Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lembit Opik to become a dad at 52 despite fears serious impaling accident had left ex-MP sterile

The Daily Mirror wins our Headline of the Day Award with this heart-warming tale.

I hear that the judges also liked the detail that Lembit and Sabina Vankova "met in July 2015, at a party to celebrate Tim Farron’s election as Lib Dem leader".

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Lib Dems choose candidate to follow John Pugh in Southport

Sue McGuire, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Sefton Council, has been selected by the party to fight for Southport, reports the Southport Visiter.

The seat is currently held for the Lib Dems by John Pugh.

While we wonder why the paper has that odd name, let's enjoy this old railway poster.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Liberal Democrats eye Lewes and Eastbourne

An article for the Independent by Ben Westwood is bullish about the Lib Dems' prospects of regaining Lewes and Eastbourne.

He talks about the local issues beyond Brexit:
Health and social care, the number one issue in a BBC poll at the last election, is top of the list. The Government’s decision to move maternity services from Eastbourne to Hastings was deeply unpopular, while Lewes suffers from having no hospital – patients have to travel miles to Brighton, Haywards Heath or Eastbourne. Adult social care is also under immense pressure from a Conservative-led East Sussex County Council that aims to save £56 million over the next three years. 
Transport has become a pressing issue in both constituencies recently with Southern Fail consistently failing to deliver anything approaching an adequate train service in the face of strikes. It has reached crisis point in the past year and there is huge anger from thousands of commuters at a Government that steadfastly and inexplicably supports the rail operator, paying ticket refunds out of taxpayers’ money. 
On all these issues incumbent Conservative MPs Caroline Ansell and Maria Caulfield are vulnerable. They claim to understand people’s concerns but cannot escape the fact that their party is pushing through cuts to everything from disability payments to widow’s benefits, and from schools to hospitals, while supporting big business over local people when voting for fracking on our Downs.
All politics is local, as Tip O'Neill once said.

The mystery of the disappearing Tory leader

Last week, as the local elections approached, a mystery gripped Leicestershire.

Where was Nick Rushton, leader of county's ruling Conservative group?

Some said he was in Norfolk. Others said he was in California.

He certainly didn't seem to be in Leicestershire.

As the the Leicester Mercury told it:
Coun Rushton's absence was noted when deputy council leader Byron Rhodes attended a BBC Radio Leicester discussion to which all the council's political party leaders were invited. Coun Rhodes told the Mercury: 
"He's having an Easter break. What's wrong with that? 
"I'm looking after things here. He's still in contact. "They (the Lib Dems) are being outrageous. Nick is getting the job done." 
The Mercury has made a number of calls to speak directly to Coun Rushton but has only received a text message in response.

Richard Jefferies Society and White Horse Bookshop Literary Prize

Each year the Richard Jefferies Society and the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough award a prize to the author of the publication considered by their judging panel to be the most outstanding nature writing published that year.

The winning work, say the rules for the prize, will reflect the heritage and spirit of Jefferies’ countryside books.

The Richard Jefferies Society website has the shortlist for this year's prize:

  • The Nature of Autumn, by Jim Crumley, published by Saraband.
  • The Running Hare, by John Lewis-Stempel, published by Doubleday.
  • Six Facets of Light, by Ann  Wroe, published by Jonathan Cape.
  • Walking Through Spring, by Graham Hoyland, published by William Collins.
  • The Wood for the Trees, by Richard Fortey, published by William Collins.

The winner will be decided at the Richard Jefferies Society's executive council meeting on 13 May.

What a cheek! Harborough Conservatives use an image from this blog in an election leaflet

Take a look at the image above.

It is part of a leaflet that the Conservatives are currently delivering in one of the Market Harborough wards as part of their campaign for next month's Leicestershire County Council elections.

A sharp-eyed reader has pointed out to me that the photograph of the 'Welcome to Market Harborough' sign has been lifted from this blog.

You can find in my post The Great Market Harborough Gas Leak of 2016 on 13 May 2016.

Here it is again:

And if you are wondering where I got it from, it was cropped out of a slightly larger photo I took on 9 July 2011:

If any Conservative activists are reading this, please ask my permission before you use my photographs.

If it is for an election leaflet I will say no, but if it for some other purpose that will benefit the community then I am open to the idea.

And ask someone to brief you on the basics of copyright law before you run into someone who is less forgiving than I am.

Later. I have received a gracious, though private, apology from the candidate. I am still waiting for an explanation of how the photograph came to be used.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Herbert Morris buildings, Empress Road, Loughborough

I love this range of old industrial buildings and the way the curve of them closes off the view along Empress Road.

But they won't be there much longer. The Loughborough Echo reported last September that the authority has given permission for them to be demolished for new housing.

So they survived a Zeppelin raid but not Charnwood Borough Council.

At least the cross in the road that marks the raid is still there. And I was pleased to find an Edward VII pillar box that must have witnessed it.

Meeting to decide David Mackintosh's future will take place at... Sixfields Stadium

We knew that, in his effort to be reselected as the Conservative candidate for Northampton South. David Mackintosh MP faced a meeting on 2 May.

There will be a vote on him by his constituency executive that day and, if he loses it, one by the whole membership too.

What we didn't know was the venue of the meeting.

Thanks to the Northampton Chronicle & Echo we now know it will be at the Sixfields Stadium - the home of the town's football club.

Given that it is the controversy over a loan made by the council, while Mackintosh was its leader, to Northampton Town for improvements to the stadium that has led to his difficulties with his own party, there is a pleasing irony in this.

