Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Take On Two Cities

Before Murdoch erects a paywall around his titles it's worth reading a piece in The Times by Stuart Maconie which could be viewed as a compare & contrast exercise regarding Liverpool & Manchester ( ).
The headline to Maconie's article, however, could be a case of a sub-editor at Wapping wishing to throw a lighted match into an open can of petrol: "Manchester vs Liverpool: which is best?"
That said, Maconie has no wish to act as agent provocateur, rather his take incorporates a (very) potted history of the origins of the rivalry, beginning with the Manchester Ship Canal & continuing through to the obvious subjects of footballing & musical rivalry.
Maconie sees little wrong with the new Museum of Liverpool, commenting that "the concrete wave of the building looks good to me."
When charting recent hotel developments for both cities, Maconie concludes with a wry observation:
"For years, the weary wayfarer's choice of affordable affluence was the Adelphi in Liverpool or the Britannia in Manchester; both blousy painted ladies of a certain age. Now the connoisseur of the complimentary shower cap is spoilt for choice, from Hope Street Hotel and the new Hilton in Liverpool to the City Inn, Malmaison and Lowry in Manchester.
"I once saw Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand in the bar of the latter sharing burgers and Cokes. I hope the food was as delicious as the irony of multimillionare footballers eating gourmet fast food in a five-star hotel named after the visual laureate of the northern underclass."

*Thanks to Wayne for emailing me Maconie's article.

Monday, March 29, 2010

National Spotlight On Waterfront's Mutilation

As Wayne mentioned earlier today ( ), the Friday edition of Radio 4's You and Yours programme featured a piece by Winifred Robinson, Liverpool-born & bred, on the squat monstrosity that will be the Museum of Liverpool ( ).
Wayne is quoted in the piece, as is NML Director David Fleming, who does his best to convince a rightly sceptical Robinson of the carbuncle's merits ("we're really very pleased with the exterior," he enthuses).
However, Fleming audibly flags when presented with some further questions. The man who thought nothing of giving Port of Liverpool building owner Downing £750,000, ten times the original estimate for the museum's construction breaking a covenant ( ) is also disingenuous.
"Much opposition?" Robinson asks him.
"No, not really," Fleming breezily & brazenly replies.
It's also significant that Professor John Belchem from the University of Liverpool doesn't question or dispute Robinson's suggestion that Liverpool has fallen into the trap of becoming a theme park, something the city, as well as others, wished to avoid after the 80s recession.
For good measure, Belchem suggests a spot of "retail therapy" at Grosvenor-pool.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Peel's Press Gang Plan

