Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring Out The Old...

Many bloggers will have cast an eye back at the last twelve months, recalling highs, lows, embarrassments, gaffes, etc. I don't intend to follow suit simply because I can't be arsed.
However, seeing as this will be my last post of 2008, I wish you all (all seven of you, presumably) a Happy New Year. Special mentions for Tony Karon, Tony Parrish, Professor Chucklebutty & Guillaume.

Solidarity? I'm All Right, Jack

One of the features of this recession is the ubiquity of trade union leaders on the 24/7 news channels & in the serious press, warning of the uncertainty & hardship facing workers this festive period. Union leaders have been given column space & airtime to excoriate the bankers & other fat cats responsible for the current situation.
All well & good. However, some things don't change. I recall in my activist days railing against the salaries that union leaders & full-time officers enjoyed at a time when their members were under Thatcher's cosh. As we go into an economic downturn which threatens to be worse than that of the early 80s, it's unsurprising to note that at least one union leader won't have to worry about the credit crunch ( ).
David Hencke's incisive piece reveals that Tony Woodley, joint General Secretary of Unite, wants £100,000 to leave a subsidised property for which he pays a peppercorn rent of £200 per month. [Woodley's salary is £80,000 per year.] The £200 per month rent on the flat, in the Elephant & Castle area of south London, includes electricity & heating bills. Documents seen by Hencke are pretty hair-raising:
" . The flat has never been registered as a residential dwelling so Woodley has never paid any council tax on it.
. It was granted to him as an inter-union favour by the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU).
. The CSEU was negotiating to sell the commercial offices and the flat to a Scottish property company, Unicorn Developments, and offered him £15,000 to quit it.
. After much negotiating they later raised this to £55,000 but suddenly, to the company's solicitors' surprise, the Transport and General Workers Union -- as part of Unite -- made an identical offer for the same building.
. Then a private company in Woodley's home town [Wallasey], Purple Apple, which also has a contract to manage the TGWU properties, made a higher offer. Documents show that the sale was made personally to the late Gerry White, then director of the firm and who the union confirm was a long standing acquaintance of Woodley's. The commercial firm pulled out. "
[White & Woodley knew each other through their involvement with Vauxhall Motors Football Club in Ellesmere Port. Woodley is the club President.]
Woodley has been vocal in his calls for the UK government to follow the example of the US administration in bailing out the car industry. That's part of his job; his members' livelihoods depend on State support if they are to have any chance of riding out the storm. However, those members at Ellesmere Port, as well as those at the Jaguar plant in Speke, are entitled to wonder why it is that their leader, a man who really should be setting an example, has been cushioned from the day-to-day financial worries afflicting his membership, & now stands to gain as much as £100,000 for leaving a property which he shouldn't have moved into in the first place.
Something tells me those workers & their families won't be toasting Tony at midnight.

About That Business In Southport, Stevie

That the Steven Gerrard affair ( ) is now a sub judice matter hasn't stopped the messageboards & blogs from commenting on it. I don't intend to follow the online herd; there's nothing to be gained & no useful purpose to be served from it.
However, I do have one question: Phil Collins?!! For f***'s sake, Stevie, why Phil Collins?!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It Won't Even Make The Inside Pages Today

Ever since New Labour spindoctor Jo Moore decided to release some potentially embarrassing news on 9/11, remarking, "It's a good day to bury bad news", politicians & their entourage have quietly absorbed the lesson. When a major news story dominates the headlines & fills up the 24/7 news channels, slip out those press releases which can't be finessed or honeyed with flowery verbiage. So it was with elements within Liverpool City Council on the day of the Rhys Jones verdict, when the Standards Board for England ruled that former council leader Mike Storey had breached the local government code after briefing a journalist about the health of Jason Harborrow, former chief executive of the Liverpool Culture Company ( ).
Along with the timing of the release, it was notable that Storey used the in-house journal of the council, the Oldham Echo, to issue a statement of defiance. Storey declared "he would urge the council to take legal action against those who he said were peddling 'wicked and evil smears and innuendos' about members, particularly on internet blog sites." ( ).
Tony, Professor, congratulations!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