Meanwhile, ITV News quotes a police statement:
A dedicated team of full-time investigators, accountants and analysts‎ continue to independently assess the grant, use and the loss of millions of pounds of public money. 
We are committed to thoroughly and objectively investigating this matter, which includes evaluating and investigating every allegation which may have a bearing on events. 
This is a complex investigation involving multiple allegations and counter allegations and it is important to remember that neither criminal nor financial liability will diminish with time.
It also quotes Mr Mackintosh saying he welcomes the investigation and has done nothing wrong.

Lord Bonkers and the Ukip gorilla lady

A Ukip candidate in Glasgow says she is sexually attracted to gorillas.

I don't know how this will go down with the voters, but I am reminded of a post on this blog by Lord Bonkers.

Explaing a viral video of a gorilla at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire apparently dancing, he wrote:
There is nothing the older residents of the Bonkers Estate enjoy more than the tea dances I host at the village hall. 
However, we have a problem. The toll taken by the local industries of Stilton mining and pork pie production mean that many more ladies than gentlemen survive to enjoy an active retirement. 
A couple of years ago the ladies prevailed upon me to provide them with more dancing partners. After no little thought, the solution sprang upon me: train the gorillas at Twycross Zoo. 
This initiative has proved a great success. When I proposed it some warned me of the danger of ravishment, but I am happy to report that to date no gorilla has complained of molestation.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

North Woolwich to Palace Gates

Some wonderful footage of East London and its railways in 1960.

Leicester Tories to target Liz Kendall (with swords and sandals)

The Leicester Mercury tells us that the Conservatives have yet to select their candidates for the three city constituencies:
However the Mercury understands a number of Tory hopefuls would like a crack at Leicester West where Labour's Liz Kendall will defend a 7,000 majority. 
Leicester branch chairman Jack Hickey, who has said he will not seek to become a candidate himself, said: "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."
All rather fanciful, particularly as West was the one Leicester seat the Tories failed to win in 1983.

But it does give me an excuse to use this photograph of a Loughborough chip shop I took yesterday.

Former transport minister Norman Baker has his own bus company

Many former Liberal Democrat MPs are working hard to win their seats back on 8 June.
But, reports Mark Leftly in the Guardian, Norman Baker has other plans:
Rather than knocking on doors, Baker will be taking delivery of Britain’s first electric-powered bus on Monday. Last month, he became managing director at the Big Lemon, a 10-year-old, eco-friendly bus operator in Brighton, where its single-deckers run on cooking oil – 112 tonnes of fat was used to fuel 16 buses and coaches for nearly 220,000 miles last year. 
Partly through crowdfunding and two-year bonds of £100 each to the local community, the Big Lemon last year raised £250,000 to convert two 25-seater buses to run on electricity deriving from solar power. More than 120 panels have been installed on the depot in Brighton, where the buses will be charged at night.
Nor is Norman neglecting his music career:
As well as promoting his buses, Baker hosts local radio shows on Sundays and Mondays that play music from the past 100 years and obscure B-sides from the 1960s. Music rather than politics is Baker’s first love. 
He was once a regional director for Our Price and has been lead singer “on and off” of the Reform Club for 23 years. Indeed, when Cable and Davey are hitting the doorsteps on Saturday, Baker will be singing outside the Pump House pub near Brighton pier.
You can hear the Reform Club elsewhere on this blog.

Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart: Up Above My Head

The rot set in with Sailing in 1975, but before that the Faces were a great band and in the Sixties Rod the Mod was something of a counter culture figure.

This was his first record, made in 1964. If he was meant to be backing Long John Baldry, it turned into more of a duet.

There's more Long John Baldry on this blog, as well as a glimpse of Rod Stewart in 1965 and a nice anecdote about his In a Broken Dream.

Taylor's Bell Foundry, Loughborough

There has, rightly, been a lot of attention paid to the campaign to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry,

But there is another working bell foundry in England and it is here in Leicestershire. Wikipedia tells its story:
John Taylor & Co, commonly known as Taylor's Bell Foundry, Taylor's of Loughborough, or simply Taylor's, is the world's largest working bell foundry. It is in Loughborough, in the Charnwood borough of Leicestershire, England. The business originated in the 14th century and became Taylor's after the Taylor family took over in 1784. 
In 2009 Taylors went bankrupt but was bought out of administration by a consortium called UK Bellfoundries Ltd which successfully re-financed and re-established the business. Since then the company has re-established its presence both in the UK and in the North American Carillon and other export markets. 
The company manufactures bells for use in clock towers, rings of bells for change ringing, chimes, and carillons ...
The Foundry has a museum of bells and bellfounding which is the only one of its kind in the UK. The restoration of the foundry buildings began with the re-opening in 2012 of the foundry's own Campanile which contains the most-pealed bells in the World. It is one of the few Victorian purpose-built manufacturing sites still being used for its original purpose and therefore of considerable heritage merit.
I went to Loughborough today to photograph the site. The museum is currently closed, but the company website says that tours can still be arranged.

And the council flats that surround it can hear the quarters being chimed.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

In which I become an expert on politics in Bath

General Election 2017: Bath is one of the best chances of success for a Lib Dem MP

says the headline on a Bath Chronicle story.

