Ratcliffe Chapel


In the late 1950s, Ratcliffe College, my former school, decided to build a new chapel to replace the 1867 chapel financed by Ambrose Phillips and the Earl of Shrewsbury, and designed by Pugin who was the architect for the original building in 1844, his son Edward and the men who patented the Hansom cab (JA & CF Hansom). Pugin was the chief and largely uncredited architect of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster. Because he was a Catholic, his name was largely overlooked and Barry got the credit. But since 1847, it has been on a throne (built by John Webb) designed by a Catholic architect that the monarch has delivered the “Gracious address”.


The new chapel, imagined in the “modern trend with basic Byzantine feeling” by Ernest Norris took two years to erect and was completed in 1960. Much of the interior was embellished with painted ironwork decorations done by Gervase and Aloysius Duffy, and with windows by Jonah Jones. The sculptures were done by Jones himself and Fr O’Malley, with two of the statues- of St Chad and St Richard modelled directly on headmasters Emery and Leetham in the style of Eric Gill, one of whose statues remains in the school. Fr Claude Leetham had a habit of rubbing his nose, and in the days when the statues were parked in the cloisters waiting to be put on-site, the boys paraded past St Richard and rubbed its nose, leaving a small mark which persists. (This story passed on by a boy who was there at the time and went on to be a priest in my day at the school). It remains a fairly impressive space, constructed of concrete, clad in brick and with a dome over a chunky clerestory. Vertical windows in the transepts make it, nevertheless, a very airy building.

ratcliffe-statueThe original chapel was deconsecrated in 1962 and used for teaching and dormitory space.

Ratcliffe’s association with great architecture extends also to the prep-school- the current in-house prep-school has just been built by a distant Pugin relative and the original at Grace Dieu manor is described by ES Purcell as “the beautiful parish church (which) underwent restoration at Pugin’s hands, the first of the old parishes to be restored upon Catholic lines with return stalls and a rood screen.”

But when the school was handed to lay-staff and the Rosminian Priests largely withdrew, a number of items went missing. This following the destruction of the baldacchino by the last Rosminian Headmaster, Fr Keith Tomlinson, who always seemed to me to be a philistine, albeit a slightly camp one, with a remit in my day simply to beat boys. I know he made alot of children miserable. No doubt he was Ratcliffe’s own John Smyth. He is probably best forgotten. Nil nisi bonum and all that, but there we are!

The Baldacchino was quite remarkable in many ways. It provided a focus to the design, which had been compromised when the then Bishop of Nottingham, Ellis, himself an Old Ratcliffian, ruled that the planned central altar “versus populum” was non-canonical, only months’ before Vatican 2 recommended exactly that sort of arrangement and which was, of course, followed in Liverpool cathedral. Ellis, though, was old fashioned and my own parish in lincolnshire continued to have services in Latin and “ad orientem” until the early 70s, some 10 years after the end of the council.


The Baldacchino (which is in this photograph and -somewhere there is a drawing I did which will resurface again sometime- I keep coming across it and will post here the next time  I do!) was an interesting modern take on a traditional architectural feature in the Latin Rite going back at least to San Apollinaire in Ravenna in the 9th Century, though we know that Constantine gifted a silver baldacchino to the Basilica of St John in Laterano. By 1600, it was considered a mandatory item, sometimes replaced by a cloth tester, promulgated by the Counter reformation in 1600 and indeed there is a good example in stone by AW Pugin in Grace Dieu.

