Friday, May 30, 2008
He was waxing lyrical about the city's trade union history, drawing a link to the then Militant council. Solidarity, he declared, before sinking his pint, was synonymous with Liverpool.
It was then that I nearly made him choke.
What about the slave trade, I asked.
He looked askance & asked what I meant.
Well, I mused, the legacy of the slave trade could be found in the inscriptions & illustrations adorning many of the buildings around the waterfront area. Not much solidarity there, I noted.
He harrumphed & dismissed it as a foul exception to an otherwise perfectly proletarian past.
It was at that point that I realised even the Left in Liverpool downplays the slave trade as well as the residual casual racism of far too many white working class Scousers.
I was reminded of that exchange when I read Lawrence Westgaph's column in the Liverpool Echo (http://liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/liverpool-columnists/lawrence-westgaph/2008/05/27/why-we-can-t-ignore-our-city-s-shameful-past-100252-20980318/ ), highlighting the reluctance of people involved in the city's civic & heritage community to fully acknowledge the transatlantic slave trade & its transformative effect on the port.
The Culture Company has thus far presented a Disneyfied, soft focus version of that chapter in the port's history, thereby doing a grave disservice to all those who campaigned & fought for the trade's demise.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Opening the show with "No Surrender" from the "Born To Run" album, he led the E Street Band through a turbo-charged set of favourites old & new. Most of the tracks from the current "Magic" album were given an airing. However, the real stand out moments came with the reprise of a few old numbers. "Growin' Up" got the full E Street Band treatment, a world away from its acoustic incarnation, & "Because The Night" was adorned by a wondrous guitar solo from Nils Lofgren. The final number, a riotous cover of the Irish folk song "American Land", turned the stadium into a giant celidh house.
Another thing that struck me was that there surely can't be any other act who uses the term, habeas corpus before 50,000 people in introducing "Livin' In The Future", from the current album.
For those of us who had travelled down the East Lancs Road, it was a case of smiling through gritted teeth as the Boss accepted a Man Utd shirt thrown from the crowd & joked about last week's Champions League Final (referring to the stadium as "hallowed ground" & being informed by one of his road crew that Utd beating Chelsea was a bit like New Jersey beating New York). A fleeting moment, though, in an exhilarating two & three-quarter hours.
He's still the Boss.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
In an excoriating critique of New Labour's "project" & its legacy, Ali scornfully points to the Parliamentary Labour Party & trades union leaders. As collaborators in the intellectual void that was New Labour, bound together by power, never principle, Ali declares:
"Look at them now as they squeal in anguish at the thought that they might lose their jobs. Members of the cabinet who have helped deregulate the country will find something or the other if the economy doesn't collapse, but for New Labour cannon-fodder the world outside the bubble offers little hope. It's too late now. They should accept that the party's over. Desperate squabbling to retain power at all costs without any political principle involved will not endear them to the electorate and is unrealistic in any case."
The New Labour commentariat couldn't hope to match that, so they're reduced to pointing out the Tories' true agenda rather than mount any sort of valid argument for the government. Jonathan Freedland's Guardian article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/28/conservatives.davidcameron ) is a case in point.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
It is such people whom Joan Smith has firmly in her sights with a cogent missive in today's Independent on Sunday (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/joan-smith/joan-smith-cars-is-a-fourletter-word- ).
Smith declares, "British drivers --not all of them, but the ones who think it's their inalienable right to use their cars as much as they like-- are among the most antisocial people on earth."
Smith does leave herself open to the charge of hypocrisy when she admits to owning a Ford Ka. In her defence, however, it can be said that the Ka is one of the most fuel efficient vehicles on the road.
Car use is inevitably seen in the context of the environment & climate change. It is in such a context that attitudes remain Clarksonesque; there isn't so much a disconnect as a chasm between people's general acceptance of green measures & their own willingness to change at least some aspect of their own lifestyles. Politicians from all the main parties know this, but are too scared of the electoral consequences to show any gumption on the issue. As Smith plaintively remarks, "How I long for politicians prepared to talk frankly about the damage caused by ever-increasing car ownership and face down the shrill demands of fuel price protestors."
This was a point echoed by Smith's fellow commentator on the Independent, Johann Hari on Friday's "Any Questions" (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/anyquestions/ ) with a refreshing directness to a largely petrolhead audience in Cheshire. Well said, Johann!
