victim of her own ambition and our amoral media world.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Peak at Glendon Junction


This photograph must have been taken in the early 1980s. A Peak (class 45 diesel) has come from Corby and is about to join the Midland main line.

Note the semaphore signal and that the line to Corby was double track. It was later to be singled, only to be doubled again.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Try one of my setters, they’re milder"

Today is our last day for a while in the company of Rutland most celebrated fictional peer. How long ago the start of the general election campaign now seems.

Saturday

I spend the aboard the Liberal Democrat Battle Bus, visiting some of our best prospects in South West London and taking the opportunity to pick ‘High Voltage’ Cable’s brains about my investments.

I remain convinced that Farron would take the pews out of St Asquith’s and have as all singing ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ given half a chance, but he is the most engaging of companions. No wonder the mint cake workers of Kendal vote for him en bloc.

He asks if I would like to smell his spaniel, whereupon I reply: “Try one of my setters, they’re milder.”

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Market Harborough school drops 'hands behind back' rule

Judging by the lively comments on my post on the subject, it was late with the story.

But the Leicester Mercury said yesterday that a Market Harborough primary school has withdrawn its policy that children should walk with their hands behind their backs:
The Mercury has now learned that after "consultation" with parents, pupils are now required to walk in with their hands held in front of them. 
A spokesman for the diocese said: "The policy was only ever introduced in the first place with thought for safety at its heart and for ensuring a calm atmosphere for the school, especially the youngest pupils, when they were walking about. 
"I believe parents have been sent a letter regarding the change."

Paul Keetch has died

Sad news this evening. Paul Keetch, Liberal Democrat MP for Hereford from 1997 to 2010, has died.

Liberal Democrat Voice points us to a report in the Ross Gazette:
Paul was a liberal, a democrat and an internationalist and amongst Liberal Politicians, a rarity in that he had never lost an election. 
He was elected to Hereford City Council at the age of 21, making him the then youngest City Councillor in the UK. 
As a proud Herefordian, born and raised in the city, there was only one place he wanted to represent in Parliament and he became the MP for Hereford at his first attempt in 1997. He defended the seat twice in 2001 and 2005, before standing down prior to the 2010 election.
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoicePaul was the most senior Liberal Democrat to campaign for a Leave vote in last year's referendum.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A ride over Stainmore Summit in 1961



The line from Darlington to Penrith via Barnard Castle and Kirkby Stephen East was the highest passenger railway in England.

This film was shot in December 1961, a few weeks before it closed,

For more on the line, watch Snowdrift at Bleath Gill,

Lord Bonkers' Diary: What a scandal that was!

Today the old boy remembers a March visit to the banks of the Ouse and the Foss.

Friday

Were you in York for the Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference? Perhaps I met you there?

It is always a pleasure to visit that historic city, take tea at Betty’s and enjoy an Old Peculier in one of its many public houses.

I also think of Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate whenever I am there. What a scandal that was!

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Lib Dems and Independents take back control of Cornwall



This month's county elections left Cornwall with 46 Conservative councillors, 37 Liberal Democrats and 30 Independents.

As the largest party the Conservatives had first go at putting together a ruling coalition. But, reports BBC News, their proposal was rejected by the Independents unanimously.

Instead:
The Liberal Democrats and independent councillors have regained joint control of Cornwall Council following two weeks of uncertainty. 
Adam Paynter from the Lib Dems is the new leader following a secret ballot by councillors on Tuesday. 
Independent councillor Julian German is to take on the role of deputy leader.
The council was run by a Lib Dem and Independent coalition before the elections.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Diane Abbott's ‘Coppers for Coppers’ scheme

Lord Bonkers occasionally complains of overzealous policing on Boat Race night, but for the most part he is a staunch supporter of the boys in blue.

Thursday

I meet PC McNally on his beat, as he helps an old lady across the village high street – it not being the apple scrumping season, this is how he spends most of his time at present. (Incidentally, the walls around my orchard are at a sporting height to allow a fair contest between the aforementioned constable and the local urchinry.)

