Friday, July 30, 2010

Fighting Terrorism At The Echo Arena

Yes, I know the weather's lousy & you can't believe it's July. However, if the weather does improve over the weekend, you may wish to visit the waterfront. What could be nicer, carbuncles notwithstanding, than to gaze out over the river on a sunny afternoon? Well, a word of advice: should you venture there, don't take any decent photographic equipment with you when you're near the Oldham Echo Arena.
Why? Well, the security goons there might just suspect that you're doing a bit of reconnaissance for Al-Qaeda ( ).
Amateur Photographer's article relates how amateur snapper Mike Evans from Runcorn -- who is confined to a wheelchair due to severe osteoporosis of the spine, is accompanied by a carer wherever he goes & underwent chemotherapy for cancer last year -- was warned by security guards outside the venue on July 15th not to take photographs using his DSLR model; compact cameras & mobile phones were, he was informed, permitted. Failure to comply, the goons warned him, would result in the anti-terrorism police being called under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. This clause in the legislation has been used against photographers, both amateur & professional, in London over the last year.
Amateur Photographer magazine quotes a spokeswoman for the venue: "Apologies to the gentleman...We have no issues with amateur photographers taking non-commercial images of the exterior of the buildings."
Just as well this doesn't apply to the interior of the buildings, where concerts have been disfigured by violence & aggressive, drunken behaviour. We all recall the negligible level of security at the abandoned Morrisey gig ( & ).
The venue spokeswoman added the delightful & charming point that the Arena is on private land & should be contacted before photographs are taken of the building.
Amateur Photographer helpfully provides the venue's phone number: 0151-475 8888. So if you wish to let the venue know just how pleased you are to see the Arena taking such a tough stand against international terrorism, particularly against home-grown Al-Qaeda operatives masquerading as wheelchair-bound cancer sufferers, pick up that phone.
Oh, by the way, the incident hasn't been reported by a particular publication. Can you tell which one? Oh well, maybe Big Al Machray has misplaced the report. What do you reckon?

Losing His Balance

"Professor" Redmond's off on his holidays. Well, I suppose he's earned it. After all, playing the fawning sychophant for "Dave" Cameron must be tiring. It means that we're denied his pearls of wisdom in the Daily Ghost for a few weeks. However, there's no need to fret, David Bartlett has stepped in to fill the void, as he informs us on his, erm, blog ( ).
The result? A seamless continuation of the exceptional prose & insight which normally graces that column.
Bartlett looks at the Liverpool Waters debacle & tries to maintain a distinctly neutral stance on the issue (the piece, after all, is titled, "Walking the World Heritage Site tight rope"). Alas, Bartlett's high wire act comes to grief when, in attempting not to upset Peel Holdings, he goes so far as to plug its case:
"Peel, one of the biggest landowners in the North West, is seen by many as the great hope for regenerating north Liverpool -- long identified as not having benefited as much as it could or should have from the city's wider renaissance."
So Peel is "seen by many" as the catalyst for north Liverpool's regeneration, is it? If "by many", Bartlett is referring to a small clump of self-important, self-appointed experts around the vicinity of Oldham Hall Street, I suppose that's fair comment. It is, however, a distortion of the reality. The risible notion that Kirkdale, Walton & other blighted areas of the north end can be transformed by a wave of Peel's magic wand should be shoved off Bartlett's tight rope immediately. In addition, "the city's wider renaissance" is a phenomenon largely confined to the city centre itself; the leafier parts of the city's south end have always been more affluent than the north end.
As Redmond recovers from his self-promoting exertions, he can be pleased to know that Bartlett's high wire act is morphing into a clown routine.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Last Stand Against Consumer Culture

Seven Streets has an interesting piece on the Last Stand festival which takes place in Crosby Village this Saturday ( ) in protest against the proposed Sainsbury's store in the area. It will be three times the size of the current store. Seven Streets explains:
"The festival stems from the ABetterCrosby group, which wants Sainsbury's to develop the Village more sympathetically, pointing to two Art Deco buildings it says will be demolished to make way for the new store."
Many in Liverpool will aware of Tesco's influence in planning decisions across the city, so there's a distinct sense of deja-vu here.
The Crosby group has its own website which has been up & running since April of this year ( ).
As the group remark on their website, the Crosby Herald was keen to present Sainsbury's plans in the best possible light earlier this month ( ).
Not surprising when you consider that the Herald is part of the Trinity Smoking Mirrors group.

