Friday, April 30, 2010

A View From Across The Pond

Tory blogger Iain Dale doesn't normally feature on this blog, but he's highlighted Jon Stewart's inimitable take on "Bigotgate" ( ).
US observers are often crassly out of the loop on European politics, but Stewart's look at the moment when Gordon Brown's ignorance of live microphone syndrome confirmed Labour's hapless state is acute & well-judged. The only jarring note is the use of subtitles to accompany not just Brown's comments, but those of Gillian Duffy. Are they really so unfamiliar with regional accents in the States?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tearing At The Bonds Of Tribal Loyalty

Around lunchtime today I Tweeted that this was the most dispiriting election campaign I could remember. It remains so, although a spark of life has been injected with what's already become known as Bigot-gate ( ).
[It would make a great storyline for The Thick of It; just think what Malcolm Tucker would make of it.]
The uncomfortable reality in most areas of Merseyside is that immigration & the use of migrant labour has been ignored as an issue by Labour & the Lib Dems (we all know the Tories' irrelevance in the region), allowing the BNP to raise it at every opportunity. Speaking the other day to a couple of acquaintances in the white, working-class constituency of Bootle, it was clear that their hostility to Cameron's privileged upbringing & the banks' culpability over the global financial crisis was tempered by a confused & aggrieved take on the immigration issue, the result of a silence from the parties, mainly Labour, it must be said, allowing the myths peddled by the BNP to take hold.
Gary Younge penned a finely-balanced piece at the beginning of the week on the issue ( ). However, John Harris' take on Brown's microphone moment also makes for instructive reading ( ):
"The incident perfectly captures a plotline that I've observed time and again, not least as we've been travelling round the country during the campaign: millions of people who are confused, unsettled, and often ragingly angry, faced with a political class that affects to feel their pain, but too often holds them in borderline contempt. What with the rise in support for the BNP -- and that great chasm that divides too much of the country from richer corners of the capital -- the metropolitan media is part of the same problem. It tends to portray them as latter-day Alf Garnetts, nostalgic for a world long gone, and fired up by the sort of prejudices that have no place in London W1 or W11."
Harris concludes with a point which helps explain the dislocation between such voters & the party to which they once pledged largely unconditional allegiance:
"This may sound tangential, but I'm rather reminded of a passage from a Tony Blair conference speech that both sets out New Labour's credo, and captured its essential pathology. ' The character of this changing world is indifferent to tradition, ' he said. ' Unforgiving of frailty. No respecter of past reputations. It has no custom and practice. It is replete with opportunities, but they only go to those swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change. ' That doesn't describe Gillian Duffy [the woman who confronted Brown], nor millions and millions of other people. And in this awful episode, here are the wages of that ever-festering disconnection."
There is a tendency for middle-class liberals to dismiss & disparage what are still called Labour's heartlands ( disgraced ex-Cabinet minister Geoff Hoon referred to them as "metal bashers"). Countering such lazy aspersions are the people in these areas standing up to the BNP.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Warren's War Zones

Election campaigning continues apace. Yet amidst the bombast, bluster & bullshit, there are disconcerting sounds of, well, not contrition or remorse exactly, more like an embarrassed clearing of the throat, a muffled sigh, a sotto voce aside.
Home truths are beginning to be acknowledged by those whose state of denial has been so deep as to be subterranean. Wayne has long pointed out how, inter alia, the disfigurement of the city's waterfront blocks the view of the Three Graces. The response until now has varied from an embarrassed silence to an exercise in juvenile name-calling. However, the pretence is starting to slip & Wayne expertly dissected its threadbare nature earlier today ( ).
Another area where the Fib Dem council is inching dangerously close to a mea culpa concerns housing. Warren Bradley blurts out the obvious to David Bartlett in this morning's Oldham Echo ( ).
Bartlett is moved to observe that Bradley's comments are "frank". Well, yes & no. It certainly puts the Fib Dems' Bread & Circus approach to the city in a stark context hitherto ignored by Oldham Hall Street. However, it also seeks to deflect at least some of the blame onto Whitehall & the quangocracy: "The council, national government and (regeneration agency) English Partnerships probably bit off more than we could chew.
"We announced six renewal areas, and in hindsight we should have done it one by one. Completing one area and then moving onto the next."
Bradley's tactic is totally transparent, admit mistakes, but imply that Labour & English Partnerships are at least equally culpable. This is election time, don't forget.
The man who is to local history what Jeremy Clarkson is to cycling goes on to deliver some choice comments which act as incriminating evidence in the case against the Fib Dems' reign of misrule in the city:
"You can't rip the heart out of the community and promise them something in 15 years time.
"I just don't think it is correct, but we are where we are. We have now got the job of rebuilding communities and giving them reassurance.........
"We should have landscaped areas so that people didn't feel they were living in a war zone".
That's some self-confessed record of ruin to play at the voters, isn't it? As well as the civic vandalism of what's still mystifyingly called a World Heritage Site & inflicting Grovesnor-pool in the process, Bradley & his cohorts have neglected whole neighbourhoods not fortunate enough to live in the city centre or in Fib Dem wards. The war zones have been left to fester.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

He Said What?!