And who's this quoted below it?
The small swing puts Bath at number 12 on Election Polling's list of top target seats for the Lib Dems. 
But Lib Dem blogger Jonathan Calder thinks Bath should be higher on the list. 
"I'd say with Bath's history it's probably better than number 12," said Mr Calder, who is behind the Liberal England blog. 
"I think Bath is in the top 10 and, with its history, that's quite achievable, but I'm a Lib Dem so I'm biased."
The Chronicle journalist had seen my post on the top 20 Lib Dem targets on 8 June and got in touch.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hallaton Bottle Kicking 2017

A slideshow of this ancient Leicestershire custom courtesy of Getty Images.

Sir Edward Garnier makes the case against leaving the EU

Sir Edward Garnier has confirmed that he will be seeking re-election in Harborough on 8 June.

Which makes it worth revisiting a post on his website in which he made the case for remaining in the European Union.

Speaking the day before the referendum, Sir Edward said:
The Conservative Party has built its reputation on economic stability that will be the foundation of our ability to govern successfully over the next four years. We cannot afford to put the British people's hard-won economic security at risk by leaving the EU. A vote to Remain is about safeguarding jobs and our nation's prosperity. 
'The bosses of more than half of Britain’s largest companies have urged voters to back Remain - 1,285 business leaders who together employ 1.75 million people – including more than 9000 small and medium-sized firms and over half of the FTSE 100 – have written to the Times as follows: 
"Britain leaving the EU would mean uncertainty for our firms, less trade with Europe and fewer jobs. Even those that want Britain to leave say that, in the short term, Brexit would lead to economic uncertainty and would put jobs at risk. Smaller businesses and the people they employ are particularly vulnerable to any economic shock that could follow a vote to leave."(Times, 22 June 2016, link). 
Edward Garnier comments: 
'This is a major intervention which confirms that the overwhelming majority of British Business – large and small – back remaining in the European Union. The Leave campaign cannot name any economic experts that support their vision for quitting the world’s largest single market which would damage our economy, lead to job losses and higher prices. 
I urge the people of the East Midlands, Leicestershire and the Harborough constituency to Vote Remain for more jobs, lower prices, stronger public services and a decent, tolerant United Kingdom. If we vote to leave, there is no going back. Don't risk it.’ 
Apologies for quoting at such length, but I agree with Sir Edward.

Now Theresa May has called an election in which she will make precisely the opposite case.

Sir Edward has the seniority and the courage to say what he really believes, just as Kenneth Clarke will. I hope Sir Edward will too.

David Mackintosh under more pressure in Northampton South

The Northampton Chronicle has the latest on this saga:
A senior Conservative has confirmed she would not support David Mackintosh's bid to run again in June's General Election due to his handling of the Sixfields saga. 
Former Northampton Borough Council leader, Councillor Mary Markham, also confirmed Mr Mackintosh has been summoned to address the Northampton South Conservative Association early next month.  
At that meeting, which will take place on 2 May, Mackintosh could face two votes, If he failed to win the approval of the constituency party's executive committee the question would go to a secret ballot of its members,

The report goes on to give Mary Markham's reasons for not supporting Mackintosh:
Councillor Markham said she would not be supporting him due to the way she says he handled criticism of his involvement in the failed Sixfields loan saga. 
She said: "I urged David Mackintosh publicly some months ago to be more accountable, not just to the association management committee, but to his electorate too. 
"I asked him to answer their questions and be more representative. 
"I haven't seen any evidence of that since," she said.
Elsewhere, Guido Fawkes says two other Conservative MPs may struggle to be reselected: Alan Haselhurst in Saffron Walden and Jack Lopresti in Filton and Bradley Stoke.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Les Dawson advertises the Post Office

Complete with an animation inspired by the paintings of Beryl Cook, this advertisement was made in 1990.

Zuffar Haq to fight Harborough for the Liberal Democrats on 8 June

Zuffar Haq, who was the party's candidate at the 2010 and 2015 general elections, will again fight Harborough in June.

In 2005 his predecessor Jill Hope came within less than 4000 votes of winning.

"I'm still hoping to get the gig following Theresa May around"

The unbearable lightness of Isabel Oakeshott‏

If you are ever tempted to take Isabel Oakeshott‏ seriously, just look at the timestamps on the two tweets above.

Thanks to @imincorrigible for pointing this out.

In my book this counts as a greater crime than getting Vicky Pryce banged up or telling viewers that the Liberal Democrats were going to lose the Richmond Park by-election because they had delivered too many leaflets.

Six of the Best 686

Theresa May’s hopes of a landslide depend on the how the old industrial towns of northern England vote. That is the conclusion of analysis by James Crouch.

Caitlin Flanagan on late-night TV comedy and its failure to prevent the rise of Donald Trump: "Somewhere along the way, the hosts of the late-night shows decided that they had carte blanche to insult not just the people within this administration, but also the ordinary citizens who support Trump, and even those who merely identify as conservatives."

"Did the Church of England not know that there were at least five archbishops buried there? Couldn’t someone be bothered to check the records? Why was no archaeological dig commissioned?" Archbishop Cranmer is not impressed by the loss and rediscovery of five of his fellow primates.

Cinephilia & Beyond offers a unique perspective on the making of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker.

Ronnie Hughes explores Mossley Hill and Aigburth,

Fifty years ago, an 18-year-old called Keith Jarrett made his rugby union debut for Wales and beat England single handed. Huw Richards tells the story. (Alarmingly, I have vague memories of the event.)

