Electoral Commission 'not investigating Huhne'

From PoliticsHome:

The Electoral Commission has said it has not launched a formal investigation into Chris Huhne’s expenses, but that it is reviewing the facts of the case after a complaint was made.

A spokesman for the Commission told PoliticsHome: “We received these allegations regarding Chris Huhne’s election expenses on 25 May and following an initial assessment of that complaint, we have now started a review into the matter.

“That review would look to establish the facts of the case to see whether it merits an investigation.”

The spokesman said the review would only examine facts, not whether any wrongdoing had been committed, which would be a matter for an official investigation.

Patrick O’Flynn tweets:

Public must be getting really bored of all the Huhne allegations. What next – claims he has an illegal resemblance to Derek Nimmo?

Sarah Palin is off

After temporarily discombobulating herself with her “Blood libel” speech, Sarah Palin has been lying low for a few months. Now she’s coming back with a bang. She’s doing a “One Nation” tour of the East coast of the USA.

She isn’t telling the media where she’s going, but she’ll be touring iconic American sites in a bus with her family. It’s unorthodox, but seems remarkably astute to me.

She’s started in the last day by coming into Washington on the back of a Harley Davidson, meeting some veterans and touring national monuments “incognito” (which means “wearing sunglasses”). It’s all documented very attractively on her www.sarahpac.com website.

It now looks like she is very likely to join the Republican 2012 nomination race. But then again I have done about 50,000 U turns on whether she might or might not run and whether she might or not win the nomination.

Suffice it to say, Sarah Palin continues to fascinate me. I am grateful for her presence on the US stage.

Is watching a documentary on the A303 the ultimate act of an anorak?

Well if it is, I’ve done it. Well done BBC Four. They broadcast a documentary on the A303 (A303 – Highway to the Sun) with Tom Fort. It was an absolute joy. The man travelled from Andover to just past Honiton in an old Morris Minor traveller, describing historical and natural treats along the way.

Did you know, for example, that yards from the A303 at Longparish, Hampshire lies a monument to commemorate the murder of Earl Aetholdwold, Earl of Hampshire, by King Edgar in 963?

There is a fascinating story behind this. Aetholdwold was the best friend of the king. The king was due to marry a woman he had not met. Aetholdwold was dispatched to meet Elfrida Daughter of Ordgar Earl of Devonshire to see what she was like. Aetholdwold fell in love with her himself and put the king off marrying her. Aetholdwold married her himself. The king then twigged what had happened and killed Aetholdwold.

…Just one of the treats in “A303 – Highway to the Sun”.

Oh, and Tom Fort went to the Hampshire county archives and got out the old plans for the Andover by-pass. They were wonderful.

But what is it about the A303 which attracts such passion? Kula Shaker even recorded a song about it (below). When I was young, before the M5 and the M4, we used to come up to London via the A303. It took eight hours from Cornwall. Quite a trek.

You can find your way home on the 303
Let yourself go on the 303, on the 303


Quiz answer: The two people, connected to the LibDems, who auditioned for the lead role in "National Velvet"

Yesterday I asked for the names of two people connected with the Liberal Democrats who auditioned for the lead role in “National Velvet”.

That was the 1944 film starring Elizabeth Taylor in the lead role of Velvet Brown.

Two people (one of them deceased) with, let’s say, “connections” with the Liberal Democrats auditioned for the role which was eventually played by Taylor.

The first one, as Jonathan Calder commented was Shirley Williams – “as any fule kno”.

I discovered the identity of the other person last week. I saw a tweet saying that Chris Huhne’s mother was the voice of the speaking clock. Chris’ late mother was an actress, Ann Murray. Her Independent obituary from December 15th 2010 confirmed that she was indeed the voice of the talking clock at some stage. But I also noticed this little snippet of information:

She had her own radio interview programme at the age of 11, and auditioned for the film National Velvet. She lost the part to Elizabeth Taylor but claimed the producers had actually wanted her because she was better at horse-riding. Both she and her brother Ian were taught to swim by Johnny Weissmuller, the first Tarzan.

So there you are. Two people with connections to the LibDems who were auditioned for the lead role in “National Velvet”. That either proves that it is a small world, or that they auditioned one heck of a lot of 11 year old girls before they decided upon Elizabeth Taylor as “Velvet Brown”.

The obituary of Ann Murray is worth a read. She was obviously a very remarkable woman. You can read it in full here.

Different tunes for much-loved hymns

When you have to sing much-loved hymns to a tune which is unfamiliar, it can do your head in sometimes.

I was brought up on singing “O Jesus I have promised” to the tune of Thornbury. My grandmother loved it. This is how it goes:

It was quite late in life that I discovered that this is not the only tune used for the hymn. It was written by John Earnest Bode in 1869. The tune first associated with it was written by Arthur Mann in 1881, is sometimes called “Angel’s Tune” and goes like this:

Another common tune for the hymn is “Wolvercote”:

But there’s also this more modern version to a tune called “Hatherop Castle” which is popular:

And, looking on YouTube there are many more tunes for the hymn, including this up-to-the-minute “frantic” version:

Another hymn which has been set to different tunes (indeed scores of them in this case) is “The Lord’s my shepherd”, the metrical version of Psalm 23.

