Thursday, February 26, 2015

An early Adam Curtis documentary on system building

Thanks to Dirty Modern Scoundrel for pointing us to this video. It dates from 1984.

As the blog says:
The documentary itself is a rather straightforward forerunner to his more complex classics such as A Century of the Self and the Power of Nightmares. 
It's lacking his voice (it's narrated instead by reporter David Jones) and his trademark crazy soundtrack but otherwise many of the Curtis tropes are here: suspicion of those in high places and the whiff of institutionalised corruption and conspiracy. But the style feels more like an episode of Panorama rather than his later authored pieces. 
Still, there's great interviews with T. Dan Smith, Kenneth Campbell and particularly Cleeve Barr, and some amazing archive footage.

National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives building, Leicester

I read in the Leicester Mercury last week:
An iconic symbol of Leicester’s industrial past and radical working class traditions has been given listed-building status following a campaign to preserve it. 
The former Boot and Shoe Operatives Union Building, in St James Street, off Humberstone Gate, has been designated as a Grade II-listed building. It follows a campaign by the Leicester Group of the Victorian Society. 
The 103-year-old building, designed by city architects Harrison & Hattrell in the final year of Queen Victoria's reign, survives largely intact. 
Dr David Holmes researched the city’s boot and shoe industry as part of the Victorian Society's application to conservation watchdog, English Heritage. 
He said: “The building was threatened with conversion to flats which would have destroyed its fine interior. 
"We are particularly pleased because it is unique in Leicester as being the only major national trade union headquarters in the city."
So on Saturday I went to photograph it. It is a pleasing building, very much of its era. You can find it off Humberstone Gate in Leicester, behind Sainsbury's and across the road from the Spiritualist church.

The fact that the headquarters of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives was in Leicester probably explains a bit of local political history.

In 1945 the Harborough constituency was won for Labour by Humphrey Attewell, who was a full-time official with the union.

I remember a comment by John Shaw, who was a Labour councillor from Lutterworth while I was on Harborough District Council.

He is still going strong, unlike many people from those days who have since died and had roads named after them.

John told me that his own father, also a Labour activist, had said to him in 1945: "Well. son, that's the first and last time you'll see a Labour MP elected for Harborough,"

Why Nick Clegg will hold on to Sheffield Hallam

© Ashley Dace

I have long argued that there is no prospect of Nick Clegg losing his seat. Most recently here:
 I am not worried that Nick Clegg will lose Sheffield Hallam. This is not so much that I believe Nick is immensely popular as because I cannot picture Labour winning a prosperous suburban seat like this.
More recently still, Lord Bonkers has scotched the idea.

Now I have come across an exhaustive analysis of political geography of Sheffield Hallam that supports my view too. It is on the All That's Left blog:
Sheffield Hallam is far from the highrise towers and former steelmills of the Steel City. Whilst not all the seat is not rich ... overall Sheffield Hallam is one of the most affluent constituencies outside of the South East and it has the 70th highest median income of the 650 in the country – that is wealthier than Tunbridge Wells or David Cameron’s Witney. It has the lowest level of child poverty of any constituency in the land. 
It is certainly one of the most highly educated seats in the nation: 60% of those of working age have a degree – that’s more than Cambridge. In 2001, the constituency had more people classified as professionals of any in the UK.
But what about the disaffected student vote? Surely that will cost Nick dearly?

All That's Left continues:
A lot of the Liberal Democrats’ success here since 1997 has been put down to the student vote. Whilst there is a fairly large student population ... this is less than before the 2010 boundary changes. Those changes removed Broomhill ward, which includes the main campus of the University of Sheffield, and replaced it with Stannington ward to the north. 
Now, it is Sheffield Central next door that is the student hotbed: 39% of adults there are in fulltime education.
That's blog's conclusion ("with some regret") is that Nick "looks likely to continue to be Hallam’s MP".

My conclusion is that most commentators forecasting a Labour win in Sheffield Hallam have never been there.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wellington to Craven Arms disused railway 1

Part 1 takes us from Wellington to Buildwas. As you will see, part of this stretch is still in use.

