Monday, August 31, 2009

A Bitter-Sweet Scouse Symphony

In he struggled & lurched. Alun Williams, owner of the Jacaranda bar on Slater Street, arrived at his business on the Monday mid-evening of Liverpool's Matthew Street Festival. Soaked to the bone from the rain that's been an all-too constant feature of this weekend & well-lubricated by the red wine he quickly requested from his bar staff, the man who acted as the Beatles' manager until Brian Epstein's offer was too good to refuse took a while to compose himself. After a while, however, he was, given his harried circumstances, in expansive mood.
I've often seen Williams before at his bar. However, the moment never quite seemed right to approach the guy who, in his own words, was the man who sold the Beatles. Besides, he would often look across the place like a guy with a burning grudge, & with good reason.
So it was with a little bated breadth that I approached him, barely a yard from my position at the bar. I exchanged pleasantries & asked him if he ever listened to today's bands. No, he replied, he was very much an old-timer. I asked him if he'd gone on to manage any bands after the Beatles. Yes he did, he replied, but they were, as he so pithily put it, "shit".
Chancing my arm that much bit further, I asked him if he was sick & tired of that early 60s period, or, perhaps, viewed it with any affection. He looked at me & replied, "Well, I'm stuck with it, aren't I?"
He had a few more things to say about Lennon & McCartney (the Beatles used the basement section of the club, now an expanded part of the bar for rehearsals) which the libel lawyers would seize on were I to relate them.
He wandered off, uncertain of gait & diminutive of frame to mingle with people who wouldn't have had a clue who he was.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Baby You're A Rich Man

Spot the anachronism in the photograph above. Yes, we all know it's supposed to depict the young Lennon reposing against a pub which wasn't even open when The Fabs played at the Cavern. The much-missed howler lies in the fact that the teenage Lennon sported a 50s quiff; the "Beatle cut" came years later.
However, don't expect such minutiae to get in the way of the annual money-making exercise in the city centre this weekend. Oh, & guess what? It'll be the BEST EVER! No, really, it's not just the Oldham Echo trotting out that old one, it's pliant Lib Dem councillors like Cressington's Paula Keaveney too ( ):
"Europe's biggest FREE annual music festival is set to be the best yet -- thanks to a new sponsorship deal with some of the world's biggest companies associated with The Beatles."
And there I was, thinking that it was supposed to be about the music. Silly me.
Yes, yes, yes, I've long known that these things don't run on fresh air. There's a cost for everything, that's capitalism, folks. Imagine no possessions, indeed.
However, it is telling that Cllr Keaveney opens her blog post with the assumption that the success of this or any other festival is dependent on new business tie-ups rather than the quality & appeal of the acts booked.
Indeed, Cllr Keaveney goes on to do the job normally undertaken by Oldham Hall Street, ie., reheat a city council PR puff-piece:
"This fabulous celebration of the music of The Beatles, in advance of the upcoming release on 09.09.09 of The Beatles Remasters and The Beatles: Rock Band, is the result of a major sponsorship deal announced between festival organisers, Liverpool City Council, and Harmonix/MTV Games/EA, EMI Music and Cirque du Soleil."
Good, glad we've got that sorted, eh, Paula? And, as you say, it is a "fabulous celebration of the music of The Beatles". Isn't it?

Showing His True Colours

Given the normal speed of web response to senseless or offensive statements & actions, I'm surprised, to say the least, that not even the general blogosphere has picked up on comments made by Kelvin MacKenzie during Sky News' nightly newspaper review on Wednesday evening.
MacKenzie, the man who is to journalism what Bernard Madoff is to financial probity, revealed his class with a series of truly tasteful comments.
Remarking on the death of Ted Kennedy, MacKenzie opined that the late senator should be judged by his actions & excoriated Kennedy's in leaving his female companion to die at Chappaquiddick in 1969. Quite right, people should be judged by their deeds; wise words, indeed, from the reptile who still stands by his lies about Hillsborough. Judgement has long since been passed on MacKenzie & it will form the basis for his eventual obituary.
The second comment the subterranean scribe made, however, really distinguished him for his sensitivity & decency. Responding to the Sky News presenter's remark that under Afghan law a man can starve his wife to death if she refuses him sex, MacKenzie guffawed, "It's not a bad idea!" ( ).

[By the way, there's a more considered take on Kennedy from Roy Greenslade in Wednesdays Guardian ( ) .]