When someone is losing the argument & won't take no for an answer, despite logic & law being against them, they're usually advised to grow up, or leave the pub & sober up. Unfortunately, Peel Holdings has cast itself in the role of the recalcitrant reveller, adamant it's right & that it won't back down over its plan to use public money for a commercial development ( ).
Needless to say Warren Bradley & his merry men (they've been drinking in the same bar as Peel) & Oldham Hall Street are back on board, just as they were during their juvenile game of name-calling with Southampton ( & ).
When the appeal of "port wars" began to wane, accompanied by the heavy hangover reality of business as it is normally conducted ( ) & the threadbare nature of Peel's case was exposed, the cheerleaders realised the game was up & silently peeled --pardon the pun-- away ( ).
That said, however, I noted at the time: "It would be nice to think that sanity's finally prevailed. Don't hold your breath, though."
Well, the sanity's gone out of the window again & it's trebles all round at the bar for Peel & its acolytes; Peter Elson lost no time in the Oldham Echo to get the party resumed ( ):
"Terrific news from Mersey Docks owner Peel and Liverpool City Council about transferring the turnaround cruises from Langton Dock to the Pier Head cruise liner stage on a temporary basis.
"This is bold new thinking from Peel which, by retaining the same number of cruises as at Langton, hopes not to antagonise rival Southampton port bosses' cries of foul over breaking EU caveats on grants used to fund the new stage. Vital, too, is the tag of it being temporary, while Peel reviews building its own stage to the north."
This "bold new thinking" could well be seen by some as a third-rate sleight-of-hand manoeuvre by Peel. It's intriguing, too, that Elson uses the word "reviews" about Peel's stage north of the Pier Head. That could be read as a non-committal stance by Peel on whether such a stage would ever be built.
Elson's piece quotes Cllr Gary Millar (yes, he's popped back into the bar, too), the council's executive member for local tourism & regeneration, & he further muddies the already brown waters surrounding the exotically-named Liverpool Waters project when he burbles that "it's a wonderful advance by Peel to test the waters. Once a temporary berth is established the public will have a perception that it shouldn't be taken away and hopefully that will focus efforts on finding a long term solution."
So, Peel is testing the waters with this plan, eh? Interesting phrase. It could be taken to mean that Peel is chancing its arm with this plan & that it could present both Southampton & the Department for Transport with a de facto, as opposed to a de jure, cruise liner development which would be sold as a fait accompli, regardless of anyone else's wishes. Moreover, I'm sure Oldham Hall Street will play its part in facilitating the public perception "that it shouldn't be taken away".
Nah, maybe I'm just being too cynical & Mark Thomas is right that this really is a "nasty & vindictive blog". Incidentally, I note from Elson's article that the first cruise liner that left the Langton Dock this week was named Boudicca, a tribute to the ancient leader whose war against Roman occupation of Britain ended in heroic failure, her corpse reportedly being buried on the site of one of the platforms at London's King's Cross station. I'm sure there aren't any parallels with Peel's prospects in its renewal of hostilities.
Yet it seems that Peel does inhabit a parallel universe in believing that if it can't convince government of their case, it'll continue with a crafty nod here, a surreptitious wink there & a rabble-rousing call to base parochialism, elbowing the famous Mersey ferries in the process, as Wayne noted last Friday ( ).
This is the reality which neither the Daily Ghost nor the Oldham Echo won't even allude to, as outlined by the Southampton Daily Echo (yes, yes, I'm highly aware that Southampton has its own agenda, but its points on the use of public money for a commercial operation are unarguable):
"The Department for Transport (DfT) decided against relaxing its rules on publicly funded competition to allow a full turnaround facility at Liverpool's Cruise Terminal on the grounds that it would have an 'unfair and adverse effect' on the market.
"Now officials from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, owned by developer Peel, are again in discussions with the city council to transfer cruises from its existing turnaround facility, a tatty dock in Bootle, to Pier Head.
"Now, however, Peel says the move would just be temporary, while it presses ahead with ambitious plans to build its own cruise terminal as part of the £5.5 billion skyscraper Liverpool Water scheme. That scheme, the largest urban regeneration project in the UK, is likely to take years, with a planning application not due to be submitted until later this year.
"In a bid to appease concerned rivals they say the number of turnaround cruises would remain the same, but ABP [owner of Southampton docks] is unimpressed arguing if they had wanted better facilities 'they should have invested in them years ago' " ( ).
Indeed. However, that won't stop Peel, Bradley's crew & those in an increasingly Mary Celeste-like Oldham Hall Street from filling up their tankards & demanding a resumption of Cruise Wars until EU rules are tossed overboard, the DfT is rammed & Peel's vessel rules the waves.
*Image courtesy of .