Pauline Pearce selected as Liberal Democrat candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden

The Evening Standard has the news that Pauline Pearce has been selected as Liberal Democrat candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden:
Announcing her selection on Facebook, she said: "I would like to announce officially that I am the selected PPC candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden. 
"Thank you to all the members who attended tonight, for their kind and very warm reception. I look forward to working with you all." 
She added: "To my friends and family who encouraged me to keep going and have always got my back I love you all, but it's only just begun because I need your help now to knock some doors and help me on the campaign".

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Disused railway stations in Bedfordshire

Last week it was Devon: this week it is Bedfordshire.

Note the huge sheds next to Cardington station. They once housed the airships R100 and R101.

In his novel Dead Long Enough, James Hawes calls them "the Bedfordshire Pyramids".

Ilkeston railway station: Newts cause further delays

BBC News wins our Headline of the Day award.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A railway poster for the new Coventry Cathedral

Getty dates this British Railways poster to 1957, but the new cathedral was started only the year before that so I suspect it dates from the early 1960s.

As I once revealed, the model for the statue of St Michael ion the wall of the new cathedral was the economist Wynne Godley.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: It might be worth sticking half a crown on

Lord Bonkers concludes his survey of Liberal Democrat prospects at the next general election.

Orkney and Shetland

If the Liberal Democrats were to win only one seat at the next election, this would be it.

There is, of course, not the remotest prospect of that happening, but it might be worth sticking half a crown on Alistair Carmichael as our next leader just in case.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary
  • "Top Secret: Burn Before Reading"
  • The mint cake workers of Kendal
  • There can be no doubt that he was Terribly Sorry
  • The Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Railway
  • Armed with pitchforks and flaming brands
  • He was never one to resort to underhand methods
  • I have no doubt she will hold her seat
  • Abuse inquiry into former Leicestershire home for sick children

    Last summer there was an investigation into an allegation that Jimmy Savile had abused a child at Roecliffe Manor, a convalescent home at Woodhouse Eaves in Leicestershire.

    That investigation could not substantiate the allegation, but suggested that sexual abuse probably had taken place there.

    Now comes news that a police investigation into the home, which closed in 1969, has been launched.

    There is a danger, I suppose, that Savile will become a sort of folk devil, supposed to have turned up at homes and hospitals all over the country and abused people. As today's news suggests, there was plenty of abuse where he was not involved.

    But it should be remembered that turning up at homes and hospitals is one of the things that the BBC paid him to do in a programme called Savile's Travels.

    Malcolm Rifkind is not fit to chair the intelligence and security committee

    A couple of days ago everyone hated the Telegraph. Now its sting operation on Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind, at least, is being celebrated.

    And rightly so. Not so much because it shows these two in their true colours as because it reveals how British politics works.

    Just as Chris Morris and Brass Eye revealed how celebrities and backbenchers endorse causes they know nothing about, so the Telegraph shows what often lies behind windy talk of "public service". Greedy men looking to fill their boots,

    But when we have finished being outraged or laughing at these two boobies, there is a serious point that must be addressed at once.

    Malcolm Rifkind is chair of the Commons and Lords' joint intelligence and security committee, yet he is happy to accept money from a Chinese company without having the most basic checks carried out on it.

    This is an act of such monumental folly that he must be removed from that role at once.

    Pompous, not half as clever as he thinks, a lowland Scot... Fans of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy will recognise Malcolm Rifkind at once.

    He is not George Smiley. He is Percy Alleline.

    The Garden Street Island, Leicester

    The Garden Street Island, a block of shops and a cottage on Belgrave Gate in the centre of Leicester. It was due to be pulled down for redevelopment, but after a campaign the city council has served a issue an Article 4 Direction.

    This means that the historic status of the buildings has been acknowledged and planning permission will have to be sought for any alterations.

    The Evington Echo explains the Garden Street Island's importance:
    This group of shops, cottages and outhouses were built c1815-30 and are typical of Leicester in the early C19th century. Although they are not architectural masterpieces, these buildings are an important part of Leicester’s social history. 
    What makes the Garden Street Island special is that it includes slums that escaped demolition in 1931. These one up one down cottages are on Garden Street and the former Garden Street Square (Court C, Garden Street). Apart from Cramant Cottages in King Street, these are the last surviving slums in Leicester. They are the only ones remaining which face onto a street. 
    The shops on Belgrave Gate are also an important part of the street scene and their demolition would also be a particular loss to the individual character of the City and its history. Linnett’s hairdressers and perfumery at 124 –126 Belgrave Gate was in business in 1835. Next door was the long defunct Brewer’s Arms.
    I went to photograph the properties on Saturday, and here they are in all their glory.

