Winter hills…

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We’ve had a chilly weekend in West Yorkshire, very much four seasons in one day sort of weather where there’s bright sunshine one minute, then you’re getting pelted with hailstones before being soaked by heavy rain.

Yesterday afternoon we went to see my Father-in-Law perform with the Honley Male voice choir at Huddersfield Town hall. They were supported by the excellent Carlton Frickley Colliery Band and also a local female choir from nearby Rastrick. It was a lovely, joyous event in a stunning setting. Here’s a shot from the end of the event when everyone was in the festive spirit, including the audience who were joining hands and swaying along to the songs!

Afterwards Dawn treated me to a belated birthday present, an excellent meal at Café Thai in West Vale, where we had the tapas menu in their upstairs restaurant. Thai food lends itself to the tapas format extremely well. We ordered three dishes each, which was plenty as the portion sizes are generous. Among the dishes we ordered was this, Pla Goong. Grilled prawns with a salad of red onions, coriander and garlic, along with a typically Thai spicy dressing that was the perfect fiery accompaniment.

We also sampled duck in a red curry sauce, steamed mussels with Thai Basil and a marinated Tofu dish, ‘Pad Char’ – none of which could be faulted.

Today’s been much more a home-based event. This is the view we woke up to from our bedroom window this morning, with the first snow of the season on the high hills and dark skies threatening more…

Election result. What does it mean for HS2?

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With the last result declared, Johnson’s Government now has a clear majority of 80. He no longer needs the backing of parties like the DUP and it waters down the influence of special interest groups or rebels.

As I predicted, the StopHs2 campaign had a lousy election. Long on bluster, they’ve always been short of any serious political influence and this is obvious in the results. They were never a genuine threat to any MPs on the route. A good example is on the phase 2b route at Erewash where Maggie Throup, the local Tory MP has always made her support for HS2 plain. Despite the fact their was a vociferous anti Hs2 candidate standing against her for the Green Party (Brent Poland) and there’s a local Stophs2 ‘action’ group she increased her majority by 4.4%!

Meanwhile, over in Bolsover, the prominent anti-HS2 MP and Labour veteran, Dennis Skinner lost his seat! What’s been crystal clear is that the big issue has been Brexit, not Hs2.

Here’s a bit of number crunching. Of the 41 MPs who voted against Hs2 Phase 1 back In 2014, just 20 of them are still MPs. Plus, 7 of those 20 actually voted FOR Hs2 phase 2a! Whilst a few new MPs have stated their opposition it doesn’t affect the numbers. For example. Labour’s John Barron in Rother Valley who was opposed to HS2 has been replaced by a Tory MP with the same stance. Some of the new Tory MPs in the Chilterns are making noises about HS2, but it’s nothing more than posturing to keep some of the locals happy. Phase 1 is a done deal, there are no more votes in Parliament to be had.

Where does this leave HS2? Johnson’s Conservatives made big inroads into the Labour heartland of the North and Midlands. He now has to deliver on his promises to the people who’ve lent him their votes. He’s promised to ‘level the field’ between North and South and invest in infrastructure. Cancelling HS2 would send entirely the wrong message to people who have bought into his promises. He can’t ‘get Brexit done’ and he needs their votes again in five years time. With Hs2 (and NPR) he can at least offer them something tangible.

During the election campaign Johnson made it clear that he’d go along with the recommendations of the Oakervee review of HS2. As the leaked report shows Oakervee recommends building HS2 in its entirety. Does anyone seriously expect Johnson to cancel it? There might be some tweaks to the Phase 2b route, but it’s worth remembering that another scheme Johnson backs (Northern Powerhouse Rail) will share 50% of Hs2 Phase 2’s tracks. You won’t get one without the other.

Of course, Johnson’s government could cut the cost of HS2 by renegotiating some of the construction contracts which have loaded on costs due to the transfer of risk from Hs2 to the contractors, which would make a lot of sense and save billions, making him popular all round and pull the rug from under the remaining HS2 objectors.