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Showing The True Picture

Liverpool's regeneration continues apace, we're assured by the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo. One of the instances cited is the "redevelopment" of the entrance to Lime Street station, a grotesque spectacle. Just across the road from the latest monstrosity to be presented as "progress", lies the old ABC cinema.
Derelict & left to rot over the last decade or more, the cinema stands as a curt rejoinder to the eternally deluded saps who buy the argument from the council & their PR people on Oldham Hall Street that the city is changing for the better. Once a local landmark just as prominent & popular as more obvious ones in the city centre, the cinema, along with Southport's Pleasureland complex, has been in the hands of Urban Splash in recent years. Promises have been made & grandiose plans have been outlined for both sites.
However, in an admission which makes a mockery of the numerous puff-pieces in the Echo declaring the city's immunity to a global recession, Urban Splash have now acknowledged the obvious: all their best-laid plans count for nothing when the perfect storm of the credit crunch & global downturn continues to rage ( ).
Urban Splash's Tom Bloxham tries to sound hopeful in the Echo apologia (no byline for the article, surprise, surprise), but sounding hopeful is no business plan. Instead, he talks of something "very special" for both sites. Very special? That should fill any potential investors with confidence, shouldn't it? As the Echo meekly admits:
"In September 2007 it was announced [Urban Splash] had been appointed as the developer for the derelict ABC cinema in Lime Street.
"At the time plans were expected to be submitted to the city in July 2008 with work completed by mid-2010.
"But Liverpool Council confirmed that Urban Splash is yet to submit a planning application for the site."
Bloxham's ambiguity on the fate of both sites indicates that the situation is unlikely to change for the forseeable future. Indeed, he sounds more like a Lottery punter hoping his numbers come up:
"On both we have got lots of ideas that we are exploring and trying to come up with the best solution.
"It's difficult to move forward at the pace we want to."
Whether things are moving forward at any sort of pace is open to question, as even the Oldham Echo anxiously admitted in its editorial ( ).

Anything In The Name Of Modernity

Recommended reading: a piece by local blogger Joe Moran on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages at the beginning of this week ( ). Moran refers to the blogging postal worker Roy Mayall & his brilliantly acerbic account of "modernisation" in his workplace. He also delivers a finely concise assesment of "modernisation" & the motives of those behind it:
"Governments are as susceptible to groupthink as professions. And it is worth questioning the argument that all public sector employees, from postal workers to academics, are equally resistant to "change". The leitmotif of the New Labour era has been the unstoppable nature of such change: doing nothing is not an option; we can't stand still or we will roll backwards. Often this is a way of shutting off argument (who on earth would want to roll backwards?) by claiming ownership over the future and insisting this is the only way things can be - in order for markets to be free, the workers must be incentivised and coralled into line."
Whereas New Labour acolytes can only be incentivised by the lure of a few grand a day.

Not Such A Byers Market

In a week which has seen the truly base & venal nature of certain New Labour politicians --& others-- exposed (excellent investigative job by the people at Channel 4's Dispatches programme), it's worth recalling an incident involving Stephen "cab for hire" Byers & a local female Labour councillor in 2002 ( ).
The incident involving Barbara Corish, then councillor for Litherland Ward in Bootle, is salient not for any prurient or sensationalist motives on my part (other blogs on the web cater for that market), but because it affords a glimpse into the mindset of an arrogant, avaricious & hubristic New Labour luminary. As the saying goes, hubris precedes nemesis, the latter of which duly arrived with his high, & Mittyesque, opinions of himself, as told to the undercover Dispatches journalist (£3,000-£5,000 a day sure beats the minimum wage). Along with Geoff Hoon, who once dismissed manufacturing workers as "metal bashers", & Patricia Hewitt, Byers' fall has been worthy of Icarus.
On a not entirely unrelated note, it's heartening to see that Heather Brooke, who campaigned tirelessly on the issue of MPs' expenses, & whose mother hails from Merseyside, is now getting the credit she merits, as Roy Greenslade obseved this week ( ).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nick Peet Gets Facebooked

It's been a while since Nick Peet was let out to scrawl his juvenile sentiments in the Oldham Echo. This has been bad news for Paddy Shennan (hello, Paddy!), as Peet's efforts made Paddy's contributions look cerebral. Now it seems that the "writer" who thinks it's a bit of a laugh to throw bottles at concerts ( ) has attracted the attention of some less than enamoured souls who have formed themselves into a Facebook group, "Nick Peet Should Be Removed From Writing For The Echo" (!/group.php?gid=365427618025&ref=nf ).
Cheer up, Nick, I'm sure someone rates your copy, I mean, Big Al must, well.....I'm sure your mum reads it from time to time.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sabotaging Sub Judice