Ratcliffe’s Baldacchino was also supported by 4 lightweight columns crafted from spitfire metal in the old Coventry factory where the planes were manufactured during the war. Today, Steve Clark has been overseeing the restoration of a spitfire for the school. Again, a link lost. The design on the baldacchino was based on an obscure verse “On Baptism” by Tertullian – “we are little fish who cleave to the great fish Jesus Christ”, this all as much a play on the Greek Christian acrostic ΙΧΘΥC as on the trade of the early apostles. One little fish was actually named on the painting- he was a boy who had just been baptised in the school. On every level, therefore, this was heritage stuff and it was, I understand, dumped in skips by Tomlinson. Simply appalling vandalism.

puginOpposite the lady chapel, and under the organ pipes were two alcoves. On these had been hung a giant rug designed and woven by AW Pugin. This, even in the 1960s, should not have been cut in two and should have been housed in the V&A! Today, I believe it was unceremoniously stripped from the church and transported to the Rosminian motherhouse in Stressa. (Maybe the rather splendid gold-plated silver pontifical chalice, which I persuaded the then Headmaster Fr Anthony Baxter to use on the school feast-day, went the same way?) and I wonder if an export-licence was either sort or acquired before British heritage of this quality and import was taken to Italy? The Pugin rug, as valuable as any of its sister-pieces found in the Palace of Westminster, was used on the sanctuary for services from the 19th Century through to the 1960s. It was a bigger version of the rug routinely used by a Bishop in the Orthodox Church. Norman St John Stevas, also an old boy of the school, and the person who devised the committee system used in Parliament, at least, would have been apoplectic. Thank God he died in ignorance.


Ratcliffe College – a new chapter

This term sees a new Headmaster at Ratcliffe. A few months’ ago I finished a talk with a formal farewell and thanks to Gareth Lloyd who has certainly done wonders for the school. A brand new Prep school was opened a while back by the Duke of Gloucester and a new sports track is on the way, both developed and built under his leadership. Meanwhile, a very healthy intake of both boarders and day-students is testimony to the hard work and vision that has coloured Gareth’s 6-year tenure. The new Headmaster, Jon Reddin, is well-known as the former vice-headmaster, and one of the tallest people I have ever met. I am sure he will do splendidly and I wish him and his family well in the coming years!


Here are some old images in celebration:


This is an image of the Pugin facade and below are some cards we did for the School, which I think are now available in the school shop:

Here is the new Prep school designed by a descendant of AW Pugin who designed the original school, Mount St Bernard’s Abbey down the road and my prep school below, Grace Dieu:


A half-finished picture of Grace Dieu. The new headmaster, Peter Fisher, is another dynamic headmaster!


Finally, a picture of the cloisters, which are soon to be turned from a gravel football pitch to a contemplative open air space. Bravo!


Exhibition day


I was asked to give out prizes this year, and this is the text of the speech I gave. I also had projections and the accompanying images give an idea of these though they were also animated.

I want to congratulate all those who won prizes today- and also, as Fr President observed this morning, those who did not- but who clearly have been working very hard. And Anna- I don’t want to sound like Simon Cowell but this afternoon, you have made that Sondheim song entirely your own. Congratulations one and all!


Now, I want to talk about change.


We often find it hard to adjust to demands for change. But we are all as any mathematician, – or indeed as Heraclitus or Pocahontas might have said, in a state of flux. We cannot step in the same river twice. You know the song, “Once more round the river bend” – frankly, Disney says it just as well as the ancient greeks.


The demand OF constant change is uncertainty. Check out the Maths which is appearing on the screen to my right! Maths might help us understand what is happening but it is often experiences from the past that can help negotiate this uncertainty.


So, I hope you will indulge me, if I talk about an event when I was a boy here at Ratcliffe. When I was doing the Oxbridge exams and in the same week a production of Merchant of Venice, and I was caught shouting at the cricket pavilion. This was not an architectural statement.  Rather, a pointless and a slightly loud display of fury and the then headmaster, Fr Anthony Baxter, took me into his office and suggested I should accept as providential things that I could not control. (Incidentally, I cannot quite control the projection of the maths – those of you who have just finished the Maths A level will agree that maths happens at its own pace. We must be patient.)