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
How to do it in a timely & effective manner has been shown by Paul Weller. Clearly aghast that David Cameron chose "Eton Rifles" as one of his Desert Island Discs, Weller has openly wondered if Cameron actually knows the lyrics. For the record, Weller wrote the song after seeing Eton schoolboys jeering Right to Work marchers in the late 70s as they passed through Windsor on the Liverpool to London walk.
Speaking to the New Statesman (http://www.newstatesman.com/200805150029 ) last week, Weller revealed that Cameron's apparent liking of the song has made him perform it again, hoping that the Eton-educated Tory leader finally gets it. Weller told the NS: "I thought I'd never play that song again, but it's just as powerful now, just as relevant, as it was in 1979."
True to his word, Weller has now resurrected one of the most incendiary pop songs ever: http://youtube.com/watch?v=n6qgPsIzsCg .
Monday, May 19, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
As an article on the Liverpool Confidential website notes, "Cherie's childhood home in Ferndale Road, off St. John's Road in Waterloo, is one of the desirable 'Dales', surrounded by nice restaurants and shops, where currently a three bed terrace is a respectacle 142k [$280,000]" (http://www.liverpoolconfidential.com/index.asp?Sessionx=IpqiNwEiNwXokaqiNwF6IHqi&realname=Not_Strictly_Confidential_ ).
Actually, LC's estimate is some £30,000 short, but that's by the by.
Part of the PR push for her tome was conducted via yesterday's Guardian, in which Martin Kettle gave her the kid-glove treatment (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/may/17/cherieblair.politicalbooks ).
Attempting to perpetuate this ersatz proletarian upbringing for the young Cherie, Kettle notes she will be satisfied "' if young Liverpudlians, as she once was, realise that a girl from working class Liverpool can make it in the legal profession through a good education and perhaps some good fortune. '"
The Guardian piece doesn't stop there, however. Prepare for hollow laughter. Kettle asks if she considers herself a socialist. Her response?
"Yes, I do. You know I do. I have no problem with saying I am a socialist or with saying I am a feminist. That's how I was when I was 15 and, you know, I haven't grown out of it and probably never will."
And what of her husband, Kettle asks: "I'm probably the only person in the country who insists my husband is a socialist."
Tony's response to this? "He does his usual thing. He smiles and rolls his eyes and knows exactly what I mean."
Good, I'm glad at least your husband does. Can't say the same about the rest of us.
It's also worth noting her evasive response to Kettle's questions about the Iraq war.
Oh, by the way, Cherie, your socialism seems to be of a novel nature if you actively sought to seek imprisonment for a man who couldn't pay the poll tax while the Tories were still in office (http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-4776085.html ).
Is that in your book, too?
Meanwhile, Stephen Bates in his People column for the Guardian relates a tale which shows MacKenzie's thoughtful side (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2008/may/16/4 ).
For some unfathomable reason, MacKenzie was present at a recent conference in London concerned with PR for charities. Bates takes up the story: "Third Sector magazine reports his apoplectic response to a question from a representative from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which works with sex offenders, about how the organisation could publicise its work more effectively. MacKenzie refused to give any advice to an organisation dealing with paedophiles and promised to expose them when he next writes a column."
On his electoral humiliation, Bates quotes MacKenzie's comments to the Weybridge News and Mail after the result was declared: "I am now going to launch the Red Mist party for anyone who is angry but impotent."
I can't help thinking that "impotent" is an unfortunate word for an ex-Sun editor to use.
Be that as it may, if you're a sad sack who sees Victor Meldrew as a role model, revels in bigotry & lazy generalisations, & is so spineless when challenged that an invertebrate looks imposing by contrast, your political home is calling.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
The situation in the States has forced Hicks to abandon plans to build a themepark development linked to his baseball & NFL franchises in Dallas. However, any Liverpool supporters who view this news as a sign that DIC are waiting to step in had better think again. The credit crunch has forced many businesses to revise or abandon future projects. DIC will be no exception.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
In the wake of their much-deserved hammering in the local elections Labour "thinkers" have been venting their angst in print. Better out than in, guys. As always, a little historical perspective is required before focusing on recent events.
I've always maintained that New Labour was not a phenomenon of Blair, Campbell, Mandelson, et al, in the mid 90s. Instead, its inception can be traced back to the Kinnock reign. It was under the wordsmith & windbag that internal Labour Party democracy was "reformed", for which read terminated. One of Kinnock's loyal lieutenants in this process was Bryan Gould, who has penned his own rueful reflections (to describe them as expressions of mea culpa would stretch things a bit) on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages (http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/bryan_gould/2008/05/games_up_gordon.html ).
