Sunday, 25 June 2017

A Beeston hoglet and her mum

Last summer we began seeing a regular visitor waddle past out patio door. Always at dusk. A grand-daughter vet and a close friend who know about these thing both said 'Not a good sign', but we got used to our evening visitor and wondered where he or she spent the winter?

Yesterday evening we got our answer, assuming it is the same hedgehog, because she came with a Hoglet in tow. We watched her snuffle around our rockery, her nose twitching, occasionally digging, then as she disappeared into the rockery, the Hoglet came steaming into view.

It is difficult to describe the sheer pleasure such a sight gives you. I went next door to my neighbour for some cat food. She insisted on giving me a box. I put some out after they have wandered off in a space I found in the rockery and we watched a little later as she came back. Before going to bed I check the dish and most of the cat food had gone, so I topped it up. This morning it was near empty, so it looks like I have got myself a job of sorts. This is assuming family and friends are right, insomuch as we shouldn't be seeing a Hedgehog, let alone a Hoglet in full view.

We wish them well and chuffed that they feel safe in our garden. Well, that's it for now. I'll let a few pictures tell their own story (click on images to enlarge):

Mum is in this pic, at the top, almost hidden from view, but she is watching her sprog closely. I took these pics through our patio door window with my telephone. It was all over in 30 seconds.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Hucknall's Heritage Bus Tours offer a model for Broxtowe

As I have pointed out on many occasions Broxtowe is a nonsense borough. Geographically it doesn't make sense. It is clearly divided into north and south with no public transport links between the two halves and the one road inside the borough which links the two halves is little more than a back lane.

This fact makes it difficult for folk to explore Broxtowe. What does Beeston know of Eastwood or Brinsley and they of Beeston and Attenborough? Little I suspect, which is why the work of the voluntary Hucknall Tourism & Regeneration Group offers an example of how Broxtowe might address its north–south divide when it comes to heritage.

Hucknall Tourism & Regeneration Group mini-bus at Newstead Abbey.

For the past ten years Sheila and Ken Robinson have been organising and managing an annual programme of mini-bus tours for the Hucknall Tourism & Regeneration Group (HT&RG), which was founded in 2002. For 2017 they have arranged no less than seven different tours on twenty dates.

Laura Simpson, Nottinghamshire County Council’s Senior Practitioner in Heritage Tourism had the brilliant idea of asking Sheila and Ken to run a training day, ‘How to run a heritage bus tour on a budget’, which took place on 16 June 2017. A group of some twelve interested individuals, including two who found their way to the day from Derby, such was the interest. None of us left disappointed.

The morning was spent in the Dynamo House at Bestwood Country Park, where Laura did a presentation on Heritage Tourism in Nottinghamshire, which included information about the national scene as well. The county focus is on a collection of ‘themes’, including ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ (industrial history), ‘Rebellion and Freedom’ (dissent and liberty), ‘With Brush and Pen’ (literary and artistic heritage) and ‘Our Sporting Life’ (sporting heritage). 

The recession has resulted in the way we take breaks and holidays changing. More of us now stay with friends and family than in hotels or self-catering, and from the nodding heads I guessed it was a fact most of those present could relate to. Another one of the many interesting points made by Laura which caught my attention was a reference to ‘visitors’ (not ‘tourists’) who ‘come in pursuit of the real’. These are people who want to visit local pubs, sporting events, maybe ride on a bus. 

There was much in Laura’s presentation to hold the attention of local historians with an interest in reaching a wider audience, and as Sheila and Ken demonstrated with their presentation, you don’t have to have a museum or historic building. Organising walks is an obvious activity, but with the help of a mini-bus you can do much more. Sheila took us  through all the things you have to think about and plan for: funding (including sponsorship); costs (including insurance); routes (including duration); advertising ; Booking methods and the day of the tour itself — of which we had a perfect example after a sandwich lunch, when Sheila and Ken took us a Byron inspired tour from Bestwood to Annesley, Newstead Abbey, Hucknall, before returning to Bestwood, where we ended the day with a general discussion and muffins!

I went home mightily impressed by the enterprise of Sheila and Ken and thinking about the opportunities that exist for local historians everywhere to follow their example. I should point out that HT&RG does not duplicate existing bus routes or compete with them in any way. They fill up their 14 seat mini-buses quickly and they offered many tips on how to raise money from local businesses, especially people selling bathrooms and kitchens!