Poor McNally is a far from laughing policeman as he tells me that Diane Abbott has launched Labour’s new ‘Coppers for Coppers’ scheme. “They’re going to pay us just £30 a year,” he tells me with a sob in his voice. “I’ll need a new bicycle soon and even a second-hand truncheon costs a packet.”

I reassure him that there is no possibility of Labour winning the election with Corbyn and ‘Semtex’ McDonnell at the helm, leaving him in a happier frame of mind. Incidentally, while we are talking, the old lady re-crosses the road under her own steam and then scuttles away when PC McNally catches sight of her.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

The general election campaign must resume tomorrow

It was right that there should have been a pause in the general election today, but it must resume tomorrow.

A longer pause - some have even suggested we should wait six days - would hand ISIS a propaganda victory and encourage further outrages at election time.

It would also suggest that we do not hold our democratic traditions very dear if our first reaction at a time of national distress is to abandon them.

The campaign so far has been dull, but the right to be bored by democratic politics was dearly won and should not be discarded.

Later: From Liberal Democrat Voice:
The party is advising candidates tonight that, while national campaigning remains suspended, local campaigning can resume tomorrow.

Roger Moore and The Persuaders



This is how I remember Roger Moore best: starring in The Persuaders opposite Tony Curtis.

How enticing those Continental locations and their playboy lifestyle seemed on British television back in 1971!

Moore and Curtis played it mostly for laughs as they righted wrongs and fought crime, yet the wonderful John Barry theme has an unexpected sadness to it.

Howard Jacobson on Manchester



The novelist writes about his home city and last night's terrorist outrage for The New York Times:
The eruption of indiscriminate violence in a peaceful place is terrorism’s purpose and our greatest dread, the horrible intrusion of menace where we had no reason to expect it, no matter how often we tell ourselves that nowhere is safe now. The unnaturalness of terrorism is its essence. It means to strike out of a clear blue sky. It means to shatter those bonds of commonality we have to take for granted or we cannot live. 
So, this is terrorism’s perfect expression: the random massacre of kids coming out of a pop concert they’d no doubt been looking forward to and talking animatedly about for weeks, kids united only moments before in music and fun. 
Manchester, my home town, is a music city, at the forefront of musical innovation for decades. When I was growing up there, those who weren’t aspiring musicians themselves lived next door to someone who was. I was exceptionally unmusical, but my brother played lead guitar for a well-loved band called the Whirlwinds which, after time, morphed into 10cc. They practiced in our living room.
And he later says:
All that Manchester was best at, all its versatility and unexpectedness, all its artfully concealed sophistication, found a home in Tony Wilson, who read English at Oxford, taught drama at a school in Oldham, near Manchester, and founded Factory Records and the Hacienda Club. 
If I had to define the soul of modern Manchester, I’d point to Tony Wilson: down to earth and dandified, of the people and rarified, all at once; sharp-tongued, honorable, hedonistic, more interested in art and conversation than celebrity and wealth. It was thanks to Wilson that Manchester became known as “Madchester.”
You can read more about the Whirlwinds on All Music.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Not as strong and stable as she thought"

The prime minister visits Rutland in today's entry. With hilarious consequences.

Wednesday

Despite the blustery weather, I call on one of my neighbouring landowners - the fellow is a died-in-the-wool Tory, but a Decent Sort in his way. I find him in a state of great excitement as the prime minister is also on his estate.

"She has come to Rutland to meet the voters," he explains. "And where is she?" I ask. "She's locked herself in my gardener’s potting shed and refuses to come out." After I have offered the observation that Meadowcroft would never put up with it, we brave the wind to see how she is getting on.

A cluster of journalists surrounds the door - occasionally one jots a question on a piece of paper and slides it under the door - but of ordinary voters there is no sign. "She wanted me to have my domestic staff lined up to listen while she made a speech, but somehow that didn't seem quite cricket to me," my host observes.

