This week with Brian 3 to 10 August 2023

Further Afield the week according to Brian Quinn

This Week with Brian

Including the roll-call of shame, an absentee, point taken by the Mayor, interesting times, a crazy flame, poor old BoJo, the peers go to the polls, ULEZ, very small and very large, made in the ’70s, a wonderful series, orange notices, gender equality, nature recovery, Saudi sports-washing, a hot bear, Patsy’s best moments, Jagger’s first guitar part, community forums, two Henrys, two Edwards and a connected phrase.

Click on the appropriate buttons to the right to see the local news from your area (updated every Thursday evening).

If there’s anything you’d like to see covered for your area or anything that you’d like to add to something that we’ve covered already, drop me a line at

Further afield

• The roll-call of shame continues. Three by-elections were recently held, prompted by mendacity, drug-taking and sulking over not getting a peerage. A fourth will now need to happen, following a resounding recall by the constituents of Margaret Ferrier in Rutherglen and Hamilton West after she did some Covid-dodging on a train and got kicked out of the SNP. The Commons’ Standards Committee recommended in March that she be suspended for 30 days, enough to trigger a recall petition. Who might win and what it all could tell us will remain fairly opaque to most people south of the border as Scottish politics seems rather mysterious to most of the rest of us.

[more below] 

• Elections

• Yet one more by-election will follow at some point. Nadine Dorries said that she would resign on 9 June (also as a result of an epic sulk about a non-peerage) but so far has not. Sky News reports that Stephanie Stanley, the Town Clerk of Flitwick, the largest town in her Mid-Bedfordshire constituency, has written to Dorries urging her to go now, claiming that “rather than representing constituents, the council is concerned that your focus appears to have been firmly on your television show, upcoming book and political manoeuvres to embarrass the government for not appointing you to the House of Lords.”

The letter added that her recent conduct has not been in line with the seven Nolan Principles on Public Life. These are selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. It’s hard to see how Dorries is currently fulfilling even one of these, still less all seven. The Prime Minister agreed with this judgement, being quoted in The Guardian, as saying that she’s “an absentee MP who is not properly representing her constituents.”

There could be yet another by-election, with former Chief Whip Chris Pincher facing a possible recall petition in Tamworth. It was Pincher’s appointment that started the political avalanche that led to Boris Johnson’s resignation in 2022. 

• And there’s more. The House of Lords is to have two by-elections in September, caused by the death of two of the hereditary peers. This means that the hereditary peers will be able to top up their number of representatives, although only hereditary peers will be able to vote in this. I don’t think this really counts as a by-election at all. It looks rather more like the process to select a couple of new members for a traditional Pall Mall club.

• Emissions

• The ULEZ fall-out continues, opponents claiming that the expansion of this zone by London Mayor Sadiq Khan not only cost the party the Uxbridge by-election but is also penalising people with polluting cars. That’s kind of the point. Emissions since the scheme was introduced have fallen, though opinions differ as to whether these are significant or minor. However, the direction of travel seems the right one.

Last week on my regular Kennet Radio slot (4.30 to 5.00 on 106.5FM) from about 31′, I suggested that this “polluter pays” approach was similar to that we’ve long been demanding from the water companies with regard to sewage in our rivers, the difference being that SO2 and particulates kill more people than do poo and pee do in our waterways. Glad to see, therefore, that Sadiq Khan had clearly taken my point in when he later said that “We don’t accept dirty water, why accept dirty air?” You heard it on Kennet Radio first…

• Outsiders

• Anyone who watched the chaotic Capitol riots in the USA on 6 January 2021 must have thought, “well that’s got to be the end of Trump.” Seems not. The more he is indicted for offences, the greater his popularity appears to grow. No other Republican currently appears able to challenge him in the presidential election next year. If one were to be held now between him and Biden, the result would be close to a dead-heat. This seems staggering to me: but perhaps this is because I don’t understand how divided (and evenly so) the USA was and remains. It’s clearly a nation at odds with itself.