When Beatle Nostalgia Was Still A Baby

Prior to the Christmas break, I came across this curio on the BBC's online archive: .
This 1971 report by the late Bernard Falk, himself a Scouser, features "a disappointing first annual Mersey Beat convention". It includes interviews with Alan Williams, who still dines out on tales of his decision to let Brian Epstein take over as manager of the Beatles, & Cy Tucker, who still warbles away in faded cabaret spots around Merseyside. The piece serves as a welcome antidote to all the usual Fab Four guff in the local media.

Crime & Punishment

While the feelings & emotions around the Rhys Jones trial are still raw, some may think it imprudent to address the issue of youth crime in the round. However, that is what Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats' leader, did a week before Christmas ( ).
[Of course, Tony Blair, then Shadow Home Secretary, ran with the Bulger case, shamelessly so, in fact. It wasn't just a stick with which to beat the Tories, it was an early indication of Blair's willingness to inject religiosity into UK political debate, something hitherto confined to the United States.]
The Post reports:
"In a speech to a think-tank, Mr Clegg said politicians must not 'let the worst set the rules' - whether that was the murder of James, the death of Baby P, or the kidnap of Shannon Matthews.
"He added: 'We know it was the disaster politics response to the killing of Jamie (sic) Bulger that led to a massive upswing in the number of children in prison, or prison-like secure accomodation.
" 'And we know it isn't doing any good, it isn't cutting crime, it's just turning fragile children into damaged adults.
" 'Turning out a generation of career criminals..' "
Clegg should be commended for identifying the Bulger case as the catalyst for emotive, impulsive & ill-considered policies; the tabloid agenda drove the legislative process, dangerously so. The Post article pretty much concedes this point:
"By making the speech, Mr Clegg became the first senior politician to voice an argument long made by many political commentators -- that the Bulger case triggered a disastrous 'arms race' in crime policy."
The response from local MPs has been predictable & depressing. Mindful that he is the MP for Kirby, where James' mother still lives, George Howarth issues a defensive & cliched missive which fails to address Clegg's central contention. Walton's MP, Peter Kilfoyle, goes even further: he maintains that " 'there was a considered response on all sides, -- a real sense of wanting to know what had happened and how we could prevent such a thing ever happening again.' "
Considered response, Peter? I recall the mayhem in Snowdrop Street, Kirkdale, days after James' murder, when a frenzied crowd wrongly suspected a local boy of involvement in the case & nearly dragged him out of his family's home. There were, also, the scenes outside South Sefton Magistrates' Court in Bootle when Thompson & Venables, James' killers, made their first court appearance. That emotions ran high that day was entirely understandable. However, to use the term "considered" in describing the response is perverse in the extreme.
The BBC's account of Clegg's address to Demos ( ) is more nuanced & rounded than the Post's treatment:
"[Clegg] added that the economic downturn could lead to many people switching off politics and 'as more people lose their jobs and end up on the streets, an alienated and frustrated minority will turn to aggression, to hate and to blame'. "
The full transcript of Clegg's speech can be found here: .

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A New Mersey Sound

Bloggers are often accused, not without some justification, it should be said, of focusing on stories & issues which highlight the worst forms of behaviour, be it violence, corruption, hypocrisy, etc. Guilty as charged, m'lud.
However, seeing as it's Christmas Eve, I thought I'd highlight a "good news" story from the Guardian earlier this month: .
Season's Greetings.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Bill? Oh, The Kids Will See To That.