Among the pieces of paper we left with was a County Council Risk Assessment Record prepared for the training day. A useful document some might too easily dismiss as unnecessary. I found it quite the reverse. Laura’s enthusiasm also helped the day go well, as she made her way around the group talking to participants about their interests and reasons for attending.

I can see this training being organised again and when it is, book a place. You won’t be disappointed.
Just to be sure you don't miss out, why not contact Laura Simpson direct and tell you are interested. Contact details as follows: Tel.0115 9932595, email:

Perhaps next year a similar venture could be considered for Broxtowe, with monthly weekend mini-bus trips from the south of the borough to the north and vice-versa? From Chilwell and Beeston via Stapleford to Eastwood and Brinsley for example, with with printed guides at least for passengers. Even better, a couple of tour guides to accompany folk.

Right now this is no more than a thought, but the work of Sheila and Ken and their Hucknall  Tourism & Regeneration Group shows that such a venture is clearly possible and, most importantly, viable.

Sheila Robinson talking to training day participants whilst at All Saints Annesley.

A view into what remains of Annesley (All Saints) Old Church.

Annesley Hall stable block, laundry and servants' accommodation.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

A Beeston garden and voting in the 2017 General Election or what has happened to my generation?

The first of a two part weekend post, which I will add to during the day. First, last Sunday's visit to a garden on Marlborough Road, which was open as part of the Beeston and Chilwell Open Gardens Weekend. What made the garden memorable and a pleasure was its attainability — I left with the feeling that our garden, good as it, could also be given a managable vegetable patch and a slightly larger pond and I so loved the arbour. I will let the pictures speak for themselves:

A couple of days ago I went in search of statistics about the 2017 General Election turnout, not believing reports that voters aged 70 and over like myself had voted for the Conservatives in large numbers. I found the YouGov report on the web which made me ashamed on my generation, that we may well be deserving of all the ire we attract from younger voters. I lifted a few of the many tables in the report which I reproduce below:

I am staggered by the fact that less than one in five over 70s like myself voted Labour. I clearly keep the wrong company, being surrounded by fellow oldies like myself who are, for most part, Party members or Labour voters.

It would be interesting to see these statistics for each General Election from 1945 onwards. Again, I may well have lived in a different world, wanting my vote and using it at the first opportunity and ever since.

At someone who has been retired since the age of 62, I find it difficult to grasp the fact that less than a quarter of retirees vote Labour. What has made my generation so collectively stupid?

And finally how we voted based on our education. I have no qualifications to my name, attending a secondary modern school, leaving at 15, not knowing what a GCE or a university was, but I thought I had a good education, I could read, write, add up in the days before job application forms. You saw an advert, sent off a letter, then had your interview. By the time I had the opportunity to go onto further education (Ruskin College via my union), I had a family, a mortgage and a good job. Somehow I got by and did alright by my own expectations. How most of my educational group comes to be voting Conservative is, truly, beyond my comprehension!

Us oldies need to be reminded of what life was like and how Labour was instrumental in making our lives better. Perhaps we need a Beeston/Broxtowe 'Oldies for Greg Marshall Group'?

Monday, 12 June 2017

Beeston Week goes weekly from today

Blogging can be addictive. I should know, I've been doing it since 2007, over ten years. At the end of 2014 when we moved to Beeston, my Lenton based Parkviews blog gave way to Beeston Week. I have tried to stop before, but appeals to my vanity prompted me to continue and, in truth, I enjoy it. However I have said more than once that post-op I want to concentrate more on writing and gardening and this I am determined to do — hence my decision to turn Beeston Week into 'a look back at the last seven days'. In other words, as from today I'm going weekly. I aim to add a post every weekend, if not a Saturday morning, then a Sunday morning.

Next Saturday I will begin with a look at a garden on Marlborough Road, Beeston, plus a few other bits, what I've no idea.

Going weekly will also make it easier for you to keep track of my ramblings. Thanks for reading me.

Robert Howard

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Be careful what you wish for. Now comes the real challenge, persuading Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party to support PR.

