Book review – “The Long and Winding Road” by Alan Johnson

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The Long and Winding Road” is the third in Alan Johnson’s trilogy of memoirs. The previous two books are: “This Boy“, about his harrowing childhood and “Please Mister Postman” about his days delivering the Royal Mail. (You’ll notice that all the books are titled after songs from Alan Johnson’s heroes – The Beatles).

I’ve reviewed both previous books here on LDV (see links above), and to a large extent it helps to read the whole series from the beginning. If you pick up “The Long and Winding Road”, the subject matter, the daily grind of a union leader, an MP and a jobbing minister, can strike one, at first, as rather uninteresting. However, if you’ve stuck with Alan Johnson as he described his appalling upbringing and the detail of his postal work, his “voice” tends to get inside one, and you tend to empathise as he forges on up into the heady heights of the political world. Continue reading

Meet the Lords – or at least two Lords and one Baroness….

Manderston House 2005

BBC2 started a new series last night called “Meet the Lords”. In the style of last year’s documentary series about the House of Commons, the film crew wondered around the corridors of the House of Lords, and produced some interesting sights.

In fact, it centred on three peers: Continue reading

++Copeland by-election – Lib Dems more than double vote share and move up to third place, beating UKIP

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Congratulations to Rebecca Hanson and the team for an excellent showing at the Copeland by-election, caused by the resignation of Labour’s Jamie Reed. Our vote share more than doubled from 3.5% at the 2015 general election to 7.25%. We moved up from fourth place to third – beating UKIP.

Dramatically, the Tories won the by-election in this normally rock-solid Labour seat. Psephologist John Curtice told the BBC that this was the biggest gain, in share of the vote, by a governing party in a byelection since the Hull North byelection in 1966.

Here is the result in full, plus some bar charts from the Press Association’s Ian Jones: Continue reading

++Stoke on Trent by-election – Lib Dem vote share more than doubles

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Congratulations to Zulfiqar Ali and the team at Stoke-on-Trent for more than doubling our share of the vote at the by-election caused by Tristram Hunt’s resignation.

Labour held the seat.

After the result was announced, Liberal Democrat president Sal Brinton said from Stoke:

The Potteries decided there was no need to have UKIP’s official leader in parliament when UKIP’s unofficial leader is already in Number 10, pursuing a hard Brexit. We would have done even better but for many voters, drawn to the Lib Dems, who felt they just couldn’t risk being represented by a UKIP MP, so reluctantly backed Labour. Paul Nuttall called this seat Brexit Central but it turned out to be the end of the line for UKIP.

There is also little comfort for Labour, whose vote share has more than halved here in less than two decades. This is on top of an incredibly tough night for them in Copeland. It shows that if we are to turn out this divided and uncaring Conservative Brexit government, the Liberal Democrats will be the ones making the progressive case to keep Britain open, tolerant and united. We started from a low base here but our vote is picking up and this is yet another sign that the Lib Dem fight-back is on.

Here is the result in full plus some sexy bar charts tweeted by the Press Association’s Ian Jones: Continue reading

My favourite prayer

…Is this one. It’s said after Holy Communion in the Church of England. I have bolded the words that normally get me moist-eyed. It is a glorious prayer!

Father of all,
we give you thanks and praise,
that when we were still far off
you met us in your Son and brought us home.
Dying and living, he declared your love,
gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life;
we who drink his cup bring life to others;
we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.

Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us,
so we and all your children shall be free,
and the whole earth live to praise your name;
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Impressive free public access to our Supreme Court

The main courtroom at the Supreme Court, from the perspective of the Presiding Judge.This week I wanted to visit a court in London, to get a feel for the proceedings. I didn’t fancy the Old Bailey – its case list is a series of stabbings basically. Not nice. I was about to make the journey to the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand when I remembered the more recently opened Supreme Court.

The United Kingdom Supreme Court resides just opposite Parliament in an impressive building previously occupied by Middlesex County Council and the Middlesex Courts.

When I visited, there were only a few people milling around inside. The staff were very friendly and helpful. I was whisked through the security scanner and then the receptionist explained what I could do in the building. The public are able to wonder around the three court rooms (when there are no cases ongoing) and take photographs. Then there is an interesting exhibition area about the history of the building, the Supreme Court, the Magna Carta and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That latter entity is the final court of judgment for a number of territories overseas. Continue reading

The national treasure that is the British Library – all done in the best PAASSIBLE taste

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A few years after broadcasting genius Kenny Everett died, I remember reading that he left his tape collection to the National Sound Archive. This sounded wonderful, but I didn’t envisage having the time to ever sample these tapes and I imagined that it would involve a trip to a chilly warehouse in Sutton Coldfield.

After a little Googling, I found that the National Sound Archive is part of the British Library. Their large building is just next to St Pancras Station in London, coincidentally just a stone’s throw from where Kenny Everett broadcast much of his work at Capital Radio’s studio in Euston Tower. (The British Library also have a place in Wetherby, West Yorkshire). After negotiating their essential processes, on Monday I proudly held my “Reader’s Ticket” and marched along to the Rare Music Books section of the British Library. There I listened for four hours to the most wondrous collection of Kenny Everett recordings. Continue reading

Jeremy Thorpe – ‘one of the bravest men in British politics’

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On Monday night, the National Liberal Club was the august venue for the AGM of the Liberal Democrat History Group, followed by a talk by Ronald Porter entitled “Jeremy is innocent”.

The full title of the talk, which was presented personal views from Ronald Porter (who is an obituarist and food/wine writer for the Independent and other outlets) was:

The life and times of Jeremy (1929-2014) and Marion Thorpe (1926-2014) by Ronald Porter with some splendid help from Duncan Brack.

Michael Steed chaired the talk and Duncan Brack helped provide photographs for it. Continue reading