Fr Baxter urged me to follow the example of Rosmini, the man who imagined setting up this school in the first place. Antonio Rosmini was really a tremendous writer who incidentally had irritated Vatican bigwigs and had made powerful enemies. but it was the march of history that was his chief adversary. A few years before his death, he was due to be created Cardinal secretary of state by Pius IX but even as he received a set of buttons specially embossed with his family coat of arms, The pope went into exile and Rosmini’s preferment went up in smoke. Now this is the point: and I checked it yesterday with Fr Ted but neither he nor I could remember the exact words of the account, so here is the gist, in Fr Ted’s words, Rosmini took a little time time getting his head round it and then he moved on – and it is that time for pause that is important. So is the fact that he accepted the reality of the new situation.  Over the next few years, it simply got worse, by the way, and his his life’s work, his writings were condemned, yet at the end of his life he says,  “Be still, adore and rejoice”.


a cloud of suspicion hovered over Rosmini’s work until Vatican II.  Today, He is accorded the respect he is due, and even quoted in Papal encyclicals.  But it took a century, at least, for his ideas to be accepted.  It takes time. Change takes time. A phrase we will get very familiar with in “post referendum”.


So, I was told to accept things that did not go to order. “Be still, adore and rejoice!” Well, I was far from rejoicing, and, by the evening, I was seething. I explained this to another one of the Rosminian priests, a man called Fr Basil, who made me a cup of tea, listened very politely and then gave me a book with a bookmark on which he had hastily inscribed the words “Ephesians 4.26”. I looked it up the following morning: “Never let the sun go down on your wrath.” So, that was a bit late! Here were two principles- to accept providence and curb anger. Let’s put that another way- to work with reality and to do it with kindness.


Nurture your own talents because that is what you will be good at. Think of Rosmini- his writings: two of his books were placed on the INDEX, the list of books no good Catholic should read, (these books- his life’s work) were forbidden and yet he never stopped writing. We are not meant to bury our talents but to develop and use them – as we heard in Church this morning St Paul says we must fight the good fight, or as I recall the wonderful Doc Orton used to point out- and some of you received prizes today in his name – Winston Churchill simply told the country during the dark days of world war 2 to “keep soldiering on” (or words to that effect).

hamletThere is a danger to determination, of course. Some years ago, I was directing Hamlet and had this insane idea that fish should play a major part. I would like to think I was inspired by the old baldicchino in the church here which was covered in fish- But we did a deal with a salmon farm and every night, the stage manager’s last job was to defrost a fish, put it in a bucket of cold water, for the following day. It all came from the line, “you are a fishmonger” (act II, sc 2) which had a slightly different meaning for Shakespeare. Anyway, the fish made its first appearance when Hamlet was feigning madness, and he produced the fish and slapped it around Polonius’ head; he dissected the fish in the big “To be or not to be” speech and then later the fish was brought on stage on a dog-lead by the mad Ophelia. We won’t do anything new unless we are prepared to take a risk. But being prepared is a key part of the process!

hamlet captain cod

Sadly, one day the stage manager forgot to defrost the fish so it was hastily done with a kettle of boiling water about 10 minutes before it was due onstage. and that meant that the fish was not so much defrosted as cooked, and it fell to pieces, bits of fish here and bits of fish there. The place stank of fish and I had to spend much of our profits paying for the theatre to be professionally cleaned. Sometimes, we take unnecessary risks – just as fish seemed a great idea before it was cooked and scattered around on stage, so it’s always good to pause before a risky decision.



In other words, our understanding of providence needs to be active rather than passive. We must do our best at everything- Providence is no excuse for indolence- we must work at our future; we must be prepared, we should throw our hearts into it (some of you are looking a bit sleepy: I nevertheless want you to throw your hearts into life) whatever you do and however many hearts you may have! I think there are no “Time Lords” here, but do you know that a worm has more than one heart? (It has five) and can anyone tell me how many hearts a cockroach has (This is one of those useless bits of information that I promise you will remain with you for the rest of your life!) It has 13 hearts! That is why it is such a survivor I suppose. You should be as cunning, as determined and as resilient as a cockroach!