"Look, you've punished us enough about Iraq, right?"
Foreign Secretary, David Miliband ( ).
No, David, we haven't. Right?

Read All About It? Already Done So

Murdoch's titles are still rightly reviled on Merseyside. However, it's possible that some, at least, will sneak a glance at the front page of tomorrow's News of the World. It has the story everyone who follows Liverpool Football Club has been talking, texting & emailing about in the last 24 hours (if you don't know the story to which I refer, you'll have to wait, as the lawyers are still involved apparently).
It'll also be interesting to see how the Oldham Echo handles the story; its coverage of the local football clubs rarely veers from the adulatory, fawning & sychophantic. This is because it gets "access" in return, ie., an anodyne, cliched quote from one of the players or the manager which can be filed under the "stating the bloody obvious" category.
At least Murdoch's rag can't claim the story as an "exclusive", even though it'll slap that tired tag across the page. The story has been all over the web like a rash since yesterday afternoon.

An Irrelevant Issue

Given the change in the Lib Dems' poll ratings since Nick Clegg's performance in the first TV debate (& the paranoid reaction of Murdoch's minions as they barged into the Independent's offices the other day), it seems strange that one of their spokesmen should revisit a tired & dated topic.
Don Foster, Lib Dem spokesman for culture, media & sport, has made some approving noises about the return of terraces to football stadia ( ). This is despite the fact that all-seater stadia was a key feature of the Taylor Report in the wake of Hillsborough.
This subject is of little or no relevance at a time when the bigger issue of football club ownership is one that Foster & his colleagues should consider.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Board The Overland Odyssey

Andy Hunter's blogging about Liverpool FC's trek to Madrid ( ). Seems like the media are enjoying the leisurely journey across the continent more than the manager & players. Thanks to an Icelandic volcano, highly paid (& underachieving) footballers are experiencing the novel sensation of travelling by public transport.
It seems strange that the long journey began at Runcorn; I know that Lime Street can be soulless & crowded, but Runcorn?! Rafa, Stevie G, Carra, et al could have stopped off at the Yankee Bar on Lime Street for a pint before departure. Then again, knowing the Yankee Bar, maybe it wouldn't have been a good idea.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Dame Of Dereliction's Domain *

With the possible exception of Liverpool Wavertree, the city's constituencies are, as ever, devoid of debate & canvassers in this election campaign. It's hardly surprising, given the city's political make-up over the last 30 years or so; rock-solid Labour seats are taken for granted by both the parties & local media. After all, what's the point of speculating on the Tories' chances in Walton?
It's a trend of thought discerned earlier this month by the Electoral Reform Society in a sarcastic missive, as David Bartlett observed ( ).
However, in the wake of Thursday's televised election debate, the Guardian's Jon Henley decided to visit the Liverpool Riverside seat, hoping for some deviation from the apathy which has now become the seat's striking feature ( ).
Despite the sub editor's headline for Henley's piece ("Britain's most apathetic voters enlivened by challenge to Labour hegemony"), there was little enthusiasm for Nick Clegg or anyone else for that matter. Moreover, while Henley clearly attempted to sketch a representative image of the seat, there were a couple of howlers:
"Riverside is a mixed constituency. To the north is the city centre, and some of Liverpool's most famous sights: the Royal Liver building, the Albert docks. Billions have been pumped into a regenerated waterfront, a fine new arena, a conference and exhibition centre, a shopping mall, even a cruise terminal.
"In the south, there are well-to-do wards like leafy Aigburth. In the middle is Toxteth, scene of the 1981 riots and now a depressed and depressing place, whole swaths of its streets slated for demolition. Unemployment in the constituency stands at 12%, with pockets far higher; a 2007 study found half the children in Liverpool Riverside living in poverty."
Leaving aside Henley's use of the euphemism "regenerated" for the waterfront, the "fine new arena" which still regards stewarding as an optional extra at the concerts it hosts, & the cruise terminal (another time, another blog post altogether), his grasp of the constituency's layout is incomplete. Certainly, the seat is "mixed", something touched upon by John Harris when he visited the constituency ( ).
However, while Aigburth, one of the few middle class enclaves in the city, is in the south of the seat, Toxteth is not in "the middle". Nor is the city centre the northern-most point in the seat; Henley fails to mention that north of the city centre are the Vauxhall & Kirkdale areas, where the levels of deprivation match those of Toxteth. Apart from Aigburth & the city centre, the constituency stands as a sobering indictment of New Labour's inability & unwillingness to transform such areas over the last 13 years.
Perhaps the muted response that Henley encountered in relation to Nick Clegg can be explained by the record of Clegg's mates in the Town Hall; what greater disincentive to engage with local politics could there be than Warren Bradley's antics over the last few years. Prior to Bradley, Mike Storey & Trevor Jones' record similarly induced disillusion. When a locally elected representative such as Bradley can declare brazenly: "The [city] council is now seen more as a company than as a local authority, and we have conducted ourselves in a way that is appropriate to a major development" ( ), you realise why so many are apathetic on the streets of Toxteth & Kirkdale.