Popbitch provides some reassuring trivia for Chelsea fans

The latest email from Popbitch reminds us that:
In the last three general election years (2005, 2010 and 2015) the Premier League was won by Chelsea.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Hundred of Hoo Railway in 1958

Wikipedia makes it all clear:
The Hundred of Hoo Railway is a railway line in Kent, England, following the North Kent Line from Gravesend before diverging at Hoo Junction near Shorne Marshes and continuing in an easterly direction across the Hoo Peninsula, passing near the villages of Cooling, High Halstow, Cliffe and Stoke before reaching the Isle of Grain and the container port on its eastern tip, Thamesport. 
There used to be a short branch line leading from Stoke Junction to the coastal town of Allhallows but this closed from 4 December 1961, the same date on which the Hundred of Hoo line was closed to passenger services.

Local Tory association fights to prevent its MP standing on 8 June

Natalie Bloomer reports on events in Northampton South:
A Conservative MP has been pitched into a battle with his own local party over whether he can stand in the upcoming general election. 
David Mackintosh, MP for Northampton South, has been heavily criticised for his involvement in the loss of a £10.25 million loan to Northampton Town football club by the local council. 
The loan, which was approved while Mackintosh was the leader of the council, has not been repaid and the work it was intended for has not been carried out. This triggered a series of investigations, including an ongoing one by Northamptonshire police. 
Attempts by the local party to force the MP to resign over the matter were quashed by Tory HQ last December. 
But a senior source from the Northampton South Conservative Association told this morning that an emergency meeting is expected to be held next week to discuss if there is a way to prevent Mackintosh from standing again.
I have blogged about David Mackintosh's travails before. In November 2015 I quoted a BBC News report that took us further into this murky affair:
A Conservative MP's local party was given undeclared payments linked to a businessman involved in a stalled stadium development, it has emerged. 
David Mackintosh's party received a £6,195 payment for tickets from Howard Grossman, the director of a company overseeing work at Northampton Town FC. 
Mr Mackintosh was leader of the borough council when it approved a £10.25m loan for the plans. Millions of pounds of the money is currently unaccounted for. 
He declined to comment on the payments.
Mackintosh vs Northampton South Conservative Association looks to be a bout to watch.

Elephants’ low cancer risk ‘holds the key to surviving life on Mars’

Paywall or no paywall, The Times wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Michael Bogdanov in Leicester

Photo © David Hallam-Jones

I was sorry to hear of the death of the theatre director Michael Bogdanov.

Back in the 1970s he was the artistic director of Leicester's Phoenix theatre. (That's the old Phoenix, shown in the photograph above,)

He was kind enough to put a season of three Shakespeare plays under the title He That Plays the King.

As these included both plays I was studying for A level - Hamlet and The Tempest - I saw both those productions. Bill Wallis, whom I knew chiefly from the satirical Radio 4 programme Week Ending, played both Hamlet and Prospero.

He also played Richard III in the play I did not see,

Top 20 Liberal Democrat targets on 8 June

After the carnage of 2015, I was too scared to spend much time studying the general election results in detail.

Election Polling is made of sterner stuff and has produced a list of Liberal Democrat targets in order of the swing needed to win them. And the picture is more encouraging than I expected.

Here is the top 20:
  1. Cambridge (Labour) 0.58%
  2. Eastbourne (Conservative) 0.69%
  3. Lewes (Conservative) 1.07%
  4. Thornbury & Yate (Conservative) 1.54%
  5. Twickenham (Conservative) 1.63%
  6. Dunbartonshire East (SNP) 1.97%
  7. Kingston & Surbiton (Conservative) 2.39%
  8. St Ives (Conservative) 2.56%
  9. Edinburgh West (SNP) 2.93%
  10. Torbay (Conservative) 3.42%
  11. Sutton & Cheam (Conservative) 3,93%
  12. Bath (Conservative) 4.06%
  13. Burnley (Labour) 4.08%
  14. Bermondsey & Old Southwark (Labour) 4.36%
  15. Yeovil (Conservative) 4.67%
  16. Fife North East (SNP) 4.80%
  17. Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross (SNP) 5.62%
  18. Colchester (Conservative) 5.74%
  19. Cheltenham (Conservative) 6.06%
  20. Cheadle (Conservative) 6.08%

Monday, April 17, 2017

Londonist goes to Lincolnshire

Last week they took us to Lincoln. Today we venture further into the county on the Saturday-only service from Gainsborough Central to Cleethorpes.

We then visit the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway, before crossing the Humber to Hull.

Six of the Best 685

"She saw city life as the genial co-existence of many different neighbourhoods, where the residents supported and looked out for one another while enjoying access to all the cultural advantages of the greater metropolis." Wayne Lawson reviews Citizen Jane, a new film about Jane Jacobs.

Between the early Wittgenstein and the late Wittgenstein came Wittgenstein the school teacher. Colin Marshall on a short, strange and brutal career that took place deep in rural Austria.

"Jonathan Meades has written a cookbook and it is, as the bright young things may still sometimes say, the most Jonathan Meades thing ever." Good news from Alex Massie.

"In the past the miracle of Snape was that commercial priorities were subservient to the fragile local environment. The tragedy of Snape under Roger Wright is that this environment is now subservient to commercial priorities." On An Overgrown Path is not impressed by plans for a new car park on the river bank opposite Snape Maltings.

David Prestidge on a gang fight and murder on Clapham Common in 1953.

Angharad Mountford discovers London's oldest surviving bridge.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Guardian talks of "strong revival" by Cornish Lib Dems

As the local elections approach, the Liberal Democrats and the recent rise in their fortunes are gaining more coverage.