Exams are one way we can test the value of what we have learnt, but we also test our ideas every day simply by discussing them with our friends. Believe me, I would rather hear a friend tell me that I have a really loopy idea before I act on it. That is real kindness. And, frankly, it was fairly kind back then to tell me to stop screaming at the cricket pavilion.


Let’s go back to Rosmini for a moment, because even at the end of his life, Rosmini is talking about action- rejoice is something that we have to do fairly actively. We could bring Rosmini’s words into everyday usage- “stop, be kind and be creative.” Indeed, Providence without kindness is simply fatalism.


Kindness is something I remember about Ratcliffe. and I know that Mr Lloyd today sees kindness as a great feature of this school and a great tool for communication. “Be still, adore and rejoice”


To be still is very important. I worked for a director of an animated film who thought we should all work in silence. He went around the studio unplugging people’s radios. I thought he was wrong then. I think he is right now.


Stillness is something that can be encouraged in school, but the place where it is also needed is back at home.  You cannot listen unless you are silent, and – you know I have been setting up an educational faculty in a University in Moscow, and I do occasional lectures, in English. My Russian is execrable, so they started to provide me with a translator and then gave up. These days I just vigorously wave my arms around – but I noticed that when students of any age put up their hands, they tend to stop listening. They are only thinking of what they plan to say. The same is true in politics. I was at a referendum debate a few weeks’ ago and three fairly robust councillors in a row, all asked exactly the same question. They also happened to be in three different parties. Nice to know they were thinking the same thing, but interesting that they were not listening to one another.

We need to change that. We need to listen to each other much more.


Rejoicing or happiness is again difficult, particularly in times of crisis, and we need to practice it a lot for it to be natural. This is about positive thinking and creativity but it is also about discipline and about confidence. We need to keep alive a spirit of optimism and hope, in small things and in big. We do not need to rejoice just about the past- we should enter the future in that self-same spirit of optimism.


The role of parents at home is vital to the well-being of a school like Ratcliffe. we expect there to be Inspiration and discipline at school, but we also need it at home – there may even be a place for distraction, but in my experience, children are perfectly good at doing that themselves, beginning with Minecraft, then warcraft and even game of thrones or call of duty.  We need to be ever encouraging, always rejoicing in what children are learning. The more they learn, quite frankly the more we learn too, and that is no bad thing.


For the last few years I have been an academic guardian, looking after children, often from other countries while they plough ahead with their education in the UK. Sometimes they make mistakes, and I think it is my job to try to keep them focused on the goal despite these mistakes. Frankly, if English is not your native language, it is very easy to get confused. I want to tell you about –let’s call him George- who is doing an exam this evening so even as I am speaking, I am slightly on tenterhooks. He badly wanted to study Astronomy for GCSE. The school said this was impossible, that his timetable would not work, that the subject was only available to a very small select number. George really wanted to do it, his parents said, and so I spoke to the housemaster and the director of studies on his behalf. After negotiations which might well put Mr Junker to shame, George got his way. However, it soon became clear that there had been a misunderstanding.


Jean-Claude Juncker

Fuelled by Harry Potter, George’s interest, it turned out, was rather more in Astrology than in Astronomy, and quite frankly, he would have been better off with a subscription to the Daily Mail. Still, to his credit, and with a lot of encouragement, he has persevered.  That means, we have spent a lot of time discussing astronomy: and this morning, just after I got out of Church, he rang me for a last minute revision test- so as I speak to you, I am also still thinking of the dwarf planet Pluto, its twin Eris, and its moon Dysnomia – this was never a subject I expected to enjoy. But you remember the line from “The King and I”, “When you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught.”


And more broadly, if we are teaching children the skills of analysis and evaluation, then maybe we should not forget that all forms of entertainment can and should be open to examination, and who knows, it may only be a matter of time before we see Assassins creed on an A level syllabus, but I trust and hope that this will not be at the expense of Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer. As parents, teachers and children, we need to practice celebrating the unexpected and we should perhaps reflect that an idea not worth examining is not really worth having.