At Least Warren Bradley Likes It

Lower the flag to half-mast on Oldham Hall Street, publish a sobbing "how could they?" piece by an Oldham Echo "columnist", recycle those "Hugs Not Hate" placards held self-consciously by the Grosvenor minions outside One Parked Here Without Our Say-So.
Professor Chucklebutty's upturned caravan ( ) has emerged as the winner of the Carbuncle Cup ( & ).
I suspect it was a pretty close-run thing, with Grosvenor's grotesque edifice pushing it all the way to the finish line in a photo-finish.
Is it still possible to demolish both monstosities & start all over again? Sorry, what's that, we're stuck with them, did you say?
Oh great.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Arresting Decline Through Academic Discourse

Sinking like a stone into the murky Mersey is the Oldham Echo's sickly sister, the Daily Post ( ):
"Trinity Mirror's Liverpool Daily Post was the biggest circulation faller among the English regional daily morning papers in the first half of 2009, down by more than 18% year on year.
"Liverpool's morning daily recorded an average circulation of 11,648 per issue during the six months to the end of June, down 18.4% compared with the same period in 2008, according to the latest figures released today by the Audit Bureau of Circulations."
These are grim times indeed for the paper whose future was already looking imperilled due to the Oldham Echo becoming a morning tabloid.
One paper which has taken a novel approach to falling circulation & revenues is the New York Times ( ), according to Roy Greenslade on his media blog earlier today ( ).
Greenslade reports that NYT columnists will double up as tutors in adult education courses for its readers, adding that "readers can pay $125 (£76) to $185 (£115) to study for a week under their journalist tutors."
The measure follows the Guardian's move towards "a readers' club" in order to maximise revenue in the internet age. Greenslade concludes:
"The NY Times and Guardian initiatives are turning the theory into practice. I believe these measures are a precursor to a more participatory, collaborative form of journalism, although I also concede that some may well see the NY Times's columnists acting as tutors as a confirmation of the priestly status of journalists."
[There's more on the NYT's initiative at these links: & .]
Where the Big Apple leads, Oldham Hall Street could follow; just as the likes of Paul Krugman could hold masterclasses on the economic effects of climate change, & Maureen Dowd could host seminars on the battles Obama faces with Capitol Hill, Richard Down could hold forth on the wonderful architecture of the city's new buildings, & Paddy Shennan could advise students on how to avoid penning irrelevant, parochial, feel-good, third-rate copy on how fortunate we all are to live on Merseyside.
Couldn't they?
After all, Alastair Machray, editor of the Oldham Echo, has compared his publication to the NYT ( ).
What better way to confirm the "priestly status" of the scribes on Oldham Hall Street?

20.20 BST Update: the Oldham Echo's circulation figure is down by 10.1% to 92,093 over the six month period from January to June of this year, according to figures published by the Audit of Bureau Circulations.

Off The Merseybeat

You know how it is in late August, slow news days become slow news weeks, & events can procede as sluggishly as the 53 bus trundling into town.
A minion on the Daily Post rewrites a press release, all five sentences of it, & then blithely puts it in the "Liverpool News" section: .
Yes, just days from the absurd mop-tops & yeah, yeah, yeahs of a Bank Holiday piss-up which masquerades as a celebration of a city's musical heritage, the time is right to release a DVD of, erm, Gerry & the Pacemakers. Hmm, OK, Gerry's been around for years & no-one really begrudges him his place in the sun, but the nameless scribbler on Oldham Hall Street who probably wasn't even soiling his or her nappy when Eric's was closed feeds on this like a pigeon on a piece of stale bread, breathlessly telling us that Gerry "reminisced about the early years of the British invasion he helped spearhead along with the Beatles."
The "British invasion" referred to was that brief period in the 60s when UK groups had hit US singles, something not fully explained in the Post piece. Also not fully explained is that the likes of the Stones, The Who, The Animals, The Kinks & many others were there alongside the Fabs. Good old Gerry, meanwhile wasn't so much at the spearhead of things, as bringing up the rear, something the man who popularised "You'll Never Walk Alone", turning it into the anthem we all know, would readily attest.
At the spearhead of accurate journalism is, of course, the Daily Post.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You Said It, Jack

As luck would have it, the Fab Collective chose this quote to display outside their "Up To Something" exhibition at St Luke's in the city centre. One Scouser who certainly is up to something is Michael Shields' father, Michael senior ( ).
Clearly, the intention is to embarrass Straw over his disdainful handling of the campaign & I wish Michael snr all the best in that regard. If he does decide to stand, loyalties will be torn for one or two individuals. As David Bartlett noted on Friday, Joe Anderson, Labour group leader on the city council, has been a vocal supporter of the campaign & has even gone so far as to say that he considered resigning from the party when Straw rejected Michael's appeal a couple of months back ( ).
Some eagle-eyed readers may note that Cllr Anderson considered resigning, but didn't.
Greg O'Keefe's Echo article also stated that Maria Shields, Michael's mother, "could stand against a junior minister in Liverpool at the elections next May."
For some strange reason, the "junior minister" referred to in O'Keefe's piece wasn't named. However, it could only be Maria Eagle, Labour MP for Liverpool Garston, &, yes, a junior minister at the Home Office.
An indication of the unease felt about Straw's dismissive treatment of Michael & his family at fairly high levels is apparently reflected in a call by Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, for Michael to be pardoned ( ).
[Michael Shields' campaign: .]

