Friday, March 24, 2017

King William IV pub, Kingsthorpe, to become private house


When I was in Kingsthorpe on Saturday I thought the William IV had the look of a pub that was not going to reopen.

Sadly I was right, as the Northampton Chronicle & Echo confirms today.

The paper quotes the local Liberal Democrat councillor Sally Beardsworth:
"It's always a shame to see a community lose one of its assets. The closure and sale of the King Billy was handled badly by Enterprise Inns. 
"At least it's been sold to somebody who lives in the village who will have some respect for it. I'm glad it hasn't been sold to any developers and it won't be used for some dreadful block of flats. 
"As a pub, it was central to our annual village fete in the summer and I will miss it for that."
Up the road, the Queen Adelaide, named for William's better half, is still thriving.




Lucky Gordon and Island Records

Chris Salewicz has written a terrific obituary of Aloysius 'Lucky' Gordon, a minor player in the Profumo affair, in the Guardian.

In there is something quite unexpected:
On his release, Gordon discovered that the founder of Island Records in Jamaica, Chris Blackwell, had issued a comedy album about the Profumo affair. 
Gordon tried to hustle money from Blackwell and, while the entrepreneur was immune to his efforts, he did offer Gordon a job as a cook at the Island Records studio in Notting Hill. 
Spirited, witty, but never without an air of menace – or a bag of ganja – Gordon proved an asset to Blackwell, who noted that “Lucky’s energy was very important in helping to establish the right vibe at the studio”.
Given that the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic were signed to Island, and that this blog's hero Steve Winwood was known for his consumption of 'wacky backy' in those days, I suspect I am not putting two and two together and making five.

Whatever the truth of that, when Bob Marley settled in London in 1977, Gordon moved into his Chelsea house to prepare the food.

A remarkable Liberal Democrat gain - and the Uncle books

Last night Peter Pilkington gained the Dunster and Timberscombe ward of West Somerset Council for the Liberal Democrats:

Lib Dem           174 - 49.7% (+49.7)
Conservative    115 - 32.9% (-26.7)
Green                38 - 10.9% (-29.6)
Labour               23 -  6.6% (+6.6)

According to Mark Pack, "the two times previously the ward was up for election since it was created there wasn’t even a Liberal Democrat candidate".

Dunster is known for its castle, yarn market and station on the West Somerset Railway.

While Timberscombe has a claim to fame that is close to the heart of this blog. It was for many years the home of the Revd J.P. Martin, author of the Uncle books.

Woman drove with men lying on bonnet outside SAS camp in Credenhill, Hereford Magistrates Court heard

The Ludlow & Tenbury Wells Advertiser provides our Headline of the Day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mason Crane becomes New South Wales' first overseas player for 30 years

"It is hard not to be excited at the prospect of a young leg spinner in the England test team," I wrote towards the end of the 2015 season.

That young leg spinner was Mason Crane of Hampshire and remarkable things have happened to him since then.

Crane played 12 County Championship matches and took 49 wickets, albeit that they were a little on the expensive side at 45 runs each.

This winter he was sent to play grade cricket for Gordon District Cricket Club in Australia.

There he excelled, taking seven wickets in an innings three times. So well did he bowl that he was picked for New South Wales.

True, the state's best two spinners, Nathan Lyon and Stephen O'Keefe, were playing for Australia in India. But Crane became the first overseas player to be picked for New South Wales since Imran Khan in 1984/5.

Most recently he has being playing for South against North in the slightly odd series of three one-day games that the ECB has arranged in Dubai.

In the last of them he took four wickets for one run to remove the North middle order and win the game.

All very promising. If Crane does go on to have a serious test career, remember you read about him here first.

Iain Sinclair: The last London

Iain Sinclair has an essay in the new London Review of Books - The last London - that is pure Iain Sinclair:
I loved the novelty, in the Thatcher years, of striking off through the conflicted Docklands to Woolwich, Tilbury, Gravesend, as an entropy tourist with a fetish for future ruins. 
I was writing a novel called Downriver and walking, in dialogue, with the cultural historian Patrick Wright, who lived close to me in Hackney. 
We explored the territory together: the Bow Quarter development conjured from the Bryant & May match factory, the weaver’s garret occupied by David Rodinsky above a decommissioned synagogue in Princelet Street, and the first speculative (and doomed) ‘Montmartre meets Montserrat’ restaurant on Dalston Lane. 
Wright managed to get an entire book out of a few hundred yards of old degraded Hackney – and, looking at the place now, you know he was on the money. Dalston Lane was the laboratory in which the wrong kind of future was being aborted: creative demolition, unexplained and uninvestigated arson attacks, compulsive façadism and glittering developments purchased by offshore investors. Dormitories for ghosts. 
And Hackney’s first Premier Inn, built on a site owned by a property company based in West Yorkshire, and finessed by Dexter Moren Associates, a firm of architects also credited with the glitz of the Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard. 
Wright’s book, A Journey through Ruins, was published in 1991. Coming back now to the true fiction of the street as it once was, I saw how prescient he had been, picking through the dirty footprints of Dalston Lane to sketch a firm outline around some of the predators lurking on the horizon. 
Looking hard at the proposed ‘curved glass walls’ of the ‘civic pleasure palace’ of the coming Hackney Town Hall, Wright conjured the excesses of Trump Tower in New York City. Intimations of the man himself. His boundless ambition and gambler’s belief in magic.
That, by the way, is a single paragraph in the original. There are writers who put less into whole books.

And Patrick Wright's A Journey Through Ruins is a wonderful book. It became a touchstone to me when I was writing my Masters dissertation on Richard Jefferies and the section on After London in particular.

Ukip's first MP charged with electoral fraud



From The Irish Times today:
Former Conservative MP Bob Spink, who defected to Ukip and became its first MP, has been charged with electoral fraud. 
The 68-year-old has been charged alongside a second man, 38-year-old James Parkin, over allegations that they submitted false signatures on Ukip nomination papers. 
The accusations relate to the local election for Castle Point Borough Council in south Essex, England in 2016.
The reports goes on to say that Spinks and his co-accused will appear at Ipswich Magistrates Court on 25 April.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Clayton West Station signal box


When I posted my photo of the last day of the Clayton West branch, I also linked to someone else's photo of the terminus.

I said:
If I am in it, I am one of people in the middle distance walking along the track towards the signal box.
I know that because I took this photo of it that day. In fact I was allowed into the box (as I also was at Redmire and the much busier Ilkley Junction). Those were the days.

Clayton West Station Cabin had already lost its nameboard. No doubt it had already gone to Collectors' Corner to be sold off to an enthusiast.

You can see a photo of it complete with name on The Signal Box.

Six of the Best 677

"This lack of engagement with any actual evidence permeates the entire piece. The widely understood phenomenon of induced demand (building roads creates more traffic) is dismissed as ‘anti-car environmentalism’, while any attempts to point out that issues might be linked are dismissed as ‘holistic (i.e. woolly) thinking’." Nick Barlow is not impressed by a new publication on the environment from Liberal Reform.

"Edinburgh City Council has employed a social return on investment model which concluded that for every £1 of investment in parks, around £12 of benefits are delivered, with a higher return when money is invested in premier central parks." Janet Sillett says we should celebrate the full value of parks.

Jennifer Brown, Jeannie Mackie and Yvonne Shell offer psychological, legal and clinical commentary on the Helen Archer (Titchener) attempted murder trial in Radio 4’s The Archers.

"If Take Me High failed to anticipate how briefly concrete would reign, it was prescient in foreseeing which direction the city would turn next. When Birmingham wanted to shake off its concrete-and-cars reputation it looked to its canal network to provide a new narrative. The redevelopment of Brindley Place took place in the early 1990s but Cliff had started the whole process off almost two decades earlier." Catherine O’Flynn on a prescient Cliff Richard film.
RR
Jane Dismore on Pocahontas and the search for her bones.

Crown Court was always on television if you were off school in the 1970s. Ivan Kirby examines a case in depth.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Philosophy's trolley problem has been solved



Wikipedia explains the trolley problem:
The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics. The general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. 
You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. 
You have two options: 
  1. Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. 
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. 
Which is the most ethical choice?
That entry says the problem was introduced by Philippa Foot in 1967, but I did not come across it when I studied moral philosophy a dozen years later.

There were similar puzzles around, which were designed to embarrass utilitarians. Their theories obliged them to make one choice while, it was argued, our moral intuitions told us that the other choice was right.

I was never sure how much those moral intuitions were worth in the abstract. Do we really know what we would feel in an extreme situation? Sacrificing a few troops to save many more must quickly come to feel moral in time of war.

Anyway, I hope this young man has solved the trolley problem and that ethics will take a more interesting turn as a result.

Top commentator says Lib Dems could cause a political earthquake



"For some time there has been a gap in the market on the centre-ground of politics," wrote Rachel Sylvester behind The Times paywall this morning:
Tory modernisers hoped they could seize this territory and Labour moderates contemplating forming a new party to occupy it. 
Perhaps, though, the hole will be filled by the Lib Dems.
As evidence she offers our recent successes in council by-elections and are growing membership:
Many new recruits are former Labour supporters, who are disillusioned with the direction in which Mr Corbyn is taking the party, especially over Europe. 
A recent "action day" in the Labour leader's own Islington North constituency was a great success.
She also writes about the party's improving finances, which will be less familiar news to most Lib Dem members:
Money is also starting to flow in from business people who fear the economic consequences of leaving the European single market. 
In the last quarter of 2016, the Lib Dems for the first time raised more money than Labour, securing almost £2 million. It was only the beginning of a transfer of allegiances and funds. 
I am told that at least one wealthy donor who gave to Labour under Mr Blair has contributed to the Lib Dems in the past few weeks and the party is in discussions with several others ... 
"A few years ago it was car-boot sales, now famous international business figures are prepared to talk to us and introduce us to their friends," says one slightly astonished strategist.
Also this morning, the Sun reported that Tory MPs in Devon and Cornwall are lobbying Theresa May against an early election as they are afraid the Lib Dems would take their seats.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kingsthorpe New Churchyard Pocket Park


There was a wedding going on at St John the Baptist, Kingsthorpe, so I couldn't look round it. People can be so selfish.

But I had its graveyard, now a pocket park, to myself.

It was a spring day and somewhere nearby I could hear trains on the Northampton loop of the West Coast main line.

I have reproduced these photos in colour to preserve the feel of spring. Besides, if you print photographs of old graveyards in black and white you may see more than you wish.

Call it pareidolia if that comforts you.





"It will be a good thing for Ukip when the MEPs are gone" says its national chairman

Richard Billington, the chairman of Harborough Ukip, didn’t just email his own thoughts to a mailing list that included people outside his party.

He also attached notes of a meeting with Ukip’s national chairman Paul Oakden.

That meeting, according to a tweet from Dan Martin, the Leicester Mercury’s political correspondent, took place in Melton Mowbray on 5 March.

Dan has already tweeted a couple of gems from them and today more were published by Guido Fawkes.

Headed “These notes MUST NOT be put on social media,” they reveal that Oakden hates social media and believes all Ukip candidates should close their accounts: “It just causes more grief.”

And according to Dan Martin, Oakden said:
“It will be a good thing for Ukip when the MEPs are gone. They tend to see themselves as elevated and get in the way of basic Ukip members processes at branch level.”
Dan reminds us that Oakden used to work for Roger Helmer.

And Billington himself offers the observation:
“Many people said quietly to me that it is a good job we didn’t win as Stoke is a serious black hole of degradation.  Let the crazy and quite unpleasant Labour MP have the seat with its much reduced majority.”

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Muff Winwood on being crowned an icon



The mighty Muff Winwood was crowned as an icon at last year's A&R Awards.

This is a video of his acceptance speech.
"'Wankers.' That's what we called them: 'Wankers.' And then I became one."

Six of the Best 676

Richard Kemp calls for a real debate on drugs.

"This is the man who, as shadow chancellor, signed up for Gordon Brown’s spending plans, then, on moving into the Treasury, declared that he would save us all from the dire consequences of those same plans, before ending up delivering fiscal policies little different in aggregate from those that had been pursued by his predecessor, Brown’s chancellor Alistair Darling." Dan Atkinson untangles the puzzling legacy of George Osborne.

"Offa’s Dyke is inexplicable to many, unknowable to the majority. In places it is too denuded to be appreciated, elsewhere it is completely lost." Howard Williams debates the meaning a monument.

James King uncovers the homoerotic subtext of John Le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Clare Hand on how London came to love the Regent's Canal.

"In Back to the Future Part III, when Marty McFly loses a chess game to Copernicus the dog, he does so despite an illegal position, and one Season 5 episode of The Office has Jim with both of his bishops on white squares, an impossible orientation in that particular game." Cara Giaimo explains why chess fans hate the movies.

Laura Marling: Nothing, Not Nearly


Rachel Aroesti writes in the Guardian:
A few years ago, Laura Marling got lost. Living in Los Angeles – where she’d moved as an independence-seeking 21-year-old – she took a hiatus from the music-making that had earned her three Top 10 albums and stacks of songwriter-of-her-generation style plaudits, and reinvented herself as a yoga instructor. Not being particularly well known in the US, this career change left her wholly incognito. “I had no identity. It was really, really, really difficult,” she says. “I was socially bankrupt.” 
Not only was she stripped of her status, but a bout of depression had left her bereft in other ways. It was a “very null time”, she says. “I didn’t feel like I had a gender in a weird way – I’d lost a lot of weight so I didn’t really have any feminine features.” She shaved her head and “looked like a young boy. It was quite a good experience of being a non-sexual presence in the world, like a eunuch.” The cherry on top of this cake of devastating self-negation? She wasn’t even very good at teaching yoga. “You need to know a lot more than I know to do it well,” she admits. 
Today, Marling’s former identity as songwriter-of-her-generation is fully restored; the 27-year-old is back doing what she does better than almost anyone else. Her new album of folk-inflected rock is her most direct and accessible in years. Fuelled by gorgeous vocals, hypnotic fingerpicking and singalong melodies, Semper Femina is what one might categorise as “classic” singer-songwriter fare in the lineage of Neil Young, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Rutland banana

The end of our week at Bonkers Hall. I can confirm that the Rutland banana does exist, but they are buggers to peel.

Sunday

One hears a lot of nonsense about the European Union demanding that bananas should be straight. Have the people who promulgate this untruth never heard of the Rutland banana? It can be found growing wild by the road in the humid south of Rutland, but the best specimens are those nurtured by Meadowcroft in his glass houses here at the Hall.

This fruit is twisted like a corkscrew can indeed be used for removing a stubborn cork from the neck of a bottle of Dom Foster. Not only that: it can be used to pick locks. Which is why I am able to save the day at St Asquith’s this morning when the choir and congregation finds itself locked out. (I generally bring a snack along in cast the Revd Hughes Goes On A Bit.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Kingsthorpe: Where Northampton has almost won


Pitsford surprised me. Boughton astounded me. But by the time you get to Kingsthorpe the encroachment of Northampton is almost complete.

The old village is still there amongst it all. So you get a road with an ironstone farmhouse on one side and Victorian terraces on the other. A village green bordered by mid-20th-century bungalows. Rural enclaves with 21st-century infill at the end of them.

And, says Wikipedia, it is something of a nursery for actors. Joan Hickson, Judy Carne and Lesley Joseph all lived here as girls.

I wonder if St Mary Mead is now like this?








Harborough Ukip chairman sacked as candidate over "money for nothing" email

Richard Billington, the chairman of Ukip in Harborough, who told potential candidates they could "make money by doing nothing" if they got elected to Leicestershire County Council" has been dropped as a candidate himself.

He will not now be fighting the Foxton and West Harborough ward.

The announcement was made, says the Leicester Mercury, in a statement from David Sprason, who is Ukip's Leicestershire chairman and the party's national welfare and social policy spokesman.

The Mercury also quotes Billington's email (which was also sent to some people outside the party).

It begins:
"If you want to help yourself, your family and UKIP please stand. 
"You need to do nothing. 
"I will do the legwork. I only need three people now. 
"I just want your name on a form - that's all.
So far, if we accept a charitable interpretation of helping yourself and your family, no problem. All parties field paper candidates.

But it goes on:
"If you by chance win, you can always avoid the meetings - 8 per year and still collect a few thousands £ until they ask you to leave! 
"If the half-wits in the Lords can make money by doing nothing, so can we! 
"It's a strange thing democracy!"
Sprason's statement says a full investigation into Billington's actions by the Ukip chairman will take place.

From that I assume he is still a Ukip member. But surely they can find someone else to chair their Harborough branch?

David Sprason, incidentally, came to the attention of this blog a few years ago, when he was still a Conservative, after some trouble over a fruity DVD.

Was Paul Nuttall a university lecturer or not?


When Paul Nuttall's website reappeared (to general rejoicing) last week, I wrote of the claims about his past that are no longer to be found on it:
The claim that Nuttall has been a university lecturer has been deleted.
This always seemed unlikely to me, but it was repeated without comment by many journalists when Nuttall was elected leader of Ukip.
Yet if you go to the Press Releases section of the site, you will still found it made several times,

On 21 February 2010 the world was told:
“I am not for one minute criticising students, who by and large work hard, I am criticising this Government for devaluing university education,” said Mr Nuttall, who is a former University history lecturer.
On 10 October 2014:
But Mr Nuttall, UKIP Deputy Leader, and Education spokesman, who is from a low income background and worked as a University lecturer, calls the proposal an example of the worst kind of social engineering that will act as a great disincentive to success.
And on 27 July 2015:
Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall, a former University lecturer, has also highlighted the role of Monnet Professors, academics selected and funded by the EU to promote EU integration..
So was Nuttall a university lecturer or not?

Because the claim was weeded after his site became an embarrassment to him during the Stoke Central by-election, I am inclined to think he was not.

How come he claimed to be in three different press releases?

Clearly, a press officer made the same mistake three times.

Or it could be that three different press officers made the mistake once each?

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Dodd's Army, they called it

I have done some research and this story checks out. There is no mention of the scheme in the official histories!

Saturday

Defence cuts have hit hard in recent years, but I remember the Sixties (the Nineteen Sixties let me hastily add!) when, if the balloon had gone up, repelling the invader will have been left in the hands of a comedian and his small companions. Dodd’s Army, they called it – even at the time I wondered if it would be enough.

Of course, if you look in the official histories you will find no mention of this scheme.

Friday, March 17, 2017

When Ray Wilkins was Butch Wilkins and a genius



 Here is Richard Williams as quoted on this blog back in 2009:
Ray Wilkins was 18 years old when Eddie McCreadie gave him the captaincy of Chelsea back in 1975, with the team newly relegated to the old Second Division. The fresh-faced teenager was succeeding Ron "Chopper" Harris, the most gnarled of veterans. 
To outsiders it seemed as though McCreadie was taking an outrageous chance. But Wilkins's precocious calmness and football intelligence made him a superb captain of a side that mixed a few old stagers – Peter Bonetti, David Webb, Charlie Cooke, Ian Hutchinson – with a lot of much younger players, and two years later they were back in the top flight. 
I saw Wilkins in one of his early first‑team appearances, before McCreadie made him captain, and what I saw persuaded me that it was worth making a special effort to watch him regularly. With no allegiance – prior or subsequent – to Chelsea I bought a Stamford Bridge season ticket for those two seasons in the Second Division and got value for my money (£50, all told, for a good seat in the then‑new West Stand) from his performances alone ...
In his Chelsea years Wilkins showed himself to be as good a manipulator of the ball as any English footballer I can remember, including Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney.
The video above will give you an idea of what he means. And he had hair.

It was a great shame that Chelsea were unable to keep Wilkins. Instead he was sold to Manchester United and did the fetching and carrying for Bryan Robson.

Harborough Ukip tells candidates they can "make money by doing nothing"


From the Leicester Mercury:
A senior Ukip official has told potential candidates they "can make money by doing nothing" if they get elected to Leicestershire County Council. 
Harborough Ukip chairman Richard Billington told colleagues if 'by chance' they win a seat at County Hall on May 4 they can avoid going to meetings and collect their expenses "until they are asked to leave". 
He said: "If the half-wits in the Lords can make money by doing nothing, so can we! It's a strange thing democracy!" 
Mr Billington made the comments in an email sent earlier this month regarding a meeting with Ukip's national chairman Paul Oakden.
According to the Mercury, Mr Billington, who will be the party's candidate in the Foxton and West Harborough ward in May, told recipients of the email that it was forbidden to put its contents on line.

It is a good thing that the Mercury has been sent a copy, because a lot of the other things Mr Billington has to say make entertaining reading:

But even in Ukip, his attitude must stand out as unacceptable. I trust Mr Billington will be thrown out of the party.

Later on Twitter...

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A warning to Labour after Stoke

See? Razor-sharp analysis. The old boy is not such a buffer as some suppose. 

Friday

Home from Stoke-on-Trent where I have been helping in the by-election. I have nothing against the good people of Copeland, but a chap doesn’t want to glow in the dark, what?

Besides, I had promised Cook I would buy a replacement pie dish for the Wedgwood one that good broken on the night we celebrated Sarah Olney’s victory in the Richmond Park by-election.

I am afraid that Ukip’s candidate was something of a dud: no one believed his claims to have been the first Briton in space (as every schoolboy used to know, it was Raymond Baxter). Let me, however, give the Labour Party the benefit of my long experience.

I recall we Liberal Democrats got terribly excited when we held Eastleigh after poor Huhne was dragged off to Dartmoor. Yet, as I pointed out at the time, the Tories and Ukippers helpfully split the reactionary vote between them. Not only that: the Tory candidate was so bad that she was sent off to Patagonia halfway through the campaign.

I was saddened, but not surprised, when we lost the seat at the following general election. The parallels with the result in Stoke-on-Trent are all too clear.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Troubled Walberswick Parish Council appoints World Bank’s former Afghanistan country director

Coastal Scene ("Latest news and sport from the Suffolk coast") wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The last day of the Clayton West branch


The Clayton West branch, which left the Sheffield to Penistone line east of Shepley, closed to passengers on 22 January 1983,

It was the coal traffic from Park Mill colliery that kept services running when Dr Beeching had done for so many other lines.

I must have taken this photograph in Huddersfield station that day.

You can read the history of the branch on the Disused Stations page for Clayton West.

That page has a photograph of a train at Clayton West the same day.

If I am in it, I am one of people in the middle distance walking along the track towards the signal box. We did not worry about things like that in those days.

Six of the Best 675

Mark Pack gives us four things to note about the record electoral fine levied against the Conservative Party: "The Conservative Party repeatedly refused to cooperate fully with the Electoral Commission investigation, requiring the Commission to go to court to get access to relevant evidence."

You've heard of climate-change deniers. Now, reports Emily Atkin, there are air-pollution deniers too.

"The capitalist class seeks to avoid responsibility for the many problems it causes, so it frames pain and suffering as somehow natural and inevitable." Susan Rosentahl offers a marxist theory of mental illness.

Sam Knight tells us what will happen when the Queen dies: "BBC 1, 2 and 4 will be interrupted and revert silently to their respective idents – an exercise class in a village hall, a swan waiting on a pond – before coming together for the news."

Bob Mankoff is retiring as cartoon editor of the New Yorker after 20 years. He discusses some of his favourites with Jennifer Schuessler.

Philip Butler celebrates the modernist architecture of Dudley Zoo.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Hand-in-hand with Hitler

Here the old brute demonstrates the advantages of a long life in public service and a good memory.

Thursday

When I saw Theresa May holding hands with Trump (of whose genesis I was writing only the other day) I was filled with foreboding.

For I am old enough to remember 1938 and Neville Chamberlain flying off to Munich to meet Hitler. During a lull in the talks, the pair of them were photographed strolling hand-in-hand through a meadow in the Bavarian Alps.

When Chamberlain came back to London in triumph, that picture appeared on the front page of all the papers; but things turned sour and it was to haunt him for the brief years that were left to him.

Why was there no one at Mrs May’s elbow to remind her of this?

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

On board the Conservatives' Battlebus2015



With Conservative expense returns for the last general election under scrutiny in more than 20 constituencies, an old post on Conservative Home makes interesting reading:
After the jollity of the first evening, the Battlebus departed from its base in Glastonbury, which we made our HQ for the six days or so. We travelled across the South West of England from Torbay in the south to Cheltenham in the north of the region, visiting five constituencies along the way. 
The days were long: 7.25 start, and arriving back at the hotel past midnight, sleep was short. I even dreamt about doorstep conversations (that’s conversations on the doorstep not with them). The work was tough with a lot of walking, and one had to stay switched on, because we knew how important these conversations were. 
Along with other activists I am still recovering, and turned to lozenges to sooth the throat after having numerous conversations a day. The miles of walking with heavy satchels full of leaflets took its toll on our wallets too, because the bill for sticky plasters and remedies for back pain was totting up. 
Regardless of the toil, the relationships that were formed during those six days or so between the activists on the battle bus were intense. Spending 18 hours a day with each other for six days and for some 24 hours, because we shared a twin room back at the hotel, we formed strong long lasting friendships.
And who paid for these larks?

The Eventbrite page for Battlebus 2015 tells us:
Following the fantastic success of our campaign days in the past year, Roadtrip2015 is delighted to invite you to join us in the final weeks of the General Election campaign, for this once in a lifetime opportunity, as we take Battlebus2015 all over the country for our brilliant candidates, hoping to hold current seats and win new ones! 
We will be running two buses for ten action packed days where we will based in Tamworth and Taunton/Glastonbury, travelling from here to seats all over the country. You can join us for the full ten days, or the first or last 5 days ...
We ask for a payment of just £50 (£25 for students) which will be small contribution towards the hotel costs. We will meet ALL the remaining hotel costs and ALL the food costs and provide FREE transport to the Battlebus2015 hotel from London.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

John Finnemore, Herr Pachelbel and his celebrated Canon

The drone footage of Crowland Abbey I posted yesterday was accompanied by a familiar tune: Pachelbel's Canon.

It put me in mind of this sketch from John Finnemore...



and its follow up...

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Jeremy Corbyn was recruited by the Conservatives at prep school

When I first read this entry I was inclined not to believe a word of it. 

After Jeremy Corbyn'a performance at prime minister's questions today, I am forced to admit that, as so often, the old boy is right.

Wednesday

The Conservative Party, like the KGB, is always scouting for talent at Oxbridge and our leading public schools. What is not widely known, is that they sometimes recruit at an even tenderer age.

Years ago a drunken Tory confessed to me that his party has talent spotters at prep schools. What they look for goodness only knows – a winning way with the ablative plural, perhaps, or particularly clean knees.

The children they recruit there are put into the deepest cover, becoming schoolboy and student Socialists before joining left-wing groupuscules and eventually finding their way into the Labour Party. Some are elected to Westminster, where they advocate ridiculous policies guaranteed to boost the Conservative vote.

Such deep-cover agents are not unusual – I expect my readers could name a few themselves – but to the best of my knowledge Jeremy Corbyn is the first Conservative to lead the Labour Party. It’s Terribly Clever, but is it cricket?

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A drone flight over Crowland Abbey



A drone flight over this little-known Lincolnshire parish church and monastic ruin.

I visited Crowland Abbey and the town's unique bridge back in 2009 - note the comment on Lincolnshire history from Simon Titley on the first post.

And the tune accompanying the video puts me in mind of a comedy sketch I shall share with you presently.

Conservative MP interviewed under caution over election spending



The Guardian reports that Craig Mackinlay, the Conservative MP who defeated Nigel Farage in Thanet South in 2015, was interviewed under caution for six hours by the police today.

It was the part of the inquiry into whether the party overspent in the constituency at the last general election.

The report goes on to quote an email from Karl McCartney, another Tory MP under investigation, who is helping his similarly place colleagues.

In that email ("seen by Sky News") McCartney writes that his colleagues:
“feel completely cast adrift by CCHQ/whips/the parliamentary party and left to fend for themselves”. 
He added: “At what stage do you think you [the party] might inform us that another media s***storm is coming? We didn’t create this mess, the clever dicks at CCHQ did, and I don’t see their professional reputations being trashed in the media much.” 
“The initial cock-ups, ‘strategy’ and ineptitude with regard to this issue that has so negatively impacted our: lives, standing in our communities, standing amongst colleagues, families and our regard for particular parts of the party centrally, and were all of CCHQ’s making … need to stop. 
“We are the ones who are now [and since the beginning as individuals have been] in the media spotlight and it might have been a little more reassuring and collegiate if the powers that be in our party perhaps tried to be a little bit more supportive and less interested in covering their own backsides.” 
A Conservative source said the party did not hold a copy of the Electoral Commission report as McCartney alleged.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Donald Trump was born in Stornoway

When I suggested to Lord Bonkers that this entry deserves the annotation 'Huge if true', he snorted "What d'you mean 'if''?"

I also mentioned that some of the attitudes displayed here are a little unfortunate, but he was equally dismissive.

Tuesday

It was the autumn of 1945 and I was relaxing at the Hall after being released from my war work (still hush hush, I am afraid) when there came a telephone call from Whitehall. It transpired that a strange orange hairy creature was haunting the Outer Hebrides and ravishing the local womenfolk. “That’s a Scotsman,” I replied shortly and replaced the receiver. However, they called back and when it became apparent that there was More To It, I undertook to travel to Lewis and Harris to investigate.

Upon reaching Stornoway I quickly deduced that the creature in question was an escaped orangutan. I also discovered that it had fathered a child with a local woman – an orange, wizened little thing with a strange shock of hair. The local church, which I found Rather Hard Work (all those elders) was taking a dim view. I did begin arrangements for the orangutan to be shipped to a zoo on the mainland, but the general view on the Long Island was that it was doing good work weaving tweed and should be allowed to stay.

As to the woman, I helped her travel to New York. I later heard she had married a tycoon with the unfortunate name of ‘Trump’, who adopted her child. I thought that would be the last of it, but by now you will all know what happened next.

I was dining with an American lawyer the other evening. He told me that there is no constitutional necessity for the President of the United States to be human on both sides, but if word gets out that he was born in the Outer Hebrides then it will cause An Awful Fuss.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Monday, March 13, 2017

Louth to Mablethorpe in the 1960s


Read more about this long-vanished line on the Disused Stations page for Mablethorpe.

How British deference to the Royal Family protected child abusers



Back in 2003 I wrote a column for Clinical Psychology Forum under the name Professor Strange arguing that the practice of sending British children abroad was centuries old and had frequently been controversial.

Despite that controversy, it had lasted until around 1970.

Media coverage of the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse has brought to the fore one reason: the patronage of the Royal Family.

Take this report from ABC News in Australia:
In 1956 a fact-finding mission was sent to Australia to evaluate how child migrants were being treated. 
Soon afterwards the three inspectors published the Ross Report, which placed both Fairbridge schools on a blacklist, prohibiting children from being sent there
This outraged the Fairbridge Society's British Secretary WR Vaughan, who used all the establishment clout he could muster to reverse the ban. 
He went straight to Australia House in London and told the migration officer there he had 16 children waiting to sail and that he wanted the situation resolved within days. 
Then he marched down to the Commonwealth Relations Office where he declared there would be a "first class row" if the blacklist was not lifted. 
Senior civil servants knew exactly what this threat meant. The Fairbridge Society's president was the Queen's uncle — the former Governor General of Australia — the Duke of Gloucester. 
A departmental memo warned the Duke's "intervention would be sought" if the standstill continued. 
Within days the blacklist was lifted and the British Government allowed children to be sent to the Fairbridge farms in NSW and WA. They even helped subsidise the journeys.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Staring back at Theresa May

The new Liberator has arrived, which means it is time to spend another week with Lord Bonkers. Right from the off, he takes us to the heart of the debate on Europe.

Monday

I was resting my eyes in the Lords; when I opened them, there was the prime minister In Our House. What immortal rind! And she was staring at me. I wasn’t having that so I stared right back. When that didn’t work I went through my full gamut of faces: the lovesick Frisian; the angry walrus; Roy Jenkins on the lavatory.

That, I thought, had done the trick when she hurried out, but her place was taken by a Cabinet colleague. It was clear that a more organised approach was needed, so I took a party of Liberal Democrat peers (you may have noticed we are not exactly short of them) off to the tearoom for a spot of training in Hard Stares and pulling the aforementioned faces (though the Jenkins is not one for novices).

I am proud to announce that, after I had left for home, one of my pupils made a junior minister cry.

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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

It was 40 years ago today: The Centenary Test

In one corner of the Hilton, Don Bradman broke bread with England's Bodyline attack. In another, 84-year-old Percy Fender, when reminded that in 1930 he had doubted Bradman's ability to succeed in the lushness of England, ruefully replied: "An indiscretion of youth." 
On the concourses of the MCG, scoreboard nameplates of old greats hung, exuding history. On match morning, 18 past captains were paraded on the ground, Ian Chappell in a green safari suit. Well, it was the '70s.
40 years ago tonight, the Centenary Test began in Melbourne. Australia and England came together for a one-off game to mark the 100th anniversary of the first Ashes test.

It was a great occasion and the cricket lived up to it. Australia won by 45 runs, just as they had done a century before.

But for a long time it looked as though they were going to make the 463 runs needed to win in the last innings.

Derek Randall scored a wonderful 174, interspersing his clowning with ravishing strokes. I remember, listening in the small hours, hearing John Arlott quoting Shakespeare:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here.
But though Mike Brearley, Dennis Amiss, Tony Greig and Alan Knott all passed 40, no one was able to give him enough support for England to win. The scorecard is on Cricinfo.

Randall won Man of the Match, but an account of the test by Greg Baum suggests Dennis Lillee's performance in defying illness and injury to take 11 wickets in the match was greater:
[Rodney] Marsh protests to this day that though Randall made the match, Lillee won it.
Lillee did not tour England in the summer of 1977 and England, by then captained by Brearley because Greig's involvement with Kerry Packer had been revealed, won back the Ashes.

And Derek Randall never quite had the career that that innings in Melbourne promised. A few years later Matthew Engel was to suggest that there were three rules for new selectors:
Don't have more than two glasses of port after dinner, don't interrupt the Chairman of Selectors and if in doubt drop Randall.

Six of the Best 674

"Every good brand needs a theme and an aesthetic, and President Donald Trump has spent decades cultivating both. The theme is success, wealth, winning, and the aesthetic is bright, brassy, loud—or, depending whom you ask, gaudy and fake." Peter York says that style is 'dictator chic'.

"Yangon’s old British buildings have the look of Gothic ruins gone astray in a tropical forest that cannot accommodate their scale." Lawrence Osborne retraces George Orwell's footsteps in Myanmar.

Simon Usborne on why unexploded bombs keep turning up on London building sites.

Mark Redfern meets Neil Hannon. Well, it's only a questionnaire really, but there are lots of video clips.

Peter Houseman was a member of the Chelsea teams that won the FA Cup in 1970 and the European Cup Winners' Cup the following year. He died in a car crash in 1977. John Hollins remembers him on the Chelsea FC site.

From writing papers to urinating on other people’s work, cats have a rich history of scholarly work, finds Glen Wright.

GCHQ warns British political parties of danger of Russian hacking

The National Cyber Security Centre (part of GCHQ) has written to the leaders of Britain's political parties warning them about the threat of Russian hacking at the next general election.

And Sky News has the text of the letter, which comes from Ciaran Martin, the centre's chief executive:
"You will be aware of the coverage of events in the United States, Germany and elsewhere reminding us of the potential for hostile action against the UK political system ... 
"This is not just about the network security of political parties' own systems. 
"Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond this and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals' email accounts."
And, the report goes on to say, the Sunday Times quotes a GCHQ source as saying it regards protecting the British political system from foreign hackers as "priority work".

Later. Lord Bonkers tells me he "caught two fellows with snow on their boots going through the Shuttleworths" at a remote rural committee room during the Ripon by-election of 1973.

Blancmange: Living on the Ceiling



I am a big fan of the reruns of Top of the Pops - or at least those episodes Operation Yewtree has left to us - on BBC4.

They have reached 1983, when I remember the charts as being less interesting than they had been a couple of years before that. The break up of The Jam really was the end of an era.

But there have been good records in recent broadcasts - notably this one from Blancmange, which reached no. 7 in November 1982.

Kajagoogoo, by contrast, sound just as bad as they did 34 years ago.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Where the railway went after Ilkley station


In January I posted two photographs of Ilkley station that I took back in 1980 - here and here to be precise.

They showed the hole in the back wall of the station where the line used to continue to Skipton.

Yesterday I came across a 1956 film of Wharfedale.

The still above is taken from it and shows the railway leaving Ilkley station on a bridge over The Grove to continue on its way.

If you click on it you can view the whole film on the British Film Institute site.

Claudio Ranieri left Leicester's players 'baffled' by butter rampage

Congratulations to the Independent on winning our coveted Headline of the Day Award.

Paul Nuttall's website is back: Which claims have been deleted?

Paul Nuttall's website was taken down during the Stoke-on-Trent by-election campaign with the obviously false explanation that it was "undergoing scheduled maintenance",

I wrote at the time:
If it ever comes back on line, you can be sure textual scholars will be comparing the two versions to see exactly what has been deleted.
Well it has reappeared, and some of that work has been done by Marie Le Conte and Paul Curry on BuzzFeed.

What have they found?

The claim that Nuttall has been a university lecturer has been deleted.

This always seemed unlikely to me, but it was repeated without comment by many journalists when Nuttall was elected leader of Ukip.

So to has the claim that Nuttall was a professional footballer, which used to appear on the site several times. Now he claims no more than that he is "a former footballer with Tranmere Rovers youth team".

Finally, the claim that Nuttall was invited to become a board member of the North West Training Council has gone.

This despite the fact that a spokesman for Ukip told the Mirror that the offer had been made when this claim was first questioned.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Policing Leicester in 1959



This film was commissioned by the Colonial Office to promote Britain's police service to the colonies and Commonwealth states.

It follows a typical day in the life of police constable Jack Edwards as he patrols his Leicester beat.

Look for the old Midland Red bus garage in Peacock Lane, Charles Street police station, Leicester Central station and the London Road with a BOAC office.

No doubt this film gives a false picture of policing in 1959, but the fact that we waned to see ourselves - and to be seen - like this is sobering in an age of tasers and spit hoods.

George Galloway eyes Manchester Gorton



From the Guardian website this afternoon:
George Galloway could be preparing for a political comeback in the highly contested Gorton byelection. 
The former MP will only say that he is “considering standing” – but sources say he has been on the campaign trail for three weeks. 
On Friday, Galloway was reportedly giving a talk to the congregation of a local mosque in the area, further signalling his bid to be elected to the Manchester seat, vacant since the death of Sir Gerald Kaufman. 
A source close to Galloway explained that the veteran leftwinger had picked the constituency because it fitted “perfectly” with his political ideals.
There is a danger in being a pundit from a distance, but I suspect this is good news for the Liberal Democrats.

The Orange Book was too statist for me

When I saw this tweet I suspected it was a parody, but it does come from the official Liberal Reform account.

The most vocal young economic liberals in the Liberal Democrats tended to find deeply principled reasons for leaving the party when it became clear the roof was going to fall in at the 2015 general election.

But I am sure Liberal Reform will still find some keen to win this prize.

Those who are lucky enough to do so may be disappointed. The Orange Book is not a coherent philosophical work but an uneven collection of essays on different areas of policy.

It is also approaching its 13th birthday, which is long in the tooth for a book of that sort.

And libertarians readers will be surprised by at least one of the chapters.

When I reviewed The Orange Book for Liberator back in 2004, I had this to say:
And then there is Steve Webb. Webb argues that liberals should not take a laissez-faire approach to the family, yet his views are not as ground-breaking as he seems to think. With the exception of a pamphlet I published last year, I cannot recall any Liberal Democrat questioning the move, rapidly accelerated under this government, towards more state intervention in family life. Certainly, none of the 64 references in his essay point the reader towards a dissident view. 
Webb offers an apocalyptic view: our children are suffering more mental health problems than ever before, they are starting school unable to talk or listen, they are turning to drink. What is strange is that this view is supported only by references to surveys and magazine articles. As an MP Webb must regularly meet all sorts of people who work for children, yet nowhere does he mention them. Basing his arguments on their testimony would have made for a more interesting essay – and quite possibly a very different one too. As it is, his work reads like a collection of press cuttings; it may be no coincidence, that Webb is the only person in the book to make his research assistant the joint author of his paper. 
The answer to our predicament, Webb argues, lies in massive state intervention, delivered through the voluntary sector. He lists a number of schemes with approval, but it is hard to judge them because we have no direct knowledge of them. What is more worrying is that there is no sign that Webb has direct knowledge of them either. Again, he relies upon published references and gives no sign that he has met the people whose work he is praising. And, while liberals will favour government support for the voluntary sector, its essence lies in the personal qualities of those who work in it and its local nature. Any attempt to roll out a scheme nationally will inevitably tend to reduce it to a trite formula that fails to reproduce the unique characteristics that made the original model work. 
Somewhere in Webb's essay is the ghost of a more interesting, more personal contribution. One senses that he really sees our salvation as lying in a revival of marriage – he spends a couple of pages convincing himself that welfare benefits do not encourage young women to have babies out of marriage – and a greater role for religion. It is a shame that Webb did not write that other essay, because it might have offered the beginnings of an interesting critique of free-market economics. The traditional criticism of it is the Marxist one that capitalism will impoverish the workers, but we know by now that this is not true. A more subtle critique is the conservative, communitarian one which sees the free market as hollowing out important social institutions and acting as more of a destructive than a creative force. 
Webb's essay as it stands, however, turns our idea of what constitutes virtue on its head. A healthy society sees it as residing locally – in the family and friendship and in strong local communities – and is distrustful of national government because it is distant and anonymous. To Webb, however, virtue resides in the state and in the professionals and volunteers whom it licenses, while families and individuals are weak and morally suspect.
I have always been something of a Steve Webb fan and I suspect the editors invited him to contribute to The Orange Book to dispel the idea that it came solely from the economic liberal wing of the party.

But when his essay appeared alongside ones like David Laws' call for the National Health Service to be replaced by a system of private insurance, the effect was unfortunate.

It reinforced the impression that economic liberalism stands up for the interests of the big corporations.

Money must be set free, they seem to argue, but people must be more closely policed to make sure they do not have public money spent on them and that they are the model citizens those corporations require.

Six of the Best 673

Energlyn Churchill says a more credible Labour leader than Jeremy Corbyn would help the Liberal Democrats. And he's right.

"Our social care system is a leaky bucket. Large chunks of cash invested in social care end up in the hands of private investors. Instead of simply pouring an endless stream of public funds at the problem, we urgently need to fix the bucket." Sarah Lyall tells us how to do it.

The effects of Britain's involvement in the slave trade are still with us, argues Chris Dillow.

Sophie Miskiw on her father, the tabloid journalist and phone-hacker.

"50 years after its UK release it reverberates way beyond the notoriety of Jane Birkin showing her bits on screen. Appropriately for a picture about perception and ambiguity, it plays very differently from the one I remember first seeing years ago." Anthony Quinn marks an important anniversary for Blow-Up.

Andy Dangerfield explores the lost rivers that flow beneath London.