I want to finish with a few words of praise in the same spirit – the past 6 years at Ratcliffe have seen great change and stupendous leadership.  I have got to know Ratcliffe again under the robust headship of Mr Lloyd and we can all be very proud in what Mr Lloyd has achieved. I have mentioned the kindness which I knew in my day and I know that same kindness is treasured today. I have also mentioned providence and the idea of rejoicing both in what has past and rejoicing in what is to come.

This year, Gareth, as you enter your final year at Ratcliffe, you can be assured you will go forward in the sure knowledge that the ideals of the school are secure, that your future is sound and you will look back, I assure you, with great pride on your days as a Ratcliffian.


Tim Wilson 2016

Importance of History

I attended an exhibition day on Wednesday at my old school, Ratcliffe College, and I was able to publicly thank the outgoing headmaster Gareth Lloyd for the spectacular turnaround in the School’s fortunes over the 7 years he has held the post. I will post some of my talk at a later date but the key point in all the speeches throughout the day made by the Headmaster, Fr President, the Chairman of the Governors and coincidentally by me too, was the importance of kindness. That is something that has been conspicuously absent in the referendum debate and the subsequent and chaotic fallout as politicians have scrambled over one another to sabotage the future.

ratcliffe cloisters

The occasion at Ratcliffe was, of course, dominated by talk of Brexit and quite alot of discussion about UKIP and my role in the UKIP story. (I think some people had rather cleverly checked me out on the internet) I was fairly honest in my response: while there are many good people attracted to UKIP and while its leader remains one of the few great orators in the country, it is, nevertheless, controlled by a balding militant thuggery snatched from the BNP and NF. This may have been a party ruled by bullies and twits, but it also attracted spectacular and honourable people like Douglas Carswell and Councillor Sean Connors. I count Sean as a good friend and a very honourable man. I also have time for Mark Reckless, now a member of the Welsh assembly. Credit where credit is due.farage ukipper flat

I joined UKIP with the intention of playing a leading role in the way it developed, or identifying and exposing the racism that everyone told me was there. In fact, I was offered both opportunities at about the same time. I chose to expose the racism.

The rise in racist and extremist abuse since the Referendum means that there are many who believe the racism in UKIP is endorsed by the “Leave” result. It is not, and there are many people in UKIP, who would be appalled by the suggestion that they have anything to do with, or would ever condone racism. More than that, there is extremism on both sides: my point is that it feels it has been sanctioned, and that is a message that needs to be addressed and condemned.

RobertBlay threats

As a Conservative, I find the libertarian aims of UKIP fairly laudable, but this is mixed with long-standing and often ill-considered ravings about the EU that in the end informed and dictated the tone of the recent referendum as well as giving structure to Conservative euro-scepticism, whether Farage was part of the official Leave campaign or not. I was in some difficulty throughout the campaign because I believed and continue to believe that, while the EU is seriously damaged, the European project, nevertheless, and because of our shared history, remains a fundamentally sound one. I felt that the Remain campaign was emphasising the wrong things (fear and greed), appealing to the wrong people (experts) and singing to a songsheet promoted by Farage. In the few debates I attended, the “remain” pitch was made by people peddling weak claims about something that had long since been dismissed as folly. In contrast some brilliant people, particularly our local MP Chris Heaton Harris, made a reasoned and impassioned case for “Leave”. And Chris was fairly unique in specifically saying he would not play the immigration card. If Chris had dictated the terms of the debate, I would have been a “Be-Leaver”. Indeed, at Chris’s encouragement, I contributed animated adverts at no cost specifically to draw attention to the appalling treatment by Europe of our fishing industry, something we must address whether we are “in” or “out”.