For Gould to pronounce on the death of New Labour is richly ironic, yet somehow fitting. Gould excoriates what he recognises as the characteristics of New Labour, even though his role in its inception will be familiar to those of a certain generation:
"The tolerance -even encouragement- of inequality, the blind faith in market provision, the exaggerated respect paid to the rich and powerful, the abandonment of the weak and powerless, the impatience with the public service and the public sector and organised labour, the reliance on spin rather than substance, the belief that the purpose of government is to keep power rather than to use it, all represent themes that have changed little in what may well be seen by future commentators as merely an interregnum between Thatcher and Cameron."
That's some charge sheet, essayed by a loyal Kinnockite as the edifice which facilitated the advent of Blair & Brown starts to crumble. However, Gould saves the best bit till last; he concludes, "All those who framed the New Labour project are implicated in that failure."
You don't say, Bryan!
This outbreak of public self-flagellation has been continued on the same site by Compass (http://www.compassonline.org.uk ) guru, managing editor of Renewal (http://www.renewal.org.uk/ ) & one-time adviser to Gordon Brown (oh, what a cross to bear!), Neal Lawson (http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/neal_lawson/2008/08/05/all_together_now_1.html ).
Lawson maintains that the growth in individuality from the 60s onwards meant that both Soviet Stalinism & social democratic reformism were doomed to lose the intellectual battle with capitalism of the free market variety. So far, so Blairite. Yet he then seems to contradict his very premise:
"But in confining itself to a project [that word again!] that put the needs of the market before those of society, New Labour sowed the seeds of a limited and deeply frustrating life span. The contradictions of a largely neoliberal project performed within the body of a party of labour were always going to cause an implosion. It required a permanent shuffle of two steps forward and one step back. The two steps were towards the market with just one in favour of society in order to placate Labour members and the unions.
"But by unleashing more market forces New Labour was undoing its capacity to create a more equal society......The fact that society is more unequal now than the one New Labour inherited from Thatcher is testament to this fact."
Both Gould & Lawson seem unable to acknowledge the corollary of their observations. OK, I'll spell it out for them: New Labour always was an intellectual & economic con, perpetrated by marketing whizzkids & snake oil salesmen at the behest of a ruling class fearful of what the end of the Tory years might mean. Democratically decided policies were ditched, not just ignored; the Murdochs of this world were eagerly fellated & the rich were the ones who mattered, everyone else could wait or, even better, f*** off. Proud of your roles, guys?
Monday, May 12, 2008
However, they held a discussion at the Royal Society of Arts in London last week on the power & influence of commentators. A good part of the debate was also given over to blogs & their growing influence (http://cdn3.libsyn.com/ei/ei-power-of-the-commentariat.mp3 ).
Simon Jenkins' haughty disdain for blogs ("diarrhoea" & "crap" are his considered opinions on the likes of yours truly) is both pitiable & darkly amusing; indeed, Jenkins' olfactory criticisms are put in their proper perspective by an audience member who likens the critics of blogs to eighteenth-century Whigs who condemned pamphleteers. Ex-New Statesman editor John Kaempfner correctly notes that most political blogs are obsessed with Westminster minutiae, but overlooks the blogs around the country that monitor politics in their locality, Liverpool SubCulture being an obvious example (http://liverpoolsubculture.blogspot.com/ ).
Saturday, May 10, 2008
1. "Have a care of them, for the men of Liverpool are the most perfidious in all England, worse than my pen can describe." Sir Edward Moore, 1667.
2. "The degrees of the soil, the purity of the waters, the mildness of the air, the antiseptic elluvia of pitch and tar, the acid exhalations from the sea, the pregnant brisk gales of wind and the daily visitations of the tides render Liverpool one of the healthiest places in the Kingdom." Dr. Dobson, 1772.
Who knows what the good doctor was on, but I'd sure like it on prescription.
Global economic factors have hit this nascent phenomenon: (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2008/05/08/liverpool-luxury-flats-fail-to-tempt-buyers-64375-20878283/ ).
Needless to say, other cities desperate to re-invent themselves also face this cold blast of market conditions (repossessions of upmarket apartments in the middle of Manchester proceed apace).
However, Liverpool, more than most cities, saw the repopulation of its centre as living proof of its civic & economic recovery. It would be bitterly ironic if 2008 witnessed the start of a reversal in the local property sector.
It's against that demographic backdrop that AFC Liverpool has been formed (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2008/may/08/1 ).