In my 26 April post I wrote 'I would like the outcome of this election to be one in which Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MPs can only govern with the consent/support of other political parties represented in the UK Parliament and that their first act will be to introduce proportional representation across English local government and the UK Parliament using the voting system used to elect the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly (also the London Assembly which we tend to forget or don't actually know happens). Part of the same Act would abolish the House of Lords.'

Every vote has to count. A close friend from my schooldays living in Devon voted for a Liberal candidate with no chance of winning. The Conservative candidate was a hard-Brexiteer and she thinks Labour 'too idealistic'. She likes her politicians and governments to be 'pragmatic'.

If Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party really want to change British and English politics for the better then they can begin by agreeing to a change in our voting system in this Parliament which can then be used in the next general election. If I was the Greens, the Liberals or the SNP I would make this the main condition of supporting Labour.

I hear 'UKIP' being muttered by Labour opponents of PR voting. The added member system relies on seats being allocated on an average share of the vote cast in the constituency section for the winning candidates. This sets a high threshold and means added members are still much more likely to come from a main party, but in a democracy you cannot exclude candidates or political parties because you don't like them.

I have told the story in a previous post (more than once I'm sure) about how I came to believe in PR, so to repeat myself again:

I can pinpoint when I became a supporter of proportional representation. It was in 1960, when I attended my first Labour Party selection meeting for the then Wembley South CLP for Wembley Central ward where I lived. In those days local councillors served for three years and a third of the council was elected each year, so we had only one prospective candidate to select. There were four hopefuls and after the first ballot, the bottom name was deleted and on the second ballot, someone got over 50% of the votes cast, so was selected.

Someone in the meeting asked if we could have preferential voting, which was explained as writing 1 2 3 4 against the name of each would-be candidate and the one with the lowest number of no.1 votes would drop out and their no.2 votes would be distributed as allocated. It immediately seemed like a less messy system of selecting a candidate — I only had to vote once, then the votes could be quickly counted as their was only about twenty of us in the hall, but the exhaustive ballot won and it was not until I was in Lenton in the early-1980s that Labour Party members could be persuaded to use preferential voting instead of exhaustive ballots.

It struck me then, at the age of 16, that if the Labour Party would not use first past the post (FPTP) to select its own candidates, how could it support FPTP in elections for councillors and MPs? From then on I became a supporter of proportional representation (PR) and the historian in me quickly learned that until after 1945, the Labour Party supported PR.

Clegg and the Liberals cocked up the opportunity they had in 2011 to get PR. This time we should go for England and the UK Parliament adopting the same system as used in Scotland, Wales and the London Assembly. They never got referendums, so there is no need to have one this time.

In The Guardian yesterday (10 June 2017) the author Val McDermid argued for PR and today it was Caroline Lucas's turn to argue the case for PR.

The case for PR is unassailable and its moment has come. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party must not fail democracy. I dread to think what will happen if they show they are, at heart, anti-democratic, wanting power for the few, for a Westminster elite of which they are part, despite claims to the contrary.

My friend in Devon, like millions of other voters, has been failed by first past the post. Her vote should count, as should every vote.

I want to vote Labour again, Greg Marshall's poster is still in our front window, as are many of his placards and posters in other houses and gardens around my part of Beeston. As things stand the only votes which mattered in Broxtowe three days ago were those cast for Anna Soubry. Next time every vote has to count or Labour will have failed before a vote is cast. The truth is as stark and simple as that.

An annual student treat

Every year Susan and I go into town and visit the annual NTU Degree Show which once was no more than the Bonington Gallery on Shakespeare Street and a few small outlying venues. Now the Show clusters around the Nottingham Trent University's City Campus.

As usual, it was a wonderful treat, some of the students, all about to graduate, are keen to share their enthusiasm. This year we ran out of steam and did not manage to see the work of the architecture or photography students. There was so much more to see and had I not been poorly during the week, we would have gone earlier and probably gone back for a second day.

I took a good few photographs and share a selection with you below.  Look out for the desk which is probably one of the best I have ever seen. Had we the space at home I would try and buy one tomorrow. The trouble is that as of yet this is the only one. It's a real writer's desk.

I have put caption's under some of the photographs, but most speak for themselves

I was also very taken with these fabrics and designs by Aimee Haynes. If I had a spare wall, I would hang them for sure.

