Saturday, October 27, 2007

Less Than Zero

As I remarked earlier this month, Elvis Costello was lined up to appear at Hillary Clinton's 60th birthday party at New York's Beacon Theater. Costello rounded off the evening with a toe-curlingly, unctuous rendition of "Happy Birthday": .
Back in 1987, when a UK General Election was called by Thatcher, Billy Bragg phoned Costello to ask for his involvement in the Red Wedge campaign. Costello declined to assist, saying that it was a bad idea, presumably on the grounds that acts shouldn't align themselves with party political organisations. He's certainly changed his tune.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Under The Influence

Well, it seems Alex has accepted that my criticism wasn't personal. Issue resolved? Probably.

Today's Guardian carries a piece by Stuart Jeffries about the weekend just gone, which he spent in Liverpool city centre:,,2197067,00.html .
Jeffries visited the city in the wake of findings that emergency admissions to hospitals in the city due to alcohol-related factors outnumber those of any other English council.
Perhaps I should tread warily here, given the amount of booze imbibed by the company I was in on Saturday both during & after the Merseyside derby, but I digress...
To be fair, Jeffries doesn't use his weekend up here as an excuse to trot out the usual jaded journalistic cliches. He does, however, pick the weekend just gone (20th & 21st October) when things were even busier than normal, thanks to the aforementioned Football match, the pub promotions related to this, & the Rugby World Cup final later that Saturday evening, with further pub & club promotions to cash in on that event.
In this context, it doesn't really count as a "normal" Saturday night, & Jeffries himself makes no attempt to imply otherwise.
There is some grim humour to be found in Jeffries' observation, "On Prescot Road, there is an off-licence called Not Drunk Enough, which until recently gave out fliers to taxi drivers, promising: 'Bring a fare here and get £2.50 per fare.' "
That stretch of Prescot Road is a fairly short walk from the prosperous city centre, yet its decay, delinquency & deprivation are so entrenched as to make 2008 raise a hollow laugh from local residents.
Interestingly, Jeffries does report that "there has been a recent decrease in alcohol-related hospital admissions in Liverpool. In the same week as the figures for 2005-2006 alcohol-related admissions made Liverpool England's binge capital, more up-to-date statistics from three city hospitals showed that alcohol-related A&E admissions nearly halved in the past year."
However, Jeffries can't help concluding his piece by describing his hungover state as he departs Lime Street Station "leaving adorable Liverpool to its endless life-affirming, life-destroying bacchanal."
There's a cliche in there somewhere.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Right Of Reply

A quick post before I repair to a local hostelry for the Merseyside Derby. Alex Hilton has responded to last night's post. I'm quite happy to be corrected if I was wrong about the authorship of the post on the Recess Monkey blog. As well as that, I should have mentioned that Wikipedia isn't always to be taken as gospel, so Alex, alas, is not related to Paris Hilton.
What puzzles me, however, is that if Alex was willing to stand for the West Derby seat, indicating a seeming desire to champion & defend the constituency, he did not make it clear that the post on the blog expressed a view which he disagreed with.
Oh, by the way, Alex, my criticism was not "personal". It was a robust criticism of what I saw , perhaps mistakenly, as double standards & churlishness; I don't do personal attacks, they're self-defeating. Over to you.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sour Grapes When Scorned

It's always instructive to see the reactions of those who are thwarted in their ambitions. If they say little & get on with life, it's to their credit. If, however, they later make snide or juvenile comments about the object of their failed ambitions, well, you know the rest.
The Recess Monkey political blog is run by one Alex Hilton (above). Normally, I don't pay much attention to it, seeing as it mainly concerns itself with Westminster minutiae; file under "political anoraks".
However, in a post on Tuesday, Hilton commented on the government finding that Liverpool accounts for half the total number of fly-tipping incidents in the UK. Needless to say, it's not a statistic to take civic pride in. However Hilton couldn't help adding, "Capital of culture? Not a culture I'd want to be associated with myself." ( ).
I decided to contribute a few thoughts of my own in the comments section of the post:
"I realise you have to pad out your, ahem, blog from time to time, but this lazy jibe is just a little too obvious, wouldn't you say? I appreciate that living in the Westminster bubble leads to an unwarranted sense of self-importance as well as a relation to reality which could be best described as tenuous. However, the anti-Liverpool stuff is so 20th century. If you're really stuck for something to post, look at yourself and your Westminster cohorts. There's plenty of easy humour there. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to comb my perm and don my shellsuit before going down to the pub where I'll drink myself senseless."
I then decided to see what a fairly superficial web search on Hilton would produce. I was pleasantly surprised to find so much which anyone can sink their teeth into.
Recess Monkey's finest hour was back on March 5th this year when it mistakenly claimed that Thatcher had died; if only, if only! ( ).
Wikipedia has some useful information on Hilton ( ):
Hilton is "a distant cousin of heiress Paris Hilton through his American grandfather", which accounts for the guy's gargantuan intellect. There's also his stellar track record as a Labour Party Parliamentary candidate & his role as Web Strategy Manager for Hillary Benn during his unsuccessful attempt to secure Labour's deputy leadership this summer.
I've saved the real meat till the end. Hilton unsuccessfully sought the nomination for the Liverpool West Derby seat recently when Bob Wareing was deselected. He even penned a post on the Guardian's Comment Is Free blog during the summer ( ), in which he shamelessly used the region's economic woes as a springboard for his own personal ambitions.
I can't help quoting a passage from the post, seeing as it strikes me as a deluded, distorted version of Terry Fields' example 20 years back in Broadgreen: "You know, an MP's salary of £60,000 is beyond the reach of the average resident in West Derby. Even someone on half that salary would be among the top 10% earners in the constituency. And so this is what I would pledge as the MP for West Derby; to forego half the salary of an MP until real movement has been achieved in average incomes in the constituency-it's no more than a gesture, but this way I could make that challenge personal."
Ah, now isn't that noble & principled?
Sadly for Hilton, he wasn't able to put into practice this pledge, as Stephen Twigg, the guy who famously saw off Portillo in 97, got the gig.
There's a word for the likes of Hilton & I think we all know what it is.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Clown Returns!