    Sunday, February 22, 2015

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: I have no doubt she will hold her seat

    Lord Bonkers continues his survey of Liberal Democrat prospects at the general election. Today he offers a short but optimistic post.

    Hazel Grove

    She is a delightful woman and I have no doubt she will hold her seat (wherever it is).

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

    Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary

  • "Top Secret: Burn Before Reading"
  • The mint cake workers of Kendal
  • There can be no doubt that he was Terribly Sorry
  • The Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Railway
  • Armed with pitchforks and flaming brands
  • He was never one to resort to underhand methods
  • Joe Jackson: Breaking Us in Two

    A Sunday music video that is shot on a preserved railway. I think we have reached peak Liberal England.

    I have chosen two Joe Jackson tracks before: the wonderful It's Different for Girls and the quasi-classical Nocturne no. 4.

    Breaking Us in Two comes from his 1982 album Night and Day. It was a bigger hit in the US than the UK. I have always regarded it as a companion piece to the uptempo Steppin' Out on the same LP.

    The railway is the Keighley and Worth Valley. More than that, the video was shot at Oakworth , which was the station in Lionel Jeffries' film of The Railway Children.

    "Right away, Mr Jackson."

    The last moments of the New Walk Centre, Leicester

    With thanks to the Leicester City Council.

    Saturday, February 21, 2015

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: He was never one to resort to underhand methods

    Lord Bonkers continues his survey of Liberal Democrat prospects at the next general election, perhaps becoming a little sidetracked in the process.

    Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross

    Caithness, the most northerly part of this most northerly of mainland Scottish constituencies, was once the seat of Sir Archibald Sinclair. It is an area best known in recent decades for the Dounreay atom plant, with its habit of spilling nuclear waste on to the neighbouring beaches.

    Sir Archibald, the grandfather of the current member, was a gentleman, a fine leader of our party and a friend of mine; certainly, he was never one to resort to underhand methods to deprive the bookies’ favourite for Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Moustache of the Year 2014 of his rightful prize.

    I am not saying that John Thurso used atomic waste to make his moustache grow so luxuriantly, but shouldn't he come forward and clear the matter up once and for all?

    That said, I have no doubt that he will win again this time.

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

    Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary

  • "Top Secret: Burn Before Reading"
  • The mint cake workers of Kendal
  • There can be no doubt that he was Terribly Sorry
  • The Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Railway
  • Armed with pitchforks and flaming brands
  • Six of the Best 495

    Eric Avebury, the Liberal Democrat peer, writes movingly on the campaign to legalise assisted dying and his very personal interest in the subject.

    The Telegraph has a chief executive, but what it needed was an editor, says Peter Preston.

    "A recent panel for Smith College alumnae aimed at 'challenging the ideological echo chamber' elicited this ominous 'trigger/content warning” when a transcript appeared in the campus newspaper: 'Racism/racial slurs, ableist slurs, antisemitic language, anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language, anti-immigrant language, sexist/misogynistic slurs, references to race-based violence, references to antisemitic violence.'" Wendy Kaminer on the progressive ideas behind the lack of free speech on American campuses.

    Good sense on cycling safety from Scotland: "My name is Alexander and I am 10 years old. I live in the countryside and the roads around my home are single track with passing places. I would like something to slow cars down because when I go on my bike and I hear cars coming they don’t slow down even though there is not much room. I usually stop and get off my bike and stand on the grass verge but they still don’t slow down."

    Ian Sample fears noise pollution is making us oblivious to the sound of nature.

    "If London’s roads had been 'futureproofed' in the 1970s to cope with anticipated demand today, some of the capital’s most popular neighbourhoods simply wouldn't exist today." 853 on the campaign against the Silvertown Tunnel.

    Leicester's New Walk Centre will be blown up tomorrow

    The New Walk Centre, the two Seventies office blocks that until recently housed the offices of Leicester City Council, will be demolished tomorrow.

    I cannot find the exact time of demolition online, but a wide exclusion zone will be in force between 6am and 6pm.

    The Leicester Mercury promises a live feed of events on its website.