For most people in my neighbourhood the "boom" which preceded the credit crunch was a far removed economic phenomenon of which they knew little. However, those who did benefit during those times, with their city breaks to European cities, the annual holidays abroad, the conspicuous consumption -- courtesy of easy credit -- & the almost orgasmic pleasure with which they boasted of how their house's value had risen over a decade or so, are now ruefully recognising that there is a downside for their middle class routines. Put simply, their children & perhaps even grandchildren will have to pick up the tab.
Writing in the Guardian last week ( ), Jenni Russell penned:
"On the day of the pre-budget report my teenage son was listening to a news item about the huge expansion of government borrowing, and the debt being built up for the future. 'I don't understand - who's going to pay for all this?' he asked. I thought for a millisecond. 'You are,' I said."
Russell highlighted the bogus arguments deployed by the government to try & justify student loans; leaving university with a degree is no longer a guarantee of a well-paid, secure career. Nor is a graduate's financial prospects enhanced by the debt he/she has taken on for university education (up to £20,000), particularly at a time when the chance to land well-paid work in order to address that debt is rapidly diminishing.
Russell also drew attention to the housing issue:
"Even falling house prices aren't automatically good news for the young. Homes are still expensive compared with salaries; loans without high deposits are impossible to find; and those who buy at a time of very low inflation are going to find their mortgages won't shrink as they did in the past. The only people exempt from this will be those whose parents can spare some capital. In other words, generational inequality is going to further entrench social inequality."
Russell didn't prescribe any answers. Instead, she confined herself to cliched, liberal hand-wringing. Be that as it may, her piece on this "legacy issue" is timely & urgent.
In one of those instances of unwitting journalistic synchronicity, the same day's edition of the Financial Times carried an arch & sardonic article by Jane Owen on the government's contradictory message to the electorate that they should save & spend simultaneously ( ):
"I have been resisting the temptation to pump up my family's nano-economy with debt and, instead, turn down the heating and whisper the 'S' word. However, saving is now reserved for the hard of thinking. If only I had bought that Bombardier Learjet 45XR with personalised numberplates instead of stashing the cash in a plummeting individual savings account."
She concluded:
"The point is this. Mr Darling's debts give our children two things: wierd messages about how to cope with lean times and a future saddled by having to pay back what the government has borrowed on our behalf. We have witnessed a huge transfer of wealth from one generation to another: such wealth transfers used to be from parents to children. This time it is from children to parents. Season's greetings."
There will be a painful reckoning for those whose parents let the good times roll with interest.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Covered Track

Guillaume over at Vraie Fiction has some pretty strong views on the cover versions of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", & rightly so ( ).
I don't watch the X-Factor, or other such TV shows, for that matter (too upmarket for me), so it was through the Guardian website that I heard about the winner performing the song. Surreal doesn't even begin to describe it. Mind you, it could have been worse, they could have chosen "Bird on a Wire".
By way of a compare & contrast exercise, here's three versions of the song, starting with the composer's own take: .
Next, Jeff Buckley's ethereal reading of the song: .
Finally, K.D. Lang's impassioned rendition on Later with Jools in 2004: .
Personally, I favour KD Lang's cover of the song, but all three are the best versions you could hear. Bob Dylan also chipped in with his own performance of Cohen's classic, but shouldn't have. My only worry is that it might now become a karaoke favourite. That really would be too much to bear.
BTW, Guillaume, bon voyage et Joyeux Noel.

Justice Delivered

Contrary to the sniping of a commenter on my post a fortnight ago on the campaign to free Michael Shields ( ), the unarguable evidence in his favour has finally been recognised by Justice Secretary Jack Straw ( ).
Given the snail-like pace of the legal process, however, it seems unlikely that Michael will be released in time for Christmas.
Everything about the conviction stank. The investigation by the Bulgarian police was amateurish & prone to basic errors. The "identification" of Michael by Martin Georgiev, the waiter who was attacked, took place in a police cell where Michael was handcuffed to a radiator; Georgiev was also still suffering the effects of his concussion from the attack.
The attitude & stance of the Bulgarian authorities throws a harsh light on their criminal justice system; like many former eastern bloc countries, Bulgaria still has a long way to go before it can be considered for EU membership.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Hidden Liverpool