Just then a tremendous gust lifts the shed clean off the ground and deposits it several fields away in a duck pond. "Not quite as strong and stable as she thought," I remark, as we watch a muddy figure wade to the shore with a mallard on her head.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

The Financial Times lists Theresa May's nine U-turns

Henry Mance, political correspondent of that well known left-wing publication the Financial Times, has helpfully listed Theresa May's major policy shifts over the past 12 months.

They are:
  • Brexit
  • A British bill of rights
  • Hinkley Point
  • Workers on boards
  • National insurance
  • Early election
  • Energy price caps
  • Social care
  • Foreign worker lists
The sad thing is that where May is in the right, such as on Europe and workers on boards, she lacks the courage to stand up for her views.

A North Korean flag is flying above Ingleby Barwick - and nobody knows why

Our Headline of the Day comes from the Middlesbrough Gazette,

Thanks to a reader for the nomination.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A train passing the Magic Roundabout, Hemel Hempstead



First there was a train crossing the old A41 and the canal on the way from Boxmoor gas works to Heath Park Halt.

Then there was a train crossing the viaduct over Marlowes.

This one shows a train passing the Plough Roundabout, which was known as Moor End Roundabout when I went to primary school nearby and later became famous as the Magic Roundabout.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Freddie and Fiona at the New New European

The old boy's young friends turn up in all the most important places.

Tuesday

To the offices of the New New European. Who should I find working there but my old friends Freddie and Fiona? "We've written an article about Skegness," says one. "You won't have heard of it, but it's a funny little place in something called 'Lincolnshire'." "All the people there voted for Brexit, so we had a good laugh at them." "And now Paul Nuttall has decided to stand there, so we have laughed at them even more."

I ask if they have ever been to Lincolnshire. "Oh no, we’ve never been to the North." "Well, I did go to Hertford once, but I didn't like it. You couldn't get artisan quinoa."

"And do you think," I further ask, "that laughing at the good people of Skegness will make them less likely to vote for the odious Nuttall? Don’t you want them to change their minds and support Europe as they did in 1975?"

"That’s not what the New New European is about. What we are interested in is selling our newspaper in North London."

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Six of the Best 694

"There can’t be many people who realise their dad has Alzheimer’s from listening to the BBC’s Today programme. But six years ago, hearing my brilliant and erudite father, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Goodhart, stumbling and pausing through his interview with John Humphrys, I knew something was very wrong." A moving article and a suitable tribute to his father by Benjie Goodhart.

Amelia Tate asks if 'dark ads' on Facebook will really swing the general election.

The peerless Ian Jack discusses the derided British Rail sandwich and its part in the privatisation of our trains.

Nicholas Barber on 'universe-shrinking': "What happens is that the characters in a science-fiction or thriller franchise are initially sent off on adventures in the wider world. James Bond goes after Goldfinger, Doctor Who defends the Earth against the Daleks, and so on. But after a while that world grows smaller and smaller until there is nothing in it which isn’t connected to the protagonists."

"He thinks you were before your time. Personally, I don’t think we’re ever going to reach the time that you’re in." Andy Murray introduces to Anthony Newley, an important but largely forgotten figure in post-war culture, and in particular his 1960 television series The Strange World of Gurney Slade.

"As any football manager will tell you, 'A win is a win'. Or even, as Gertrude Stein liked to say during her brief spell in the hot seat at Turf Moor 'A win is a win is a win'." Backwatersman follows the progress of the 2017 cricket season.

Squeeze: Pulling Mussels (from the shell)


They do it down on Camber Sands,
They do it at Waikiki
A live version of the Squeeze single that got to no. 44 in the charts in 1980.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A hard border

A second day at Bonkers Hall, and his lordship considers the significance of Brexit for his native county,

Monday

Rutland, of course, will remain in the European Union. Every day ships laden with pork pies and stilton set sail from Oakham Quay to cross Rutland Water and then the North Sea. They return with wines, exotic spices and all the things that make life jolly. Why would anyone want to throw that away?