    I went to photograph the Centre today. It is not coming down for aesthetic reasons but because it is so unsafe that no one will insure it any more.

    With the windows all taken out, it looks rather like a multi-storey car park - perhaps the effect to which much architecture of its period aspired.

    Still, I shall miss the old place, not least because we do not yet know what will replace it.

    The last photograph below shows the New Walk Centre in happier days.

    Friday, February 20, 2015

    Bob Symes: Liberal candidate

    Thanks to Malcolm Baines for telling me that television presenter Bob Symes, who died last month, fought the Mid Sussex constituency for the Liberal Party in the two general elections of 1974.

    He finished a respectable second each time though, like most Liberal candidates, he did a little better in February than October.

    His Telegraph obituary says that Symes was later a Conservative candidate in an election for the European Parliament.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Armed with pitchforks and flaming brands

    Lord Bonkers continues his survey of Liberal Democrat prospects at the next general election.

    Oxford West and Abingdon

    All this talk of holding seats is a little dull: why should we not gain a few?

    Take OXWAB, as my younger friends are given to calling it. Whilst I bow to no one in my admiration for Dr Evan Harris, it has to be admitted that his habit of grafting the heads of rabbits on to humans to form an army of Focus deliverers proved controversial, efficient as they were (at least in my experience).

    So much so, indeed, that on election night the locals, armed with pitchforks and flaming brands, drove him from his laboratory in the surprisingly mountainous country between Oxford and Abingdon and elected a Conservative.

    I trust the more emollient Layla Moran will recapture the seat for the forces of progress, even if she does not own a Bunsen burner.

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

    Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary

  • "Top Secret: Burn Before Reading"
  • The mint cake workers of Kendal
  • There can be no doubt that he was Terribly Sorry
  • The Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Railway
  • Thursday, February 19, 2015

    The Stamford to Seaton shuttle in 1966

    A glimpse of the Stamford to Seaton shuttle and Morcott station in 1966, the last year of the line's operation.

    You can find some recollections of those days on the Rutnet site:
    My family moved to Morcott early in 1960 when my father became Rector of Morcott and South Luffenham, and almost at once, the railway became part of my life. 
    Previously, we had lived a few miles south of Northamapton, close to the main line from Euston to Scotland, and there, I had developed an interest in trains. Now, I was to travel every day to school in Stamford by train. 
    The train was a tank locomotive (BR Standard or Ivatt 2-6-2T for the technically-minded) and two corridorless coaches. Boys and girls travelled in separate compartments in the front coach and everyone else travelled in the back coach. 
    It was also an unspoken rule that everyone had their own space on the bench-like seats stretching across the width of the coach. New boys were 'strapped' with the thick leather strap that lowered or raised the window. 
    The train was well used every day with people travelling to work in Stamford, as well as the school pupils, and the wooden platform at Morcott was always busy at 8-20 each morning. One boy even cycled from Glaston to catch the train at Morcott. 
    On the way home in the afternoon, it was possible to either wait at Stamford or travel on an earlier Leicester-bound train to Luffenham, and join the Seaton train there. I often did the latter, and once, got into a compartment at Luffenham with two girls returning from Oakham. Even at the tender age of 10, I was told pretty sharply by the station staff to get out and go to the boys' compartment! 
    On another occasion, the other boys wouldn't let me onto the train, and the driver told me to get in his cab. I had a never to be forgotten ride on the footplate from Luffenham to Morcott! 
    Apart from journeys to school, I spent a lot of time watching the trains at the station and got to know the station master – Mr Veazey – well. There was one freight train each day which ran through soon after 11 am. 
    It only stopped if there were wagons to pick up or drop off, and was busiest during the 'beet season' in the autumn when wagonloads of sugar beet were send off to the sugar factory in Peterborough. At this time, the train could be very late, having shunted wagons at every station from Rugby.
    Last year I found the platform at Stamford station that this service must have used.

    Ukip reinstates "ban drivers on benefits" candidate

    Remember Lynton Yates?

    He was the Ukip parliamentary candidate and Leicestershire county councillor who put out a leaflet calling for people on benefits to be banned from driving.

    The party suspended him, but today comes news that he has been reinstated and will stand for Ukip in the Charnwood constituency at the general election.

    Thanks to Mum Juice for the image of the leaflet.