Kelvin MacKenzie attempts to demonstrate the amount of bullshit he's been responsible for
Kelvinwatch returns to this blog. It seems that the bloated buffoon was on the BBC TV "Question Time" panel last Thursday (why are the beeb so desperate for slapstick comedy on what's supposed to be a serious discussion programme?). Not content with insulting the memory of the 96 Hillsborough victims & repeatedly libelling Liverpool supporters, MacKenzie has now turned his saloon bar ignorances to an entire nation:,,2190014.00.html .
The bloated bigot opined, "[Gordon] Brown is a Scot. He is a socialist Scot who wants to spend every single penny you earn, never forget that...Scotland believes not in entrepreneurialism like London and the south east...The reality is that the Scots enjoy spending it, they don't enjoy creating it, which is the opposite to down in the south."
Isn't the final remark typically ungrammatical for an ex-Sun editor?
Now I'm not a Scot, or Scottish to be correct, nor do I have strong views either way on the question of Scottish independence (I'll leave that to a piece penned by the Observer's Scottish editor, Ruaridh Nicoll today:,,2190882.00.html ).
However, I do recognise racism for what it is; substitute "Scots" for any other ethnic group or nationals of another country & the DPP would surely be brought in. It also flys in the face of Scottish history & business in 21st century Scotland.
It's interesting to note that MacKenzie's, ahem, column is not published in the Scottish edition of the Sun ( ).
Hopefully, that won't be enough to head off a boycott of the rag in Scotland.
Oh, one more thing, does MacKenzie really think that Gordon Brown is a "socialist"? Jeez, the guy really is thick.

A Rosy-Viewed Reverie

Thursday's debate on the Liverpool-Manchester question reminds me of a piece Phil Redmond penned for the Guardian Arts blog shortly after assuming the reins of the Culture Company late last month ( ).
Redmond succeeded in talking sense & bollocks in equal measure:
"A city [Liverpool] where the status quo has never been an option naturally breeds suspicion, cynicism and a healthy disrespect for authority and cultural elites. At the same time, a culture of shared grief and pain generates a need for mutual and community support.
"Sentimentality comes easy on the backs of nostalgia while Celtic romanticism is never far away and everything is, well, 'worth a try'. Extremes become the norm. Whether Hillsborough or Istanbul, whether the tragedies of teenage death or the triumphs of teenage celebrity, whether employment law or local politics, everything is heightened by the reflective glow of the Mersey."
If it weren't for a couple of truisms thrown in there, Redmond's panegyric would merit a place in Pseuds' Corner.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Tale Of Two Cities

Last night I attended a debate at St George's Hall, billed as, "North west solidarity or regional rivalry? Liverpool believes that it's time for Liverpool and Manchester to join forces".
Unfortunately, the debate generated more heat than light. I'm all too aware of the Liverpool-Manchester rivalry, seen at its most tribal & visceral when Liverpool & Manchester football teams meet. However, as one contributor pointed out in exasperation after a series of petty, parochial points, it's the height of stupidity to give such divisions house room in an age of globalisation.
What made it doubly depressing was that the two speakers against the motion were Rogan Taylor, director of football studies at the city's university & co-founder of the Football Supprters' Association, & Jayne Casey, former member of Deaf School & organiser of the annual Creamfields festival.
The reality is that though the two cities will always have their own identities, they cannot operate in a state of supreme indifference to each other, something which was finally realised by the 70 strong audience which voted 51% to 49% in favour of the motion. Sanity prevailed.

Is His Aim Still True?