Mind you, so is the UK. Brexit – the vote on which happened in 2016, the year Trump was elected – has not been healed, any more than have the previously unfocussed concerns that Trump managed to stir into life. 2016 seemed to be the year of the outsider. (From a more centrist position than either Trump or Johnson and Farage, Macron could perhaps have claimed the same mantle in France.)

Looking just at Trump and Johnson, the moral seems to be that once you’ve established yourself as an outsider/maverick, you need to play out the hand for all it’s worth. In retrospect, Trump’s ousting in 2020 was exactly what he most wanted. Nothing else but a tight defeat using new technology could, in that febrile and divisive time, have produced the dividends of victimisation and exclusion that he has been able to garner. You have to go for it big time; and he has. Out of office, he has no constraints on his behaviour.

So now, we are once again fully exposed to his special brand of tempestuous invective. As The Guardian reports, he recently posted that “I hear that Deranged Jack Smith, in order to interfere with the Presidential Election of 2024, will be putting out yet another Fake Indictment of your favorite President, me, at 5:00 P.M. Why didn’t they do this 2.5 years ago? Why did they wait so long? Because they wanted to put it right in the middle of my campaign. Prosecutorial Misconduct!”

A statement on 1 August, after his indictment into trying to overturn the 2020 election was confirmed, he added that “this is nothing more than the latest corrupt chapter in the continued pathetic attempt by the Biden Crime Family and their weaponized Department of Justice to interfere with the 2024 Presidential Election, in which President Trump is the undisputed frontrunner…”

These are resonant phrases and could only have come from someone with an ego the size of Nebraska and a skin as thick of that of a double elephant. Phrases like “respect” or “admiration” for his tenacity would be used by his supporters. What can’t be denied is that he’s managed, once again, to avoid being ignorable or boring, two of the worst crimes a politician in a democracy can commit. He’s also elevated his transgressions, in the eyes of his many supporters, to a titanic philosophical battle for the soul of America. He’s got everyone’s attention once again.

It appears that there’s no law that would prevent him becoming President even if he were jailed. If elected and jailed, he could pardon himself. May you live in interesting times, Americans: and therefore the rest of the world as well.

Poor old BoJo, by contrast. Brexit was his big thing and he became unstuck because he  involved in trying to “get it done” which involved a steady descent into legalistic detail and lack of clear achievement which became boring to him. Then Covid struck, which produced its own problems for the PM, leading (via an unwise appointment) to his resignation.

There then followed a humiliation from the Privileges Committee, which he first tried to undermine with the help of his cronies and then fled from. Trump has far more effectively raged against the dying of the light; indeed to the extent that he’s actually re-kindled it.

So, do we what BoJo back? Politico reports that in a survey carried out in June 2023, 25% of the population would welcome his return as an MP (but not necessarily as PM). This is in many ways remarkable but a long way from Trump being neck-and-neck in the race for the White House.

I’m not sure what it is that Trump believes in but he has a wonderfully simple disregard for everything that stands in his way. He also still plays the “outsider”card to great effect, as Farage did. This is harder when you have Eton, Oxford, The Times, the Telegraph, and The Spectator on your CV, but you can always fall back on “maverick”. BoJo has never believed in anything, except himself. Nor has Trump in all probability, but he’s kept his crazy flame alight to better effect.

• Deep space

• Any article or discussion involving very large or very small things like the universe or atoms leaves me fascinated, light-headed and confused in roughly equal measure. Oh, and also things that happened a long, long time ago, like trilobites or the Permian extinction. The Voyager 2 spacecraft is not that old in cosmic terms, having only been launched in 1977, but I was staggered to learn this week that it’s still out there and still working (well, sort of: it’s been in the news as the comms have broken down as it was accidentally sent an incorrect signal earlier this year which resulted in it tilting its antennae a couple of degrees the wrong way).