It was inevitable that the tabloids would salivate over the news that Jon Venables had returned to jail. True to form, they have gloried in their largely self-generated hysteria over the story.
There was, however, a welcome note of sanity & perspective in yesterday's Guardian editorial ( ):
"The tabloids are waving the principled banner of the public's right to know, but are trading speculative accounts of where Venables is, what he looks like -- even what he is eating -- while damning the government for 'betraying James' by 'sickening' details of Venables' latest misdoings. No matter that there is no presumption for disclosure, still less an automatic press release, at this stage with recalls, the red-tops -- backed by a Conservative Party whose 'rehabilitation revolution' now seems almost forgotten -- suggest the justice secretary [Jack Straw] is being soft by refusing to publish the details. This show of populist strength is a dangerous game which could self-defeat, even in its own terms. There are rare occasions when casual spraying about of information can frustrate justice, most obviously before a criminal trial. Even if Venables has committed a serious new crime, and even if the aim is to make him suffer as much as possible, it will not be served by prejudicing proceedings against him to the point where the courts rule themselves unable to establish guilt."
Those are points Mark Thomas would have done well to consider before writing about the case on his blog ( ).
As an aside, I'm sure it wasn't intentional, but I suspect I'm not the only person to find this observation by Thomas in dubious taste:
"If I had been asked to have a wager on which of them [Thompson or Venables] might get into further trouble in their adult lives, my money would have been on Thompson".
Considering such a question in terms of "a wager" is jarringly incongruous. It is also an insult to the memory of James Bulger.

Beneath Contempt

I once bumped into Michael Foot. He was leaving the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the 1983 Labour Party Conference one late evening to take his dog for a walk. I was on my way in to join the throng at the hotel bar. Brief pleasantries were exchanged, though I never spoke to him again. I was reminded of his willingness to chat amiably to complete strangers when his death was announced last Wednesday.
Charles Moore, on the other hand, is an individual I've never met, nor would I wish to. Moore pens his "thoughts" for the Telegraph, or, as the blurb on his webpage gushes ( ): "Charles Moore covers politics with the wisdom and insight that come from having edited The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator."
Moore's take on the tributes paid to Foot reveal all you need to know about the character ( ).
Citing the discredited ex-Soviet agent Oleg Gordievsky, Moore relates the claim that officials from the KGB would visit Tribune's offices when Foot was the paper's editor, & leave £10 notes (£250 in today's terms) in Foot's jacket. Even if this claim is true, it clearly didn't affect the line Tribune took during that period, something that Moore is clearly aware of as he frantically attempts to row back from the point where he could declare Foot's Soviet allegiance:
"It is important to understand that Foot would not have known that he was considered an agent. That was an internal classification of the KGB -- a scalp for the bureaucracy. There is no evidence that he passed on state secrets. He probably considered that he was simply keeping the Soviet Union well informed in the interests of peace.
"It is not clear why Foot took the cash, but he probably did not blow it on himself. Most likely he used it to pay petty bills for Tribune, accepting the tainted money because he thought it was all in a good cause. You could not say he was a Communist traitor."
Moore goes in for the classic nudge-nudge smear tactic with this third-rate Oxbridge scrawl, making his claim all the more despicable. There is, of course, the added factor that the dead can't sue. I daresay that if Foot did indeed pocket the money, he would have thought to himself, more fool them, I'll use this for the paper; an example of putting "tainted money" into a paper which wasn't afraid to condemn Stalinism.
Moore is said to be a devout Catholic. That being the case, he'll be familiar with the Biblical phrase about being judged by the company you keep. Moore was an enthusiastic supporter of the Pinochet regime in Chile & campaigned for his release when he was arrested in Britain ten years ago. Indeed, such was the butcher's gratitude to Moore that he sent him a Christmas card every year until his death in December 2006 ( ).
When it comes to journalistic integrity, Moore is merely an upmarket version of Kelvin MacKenzie.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Believe It Or Not, This Band Came From Liverpool

