Monday, January 15, 2007

Naming The Names

It turned out last week that Kelvin MacKenzie's hurried & unscheduled appearance on BBC TV's Question Time programme was occasioned by the sudden illness of historian David Starkey. MacKenzie, who ignominiously chickened out of appearing on the programme before Christmas, stepped into the breach, presumably thinking that the coast was clear. Not quite.
The programme is still available to watch online ( ).
It wasn't until the final ten minues of the programme that host David Dimbleby raised the issue with MacKenzie.
MacKenzie, being the pathetic coward that he is, suddenly retreated from two of the three claims which he has hitherto maintained. He admitted that he had no way of knowing if the allegations regarding the looting of the bodies & the urinating on police officers were true. Desperately trying to save face, MacKenzie did, however, say that the claim that most of the fans were ticketless still applied. It's been said before but it bears repeating. The allegation that MacKenzie clings to was disproven by The Taylor Report.
MacKenzie then went further than was probably wise by qouting his "sources", an unnamed Liverpool news agency, a senior police officer with the South Yorkshire force & a Sheffield Tory MP. On the first of the three, the only news agency based in Liverpool at the time of the disaster was Mercury Press. The managing editor of Mercury said on BBC Radio Merseyside on Friday that they completely denied the claim & were taking legal advice. The second "source" was found to be Chief Superintendant David Duckinfield, whose brief on that fateful day was, yes, you've guessed it, crowd control. Duckinfield admitted to the Taylor Inquiry that when his junior officers were trying to deal with the growing crowd outside the stadium, he "froze". Duckinfield took early retirement from the force not long after the disaster & refuses to speak to the media. The third of the three is possibly the most intriguing. The Tory MP for a Sheffield constituency was initially difficult to identify, even though a Tory in a northern city during Thatcher's reign should have stuck out like a sore thumb. I vaguely recalled a Tory MP in Sheffield from that period (I didn't get out much then), but recent Google searches yielded nothing. Now he can be named. Sir Irvine Patnick was the not so honourable member for the Sheffield Hallam constituency from 1987 to 1997. These days he is a patron of the Home Business Alliance, a body set up to support small businesses & entrepreneurs ( ).
Patnick, let's dispense with the "Sir" bit, after all, it's just another meaningless Establishment bauble, can also be contacted through this body: . There are phone & fax numbers for good measure: Tel.: 08714741015. Fax: 08714741016.
I've fired off an email, asking Patnick whether he still stands by what he told the Sun & whether he can substantiate it. You never know, he might respond, but I'm not holding my breath.

A City's Bruised Beauty

Sometimes I don't know if the rash of articles appearing in the national press about Liverpool are a help or a hiderance to the place itself in the run-up to 2008. A case in point was this piece by architecht & exiled scouser Stephen Bayley in yesterday's Observer: http//,,1989836,00.html .
Bayley makes some excellent points about the city's architechtural history & how it's gone hand in hand with its maritime history. However, I can't help feeling that Bayley is on the cusp of falling into the cliched "Militant=civic decline mindset. He writes, "While the rest of the country went Thatcherite, Liverpool whimsically went Trotskyist. The city lost its way in the tunnel of comradely love and almost failed to recover."
There is, however, one anecdote in Bayley's piece which even local Beatle afficionados may not be aware of: "Many years ago another prodigal returned and wrote the song 'Good Morning' that appears on Sgt. Pepper. John Lennon later told me he really did as the lyrics said and went to 'take a walk by the old school', but was sufficiently unimpressed to turn down an invitation to speak at Quarry Bank's speech day. The Beatle went on to find 'nothing has changed, it's still the same'. I found a city that was changing a lot, but still much the same. Liverpool is beautiful and ugly, proud and wanton, impressive and dismaying, romantic and crass. It is not a city to feel neutral about."
Lennon would probably have made his visit in late 1966, so it is tempting to speculate that he would have viewed his home city through a lysergic haze.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I Used To Defend The Licence Fee

A lot of applause is surely merited by the website, for organising Saturday's six minute protest on the Kop. The BBC commentator John Motson did refer briefly to the background to the protest. However, it was clear that BBC bosses had told the match director to minimise any camera shots of the kop during the six minute period at the start of the game. However, it seems as though the BBC is quite happy to cause further offence. They've re-invited Kelvin MacKenzie on to tonight's "Question Time" programme ( ). MacKenzie, of course, chickened out of a scheduled appearance on the programme's panel last month shortly after saying he wasn't contrite for his vile slurs. It is to be hoped that someone in the audience raises this, even though the BBC will edit it out of the programme before transmission.

There's a lot I could write about the football itself since the weekend, but I won't. I'll leave that to posting comments on other blogs.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wringing Out The Old

A windy, soggy start to 2007. New Year's Eve was spent with friends at a pub in Crosby. Nothing particularly unusual for the occasion, just a crowded pub, generous quantities of beer, & anecdotes swapped freely.

I'm sure I wasn't the only one to find the news coverage of Saddam's execution rather ghoulish. By far the best of the 24 hour news channels is BBC News 24. However, the attention & detail it gave to the story, on what was admittedly a slow news day, verged on the pornographic. It makes me wonder how the story was covered by Fox News in the US.
It's apparent that the American public are now weary of the Iraq bloodbath. A small indication of this has been the reaction, or rather lack of it, to Saddam's death from an acquaintance of mine in Manhattan. When US forces killed insurgent leader Musab al-Zarqawi last year he sent me an email with al-Zarqawi's head superimposed on a target practice board, a single bullet hole marked on his temple. It surprised me at the time because my acqaintance would normally correspond with me about music (we're both posters on a music messageboard, ). I didn't realise he was so, well, gung-ho.
This time around, there has been no celebratory email, which is probably indicative of the general feeling in the US; Saddam may be finally out of the picture (save for the one caught on that execrable cameraphone video), but the morass remains &, if anything, deteriorates even further.

Today's FA Cup 3rd Round tie between Liverpool & Arsenal kicks off in less than an hour, as I write. A word of support to the organisers of a six minute protest on the Kop at the start of the match against Kelvin MacKenzie's Hillsborough comments. The BBC are in charge of live TV coverage, so it will be interesting to see how the Beeb handle, or react, to the protest, given that the corporation employed MacKenzie's services for their news review programme on BBC Radio 5Live. For further details, go to: .
While I'm on the subject, a rap on the knuckles to Simon Kelner, editor of the Independent, for a piece he's written in this week's New Statesman ( ), claiming that the decision to move the slot for the 5Live programme amounted to "terrified self-censorship".
Kelner, who also appeared on the programme, declares that it is symptomatic of the "craven editorial judgements of the post-Hutton BBC", & adds that the decision to move the programme was "shocking".
Kelner quotes the programme's presenter, Richard Bacon, as saying in a text message that "5Live received a petition of 700 signatories asking for [MacKenzie] not to be put on air."
The reality, of course, is that the online petition I presume is being referred to ( ) attracted over 10,000 signatures. Kelner doesn't dispute the outrage caused by MacKenzie's remarks, but seems to believe that MacKenzie has a right to air his disgusting bilge. The logic of that argument is that anyone has the "right" to express their views, even when it is accepted that such views are designed to cause offence, protests, disorder, racism, etc.
Kelner really should admit that he's on shaky ground & grow up.