My prediction is that we’ll see Hs2 phase 1 get the go-ahead very quickly to end the uncertainty and Phase 2a resume its course through the Lords. What’s left of the StopHs2 campaign has no serious political influence and Johnson has a lot on his plate. The last thing he needs now is to fight a needless battle with Northern and Midlands leaders by scrapping any of HS2.

Watch this space…

Went the day well? Election thoughts…

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Well that’s settled then. Presented with a choice between a slow, lingering death and a lingering, slow death, the country chose. Instead of ‘Magic Grandad’ Jeremy Corbyn the country opted for the blond buffoon and serial liar Boris Johnson – and gave him a working majority. The tactical voting many of us hoped for failed to change anything. The only ‘Portillo moment’ was when Lib-Dem leader Jo Swinson lost her seat in Scotland by 149 votes. The SNP now hold 48 of the 59 Scottish seats.

Now we know where we stand and Johnson is expected to deliver on his promises, which is where where the trouble starts. Get Brexit ‘done’? How? This is going to drag on for years. The only thing that’s getting done is the poor saps who fell for it.

Meanwhile, the hard-left in charge in Labour are already forming their wagons into a circle and defending Corbyn in their usual fashion. It’s everybody’s fault but theirs. They’ve been ‘betrayed’ by the voters – again. Don’t expect any humility or introspection here, it’s not what they do. Labour are looking increasingly irrelevent in a post-industrial UK. Like the Tories, they hark back to the past rather than have an eye on the future. Can they change with the hard-left in control, or will they wither on the vine?

What now for the Lib-Dems and the centerist voters made homeless by the Tories and Labour moving to the political extremes?

At least the stock markets have bounced back (the FTSE is currently up 1.84%) and sterling has strengthened, it’s up 1.9% against the US Dollar, so some of us have made some money for now. The poor? You’re on your own now. Many of you fell for the idea that a bunch of entitled old Etonians, ‘Spivs’ with Belizean Diplomatic passports and multi-billionaire media moguls had your best interests at heart, Good luck with that…

As we now know where we stand for the next few years, many people will be making plans, including international companies with operations in the UK but markets abroad. EU citizens will be too.

I wonder how long the euphoria in Tory ranks will last before the magnitude of the situation begins to sink in? Will Johnson dial down the rhetoric now he’s not held hostage by the likes of the ERG, or will he hold fast to the anti EU sentiments and keep up the lies and claims he can do the impossible and get Brexit ‘done’? We’re about to find out. He has a lie to make reality and it’s only going to end one way.

One other observation. Our electoral system is broken. First Past The Post has led us to this. Look at the numbers of people voting for particular parties, then look at the number of MPs they have. Until that changes democracy in the UK’s a joke.

This election has settled everything, and nothing. But it has got rid of a lot of uncertainty and set parameters for the next few years, and many people will be planning accordingly. Expect the United Kingdom to look a very different country (or countries) in a few years time…

Rolling blog: the election unfolds…

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22:50.

I’ll keep this up for a while but hardly all the way through the night. An exit poll, carried out by Ipsos MORI for the BBC, ITV News and Sky News, suggests the Tories may win 368 seats and Labour 191. If this translates into reality, it will be a disaster for Labour and allow the Tories free reign, which means we’re stuffed.

Will this prediction come true? Right now there’s no way to know, but exit polls have proved to be accurate in the past. If they are, it’s a disaster for the Labour party and those of us who want to see the UK stay in the EU. Typically, the hard left in charge of the Labour party are already crawling all over social media, blaming everyone else and accepting no responsibility whatsoever. It’s others fault for not being as ideologically pure as them.

Let’s see how things pan out as the first results start coming in, which won’t be for a few hours yet, but here’s a good example of how Twitter (and many of us) feel.

23:20.

The first result has come in and it’s from Newcastle (central). Labour have held it with a reduced majority. Sunderland South declared a few minutes later. It’s also a Labour hold. Here’s the change in votes.

It gets worse. Labour have lost Blyth Valley with a 10% swing. It’s the first time a Tory has ever won there.

00:01

It’s looking pretty crap for Labour. But none of them are taking responsibility. It’s the voters fault, not theirs.