* Wayne's affectionate description for Riverside's Labour MP, Louise Ellman.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Marking The Anniversary

Unlike last year the world's media weren't at Anfield in significant numbers on today's Hillsborough anniversary. This year's memorial service was more low-key, less political in nature. The attendance, too, was down on last year. However, the attendance of 30,000 twelve months ago was in many ways a one-off.
Credit to the Guardian's Sachin Nakrani for a perceptive & measured appraisal of today's service ( ).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Potholes & Promises

Long before the freezing temperatures in January worsened the state of many roads the situation in Liverpool was pretty dire; as a cyclist I've often thought of Rice Lane, Great Homer Street & a few other thoroughfares as downright dangerous, if not potentially lethal for anybody on two wheels.
The cycling organisation CTC has compiled a list of UK local authorities' records on dealing with hazards caused by potholes ( ). It shows that Liverpool is ranked 145th out of 212 local councils, with just 24% of reported hazards dealt with.
It isn't just a matter of concern to those on two wheels, but to motorists generally & pedestrians too.
Next time Warren Bradley or any of his cohorts rhapsodise about their record, bear that statistic in mind.

Allegiance & Alienation

Recommended reading: Marina Hyde's look at the situation surrounding both Liverpool & Everton football clubs & how it has affected the Walton area ( ).

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Desecration Row

So you thought it couldn't be that bad. Maybe, you mused, all the objections to the building work at Mann Island have been alarmist. Well, here's the vision which will be foisted upon us. Grotesque is the first word that comes to mind. Wayne's already delivered an appropriate verdict on the monstrosities which will help further deface the waterfront ( ).
The bureaucrats at Unesco should discreetly check down the front of their trousers, for it seems they didn't have the balls to oppose what has happened on what is laughably described as a World Heritage Site.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

When Truth Isn't The Only Casualty Of War

Anguished hand-wringing has been the predominant response of most people to the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. However, there are moments when it should be replaced by a righteous rage & anger; Bush's war for oil in Iraq was notable for having a pliant mainstream media, eagerly lapping up the official line in return for the juvenile thrill of being "embedded". The culprits weren't just the usual suspects, but the BBC & New York Times, too.
Over the Easter weekend Wikileaks ( ) posted a video online showing a horrific incident in Baghdad in June 2007. Two Reuters journalists were spotted by a US Apache helicopter. Convinced that the cameras the two journalists wore around their shoulders were weapons, the order was given to kill. In the last few days the Pentagon has gone into full smear mode, accusing Wikileaks of being hostile to the US & implying that it's little better than a terrorist website. Such desperation is contemptible, yet understandable when you view the video; what you see in the video is a war crime, the US personnel delighting in their bloodlust & ignorance. Even when it transpires that there are two children badly injured, one US official remarks that the "terrorists" shouldn't have brought their children with them.
The video is, naturally, sickening. However, the anger it generates should be channelled at the US for sitting on it for so long while lying about its details: .

Monday, April 05, 2010

Adios, Rafa

A litany of promises, excuses & hard luck tales since the start of the season. Too many points dropped. It won't wash anymore. If Benfica win on Thursday (& I expect them to), watch the Kop turn on Rafa; the scales will drop like rain. The manager has long since lost the dressing room. Further proof of this came yesterday when Torres was substituted ( ).
Mid-table mediocrity beckons for Liverpool Football Club.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Four Wheels Good, Two Wheels Bad

The blogging postal worker Roy Mayall gave his own dry take on proposals by Royal Mail to end deliveries by bicycle on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages last Wednesday ( ).
Fossil fuels are energy's version of analogue TVs, peak oil yield is imminent & Obama made real investment in green technology a precondition for the US administration's bail-out of the auto industry. However, Royal Mail wishes to dispense with bicycles, viewing them as archaic, & replace them with more vans. Inspired thinking, wouldn't you say?
Roy Mayall's blog: .