    Kebabgate could see former Leicester Labour whip jailed

    Barbara Potter, who used to be the whip of the ruling Labour group on Leicester City Council, has been found guilty of intending to pervert the course of justice.

    This Leicester Mercury report gives a flavour of the case:
    Leicester Crown Court heard that Potter, of Winslow Green, Netherhall, drove to the city’s Keyham Lane police station and told officers her car had been spat on when she left it outside a friend’s house in Steins Lane on August 8, 2013. 
    Potter said she had just seen Mr Taylor, with whom she had split up with in 2010 after an 18-year relationship, driving past her car in his van. 
    She signed a statement saying she had seen Mr Taylor at the wheel and heard a “flobbing” sound before he smirked at her and drove off. 
    The police investigated and established Mr Taylor was more than 40 miles away working in Birmingham at the time Potter stated she had seen him in Leicester. 
    DNA testing of the spitle on Potter’s windscreen showed it belonged to a Simon Birch. 
    Potter said she had no idea who Mr Birch was but he told officers he had previously fallen out with the defendant after she had thrown a kebab at him.
    "After the jury's verdict the judge told Potter:
    “Perverting the course of justice is a serious offence. It is often met with an immediate sentence of imprisonment. You must understand that may be inevitable in this case."
    Potter has taken to Facebook to proclaim her innocence, but she has in the past been known for her robust views on punishment.

    Asked for her opinion on the return of the death penalty in 2011, she replied:
    "Bring it on. Give these murderers the option of the noose, the electric chair or lethal injection. I think the vast majority would back this campaign. People are disgusted and appalled by those who murder vulnerable people such as children, or those who work to try and protect the public, like the police."

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Railway

    Lord Bonkers continues his survey of Liberal Democrat prospects at the coming general election.

    Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

    Whilst our own Danny Alexander is known elsewhere as a champion of austerity, things look rather different when looked at from his own constituency.

    There is not a corner of this chunk of the Highlands that has failed to benefit from government largesse. There you will find ski lifts, subsidised fuel and the electric broadband internet. Above all there is the new railway with its solid gold carriages.

    Its name, if I recall correctly, is the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Railway. Isn't that a coincidence?

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

    Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary
    • "Top Secret: Burn Before Reading"
    • The mint cake workers of Kendal
    • There can be no doubt that he was Terribly Sorry
    • Ukip candidate calls public meeting... in the wrong constituency

      In recent years Northamptonshire's Conservative MPs have been drawn chiefly from the fruitcake wing of that party, which presents something of a challenge to Ukip.

      How do they find a fruitcake who is even fruitier?

      Easy. Step forward Jonathan Munday, the Ukip candidate for Wellingborough.

      Dr Munday, who is a GP, has already came to wider notice last month after accusing a Twitter user of contributing nothing to the NHS except piles and STDs.

      Now he has called a public meeting at a school in Irthlingborough and accused the Conservative and Labour candidates for Wellingborough of cowardice for declining to take part.

      But their reluctance to attend may have something to do with the fact that Irthlingborough is in the Corby constituency.

      On a similar note, David Burrows, the Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, has been spotted canvassing for support in neighbouring Edmonton.

      Wednesday, February 18, 2015

      Six of the Best 494

      "At its best liberalism means the defence of the weak and the promotion of universal human dignity. At its worst it can be camouflage for avoiding difficult choices. In the face of the lethal threat posed by Mr Putin, please let it be the former." Wise words from Matthew Green.

      Frankie Boyle offers unexpectedly wise words too: "We have given taking offence a social status it doesn't deserve: it's not much more than a way of avoiding difficult conversations."

      It doesn't take a genius to realise that Christian Grey is a domestic abuser, says Beth Penny.

      Musings of a Young Londoner writes on the threat to the English National Opera.

      Londonist explains how the city's sex comedies saved British cinema.

      But that didn't stop Kathleen Wood publishing Escape to London, a terrible warning to girls tempted to run away to the capital, in 1977. London Sound Survey will tell you all about it.

      Lord Bonkers' Diary: There can be no doubt that he was Terribly Sorry

      Lord Bonkers continues his seat-by-seat discussion of Liberal Democrat prospects at the next general election.