Despite revelling in punk & two-tone during my teenage years, I always steered clear of "guidance" from artists at the time. Joe Strummer effectively cautioned against searching for political solutions from those whose records you simply happened to like & agree with.
However, my admiration for Elvis Costello has, if anything, increased over the years. Quite often, he has, as the Americans say, walked the walk. A month after the Hillsborough disaster he played two nights at Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre. Costello announced on both evenings that all the proceeds would be going to the Hillsborough Fund.
This week, however, it was revealed that Costello will play at Hillary Clinton's 60th birthday party in New York later this month. Tickets start at a cool $250 (£125) & access to a post-gig party will set you back $25,000.
( ).
It reminds me of a song Costello wrote for Roger McGuinn, "You Bowed Down":-
"You value the burnt amber of falling leaves,
And long to delay,
When you feel their breath, they whisper,
'It won't hurt you now to betray',
And now every time that we meet on the edge of hysteria,
You're helping them sell off some new party line,
I remember a time when you would have seemed so superior,
Now you say, 'Will you please meet this good friend of mine?"
Now you're in demand, as long as you kiss their hand,
And all the applause is for their name, not yours".
Some might rush to Costello's defence (not that he'd need any assistance), saying that he is supporting a Democrat for the White House & registering his opposition to Dubya & his Republican party. That overlooks the fact that Clinton is far & away the most right wing of the Democrat contenders. In 2003 she voted enthusiastically for the Iraq war. Now she's trying to play down that decision, lest it draw attention to her suspect judgement.
And Elvis? Well, the guy won't be swayed by the bloggers, the music jurnos, etc., but he knows that he has prostituted his name, & once you become a corporate whore, the label sticks. Enjoy your fee, Declan.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Subculture On The Case

Just a brief word about the recent revelations on the Liverpool Subculture blog ( ). Its posts have trumped the so-called Exclusive stories in the Liverpool Echo, & its tale of Joe Riley's impending dismissal at the Echo after falling asleep at Jimmy McGovern's play, "King Cotton", at the Empire, much to the chagrin of the author himself, naturally, shine a most welcome light on the squalid, seamy demi-monde seemingly inhabited by Harborrow, et al.

Local History Lessons

As Liverpool prepares to celebrate its Capital of Culture status next year, it's worth remembering those aspects of its history which are both disturbing & striking in their parallels.

Liverpool's Everyman Theatre is currently staging "Intemperance", by Lizzie Nunnery. I saw the play last Monday & I heartily recommend it.

Set in Liverpool in 1854, it centres on the lives of a mainly Irish, or Liverpool Irish family. As St George's Hall is being built, the family just about get by in one of the teeming slum courts that used to be found off Dale Street, as well as other parts of the city.

What could be a cliched, melodramatic excursion into the city's Irish heritage is written & acted with elan & humanity by writer & cast. There is a striking indifference to the local Catholic priests, as cholera tightens its grip in the slum dwellings. Each night they hear through the paper-thin walls the cries of grief as another death occurs.

There is humour, though much of it is dark & bitter. As the title implies, it also shines a harsh light on the role of alcohol as an emotional crutch in the family, The Grapes pub, still doing business today, being a popular watering hole.

In one outburst, one of the characters declares, "This city belongs to the Irish!", a claim which while historically inaccurate, still retains an enormous emotional resonance here.

What also impressed me was the attention to historical detail; children of Irish emigrants in the city spoke with Irish accents, the Liverpool, or Scouse accent not evolving for another two or three decades.

Complaints about the money being spent on St George's Hall as much of the city is mired in poverty have a contemporary resonance, too. The money which will be lavished on the city centre for 2008 will not filter its way through to the Norris Greens, Croxteths, Netherleys & Evertons.

Nunnery's play does a civic service by highlighting an aspect of the city's past which has either been overlooked or distorted by many. It continues until Saturday.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

He Bangs The Drum

I don't know if web reaction in the US has been favourable to the new single by Ian Brown, "Illegal Attacks", & its accompanying video, but it ought to be, at least among those who are Democrats & also those who now realise they were duped by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al over Iraq ( ).

Inter Alia

Spotted: Shuffling towards the Liverpool Playhouse in Williamson Square yesterday afternoon, the frail, bent figure of Rex Makin. I suspect I was the only person in the vicinity to recognise him. He didn't look to be in the best of health.
Makin has long been a controversial figure on Merseyside, both inside & outside the region's legal circle. His lugubrious nature & his penchant for verbosity has not endeared him to the average Scouser, for whom words of more than three syllables are viewed as signs of pretentiousness.
Unlike a lot of people, I have no strong feelings either way about Makin. He is one of those eccentric characters that provincial civic , cultural & legal life tend to throw up every so often. He still has his weekly column in the Liverpool Echo, "Makin his point", a largely Rumpolesque rumination on local matters.