The thing that blows my mind is that we’re still able to communicate with it at all given that it’s now over 12 billion miles away, a distance that’s increasing by about 825,000 miles a day. Voyager 1 is even further off, about 15 billion miles, but that still seems to be talking to us. I’m sure some of you can explain what forces are making these travel so fast but I doubt I’d be able to understand it. 

What gets me is how anything electronic or mechanical that was built in 1977 and which ever since has been hurtling through space in temperatures of minus whatever can still be working at all. Clearly built-in obsolescence can be avoided if we try.

• The sports section

• One of the best-ever Ashes series – which is saying something – has just finished. If anyone who followed even part of it says they don’t get test cricket then I can’t see what else can be offered to change their mind. It had absolutely everything (although some better weather would have helped). The series ended 2-2 which meant that, as Australia had won the last time out then they retained the Ashes, rather than winning it (an important point). As even most of the Aussies accepted, the series really belonged to Stuart Broad who announced his retirement on the eve of the last day of the last match. He then scored a six from the last ball he faced and took a match-winning wicket with the last ball he bowled, which I think isn a unique achievement.

This follows an equally compelling women’s series that finished a couple of weeks ago, something that was spoiled only by the decision to have just the one test match.

• Following the test series, the month of August is given over to the Hundred, a fairly new competition. This is utterly brilliant and as different from test cricket as you can imagine while still being the same sport and played by some of the same players. It’s fast and glitzy and has the advantage – or disadvantage, depending on how much work you have to do – of generally being live-streamed. This can wipe out most days from 3pm until well after nightfall. The most heartening aspect is that all the games are double-headers, the women playing in the afternoon and the same two men’s teams playing in the evening.

One fascinating innovation is that one of the fielders is mic-ed up and from time to time chats with the presenters, commenting on what’s happening and sharing a few jokes. It’s a short and condensed competition, taking place within four weeks. The organisers have got pretty much everything right. I do urge anyone who feels they might need converting to this amazing sport to check this format out.

• Moving on to the only other sport which I recognise, the football season is only just round the corner. Manchester City remains the team for everyone in England and Europe to beat next season after their treble-winning performance last year.

The big story, though, is the rise of the Saudi Football League. The amount of money invested in this by the Saudi Wealth Fund has attracted not only players in search of a final big payday but also those closer to their prime. Here’s Sky News’ list of some of the major transfer deals. The organisers’ hope is that one of these clubs will soon win the soon-to-be-expanded World Club Championship. There is also, of course, also a massive piece of sports-washing going on. There do not, however, seem to be any similar moves to attract the major and manifest talents from the women’s game – whose World Cup is currently taking place – to play in Saudi Arabia. Why on earth can that be? Clearly, the Hundred has something important to teach football…

Across the area

• Community forums

During the election campaign, the West Berkshire Lib Dems promised a number of things. One was to re-introduce community forums. A recent statement by WBC explained that these will “ensure that positive engagement is undertaken, and information and views are gathered that will help to inform Council decisions. They will also allow residents the chance to learn about and have their say on topics which affect them, working with their community groups and stakeholders. Topics will vary and relate to matters of interest to particular interest groups or areas across the district.”

These will be hybrid, taking place at the Council’s offices and also online. The first one will be at 6pm on Thursday 17 August. If you wish to attend in person, please email to confirm your attendance. If you wish to attend online please register by visiting this link. They will also be recorded and put on YouTube to view during and after the event.

The plan is that each community forum will focus on one theme. The one chosen for the debut event is the sports ground at Faraday Road.

This has, of course, been the subject of an informal community forum since the mysterious decision to close the ground in June 2018. Nothing has gone right there since. The new administration pledged to re-open the ground if elected and has started to prepare the ground (literally, as this includes grass mowing). The fact that the matter needs to be the subject of a community forum suggests the administration feels there are aspects which it’s uncertain about or that it requires some form of a show of support for before it takes the next step. 