Among the comments that are thrown at those of us who condemn what's being done to the city of Liverpool (& I'm referring to the more repeatable ones here) is the contention that Liverpool has to move on & change with the times; Wayne gets that sort of thing quite often from commenters lacking the courage of their convictions to ditch the "anonymous" tag.
So when yet another part of what is still titled a World Heritage Site is defaced in the name of progress & modernity, it is accompanied by the claim that Liverpool can't live in the past. We need to move on, says Oldham Hall Street. Hmmm, OK, let's go back through the editorials in the Oldham Echo over the last week which reflect that attitude.
The Oldham Echo editorial begins predictably:
"There are still those who insist that Liverpool somehow overplays the fact that it gave birth to the four lads who shook the world.
"The Beatles, as they say, moved on from the city - and it's time the city moved on from them.
"Some even suggest there is little real demand for attractions connected to John, Paul, George & Ringo.
"All of which is nonsense."
Apart from the shameless lifting of the phrase Arthur Dooley chose to accompany his sculpture in Matthew Street (no attribution, surprise, surprise), this well-worn trudge along the Merseybeat Path lives down to expectations. It's said that Paddy Shennan (hello, Paddy!) pens most Echo editorials. If so, this isn't of the same standard as his normal Pulitzer-worthy efforts.
So yes, apparently we don't commemorate The Fabs anywhere near often enough. Presumably, there should be at least half a dozen Matthew Street festivals throughout the year. Indeed, the Echo would probably relish the idea of the city council changing the city's name to something like Beatle City, or Beatleville. Warren Bradley could claim that, 400 years on, the band are as popular as ever. We could also encourage everyone to wear mop-top wigs & ill-fitting collarless suits while David Fleming stands outside the monstrosity that is the new Museum of Liverpool & sings Money (That's What I Want). Warren Bradley could sit at the top of Grosvenor-pool, crooning Fool On The Hill. Jason Harborrow could make a surprise guest appearance & perform a duet with Lee Forde on the classic Fabs song, I Should Have Known Better.
Yes, it's all starting to fall into place now. All we now need is for Phil Redmond to talk about planting tangerine trees & cellophane flowers along Water Street.
The Echo concludes:
"It's surely time for Beatle City to stage a Beatle Summit, during which the main players in the tourism and Beatles industries can get their heads together to help make the most of one of this city's greatest draws."
Absolutely. What greater sign could the city send out to demonstrate its forward-looking, twenty-first century approach?

Taking A Figure Out Of The Equation

Tucked away in this morning's Oldham Echo was a dutiful piece, penned by Neil Hodgson, about Trinity Mirror's trading figures ( ).
It reads like the sort of thing Pravda would run about tractor production figures in the old Soviet Union. Missing from Hodgson's docile dispatch, however, is the circulation figure for the Echo. According to the latest ABC figures, as Ronnie de Ramper commented on a previous post, it's dipped alarmingly by 9.5% to 88,000.
Must have been edited out due to lack of space, eh, Neil?

Missing An Open Goal

It's laudable that the Spirit of Shankly group should organise a billboard campaign around the city, drawing even wider attention to Hicks & Gillett's ruinous reign at Anfield ( ).
However, it's counterproductive for the group to dismiss any possibility of cooperation with those Manchester United fans protesting against the Glazers continued presence at Old Trafford. We all know about the rivalry between the two sets of fans, so much so that it's long been tiresome to many. However, some measure of cooperation is not just desirable, but necessary in both campaigns; the wider issue of football club ownership cannot be addressed as long as normal rivalries supersede the realisation that there is a common concern for both sets of supporters.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Down By The Riverside

Recommended viewing: John Harris takes a trip around the Liverpool Riverside constituency, notable in UK terms for having an extremely low turn-out for recent general elections ( ).
There isn't much in Harris' video which will be revelatory to anyone on Merseyside. However, it is interesting to see that Harris shows the side of Liverpool which is now completely ignored by the Fib Dem council & a complacent local Labour Party. Ringo's childhood home in Madryn Street (now boarded up) is featured &, in a moment of Beatlesque surrealism, the Magical Mystery Bus turns up on cue.