Sunday, August 31, 2008
There's a discernible element of nostalgia for the Liverpool of yesteryear as well as a shudder at the recent past when Rattle enthuses that "it's nice to see [Liverpool] in such a renaissance because there were some really tough times in Liverpool after the riots, the Derek Hatton years."
Vulliamy seizes on this cursory throwback to the 80s to revive his own well-documented antipathy to Militant:
"[Rattle] says this with solemn slowness, as though a dear friend had been abused by the years when Hatton and Margaret Thatcher picked over Liverpool's bones."
Ah, yes, Hatton & Thatcher, two sides of the same destructive coin that did for the city. That tired, discredited & contradictory theory; it's as risible as claiming that the city's slide was due to events in the 80s & nothing to do with the Port's decline decades earlier.
Vulliamy is on altogether firmer ground when he highlights the hitherto overlooked issue of musical education in schools with his observation that "a battle rages over music in British schools between people such as Rattle, Julian Lloyd Webber and Peter Maxwell Davies, who believe that deprived children have a right of access to great classical music, and those -- with their bastion in the north west as it happens -- who believe that music education should consist of what is regarded as 'relevant' to children and chosen by them, not 'bourgeois' and 'imposed' from the classical heritage. It's a situation which results in poor children studying rap music in class and never hearing a note of Beethoven."
Other than the term "bourgeois" (which I haven't heard used in cultural, political or economic discourse for a decade), Vulliamy is correct to identify this depressingly limiting phenomenon.
That said, however, the issue of class is again germane to such an issue. Rattle grew up in Aigburth, next to Sefton Park, in a home environment which was clearly comfortable. Therefore it was easier for him to persue & develop his musical ambitions in the city. Anyone of Rattle's generation growing up in the working class north end of Liverpool simply wouldn't have had such a supportive ethos in the home, the parents' help notwithstanding. That can be explained simply: lack of money. It's a situation which remains unchanged half a century later.
A postscript: it's heartening to see Rattle's role as something of a Renaissance figure referred to in the article.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Palin comes across as the sort of person who takes her world view from the cable news networks. Unlike her namesake, Michael, however, there's nothing intentionally comical about her views; she opposes abortion even when the woman has been raped & believes in "creationism" (ie., it really did all start with a snake, a spare rib & an apple). On this last point, one of the commenters to the video clip puts it perfectly:
"She believes in fossil fuels, but doesn't believe fossils are older than the bible...".
Rather perversely, the meeting got some free publicity in that night's Liverpool Echo, courtesy of columnist Paddy Shennan (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/liverpool-columnists/paddy-shennan/2008/08/27/terry-tribute-is-a-reminder-of-passionate-politics-100252-21614903/ ).
Tributes were, of course, paid to Terry Fields, & it was this aspect of the evening which Shennan picked up on when he recalled the 80s in local politics:
"An era when politics was largely populated by passionate people, as opposed to being largely populated by cardboard cut-outs.
"An era when our two main political parties weren't fighting over the same middle ground in a desperate bid to impress the same Middle Englanders and Daily Mail readers.
"An era when more people seemed to have something to say --often something worth hearing. An era before spin totally took over."
Too true. However, I wonder if Paddy occasionally checks the Liverpool Echo's own archive. If not, I can assure him that the propaganda & bile which filled much of the Echo's pages during the 80s rivalled anything the Mail could throw up. The Echo was merely a local version of the national red-tops, constantly attacking & smearing the city council. It should also be remembered that the Echo gave its support to Thatcher on the eve of the 1983 election.
Time to go through those back copies, Paddy.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Having said that, Obama's speech was, by US standards, rather substantive. Details were sketched out on domestic & foreign policy & the liberal blogs lapped it up, particularly the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ ).
So, too, did maverick film-maker Michael Moore (http://www.michaelmoore.com/ ), who declared for Obama earlier in the summer.
However, the headlong dash to acclaim The Candidate at what right-wing blogs wittily dubbed "Barackopolis" (were they Doric or Ionic columns?) attracted a dissenting voice in the form of Ralph Nader. Talking to the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/28/ralphnader.uselections2008 ), Nader fired off a couple of verbal bullets which clearly found their target:
"Obama 'keeps talking about change', Nader told guardian.co.uk. 'But when you look at his policies...is he for change when he wants a larger military budget?
"Is he for change when he doesn't challenge the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for corporations?'"
This was a point taken up by a blogger for the Firedoglake blog (http://www.firedoglake.com/ ) on a guardian .co.uk video piece by Oliver Burkeman (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/oliverburkemanblog/2008/aug/28/democrats2008.uselections2008 ).
Thursday, August 28, 2008
My metabolism duly altered, I'm currently watching botoxed 50-something presenters on CNN pontificating about Obama's speech in Denver, Colorado (of which more tomorrow hopefully).