I’m not clear if the discussion will include the wider, and more complex, issue of the proposed sports hub at Monks Lane. This was proposed as a replacement (or a partial replacement, or an enhanced replacement, or not a replacement at all, depending on what document you read) for Faraday Road. Questions about this, particularly the costs incurred and what severance or cancellation payments might be needed, were looked into at the last Oversight and Scrutiny Commission on 17 July and will be re-visited again at the next one on 14 September.

Nor do I know if a still wider matter, the future of the London Road Industrial Estate, which Faraday Road sits uneasily on the edge of, will be on the agenda. If both these are barred then some assertive work by the Chair will be needed to keep the discussion on-message.

Both Monks Lane and the LRIE could easily justify a community forum of their own. Perhaps they’ll be next on the list.

• More water problems

A letter in this week’s Newbury Weekly News from John Gotelee highlights a recurring problem with the London Road Industrial Estate: flooding.

One of the points he makes relates to Cinch, the self-storage company which has recently taken over the building formerly used by the NWN. His concern is that several previously permeable areas have now been covered with tarmac. Without suitable attenuation measures, this is only going to make a bad problem worse.

As I understand matters, this change of use was conducted under permitted development rights which avoids the need for planning permission. As a result, there were no conditions, on flooding or anything else, that needed to be satisfied.

There are, however, conditions that apply to permitted developments – specially J2 (b) (ii), which specifies that “provision is made to direct run-off water from the hard surface to a permeable or porous area or surface within the curtilage of the industrial building or warehouse.” There seems to be a difference of opinion between WBC and certain local residents as to whether this condition has been fulfilled by Cinch.

It seems fairly certain that any new application which is likely to make the flooding situation worse in the LRIE (which could be translated as “all applications”) will be met with the strongest possible opposition by local residents. This might include further judicial reviews. This is a complex issue with ever-changing rules and regulations, all of which are more than I or many others can easily understand. It would appear that some serious infrastructure investment is needed. The increase in exceptional weather events makes this all the more important. This is the elephant in the room – or the whale in the bath – with regard to the LRIE. Call the area what you want and create as many visions for it as you choose, but this matter needs to be holistically addressed before any further development progress there can be made. 

• Nature recovery

I recently received information on the Berkshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy from a subscriber, who happened to hear of it from the Bracknell and Wokingham newsletter. No announcement from WBC as yet but the authority does seem to be part of the project.

These initiatives will provide a blueprint for Berkshire’s Nature Recovery Network that will help prioritise where and how we should invest and target action in the short-term, as well as creating longer-term plans for meeting biodiversity targets and climate strategies.

The Berkshire LNRS website explains that “Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRSs) are spatial strategies to recover nature across England: part of the 2021 Environment Act. Together, they will cover the country in a Nature Recovery Network (NRN). Each LNRS will create baseline map areas of particular importance for biodiversity, before working with partners from many groups, from landowners to businesses, to eNGOs, and the public. Priorities for nature recovery will be agreed and these will be used to create a local habitat map.

“There will be an interactive map showing proposals at a local scale, depicting what needs to happen to achieve the agreed aims. This will link up with delivery mechanisms, such as Biodiversity Net Gain for planning and Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes for land management including farming.”

Windsor and Maidenhead is to be the Responsible Authority for the Berkshire LNRS with the other five Berkshire councils are supporting authorities with Natural England. More information can be found here.

• Orange notices

The minutes of the 10 July meeting of Bucklebury Parish Council noted, under the heading “planning delays”, that “WBC has 814 live planning applications, 610 of which are pending and 204 do not yet have a case officer assigned to them. Orange notices are generally not being displayed until the parish council consultation period is over.”

Now that WBC no longer sends letters about applications to neighbours, these orange notices are – for anyone not permanently plugged in to WBC’s planning portal – the only way that we generally know that something unwelcome might be about to happen across the road. If no case officer is assigned then they clearly can’t put the noice up, so the population remains in ignorance: which is not what’s meant to happen.

There’s a really simple solution to this. As soon as the application has been validated, send the orange notices to the Parish Council. They’ll know the area and almost certainly the exact property and can combine this task with a quick site visit. They’re consultees in the process so will need to consider the matter at some point anyway.