It's worth highlighting the publication of six slim books which draw attention to a side of Liverpool which didn't get a look-in during culture year: .
Despite the provenance of the article (the title is a Murdoch paper, of course), there are some valid points made in the piece:
"The authors are less concerned with the showpieces -- the two cathedrals, the lavishly refurbished St George's Hall, the monumental Pier Head offices -- than with the fabric of everyday working life and its landscapes. They give an architectural dimension to the sort of grassroots community experience easily overlooked by glamorous 'Culture' projects. A celebrity culture like ours, after all, is predictably fascinated by celebrity buildings; and in no conventional way can the Steble Street Baths and Washhouse or the Sheltering Home for Destitute Children in Myrtle Street be regarded as celebs."
Such institutions would have been known to my grandparents' & great-grandparents' generation.
The article goes on to observe accurately:
"Liverpool is, of course, a special case, emphatically 'Not Just Another Place', as a tourism poster boasts outside Lime Street Station. An insular city preoccupied with its own histories and mythologies, it is militantly unEnglish, sharp, feisty with the energy of migration and immigration. It can sometimes, however, seem indifferent to its architecture; flash new buildings go up before old dereliction has been cleared."
It's certainly of some consolation that this scandalously overlooked aspect of the city's social & architectural heritage has been noted in the final days of its supposed year of culture.

Bradley Puts His Foot In It

Warren Bradley, leader of Liverpool City Council, has just spoken on BBC Radio Merseyside, giving his reaction to the Rhys Jones verdict. He praised Rhys' family but also said that the ordeal of the court case must have been "absolute murder" for them. I realise that you can't always choose your words carefully in such circumstances, but his comment is crass beyond belief.


Strange to see that the Liverpool Times blog ( ) hasn't been updated since early September.


Justice has finally been delivered in the Rhys Jones murder trial: .

Monday, December 15, 2008

Exit Strategy

Did she jump, or was she pushed?
That's the question being posed after last week's news that the chief executive of Liverpool One, Joanne Jennings, is to leave her position ( ):
"Liverpool One chief executive Joanne Jennings announced her decision to leave the role and seek new challenges today."
Ah, yes, "new challenges"; I love that euphemism!
There's the usual bollockese from Grovesnor, owner of the retail behemoth, gushing in its seeming appreciation of Jenning's tenure. However, what's this?
"Following her departure the chief executive's role will not be replaced.
"But a new position of estates director will concentrate on the day-to-day running of the centre from early next year."
So, a reduced position for the same job, &, doubtless, a reduced salary to go with it, too.
Jennings, for her part, adheres to the requisite niceities of such "departures", exclaiming:
"I have enjoyed a challenging and exciting role as the Liverpool One chief executive and am extremely proud of what has been achieved here.
"I have also been very privileged to work in the city during the most momentous of times, with Capital of Culture and Liverpool's resurgence as a regional capital.
"I know that Liverpool One will continue to be embedded in city life."
"Challenging" is another euphemism to savour; Capital of Culture year "momentous", Joanne? Not so for most Scousers, quietly getting on with their lives in credit crunch year. And what's all this bullshit about "Liverpool's resurgence as a regional capital"?
Define a regional capital, Joanne.
Can't? OK, I'll define it for you: a regional capital is the main administrative centre within a federal state, eg., Germany with its Lander system. Last time I checked, the UK had not adopted the federal model.
As for Liverpool One being "embedded" in the city, I can't help thinking it will become as discredited & irrelevant to the city as the embedded journos in the Iraq war were to proper reporting.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Business Of Deception