This afternoon I join a party of military engineers to inspect out border with Leicestershire. Some have spoken of a 'hard border' after Brexit. Surveying its  tank traps, minefields and the Rutland Military Canal, we conclude that it would be difficult to make it any harder.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Friday, May 19, 2017

Eddie McCreadie returns to Stamford Bridge



Eddie McCreadie was the left back in the glamorous Chelsea team that won the FA Cup in 1970 and the European Cup Winners Cup the following year.

Move on to the 1976/7 season and things had gone sour. The club was heavily in debt, could not afford to sign any new players and been relegated.

But Chelsea got back into the top division at the first attempt. The team consisted of a few survivors of the glory years (Peter Bonetti, Ron Harris, Charlie Cooke) and a host of youngsters. It was captained by an 18-year-old Ray Wilkins and managed by Eddie McCreadie.

Something went wrong - legend has it that Chelsea refused to buy him a car - and McCreadie left as manager. He has lived in America for the past 40 years and never been back.

Until now.

Yesterday's Daily Mirror reported:
Chelsea legend Eddie McCreadie is making an emotional return to Stamford Bridge this weekend for the first time in 40 years. 
The Blues hero landed at Heathrow this morning on a flight back from the United States.
And today's Sun says:
Chelsea legend Eddie McCreadie has been back to Stamford Bridge – for the first time in 40 years ... 
McCreadie, 77, still lives in the States in Tennessee keeping one eye on his old club. 
McCreadie told TalkSPORT: “I watch all the games in the United States. 
“I’m absolutely thrilled with the success they’ve had. I’ve come back here and the stadium, the facilities, it’s a remarkable change.” 
McCreadie was back at the Bridge on Friday to check out his old stomping ground and will appear at a special night on Saturday to mark the launch of a new book.
On Saturday McCreadie will be at the launch of a book about him and his era at Chelsea. You can here all about it on the Chelsea Fancast.

The Sun also suggests he will be at Stamford Bridge on Sunday when Chelsea are presented with the Premiership trophy.

Leicester West's Tory Spartans turn into snowflakes

Remember Jack Hickey, chair of Leicester Conservatives?

He was the one who told the Leicester Mercury:
"West is the target. It's where we think we can do well. 
"We are huge underdogs. We are outnumbered, we are outmatched but we are like the 300 Spartans. 
"We are fewer but we are better."
Well, things have moved on. First, because Hickey also told the Mercury that he would not seek to be a candidate himself and then emerged as the Tory candidate in Leicester West.

And second because the Spartans of Leicester Conservatives have turned out to be more like snowflakes.

Here is today's Leicester Mercury:
The Tories have accused a national pro-EU pressure group of trying to 'skew the vote' in the battle for Leicester West. 
Conservative candidate Jack Hickey has raised concerns about Open Britain's aim to get anti-Brexit supporters to travel to the constituency in the run up to the election on June 8 to support Labour's Liz Kendall who is defending a majority of just over 7,000. 
Open Britain itself says it is not trying to skew the vote but simply campaigning against what it describes as a 'a hard, destructive Brexit'
That's right: a candidate for the party that brought you the Battlebus2015 operation is now whingeing because activists are travelling to his constituency to campaign for another candidate.

This far from Spartan reaction confirms what I am hearing about the Conservatives campaign's failure to make progress in Leicester West.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: At the top of my hawking tower

With the latest issue of Liberator on its way to subscribers, it is time to spend another week with Lord Bonkers. We arrive on his estate to find preparations for polling day in full swing.

Sunday

I am writing this at the top of the hawking tower at Bonkers Hall; I have set up my HQ here for the local elections. The view commands a sweep of country from the shores of Rutland Water to the Uppingham road. Armed with a pair of field glasses or a sharp-eyed orphan, I will get an early warning if any other party has the cheek to put up in the Bonkers Hall ward.

With the Bonkers Patent Shuttleworth Press installed in the room below, and a spiral staircase giving easy access to the kitchens, I decided to run the local general election campaign from here too.

Looking out, I see my tenants queuing to collect today’s Focus leaflet. I am gratified that they even come out in the rain, though my tried and tested slogan 'Remember your rents fall due on Lady Day' probably has something to do with that.

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