The latest example is a Guardian article by Steven Morris which talks of "what increasingly seems to be a strong revival in the party’s fortunes in Cornwall".

He writes:
The Lib Dems have won a succession of council byelections in Cornwall and are now once again the biggest group on the council with 43 members, governing in coalition with the independents. 
Lib Dem loyalists are buoyed both by the national party’s resurgence and by a report in the New Statesman claiming that Lynton Crosby, who helped the Tories into government in 2015, has warned the prime minister, Theresa May, that if she called a snap general election she would lose all the Lib Dem seats her party gained in Cornwall. 
The Lib Dems are fielding candidates in all 123 Cornwall seats at next month’s council election, 31 of them new members.
The prominent role being played by new members is one of the striking features of the article.

Talking of Lynton Crosby's fears, which were based on polling the Conservatives have had conducted in former Lib Dem seats, there was an interesting post on the other day.

Mike Smithson wrote:
The assumption was that Tories had carried out the polling ahead of a possible early election and this was merely scoping the ground. 
Now PB is being told that the reason for polling these seats was nothing to do with that but out of worries about where the expenses probe, first highlighted by Channel 4 News, was going. 
If these went to court it is possible that some GE2015 seat outcomes could be discarded and there would have to be fresh elections in the constituencies. Mrs May’s majority is so small that it wouldn’t take many such losses for that to be wiped out.

Redevelopment of Alexander Street, Leicester

Alexander Street isn't there any more. A little googling shows it once had a pub and a chapel, but today it has been completely cleared for redevelopment.
That's what I wrote when I discovered this corner of Leicester, which is hidden behind the city's old Central railway station.

The Leicester Mercury reports the redevelopment that is planned there:
City council officials have received an application to build 322 apartments in Bath Lane near to the recently restored Friar's Mill office development. 
Developers Goldcharm are behind the plan which would see two blocks of flats erected - one 11 storeys high at its tallest point. 
As well as the privately rented homes, there will be small shops a cafe and a gym built. 
The site of the plan is a now-cleared former industrial area which sits either side of Alexander Street and covers an two acre area.
I trust that the Great Central generator house, which stands at the junction of Alexander Street and Jarvis Street, will be refurbished as part of this development.

Theresa May is the opposite of Harold Macmillan

Writing about Julian Critchley after visiting his grave at Wistanstow, I quoted an interview he gave to Naim Attallah:
I had two heroes in politics: Macmillan and Roy Jenkins. Macmillan, because he controlled to a very great extent Britain’s decline in power and was responsible for our adjustment in straitened circumstances – something he managed despite a party of fools. 
My admiration for Roy Jenkins was based on the fact that as a young Labour MP he would advocate the cause of Europe in cross-party meetings, and he advocated brilliantly.
Leaving Roy to one side, it strikes me that Theresa May is doing the precise opposite of what Macmillan did. She still has a party of fools to contend with, but she is allowing them to indulge their fantasies of glorious isolation or Empire 2.0.

Macmillan came to power because of Suez. Will it take a similar national humiliation to bring the Conservative leadership to its senses?

The Sundays: Here's Where the Story Ends

This 1990 song is so familiar that I was surprised to read this on Wikipedia:
Although it was the Sundays' biggest hit internationally, topping the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart for one week, the track was never released as a single in the group's native United Kingdom due to the collapse of the Rough Trade Records label.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Shropshire Hills bus service started today

I may struggle to get there this summer, but the Shropshire Hill shuttle buses started running today.

You can find full details and the timetable on the Shropshire Hill AONB site.

Once again, spending cuts mean that only the service being provided is the core one from Church Stretton over the Long Mynd to Pontesbury, Minsterley and the Stiperstones is running.

It's not so long since you could reach Much Wenlock, Bishop's Castle and Knighton on these buses.

Guardian talks up Lib Dem chances in Manchester Gorton

Encouraging stuff from Toby Helm on the Guardian website this evening:
The Liberal Democrats are fast closing the gap on Labour in next month’s Manchester Gorton byelection and believe they could steal a victory to match their stunning success over the Conservatives in Richmond last December, according to an internal campaign briefing ... 
A briefing for senior Lib Dem officials and campaigners written by deputy director of campaigns Dave McCobb says the party’s messages on Brexit, including calls for a second referendum on the outcome of negotiations, are winning over voters in a seat where more than 60% voted remain in last June’s Brexit referendum. 
McCobb says that the Lib Dems are making up ground fast and are on 31% with Labour on 51%, a level of support he says that is “running well ahead of where we were in the Witney byelection ... and approaching Richmond Park levels of support at this stage.”
If you want to help the Lib Dems campaign in Gorton, by donating or on the doorstep, see the details on the party website.

Friday, April 14, 2017

On the track of the old Southwold Railway

It's been a Suffolkrailwaytastic day as I have discovered Twitter account for the people dreaming of reopening the branches to both Southwold and Aldeburgh.

This video follow the route of the former from Southwold to Walberswick - I have a feeling I once walked it.

And if the water towers at the start look familiar, they featured in Peter Greenaway's film Drowning by Numbers.

More information on the Southwold Railway Trust website.

