Friday, May 30, 2008

Bringing Up The Past

I recall idly chatting to a Liverpool Labour councillor back in the mid 80s in the less than salubrious environs of Rigby's pub on Dale Street.
He was waxing lyrical about the city's trade union history, drawing a link to the then Militant council. Solidarity, he declared, before sinking his pint, was synonymous with Liverpool.
It was then that I nearly made him choke.
What about the slave trade, I asked.
He looked askance & asked what I meant.
Well, I mused, the legacy of the slave trade could be found in the inscriptions & illustrations adorning many of the buildings around the waterfront area. Not much solidarity there, I noted.
He harrumphed & dismissed it as a foul exception to an otherwise perfectly proletarian past.
It was at that point that I realised even the Left in Liverpool downplays the slave trade as well as the residual casual racism of far too many white working class Scousers.
I was reminded of that exchange when I read Lawrence Westgaph's column in the Liverpool Echo ( ), highlighting the reluctance of people involved in the city's civic & heritage community to fully acknowledge the transatlantic slave trade & its transformative effect on the port.
The Culture Company has thus far presented a Disneyfied, soft focus version of that chapter in the port's history, thereby doing a grave disservice to all those who campaigned & fought for the trade's demise.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Force Of Nature

Manchester & rain go together like salt & vinegar. So it was of little surprise that the city was drenched all through yesterday evening. In a funny way, though, it made Bruce Springsteen's gig at Old Trafford all the more memorable.
Opening the show with "No Surrender" from the "Born To Run" album, he led the E Street Band through a turbo-charged set of favourites old & new. Most of the tracks from the current "Magic" album were given an airing. However, the real stand out moments came with the reprise of a few old numbers. "Growin' Up" got the full E Street Band treatment, a world away from its acoustic incarnation, & "Because The Night" was adorned by a wondrous guitar solo from Nils Lofgren. The final number, a riotous cover of the Irish folk song "American Land", turned the stadium into a giant celidh house.
Another thing that struck me was that there surely can't be any other act who uses the term, habeas corpus before 50,000 people in introducing "Livin' In The Future", from the current album.
For those of us who had travelled down the East Lancs Road, it was a case of smiling through gritted teeth as the Boss accepted a Man Utd shirt thrown from the crowd & joked about last week's Champions League Final (referring to the stadium as "hallowed ground" & being informed by one of his road crew that Utd beating Chelsea was a bit like New Jersey beating New York). A fleeting moment, though, in an exhilarating two & three-quarter hours.
He's still the Boss. .

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Boss Comes A Callin'

Few other things to blog about, but they'll have to wait a while. In an hour's time I depart for Manchester to see the best live performer I've ever witnessed.

No Word From Our Sponsor

A listener to Roger Phillips' phone in on BBC Radio Merseyside this lunchtime emailed the programme to draw attention to an article in the Liverpool Echo about a recent darts tournament at the Arena. The listener, who attended the tournament, demanded to know why the Echo piece had ignored scenes of rowdy & drunken antics from some of the audience. In one incident, according to the listener, a steward was assaulted by a drunken woman. I suspect the reason lies with the identity of the Arena's main sponsor: the Liverpool Echo.

Telling It Like It Is

As the implosion of the New Labour phenomenon proceeds apace, it's taken for granted that most of the observations about its demise will come from the Right. However, Tariq Ali, that venerable lefty, has penned a piece for the Guardian's Comment is Free webpage which made me murmur, "Yea, a Daniel come to judgement": .
In an excoriating critique of New Labour's "project" & its legacy, Ali scornfully points to the Parliamentary Labour Party & trades union leaders. As collaborators in the intellectual void that was New Labour, bound together by power, never principle, Ali declares:
"Look at them now as they squeal in anguish at the thought that they might lose their jobs. Members of the cabinet who have helped deregulate the country will find something or the other if the economy doesn't collapse, but for New Labour cannon-fodder the world outside the bubble offers little hope. It's too late now. They should accept that the party's over. Desperate squabbling to retain power at all costs without any political principle involved will not endear them to the electorate and is unrealistic in any case."
The New Labour commentariat couldn't hope to match that, so they're reduced to pointing out the Tories' true agenda rather than mount any sort of valid argument for the government. Jonathan Freedland's Guardian article ( ) is a case in point.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Beatle Bossed