We now move to Newcastle East, where Labour hold the seat with a reduced majority.

00:05.

Sunderland Central. Labour Hold, but the Brexit party and Lib-Dem votes are interesting.

00:20.

Despite the exit poll, it’s far too early to tell what’s going on as the only results we have are from the North-East.

00:29.

The first result from the South. Swindon North:

Conservatives hold it, and add to their majority.

00:42.

Hmm, I’m watching the Channel 4 news election news and it’s fascinating to see who’s part of this. Former Speaker of the House John Bercow’s really good. He has the insight you really need as he understands the political tribes and I love his precision in the English language.

01:06.

Nuneaton; Conservative hold with a much bigger majority.

01:24.

The Tories take Workington from Labour with a swing of 10%…

01:48.

The Tories again Peterborough from Labour (again). Things are not looking good and the exit poll is looking pretty accurate.

02:00

I can’t watch and blog at the same time. Plus, I’m now reaching for the wine- so goodnight!

Election day.

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It’s finally here. The general election that few people, other than the zealots on either side, are enthused about. One where many people see the choice being that between two lacklustre candidates, neither of whom are Prime Ministerial material, a choice between ‘Magic Grandad’ Jeremy Corbyn and the blond buffoon and serial liar Boris Johnson. It’s like being offered the ‘choice’ of a slow, lingering death, or a lingering, slow death in an awful campaign that’s been dominated by lies, deceit and efforts to mislead. The truth is out there, but it’s hidden by a fog of misinformation and hidden manipulation on social media.

Who’s going to win? I’ll be honest – I haven’t got a clue.

What I do know, though talking to friends and colleagues over the past year is that this election is different. The old tribal loyalties have been split asunder. This applies to both parties. I’ve talked to life-long Tory voters who won’t touch the present party as well as Labour voters who’re in exactly the same position. These people feel that both parties have been taken over by the dogmatists and fundamentalists who’ve dragged them both ends of the political extremes. Which was these politically homeless people will vote could have a huge impact.

So could tactical voting.

Whilst the pollsters are predicting a small Tory majority, I do wonder if their models can cope with the present uncertainties as some people are so torn they still don’t know which way they’re going to vote, even though the polls have already opened. Another factor is loyalty to individual MPs, which I’ve also heard people talk of.

Others have certainly made their mind up and decided to vote not for – but against a party and anyone who has the best chance of keeping them out, thus voting tactically as a damage-limitation exercise, because if one thing is dominating this election it’s Brexit, with the NHS close behind.

This swirl of uncertainties means we going to be in for a very interesting election night. One thing I will predict is that there will be at least one ‘Portillo moment’ – when the then Tory Minister unexpectedly lost his seat in the 1997, leading to enormous bouts of schadenfreude from his opponents.

If you’re still undecided and are reading this, the only thing I would urge you to do is vote for the good of the country, not for the good of any political party. There’s far too much at stake for that. Johnson isn’t going to ‘get Brexit done’. It’s a lie. He’s just going to drag us into another cycle of uncertainty that will drag on for years, because we never ‘took back control’, we gave it away. Now we do have a chance to take back control – from the charlatans and liars who got us into this mess in the first place.

Go. Vote…

13:25.

The day’s turned in to a wet and miserable one here in the Calder and Colne valleys. I wonder what effect that might have on turning out the vote, and which party may benefit from it?

Whoever wins on Friday, the losers are StopHs2.

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Despite all their bluster it’s clear that one group are having a lousy election and that’s what’s left of the StopHs2 ‘campaign’. For years they’ve tried to pretend they have the support of the majority of the public and that HS2 is an election issue. Their problem is that every election since 2010 has proved that’s nothing but hot air. This election’s no different.

There’s been no daft #NoVotesForYouWithHS2 hashtag on Twitter this year, nor any StopHs2 adverts in newspapers or magazines as the ‘campaign’ is skint. What there has been has been reduced to some ludicrous bluster on Twitter. Here’s a couple of examples.

“Hundreds of thousands” eh? Well that should give the Greens and Brexit party a bounce in the polls, eh?

Meanwhile, there’s this rubbish from one Stephen Leary who lives in Measham, NW Leics and fancies himself as a political pundit!

Leary’s bored Twitter to death by telling people in constituencies miles away from the Hs2 route who they can vote for to oppose HS2 – as if they haven’t got more important things on their minds this election! I’m sure they’ve been talking about nothing else in Worcester, Woolwich or Wood Green! I mean, forget Brexit, or the NHS. Well, in Leary’s febrile imagination that’s what they’re doing anyway! Meanwhile, in the real world, the ‘Britain Elects’ website has been monitoring the standing of the parties in the many polls. Here’s their summary from yesterday.

So much for Deeley’s “hundreds of thousands” of HS2 antis and Leary’s desperate digging up of political no-hopers like the SDP (who? Ed). The two national parties who oppose HS2, the Greens and Brexit party are languishing at the bottom of the chart. How many seats are they projected to win? None at all. The Greens will hang on to their one existing South Coast seat whilst the Brexit party won’t win anything anywhere.

So much for all the bluster! Hs2 antis have supplied all the bounce of a dead cat to the parties that oppose HS2! Whichever party or parties form the next Government support building the new railway.

Something else HS2 anti have been reticent to mention is this interview Boris Johnson gave to the Metro newspaper. It says.

BORIS JOHNSON has said he will back HS2 — as long as the Oakervee Review does so too.

As the leaked draft of the Oakervee report does exactly that, I think we can see which way the wind’s blowing – the direction that’s going to take the wind out of Stophs2’s sails completely…

Rolling blog: double trouble.

15:15.

You’re being ‘treated’ to two blogs today as the first one was something important that needed to be said and circulated. This one’s the more usual whimsey and musings as I’ve escaped from Bigland Towers for a few hours to join ‘Team ACoRP’ for a pre-Xmas drink in Huddersfield.

The one thing about being a solo freelancer is that Xmas office parties are a bit crap! So, it’s very pleasent when you’re invited to join other friends or colleagues that you’ve worked with over the year.

Right now I’m en-route on a day when the weather has changed completely. Yesterday we had clear skies and glorious winter sunshine, today we’ve got stormclouds and gales, with gusting winds really blowing me around as I walked from home to Halifax station. I almost wished I’d brought the full camera bag to use as ballast as I’m reduced to the Nikon D5 and a single 50mm lens today.

22:51

What a lovely evening! OK, it was a bit frustrating on the rail front with the awful weather and the fact the only new TPE train that graced Huddersfield whilst I was there was unbranded.

The late running (surprise, surprise) 9M12, the 1403 Newcastle to
Liverpool Lime Street worked by 802219 was a mere 9 mins late at Huddersfield, which is almost unremarkable for TPE.

Afterwards I adjourned to the ‘Kings Head’, one of the two pubs on the station, where I met up with the ACoRP team. Some of the group had had ‘Secret Santa’ presents (others had donated the money to charity instead) so we had a happy couple of hours playing table games over a beer (or two).

A MENSA approved brain-teaser. Reconstruct a cube out of wooden shapes…
It’s Jenga, only with little plastic chairs…

The truth is out there…

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It’s just very difficult to find it…

I’m posting this in response to the flood of ‘fake news’ on social media such as Facebook and Twitter because it’s important we search for the truth. This isn’t even party political. This is about fake news – whoever promotes it.

You may well have seen a lot of stuff trying to discredit the story of a 4-year old boy in a Leeds hospital. Well, here’s the detailed explanation and verification of the facts from James Mitchinson, the Editor of the Yorkshire Post, written in response to a woman who’d been taken in by the fakes and contacted him.

Margaret (forgive my using your first name but I am loath to guess at your title for fear of getting it wrong).

Thank you for your email and thank you for being one of our loyal weekend readers. So much time, effort and talent goes into putting the weekend package together that it is always nice to know there are people out there who value it.

Forgive my doing this, but I do feel it is important to respond as you would expect me to as the editor of one of the most trusted newspapers in the country.

The story was first published by the Yorkshire Evening Post after the mother – Sarah – contacted us directly;

Because it is irresponsible – and reckless – to take one person’s word and take it as fact, we immediately checked the veracity of the assertion with the hospital. That’s not a boast, by the way, just bog-standard journalism;

The hospital itself confirmed the set of circumstances you read in our story were and are correct;

The Chief Medical Officer for Leeds Teaching Hospitals – Dr Yvette Oade – accepted the situation had occurred and offered an explanation as to why. The principal reason given for what happened to Jack was demand outstripped capacity. They were overrun;

The Chief Executive, Julian Hartley, confirmed their ordeal had taken place. He offered a personal apology to Sarah and to Jack whilst backing the staff at LGI who are absolutely giving their all, but cannot cope with the sheer number of people needing their help.

So, as you can see, we went to great lengths to establish the story was true and to check that the hospital accepted as much. I do not blame you for contacting me as you have done. You are not the only one to have seen the Sheree Jenner-Hepburn Facebook post – amongst thousands of others very similar in nature – and believed it to be true. What we are dealing with is quite simply: a very poorly little boy in a place that cannot give him the care he needs and as a result a mother reaching out for help. They are the ones that really matter, here.

As I say, I am not surprised you have been misled by that post. But, if you’ll bear with me, I offer you this:

That account has now disappeared. Our accounts are still here and you can hold me and my journalists to account;

You have no way of holding Sheree to account, nor checking her words. She’s a stranger to you. You don’t even know if it is a real person, so why do you trust her claim over the newspaper you’ve taken for years, in good faith?;

Sheree – robot or human – did not offer a credible source. The words a ‘good friend of mine’ adds warmth and humanity to the post in order to dupe others into believing her words are credible. They are not, as far as anyone can tell. I attach below a screengrab of multiple accounts who also claim to have a ‘good friend’ at LGI. It simply isn’t credible or true. Again, the words are manufactured very carefully and cynically in order to mislead;

I also attach for your interest several accounts claiming to be ‘a former paediatric nurse’ – the accounts are fakes. All make the same claim, using the same wording.

Margaret, it may well be that those who will benefit the most by breaking the bond of trust you have with the likes of The Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post have already won, but I urge you to consider which news source you can get in touch with. Who is willing to look you in the eye and tell you they did their best to get it right versus those who pop up on Facebook, spout something so compelling that others share it, and with that undermine the truth and discombobulate decent citizens.

I would be more than happy to meet you over a coffee or such to offer you an explanation as to how sophisticated and corrosive the proliferation of fake news is, and what you can do to guard against being conned by it. Only – of course – if that is not patronising (I absolutely do not mean it to be) and welcome. However, if you no longer trust your Yorkshire Post – and I will be frustrated and disappointed if these people had wrecked your confidence in this historic champion for the county – contact the hospital directly. Whatever you do, do not believe a stranger on social media who disappears into the night.

Very best wishes to you and your family ahead of the festive period.

James

You’ll find James at @JayMitchinson, where the story of the disinformation continues to unfold, like this tweet about Sheree Jenner-Hepburn, whose Facebook account started spreading the disinformation.

The Guardian newspaper has more here.

The plot thickens…

Slowly, slowly…

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There’s not much of a blog today, as after travelling over to Southport yesterday, Sunday’s been a much quieter day spent at home, pottering around and catching up on various chores whilst keeping one eye on the weather. We’ve had pretty much everything today. Rain (aplenty), sleet, hailstorms and high winds have all combined to keep us entertained. The one bright spot is that the weather’s been mild. In between the showers I managed to tidy up our front garden leaving it in a fit state to survive the winter, although I couldn’t tackle other areas as the cobbles and stonework’s slippy as hell at the moment after all the rain and the leaf fall. Still, there was plenty do inside the house, making it presentable in readiness for Dawn’s return from her weekend with friends in London.

This evening I’ve had time to edit a few pictures for my Zenfolio website, including this shot of the very first of the old BR built Class 142 ‘Pacers’ which was active West of Manchester yesterday.

142001 and 142054 call at Hindley station near Wigan whilst working 2K88, the 1350 Wigan North Western to Alderley Edge.

Sights like this will very soon be a thing of the past.

Rolling blog: off to the seaside…

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10:00.

Today I’m heading back to Southport, the town where I grew up to see my sister and (belatedly) celebrate her birthday. Needless to say, I’m going by rail, so stay with me and see how the day goes as I’m stopping off on the way (albeit briefly) to visit the friends of Hindley station and their Xmas Fayre…

10:58.

Having walked down to Sowerby Bridge staion and picked up my coffee from the Jubilee refreshment rooms (in one of their fully biodegradable cups) I’m ready to roll.

Shame the train isn’t. The 11:06 is already 4 mins late. Still, it could have been worse. I could have been waiting for the 11:22 to Chester. That’s been cancelled!

11:10.

In the end the 11:06 turned up just a couple of minutes late. It’s worked by a schizophrenic Class 150. Number 109 was transferred to Northern from W Midlands Trains. It still bears their livery on the outside but on the inside the seats have the new Nothern mocquette! A 2-car on a Saturday is less than ideal. It’s already full and standing with several busy stations to call at before arrival in Manchester.

12:15.

I’m still on the same train as it was late into Manchester, so I missed my connection. We’re currently trundling along the old Lancashire and Yorkshire main line from Manchester to Wigan via Atherton. Once four tracked, it passed through a landscape studded with collieries. Now all are gone. I’ve been traversing the route for half a century and remember how industrial the area once was but little remains to stand out now other than the odd red-brick cotton mill.

12:38.

Having changed trains at Wigan Wallgate I’m now doubling back to Hindley aboard one of an endangerd species. The Northern Rail ‘Pacer’…

This one’s in original condition with the small destination blind and bus-style seats. Personally, I’d rather have one of these than a Class 150, but I know I’m in a minority here!

14:05.

I’ve had an interesting couple of hours in Hindley. It’s their Christmas market today, so I popped in to say hello to Sheila Davidson of the station friends group, who was looking after a stall there. The community spirit is still strong in this former mining town , as anyone who’s ever met Sheila and the friends of Hindley station will know.

The Xmas market was really busy. There were fairground rides for the kids. A stage on which a young girl with a decent voice was belting out tunes, an inflatable pub and dozens of stalls. One that caught my eye was the Mayflower brewery who’re based in the town. They do a variety of locally themed bottled beers with names like ‘Douglas Valley’ and ‘Wigan Bier’! I tried the Douglas Valley, which is a light, hoppy pale ale and ended up buying some.

My visit was fleeting and I’m now on the train to Southport. One thing I did notice about Hindley was how choked with traffic it was. Cars were queuing all the way from the centre of town as far back as the railway station.

The train I’m on now is one of Northern’s refurbished Class 150s. It’spart of a pair and it’s already in a bit of a state. The seats are dirty, there’s empty beer bottles strewn around and the disabled toilet is out of action – which doesn’t bode well for a Saturday night service!

21:00.

I’m now onboard yet another Class 150, making my way East to Yorkshire after a lovely afternoon catching up with my sister and an unexpected appearance by my elder brother John. It was far too long since we’ve been together, but life often puts obstacles in the way.

21.53.

I’ve changed trains at Manchester Victoria, where it’s the usual Saturday night mayhem as passengers (many inebriated) search for their trains. The information screens add to the chaos. I’m now stood on the 21:58 to Leeds, only the PIS was advertising it as the 22:04 to Blackburn until a few minutes before it left, causing the dispatch staff loads of hassle…

22:13.I’m stood in a 75mph ‘Dogbox’ (a single car class 153 to the uninitiated) tacked onto the rear of a 90mph Class 158. Not that it matters much on this route as 90 mph is purely aspirational!

Needless to say, the train’s full – even after calling at Rochdale, but the atmosphere’s jolly. Unusually, nany folk are doing the unheard of nowadays. They’re actually talking (even to strangers) rather than staring, trance-like at their Smartphones.