Good Friday in Shropshire

From The Folklore of Shropshire by Roy Palmer (2004):
Until the 1860s, when the well was drained, it was the custom on Good Friday to dip one's hand in the water, deemed good for weak eyes, of St Margaret's Well at Wellington. Much more recently, comfortably into the 20th century, the congregation of Lords Hill Baptist Church met at Snailbeach in the afternoon and perambulated the area, pausing to sing hymns to the accompaniment of a brass band. 
Until the 1930s, most places of work closed on Good Friday. People traditionally spent time in their gardens, and this was considered a good time for planting potatoes. Formerly, bread baked on this day ... was believed to have curative properties. Many Shrewsbury families trekked to Haughmond Hill, following the canal towpath to Uffington. Children played and picknicked on the hill until the Second World War ended the custom.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Londonist goes to Lincoln

I remember Lincoln St Marks and its level crossing from 1978.

In those days it was a stop for direct trains from King's Cross to Grimsby and Cleethorpes, and I can recall seeing a Deltic there on its way to London.

There are no such services today, and any restoration of them sounds a long way off.

Six of the Best 684

"We should remember that Spice itself came into existence as an attempt to evade the ban on the far less harmful 'natural' cannabis. Thanks to prohibition, chemists were given an incentive to produce an alternative and they have come up with something much nastier." Matthew Scott explains why the government's drugs policy is failing.

Joanna Bartley makes a traditionalist case against grammar schools: "If parents prefer academic schools then the very nature of selective education will disappoint many. Only a fixed percentage achieve their wish, the rest finding schools skewed towards the needs of lower ability pupils."

An overabundance of psychogeographers is clogging our city streets, argues Will Wiles,

Three decades after the release of the cult British film, Adam Scovell goes on holiday by mistake. He hunts out the locations where Withnail & I was filmed.

Gavin MacGregor looks through the eyes of the Ballachulish Goddess.

Meera Dattani walks the National Forest Way through Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire.

The New European is weakening the pro-European cause

I have never got further into Skegness than the town's railway station, but one day I will visit this Lincolnshire resort where the working class of Leicester used to go for its holidays.

Perhaps I will walk down to the nature reserve at Gibraltar point at gaze across the Wash to the more genteel North Norfolk coast.

The New European has also been to Skegness, coming up with this illustration.

If they were setting out to lend support the idea that European cause was a cause for metropolitan types who laugh at the rest of us while eating their artisan quinoa, they could not have made a better job of it.

I can see that cultivating affluent pro-Europeans in and around London makes business sense for the New European. That is a market that is easy for them to identify and serve.

But if we want to build public pressure for a second referendum and then win it, this approach is deeply damaging.

If you want people to change their minds and support you, the very last thing you should do is ridicule them. I refer you to a post I wrote in February 2016:
If we want the forces of light to win the referendum on British membership of the European Union then we have to get away that it is a project of the elites.
But no one, particularly not Emma Thompson, listened.

Turning the European cause into a sort of grooming session where metropolitan liberals tell each other how noble they are and how ghastly everyone else is, would be a guarantee of failure and also show a remarkable lack of ambition.

Back in the 1975 referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the European Economic Community, Lincolnshire voted Yes by almost 3:1 - the exact figure was 74.7 per cent to 25.3 per cent.

We should also worry about the many affluent constituencies in Southern England that voted No to the EU last year, but if we want to win the battle for Europe we shall have to change the minds of people who live in towns like Skegness.

Stoke-on-Trent councillor 'wanted elf to sit on knee'

BBC News wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Knaresborough signal box

As its Signalling Record Society page says, Knaresborough signal box is one of the few that was added to the end of an existing terrace.

I took this photograph in, I think, 1981. I remember going for a walk in the area and being pleased to come across a village called Follifoot.

The box looks little changed today. The Signal Box has a picture of the small frame to be found within.

GUEST POST The Second World War families who took evacuees into their homes

Gillian Mawson, author of Britain's Wartime Evacuees, on a fascinating episode in British social history.

Most of Britain's wartime 'foster parents' have passed away, but their relatives are eager to share family stories and letters.

Margaret Nolan’s family offered a home to two evacuees in Lancashire:
"Norman and Ronnie arrived with nothing, no pyjamas or anything.  We took them to Bury Market and bought them pyjamas and a suit. They had no idea about setting a table or anything which surprised us as they had come from a family.  
"One Sunday we decided to take them to visit their home. Their cottage was so small that when their mother opened a sideboard drawer it knocked over a bottle of milk on the table. We realised then what a vast difference there was between their life and ours."
Teacher, Ruby Nicolle, watched her pupils being allocated to families in Cheshire:
"It wasn't well done. Bowden was where many Manchester business owners had their huge houses. In Bowden Vale were the humble folk who did the washing and cleaning for the high ups! Some of our children came from working class homes and found themselves in grand houses, like fish out of water. Other better class children were  put in council houses."
When evacuees from Bristol arrived in Devon, Mrs Mabel Steer took Micky Archer (right) into her home. Mabel’s granddaughter shares the family story:
"When seven-year-old Micky arrived at Bideford railway station, he had already been allocated to a local family. However, because of the colour of his skin they felt unable to take him in. My Gran immediately stepped in and said she would be happy to have him. 
"He was the only coloured child at that time in Bideford. She grew to love him dearly and always referred to him as 'my Micky'. I am extremely proud of Gran and Micky remained in contact with  her until she died."
Ruth Harrison watched her mother choosing an evacuee in Cheshire:
"Mum was about to choose a Guernsey girl and was told by a snooty WVS lady, 'Don’t worry dear, we will find you a decent one!' 
"Mum was appalled and I will never forget her reply, 'They are not commodities, madam, they are children!' We took home a little girl called Winifred and she became like my own sister."
Fred Jones remembers meeting their evacuee for the first time,
"Dad read a newspaper report about kiddies needing homes and said, 'Maybe we should take one of them, a little boy, so you can play together?' Mum took me to the church hall and we saw Joe there. He looked so scared. 
"Mum said, 'Would you like that little boy  to come and live with us?’ and I said ‘Yes please.' He shared my bedroom and was like a brother. Mum couldn’t have any more children after she had me and Joe was like her second son."
There is a common misconception that most evacuees were sent from poor urban housing to the countryside where the facilities were far superior.