      Sheffield Hallam

      We can, I trust, also be confident that our leader will retain his seat. Some reason that he has upset the student vote because, after waving that wretched pledge of his at everybody last time round, he stung them for a small fortune when he got the first whiff of power.

      However, given that the polls closed as early as 10pm, one has to question how many students actually made it into the booth to vote for him last time.

      Besides, Clegg has since apologised. Whether he was apologising for making his pledge or for breaking it was hard to tell, but there can be no doubt that he was Terribly Sorry.

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

      Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary

      • "Top Secret: Burn Before Reading"
      • The mint cake workers of Kendal
      • Ukip candidate libels leading libel lawyer

        If you were taking on a sitting MP who is a barrister specialising in libel, you would be especially careful over what you said about him, wouldn't you?

        Not if you were a Ukip candidate, it seems.

        Over to the Leicester Mercury:
        A UKIP General Election candidate has agreed to pay £1,000 to charity after making false accusations against Harborough MP Sir Edward Garnier QC. 
        Clive Langley alleged in a tweet that the former Solicitor General and prominent libel lawyer had made an improper claim for a “very expensive desk”. 
        In a second tweet he alleged that Sir Edward may have made improper claims for staff expenses to the tune of £133,000. 
        But Sir Edward said: “My office desk is not mine. It belongs to the House of Commons. The desk at home I inherited from my late mother-in-law. He said the staffing expenses had been authorised and could be seen on line. 
        He told Mr Langley in a letter: “Both allegations are false and calculated to sow suspicious about me in the minds of the publishees.”
        I'm not sure what 'publishees' is doing here, but I guess that is why I am not a leading libel barrister like Sir Edward.

        A startling feature of this affair is that the libelous tweets were drawn to Sir Edward's attention by the Labour candidate Sundip Meghani.

        No one likes a tell-tell, and I am sure there is someone in Harborough Conservatives capable of following Clive Langley on Twitter.

        That said, they have not always been  at the forefront of technology. I recall the Tories' incredulity when I produced a pocket calculator at the count in Market Harborough in 1985.

        As it turned out, we gained the town ward on the county council with such a large swing that I could have done with a mainframe to compute it.

        Tuesday, February 17, 2015

        Disused railway stations in Devon

        Beware: there are videos like this for many different counties.

        Lord Bonkers' Diary: The mint cake workers of Kendal

        Lord Bonkers looks at the Liberal Democrats' prospects in a number of seats at the next general election. Today...

        Westmorland and Lonsdale

        Some readers, I know, are anxious about the forthcoming election, so let me begin with a seat where we can look forward to it with every confidence. Whilst I suspect Farron of wanting to rip the pews out at St Asquith’s and having everyone sing ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ as soon as my back is turned, he remains extraordinarily popular in the Lakes, enjoying a particular following amongst the mint cake workers of Kendal.

        A definite Liberal Democrat hold here.

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

        Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary

        Lord Mackie of Benshie has flown his last mission

        Sad news today. Lord Mackie of Benshie - farmer, war hero, Liberal MP and peer - has died at the age of 95.

        As his Guardian obituary says:
        The whole of his life had been coloured by the war, and like many other participants in that terrible conflict, the experience made him a passionate believer in European unity. 
        Much of his political life was devoted to that idealistic concept, including membership of the Council of Europe and a brief spell in the European parliament before it became a directly elected body. He spent many years on House of Lords committees charged with examining EU legislation.
        As George Mackie he sat for Caithness and Sutherland between 1964 and 1966. At the time of his death, he was the longest surviving former Liberal MP.

        Who holds that crown today?

        George Mackie held the crown even when I blogged about it back in 2009. And the silver and bronze medalists then - Clement Freud and Emlyn Hooson - have both died too.

        So by my reckoning the three oldest former Liberal MPs are now
        1. James Davidson (b. 10 January 1927)
        2. Elizabeth Shields (b. 27 February 1928)
        3. Eric Avebury (b. 29 September 1928)
        James Davidson was MP for West Aberdeenshire between 1966 and 1970. Elizabeth Shields was MP for Ryedale between 1986 and 1987. Eric Avebury, as Eric Lubbock, was MP for Orpington between his famous by-election victory in 1962 and 1970.

        Unless, of course, you know better.

        Later. Thanks to Greg Stone for pointing me to Elizabeth Shields' date of birth.