In the Liliputian world of Westminster politics egos abound, pomposity goes untrammeled & the Punch & Judy of PMQs is presented as an elevated form of debate, a paragon of Socratic exposition & comprehension.
Such puerile political posturing reaches its nadir when Party Political Broadcasts are aired on TV. Added to this is the odd bit of chicanery. All parties stoop to it; much as I'd like to lay the blame largely at the Tories' door, New Labour, the Lib Dems & others are no strangers to an imaginative adaptation of reality.
However, the Tories are the ones to be rumbled with a recent PPB ( ).
Southport businessman Shane Prescott appeared in the Tories' broadcast, aired on December 4th, claiming his loft conversion business had gone bust due to Labour's policies. However, the reality is that, as records at Companies House in London show, his business went under in 2006, when the living was easy & so was the credit.
Prescott wailed before the camera:
"How many casualties are we going to leave behind? Broken families concern me - and I feel like I'm part of that at the moment. It can only get worse, if we don't address the problem now."
Now that the reality of Prescott's case has been laid bare, what's his defence?
"The Company went into Voluntary Liquidation two years ago, as it was trading from an insolvent position, this fact was disclosed prior to broadcast, and was felt to be totally non-relevant to the issues addressed within the interview."
Something can be "disclosed" without being "broadcast". If that was the case, the Tories presumably sat on the information until other sources uncovered the circumstances of Prescott's business failure. As for his contention that his own case was not relevant to the Tory PPB, a misleading impression was created that Prescott's firm folded because of the government's current policies on the recession. As an aside, it raises questions about Prescott's business acumen that his firm failed at a time when the boom still prevailed.
Despite the firm's demise, Prescott's website is still up: .

Friday, December 12, 2008

They Can't Blame Boris For This

Back in 2004, the then Tory leader Michael Howard instructed Boris Johnson, in his incarnation as editor of the Spectator magazine, to visit Liverpool & apologise for the editorial, penned by Simon Heffer, which used Ken Bigley's murder in Iraq as an opportunity to indulge in a bit of good, old fashioned Scouse bashing. Bumbling Boris shambled up north, map & survival guide in hand, & ummed & aahed a convoluted, Cicero-quoting version of contrition.
Tory strategists were privately puzzled. After all, there were no marginal seats at stake in the city, so why go to such lengths when the city would never go Tory?
I suspect Tory High Command will most definitely hit the roof & demand a Johnsonesque gesture of atonement after the same magazine this week sneered in a similar manner at Nottingham ( ). Unlike Liverpool, there's a juicy crop of marginal seats in the East Midlands just waiting to be wooed by Cameron.
Fist Liverpool, now Nottingham. Which provincial city is next on the gilded rag's hit-list?

There Goes The Neighbourhood

You know how it is when someone moves into your road or street & soon causes hassle, aggro, etc. Bad enough, you'd think. Yet imagine what life must be like in a Dallas suburb where, already saddled with Tom Hicks as one of the residents, one of the vacant properties has been snapped up by a certain George W Bush ( ).
Despite their mutual support for the GOP, not to mention the less than transparent business deals between the two over Hicks' acquisition of the local baseball team, it seems there could soon be a none too neighbourly, good old fashioned Texas stand-off between the erstwhile buddies as keeping up with the Joneses gives way to showing the Joneses who's head honcho in the area:
"US president George W Bush is understood to have bought a house which backs onto his fellow Texan's home.
"The house, in a cul-de-sac in one of the wealthiest areas of Texas, sits on 1.13 acres and offers 8,501 sq. ft of living space.
"But while the property is a good size, it is dwarfed by Mr Hicks's home.
"Mr Hicks's lavish pad, reportedly the largest in Texas, spreads over a 20 acre estate and is more than four times the size of Mr Bush's mansion."
I love the thought that someone needs 8,501 sq. ft in which to live.

Cashing In On A Civic Symbol

There's been an almost Trappist period of silence at Liverpool Football Club since last month's enquiries about the possibility of trademarking the city of Liverpool's symbol, the Liver Bird ( ).
The club has already trademarked "This Is Anfield" & "You'll Never Walk Alone".
Even at the time, someone within the Anfield hierarchy realised the negative PR the affair would bring & rowed back frantically: "The club will not, it claims, prevent other legitimate organisations from using the Liver bird logo."
However, the plain reason for the club's move was spelt out later on in Andy Hunter's piece:
"Liverpool's application includes a range of Liver bird usage, including on clothing, stationery and even kitchen utensils. 'The Liver bird is part and parcel of the city, and we are not remotely going anywhere near that,' insisted a club spokesman. 'What we are asking to do is to register our version of the Liver bird.' "
Methinks they doth protest too much. The Liver Bird symbol is primarily a civic one, relating to the city itself, not to a private organisation seeking to maximise revenue. If anything, the club should be obliged to secure the city council's permission to use the logo.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Anthony Walker Foundation