Monday, August 24, 2009

Maximum Exposure

If you haven't visited the "Up To Something" exhibition by the Fab Collective at St Luke's, known to all as the bombed-out church, on the corner of Leece Street & Berry Street, I heartily recommend it. The exhibition continues until the end of the month, when the excellent Urban Strawberry Lunch will provide a welcome antidote to all the tiresome & cliched excesses of the Matthew Street festival.
Many of the photographs on display steer clear of the usual targets & bring into focus the wider city that the tourists don't visit. The pictures are also accompanied by quotes about the city by a disparate selection of figures down the centuries. McCartney provides a glib soundbite which could have been used by the Culture Company last year, but wasn't, while George Harrison offers a pithy, offbeat take on the place. However, the quotes which most struck me came from "outsiders", including one about how 17th century Liverpool women from the oldest profession, ahem, extended their hospitality on "Liverpool quay" to disembarking sailors & the comment by Tony Wilson, "Mr Manchester" himself, that every part of his life had been touched by the River Mersey.
[Regards to Graham from the Fab Collective & local flickr group whom I spoke to on Saturday.]

Esther's Eyesore Embarrassment As Election Nears

A month after Lascar House on the city's Dock Road folded like a pack of cards, shortly after receiving a seal of approval from structural engineers, according to Tory hopeful Esther McVey, ( ) what's left of the building, which was originally the grandly-named Anglo-American Hotel, continues to act as an eyesore on the approach to the city centre (this photograph was taken on Saturday evening).
Since issuing a terse missive to the local media about the incident, Ms McVey has been uncharacteristically silent on the matter while wooing floating voters in the Wirral West constituency.
With the options for the site seemingly limited, due to the city council's inertia as much as the long-term decision facing its owners, it appears that the collapsed building will remain as it is for some time; that means it could still be an embarrassing eyesore come the next election. Local Tory officials have said nothing about the matter. However, as polling day looms, they may just start to get twitchy on the subject.


Carlsberg don't do blots on a city's waterfront, secured in questionable circumstances in the first place, & headed by a character who's currently bailed on suspicion of fraud ( ), but if they did, it still wouldn't be as bad as this.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stick It In The Inside Pages & Hope Nobody Notices

The relatively muted treatment of yesterday's PR stunt at the waterfront in Trinity Mirror's organs indicates that both the Post & Echo editors know that it was quickly seen for what it was. Richard Down's piece in the Daily Post was reheated & served up again by the Oldham Echo ( ).
Even by Oldham Hall Street's standards, it is a pretty sloppy & slapdash piece of scribbling:
"More than 100 people held an architectural love in for an under-fire apartment block in Liverpool city centre.
"The residents and shoppers linked hands in defence of Grosvenor's flagship apartment block One Park West at midday yesterday."
[Note: the photograph above was taken at five minutes past midday.]
Down's third-rate copy plumbs the depths further on:
"Yesterday marked the climax of the online action with a real-life 'group hug' at 12.30pm.
"Famous Twitter users Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry were invited to join and at one point organisers thought Liverpool FC defender Jamie Carragher would show up.
"In the end, no celebrities made it, but a chain of around 200 people linked hands, turned their backs on the 17-storey building and embraced it."
Hacks prostituting their profession is as old as journalism itself; this, erm, article is the latest in a long, long line. Let's just break it down (no pun intended), shall we?
So the "group hug" was "real-life", was it? I didn't know that, I was under the delusion it was all a mirage.
The notion that Ross & Fry would have even given this PR stunt a second thought is risible in the extreme; the organisers, moreover, show that their relation to reality is tenuous if they really thought that Jamie Carragher would show up just hours before a Premier League game at Anfield [good win, btw].
There weren't "around 200" participants for the cameras. Halve that number & you're still debating the actual turnout. And can someone please explain how you can turn your back on something, or someone, in order to embrace the object of one's apparent adoration?
Journalism at its finest, wouldn't you say?

A Wondrous Place?