The two hangings are printed fabric. The keyhole looks so three dimensional that yo want to touch it to make sure it isn't.

I was also taken by this collection called 'Striped Stories' by Zoe Blinkinsop. I have been looking for new hankies for the first time in my life, having relied on my mother and step-father, who died in 2006 and 2008, for boxes of unused hankies handed in for Red Cross jumble sales. I might see if she has any offcuts Susan can turn into hankies for me. I loved the patterns and texture of them.

Fashion Marketing and Branding in the Barnes Wallis Building on Shakespeare Street was a new section.

The desk! and below a close-up of the two shallow indentations which hold pens/pencils. It is the work Molly McDowell and she calls it a "Ripple Desk'. She says 'While having the potential to be functional... (the) design explores the idea of incorporating texture to a conventional flat surface'.

I don't think I have wanted something so much in the all years we have been going to the graduates' show.

I don't think the hand and others like it were the work of graduates. They were used to hold handbags and scarves, but I thought they were fun.

Well that's the end of my little personal tour of this year's NTU Graduate Show. Next year find the time to go. I promise you won't be disappointed. Always something inspirational to see and say 'Wow' a few times.

As for post election stuff. Yesterday I almost forgot the election completely other than to remember that these young people are part of the reward we get as a society when we invest in their future — something we should do freely as far as they are concerned. 

Friday, 9 June 2017

The bad news: Soubry hangs on with a little help from Labour. The good news: Labour now has a government in waiting if it chooses not to be an opposition.

As I feared, softly softly did it for Anna Soubry and for that she is to be admired and congratulated. She was keeping her powder dry, just in case it led to a call today from Theresa May.

On BBC-TV's election coverage in the early hours of this morning she looked tired and shell shocked, not, I suspect by the fact that she survived Labour's onslaught in Broxtowe, but by what had happened across the UK. Seeing the game was up for Theresa May, she emerged from the shell she had made for herself and said '(Theresa May) should consider her position'. When asked by Dimbleby about her reduced majority she pointed out that she had got elected in 2010 on a smaller majority.

Anna Soubry in her eve of poll email listed '10 pledges', 9 and 10 being:

I will continue to campaign in Broxtowe and in Parliament for a fairer society based on tolerance, openness, free speech and democracy.

I accept and will continue to honour the EU Referendum result. We are leaving the EU and must now get a good deal. I will continue to make the case for the positive benefits of immigration and the single market.

Personally, I don't doubt her commitment to these things and I suspect her decision to stay away from public debates was to protect herself from saying things she might later regret, since the general thinking at the beginning of the campaign was that the result was going to be a landslide for Theresa May. In the event the election I described as 'madness' for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour turned out to be madness for May. The result nationally is as a good as a victory, if not better, given the fact that I cannot imagine another general election now until after Brexit in 2019. But I digress, I want to stay with Broxtowe for the moment. Here is an updated version of my Broxtowe constituency general election results summary 2001–2017 (click on table to enlarge):

Last night Greg Marshall got more votes than any Labour Broxtowe constituency candidate from 2001 to date and only the 2001 percentage turnout for Labour (48.6%) beat Greg's 45.3%. He was just 864 votes from victory. Put another way, had 431 fewer voters pit their cross next to Soubry and 432 more had chosen Greg, he would have won — a margin of less than 2%. Labour's mistake in Broxtowe was as I feared and said in a couple of my posts — it made too much noise and in the process pulled out Conservative voters as well as Labour voters. I hope this lesson will be learned and learned well so that come the next general election Greg can win handsomely. The awful truth is that, as I have also pointed out in recent posts, high turnouts work against Labour and my summary table demonstrates this point.

Nationally, I claimed that the very best Labour could hope for was a hung parliament. I didn't expect Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party to achieve this, but I am joyous and proud that they did. The media this morning in all its talk of Theresa May and the Conservatives hanging onto power makes no mention of parliamentary 'pairing', which allows MPs to be absence from Parliament because a Labour MP 'pairs' with a Conservative MP so both can be absent from Parliament at the same time. I hope Corby will tell May there will be no pairing during the course of this parliament with Conservatives and that Labour will only pair with the SNP, Liberals and Caroline Lucas.

