Diary: Thank British Communists for our right to ramble

  • @andymcsmith

Communism never found a fertile breeding ground in Great Britain, perhaps because the English chopped off Charles I's head centuries before the Russians discovered revolution. The British Communist Party was one of the smallest in Europe, and yet 80 years ago, it scored an unusual and enduring victory.

It was the Lancashire branch of the British Workers' Sport Federation, a communist front organisation, which organised the mass trespass on Kinder Scout on 24 April 1932, after ramblers had had enough of being turned off open land by gamekeepers.

About 400 of them defied the Duke of Devonshire's gamekeepers to reach the highest point in the Peak District. Six were arrested and five subsequently convicted at Derby Assizes of unlawful assembly, and sent to prison, setting off a mass protest and more trespasses, which thoroughly alarmed the recognised ramblers' groups.

The Ramblers Association was founded three years later, the Access to Mountains Act was passed in 1939, and the National Parks and Access to Countryside Act 10 years later. In 2009, the Labour government passed a law to create a public pathway around the entire English coastline. No new pathways have yet opened up, but the first stretch, 32 kms of coastline around Weymouth Bay, in Devon, should be ready in time for the Olympics. We don't owe Marx and Lenin, but they share a smidgeon of the credit for bringing us the right to ramble.

Wedding bells for Cameron spin chief

A year ago, while Gabby Bertin, the Prime Minister's press secretary, was having to handle some now half-forgotten crisis in the government, she also had a more stressful crisis in her own life to cope with, as her marriage broke up. Time has passed, things have got worse for the government, but very much better for the Prime Minister's popular spinner. After she put her house on the market, the buyer, a City finance director, called around to 10 Downing Street to sort out some paperwork and discovered that he liked her even more than the property. A wedding looms.

Former NOTW man sexes up the Jubilee

A breathless message from a PR company tells me all about "the sexiest souvenir for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee", namely a "Her Majazzle Diamante Jubilee crystal tattoo". Jules Stenson is the name on this press release. Could this be the same Jules Stenson, former features editor of the News of the World, who in a memorable gig on Newsnight accused The Guardian of "shoddy journalism" over the hacking scandal? Yes, it could.

George is missing a trick on prostitution

There is an old political argument about whether it would be better to legalise and licence brothels instead of letting them carry on as they do, half out of sight and mostly out of mind. A number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have backed licensed brothels at various times.

Unusually, a Tory councillor in Scotland has now implied that legal brothels might be an improvement on what goes on now. As Edinburgh city council was approving licences to open sauna parlours in the city, Councillor Joanna Mowat said: "If we are going to tolerate the licensing of brothels, which is essentially what we do, perhaps we should actually licence brothels and ensure that the girls – or men – are not trafficked," she told the Edinburgh Evening News. Something she did not add is that if prostitution was legal, George Osborne could slap 20 per cent VAT on the trade.