Sunday, August 24, 2008
The LT notes that David Henshaw was chief executive of Knowsley MBC before taking up the same job in Liverpool. Henshaw's role in Liverpool in the run-up to 2008 has, of course, been brilliantly exposed by Tony Parrish on the Liverpool Subculture blog (http://liverpoolsubculture.blogspot.com/ ).
LT states that Henshaw & Jim Keight, Knowsley council leader throughout the 90s, "were given carte blanche by New Labour that ensured political and local government corruption/malpractices flourished without fear of reprisal."
It goes on assert that Knowsley's "press and media office" under Henshaw & Keight received almost five times the amount of funding than its counterpart in Liverpool, despite the fact that Knowsley's population was less than one-third of Liverpool's. Significantly (& unsurprisingly, given its track record), "The Liverpool Echo were drip fed a permanent diet [of] 'good news stories' and their journalists 'encouraged' to stay away from council meetings.
"Having instead to rely on the Council handing down sanitised versions of anything that might be of public interest. Everything else was buried in the secret labyrinth of committees Henshaw set up to push through the £75,000 unsecured loan to a councillor: the variety of questionable land deals: and the covering up of payola to his eventual deputy: and the arranged burying of any trace of the £75,000 unsecured loan to Cllr Edward Grannell, a Kirkby bag carrier for Council leader James Keight JP!"
It's explosive stuff, of course, & the sort of allegations which journalists would be expected to persue with alacrity. However, the Liverpool Times' piece draws attention to the local media's supine coverage of the Borough's affairs. It concludes, "If the Liverpool based media covered the shenanigans of the Council's [sic] and if the Council's Chief Executives upheld standards, would there be any need for the Liverpool Times?"
Maybe not, fellas, but don't dwell on that, you're doing a brilliant job.
Friday, August 22, 2008
To tie in with this annual orgy of pointless nostalgia the Echo throws in a series of cheerleader pieces tonight. Perhaps the most risible is one which contends that 2008 has "improved the mental well-being of local people and created a new sense of community (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2008/08/22/positive-effect-of-culture-year-100252-21585787/ ), according to researchers at the University of Liverpool, who clearly seem to have too much spare time on their hands.
Helen West, one of the researchers, is quoted as trilling, "Issues such as low esteem and lack of motivation can result from inequalities within a community, which we found to have a negative impact on mental well-being.
"By using culture as a tool to connect different parts of the community, people felt more valued and encouraged to share their goals."
Quite how the community in the Gillmoss area of Croxteth have been connected & encouraged to share their goals by this year of culture is, at the very least, a moot point. Compare the inanity of that piece with the reality that plans to rebuild the Gillmoss area are abandoned, largely because of the credit crunch (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2008/08/21/gillmoss-plan-lies-in-tatters-100252-21577768/ ).
As the city centre begins to rake in the yens, dollars & euros from tourists who probably won't be told that the original Cavern club is now beneath an electricity sub-station, areas like Gillmoss are left to decline & fester ever further.
Without sounding unduly dismissive or flippant, perhaps the best thing to do this weekend is to give the city centre as wide a berth as poosible, & if you really want to see how many drunken, aggressive "scallies" get into scrapes with the law, there's always the Matthew Street webcam to keep you amused (http://www.matthew.st/webcam.php ).
Earlier this year I commented on the 1959 documentary, "Morning in the Streets", set in the Everton district of the city, when it was first put on the BBC's iPlayer. The documentary got a welcome airing on BBC 4 last night as part of the "Liverpool on the Box" series of programmes (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00dnz/b00d30mc ).
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Sad to say, (Nice But Dim) Tim Leunig has gone back on his (conditional) pledge to visit Liverpool (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2008/08/15/i-fear-for-safety-says-report-author-64375-21537699/ ).
The Post quotes the Lib Dems' greatest asset: "I've had threats of physical violence on emails -- they're quite aggressive, to be honest. One has accused me of being a paedophile. Another has said I'm lower than vermin, quoting (Nye) Bevan."
It's always a shame when a few idiots use emails merely for puerile & juvenile name-calling, of course. However, the good doctor doesn't say where the apparent abusive emailers live (remember, he did write off the entire north of England).
I always suspected that Leunig would refuse to leave his ivory tower & sully himself with a trip to "the provinces".
One aspect of the Post's report puzzles me. Its reporter Ben Schofield notes, "A Liverpool newspaper printed his [Leunig's] email address on Tuesday."
The "Liverpool newspaper" in question was the Liverpool Echo, sister paper of the Liverpool Daily Post. Why be so coy about this information? Is it some sort of bizarre intra-competitive environment on Old Hall Street (the Post & Echo's HQ)?