I was also appalled and have spoken and written about the abuse of Greece by Germany in particular (Greece had a referendum and Europe made it have another when the result was judged to be “wrong”). Our debate about Sovereignty was made clearer by seeing the sovereignty of Greece ripped away.

But it was Farage’s silence over racism and his indulgence of the powerful thugs in his party that convinced me this campaign would head in the wrong direction and that we might threaten or might leave Europe for the wrong reasons sending a very confused message. This has proven to be the case. The overall debate was controlled by Farage, and while Boris fought hard to wrestle the mantle from his shoulders, he must have found it tough to swallow the nonsense about Turkey’s accession and the £350 million that now Farage says he never endorsed (It was, nevertheless, in the literature I was given a year ago by UKIP). Believe me, I would have done the same thing – Boris had no choice and to his credit, I think, and in the end, Boris made the Leave campaign his own. More than that, he managed personally to avoid any hint of racism and indeed, as far as he was able, temper the debate.

I feared that whoever brought down a man as powerful as Farage was unfortunately doomed. And my fears have been fulfilled. Boris is a brave and noble man. He has taken one for the team.

BECAUSE there could have been nothing worse than giving Farage a place at the negotiating table or rewarding him with a role in government. Knight him and let him leave!

Farage demonstrated to me last year very clearly that he is a man wholly without honour and that those who follow his lead, also abandon honour and integrity. When one of his elected cronies made a foul and public racist comment against a sitting politician, Farage dismissed it as a joke.


More than that, when I took a stand to support Humza Yousaf, the Scottish minister for Europe, my family was attacked by a sinister local UKIP councillor who thought that a smear and a distortion of facts was an effective and proper response to my resignation. He offered no apology, and nor did his master, Farage.


Both promised to write to me after the election and neither did. Both promised to resign and neither did. Both said exactly what they thought the public wanted to hear at the time and then they did their own thing. This is demagogy and not democracy.



People do not always read the lessons of history. For example, both Napoleon and Hitler turned to the Plebiscite, today’s “referendum” to justify their actions. It may be a tool for democracy but it is also a weapon of tyranny. Today, the web is filled with cries of “foul”, and whimpers from people who felt they voted the wrong way, and now regret their vote, or claim that 63% of the youth vote simply did not bother to vote. Some people blame Jeremy Corbyn and others blame the Glastonbury festival for that!


A blueprint for tomorrow

But the Leave vote has happened and we should be looking forward to finding solutions that reflect the reality – ensuring at the same time that Scotland, Ireland and Gibraltar are fully anchored to the UK, and also keep their place in Europe. There is even a case for London to retain its place as the financial hub of the EU while at the same time, pulling back the tide of EU bureaucracy from the shires. The EU is either a supra-national entity or it is dependent on the Nation-state. I think this is an opportunity to show the way the EU can work around Nationality and work with rather than against National and regional sovereignty. It should not be a case of choosing the EU over our nation but of accommodating both if necessary and at various levels of association. This is also a blueprint for establishing fully devolved and fully accountable local parliaments. I wrote a few days ago about the absurdity of pitching Nationalism against Federalism. Actually, with some flexibility and some grace, we can embrace the best of both.


Our contribution to the EU

There are points to be made in favour of Europe and we may have to visit these over the negotiations. We need to look at ways to effect reconciliation rather than to drive a hard-bargain and we need to emphasise our overall contribution to the European project rather than posture as Farage has done and claim that European ministers have never had proper jobs. At the top of the list of contributions we have made to Europe is the Charter of human rights, the very thing that irritated so many people in my own party. The draft for this was written by a man called Maxwell Fyfe who became the Conservative Home secretary in Churchill’s peace-time cabinet. This was seen as the bedrock of a new EU-wide set of values, and it became our own in time. It was a British vision that anticipated the repeal of hanging, the institution of equality laws and the eradication of torture. This is a cornerstone to the modern Europe and I have successfully taken a case through the ECHR and helped to redefine the way the law is interpreted both internationally and nationally. I have a personal stake in this Charter.

Our role in History

More than that, I believe we have consistently gone to the aid of Europe in crisis, and to that end, fought two wars in Europe. Today, the Greek sovereignty issue is demonstration enough of the depth of crisis in Europe. Immigrants come and go and the immigration issue is actually a passing problem while the sovereignty issue drives to the heart of current EU abuse. It is not a time to be turning our back on Brussels but a time to engage fully with what happens across the channel and ensure that a long term-view, and that fairness, common-sense and goodwill are paramount. When Lord Fyfe wrote the charter, we were not a member of the EU. That clearly did not prevent us from playing a decisive role in the way the EU was established and the values it promoted.

Our Future

Whatever our legal relationship with the EU project, I think we should be determined to  play a pivotal role in securing the values we hold dear. It is in Europe’s interest and in ours to see that Europe works properly. It is not working properly now and nor are we. We can both do better and we need to work together.

Why Farage cannot be Vicky Pollard

farage i may be back

Vicky (Vicki?) Pollard is a tremendous creation- a whinging no-hoper, so from that point of view, it might surprise people who have read my other posts that I think the link between Farage and Pollard is wrong. Particularly as Mr Farage has now resigned without winning South Thanet, a failure for which I hope I can take some personal credit.

“no but, yeh but, what happened was- shut up. I wasn’t even supposed to be here like this… blah blah blah” Brilliant!

She blisters forth with a barrage of contradictions and bluster, some of it quite unprintable and, in fact, all beautifully cadenced.

Farage, for all his faults, is one of the best political performers in the UK today. His speeches in the Chamber of the EU alone are always worth watching on Youtube and I am sure are thrilling in real life. I love the fact that he is so confident and speaks without notes. His delivery, the content, the Chutzpah and humour are always, therefore, remarkable and it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge that. His only rhetorical rival is Boris. Just to press the point, listen to, or watch Ed Miliband who has a stream of very specific rhetorical flourishes, most of them repetitive, and that is it. He has managed a slightly better screen image of late- with some coaching, but it is nothing as extreme as the transformation wrought on Thatcher by Gordon Reece, nor indeed as effective. (Reece was a schoolboy contemporary of Norman St John Stevas at my old School Ratcliffe College)  Ed remains, therefore, “nice Ed” and today watching him resign, I felt that what he really needed was a good hug. (I am not volunteering: I am not really a hugger at all) But Ed Miliband does vulnerability and that is not the diet of choice for leading British politicians today.

I can go a little further and add that on many issues, I share Mr Farage’s views. I differ significantly about immigration but I certainly recognise that the EU project, as it stands, is seriously damaged. Simply looking across to Greece, which is a country I know well confirms that Europe is no longer working properly. No country in a cohesive federation of National states should be so bullied or so shamed and punished for faults that were made years ago and with the connivance of the very countries that now seem to press for austerity. The Greek demand for reparations, incidentally, from Germany seems to me reasonable, but more reasonable would be Germany’s unconditional offer of such reparations. That way, at least the money would flow, and we would no longer be talking about debt.

When Farage tries vulnerability, however- with pleas about back-pain or, today with a reference to his plane-crash (which caused the back pain in the first place), it all seems a bit disingenuous. He is better on attack, and that is why he is no Pollard. Pollard is all stammer and alot of unprintable invective scatter-gunned at whoever might be in the  Farage’s attacks have bite and bile. I should know- his people tried some of that on me!

Vicky Pollard, however, is all about vulnerability. A different type of vulnerability to Ed Miliband’s, of course. She is aggressive because she is hurt. That is not Miliband, and certainly not Farage.

I have drawn a picture of Farage as Vicky, which is below, and that is why I have given this some thought. The idea came from a tossed-off comment made on the BBC so it is not my analogy at all.

farage as vicky

Let’s face it, a politician cannot plead for sympathy when he has lost an election. Farage tried that and he was compared on the BBC to a character from Little Britain. Well done, BBC!

However, for UKIP resignation is not about honour. It is about punishment which is why Coburn will not resign and why Farage has converted his resignation into something else. Let me offer a visual hint with refence to Cliff Richard and Greece- “Who forgot to fill the tank?”

Farage’s resignation was odd. Within minutes of resigning, he was offering to stand again for office in September. So for Farage, resignation is just a cheap holiday away from responsibility. But he remains an MEP and I have already written to him as my MEP to ask him very specific questions.

Meanwhile, the fate of the UKIP project hangs in the balance because there is no-one quite able to take the place of Farage. Suzanne Evans, who Farage recommends as interim leader, exposed herself the other night on TV as morally hollow when she failed to recognise the wealth of difference between a labour man, Sumon Hoque, dismissed for not having a proper MOT- a driving offence- and a UKIP man, Robert Blay, who has threatened to shoot a rival Sri Lankan candidate between the eyes. She pleaded, rather stupidly, that the press were over-emphasising the case of Robert Blay simply because he was a UKIPPER. If anything, they underplayed the story because of a BBC fear about political bias in the days immediately before the election.


Screen shot 2015-05-08 at 21.01.15

Because of the postal votes, the system in both cases went ahead. the labour guy insisted he was still standing; I am not sure Blay has said anything and I assume both that Blay did not attend the count and that the votes were wasted. The issue is largely academic but it would have been interesting if either had come first.

Screen shot 2015-05-08 at 20.57.39

In the case of Jason Zadrozny, who was arrested I think just before the campaign began, he withdrew from the election process himself. As I understand it, unless the issue was bankruptcy, criminal proceedings would not automatically bar a candidate from standing in an election and indeed Bobby Sands was elected to Parliament in 1981, the then youngest MP but a prisoner who died a month after his election. Prisoners who are serving gaol sentences of more than a year’s length are now forbidden to stand under the Representation of the People Act 1981.

My red line, however, remains: Racism, in any form, cannot be condoned, and, so far, I understand neither Humza Yousaf nor Ranil Jayawardena has received a written apology from the leader of UKIP or from anyone claiming that authority. If Mr Farage has indeed resigned, and if Evans is appointed only as a caretaker, then maybe there is now no-one left to write these letters until a new leader is elected in Septamber. Should Mr Farage don the mantle again then, I suppose these questions will remain there to haunt him. And certainly whoever succeeds to authority in UKIP would take on the responsibility of writing at least the three letters I have myself demanded of the leader. This is quite apart from the demand that Mr Coburn MEP should resign, which I suppose is his own decision now as there will be no leader with the authority to command his suspension. I still hold out hope that Farage has a heart and will take proper responsibility during the next few weeks to sort out what he has so far not bothered to do. I would genuinely like to hear that he has bothered to respond. And anyway, Paul Oakden in his interview on Radio Northampton promised that “after the election, he will get round to” answering me. Who knows!

I remain an optimist.

More Burlington Bertie

Some progress this week in animating a walk cycle for the Burlington Bertie film.




bert walk cycle


side view theatre1 SMALLa

Much of the walk is hidden behind stage scenery, but the process of getting that movement right is still necessary. Two things emerged in the week- firstly trying to get a walk working makes some very odd shapes in a 2d drawing that perhaps would look very wrong in 3d, and secondly, drawing up background scenery, I realise how important it is to draw a building to fully understand it. So I have now spent 3 days struggling with Big Ben and the house of Parliament. One thing I should add is that animation is genuinely easier with Toonboom/ Harmony, but these big tracking shots remain tough.


Pugin provides such complexity. Next week we are off to Ratcliffe to sketch the new prep school that is being built there. Oddly, the architect is a distant relative of the original Pugin. It is some sort of poetic justice. Here is an image of the cloisters at Ratcliffe and of the Pugin facade. I will post images of the new Prep school shortly of course.

ratcliffe cloisters

3 ratcliffe