Tuesday, 25 April 2017

What has the BBC got against us?

The corporation has given more prominence to opinion surveys (more and more discreditable) than to the remarkable surge in membership of the Liberal Democrats or, scandalously, to our record in council by-elections since this time last year, not to mention the changes in vote share in parliamentary elections:

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The tendency of the Beeb in recent years to suck up to the people in power has been noted elsewhere. But this is more than blind support for the Conservatives. Could it be that they believe that a Liberal Democrat government would look seriously at the way the BBC is funded?

Non-EU trade

The HMRC statistical release of Non-EU trade by declared Currency of Invoicing statistics is due to be published today.

Monday, 24 April 2017

From settings of Longfellow to Sports Report

Looking forward to my regular dose of Private Passions, I mused not for the first time on what got me hooked on orchestral music first of all. Much must have been subliminal, from the old Kolster-Brandes radio mounted high (so that my infant fingers could not fiddle with the knobs?) in the living room. BBC broadcast a wide range of music* on the Light Programme in those days, and on the Home Service enlightened Children's Hour producers would use light classical pieces as incidental music to serials. Sometimes the music was not so light. One sci-fi series effectively used a piece of Bartok's night music.

All this was consciously reinforced later when I was allowed to go to the pictures on my own. I can't say I remember Hugo Friedhofer's score for Joan of Arc, but Vaughan Williams' orchestral music (later to be amplified into a symphony) for Scott of the Antarctic certainly made an impression as did the Cornish Rhapsody, the theme of Love Story, a vehicle for Stewart Granger and Margaret Lockwood. Not long after seeing the film, I was allowed to accompany my parents to rich acquaintances (I am guessing the family of an officer who knew my father during the war) who possessed a radiogram and stacks of 78s. Invited to pick something, and no doubt expected to light on a dance band number, I spotted Cornish Rhapsody. "Oh, you won't like that." I was told, but I did and I believe the company did too.

Before writing this post, some research was necessary to refresh my memory. I had assumed that the pseudo-concerto was by Addinsell or Alwyn or one of the √©migr√© composers given employment by sympathetic British studios in the 1940s. Instead, it turned out to be by Hubert Bath, the man also responsible for Out of the Blue, the long-time signature tune of Sports Report.

Bath was almost as prolific a composer for British film as the aforementioned composers, and certainly the earliest of the three because he contributed to the sound-track of Blackmail, Alfred Hitchock's and Britain's first talkie.

But he was much more than that, as this appreciation shows. He wrote operas and set poems based on literary greats like Hardy and Longfellow. He wrote orchestral suites, cantatas - I would love to have heard his Men on the Line for the male voices of the Great Eastern Railway - for piano, organ, some inventive combinations, and for brass band. One of his band competition pieces was in use until the 1970s. He would make a great Composer of the Week - if only enough of his work has been recorded.

Bath died at Harefield, Middlesex on 24 April 1945, just days before VE Day.

*even jazz, thanks to the persistence of Charles Chilton, as he revealed in his reminiscences

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Cuts to social services, yet the government does not stop this rip-off

And where was the "socialist" opposition?

Online VAT fraud cost the taxpayer between £1 billion and £1.5 billion last year but not a single prosecution has taken place, according to an investigation by the National Audit Office.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Susan Kramer was expectedly angry:
“It is a disgrace that not a single VAT fraudster has been brought to justice. Taxpayers are being ripped off to the tune of £1.5 billion and small businesses are being undercut, but still this Government won’t act.

“This chronic failure to go after online fraudsters will be made even worse by a hard Brexit. Our Chancellor should be stepping up European cooperation to tackle tax evasion, instead he is threatening to turn the UK into an offshore tax haven.”

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Possible LD coalitions

I am still in the middle of a campaign to get more Liberal Democrat councillors into the chamber of the civic centre in Port Talbot. National politics comes well down the list of my concerns at present. However, Tim Farron's honesty in not ruling out a coalition as a result of the general election on June 8th has raised a mini-storm. A comment on an unrelated post here seems to invite my own views.

I want to see the Liberal Democrats as the largest party in the new House of Commons - in these volatile days, not an unrealistic aspiration! Failing that, I would want Tim Farron to go into coalition with a party, or cross-party group of MPs, on a programme which closely matches our manifesto, but we should not go into government for the sake of it. We should be prepared for constructive opposition, even in a hung parliament. As a believer in proportional representation, which leads to a wider representation of opinions in national parliaments, I believe this is the only valid stance.

However, a sticking point for me would be serving under the present prime minister, who is the most untrustworthy I can remember (and I am including David Cameron in the comparisons), or under the current leader of the Labour party who has been a grave disappointment even to his own supporters.

Jennie Rigg puts it all more bluntly.

Wise words from a Liberal party historian

William Wallace (Baron Wallace of Saltaire) writes on Liberal Democrat Voice:

Theresa May has defined this seven-week election campaign as all about Brexit. But it won’t be, and it can’t be, however hard she and her party, and the partisan right-wing media, try to hold attention to that. (Did you see the Daily Mail font-page headline on Wednesday, ‘Crush the Saboteurs’?) The condition of our schools, the tightening squeeze on their budgets while Mrs. May wants to spend money on grammar schools, the continuing cuts in grants to poorer local authorities, the deepening crisis in the health service, will all attract public attention – because they are closer to most people’s immediate interests than the long-term future of Britain and our place in the world.

As a son of England he naturally concentrates on the way the Tories have impacted on the NHS and education there. However, whatever happens to spending by those English departments is reflected in the settlement for Wales. Affecting Wales directly are cuts to social spending, the privatisation of the parole and probation services, the withdrawal of legal aid from those who most need it and attacks on civil liberties. I would expect the LD candidates for Aberavon and Neath to speak to these and more in the coming general election campaign, and to the Labour so-called opposition's failure to halt them.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Farage backing into the limelight again

Nigel Farage contends that he is too busy in Brussels to consider standing in this June's general election, according to a BBC report. This will be yet another excuse for the Beeb to replay what has passed for their prime-time coverage of the European Parliament, one of Farage's vicious and mendacious personal attacks on fellow-MEPs and their elected officials.

It is rather like covering Cruft's by repeatedly showing a mongrel pissing against the judges' table.