Monday, March 19, 2018

Six of the Best 776

"Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has more than ever become wedded to centralised statism and a return to the 1970s, whilst the Greens continue to support an anti-growth, anti-free trade agenda. Neither of these positions are compatible with our vision of a liberal Britain." Andy Briggs on the Lib Dem spring conference's rejection of a "progressive alliance".

Kiron Reid explains why the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has been observing the elections in Russia.

"It has been described as one of the most loving and tender films about England ever made. It’s a picture that’s steeped in nature, in thrall to myth and history; a reaffirmation of the English character, customs and countryside from a time when many viewers may have wondered whether this underpinning had been kicked clean away." Kourosh Ziabari celebrates A Canterbury Tale.

"While Miss Havisham has always been regarded as a bit of a freak, especially in certain productions of the novel in plays and films, her behaviour, while at the far end of the spectrum, also seems understandable." Lorraine Berry asks what this famous Dickens character can teach us about grief.

Jonathan Liew pays tribute to Kevin Pietersen on his retirement: "For all the bad blood and the rancour, all the fraught meetings and snide briefings, the knives in the back and the knives in the front, the essential truth about Pietersen and England was this: they were stronger together, and weaker apart. "

Chris Dale has photographs of the railways of North Devon in the 1960s.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Warship in the Derbyshire snow

The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, which runs from Duffield to Wirksworth in Derbyshire, held a diesel event this weekend.

The most interesting visitor was the Warship D832 'Onslaught'. These class 42 locomotives, known as Warships because that was what they were all named after, ran on British Rail's Western Region between 1958 and 1972.

Start Again? Lib Dems in talks about new party with moderate Labour and Tory MPs

Embed from Getty Images

From today's Sunday Times (behind its paywall):
Senior Labour MPs appalled by Jeremy Corbyn’s performance over the Salisbury poisoning have been in secret talks with the Liberal Democrats and at least one Conservative MP about forming a new political party called Start Again. 
Plans for a new pro-European centre party have been openly discussed as part of cross-party discussions on Brexit, according to sources present. 
One of those involved in the plotting — a former member of the shadow cabinet — told The Sunday Times that Corbyn’s refusal to blame Russia for the attack would cause MPs to abandon Labour. “This is a watershed moment,” the MP said. “It has caused a number of people to question why we are in this party.”
There are not many names named, but Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie and Anna Soubry all get a mention.

There would be an irony in calling a new party Start Again unless it turned out to be devoted to something more than maintaining the status quo.

R.E.M.: I Believe

R.E.M. were huge in the 1990s - arguably the biggest band in the world. Listening to their music now makes you yearn for a decade when the good guys seemed to be winning.

I Believe is a track from the 1986 album Life's Rich Pageant.

The band specialised in songs with lyrics that sounded significant but resisted explication, leaving listeners to supply their own meaning.

Still, "I believe in coyotes and time as an abstract" sounds like the beginning of a serviceable creed.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

West Bay station, Bridport, in 1982

After I posted a distant view of a tidily restored West Bay station that I took in 1997, I remembered that this was not the first time I had been there.

I first visited West Bay in 1982 and remember photographing the old station when it looked very different.

Had I kept the photo? I had.

Disused Stations confirms that this is West Bay and explains the scene. In the summer of 1982 the old station building served as the office for a boatyard.

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower offered to help the Lib Dems

For more than a year we’ve been investigating Cambridge Analytica and its links to the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK and Team Trump in the US presidential election
says Carole Cadwalladr, presumably in tomorrow's Observer.

Her article is an interview with Christopher Wylie, and he turns out to have previously offered his services to the Liberal Democrats:
“I wanted to know why the Lib Dems sucked at winning elections when they used to run the country up to the end of the 19th century,” Wylie explains. “And I began looking at consumer and demographic data to see what united Lib Dem voters, because apart from bits of Wales and the Shetlands it’s weird, disparate regions. And what I found is there were no strong correlations. There was no signal in the data. 
“And then I came across a paper about how personality traits could be a precursor to political behaviour, and it suddenly made sense. Liberalism is correlated with high openness and low conscientiousness, and when you think of Lib Dems they’re absent-minded professors and hippies. They’re the early adopters… they’re highly open to new ideas. And it just clicked all of a sudden.” 
Here was a way for the party to identify potential new voters. The only problem was that the Lib Dems weren’t interested. 
“I did this presentation at which I told them they would lose half their 57 seats, and they were like: ‘Why are you so pessimistic?’ They actually lost all but eight of their seats, FYI.”
An earlier Carole Cadwalladr article mentioned that a former Lib Dem, Mark Gettleson, was also part of the Cambridge Analytica/Leave nexus. He was involved with Norman Lamb's leadership campaign in 2015.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Peter Phillips' first election as a Liberal candidate

The other day I described Peter Phillips as "the doyen of Shropshire Liberal Democrats".

As proof of this status he has sent me a photograph of a school election he fought as the Liberal Party candidate in 1964. He is on the far right of the picture.

He tells me it was a grammar school, so the Conservative candidate got more votes than Labour and the Liberals combined.

The quadruple murderer who appeared on Bullseye

The death of Jim Bowen this weeks brings to mind the strangest episode in the history of his programme Bullseye.

Let's begin on the Pembrokeshire coast. In 1989 a middle-aged couple, Peter and Gwenda Dixon, were murdered while walking the coastal path. Before they were killed they were forced to disclose the PIN number of their bank card, which was later used to withdraw money.