This was not always the case and Philip Doran recalls being shown where the toilet was in his Caenarfon billet:
"Not only were we in a strange town but they also spoke a strange language, Welsh. Teddy was desperate to go to the toilet and he came back and said quietly, 'Yer wanna see da lavvy, it’s just a bit o’ wood wid a hole in it, yer do it into a bucket and it stinks.'
"Yet I recall that first evening with great pleasure; we had a lovely tea and Mrs Roberts asked us all sorts of different questions, 'How many are in your family? What do your dads do, and what religion are you?' She seemed to really want to get to know us."
Caring for evacuees was seen as part of the war effort, but not everyone was willing to take them in. When the Duke of Argyll refused to take in women and child evacuees, the matter was raised in the Commons by the Independent Labour Party MP Campbell Stephen:
"His castle was practically uninhabited. There were all those bedrooms available but instead of putting the people into it, they were put into a local hall in the most degrading conditions. There was far less sympathy and help from the occupants of that castle than from the poorest members of the community."
In another instance raised by Stephen, a farmer refused to take in three evacuee girls. The farmer said, “I am not taking girls. I will have one big boy because he can work on the farm.”

Stephen told the House: "These children are not sent out to be drudges in the homes or farms."

Wartime newspapers described court cases involving families, who, for various reasons, refused to keep evacuees. The Stockport Advertiser cited one such instance:
"Mr and Mrs Jones of Offerton were charged with refusing to accept an evacuee. The clerk pointed out to the couple that it was unpatriotic of them and they were fined."
When the war ended, many evacuees were delighted to be returning to their own families, but for some, it was 'evacuation' all over again as they were torn from loving foster parents.

One boy remembers that the little girl who had lived with them for five years did not want to return to her own parents:
"She had forgotten them completely and grown to love us. She was dragged, kicking and screaming, out of our house."  
A foster mother in Oldham, Lancashire, remembers the day that her evacuee left:
"When we had taken George in, years before, I never thought for a minute how hard it would be for us to let him go. We waved goodbye as long as we could and then turned and walked away, neither of us could speak, we were too upset. We went to the cinema, we couldn’t go home you see, his little room seemed so empty."
In many cases, lasting friendships endured after the war. Sheila Gibson recalls:
"Every year I returned to Derby to visit Mr and Mrs Croft, their son Nigel and his wife. I attended Mrs Croft’s 100th birthday party in 2012. Mrs Croft passed away at the age of 101 but I will always remember her with fondness."
You can buy Britain's Wartime Evacuees from Amazon and follow Gillian Mawson on Twitter.

Tim Farron on Boris Johnson: His circus show isn't funny any more

Writing for the Guardian, Tim Farron says Boris Johnson has been humiliated.

Tim writes that the discussion at the G7 summit needed to be about "no-fly zones, safe corridors and gaining the cooperation of regional powers".

Instead we got "the Boris circus show":
Lots of table-thumping beforehand about how he was going to deliver sanctions (“We are the exact opposite of poodles,” his spin doctors briefed, a little hysterically), followed by that familiar quizzical expression at the post-summit photo call when he had delivered precisely nothing. 
Even fellow Conservative ministers have said, helpfully, that he has been humiliated, while No 10 has offered him every form of support short of actual help. 
May happened to be on holiday (no crime in that) but then saw her foreign secretary floundering without arm bands, out to sea and out of his depth. And instead of taking charge of the mounting crisis, she looked away.
Whenever I think of Johnson now, I remember a post of mine based on a quotation from Auberon Waugh.

Morrisey has his own take on the subject.

Davey Graham was born at Bosworth Hall

When I visited Bosworth Hall in Market Bosworth - there it is above - I wrote:
The Dixie family fortune was lost in the 19th century, and the house and estate were sold in the 1880s to pay gambling debts. After the estate had changed hands a few times, it was bought by Leicestershire County Council and became a hospital - Bosworth Park Infirmary - in 1931. 
When the hospital closed in the 1980s, it was converted in the Bosworth Hall Hotel.
What I didn't is that the great guitarist Davey Graham was born at Bosworth Park Infirmary. There is even a plaque on the building commemorating the fact.

I learnt this, my Trivial Fact of the Day, from a page on Hinckley Past & Present. It lists all the blue plaques in that part of Leicestershire. (If you know of any more, please let them know.)

Davey Graham? You know, Anji...

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Six of the Best 683

"No flourishing urban environment has developed around the Hepworth in the manner of London’s South Bank, in spite of its riverside location." Matthew Green visits Wakefield and asks what can be done to revive its economy and those of similar places.

Osita Nwanevu explains why the alt-right hates Donald Trump's air strike against Syria.

"Making streets not just safe but obviously safe will require years of effort and some politically very tricky decisions." Peter Walker explains why scrapping speed bumps is a ludicrous solution to air pollution.