Same corner, different outcomes
An acquaintance of mine tapped me on the shoulder at the bar on Saturday evening.
"Goin' to the McCartney gig?", he asked.
I shrugged & said I wasn't, not really my thing, I added. He looked at me aghast. McCartney, a local icon, one quarter of the band that reinvented popular music, & I wasn't going?!
"I'll be seeing Springsteen in Manchester on Wednesday," I added.
He pulled a face & said, "Ah, but it's not quite the same, is it?"
Wishing to curtail what I knew would be a pointless conversation, I just smiled & said nothing.
It's certainly the case that the Liverpool Sound concert at Anfield on Sunday will be impressive. The spectacle of Anfield hosting a rock gig is a novelty in itself (the Hillsborough Justice concert in the early 90s notwithstanding). The line-up, too, is beginning to take shape with Dave Grohl, Kaiser Chiefs & the Zutons putting some meat on what was looking an alarmingly threadbare bill.
Comparisons can be invidious, so I won't go down the McCartney/Springsteen back catalogue album by album, etc. However, it is clear that New Jersey's finest continues to make records which strive to say something. As a live performer, too, Springsteen still throws himself into the spirit of the evening, as has been noted by the UK media of his Dublin shows over the weekend ( ).
David Cheal's review echoes my own view of Springsteen the live performer:
"Whenever I see him on stage, everyone else fades into the background; all those so-called globe-conquering acts are thrown into sharp relief by the glorious wall of sound and waves of emotion that pulse from the man and his band."
Meanwhile, ahead of the Anfield concert on Sunday, the relics from the Mersey Beat scene have ambled out of the Matthew Street hostelries where they regale American tourists with less than riveting anecdotes about the good old days. Pete Best, the man who was sacked by the rest of the band as the Beatles' drummer & replaced by Ringo Starr, has extended what's being described as an olive branch to Macca ( ).
Let bygones be bygones seems to be the message from the man who worked in a bakery at the same time as the Fabs were recording Sgt. Pepper. Best later suffered a mental breakdown & reportedly attempted suicide.
If I were McCartney, I'd feel safer in the company of Mark Chapman & Heather Mills than in a hotel room with Best.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fossil Fuel Is Finite

Pub conversations can range from the banal to the potentially profound. On most exchanges I try to maintain an interest even if the subject isn't exactly my forte. However, when the discussion turns to cars, my mind starts to wander. A large number of men, it seems to be a male preserve, can talk about cars with a passion & intensity which could & should be expended on many other things. The Top Gear website ( ) is online manna from heaven for men of a certain age who fret about their golf handicap, sigh about the passage of time, launch vitriol at the smoking ban, bemoan changing social attitudes ("political correctness gone mad") & see Jeremy Clarkson et al as lovable rogues who would be great company at the bar.
It is such people whom Joan Smith has firmly in her sights with a cogent missive in today's Independent on Sunday ( ).
Smith declares, "British drivers --not all of them, but the ones who think it's their inalienable right to use their cars as much as they like-- are among the most antisocial people on earth."
Smith does leave herself open to the charge of hypocrisy when she admits to owning a Ford Ka. In her defence, however, it can be said that the Ka is one of the most fuel efficient vehicles on the road.
Car use is inevitably seen in the context of the environment & climate change. It is in such a context that attitudes remain Clarksonesque; there isn't so much a disconnect as a chasm between people's general acceptance of green measures & their own willingness to change at least some aspect of their own lifestyles. Politicians from all the main parties know this, but are too scared of the electoral consequences to show any gumption on the issue. As Smith plaintively remarks, "How I long for politicians prepared to talk frankly about the damage caused by ever-increasing car ownership and face down the shrill demands of fuel price protestors."
This was a point echoed by Smith's fellow commentator on the Independent, Johann Hari on Friday's "Any Questions" ( ) with a refreshing directness to a largely petrolhead audience in Cheshire. Well said, Johann!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Anonymity & Acknowledgement

Following the devastation caused by the cyclone in Burma, the military junta are doing their best to keep the foreign media out of the country, although such efforts have been totally unsuccessful. It's against that background that the BBC have declined to name their correspondents on the ground. It's an understandable decision, considering the risks that foreign media are taking in reporting the story. However, one of the BBC journalists concerned is a highly known, highly experienced correspondent. It seem dubious that the Rangoon regime would not recognise his voice on the BBC's dispatches from the stricken areas.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Class Consciousness

The issue of class is always the elephant in the room for most of the media. Addressing it is often easier said than done. How not to do it is exemplified by Labour's crass campaign in the Crewe & Nantwich by-election; you don't highlight an opponent's privileged background while penalising your own working class supporters (the 10p tax debacle).
How to do it in a timely & effective manner has been shown by Paul Weller. Clearly aghast that David Cameron chose "Eton Rifles" as one of his Desert Island Discs, Weller has openly wondered if Cameron actually knows the lyrics. For the record, Weller wrote the song after seeing Eton schoolboys jeering Right to Work marchers in the late 70s as they passed through Windsor on the Liverpool to London walk.
Speaking to the New Statesman ( ) last week, Weller revealed that Cameron's apparent liking of the song has made him perform it again, hoping that the Eton-educated Tory leader finally gets it. Weller told the NS: "I thought I'd never play that song again, but it's just as powerful now, just as relevant, as it was in 1979."
True to his word, Weller has now resurrected one of the most incendiary pop songs ever: .

Monday, May 19, 2008

Location, Location, Location

Angie from Liverpool Confidential notes in response to my Cherie Blair post that she lives in Waterloo & is delighted to learn that her place may well be undervalued. Angie, before the credit crunch really kicks in, SELL, SELL, SELL!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

In Her Liverpool Home

Living just a mile or so from Crosby, I know the area well; its shops, restaurants, general amenities &, ahem, its pubs. Insofar as its social composition is concerned, it has always been perceived to be a middle class part of Merseyside. That may no longer be the case in some quarters, but it has historically been viewed as a place of local social mobility. I mention all this because of Cherie Blair's description of herself as a working class Scouser. Leaving aside some of the more cringeworthy extracts from her autobiography, "Speaking For Myself" (the contradictory Catholic girl who forgets to take her "contraceptive equipment" to Balmoral), I was struck by the references to her upbringing in Ferndale Road & some PR releases describing it as rough.
As an article on the Liverpool Confidential website notes, "Cherie's childhood home in Ferndale Road, off St. John's Road in Waterloo, is one of the desirable 'Dales', surrounded by nice restaurants and shops, where currently a three bed terrace is a respectacle 142k [$280,000]" ( ).
Actually, LC's estimate is some £30,000 short, but that's by the by.
Part of the PR push for her tome was conducted via yesterday's Guardian, in which Martin Kettle gave her the kid-glove treatment ( ).
Attempting to perpetuate this ersatz proletarian upbringing for the young Cherie, Kettle notes she will be satisfied "' if young Liverpudlians, as she once was, realise that a girl from working class Liverpool can make it in the legal profession through a good education and perhaps some good fortune. '"
The Guardian piece doesn't stop there, however. Prepare for hollow laughter. Kettle asks if she considers herself a socialist. Her response?
"Yes, I do. You know I do. I have no problem with saying I am a socialist or with saying I am a feminist. That's how I was when I was 15 and, you know, I haven't grown out of it and probably never will."
And what of her husband, Kettle asks: "I'm probably the only person in the country who insists my husband is a socialist."
Tony's response to this? "He does his usual thing. He smiles and rolls his eyes and knows exactly what I mean."
Good, I'm glad at least your husband does. Can't say the same about the rest of us.
It's also worth noting her evasive response to Kettle's questions about the Iraq war.
Oh, by the way, Cherie, your socialism seems to be of a novel nature if you actively sought to seek imprisonment for a man who couldn't pay the poll tax while the Tories were still in office ( ).
Is that in your book, too?


Time to check in on our favourite ignoramus, Kelvin MacKenzie. Kelvin, of course, stood as an Independent candidate in the local elections. Alas, his noble stand on car parking charges at the local railway station in Weybridge came to naught. Kelvin trailed his Tory opponent by a whopping (sorry, couldn't resist a Sun word there) 452 votes.
Meanwhile, Stephen Bates in his People column for the Guardian relates a tale which shows MacKenzie's thoughtful side ( ).
For some unfathomable reason, MacKenzie was present at a recent conference in London concerned with PR for charities. Bates takes up the story: "Third Sector magazine reports his apoplectic response to a question from a representative from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which works with sex offenders, about how the organisation could publicise its work more effectively. MacKenzie refused to give any advice to an organisation dealing with paedophiles and promised to expose them when he next writes a column."
On his electoral humiliation, Bates quotes MacKenzie's comments to the Weybridge News and Mail after the result was declared: "I am now going to launch the Red Mist party for anyone who is angry but impotent."
I can't help thinking that "impotent" is an unfortunate word for an ex-Sun editor to use.
Be that as it may, if you're a sad sack who sees Victor Meldrew as a role model, revels in bigotry & lazy generalisations, & is so spineless when challenged that an invertebrate looks imposing by contrast, your political home is calling.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Market Goes South, All The Way To Texas.

That old saying about hubris preceding nemesis came to mind the other day when I read that Tom Hicks' business plans in the US have been hit by the credit crunch ( ).
The situation in the States has forced Hicks to abandon plans to build a themepark development linked to his baseball & NFL franchises in Dallas. However, any Liverpool supporters who view this news as a sign that DIC are waiting to step in had better think again. The credit crunch has forced many businesses to revise or abandon future projects. DIC will be no exception.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Penny Drops

You shouldn't always answer the door

In the wake of their much-deserved hammering in the local elections Labour "thinkers" have been venting their angst in print. Better out than in, guys. As always, a little historical perspective is required before focusing on recent events.

I've always maintained that New Labour was not a phenomenon of Blair, Campbell, Mandelson, et al, in the mid 90s. Instead, its inception can be traced back to the Kinnock reign. It was under the wordsmith & windbag that internal Labour Party democracy was "reformed", for which read terminated. One of Kinnock's loyal lieutenants in this process was Bryan Gould, who has penned his own rueful reflections (to describe them as expressions of mea culpa would stretch things a bit) on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages ( ).

For Gould to pronounce on the death of New Labour is richly ironic, yet somehow fitting. Gould excoriates what he recognises as the characteristics of New Labour, even though his role in its inception will be familiar to those of a certain generation:

"The tolerance -even encouragement- of inequality, the blind faith in market provision, the exaggerated respect paid to the rich and powerful, the abandonment of the weak and powerless, the impatience with the public service and the public sector and organised labour, the reliance on spin rather than substance, the belief that the purpose of government is to keep power rather than to use it, all represent themes that have changed little in what may well be seen by future commentators as merely an interregnum between Thatcher and Cameron."

That's some charge sheet, essayed by a loyal Kinnockite as the edifice which facilitated the advent of Blair & Brown starts to crumble. However, Gould saves the best bit till last; he concludes, "All those who framed the New Labour project are implicated in that failure."

You don't say, Bryan!

This outbreak of public self-flagellation has been continued on the same site by Compass ( ) guru, managing editor of Renewal ( ) & one-time adviser to Gordon Brown (oh, what a cross to bear!), Neal Lawson ( ).

Lawson maintains that the growth in individuality from the 60s onwards meant that both Soviet Stalinism & social democratic reformism were doomed to lose the intellectual battle with capitalism of the free market variety. So far, so Blairite. Yet he then seems to contradict his very premise:

"But in confining itself to a project [that word again!] that put the needs of the market before those of society, New Labour sowed the seeds of a limited and deeply frustrating life span. The contradictions of a largely neoliberal project performed within the body of a party of labour were always going to cause an implosion. It required a permanent shuffle of two steps forward and one step back. The two steps were towards the market with just one in favour of society in order to placate Labour members and the unions.

"But by unleashing more market forces New Labour was undoing its capacity to create a more equal society......The fact that society is more unequal now than the one New Labour inherited from Thatcher is testament to this fact."

Both Gould & Lawson seem unable to acknowledge the corollary of their observations. OK, I'll spell it out for them: New Labour always was an intellectual & economic con, perpetrated by marketing whizzkids & snake oil salesmen at the behest of a ruling class fearful of what the end of the Tory years might mean. Democratically decided policies were ditched, not just ignored; the Murdochs of this world were eagerly fellated & the rich were the ones who mattered, everyone else could wait or, even better, f*** off. Proud of your roles, guys?

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Shaft Of Reality Pierces An Ivory Tower

The people involved in Editorial Intelligence are often guilty of disappearing up their own backsides; they're the archetypal Hamstead trendies who flocked to Blair in the 90s & who now murmur that perhaps Cameron does have a liberal side.
However, they held a discussion at the Royal Society of Arts in London last week on the power & influence of commentators. A good part of the debate was also given over to blogs & their growing influence ( ).
Simon Jenkins' haughty disdain for blogs ("diarrhoea" & "crap" are his considered opinions on the likes of yours truly) is both pitiable & darkly amusing; indeed, Jenkins' olfactory criticisms are put in their proper perspective by an audience member who likens the critics of blogs to eighteenth-century Whigs who condemned pamphleteers. Ex-New Statesman editor John Kaempfner correctly notes that most political blogs are obsessed with Westminster minutiae, but overlooks the blogs around the country that monitor politics in their locality, Liverpool SubCulture being an obvious example ( ).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

In Olde Liverpoole Town

Two quotes from days of yore, the first suggesting that the Scouse scally was around before industrialisation & the slave trade transformed the port; the second seemingly penned by someone who should be working for the Culture Company today (quotes courtesy of ):
1. "Have a care of them, for the men of Liverpool are the most perfidious in all England, worse than my pen can describe." Sir Edward Moore, 1667.
2. "The degrees of the soil, the purity of the waters, the mildness of the air, the antiseptic elluvia of pitch and tar, the acid exhalations from the sea, the pregnant brisk gales of wind and the daily visitations of the tides render Liverpool one of the healthiest places in the Kingdom." Dr. Dobson, 1772.
Who knows what the good doctor was on, but I'd sure like it on prescription.

Credit Crunch In The Culture Capital

One of the boasts which have been trumpeted ad nauseam for & during this year of culture by the local media & the civic clowns on Castle Street concerns the rising number of residential apartments in the city centre. It is, indeed, true that the number of [upper middle class] people residing in postcodes L1, L2 & L3 has risen exponentially in the last decade and a half. As I savoured a lunchtime pint at the Albert Dock last Saturday I took in the changing face of the city's waterfront & the high rise developments, one of which appeared to have a helicopter perched on its roof. However, Scouse exceptionalism cannot & does not extend to the housing market & the credit crunch that has found its way across the Atlantic.
Global economic factors have hit this nascent phenomenon: ( ).
Needless to say, other cities desperate to re-invent themselves also face this cold blast of market conditions (repossessions of upmarket apartments in the middle of Manchester proceed apace).
However, Liverpool, more than most cities, saw the repopulation of its centre as living proof of its civic & economic recovery. It would be bitterly ironic if 2008 witnessed the start of a reversal in the local property sector.

Back To The Grassroots

Watch any archive footage of Anfield in the 60s, 70s & 80s carefully & you'll notice the number of boys in the crowd with their older male relatives, not just fathers. In the mid 80s it was possible to stand on the Kop for £3.00 (about £15.00 in today's money). Today's Anfield crowd has an average age of 43 & it's rising; younger supporters are conspicuous by their paucity.
It's against that demographic backdrop that AFC Liverpool has been formed ( ).
David Conn reports in his Guardian piece, "AFC Liverpool [is] a supporter-owned club with 500 members and rising, recruited an experienced non-League manager, Derek Goulding, and held trials on Monday to which 300 hopeful players turned up, eager to be part of the inaugural season."
AFC Liverpool was formed in early March by a Liverpool FC fan & Kop season ticket holder Alun Parry. He denies that the club has been formed as a response to the Hicks/Gillette/DIC soap opera, stressing it is because of rising ticket prices at Anfield, which deter younger fans from attending. However, it is all of a piece. Whoever succeeds in the Anfield boardroom war will expect a return on their "investment", meaning, inter alia, higher ticket prices.
The AFC Liverpool website has a distinctly retro feel ( ).

Friday, May 09, 2008

Bring Back The Swingometer!

Sitting back with a large glass of wine last week to watch the BBC's coverage of the local elections, I suddenly wondered if the wine had already taken effect. Jeremy Vine appeared in a computerised Wild West scene so tacky it made Second Life look good. Not just that, he spoke with a Texan accent so ropey that it belonged to a pre-war Western: .
And to think that Vine was once considered to be the next Paxman (stop laughing, Paxo!).

Sten Guns In Knightsbridge

The armed seige in Chelsea, west London earlier this week involving a barrister was, of course, a tragedy, the details of which are yet to fully emerge ( ). However, the class divide is reflected in the press coverage; a working class male on a council estate acting in the same way would have had a far less sympathetic press.

On The Right Note

Someone at the BBC really should give a better slot to its Hardtalk programme. It's currently shunted to an 11.30pm showing on BBC News24. A few months ago it featured an outstanding interview with Chicago writer Studs Terkel. On Tuesday its interviewee was principal conductor of the RLPO Vasily Petrenko ( ). Stephen Sackur, his interviewer, is audibly shocked as Petrenko coolly states that he wants to make the Phil the world's best orchestra. Excellent viewing.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Facing Down The Fascists

The BNP stood candidates locally last week. What was significant, though not surprising, was that they focused exclusively on deprived areas where scapegoat politics might have found a ready audience. In Liverpool they stood candidates in the north end of the city rather than the leafy areas of south Liverpool, the working class areas of Speke & Garston being an exception south of the city centre. They were also on the ballot paper in most Bootle wards, though not mine. In purely electoral terms they failed to register anything other than a minor impact. Norris Green ward, however, did send a disturbing message, giving the fascists second place behind Labour. Depressing but not unexpected; a casual stroll through the area would be enough to convince observers that many in the area are looking for a party, any party, to address their concerns.
In today's Independent Johann Hari put a fresh & welcome perspective on those white working class voters who vote BNP ( ), exposing the myths about housing wages & services which the fascists peddle to the gullible & disengaged.
I know it's a controversial position to take, but I agree with Hari's view that the old "no platform for fascists" stance is no longer relevant or effective. Let them say what they really think; close questioning in the media, rather than a mere soundbite, will force them to at least acknowledge their ridiculous Aryan theories. Their claim that the Holocaust never happened may be illuminating for those tempted by their leaflets but whose parents & grandparents fought in World War II. It would be interesting to see their response to the flickering sepia-tinted images of Belsen & Auswitz.
Hari's article makes all the right points, proposing how to counter the racist myths (housing-an immediate programme of council house building; wages-a higher minimum wage; services-no faith schools or community centres for only ethnic group). He concludes:
"But instead of offering these solutions, we [by which Hari presumably means the middle class commentariat] have turned the white working class into a national punch line. We dismiss them as 'chavs', 'pikeys' and racists, and jeer at their clothes, voices and names. So we don't really have the right to act surprised when they vote in a way designed to tell us -as the woman standing in her damp flat, carrying bags of economy-brand food from Iceland, told me- to 'fuck-off''."
Something tells me, however, that Hari's words will be ignored.

Bringing It To The Boil

Well, it wouldn't to you, George, would it?
Watching BBC TV's Question Time last Thursday ( ) I was struck by a remark from Paddy Ashdown to the effect that since he no longer runs for office, he can finally say that the voters ARE wrong on many issues. The comment came in the middle of a discussion involving climate change. The other politicians on the panel visibly squirmed & then looked at him as if he'd just given away a magician's tricks.
There's no doubt that the public are in denial about something which is a far greater threat to the planet than Osama Bin Laden & his motley bunch of acolytes. An opinion poll in Friday's Independent showed that at least 7 in 10 voters would not be willing to pay higher taxes to fund eco-friendly initiatives ( ).
The article depressingly notes:
"The public's climate change scepticism extends to the recent floods which inundated the West Country, and reported signs of changes in the cycle of the seasons. Just over a third of respondents (34 per cent) believe that extreme weather is becoming more common but has nothing to do with global warming. One in 10 said that they believed that climate change is totally natural."
As Mike Childs, spokesman for Friends of the Earth, points out in the report, the government is using the green agenda to justify raising further revenue from ordinary taxpayers, rather than impose a windfall tax on the oil companies, the proceeds from which would finance home insulation schemes.
A further example of this collective denial came at the Stanlow oil refinery on Thursday evening when a blockade was mounted, seemingly by the same idiots who organised the protests across the country in 2000 ( ).

A Turncoat In Toytown

Liverpool's political make-up has long been at variance with the national picture. Not since the early 70s, when the Tories were represented on the council, has the city been in step with the rest of the country. This difference was both reflected & perpetuated last Thursday.
While Labour was taking a much warranted kick up the backside (& perhaps more) across the rest of England & Wales, Liverpool's Labour Party failed to unseat the Lib Dem incumbents,despite winning three seats from them. Those gains, however, did mean that the council would be hung; Warren Bradley & his coterie of incompetent administrators faced losing their hold on the city.
Cometh the hour, cometh the turncoat. Until last year Nadia Stewart was a Labour councillor in the Croxteth ward. She was then deselected by her local party, lack of attendance at council meetings being one of the complaints against her. Stewart, grand-daughter of the late city councillor & MEP, Ken Stewart, soldiered on as an "Independent". That was until the early hours of Friday morning when, his majority gone, Bradley announced that Stewart had decided to join the Lib Dem group ( ).
Stewart claimed, "This is something I have considered over the last couple of weeks. When I sat down and thought about my position if it was a hung council, I knew exactly what I had to do."
Yes, Nadia, but the thing is what you "had to do" will make your grandfather spin in his grave. Sure you can live with that?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Home Straight

Gregg Roughley completes his herculean run from London to Liverpool this afternoon. Gregg's run has raised considerably more than the £2,000 target for MacMillan Cancer Support. He's invited all & sundry to the Pumphouse pub at the Albert Dock on his return home today. I'll be there to buy him a well-earned pint. If you're in town today & have time to spare, feel free to drop in.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Parish Notice

Lizzie Nunnery is a woman of many talents. I saw her play, "Intemperance" at the Everyman last October & was hugely impressed by its storyline, characterisations & production. The acting, too, was assured & convincing. Tonight, in her other guise as a singer-songwriter, she plays at the Everyman Bistro some of her own compositions ( ).

The Politics Of Poverty

There won't be many expressions of surprise at the findings of a survey by the Health is Wealth commission to identify the connection between poor health & economic deprivation in Liverpool ( ):
"The study found that every day across the Liverpool City Region (Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton) nine people die from smoking-related diseases; five people die from heart disease or stroke; six people die of cancer and 22 people are admitted to hospital with alcohol-specific conditions."
The Echo report is vague on the commission's ability to effect legislative change (perhaps its remit doesn't extend so far). Preferring to quote the statistics involved.
There is, however, a quote from the commission's chair, Sue Woodward which you don't normally find in the Echo as it "celebrates" this year of capital with trivia, sob stories & lachrymose sentiment:
"As we count the cranes on the Liverpool skyline and enjoy the rave reviews in the Sunday supplements, the time is right to stand up and face the elephant in the room.
"Generations of families dependent on benefits, the spiralling problem of alcohol misuse, the creation of a super underclass, an invisible army of people disconnected and cut off from the opportunities created on their own streets, lives cut short through inequality and deprivation."
The commission also observes that there are 15,000 registered drug users in the region. Add in the unregistered users & casual drug users & you end up with a figure at least three times as large.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Abstention Over Engagement

It's local election day in most parts of the country, but staff at nearly all polling stations will feel as isolated as Fernando Torres at Stamford Bridge last night. The candidates in my ward span the range of political opinion: Labour, Tory & Ukip. Yep, spoilt for choice aren't I? Do I vote for a sad, eccentric bunch of Victor Meldrew wannabes who think that all the UK's problems stem from Brussels? Should I cast my vote for the party which did more than the Luftwaffe in destroying the country's manufacturing base thereby creating today's underclass? Am I to vote for a party which has given us an illegal war in Iraq, the debacle of Northern Rock, the abolition of the 10p tax band which hits its own base so ruinously & the pathetic appeasement of China over the Tibet issue?
It gives me no satisfaction to say that I'll be sitting this one out.

Liverpool Literature

As seems only right in this year of culture, the annual Writing on the Wall literary festival returns to Liverpool for a month instead of its usual week. The festival begins this evening. A strong literary line-up has been announced as well as a couple of welcome & complimentary musical additions ( ).