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The Echo quotes "Brains" thus:
"I've been bombarded with emails...they've criticised my hair, my glasses and one just called me a wanker...they said I should get a refund on my glasses".
You know, I'm actually starting to feel sorry for the poor lamb.
By way of public service, this blog re-publishes the good doctor's email address: email@example.com .
Don't expect a reply soon, though, there may be a bit of a backlog to get through.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tim Leunig's main points have been summarised for a piece on the Guardian's "Comment is Free" page (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/13/regeneration.conservatives ).
The response? Put it this way, if it were a boxing match, the referee would have stepped in long ago. Dim Tim was interviewed on the Phillips Phone-In on BBC Radio Merseyside earlier. He sounds just like the sheltered, immature upper class prat I immediately suspected him to be.
That's precisely what is put forward in a report by the Policy Exchange thinktank (http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/ ), entitled "Cities Unlimited", which asserts that northern towns & cities, including Liverpool,have "failed" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/aug/13/conservatives.regeneration ).
The report suggests that people in the north should be paid to move south.
This seems like a twenty first century version of Norman Tebbit's infamous "on yer bike" speech at the Tories' 1981 conference & Geoffrey Howe's "managed decline" comment on Merseyside around the same time.
The Tories' "minister for Merseyside" (ha!), Chris Grayling, has attempted to distance the party from the report. However, as Nicholas Watt notes in the Guardian piece, Policy Exchange "enjoys strong links with the Tory leadership".
It is also commonly acknowledged that the role of such thinktanks, particularly those on the right, is to say things which the party would rather not voice at this stage (the sale of council houses & Thatcher's privatisation programmes first saw the light of day as thinktank suggestions). Therefore a significant Tory input into the Policy Exchange report is inevitable.
So where should we northerners go (assuming we can just up sticks, move our entire families & communities, etc. & move to similarly paid jobs in southern England)?
The answer: Oxford, Cambridge & London.
Of course, everyone knows that the UK's capital city has enough space to spare...don't they?
As for Oxford & Cambridge, can you imagine the level & scale of infrastructure required for these two cities as they prepare to welcome the northern hordes?
To be fair (& believe me, it's bloody difficult being fair to this report's Pythonesque premise), the Guardian article does quote two paragraphs from the thinktank's report which have to be acknowledged by us northerners:
"Many of Britain's towns and cities have failed --and been failed by policy makers for far too long. It is better to tell uncomfortable truths than to continue to claim that if we carry on as we are then things will turn out well. Just as we can't buck the market, so we can't buck economic geography either. Places that enjoyed the conditions for creating wealth in the coal-powered 19th century often do not do so today.
"Coastal cities, whether large like Liverpool and Hull, or small like Scunthorpe and Blackpool, are most vulnerable...They are almost always at the end of the line. They have lost their raison d'etre [as ports] and it is hard to imagine them prospering at their current sizes."
The Liverpool Echo gets its teeth into Dr Tim Leunig, one of the report's co-authors, who helps to dig his own hole with a few garbled & ignorant comments over the phone to the Echo's reporter (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2008/08/13/meet-the-boffin-who-says-abandon-liverpool-100252-21525159/ ):
"[Liverpool] is poorly connected to the road network, the rail network and air links.
"And it is a long, long way away from markets in Europe.
"People are doing their best without a doubt. But the city still suffers the problem of not being near London or Heathrow."
The comments about the city's transport links may be valid but his other points make him sound like a remedial pupil who's just got the hang of basic geography (so Liverpool's 200 miles from London? Oooh, I didn't realise that before!).
The Echo notes that Dr Leunig lectures in economic history at the London School of Economics. Economic history does indeed make the point that the Port of Liverpool enjoyed its heyday in the mid to late 19th century. However, it is not the role or purpose of economic history to extrapolate future prospects from the study of the past.
Mischievously, the Echo publishes Dr Leunig's email address: firstname.lastname@example.org .
However, let's leave the final word to Dr Leunig himself. According to the Guardian story, he acknowledges that his ideas will be seen as "unworkable, unreasonable and perhaps plain barmy".
You said it, Tim!
Monday, August 11, 2008
Today's Guardian takes the case further on (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/aug/11/ukcrime.gayrights ), looking at the level of homophobia in Liverpool & the attacks which have occured as a consequence. There are some hard-hitting points made which the Culture Company would rather play down, & which the Liverpool Echo is loath to highlight:
"Whether or not the attack on Michael was a hate crime, the case has heightened concerns about homophobia in Merseyside. 'There is an appalling level of endemic homophobia in Liverpool,' said Steve Radford, a city councillor of 29 years standing, who is gay."