Liverpool-born journalist & music writer Paul Du Noyer was roped in for a few pithy soundbites for Grosvenor's benefit when the Daily Post banged the drum for One Parked Here Without Our Say-So & its Facebook advertising campaign ( ).
Wayne was quick to pick Du Noyer up on his comments ( ). However, it's worth dissecting the blurb he provided for his seemingly ungrateful recipients on Oldham Hall Street:
"The old Chavasse Park was no beauty, whereas the new one has become a glorious rendezvous for Liverpool's young - these kids, effectively, are rendering the debate irrelevant."
A "glorious rendezvous", Paul? You mean like Barcelona's Las Ramblas or Rome's St. Peter's Square? Good, glad we've got that clarified.
Oh, & this comment about the kids "rendering the debate irrelevant", Paul. If the kids on the lawn have the ability to fully resolve contentious local issues, perhaps we should put them in the council chamber instead of the current mob, eh? Just a thought.
As others have attested, Paul's knowledge of local music history is impressive (I've got his book) & his editorship of Mojo made it compelling reading. With that in mind, I pose Paul this question: if a commercial radio station followed up a Motorhead track with a Mozart symphony, & made a habit of such sudden & jarring playlist selections, it wouldn't last long, would it? So why impose (bad) examples of modern architecture in the same space as examples of gothic & classical architecture? Architecture, like music, has different categories.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hugs From The Mugs

"Would you like to be a hugger?", an ernest-looking chap with an accent which owed more to Surrey than Sandhills asked me.

Barely five minutes earlier I'd been accosted by a smartly-dressed woman whose accent suggested she'd stumbled into the city by accident after coming off the M62. She posed the same question.

I smiled at both people & commented that I didn't live in One Park West.

"Oh, that doesn't matter," the woman replied as I inched away.
With less than ten minutes to go before the "group hug", the area outside the One Parked Without Our Say-So was deserted, save for a forlorn-looking soul brandishing a placard which bore the slogan, Hugs Not Hate. Yes, I'm sure the anti-racism campaign Hope Not Hate won't mind their slogan being adapted by wealthy business interests in the city.
As 12.30 arrived, however, enough faces to make the stunt just about work, with the assistance of Photoshop, had shown up, including an entire party of school-children & a few tourists fresh from the Albert Dock, one of whom later claimed to have received a mug for her participation.
Says it all really.
As the TV cameras caught the moment & the cameras clicked away, the suits hovering on the margins muttered furiously into their mobiles while remembering to smile at the kids.
Stunt duly captured for the media, the motley knot of participants dispersed while representatives from Grosvenor congratulated themselves on a brazen act pulled off without any mishaps.
I bumped into Wayne as the moment of distinctly self-conscious hand-holding approached ( ).
We looked on, appalled & amused in equal measure.

Tree Huggers Sue For Copyright

Going into the city centre in the next hour or so? Yes? Oh, good, you'll be able to witness a shameless PR stunt at One Parked Without Our Say-So. As a commenter on my post about the excruciating edifice points out, a Facebook page has been set up in support of the unwanted building by those related to & colleagues of Daily Post editor Mark Thomas ( & ).
Last week's Daily Post carried a piece by its special One Park West correspondent Alan Weston ( ).
Contrary to the impression given in the article's headline, the "residents" of One Park West aren't actually named or quoted directly by Weston. Instead, he reheats the PR leftovers from its opening last year:
"But now residents of the landmark residential complex, in the heart of Liverpool One, have begun their own fightback.
"They say that, apart from its outstanding views, the Cesar Pelli-designed building formsa wonderful backdrop to the new five-acre Chavasse Park."
Weston later adds:
"A Facebook group has been set up by a PR firm for people to show their support of One Park West, culminating in a 'group hug' of the building next week."
It's certainly a new one on me to be informed that people need a PR firm to spontaneously express their views on any matter.
The PR firm, by the way, is Think Publicity ( ). As you'd expect, it's heavy on presentation, but feather-light on content.
One commenter on the Facebook page responds to a remark that One Park West is meant to resemble a ship:
"This building is supposed to look like a ship? The Titanic comes to mind. No bad feelings or confusion, it is truly awful and should sink without trace. Are there enough lifeboats?"
Nothing like a Facebook campaign to reverse your fortunes, is there?

Phoning Up For A Favour

I see Larry Nield has made good use of his old contacts on Oldham Hall Street to promote one of October Communications' main clients in today's Daily Post: .
October Communications must be saving a fortune on their advertising budget, musn't they?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Echo Would Say This Is A Business Opportunity

Spotted yesterday afternoon. Yep, it sure is "boom time" for the waterfront. Isn't it?

Liverpool's Mary Celeste?