The most commonly used tune is Crimond, as follows:

…very popular at funerals.

This alternative tune is a good one (not sure of its name):

And this version to Brother James’ Air is quite beautiful:

But my favourite setting is quite new. Yes, you guessed it, Howard Goodall’s version for “Vicar of Dibley” which I will forever associate with flying northward over the M40 somewhere near Thame:

…And while we’re on the subject of Dibley, here’s a little bonus in the shape of the hilarious end to the final episode:

Trivia Quiz – Name two people connected with the LibDems who auditioned for the lead role in "National Velvet"

– That was the 1944 film starring Elizabeth Taylor in the lead role of Velvet Brown.

Two people (one of them deceased) with, let’s say, “connections” with the Liberal Democrats auditioned for the role which was eventually played by Taylor.

Know who they are? Have a go on the comments below. The answer will be revealed in another post tomorrow. And you have to be fairly sharp to beat Will Howells in these sorts of quizzes….

Political Betting – Next to exit the cabinet:BUY Lansley, SELL Huhne

In other words, the heat is off Huhne and it looks as though Lansley is next for the toaster. Mike Smithson on Political Betting presents a selection from today’s papers which supports this.

The Independent praises Chris Huhne in its leading article and says:

As we go to press, it looks as if Mr Huhne may survive, if only because of the impossibility of proving wrongdoing beyond reasonable doubt.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph has the headline “Cameron ready to sacrifice Lansley in NHS row” and Matthew D’Acona presenting a depressing prospect for Lansley:

As for Lansley, he has good reason to feel aggrieved and betrayed. His life’s work is being dismantled before his very eyes. Support that was promised is being withdrawn. He is being deserted in the most ruthless fashion. Number 10 accepts that he may well resign. Whether or not he does so, the final insult is the unambiguous signal he has already been sent by his most senior colleagues: that his departure, however regrettable, is a price worth paying. Anything – anything – to make this political horror-show go away.

Independent praises Chris Huhne

From the leading article in today’s Independent on Sunday:

According to his admirers in the green movement, Mr Huhne has achieved more in a year than most Cabinet ministers achieve in a lifetime. That may be an overstatement. But there should be no doubt that in the battles to come – and the victories that Mr Huhne has won this month are only single engagements in a longer war – the green cause will need someone of his aggression, knowledge and persistence.

If Mr Huhne were shown to be guilty as accused, he would of course have to resign – but he would be hard to replace. He has proved himself a tenacious fighter in the bureaucratic jungle of coalition politics, for such an important cause.

Sexy MP – stop this stomach-churning, pernicious nonsense

I’ve deleted a post from last night which was intended, I now realise obviously misguidedly, to ridicule the latest Sexy Mp website.

I totally agree with Caron’s post here.

Young people’s political ambitions are, almost invariably, shaped by role models. Shirley Williams followed Lady Astor, for example. Those role models should be held up for their passion and views, not “looks”.

It really is appallingly demeaning and pernicious to focus on the (highly dubious) presumed attractiveness of MPs. Many of the “high scorers” have very questionable views, for example.

I am sorry I misguidedly try to ridicule the website. It is ridiculous.

Iris Robinson and Castlereagh council cleared

I blogged quite a bit last year about Iris Robinson so it’s only fair that I cover two pieces of news concerning the BBC “Spotlight” allegations. Slugger O’Toole reports:

The Deloitte report into the awarding of the Lock Keeper’s Inn contract to Kirk McCambley was delivered to Castlereagh Borough Council tonight and gave everyone concerned – Iris Robinson, as well that of other councillors and council officers – a clean bill of health.

Castlereagh Borough Council said:

The report concluded that there was no evidence of financial loss to the council or any impropriety by council officers or members directly involved in the assessment panel regarding the award of the lease.

As some background, The Belfast Telegraph handily provides a summary of the Spotlight allegations:

The BBC probe revealed how Mrs Robinson, who was then an MP, MLA and a member of Castlereagh Borough Council, obtained two £25,000 contributions from property businessmen.
That money was then paid to Mr McCambley, then aged 19, to help him launch his Lock Keeper’s Inn cafe business.
Mrs Robinson (61) had become friendly with the teenager following the death of his father Billy McCambley, an East Belfast butcher.

Reeling back to March 11th, Slugger O’Toole reported:

…a PSNI investigation was launched within days of the (Spotlight) programme, today the Public Prosecution Service have announced that:

Following a careful consideration, based on all available evidence, the decision has been taken not to prosecute.”

…An Assembly Standards investigation into Peter and Iris has been on hold pending the outcome of the PSNI inquiry … so there’s still one outstanding report.

Earlier this month Iris Robinson attended a banquet for the Queen at Dublin Castle. Her husband commented:

…she has had a very difficult time, she has come through it with great courage.