If that isn't incendiary enough, the report goes on to throw in a theory held by Gary Everett, artistic director of the Homotopia gay theatre festival, which would surely light the blue touch paper if the local media had the guts to address it: Liverpool is "shackled" by Catholicism.
"A disproportionate number (55%) of children in Merseyside attend faith schools. Some of these, Everett said, were reluctant to improve their teaching on LGBT [Lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender] issues despite Section 28, the controversial law which stopped schools 'promoting' homosexuality, having been repealed in 2000 in Scotland and 2003 in England."
Is that correct? Yes & no.
Homophobia is to be found everywhere, alas, & among people who could be described as irreligious. There are also equally medieval attitudes to lesbians & gays in other Christian religions, Judaism & Islam.
However, rightly or wrongly, Liverpool has been depicted as a Catholic city since the influx of Irish refugees from the Famine in the 1840s. The truth is, of course, more nuanced, but the perception has taken hold.
Given that a Vatican official recently described homosexuality as "an abomination", it shouldn't be surprising that the city's Catholic pupils leave school regarding lesbians & gays with at best, suspicion, & at worst, open hostility. There's a word for this phenomenon: brainwashing. And it's repugnant.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Keep it up, Tony!
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
One final point to make. Some web users mistakenly typed "culi" when searching for the site, only to find that the misspelling actually took them through to an Italian hard core porn site. Cue adolescent jokes about powerful search engines & logging on.
Monday, August 04, 2008
The decision by the Department of Health to send letters to parents informing them their offspring need to lose weight is a step in the right direction (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/aug/04/health ).
However, the department will not be using the term "obese" in the letters. Instead, the words "very overweight" will be used:
"Dr Will Cavendish, director of health and wellbeing at the Department of Health, said it was important parents received information that was useful and which helped them take action.
" 'We have not banned (the word obese) but we have chosen not to use it,' he said.
" 'There is no point giving them a letter that doesn't have any impact on their behaviour' ".
This is neither the issue nor the time for mandarins' euphemisms. If children are fat (there, I've said the unsayable), the parents need to be told that. No equivocating, no gingerly tip-toeing around the subject. Spell it out to those parents, or they'll continue to see a trip to McDonalds as a treat.
The clinching argument is provided in the article's final paragraph:
"Two thirds of adults and a third of children are either overweight or obese in the UK. The figure is predicted to rise to almost nine in ten adults and two thirds of children by 2050, which could cost the economy £50bn due to obesity-related ill-health."
After Jason Harborow poured his heart out to the Echo last week (the usual shallow, pathetic, self-pitying drivel about how he feels like a scapegoat --ha!-- ) it was the turn of city council leader Warren Bradley over the weekend (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2008/08/02/the-year-it-all-went-bradley-wrong-100252-21452126/ ).
Paddy Shennan gave Bradley the kid-glove treatment as he gently coaxed the city council leader to re-live his self-styled ordeal. Amidst the torrent of supposed wounded pride, slander & intrigue came this curious claim (& semi-mea culpa ) about last year's Matthew Street fiasco:
"The press releases that came out ofthe Culture Company and the authority were probably not the best, so there was a big lesson learned there.
"They never actually said the outdoor stages wouldn't be taking place. It was 'The Matthew Street festival is cancelled',which wasn't correct at the time, as we know, because the indoor stages were a big success last year."
Actually, Warren, by any objective criterion, "success" is a term which doesn't belong in the context of last year's farce. The handful of overseas visitors who came to the city regardless were bemused to find no outdoor stages whilst being assured that there was still a festival taking place; it's just that all the indoor venues were already filled to capacity, so access to the "festival" wasn't possible to many.
Bradley goes on to say he doesn't look for excuses. So why were Lee Forde & Chris Green, Culture Company Events Manager & Operations Director respectively, hung out to dry in the report on the fiasco last November?
If you're reading this, Warren (I believe you're a big fan of the Liverpool Subculture blog by the way), do let me know.
In this context it's heartening to see the reaction to the homophobic killing of 18 year old Michael Causer in Whiston (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2008/08/04/campaigners-plan-march-in-memory-of-michael-causer-64375-21459419/ ).
Three teenagers have been arrested in connection with the killing. Without wishing to pre-judge whatever the investigation unearths, it's a fair bet that the bigotry & ignorance which led to Michael's death were passed on from the miscreants' parents & friends.
Acknowledging the crucial role of education to this issue, Steve Radford, Independent Liberal councillor for Tuebrook, has highlighted research which shows the level of homophobic attacks in Liverpool (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2008/08/04/homophobia-is-endemic-in-liverpool-says-leading-liberal-64375-21459415/ ).
It's a clearly urgent task; the level of stupidity & base hostility was reflected in a court case last week (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2008/08/02/man-stoned-two-lesbians-100252-21452115/ ).