I also hope Labour behaves like a government in waiting and not an opposition. Oppose May on nothing, put forward an alternative policy instead and dare the other parties to vote the policy down. 

I heard Corbyn say that if he became PM he would ensure the rights of EU citizens in the UK today. He still can and Anna Soubry will have to support him or break her 10th pledge (see above). Voters will see Labour being positive all the time and the Conservatives as being anti everything. 

My overwhelming wish is that Labour will work with the SNP, Liberal and Green parties to ensure the next UK Parliament is elected by the same PR system as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Abolishing the House of Lords is taken as a given. Personally, I see no need for a second chamber.

Every vote should count and that is still not the case. This is an injustice we should not lose sight of in the heady days ahead as Labour Party members come to terms with what, by any measure, is a stunning victory for Labour.

I will return to the national result in a weekend post, having watched the rest of Nottinghamshire, Stoke South (which we lost), Hastings (which Amber Rudd held by a whisker), Greenwich, Birmingham and the Black Country closely, all places in which I have some kind of interest.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Where have all the Tories gone? To Stoke and other Labour Brexit lands each and every one

Where have all the Tories gone? especially Anna Soubry is a question I have heard constantly during this election campaign. Even her emails have been low key — which fits in with my belief that the Conservatives really believe they have Broxtowe in the bag and are deliberately running a low profile campaign.

An email from a friend in Stoke yesterday (Tuesday) included this pic of three 'letters' and seven leaflets through the letter box from the Conservatives in the past five weeks, with no doubt a couple more to follow. Just four leaflets from Labour. In past elections they have seen zilch from the Conservatives. 

This fits in nicely with an interesting post to the BBC Election 2017 webpage yesterday about where Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have been visiting during the election campaign? The story is headed 'Election 2017: How do the parties expect to do?'.

It makes interesting reading and explains why most Broxtowe Conservative activists may well be working elsewhere, if at all.

Our 17 year old grandson is more left-wing than us and lives in the West Midlands and is taking a keen interest in the election, to the point where he participated in a Channel 4 discussion in Wolverhampton (he gets to speak about 9 minutes in and makes the audience laugh by pointing out how bad the UK economy was before we voted to join the Common Market in 1973). I asked him last night for his take on the election and this is what he said in his email:

I haven't particularly changed my election predictions since the start of the campaign. The Labour campaign has been good, yes. As well as the Conservative campaign having been genuinely awful. There is no doubt that Theresa May is now damaged goods. I think her being overthrown by her party in the next five years is quite likely, though I can't think of anybody I'd rather be Leader of the Conservative Party that isn't genuinely awful.  

Even still, I have this feeling of intense dread about the result. It feels kind of like I'm amidst a slowmotion car crash. I have two exams on Friday, so I can't stay up. I'll wait for the Exit Poll, and if it's as bad as I think it is, I'll then go to bed. 

Another close friend in Greenwich, now 75, and his wife, born on exactly the same day as me, are working their socks off. No one is taking anything for granted. The atmosphere is 'tense'. If this being reflected in Labour held seats across the UK, then it explains why Jeremy Corbyn has visited so many 'safe' Labour constituencies (see BBC link above).

We will know soon enough. No more until Friday when we will either be living a miracle or facing a future none of wants to think about before we have to.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A favourite Beeston café

I admit to having favourite cafés, and being a creature of habit they have not changed since all three opened.

One of them, Mason and Mason has recently morphed into The Coffee Shop. 'Re-branding' they call it and the owners of Mason and Mason have just done what others have done before them.

The Coffee Shop is the first café on Beeston High Road (it may be Broadgate, but as far as I'm concerned the High Road begins at Humber Road). They have always served good coffee, salads and sandwiches and they have done all this without a proper kitchen, so you won't get cooked food at The Coffee Shop.

On Saturday, Susan and I dropped in for a sandwich and ended up having a couple of their delicious salads instead. The advantage being it meant no cooking when we got home and my two hours spent playing a secret policeman along the High Road had left me feeling close to knackered.

Susan had a goats cheese, beetroot and walnut salad

and I had a avocado and smoked salmon salad. We each sampled one another's salad and agreed they were delicious. For about a fiver each they were good value and when we both saw a 'Rhubarb Pressé' in the drinks cabinet there was no other choice for either of us. The smell of freshly cooked rhubarb escaped from the bottle as you removed the cap and exploded in your nose as you poured the pressé into the glass.

They say location is everything and I suspect the café has suffered because of the tram. When everyone using public transport arrived by bus from Lenton and the city a good few were in the habit of getting off at Humber Road and walking along the High Road to the shops. The first café they saw was Mason and Mason. Now it's The Coffee Shop.

(The blue 5 marks the location of a blue plaque)

It is not in a good location for passing trade, but it is well worth going to. The service is friendly and everything is freshly made, the coffee is excellent, as is the tea. It has been a favourite café since it opened and remains a favourite.

The trouble with living in Beeston is that we do not visit our favourite cafés enough. I keep promising myself that we will. In the meantime I can at least use BeestonWeek to draw attention to cafés I like and, in the process, encourage other folk, like you, to visit them too. You will not be disappointed I promise.

Monday, 5 June 2017

What historic numbers tell us about Broxtowe come Thursday

My 14 May blog looked at the likely outcome of the general election in Broxtowe, now just three days away, from a historical perspective. I headed it 'The erosion of the Labour vote in Broxtowe does not look good for 8th June'. I included some tables which were devoid of totals from the 2017 county council elections because Broxtowe Borough Council were dragging their feet in providing data which they could have provided in five minutes. The data finally arrived this morning, which has enabled me to update the tables, which you can see below (click on tables to enlarge):

What the data tells us quite plainly is that in the May County Council election just gone, the Conservatives were the main beneficiaries in the collapse of the Liberal and UKIP votes. Their vote went up from 27.7% in 2013 to 43.2% in 2017. Labour's share of the vote only increased from 28.5% to 29.8%.

In my 14 May post I wrote:

When I was younger and running elections I used to identify the core vote early, then work it. I was the view that I could win any local election with 10% of the vote as Labour by election day. As far those firmly against Labour were concerned there was no election taking place. I simply didn't contact them and as a strategy it worked. I am pretty sure the Conservatives in Broxtowe are doing this. 

This has been the Conservative strategy in Broxtowe. I have not had a leaflet from them, nor have others I have spoken to. I lay odds they are working their core vote and all Labour banging its drum does is to make that core vote more determined to vote.

I want to be wrong and, as some politician famously said, 'Seven days is a long time in politics' (or was it a week?). The London Bridge attack appears at this moment to be playing out to Theresa May's disadvantage and perhaps Labour has to find a way of exploiting this moment, but it may be too late.

As for the Broxtowe general election results since 2001, I pointed out that in my 14 May blog that, historically, a low turnout is to Labour's advantage. If you look at the County Council election a month ago it is the lowest turnout I have recorded. It will also be interesting to see what the electoral roll will be in terms of numbers. One would expect it to be climbing as the local population grows, but this does not appear to be the case and missing voters the general assumption is favours the Conservatives.

So where does all this leave us? I fear not in a good place. I will be happy if events prove the historical data wrong.

As one who will be sitting this election out for health reasons, I wish Greg Marshall and the Broxtowe Constituency Labour Party an amazing victory on Thursday — for that is what it will be!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

What I would like to see on eve of poll this coming Wednesday

All the candidates in Broxtowe will be trying to reach their supporters with eve of poll leaflets. I am of the mind that it is not too late for all the candidates to work with Broxtowe Borough Council to produce a shared eve of poll card encouraging all registered electors to vote on Thursday. Below is my stab at a simple A6 card printed both sides. If all the parties work together they could reach every home in the Brtoxtowe constituency on Wednesday.

No doubt someone could design something better, but, somehow, all the political parties, have to come together to ensure that despair and cynicism do not result in a low turnout on Thursday. It behoves all politicians and would-be MPs to show leadership. Right now they can unite in Broxtowe in encouraging every elector to vote on Thursday.

I know it's not going to happened, but it doesn't stop me imagining the possibility — just like leaflets containing 500 word election statements from all candidates published by the Election Commission via local councils and sent to every voter. This is what is done for many elections, such as trade unions, pension funds etc. 

It's over. What a way to end.

What a way for the election campaign to end. With just four days to go I cannot imagine anyone wanting a final frenzied day of campaigning on Wednesday.

The mad men behind this latest attack, for that is what they are, have demonstrated how difficult it is for the police and security services to predict and control such incidents. Three men get a large van, arm themselves with knives and make vests of beer or baked bean cans. How do you stop them? The awful answer is you don't without the kind of positive diplomacy Jeremy Corbyn talks about.

For now, Thursday will be the day when we show mad men everywhere what we think of them by going to vote.

The afterwards will have to wait until Friday.

In the meantime I expect to cry a little as individual stories of those killed and injured emerge. Everyday I still think of the young teenage couple killed in Manchester, their love for one another and his lifetime mission to keep her supplied with chocolate. Of such things happy lives are made and, right now, such lives lost matter more than any election campaign.

I am sure all our thoughts are with the victims of last night's attack, their loved ones, families and friends.

Things will get better. Without hope there is nothing.


I wrote the above at 9am after waking up to news of what had happened on London Bridge and at nearby Borough Market.

Campaigning is going to resume this evening. The Labour Party nationally and locally, I am sure, have made their decisions after a lot of careful thought. Over the next few days the media will be picking up on individual stories from yesterday's attack. The conflict between lives lost and changed forever will not sit easily alongside politicians clamouring for attention. We shall see what happens soon enough, but I fear politics will be the loser.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

A Beeston Secret Policeman reports on guarding Theresa May when she comes to the town on a surprise visit

A picture they say says more than a thousand words.

Yes, Theresa May was visiting Beeston High Road this morning (Saturday) for a whole two hours. Her presence, along with that of her spiritual helper, Mrs Thatcher, got a mixed reception. Conservatives handing our leaflets near Barnsdale the Butchers (very appropriate I thought) were a little confused. Anna Soubry shooed her boss away. 'Please go away will you'.

As for the two secret police officers on guard duty, several of Anna's guard were not fooled. One said she was going to call the police because it was an offence to impersonate a police officer and she had filmed me threatening her with my truncheon. It still early, so I may yet have a knock on my front door. Imagine, three seventy-somethings in the dock for threatening behaviour and impersonation.

I thought our identity badge 'did the business'. One little girl did ask 'Are you really a secret policeman?'. That question in itself was enough to make the day worthwhile. Her mum was wearing a Labour sticker, which made it even better.

The Labour Party was out in force, and even found the energy and numbers to have an impressive parade down Beeston High Road, singing their hearts out as they went along.

It was all very impressive and if the Broxtowe result was going to be determined on enthusiasm and bodies, then it is already Labour's day on Thursday.

It was fun being out with Chris Richardson (he who was dressed as Mrs Thatcher). He has been doing it for a good few years now, more than I can remember, and I have played one the secret policeman guarding him a good few times. The other 'secret policeman' is Richard McCance, who has been Chris's sidekick far more times than me. Maggie's mutation into May worked brilliantly.

It is the only thing I have done in this election campaign, 'on the fringe' stuff, but I enjoyed every minute. I guided Maggie to The White Lion, bought her and Richard half-pints and left them as Pete Ratcliffe was trying to persuade Chris to make a grand entrance at the beginning of a campaign rally, which was about to begin.

I hope Chris did, but I left before he decided. I can't do crowded rooms and am presently on antibiotics for a cough and wheeze I have. I have had more antibiotics in the last three months than I have had in the rest of my life. With luck there is a photograph out there already of Theresa May and her Maggie spirit making their grand entrance!

I finish this as I take a telephone call saying Jeremy Corbyn is going to Beeston Youth & Community Centre. That really would be a fillip for all those hardworking Labour Party members and supporters who have done so much in Beeston and the rest of Broxtowe to deserve victory on Thursday. Right now I am full of sunny optimism that it will happen!


My friend sent me this picture pf Jeremy Corbyn very much the centre of media attention at Beeston Youth & Community Centre. The town must be full of happy Labour bunnies tonight.

And finally, a few hours ago The Guardian posted a good piece by John Harris: 'Corbyn shows a new way of doing politics. Straight talking is back'.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

In search of sunny optimism for the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn

Today's Guardian has a wonderful piece by Alan Johnson headed 'Alan Johnson's Sgt Pepper pilgrimage' in which he remembers the album and revisits Liverpool. It would be very easy to dismiss it as nostalgia, but it taps into the topical and present day in unexpected ways.

What caught my eye was the following paragraph:

As Ian MacDonald said in Revolution in the Headthe greatest of all books about the band: 'Anyone unlucky enough not to have been aged between 14 and 30 during 1966-7 will never know the excitement of those years in popular culture. A sunny optimism pervaded everything and possibilities seemed limitless.'

Now I cannot claim to have been a Beatles fan at the time. I liked their music and, as people, they always held my attention. My first wife bought their albums, so I heard their songs regularly, my favourite from the moment I heard it was Eleanor Rigby and it remains so fifty years on. I was more into Joan Baez and folk, but whatever your musical tastes at the time, the words of Ian MacDonald were, and remain, true, especially the last sentence, which bears repeating:

'A sunny optimism pervaded everything and (the) possibilities seemed limitless'.

1966 was the year I moved from Wembley to South Harrow with my first wife, Tricia. We had married in 1965 and spent our first year together living with my maternal grandfather, my grandmother having died in 1960. I grew up with my grandparents, my mother unmarried until 1953, then starting a new family with my step-father, 'Uncle Jimmy'. Somehow I never saw myself fitting in, so I stayed with Nanna and Pop, as I called them.

Tricia and I both left school at fifteen and, thanks to Tricia's tenacity, saved enough money so we could put down a £300 deposit on a semi-detached house which cost us just over £3,000. In 1966, we were earning about £32 a week between us.

Today that seems eye-popping stuff, but it was still the same in 1975 when Susan and I bought our first house together in Mansfield with a similar deposit and for a few hundred pound more. Then, we were earning about £60 a week between us.

There were then schemes for low earners whereby the income tax relief came off the mortgage payments instead of being a tax allowance.

What we don't hear folk reminiscing about is how much it cost in the mid-1960s and into the 1980s to buy a TV, a washing machine or a car, to name just three 'luxury' items. TVs and washing machines were rented for about 35p a week (7/6d then).

The world was different then in many ways. I didn't know Nottingham until the early-1970s, but this photograph is dated August 1965 and comes from The Prestige Series Nottingham 2 by John Banks with photographs by G H F Atkins and published by Venture Publications in 2002. Sadly the book is out of print, but the occasional second-hand copy can be found. It is a truly wonderful collection of photographs showing Nottingham old trams, trolleybuses and buses. What makes them so good is the street scenes like the one above. August and most folk are wearing thick coats. How different to now.

To go with the music we had Harold Wilson, his 'The white heat of technology' speech a couple of years before, plus the prospect of what it offered; North Sea oil and, to cap it all, we won the World Cup at Wembley in 1966. Harold Wilson went up and down the country enthusing us with visions of a future offering more leisure and automation making live easier for all. 'Let's go with Labour' was the slogan.

Roy Jenkins is reviled by many, but I knew the man personally for a good few years, because I was a Labour city councillor living in Stechford, Birmingham. I did not agree with him over Vietnam, but when it came to social reform he led the charge, pushed along by a sea of great Labour politicans, names few remember today: Sydney Silverman, Fenner Brockway, Dick Crossman plus, of course, Barbara Castle, Derek Healey, Dick Crossman, Jenny Lee to name just a few.  As I saw somewhere recently, Harold Wilson stood on the shoulders of giants. Hanging was abolished, we got votes at 18, Homosexuality legalised, The Open University, so the list goes on. No wonder 'a sunny optimism pervaded everything and (the) possibilities seemed endless'.

I wish I could say 2017 feels full of sunny optimism. I want it to be, and I am beginning to think that Jeremy Corbyn might just have the makings of Harold Wilson MkII. Shame on me for doubting.

I still believe this general election is a mistake, and I am suspicious of media talk about the closing gap between Labour and the Conservatives in the polls. This election, like 2015, is all in the demographics: Facebook and Twitter etc belong to the young and the chattering classes. Oldies like me may do Facebook, but most seem to blog like me.

Us oldies are damned before opening our mouths as Mayite Brexiteers, when many of us are more left-wing and less accepting of austerity than the young who condemn us.

For the remainder of the campaign I'm going to promote sunny optimism. Here's my attempt at a logo. I'm sure someone can do better than me!