When the case officer is eventually appointed, and when they find the time, they can then go and check they’ve been put up (or are still up).

Does anyone know what this doesn’t happen now?

• Residents’ news

The latest Residents’ Bulletin from West Berkshire Council covers computer coding at Birch Copse School, Market Street closure from 7 to 13 August, garden-waste subscriptions, World Breastfeeding Week in Woolhampton, the Festival of the Moon, solar power, Faraday Road and engaging with younger residents.

• News from your local councils

Most of the councils in the area we cover are single-tier with one municipal authority. The arrangements in Oxfordshire are different, with a County Council which is sub-divided into six district councils, of which the Vale of White Horse is one. In these two-tier authorities, the county and district have different responsibilities. In all cases, parish and town councils provide the first and most immediately accessible tier of local government.

West Berkshire Council

Click here for details of all current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council.

West Berkshire Council is looking for your views on local bus services. To take part in the survey (which closes on 10 September), please click here.

Click here to sign up to all or any of the wide range of  newsletters produced by West Berkshire Council.

Click here to see the latest West Berkshire Council Residents’ Bulletin (generally produced every week).

Click here for the latest news from West Berkshire Council.

Vale of White Horse Council

Click here for details of all current consultations being run by the Vale Council.

Click here for latest news from the Vale Council.

Click here for the South and Vale Business Support Newsletter archive (newsletters are generally produced each week).

Click here to sign up to any of the newsletters produced by the Vale’s parent authority, Oxfordshire County Council.

Wiltshire Council

Click here for details of all current consultations being run by Wiltshire Council.

Click here for the latest news from Wiltshire Council.

Swindon Council

Click here for details of all current consultations being run by Swindon Council.

Click here for the latest news from Swindon Council.

Parish and town councils

• Please see the News from your local council section in the respective weekly news columns (these also contain a wide range of other news stories and information on activities, events and local appeals and campaigns): Hungerford areaLambourn Valley; Marlborough area; Newbury area; Thatcham area; Compton and Downlands; Burghfield area; Wantage area

• Other news

• A reminder that  West Berkshire Libraries has challenged primary age children to read up to six library books in the Summer Reading Challenge until 15 September and to collect free incentives from their local library for their achievements as they read, with medals and certificates for everyone who completes the challenge. More details here.

Click here for information about help available with the cost of living crisis in West Berkshire, the Vale and Wiltshire.

Please click here for information about what local councils are doing to help support refugees from Ukraine and how you can help.

Click here for a post listing the various places which are offering a takeaway and/or delivery service. If you are aware of any others, let us know.

• The animal of the week is this panda in China that was caught on film suffering from hiccoughs.

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News includes, as well as ones referred to elsewhere, scepticism, holidays, PSPOs and overgrown paths.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently: see the various news area sections (links above) for further details.

The quiz, the sketch and the song

• So here we are at passport control in the form of the Song of the Week. Mick Jagger turned 80 at the end of last month so here’s another outing for one of my favourite Rolling Stones songs – also the first one on which he played electric guitar – Sway, from the almost-perfect Sticky Fingers.

• And now we’re called to the boarding gate that is the Comedy Moment of the Week. Here are some of Patsy’s (Joanna Lumley’s) best one-liners from Absolutely Fabulous.

• With a four-hour delay announced, there’s time to consider the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is What phrase links Rick Blaine and Keyser Sose? Last week’s question was: Which two (consecutive) English kings each became king twice? The answer is Henry VI and Edward IV. Henry was deposed by Edward in 1460 but then staged a comeback (or rather, his supporters did) and deposed Edward in 1470. The following year Edward repaid the compliment. Anyone wanting further information on this and other royal ambiguities should see my updated version of Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee which explains it all, in verse.

For weekly news sections for Hungerford areaLambourn Valley; Marlborough area; Newbury area; Thatcham area; Compton and Downlands; Burghfield area; Wantage area  please click on the appropriate li


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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale