Thursday, July 31, 2008

Brand Awareness

Today's Liverpool Echo feels moved to comment on the reports of disorder & drunkenness at the city's Arena ( ):
"It is time everyone treated this new asset with respect -- and showed similar consideration for fellow concert-goers."
Quite right. Such behaviour is to be deprecated. It also reflects badly on the Arena's main sponsor....the Liverpool Echo.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Missed Opportunity

You'd think that in this year of culture the organisers of the Matthew Street festival would've gone for something different, or, at least, come up with a refreshing take on the weekend, wouldn't you?
Well, Bill Heckle, director of the festival, seems to think so. That's what he's telling the local press anyway ( ):
"We have listened to the public, the bands and the venues to programme this year, and I believe we have got the perfect balance for a fantastic music festival, celebrating Liverpool and music in all forms."
Really, Bill? I presume you've "listened" in the way that Gordon Brown would understand the word.
Right Said Fred, essentially a one hit act, & Chas & Dave, a nostalgia act in themselves, as the headliners?
The Post article states there will be a stage for local, unsigned bands. However, judging by the stage allocated to them in 2006, cast out at the Pier Head, separated from the rest of the city centre, this may be little more than both an afterthought & a sop to today's Liverpool music scene.
Local acts which aren't guitar-led pop outfits, eg., hip-hop, are to be given a space in Williamson Square. The problem, however, is that it is an area for passing through rather than congregation. It seems insultingly tokenistic.
Depressingly, as well as the interminable Beatle "tribute" bands, the festival is to be padded out by tribute acts for contemporary artists; Fake That, anyone? Kaiser Thiefs? Antarctic Monkeys? How about Absolute Bowie? No? Thought so. In a word, pathetic.
After last year's cancellation, the organisers had the opportunity to radically revamp the character of the festival for culture year. However, they've blown it. You have to think of demographics. Aiming the product (let's face it, that's what it is) at baby boomers while ignoring contemporary Liverpool acts is both self-defeating & commercially suicidal in the longer term.
Well done, guys.
*Acknowledgements to Pete Carr for the photograph.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Minister Speaks

When he isn't surreptitiously texting or phoning his cabinet colleagues in the latest machinations over Gordon Brown's position, Andy Burnham is otherwise engaged as the culture minister. As you'd suspect, Andy is one of the most prominent cheerleaders for Liverpool08, so much so, in fact, that he's issued an invitation to the culture ministers from the other 26 European Union states to visit the city before the year ends ( ):
"Mr Burnham --who recently said the Capital of Culture year has 'surpassed all expectations-- explained: 'I said to all the culture ministers "Come and see us before the year is over".'
"I think it's really important that I spread the message, wherever I go, about how Liverpool has made a real run of its Capital of Culture year, about what a success it is.
"I'm sure that one or two of the culture ministers have visited already, but hopefully a few more of them will now come. I'm very much thinking about the legacy of 2008, including the international aspect.' "
Surpassed all expectations? What a success 2008 has been? The legacy of 2008?
Seems like Andy is also the minister for bullshit.

The Real Price Of Oil

One of the joys of the BBC's iPlayer is that it throws up some gems amidst the dross. Having just watched the BBC drama "Burn Up", courtesy of it, I heartily recommend you give it a visit. The drama is cliched in parts (the seemingly requisite "love interest" didn't quite ring true), but the wider points it makes make for compelling viewing. Catch it now before it leaves the iPlayer system on Friday ( ).

His Master's Voice

Walking around Liverpool (the outlying areas, not just the "tarted-up" city centre), I can see with my own eyes the impact, or lack of it, of this cultural year. It's therefore necessary for me to refer back to a puff piece for Liverpool08 in last week's Echo by Paddy Shennan ( ).
Paddy works himself up into a local lather about the critics & online commentators (ooh, I wonder who he means?), castigating us, sorry, I mean them, for the fair, balanced & realistic assessments of how 2008 has gone so far.
Paddy, of course, is an Echo employee, & the Echo just happens to be one of the year's corporate sponsors. Just a coincidence, of course, eh, Paddy?

The Cost Of Justice

As I've mentioned in the past, this blog doesn't normally do "charidee". However I'll gladly make an exception in the case of Anne Williams, whose son Kevin was one of those to lose their lives at Hillsborough. Anne needs two sponsors for a race night at the Sylvestrian club on Sylvester Street in the Vauxhall area of Kirkdale on Friday August 29th ( ).
The evening will hopefully raise funds for Anne to make her case for a new inquest into Kevin's death (& the 95 others) with the European Court of Human Rights.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an email address available, but you can phone Ian Barnes, one of the lawyers handling Anne's case, on 07738 022664.
It would be nice if just a few of the corporate sponsors for Liverpool08 dug into their pockets, wouldn't it?

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Blast From The Past

Downtown Liverpool's website carries an unedited version of a discussion (although the description ceases to apply as the exchanges go on) between Jim Hancock, local political correspondent for Granada & the BBC in Manchester over the years, & Derek Hatton, yes, good old Degsy, which was originally broadcast on CityTalk Radio at the end of June: or .
Hatton is in no mood for a tame Q&A & skewers some of the more risible anti-Militant generalisations that Hancock dredges up, particularly the belief that the Militant council led to major businesses leaving the city. When challenged by Hatton to name just one business which left at the time, Hancock stammers, hesitates & withdraws none too gracefully.

Venturing Into Enemy Territory

The novelty of a senior Tory delivering a speech in Liverpool will be realised tomorrow evening when Chris Grayling, the party's spokesman for Merseyside [does David Cameron have a keen sense of irony?], addresses the local business group, Downtown Liverpool ( ).
Extracts from Grayling's speech were leaked in advance to today's Liverpool Daily Post ( ):
"Just look around the city centre. One of the country's biggest shopping centres.
"The new arena. New hotels. The cruise ship terminal. Plans to transform the docks into a new skyscraper city.
"But if you walk out of here with me, and head a mile off into Toxteth, I can show you streets where no one works, street corners where drug dealing is the main business, children being brought up in squalor, a caged up pub with pitbulls as bouncers --gangs, knives and guns in abundance.
"For the gang strife of Norris Green today, read the fascinating saga of Victorian gang crime in Liverpool by Michael Macilwee. Similar worlds, an era apart."
Aside from an almost Blairite aversion to verbs & a belated recognition of Macilwee's work, to which I drew attention a couple of months back, what's striking is the grudgingly acknowledged duality of life in the city today. Grayling's comments about inner city deprivation remind me of Heseltine's address to the Tory conference weeks after the 1981 Toxteth Riots (the reception which greeted the speech could have frozen the Mersey).
Grayling's paean to supposed civic renaissance blithely ignores the likely effects of the credit crunch; Liverpool One & the new hotels will feel the chill winds of it before this year is over. As for the enthusings about the waterfront forming a skyscraper city, the phrase House Of Cards comes to mind.
It would be interesting if one of Grayling's audience tomorrow reminds him of Geoffrey Howe's infamous comment in the early 80s that the policy for Merseyside should be one of "managed decline".

An Audience With The Architect

Attention will soon turn towards the new football season. Gillett & Hicks are still around, their continued presence & the Board's inertia making Gordon Brown look like a decisive, purposeful tyro. Today's Guardian digs into its archive & fishes out this 1968 interview with Bill Shankly: .
It all seemed so much simpler back then.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jam Tomorrow?

As a postscript to the Glasgow East byelection, some readers may be puzzled why I took such an interest in an area roughly 200 miles north of Liverpool. The reason is that the parallels between the Glasgow East seat & the Bootle constituency are uncanny.
Setting aside the factor of sectarianism (although that was a problem in this part of the world just four or five decades back), the social & economic issues are one & the same.
The fall-out from industrial decline was high unemployment & its consequent economic hardship for families whose male breadwinner(s) were rarely skilled in anything other than manual work. The social results of such hardship are still with us today; men in their late 30s were signed off "on the sick" when they had at least three decades of working life still to offer. As for the promise of better times in the future, well, I'll let Deborah Orr in yesterday's Independent sum things up ( ):
"In battered areas like Glasgow East, where the trickle-down of the decade's now collapsing economic miracle never, even quite displayed itself anyway, the continued raw exposure of the populace to economic vicissitudes is now more painfully apparent than ever. Glasgow East, like other neglected parts of Britain, has waited patiently for prosperity to reach it. Now it is clear that the wait has been quite futile."
Another damning indictment of New Labour.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Denial & Despair

Amid the debris of Glasgow East, Gordon Brown & his cabinet meet trades union leaders at Warwick. In happier times for New Labour Blair would use such an occasion to lecture the unions; my way or the highway, he would gloat. Not any more.
However, as today's Guardian ( ) relates, there's still some very confused thinking at the apex of the government:
"One adviser saw a silver lining when he said, 'If we're lucky it could focus minds and weaken the trade unions. Which would be good for Gordon.'
"His argument was that the unions would recognise that they could not force through policies out of kilter with the public mood -- such as those that may have lost Labour last night's byelection.
'Or it will have another effect,' he added hastily. 'It will strengthen the hand of the unions who will say, "you are losing places like Easterhouse in Glasgow -- people who stuck with us through the dark days of the 80s and 90s; you have to start to listen to us and strengthen trade unions -- or you are finished".'
"Which would it be? 'I suspect what will happen will be the latter.' "
They just don't get it, do they?
20.26 Update: Neil Kinnock has appeared on More4 News, expressing confidence in Brown. Critics, he said, should "shut their mouths". Nurse, the screens!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Bogus Prescription

A few hours from now the voters in the Glasgow East constituency will have delivered their, hopefully baleful, verdict on eleven years of New Labour; to paraphrase Neil Kinnock, you have the grotesque chaos of a Labour government, a Labour government, allowing areas like Easterhouse to remain in squalor while turning a blind eye to corruption from the retiring MP.
It's in this context that Roy Hattersley today helpfully reminded us of the origins of the New Labour "project" & the mess it's now in ( ).
Heading his article with the pathetic cry, "Don't give up -- Labour can still win in 2010", Hattersley tries to explain why he thinks Labour is in a hole. However, the man who was a loyal deputy to Kinnock doesn't appear to appreciate the contradictions in his own argument. One such glaring inconsistency is this gem: "At a time when low-paid council and health service workers are expected -- regrettably but neccesarily, in my view -- to accept below-inflation wage increases, John Hutton [Labour's minister for Business] enthuses about the multiplication of millionaires within the British economy. Labour has to decide whose side it is on.."
Roy, I think we all know whose side Labour has decided to take, don't you?
[By the way, Hattersley is reputed to earn in excess of £100,000 per year for articles commisioned by the national press.]
However, lest anyone, ahem, labour under the impression that Hattersley is calling for an identifiably left-wing Labour government to suddenly emerge from the forlorn husk of New Labour, he shows his true colours further on in his piece:
"That is not to call for the return to class-based politics or the policies of 1983 -- which, unlike so many converts to 'moderation', I opposed in 1983. It is an appeal for Labour once more to represent the higher instincts of the British people rather than assume the only question they ask on polling day is 'What's in it for me?' "
Hattersley is advocating a Dickensian liberal position, one which deprecates inequality, yet excoriates those workers who attempt to do something about it. As for the voters of Glasgow East, they have every right to ask the Hattersleys of this world, "What's in it for me?"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Third Time Lucky?

The gremlins are at work with YouTube. Tell you what, go to the YouTube home page & type: Like A Rolling Stone-Liverpool 1966. That should do it...I hope.

Wrong Link!

Ahem, take 2, Bob: .

How Did It Feel?

A whole generation of music journalists has been kept in gainful employment over the years by writing about Bob Dylan's UK tour in 1966. It was the tour where Bylan "went electric", much to the ire & rage of earnest folkies who wanted their protege to ditch The Band. The so-called "Albert Hall" concert, released a decade back, was actually a recording of his gig at Manchester's Free Trade Hall.
Appearing on YouTube is an audio recording of Dylan & The Band performing "Like A Rolling Stone, purportedly at his Liverpool gig on the tour. In stark contrast to the hostility of half the Manchester audience, the Scouse audience at the Odeon cinema on London Road receive the song rapturously. This is despite the fact that Dylan sounds ragged, strung out & wasted (he was on a dubious diet of dope, heroin & amphetamines at the time). Take it away, Bob:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cruel To Be Kind

From the cradle to the grave. Depending on your perspective, it's a phrase which can fill you with libertarian foreboding, or offer a warm reassurance that the free market can't be trusted to look after your wider welfare. However, the interesting thing is that the government's latest welfare proposals ( ) don't seem to line up the usual left/right forces.
Workfare has long been viewed as toxic on the left. It smacks of free market capitalism where you either sink or swim. It's tempting to see New Labour's plans in this context. Tempting, but inaccurate.
The correct backdrop is one of depressed, deprived communities for whom a culture of benefits & worklessness has become entrenched. In the Everton district of Liverpool entire communities are in receipt of some form of state benefit, a legacy of the 80s when healthy, fit male manual workers were signed off on Incapacity Benefit (IB) in order to fiddle the unemployment figures. Three generations have now grown up with no bread winner or role model in their households, a truly poisonous & corrosive force.
Johann Hari, normally a trenchant & astute critic of New Labour, is spot-on in his analysis of the issue ( ): "There are more than a million young 'Neets' --Not in education, employment or training-- in Britain today. We have a higher proportion than any other OECD country. Go to the place where I was born --Glasgow East, site of the potentially Brown-busting by-election this Thursday-- and you will see them spreading before you in great concrete estates of poverty. You can taste the ennui in the air. Ask the kids what they want to do when they grow up and they shrug with heartbreaking indifference and say, 'Dunno'.
"If those of us on the left get trapped into defending all this, we will lose the argument. This isn't what the Welfare State was intended to look like. You were not supposed to fall asleep in the safety net and raise your kids there so they know nothing else. What we need to do is transform the safety net into a trampoline that bounces you back up when you start to fall."
This isn't an issue of morality (although it could be presented in such terms), it is hard-headed economic honesty; a listless, aimless existence punctuated by daytime TV & cheap cigarettes is no life at all. Even the Tories, the party which created today's underclass with their monetarist mantra, grudgingly acknowledge the human & social consequences of their actions ( ) with a refreshing reappraisal of the single mothers they gloried in scapegoating:
"Shadow cabinet minister David Willetts said it was hardly surprising pregnant girls were raising their children alone, if the alternative was settling down with a man who had no means of supporting a family and no visible prospects."
It is, of course, valid to point out that obliging the long-term unemployed to work for state benefits could have the effect of undercutting the wages of those workers who normally perform such tasks (street cleaners, gardeners, etc.). It's an argument cogently argued by Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at the University of Hertfordshire ( ).
However, such qualms are outweighed by the need to address an issue which, if anything, has fettered many working class communities for the last three decades.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

True Fiction

Far be it for me to intrude upon private grief, but I did experience a warm glow of schadenfreude at the latest savaging of Cherie Blair's autobiography (you know, the one which tells how she clawed her way out of the mean streets of Crosby).
Peter Kilfoyle, brought back by Kinnock from Australia to expel Militant, enthusiastically embraced the New Labour "project", as Peter Mandelson once called it. Indeed, Kilfoyle served as a junior defence minister during the first term of Blair's government. However, a combination of old right-wing Labour sensitivities & personal ego meant that Kilfoyle's take on New Labour soured. Now, in a move which he doubtless saw as manna from heaven, the MP for Liverpool Walton has been invited to review Cherie's tome ( ).
Believe it or not, I haven't read the book (those nauseating Radio 4 extracts were enough, quite frankly), but it seems there's at least one howler:
"Dismissing the autobiography as full of 'gossip and social froth', Mr Kilfoyle wrote: 'She talks of the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth sailing from the Mersey. They never did -- Southampton was their home port.' "
I'm not that surprised, however, at this re-writing of local maritime history. After all, her husband was equally fictitious in portraying the WMD threat prior to the Iraq war.

Sinking Ship All At Sea

On the day that the normally, & criminally, underused Mersey plays host to an array of ships, it seems churlish to return to the clowns supposedly running this year of culture. Jason Harborow, who left the Liverpool Culture Company with a handsome pay-off, courtesy of the taxpayer, has run into a spot of bother with his former employers over his new business venture ( ).
Far be it for this blog to side with the Culture Company, but it is breathtaking chutzpah for Harborow to claim any of the kudos for those aspects of 2008 which do go to plan.

It's said that one of the signs of a stable & successful business is continuity. What are we to make, then, of the departure of the Culture Company's head of communications, Paul Newman? ( )
According to the Post's report, "Staff were told of Mr Newman's departure in an email from director Kris Donaldson.....
" 'Paul has done a fantastic job over the last three years driving our comms [communications] efforts and it will be very sad to see him go.' "
As the Liverpool Subculture blog has pointed out in the past, such a rosy & affectionate view will not be shared amongst most 08 staff. It's also common knowledge that, ever since his days as a BBC hack in Manchester, Newman has had what could be termed a "hands-on" approach to female colleagues; the women working at Culture Company HQ in Whitechapel won't be wishing him a fond farewell.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2.75%? My Arse!

Roger Phillips' phone-in on BBC Radio Merseyside took a call today from local actor & comedian Ricky Tomlinson, supporting the local authority workers on the first of their two day strike. Tomlinson, a former trade unionist who was jailed for defying Tory anti-union laws in the 70s, delivered a trenchant & forthright show of support. It's nice to know Ricky hasn't forgotten his roots. His honesty even extended to stating his salary in the last year, £100,000. However, he said that he would never forget that he was once unemployed & had to deal with bailiffs.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Groucho Marxist

The thing about Paul Staines & Iain Dale ( ) is that you know where they're coming from: they're Tories & make no secret of it.
With someone like Brendan O'Neill, however, it's murkier. O'Neill is one of the leading lights in the misleadingly-named Living Marxism. Contrary to its title, LM takes a stance which could be viewed as right of centre libertarianism.
O'Neill was given a chance by the Guardian's Comment is Free website today to indulge his Clarksonesque disdain for the environment & green issues generally. It's worth reproducing an entire paragraph from O'Neill's missive. He imperiously declares:
"Liberty --true liberty-- requires that people see themselves as self-respecting, self-determining subjects, capable of making free choices and persuing the 'good life' as they see fit. Today, by contrast, we are warned that we are toxic, loaded, dangerous specimens, who must always restrain our instincts and aspire to austerity. This is not conducive to a culture of liberty; indeed, it represents a dangerous historic shift, from the Enlightenment era of free citizenship to a new dark age where individuals are depicted as meek in the face of more powerful, unpredictable forces: the gods of the sea, sky and ozone layer."
( )
Just one question, Brendan, how do you "aspire to austerity"?

Dirty Tricks?

I don't have much in common with Paul Staines, the man behind the Guido Fawkes blog ( ), its libertarian Tory take being, ahem, an acquired taste. However, he's claiming tonight that Labour appear to be stopping at nothing in the Glasgow East byelection ( ). If this story's true, it'll be dynamite. The MSM could do worse than check out this story.

Mastication, Mastication, Mastication

Ever wondered what New Labour ministers do when not accepting the holy writ of the free market, schmoozing with millionaires at Labour Party fundraising bashes & wearing garlic around their necks just in case someone mentions the word, "socialism"?
They take their families to McDonald's. At least Tom Harris does. Tom, you may recall, is the profound thinker who told us all to stop being so bloody miserable & gloated about his Kinnockite allegiance during the 80s when noting Terry Fields' death.
Tom, bless him, waxes lyrical on his blog about the culinary delights which await the McDonald's customer ( ).
However, Tom doesn't stop there; he suddenly becomes class conscious, but in reverse, if you get my drift. Consider this well thought-out, cogent case for the fast food giant:
"So why do so many people hate McDonald's? As far as I can see, they sell extremely tasty food at reasonable prices, they provide an activity and a venue that is decidedly family-friendly. More importantly, they provide employment for many people, particularly the young. And if you can get past the 'McJob' snobbery that's prevalent today, it might be recognised that McDonald's, in many communities, are an important employer. More to the point, if McDonald's were not there, those communities would be worse off."
Let's leave aside the patronising tone which the extract betrays about young workers & communities denuded of local manufacturing work over the last 30 years. Let's also draw a veil over the description of McDonald's food as "tasty" (I do worry for your taste buds, Tom).
Instead, let's refer to the McLibel trial in the mid 90s. Helen Steel & Dave Morris, two London Greenpeace activists, were sued for libel by McDonald's after distributing leaflets outside their stores in central London. In contrast to the plaintiff's array of experienced (& expensive) barristers, Steel & Morris conducted their own case. I'll quote the excellent website, on the outcome of the case:
"The verdict was devastating for McDonald's. The judge ruled that they 'exploit children' with their advertising, produce 'misleading' advertising, are 'culpably responsible' for cruelty to animals, are 'antipathetic' to unionisation and pay their workers low wages. But Helen and Dave failed to prove all the points and so the judge ruled that they HAD libelled McDonald's and should pay 60,000 pounds damages. They refused and McDonald's knew better than to persue it. In March 1999 the Court of Appeal made further rulings that it was fair comment to say that McDonald's employees worldwide 'do badly in terms of pay and conditions', and that 'if one eats enough McDonald's food, one's diet may well become high in fat, etc., with the very real risk of heart disease'."
Hope your family enjoyed their meal, Tom.

Monday, July 14, 2008


All systems clear. Said virus, a nasty little specimen called Vista Antivirus 2008, has been deleted. It was a little disconcerting to have an engineer poke through my files, but no matter. He also downloaded a free anti-virus system, AVG Anti-virus, which seems to do the job.

Au Revoir?

After the previous post about Thatcher's eventual demise, it feels strange to relate that this blog could soon come to an end. A virus has infected my PC & is proving difficult to shift. Essentially, it's a scam designed to get the hapless PC user to part with $37 for eliminating viruses which aren't there. A local techie will arrive later this afternoon to deal with the matter. Worst case scenario is that it could be necessary to wipe/clean the hard drive. Hopefully that won't be the case, but if it is, it may well be that I'll have to set up a new blog. See you on the other side.

Phone The Undertaker!

During the 80s & early 90s we'd often joke about how we'd respond to the death of Margaret Thatcher. Street parties, fireworks, we mused; such was the level of personal antipathy to her as well as the policies she represented. I recall Elvis Costello bringing the house down at the Royal Court in 1989 when he performed "Tramp The Dirt Down", his own rumination on Thatcher's eventual demise.
As time moved on & politics entered the grey Major years, followed by the arrival of Blair, such thoughts faded. Until now. A State funeral will be held for Thatcher upon her death ( ).
I'm no fan of state funerals as a principle, but the prominence, & expense, given to Thatcher's will be a slap in the face to all those who suffered under her reign.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


When it isn't running fawning "interviews" with the likes of Gordon Brown ( ), the New Statesman prides itself on impeccably left of centre pieces. However, when it comes to practising what it preaches, the "Staggers" is woefully lacking.
The Observer columnist Nick Cohen has been in dispute with the magazine over non payment for articles he submitted last year. Cohen has enlisted the support of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) ( ).
Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ, makes a startling statement:
"We haven't had NUJ recognition there for a number of years, but I believe we're in the process of seeking a claim for recognition there, having recruited lots of new members there over the past few months."
That such a situation has prevailed at the magazine is intolerable; even New Labour recognise the right of party staff to union membership (I think). The Statesman's owner, Geoffrey Robinson, a millionaire as well as Labour MP, is a Brownite. Hence the kid-glove blurb on the PM in this week's issue (the piece which gave us the unfortunate Heathcliff comparison).
I cancelled my subscription to the magazine a while back after the exit of its last editor. I've had no second thoughts since.

Friday, July 11, 2008

No Garden Of Eden

It isn't just the centre of Liverpool which will be hit by the credit crunch. Plans to redevelop Otterspool Prom &, in particular, the site of the 1984 International Garden Festival, have been affected ( ).
Langtree McLean, the developers of the derelict 67 acre site, had planned to construct 140 houses & flats. Its managing director, John Downes, showed confused thinking & jaw-dropping naivety:
"No one is immune to the current market conditions, but there will always be a market for high-quality residential schemes in prime locations.
"We believe in the quality of our product and are confident in its success."
The Otterspool Prom area has long been one of the large middle class enclaves in the south end of the city, so the description of it as a prime location isn't, for once, mere hyperbole; the average price of a property in the Aigburth Vale area is about £250,000.
However, what is ignored, frighteningly ignored, is the impact the crunch will have on new developments as well as house prices. All the bullish noises about regeneration & growth will come to an abrupt halt when market forces hit home.
The site of the Garden Festival is likely to remain as it is for the forseeable future, & no amount of local spin will alter that reality.

Not So Fab

A brief postscript to yesterday's Beatle Day in Liverpool city centre. Word on the web is that the day became a bit of a shambles. Bands were reduced to lugging their equipment from one part of town to another with no council assistance, & bands on the Echo Arena roof were ordered off for "health & safety" reasons. Congratulations, guys. Another memorable episode in this year of culture.
NB: You won't read anything about this in today's Liverpool Echo.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah?

If you go into Liverpool city centre today, be sure of a dubious surprise. The city has been guilty far too often in the past of reinforcing stereotypes, myths & general misconceptions of itself. And now it's done it again.
Today is Beatle Day in the city ( ). Yes, the group which ceased to exist after a High Court judge wound it up in 1970 is exhumed (yet again) from pop music's cemetery by those original thinkers at the Liverpool Culture Company & the city council.
It's already begun. According to the Daily Post's blurb, "Tribute band the Backstreet Beatles will be on the Mersey Ferry from 6.30am to 9am."
Something tells me the forced jollity of four middle aged guys in ridiculous wigs & suits would have gone down as well as Heather Mills at a Beatle convention. Picture the scene: you're checking the watch as the ferry inches its way to the Pier Head; you're thinking of the day ahead at work; you're dreading that meeting with the manager. Then suddenly, crash! A Ringo lookalike starts the intro for "She Loves You". Badly. Just yards away. Your head is filled with murderous intent. Not so much I Wanna Hold Your Hand, as I Wanna Hold Your Throat.
The Post also breathlessly relates, "Thousands of mop-top Beatles' wigs will be on sale across the city, along with inflatable guitars. The day marks the 44th anniversary of the return of the band to their native city, after completing a tour of America."
That sound you might hear isn't that of a barrel being scraped; it's that of the barrel falling apart.
So this is supposed to be a highlight of 2008, eh? Unless my memory is playing tricks, I distinctly recall Liverpool's pitch for 2008 stressing the current cultural offerings of the city slightly more than what's gone before (&, yes, that includes you-know-who). It's truly pathetic. It's also, alas, a classic bread & circus tactic. What better to distract attention from the farce this year has been than to exhume the corpse of Beatledom?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Because They're Worth It?

Today's Guardian carries a report that a survey of 120 senior executives revealed "more than half not only admit they had the wrong strategy to steer their organisation through a slump, they also have no plan in place to take advantage of the eventual upturn." ( ).
The survey finds that just under half the poll of executives admit to having no experience in dealing with the impending financial climate. Something to remember when the CBI, IoD, et al, next declare that low-paid workers should show wage restraint & that the salaries in the City are justified in order to attract the right calibre of business leaders.

Another 2008 Success Story!

Call me a conspiracy theorist (oh, go on, please!), but it's significant that the Liverpool Echo has suddenly stopped reporting on the effect of the Liverpool One retail behemoth on the Bold Street area. The reason? Well, it could just be that grim yet accurate reports about a major thoroughfare's travails don't sit well alongside puff-pieces for the Liverpool One development, a retail phenomenon which, we are assured, will bring more jobs, investment & general prosperity to Merseyside. [They forgot to add that it will bring an end to Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe; end famine in Africa; & solve the Palestine question. However, I'm sure it'll accomplish those feats as well.]
Sunday's Observer carried a report on the number of shopping projects being built around the UK: . Inevitably, Liverpool One was mentioned. Of particular relevance was this brave noise emanating from the retail property business:
"Michael Green, chief executive of the British Council of Shopping Centres, says it is up to developers and local authorities to work together to make sure older town centres are not left to rot when superseded by a new centre. 'It is our duty as an industry to modernise retail and sometimes there can be a knock-on effect,' Green says."
Therein can be found the faultline running through the unalloyed enthusiasm over the Liverpool One project. All the signs are that the credit crunch will have a brutal effect on spending levels & smaller shops. Even Liverpool One, after this frenzied initial splurge, will feel the heat as people realise the full cost of retail therapy when next month's credit card bills fall through the letterbox. Expect empty spaces in the mall & anguished Echo pieces asking where it's all gone wrong. What it may mean for Bold Street (& possibly Church Street) is an acceleration of the economic downturn, resulting in more boarded up shops.
There is also the civic aspect to assess. Liverpool City Council, with its bumbling, cack-handed & downright corrupt running of the city, cannot be relied upon to make the right decisions. The council is in denial about the reality that Liverpool One acts as a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking in most of the (finite number) of shoppers who would otherwise visit other retailers in the city centre.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Nothing's Too Good For The Working Class!

One of those to comment on Terry Fields' passing was Bob Wareing, MP for Liverpool West Derby. Wareing noted his disagreements with Militant but praised Terry's principle & honesty.
Wareing, too, has fallen foul of New Labour. He was deselected as the party's candidate for his seat at the next election & now sits as an Independent in the Commons.
However, that is where any similarity ends. Wareing was among those MPs who voted to maintain the expenses scam this week ( ).
Congratulations, Bob, another one in the eye of the Establishment, eh? Your constituents in Norris Green & Croxteth will doubtless raise a glass to you tonight.
I also note that Eddie O'Hara, MP for the equally deprived Knowsley South constituency, opted to keep his right to claim for John Lewis flat-screen TVs & fitted kitchens.
It's only fair that I make a correction at this point: I stated the other day that MPs could claim £4,000 for a fitted kitchen. That figure was inaccurate. It's £10,000. My apologies for implying that members of Parliament would claim anything on the cheap.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Final Farewell

To the strains of Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again", Terry Fields' coffin was borne to the hearse at the end of his funeral service. St. Benet's RC Church was full, with just as many outside in baking hot weather.
For all the eulogies to Terry Fields the activist, there were short, stabbing reminders of his family life; "Dad" & "Grand-dad" on display in floral form.
I arrived some ten minutes late & found a couple of old comrades in the crowd outside. We chatted about the man's legacy as well as his untimely demise. As the coffin was carried out of the church a hush fell over the crowd & for some it was the moment when his loss really hit home.
Prior to Terry's cremation, Tony Mulhearn delivered an oration which highlighted the man's background & family life, showing how it had shaped his politics. There were a few warm anecdotes as well as a powerful call to remember that Terry's stance (including his refusal to pay the poll tax) were in the true tradition of what was once the Labour Party.
Most of the mourners later went on to the social club next to the church. Terry was active in the running of the club so it seemed fitting.

Snout In The Trough

On the day that Terry Fields is laid to rest, Peter Kilfoyle pops up on the Today programme in the 8.10 slot to defend the expenses scam for MPs ( ).
In a word, grotesque.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Giving Blogs A Bad Name

Remember Tom Harris? No? Thought not. He's the New Labour marionette who mused on his blog a few weeks back, "why are people so bloody miserable".
Well, it seems that this intellectual titan has penned his, ahem, thoughts on the news of Terry Fields' death: .
Harris glosses over Terry's decision to take a worker's wage. Not surprising really. He also refers to the Kinnockite characters as "the Forces of Goodness and Light". No, really.
This guy should be writing comedy scripts.

Virtue & Venality

I've felt pretty low this week. My normal cheery cynicism has been replaced by a mood of mournful reflection. Terry Fields' funeral takes place tomorrow morning & I'll doubtless be one of many who attend to pay their respects to the man.
With his dry wit, Terry would've had a sage response to tonight's news that MPs have decided to largely retain their corrupt expenses system ( ). They decided to accept a lower pay rise than would otherwise have been the case (how noble of them!), but voted to hold on to their "John Lewis" expenses (£750 for a flat-screen TV, £4,000 for a fitted kitchen). Voting figures aren't yet available, but it'll be interesting to see how my own MP, Joe Benton, voted.
A boss' MP on a boss' wage. Kinda catchy, isn't it?

The C-Span website is a godsend to those of us who like our coverage of US politics to be unmediated by self-important anchors, spindoctors & uninformed hacks gullible enough to be duped by a candidate's team. Earlier I saw an interview Ralph Nader gave on the site yesterday ( ). Nader had some refreshing points to make, & even though he's got as much chance of winning the Presidency as Boris Johnson has of receiving the freedom of the city of Liverpool, it was cheering to hear things which the US networks (&, unfortunately, the BBC) simply wouldn't broadcast. Those who think Barack Obama really is an unsullied left-of-centre figure, at least by US standards, should watch Nader skewer him for his ties to corporate interests.
Nader's official campaign website ( ) is worth visiting, too.