The Spectator

A censored hymn to motorway misery

Plus: who benefits from long election campaigns; and Britain’s most indebted streets

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Service record

The government is to form a design panel to improve motorway services stations. These have not always charmed the British public, not least the very first: Watford Gap services, which opened in 1959 on the same day as the first stretch of the M1.

— It quickly became a night-time haunt of rock stars travelling between gigs, but not all were impressed by the food. In 1977 the folk singer Roy Harper recorded a track on his Bullinamingvase album called ‘Watford Gap’ and containing the lyrics: ‘…And the people came to worship on their death-defying wheels,/ fancy-dressed as shovels for their death-defying meals…Watford Gap, Watford Gap, a plate of grease and a load of crap.’

— The track was dropped on a rerecording of the album, supposedly because a director of record company EMI was on the board of services operator Blue Boar.

41 days later

Who benefits from a long election campaign? Days between prorogation of Parliament and election outcome:

1983: 27 days


1987: 27 days


1992: 24 days


1997: 41 days


2001: 35 days


2005: 28 days


2010: 28 days

No majority

2015: 41 days

Valleys of debt

Unsecured debt, according to the accountancy firm PwC, has risen to nearly £9,000 per household. In which postcode sectors do people owe most?

London Road, Peterborough (PE7 0)

£2,540 per capita

Kingston Park Road, Newcastle (NE13 9)


Gray’s Inn Road, London (WC1X 8)


Dock Street, Hull (HU1 3)


Wixams, nr Bedford (MK42 6)


Source: British Bankers Association

Drowning by numbers

The Amateur Swimming Association called for more money for swimming lessons, claiming that one in five adults cannot swim. Where do people drown? Of 381 deaths in 2013:



Off beaches/at sea




Baths/hot tubs


Swimming pools


Flooded land


Source: National Water Safety Forum