Some years ago I heard Michael Palin being described as ‘the nicest man in England’ and he may well have been given an award to that effect. At the time I thought yes I can see that, you can’t think of Palin doing anything but good.

But in politics few people are thought of as being nice, yet one man stands out for me – Norman Lamb MP. Now don’t get me wrong, like many other Remainers, I have struggled with Norman’s struggles over whether he would back a Brexit Deal. His agonising over Johnson’s deal, which from an economic assessment perspective was worse even than May’s deal, befuddled many of us. Why on earth was Norman drawn to the deal in any way? Sadly, some folks frustration with this lovely man boiled over and things were said about him which clearly hurt.

We say we want MP’s who are independent thinkers and who don’t just slavishly follow the party line but when we then see such MP’s in action, particularly when they are drawn to supporting/not supporting a cause which means a lot to us, we get upset.

Former Lib Dem MP for Southport John Pugh

Locally, the former MP for Southport John Pugh could be said to have approached his time in politics with an independent mind and at times he caused frustration in Liberal ranks for that independence of mind. The problem with being a Liberal MP is that Lib Dem supporters expect those MP’s to have libertarian views about every subject, but of course we are all flawed so sometimes a Liberal MP will come up with a stance which makes other Liberals stand up and shout at them.

But back to Norman Lamb because other than his agonising over Brexit deals which virtually no other Liberal could get their head around he really is the kind of person anyone would want for their MP. His work to raise the profile of metal health issues whilst being an MP has been tremendous and it’s clearly such a big matter to him that he will be continuing to campaign for those less fortunate after he steps down from Parliament at the December General Election. Indeed, he’s already set up a mental health charitable trust primed with a significant amount of his own money to get it going.

I met Norman when he visited Liverpool in 2017 and he really is the kind of person who has time to talk with people. He’s pictured above with my daughter Jen. Here’s a link back to my previous posting about that visit to Liverpool:-

MP’s like Norman are sadly few and far between with so many of them being sheep following the crowd and/or their party. What we need are more independently minded MP’s who despite driving us mad when they, in our view, go off the rails on a particular matter are actually sound, decent and will stick two fingers up to the political charlatans rather than fall in behind them.

Norman Lamb MP

By the way what is Palin’s flaw, he must have one?

PS. I’m presently Reading Palin’s 2018 book ‘Erebus – the story of a ship’, it is as you might expect a great read.

American railways – Amtrak’s first 40 years – Ludovic Kennedy & Bill Withers

Amtrak has a video – accessible via the link above – about it’s first 40 years of operation

I first started to take an interest in US railways as a consequence of seeing Ludovic Kennedy’s Great Railway Journey program ‘Coast to Coast'(New York City to Los Angeles). It was a part of the original and classic series of BBC railway journeys that launched a whole new career for Micheal Palin.

Railways have always been in my blood because I was brought up in a Nottinghamshire mining town where railways were everywhere around you. The writing of Ludovic Kennedy, who penned many books in his long and fascinating life, has also been another great interest of mine, so bringing railways and Kennedy together in the classic first series of Great Railway Journeys of the World was a treat not to be missed. The series was first aired in 1980 and this particular episode opened my eyes to the American Railroad.

Most folks who remember this BBC series will probably recall the journey of Michael Palin from London to Kyle of Lochalsh by train but for me Kennedy’s journey across America on the recently formed Amtrak was a delight (not least because Bill Withers great song – Lovely Day – was a part of the soundtrack and Kennedy was a great Liberal thinker, writer and activist) and I became hooked on the railways of the USA. Here’s a part of the program on You Tube – sadly its rather poor quality both in sound and picture. And even more sadly the episode has never been released on video/dvd.

Oddly, and I’m not sure why, I have yet to ride on Amtrak or indeed any American train. The nearest I have got is riding on Via Rail in Canada.

Bizarrely, I actually encountered Ludovic Kennedy at a Liberal Democrat conference on one occasion when he was a very old man confined to a wheelchair. I say encounter as I literally fell over his wheelchair in a crush of people in the foyer of the conference venue. If memory serves this happened in Southport’s Floral Hall.