Their murder attracted much media attention and there was a theory that they had somehow discovered an IRA arms dump, but no one was arrested for it. I recall an article from some years after the crime where a local police officer said "They met a devil on the path."

Someone was convicted for the Dixon's murders, but it was 20 years after they took place. The culprit was a local farmer, John Cooper, who also turned out to have murdered another couple in 1985 after they disturbed him breaking into their house.

At his trial for these four murders a clip from Bullseye was shown, because Cooper had appeared on the show two moths before the Dixons were shot.

And you can see Cooper in the clip above - he had already committed two murders. He is the one Jim Bowen has his arm around as it begins to play.

Cast a sceptical eye on the contestants next time you watch a game show.

Romanian man requests the annulment of his death declaration, loses case

Our Headline of the Day comes from Romania Insider.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Six of the Best 775

Daisy Benson says Liberal Democrat women will increasingly shape the party's future.

"An immigration-customs check, with armed guards and police dogs; then, a sort of demilitarised zone so the helicopters can see anyone making a run for it, with all trees in the zone removed; followed by another strict immigration-customs check. If you put anything like it in Ireland, I can only imagine the reaction." Nick Tyrone shows that the USA-Canada border is not model for Ireland.

Keith Frankish offers his choice of the best books on the philosophy of mind.

"On Margate Sands./I can connect/Nothing with nothing." Jenny Uglow visits an exhibition inspired by T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland.

Rob Baker on the British actress Kay Kendall, who died in 1959 aged just 32.

"In that 'ghost village' there was no sign of modern technology, no electric or phone wires, no antenna, no street lights, no garden." In enthusiastic English, Alberto Miatello discusses the Kersey time slip of 1957, in which three naval cadets appear to have seen the village at least 50 years before.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Ken Dodd: How tickled we were

I was sad to hear of the death of Ken Dodd. He was a great clown and felt like our last link to the world of the music hall.

There is also comfort as you get older in figures that, as far as you are concerned, have always been there. Now one more of them has gone.

The photograph above shows the statue of Dodd at Liverpool Lime Street. I am not sure it quite catches him - the one of the Labour MP Bessie Braddock that stares across at him is better.

Below, in the style of a harassed moden journalist, are three tweets about the great man.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Procul Harum: Shine on Brightly

This is the title track from a 1968 album that was an early essay in prog rock - one of the tracks was 17 minutes long.

Don't panic, this one is only three and a half minutes long and still sounds good.

Now listen to Pandora's Box by Procul Harum.

Friday, March 09, 2018

New plans may save Leicester's Black Boy pub

The developers who failed in their attempt to demolish the old Black Boy pub in Leicester have come up with a new scheme for the site that incorporates the building.

Stuart Bailey, the chairman of Leicester Civic Society, has seen the plans and tells the Leicester Mercury:
"They are for retail use on the ground floor - perhaps even a pub - then flats above. 
“The extensions proposed are at the rear away from the frontage. 
“It looks a very good scheme and it saves the historic fabric of the building.”

Thursday, March 08, 2018

West Bay station, Bridport, in 1997

This is West Bay station in Dorset, which marked the end of an extension to the Bridport branch.

It was hoped that West Bay would be developed as a tourist resort - the name was newly coined because it was thought to sound more attractive than Bridport Harbour. But it never really happened and the line closed to passengers in 1930 and to goods in 1962.

But the station was still there, restored and home to a couple of vintage railway carriages when I photographed it from the hill above in 1997.

You won't believe how the station looked in 1982.

Two Lib Dem councillors return to the City of York Council executive

Welcome news from The Press:
Two senior Liberal Democrats are making a dramatic return to City of York Council’s executive - six months after being suspended by former council leader David Carr. 
Former council deputy leader Keith Aspden and Cllr Nigel Ayre have been re-appointed under a new deal struck between the authority’s coalition partners, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. 
Cllr Aspden will be group leader and executive member for economic development and community engagement, while Cllr Ayre will be executive member for culture, leisure and tourism.
David Carr was recently ousted by his fellow Conservative councillors. He never said what the allegations were against Aspden and Ayre, and the police long ago announced they would not be investigating them, but he was convinced that their suspension was necessary.

It was Carr's suspension of a Conservative councillor for apparently doing no more than conscientiously declaring an interest that led to his downfall. Maybe he just liked suspending people?

The council is currently run by a joint Conservative/Lib Dem administration.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

4 Cowley Street is now a £36m mansion

It's hard not to shed a tear for days that are gone at this news from the Daily Mail:
A wealthy American has paid £1 million to rent the Lib Dems' former headquarters for a year - in Britain's most expensive 'try-before-you-buy' property deal. 
The top end of the housing market has suffered in recent years on the back of political uncertainty, Brexit and increased stamp duty. 
And this has led to an increase in super-tenants who choose to 'test drive' a mansion before committing to buying. 
One estate agent has now claimed to have set a record for a 'try-before-you-buy' client after they struck a £1 million deal on the £36million Westminster mansion.
The Mail has photographs of the interior of the old place after its conversion into a mansion and you can find the full particulars on the the site of Savills the estate agent..

A Grade II Listed building, 4 Cowley Street was constructed in 1904-5 by the architect Horace Field as offices for the North Eastern Railway.