Screenings & launches are ten-a-penny; not a week day goes by without some sort of hi-tech presentation, replete with powerpoint presentations & a couple of laptops bathed in colour co-ordinated lighting. However, it would be remiss to overlook an event which took place at Liverpool Football Club nearly two weeks ago.
"Colour Blind", a film dedicated to the memory of Anthony Walker, murdered in Huyton in July 2005 by two specimens of racist scum, was shown to an invited audience ( ).
The event was also designed to highlight the work of the Anthony Walker Foundation, set up by Anthony's family in the wake of his death. The comments by Anthony's mother, Gee Walker, at the screening merit quoting:
"When I saw the film, it brought a tear to my eye.
"Our society is being eroded by racial hatred and we have to take a stand and say enough is enough.
"Liverpool is a wonderful city and I am appealing to all of you, don't let a few small-minded bigots destroy the good image of the city.
"I hope this film will change the hearts of everyone who watches it."
The foundation can be contacted by emailing: .

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Read All About It

Given the wretched state of affairs at the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo, not to mention the crisis affecting pretty much all the MSM, it's worth noting the arrival of a website designed to monitor & highlight falling media standards (where to start, guys?), "Dog Bites Dog" ( ).
I forsee a steady flow of material for the site.

More From The Echo Chamber

The only drawback with the BBC's otherwise invaluable iPlayer is that TV & radio programmes are stored on it for just seven days. Before it's too late, therefore, here's the link for the Roger Phillips Phone-In on BBC Radio Merseyside last Friday: .
The programme's first hour was taken up by calls to the Echo editor, Alastair Machray, about the changes at the paper &, of course, the move to Oldham with the loss of up to 100 jobs from the city that the paper ostensibly champions. The ever-genial Mr Phillips gave Alastair an easy ride. So far, so pleasant. Then the calls came in. Many were unswayed by Alastair's honeyed words about maintaining the "quality" of his publication. Some compared the Echo to the Daily Mail. One really put the knife in & twisted it by remarking that it was worse than the Sun.
And on it continued, Alastair gamely defending the job losses, the move to Oldham & the content of the paper that he puts together. There were some good gags, too. Alastair's contention that the Echo really was "the voice of Liverpool" had me chuckling. However, the real gem came when he compared the brand value of his sorry little paper to that of the New York Times. Yes, he really did make that comparison. Laugh? I nearly organised a whip-round for Jason Harborrow!
Just by way of a good old-fashioned compare & contrast exercise, click on this link: . Now click on this link: . Like peas in a pod, aren't they?
Of course, the situation facing the Daily Post & Echo's parent company, Trinity Mirror, is grim. Its other titles around the country have seen swingeing job losses. Moreover, its advertising revenues have fallen by 20% ( ).
However, in PR terms, it goes from bad to worse for its Merseyside operation. And it certainly isn't helped by the latest round of job losses among its journalistic staff; one quarter of its staff will go ( ).
According to LC, the quality of the content WILL suffer:
"Sub-editors, the people who polish the writing, design the pages, fact check and act as a last legal safety net, appear to be in the sights of much of the 'streamlining' and the ones that survive will be called 'multimedia deskers' who will work across all papers and platforms."
These "savings" could be very costly if an article leads all the way to the libel courts; Rex Makin doesn't come cheap, you know.
It doesn't stop there. The Saturday edition of the Liverpool Daily Post will be no more ( ).
All of which makes the Echo's gloss on the situation look even more risible. Take this self-congratulatory missive on its new "look": .
It's almost Pravdaesque in tone. It quotes a satisfied reader, who, along with six other deluded souls, was invited to Echo HQ. on Old Hall Street: "We really appreciated being listened to and invited to come to the ECHO. I love the paper and the changes that have been made to the headlines and the text size made a big difference."
It would be nice to treat that quote as verbatim. It would also be nice to think that there is a Santa Claus & that the moon's made of cheese.
The Echo says it wants more comments from its readers...the right comments, of course.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