Those responsible for the white elephant you see above (the ad at the top of the building has such an air of desperation, don't you think?) are put out that it's been rightly derided for its total absence of architectural & aesthetic merit ( ):
"The inclusion of two of Liverpool's flagship developments on a list to find the worst new building in the UK has provoked a fierce backlash."
Yes, One Park West & the ferry terminal, aka the upturned caravan (courtesy, Professor Chucklebutty) have been nominated, much to the fury of an entire city, right? Er, right? Oh.
It turns out that the "fierce backlash" breathlessly essayed by Alan Weston comes from....ahem, a partner at a city centre firm of architects, the city council's executive member for the environment [ha!] Bernie Turner & the Projects Director for Grosvenor.
That's a "fierce backlash", is it?
The representative from Grosvenor even claims that "One Park West had replaced a 'wasteland'. "
Not so. The original Chavasse Park was on the site now occupied by One Parked Here Without Our Say-So.
The partner at the city centre architects Austin-Smith, Alistair Sunderland, proclaims without any sense of irony that One Park West is "a civilised and urbane building". Pity this block of civility & sophistication, like other Johnny-come-latelys on the waterfront, can't sell all its apartments, eh? In fact, it's no exaggeration to say that the signs look ominous ( ):
"The developer behind the Alexandra Tower --the luxury 201-apartment block on Princess Parade-- collapsed into administration owing £49m in December last year.
"Six months on administrators and turnaround specialist Zolfo Cooper admits it has failed to complete a single extra sale."
[If a "turnaround specialist" admits failure, shouldn't it describe itself as a "turned down specialist" instead?]
How is all this relevant to One Park West, you may ask. Well, Ben Schofield goes on to report:
"Further along the waterfront, Grosvenor's One Park West apartment complex is enjoying mixed fortunes.
"There are just one three-bedroom and two one-bedroom apartments still on the market.
"But it is a different story with studios and two-bedroom flats, of which there are still 25 and around 30 respectively remaining.
"Guy Butler, Grosvenor's senior development manager, said one-in-three potential buyers who had exchanged contracts are yet to complete.
"He said the difficulty is the dearth of buy-to-let mortgages and the banks' demand for large deposits."
Hang on, there's something wrong here. Doesn't the Oldham Echo reassure us on a fairly regular basis that Merseyside is immune to the global market conditions? Surely some mistake.
Schofield's piece quotes local councillor Steve Mumby, whose words will make the incestuous world of Merseyside's media & business wince, & the rest of us quote Shakespeare: yea, a Daniel come to judgement:
"People are making the calculation that it is a bargain now, but it will fall more in six months' time and they will get a better deal.
"It is a test of nerves between investors and developers.
"There was a ludicrous over-valuation of apartments in the city centre and an over-supply.
"Probably the market is bouncing back the opposite way. I am worried about the psychology of it."
It's interesting to note a comment piece by William Leece in the same day's Daily Post ( ).
Leece begins:
"You don't have to be an economist or an estate agent to agree with [Steve Mumby] that there are too many overpriced flats and apartments in Liverpool city centre.
"Given that conclusion, and the fact that the housing market in general has taken a downturn, the rest follows surely as night follows day."
Indeed, it is a statement of the bloody obvious, one that normally commands the assent of anyone with half a brain. For the recession-deniers on Oldham Hall Street, however, it's a dangerous deviation from the Trinity Mirror line on our "booming city centre", isn't it?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Firm Foundation For A Campaign?

As the rubble from the collapsed building, owned by Esther McVey's family business, on the Dock Road is cleared, it's heartening to see that it hasn't interfered with her electioneering "over the water", as Wirralians of a certain generation are still wont to say ( ).
Yes, if you've got nothing better to do this Sunday lunchtime, why not join Esther & her chums as they perambulate the leafy neighbourhoods of Pensby. Nice place Pensby, it's a bit like the Dock Road, only greener. And richer, too.
So while Ms. McVey's professed aim of turning the Dock Road building into an education centre in a deprived area turns out to be as reliable as the "absolutely clean bill of health" that was given by the structural surveys on the place ( ), it's encouraging to see that it's politics as usual for the Tory hopeful.
Indeed, Esther puts the word out that she'd be delighted to see you there on Sunday. What's more, nothing, it seems, is too much trouble for the Dock Road's doyenne of dereliction: "Or if you have any issues you'd like us to look into please contact me directly."
Take it from me, Esther, there's a few people on this side of the river who would very much like you to look into a particular issue. They might just take up the offer to contact you directly.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Taking Unpaid Adverts

The latest example of the Oldham Echo faithfully republishing press releases rather than doing that messy, complicated, time-consuming chore known as journalism could be found in this morning's edition, straight off the M62: .
It's a story the remaining average readers of the paper would have glazed over with scarcely a second thought. After all, it seems to be no more than an obscure snippet about the city's business sector; the press release, tarted-up as a three paragraph story, & so terse it could have been Twittered, enthuses:
"Patronage will give [Hill Dickinson] the opportunity to engage with the chamber on a greater level and promote the firm to the wider chamber membership."
Good for Hill Dickinson, you'd think. And good, too, for Larry Nield, whose present employers October Communications represents Hill Dickinson ( ), & whose sterling efforts with his former colleagues on Oldham Hall Street have resulted in a puff piece for the law firm & another feather in October Communications' cap. Well done, Larry, feel free to doff said cap in acknowledgement.
Drinks all round?