"A lot of us had been in combat over the last few weeks, some of us had fought hand-to-hand and many of us had seen acts of incredible bravery but what those scouts did beggared belief. They were civilians, children really and they stayed there, under fire, with a very real risk of getting killed to give us food and water." Keith Marsh relates a remarkable wartime experience of his father's.

Londonist surveys the remains of London's workhouses.

York Stories looks at the restoration of the Tuke house and the Rigg monument, which can both be found close to Walmgate Bar (and have both featured on this blog).

Politician to say sorry over 'male appendage' row in meeting

The Leicester Mercury wins our Headline of the Day Award, but there is more to it than that.

The story below sounds amusing:
During the October meeting Coun Porter was questioning the city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby about a land sale in his Aylestone ward. 
The incident, caught in its entirety on the council's webcast, shows Coun Thomas heckling Coun Porter as he speaks, shouting he 'bottled it'. 
Coun Porter immediately responded saying: "I won't be taking any lectures from somebody named after a male appendage.' 
Lord Mayor Steven Corrall, who chaired the meeting, asked Coun Porter to retract the comment but he did not. 
John Thomas is a slang description of a penis derived from DH Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover.
I blame John Thomas's parents, even if he does win our Name of the Day Award.

But I suspect this story should be read in conjunction with this guest post from Ross Grant - the sole Conservative member on the council - about the way Nigel Porter has been bullied by the Labour group.

And Leicester is not the only city that suffers from Labour bullying./

The other day the Labour group in Sheffield threatened to throw a Green councillor out of the chamber for questioning its insane determination to fell every tree in the city.

The dangers of psychogeography

Recently, I blogged about Iain Sinclair's London Review of Books essay The last London.

I rather like this letter to the LRB in reply:
Like Iain Sinclair, I too walk on the canal path between Victoria Park and Broadway Market, but in many years of doing so I’ve never seen anybody fall into the canal. Sinclair, on the other hand, reports witnessing two such episodes, apparently within a short interval of time. Correlation doesn’t entail causation, but I can’t help asking whether these incidents might be correlated with the presence of a psychogeographer wandering dreamily in search of evocative connections in the middle of the path. 
Giacinto Palmieri
London E2

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Six of the Best 682

With half of British goods exports going to other nations in the EU, and with the UK’s service industries, especially banking, heavily dependent upon unfettered access to the EU single market, the stakes for Britain in the forthcoming negotiations could not be higher. Even before the negotiations have begun there are multiple signs that Britain is heading for economic disaster." Simon Head gives it both barrels in The New York Review of Books.

Richard Kemp says we should let teachers teach.

In 1824 the King and Queen of the Sandwich Islands visited England - with tragic consequences. A fascinating post from Shannon Selin.

The British Museum Podcast talks about the links between that famous establishment and cats.

"Through a little gateway on Fleet Street lies the Temple, the inner sanctum of Britain’s legal profession ... There is no temple, but amid the chambers of barristers is a little old church that has a history going all the way back to the Knights Templar." Flickering Lamps takes us to one of London's hidden treasures.

In which I help Chris Dale discover a wood which looks like a bird leads to an airfield and a reservoir - and they are all in Rutland!

Labour is fighting only 35 seats out of 74 in Shropshire

The Shropshire Star quotes Alan Moseley, leader of the nine-strong Labour group on Shropshire Council:
"We have chosen to concentrate our efforts on those seats where we have a real chance of success.
"We want to make a real effort in those seats where we have got strong support and make a success of it in that way."
The result of this strategy is that Labour is fighting only 35 seats out of 74 in next month's all-out elections to the authority,

This is a reminder of how weak Labour now is in many parts of rural England. And no Liberal Democrat can criticise another party for targeting.

If anything, Labour has been slow to realise the benefits of this strategy in areas where it is thin on the ground.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceBut its decision does suggest that, in Shropshire at least, the surge in membership that accompanied Jeremy Corbyn's election to the leadership has not meant more activists on the ground.

My suggestion that Corbynism is a form of identity politics stands.

The Zombies: Friends Of Mine

The Zombies, or so conventional wisdom has it, never performed any of the songs from Odessey and Oracle live until their recent, well-received concert performances of the whole album.

As this live recording for a BBC session shows, that isn't wholly true.

The song is introduced by Brian Matthew, who died yesterday.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Lib Dems launch their manifesto for Leicestershire county elections

Photo from Michael Mullaney on Twitter

The Liberal Democrat manifesto for next month's Leicestershire County Council elections was launched at an event in Hinckley yesterday evening.

Speeches were given by my old Liberator collective colleague Baroness Liz Barker and my old Harborough District Council colleague Simon Galton.

Simon is now leader of the Lib Dem group on the county council.

The Leicester Mercury quotes him:
"The deepening financial crisis in the NHS, proposed funding reforms in education and local government and the expected transfer of new responsibilities to the county council suggest the second half of this period of austerity is going to be even harder than the first. 
"Yet now is not the time to despair. It is time to turn things around. 
"There are things we can do to change direction and put local residents concerns and needs at the heart of decision making. 
"Whether it's by fixing the problems with adult social care, ensuring we have enough adequately qualified foster carers to ensure every vulnerable child has a stable home, or abandoning unpopular plans to install parking meters in our towns, there is much that can be done to improve things in Leicestershire."
As Simon went on to say, the Conservatives are in charge at Westminster and County Hall, so there is no one else they can blame.

Which explains why their strategy for these elections has so far been to resort to insult and abuse:
Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton has described the Liberal Democrats as "slimeballs" in a speech to Tory councillors and candidates.