FA By Name, FA By Nature

Following the example of the Hillsborough Justice campaign, the campaign to free Michael Shields & clear his name ( ) received a powerful boost before Liverpool's home fixture against West Ham United on Monday evening.
Actress Sue Johnstone addressed the crowd, pointing out the inconsistencies in the prosecution's case & subsequent conviction against Michael for the attempted murder of a Bulgarian waiter, Martin Georgiev, in May 2005, as a group of Liverpool fans made their way through Bulgaria on their way home from the Champions League final in Istanbul.
Reflecting the strength of feeling about the case among supporters, as well as recognising the increasing body of evidence which points to a major miscarriage of justice, Liverpool FC not only agreed to the pre-match protest, but also encouraged the players to wear "Free Michael Shields" t-shirts. The protest was also televised live by Setanta, to their credit. [Something tells me the Murdoch-owned Sky Sports would have ignored or downplayed the event.]
However, demonstrating, yet again, their irrelevance to most football supporters, as well as a chronic inability to acknowledge the evidence, the FA have lived up to their initials by demanding an explanation from the club ( ):
"Officials at Soho Square [FA Headquarters] are considering whether to bring disciplinary charges after taking exception at the manner in which Liverpool have publicly backed a man who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the attempted murder of a Bulgarian waiter, Martin Georgiev, in May 2005.
"Another Liverpool fan admitted being responsible for the crime before later retracting his confession and Shields' case will go before a high court review tomorrow. The FA, however, is alarmed that Liverpool should openly use a live televised game to try to influence the matter."
Two points need to be made from that quote: Firstly, it is common knowledge on Merseyside that the "Liverpool fan", as he's erroneously described, who retracted his confession is publicly known. Seeing as any case against the individual concerned has yet to be instigated, I don't think I'm breaking any sub judice rules in naming him as Graham Sankey. This individual is, as they say, known to the police. He has a criminal record for a number of violent offences, some of which were racially aggravated. Sankey has openly boasted about his luck in evading conviction for the crime. Secondly, it is the right of any body or individual to try to "influence" the outcome when it is claimed a major miscarriage of justice has taken place (a polite term for it is "lobbying").
The FA disgraced itself in its response to Hillsborough. Therefore it isn't surprising that it has acted in this way. Local MPs, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool FC, the Spirit of Shankly, the club's fans & countless others recognise the compelling proof of Michael Shields' innocence. That the FA should be blind to this is depressingly predictable.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Religion Of Retailing

In this Alice In Wonderland society where government ministers exhort us to spend more in order to, erm, combat the credit crunch, it's good to see one of the city's most prominent figures urging reality over the mounting personal debt crisis affecting an alarming number of families on Merseyside. James Jones, Anglican bishop of Liverpool, issued a stark warning about the issue ( ), adding, "This is something I've given some thought to over a number of years and I think the chickens are coming home to roost."
Fine words. But, hang on, wasn't the Right Rev. one of the local grandees to attend the opening of Liverpool One, that temple of local "retail therapy"?

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

There are few figures more sad or forlorn in Liverpool's pubs than those relics from the Merseybeat era. You know the type: they'll insist on telling you that they either knew the Beatles, or were in a band which could've been as big as the Beatles. Perhaps the best example of this breed of sentimental Scouser is Pete Best. He was the Beatles' drummer before the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine replaced him at the behest of Lennon, McCartney & Harrison, purportedly jealous of the female following that Best apparently enjoyed.
All these years later, Best insists he's not bitter ( ).
The only valid comment from Best in what turns out to be little more than a puff-piece for his new album is, "It's important that the city's culture moves on".
Unfortunately, due to lachrymose garbage like this, that isn't always possible. Best's comments on McCartney & Starr amount to a read-between-the-lines invitation, particularly the terse comments about his successor, with whom he seems to share a gift for lyric-writing.