Jockeying For Position

Now that Mike Storey has distanced himself from the Bradley & Hurst double-act, acutely aware of how the issue is viewed in his own ward, the city's Lib Dems are sharpening the knives for their leader & his mate, the convicted criminal. Some, it seems, are planning a little further ahead.
Still smarting from the Boot Estate debacle, Richard Kemp hasn't forgotten how his party colleagues let him be the fall guy for the affair. Now's his chance to position himself for the post-Bradley leadership ( ):
"A LEADING Liverpool politician last night urged the city's two main party leaders to set aside their differences to tackle a looming financial crisis at the council."
Councillor Kemp, who'll doubtless be pleased by David Bartlett's fulsome description of him, has made his intervention in the form of a letter to both Bradley & Labour leader Joe Anderson which ostensibly concerns itself with the £90m "black hole" facing the city's finances over the next five years.
The letter attempts to make Councillor Kemp look like a unifier, a healer, a figure devoid of party political intrigue & factionalism:
"Traditionally we will face this [financial crisis] by having a big row at council, blaming each other and the Government and the Americans and Uncle Tom Cobley and all...
"If we are to protect the services needed by the people and communities that need them most we need to set aside party politics and work together to make the partnerships really work".
[I'm sure President Obama will be bemused to know that he is held responsible for the city's state.]
Councillor Kemp goes on to express the hope that "the big fight will not be Lib Dem against Labour but the Council against bureaucracy, silos and inefficiency throughout the public sector".
Ah, yes, cutting back on waste & unnecessary spending, the clarion call of many a candidate down the ages.
Quite what Warren Bradley makes of the letter remains to be seen, although it can be guessed at.
However, if Councillor Kemp feels he may have a free run at the leadership when Bradley finally succumbs to Hurst-gate, he may be disappointed. Flo Clucas, deputy council leader, throws her hat into the ring with a rather clumsy & unwieldy soundbite:
"We have been working on the way forward and our budget for some considerable time. Our prime aims are not to affect front line services, to deliver the best services, and to continue to attract investment."
Councillor Clucas also proclaims the city's prospects to be brighter than at any time in at least a generation. Clearly, a state of denial is a pre-requisite for leading the current administration in Liverpool.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Invoking His First Amendment

Anyone keeping up to date with events across the pond will be both atonished & exasperated by the response of the Republicans & their fellow travellers to last November's election defeat. This has given rise to what's known as the "Birther" movement, a rag-tag collection of right-wing eccentrics who claim that Obama shouldn't be president because he is actually Kenyan.
Yes, I know.
All this & a good deal else is commendably covered by the likes of the Huffington Post ( ), Raw Story ( ) & Media Matters ( ).
The most recent absurdity perpetrated in the name of US political debate revolves around Obama's health care plan. Town Hall meeting have been beseiged by corporate shills, paid by the private health firms to start baseless rumours & shout at the top of their voices, far-Right fundamentalists & those por saps who watch Fox News...& believe it. The latter group claims that Obama has a secret plan to introduce "death panels", which would administer federal euthanasia for anyone over 65.
It's therefore reassuring to know that a truly maverick voice has taken to cyberspace to give his take on events ( ). Bernie Sanders, a senator representing Vermont, is described as Independent. He sees himself as a socialist, probably the dirtiest word in the American political lexicon. However, Senator Sanders sees no reason to backtrack from the label. In UK terms he'd be somewhat to the left of New Labour, normally an unremarkable stance. In US politics, however, such a stance is both surprising & heartening ( ).

Bon Appetit!

Never let it be said that the Oldham Echo doesn't encourage healthy eating. Free with every issue of this morning's paper was...a pasty. Ah, don't be like that now, tuck in!