David Conn reports in his Guardian piece, "AFC Liverpool [is] a supporter-owned club with 500 members and rising, recruited an experienced non-League manager, Derek Goulding, and held trials on Monday to which 300 hopeful players turned up, eager to be part of the inaugural season."
AFC Liverpool was formed in early March by a Liverpool FC fan & Kop season ticket holder Alun Parry. He denies that the club has been formed as a response to the Hicks/Gillette/DIC soap opera, stressing it is because of rising ticket prices at Anfield, which deter younger fans from attending. However, it is all of a piece. Whoever succeeds in the Anfield boardroom war will expect a return on their "investment", meaning, inter alia, higher ticket prices.
The AFC Liverpool website has a distinctly retro feel (www.afcliverpool.co.uk ).
Friday, May 09, 2008
And to think that Vine was once considered to be the next Paxman (stop laughing, Paxo!).
Monday, May 05, 2008
In today's Independent Johann Hari put a fresh & welcome perspective on those white working class voters who vote BNP (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-bnp-votes-are-a-cry-of-white-workingclass-anguish-821139.html ), exposing the myths about housing wages & services which the fascists peddle to the gullible & disengaged.
I know it's a controversial position to take, but I agree with Hari's view that the old "no platform for fascists" stance is no longer relevant or effective. Let them say what they really think; close questioning in the media, rather than a mere soundbite, will force them to at least acknowledge their ridiculous Aryan theories. Their claim that the Holocaust never happened may be illuminating for those tempted by their leaflets but whose parents & grandparents fought in World War II. It would be interesting to see their response to the flickering sepia-tinted images of Belsen & Auswitz.
Hari's article makes all the right points, proposing how to counter the racist myths (housing-an immediate programme of council house building; wages-a higher minimum wage; services-no faith schools or community centres for only ethnic group). He concludes:
"But instead of offering these solutions, we [by which Hari presumably means the middle class commentariat] have turned the white working class into a national punch line. We dismiss them as 'chavs', 'pikeys' and racists, and jeer at their clothes, voices and names. So we don't really have the right to act surprised when they vote in a way designed to tell us -as the woman standing in her damp flat, carrying bags of economy-brand food from Iceland, told me- to 'fuck-off''."
Something tells me, however, that Hari's words will be ignored.
While Labour was taking a much warranted kick up the backside (& perhaps more) across the rest of England & Wales, Liverpool's Labour Party failed to unseat the Lib Dem incumbents,despite winning three seats from them. Those gains, however, did mean that the council would be hung; Warren Bradley & his coterie of incompetent administrators faced losing their hold on the city.
Cometh the hour, cometh the turncoat. Until last year Nadia Stewart was a Labour councillor in the Croxteth ward. She was then deselected by her local party, lack of attendance at council meetings being one of the complaints against her. Stewart, grand-daughter of the late city councillor & MEP, Ken Stewart, soldiered on as an "Independent". That was until the early hours of Friday morning when, his majority gone, Bradley announced that Stewart had decided to join the Lib Dem group (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-elections/2008/05/02/night_of_high_drama_ends_with_lib_dems_still_running_liverpool-64375-20852078/ ).
Stewart claimed, "This is something I have considered over the last couple of weeks. When I sat down and thought about my position if it was a hung council, I knew exactly what I had to do."
Yes, Nadia, but the thing is what you "had to do" will make your grandfather spin in his grave. Sure you can live with that?
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Friday, May 02, 2008
"The study found that every day across the Liverpool City Region (Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton) nine people die from smoking-related diseases; five people die from heart disease or stroke; six people die of cancer and 22 people are admitted to hospital with alcohol-specific conditions."
The Echo report is vague on the commission's ability to effect legislative change (perhaps its remit doesn't extend so far). Preferring to quote the statistics involved.
There is, however, a quote from the commission's chair, Sue Woodward which you don't normally find in the Echo as it "celebrates" this year of capital with trivia, sob stories & lachrymose sentiment:
"As we count the cranes on the Liverpool skyline and enjoy the rave reviews in the Sunday supplements, the time is right to stand up and face the elephant in the room.
"Generations of families dependent on benefits, the spiralling problem of alcohol misuse, the creation of a super underclass, an invisible army of people disconnected and cut off from the opportunities created on their own streets, lives cut short through inequality and deprivation."
The commission also observes that there are 15,000 registered drug users in the region. Add in the unregistered users & casual drug users & you end up with a figure at least three times as large.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
It gives me no satisfaction to say that I'll be sitting this one out.