Monday, August 10, 2009

By Your Friends Shall Ye Be Known

Sometimes the bonds of loyalty can wear very thin. Friendships & alliances can be finite; the fall-out can be messy & unpleasant. I fear such a fate awaits Warren Bradley & his old mate, convicted criminal Steve Hurst ( ):
"A COUNCILLOR convicted of breaking election law has been referred to city lawyers by Liverpool's Lord Mayor [Mike Storey] over complaints he did not declare an interest in a vote on his political future.
"Labour tabled a motion seeking a debate on whether Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Hurst still had the confidence of Liverpool Council at a meeting last month.
"But it was defeated after Cllr Hurst, who had given his apologies for not attending the meeting, turned up in the council chamber to vote against it, before leaving immediately after to jeers from Labour supporters outside.
"Now, in a move which could strain relations between senior Liberal Democrats, ex-council leader Mike Storey has referred a complaint from Labour leader Joe Anderson to the city solicitor."
The letter from Storey to Anderson is pretty mealy-mouthed. Storey professes his seeming ignorance that Hurst had turned up to vote while not declaring an interest, ie., that he stood to forfeit the £5,675 per annum post on the board of the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority (MPTA) if the vote went against him. Hurst was given the post by his good mate Bradley after stepping down from his £10,000 per annum post of executive member for corporate services ( ).
What are mates for, eh?
The city's Lib Dems are clearly panic-stricken about the possible electoral backlash against the Warren & Steve double-act. The Post goes on:
"Several Liberal Democrat sources have told the Daily Post they believed there was a 'total lack of judgment on the leader's part' for standing by Cllr Hurst.
"Some fear the electorate will abandon the party over its support of a convicted criminal.
"The party's own local candidacy forms state anyone convicted of an offence under the Representation of the People Act should be barred from standing.
"But it is understood Cllr Hurst plans to try and defend his Wavertree seat again, which would require a change to the local party rules."
One anonymous Lib Dem councillor tells the paper that the subject is seemingly "taboo" in their ranks & frets about the voters' reaction. Reality dawns with at least a few of them, I suppose.
However, that didn't stop the Lib Dem councillors voting en bloc at last month's meeting not to have a debate on Hurst.
Any voters prompted by this tawdry tale to take the matter up with the national party can do so by going to: . I'm sure Nick Clegg will be delighted to receive comments & suggestions from the city's council tax payers on this subject.
Politics involves shifting alliances. Nothing is immutable; it may be time for Bradley to ask himself whether sticking with Hurst spells his own downfall. Then again, maybe that time has already come & gone.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Struggling On Before The Grim Reaper Arrives

Before the Daily Post is finally wheeled off to the journalistic equivalent of Dignitas, it can still do Trinity Mirror's bidding & play a role in civic onanism. An example of this (which Wayne has already highlighted -- ) was to be found in yesterday's edition via the M62 ( ).
The sickly sister of the Oldham Echo displayed a game & touching enthusiasm in aping its fellow propaganda publication by minimising any journalism & maximising marketing in what was little more than a press release on behalf of those who wish to turn the waterfront into an architectural laughing stock.
The construction of commercial developments, to be used by Merseytravel, by Countryside Poroperties & Neptune Developments (a client of Larry Nield's October Communications, of course -- ) was presented in gushing terms; the honeyed words of Neptune's managing director Steve Parry reprinted without any of that irritating whatsit, ooh, you know, that word, it's on the tip of my tongue...that's it, journalism:
"It is an indication the city's regeneration is continuing even in this difficult economic and commercial environment.
"Clearly the success of this scheme owes an enormous amount to its quality and unique location in the heart of Liverpool's World Heritage Site.
"More than three-quarters of the residential units are now reserved."
Let's dissect that bilge soundbite by shoddy soundbite, shall we?
It is impossible for any area's "regeneration" to continue in the face of the biggest slump since the 30s; any wet-behind-the-ears economics undergraduate will mumble that.
The "quality and unique location" of the World Heritage Site has been damaged & disfigured by the mindless orgy of (mis)construction around the Three Graces.
Parry's boast about the take-up rate for the residential units, as Wayne observed, is questionable at best & fraudulent at worst.
Such a shame about the poor old Daily Post, isn't it? I just hope that when the end comes, it's merciful & humane; wouldn't want it to suffer too much.

Shop Till You Drop, The City's Fate Depends On It!

When the time comes for historians to ask critical questions of Liverpool's "renaissance", they'll doubtless cast their eyes over culture year (the best thing to happen to the city in its entire history, according to the Oldham Echo, a once-in-a-generation opportunity criminally squandered, according to anyone with a discerning eye), the civic despoiling of the Pier Head & the inundation of the upside-down caravan masquerading as a ferry terminal (thank-you, Professor Chucklebutty) due to rising water levels.
They'll also gasp with incomprehension at the decision to construct an open-air mini version of Trafford Park (thank-you, Wayne) otherwise known as Liverpool One just as the deepest economic recession in 70 years hit the global economy.
As well as the economic insanity of Liverpool One's arrival (taking trade away from Church Street & Bold Street in the process), there is also the wider philosophical question to address. That question is met head-on by the Oldham Echo, no, sorry, only kidding, the Guardian on its Comment is Free pages by Neal Lawson ( ).
Rightly lamenting that the growth of such developments has turned most shoppers into "turbo consumers", Lawson observes: "It's not just what we choose that reveals our consuming compulsion, it's the thousands of things we don't. We consume to buy identity, gain respect and recognition, and secure status. Shopping is the predominant way in which we know ourselves and each other, and it is at the point of ruling out other ways of being, knowing and living."
Naturally, such sentiments would be branded as heresy on Oldham Hall Street.
Lawson goes on to say in his piece:
"The market extends into more aspects of our lives in its search for profit. At the weekends there is increasingly nowhere to take the family but the shops and other paid-for enterprises. We end up in a vicious, negative feedback loop; we shop literally for retail therapy, to make us fleetingly feel better because we live such narrow monocultured lives."
Those who wish to disparage Lawson's contention as the mutterings of a Meldrewesque curmudgeon would do well to pause & ask themselves whether civic life should place at its heart the dubious &, as we now increasingly see in this recession, reckless phenomenon of "retail therapy".
The issue is explored in two books, just published, & reviewed by Jonathan Glancey in last Saturday's Guardian, "Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-first Century," by Anna Minton, & "The Thinking Hand: Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture," by Juhani Pallasma ( ).
Glancey notes that Minton's book features London's Canary Wharf & Liverpool One, which, he declares, is "a shopping mall that could be anywhere, which launched on a titanic scale and served as the main attraction in the seaport city's year as European capital of culture in 2008."
You can almost hear the winces from within Grosvenor, the city council & Oldham Hall Street, can't you?
Minton's book, according to Glancey, details the changes to cities such as Liverpool with the opening of retail behemoths, observing that "Minton argues that 'now more and more of the city is owned by investors, and its central purpose is profit'. She is not 'against change' --cities are evolving organisms-- 'but against the type of change we have persued, laid out in Docklands more than 20 years ago'.
"What are these changes? They are public squares owned and run by private rather than public corporations. They are the undemocratic urban development corporations of the 1980s-quangos, Minton says, chaired by property developers. They include shopping centres, gated housing estates and 'non-places' such as airports. They are entire city centres, such as Manchester's, which, for all the big New Labour talk of 'urban renaissance' and 'regeneration' has, over the past grasping decade, 'reinvented itself as a property and shopping mecca' while poverty has grown around it."
You could substitute Manchester for Liverpool in the quote & the point would equally apply.
Moreover, Minton appears to have cast her net far & wide to provide supporting evidence for her position: "Minton is very good on the government's dim and nasty 'Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder' initiative of 2002. This has led to countless boarded-up houses in parts of northern cities, Liverpool included, that could and should be perfectly decent homes in perfectly decent streets. Instead they have been sold off, decadently and wastefully, to maximise profits for developers at the expense of local people."
The Oldham Echo occasionally mentions the entire boarded-up neighbourhoods in areas like Tuebrook & Anfield, but doesn't, or most likely daren't make the connection between this civic scandal & the insane insistence that the best hope for the city's economy lies in "a giant shopping mall that could be anywhere".

Monday, August 03, 2009

Still Speaking Up For Merseyside?

The Oldham Echo's decision to speak up for Merseyside from Greater Manchester is examined by Matt Finnegan on the Liverpool Confidential site ( ).
He quotes the regional secretary of Unite, Paul Finegan: " 'We were always up against it from the start, because we couldn't argue with the figures. Trinity paid lip service to consulting us.
" 'Over the years, the Echo has been one of the most profitable parts of the regional business for Trinity -- but they creamed off massive profits without investing anything back into Liverpool.
" 'They left the cupboard bare and then, when hard times hit, it's the workers who pay the price.'
"And he revealed: 'I'm confident we could have rallied the people of Liverpool behind a "Boycott the Echo" campaign, just like Liverpool fans did to The Sun over Hillsborough.
" 'But although we lobbied MPs and local councils and got great public support, we did not want to kill off the Echo -- we still have 200 members working there. So has the NUJ. A boycott was never really an option.' "
It's true that a boycott of both titles was mooted, not least in the article & subsequent responses on the now-sadly defunct Liverpool Times blog ( ) at the time of the announcement last year. The author of the piece was a printer at the paper. He remarked: "When this happens in November 2009 the only newspaper printed on Merseyside will be the Sun!!!"
Clearly, Trinity Mirror brought forward the timetable by a few months. My only quibble with the author's point is that the Sun cannot remotely be described as a "newspaper". However, the fact that the publication which libelled Liverpool fans at Hillsborough & sneered at Merseyside in general is the only one to be printed in the city is a damning indictment of Trinity Mirror & their middle management minions on Oldham Hall Street.
Matt Finnegan notes in his LC piece:
"The National Union of Journalists claim the move will fatally undermine the paper's editorial credibility as a champion for Merseyside -- a charge which editors are acutely sensitive to."
And with good reason. I'd go further: it doesn't undermine their right to champion Merseyside, it removes it altogether. The city they claim to represent has been starved of reinvestment from Trinity Mirror's profits. Result: the Liverpool printing presses are allowed to become outdated & inefficient, giving management the perfect excuse to move printing operations out of the city. Next time the Oldham Echo professes concern at job losses on Merseyside, remember the short-term thinking which led to the city's presses being denied investment.
And remember the 100 printers who are now jobless.