When The Cuts Hit Home

A cynical view of yesterday's delegation from Liverpool to Westminster which lobbied the Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove over the local impact of the ConDem cuts in the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) programme would be that it's designed to look good in the local press. As far as effective lobbying is concerned, it's a non-starter; the government is deaf to the pleas of local authorities. Now if you were a bank or an oil firm, well, that might be different.
Among yesterday's delegation was Lib Dem councillor for Cressington ward, Paula Keaveney. Cllr Keaveney has blogged about it, downplaying the fact that her own party is just as enthusiastic about the bleeding stumps approach as the Tories ( ).
Indeed, so keen is Cllr Keaveney to put the best possible gloss on a grim situation that she trills:
"There are two new academies --one in South Liverpool-- waiting for news about their building funding situation. They are in a slightly different situation as they weren't included in the earlier BSF announcement. The minister said we should hear about this very soon. So watch this space."
Yes, watch this space, indeed. It'll be interesting to see if Cllr Keaveney blogs in response to the likely thumbs-down message from the education department over the two academies.
Cllr Keaveney unsuccessfully stood against Warren "War Zones" Bradley for the Fib Dem leadership after the local elections. Like Bradley, she, too, is aware that the ConDem coalition spells disaster for the local party ( ).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Less Of The Gimmicks, Joe

This blog was prepared to grant Joe Anderson his honeymoon period after taking the reins from Warren "War Zones" Bradley. The Fib Dem leader, whose tenure did for Liverpool what BP did for clean beaches, got his marching orders last May & it was hoped by many that a change of leadership meant a change of culture & a change of approach. However, reading this press release from the city council ( ), the most charitable spin you could put on it is that muddled thinking is at work on Dale Street.
After all, no one can claim ignorance of the changed situation facing local authorities in the UK since the election ( ). Yet the council release inquires ominously, "Do you know any land or premises in Liverpool that may be suitable for development or redevelopment?"
Well, yes, I do, since you ask. There's a few monstrosities in the vicinity of the Three Graces which certainly should be redeveloped...with a wrecking ball.
If the council is thinking of areas in the city where genuine, sustainable development is urgently needed, we can all think of at least a few places off the top of our heads. More to the point, we also know they are not in the city centre. However, the notion that the council wants the people of the city to volunteer such information is downright bizarre; are the city fathers so unaware of what should be priority areas in Liverpool?
Moreover, the term "(re)development" is, of course, often employed as a euphemism for retrograde planning decisions (& Liverpool is no stranger to those over the last five or six decades).
The charitable view that muddled thinking prevails could be advanced when you consider that as a consequence of the ConDem cuts, there's as much chance of Whitehall being generous with local government as there is of Sharon Green owning up over her Facebook page. The swingeing cuts imposed by Whitehall provide the context for local government over the forseeable future. To infer otherwise is disingenuous, to say the least.
Given that reality, it would be welcome for Joe Anderson to discourage juvenile scribblers in the council's PR department from asking the people of Liverpool to do what should be the council's job. Indeed, the council release all but gives the game away about the reality facing the city as the cuts bite when it mumbles apologetically at the end of the piece, "Putting a site forward does not guarantee that the council will allocate it or support its development in the future."
Perhaps it's a local manifestation of the Big Society, you know, the idea that we can all volunteer to do basic services, as Professor Redmond's mate "Dave" Cameron urged last week.
It may seem paradoxical to some, but at a time of impending cuts, the scale of which will make the 80s look like an age of enlightenment & generosity, openness & transparency is demanded of the city council leadership. Secretive & unattributable meetings with those who have already had a malign effect on the entire city ( ) merely prolong the malaise afflicting local & national politics.
What do you say, Joe?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

On Song

During my stay in London last week, I came across this crude, but accurate & effective ditty about London mayor Boris Johnson: .
After all, let's not forget his approval of comments made by Simon Heffer in a Spectator editorial about Liverpool in the wake of Ken Bigley's murder.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What Would Bobby Grant Say?

"Dave" Cameron's new best mate Professor Redmond has been moved to pen what is by his standards a semi-coherent missive via the good offices of Oldham Hall Street ( ).
Calling himself "a natural red" (in the political rather than footballing sense), Redmond claims that, contrary to a line in Cameron's speech in Liverpool on Monday, he doesn't wish "to run the museums with volunteers."
However, he contradicts himself just a couple of short paragraphs further on when he muses:
"Could, perhaps, our volunteers help extend our existing opening hours, not cut them back, nor replace staff and, if so, perhaps offer a model for other public bodies to also extend, not reduce their services?"
Could, perhaps, someone volunteer to approach Redmond & point out that such "a model" IS tantamount to "running the museums with volunteers"?
Moreover, as Redmond knows all too well, but won't admit, the ConDem cuts mean that both opening hours & staff will be cut across the board; Redmond is guilty of intellectual dishonesty.
Incidentally, Redmond really should acquaint himself with trade union history if he thinks that "the Trade Union movement itself was founded on volunteers" & continues to rely upon them. Such a reading of history is, at best, partial &, at worst, misleading.
Meanwhile, as Redmond establishes himself as Cameron's Merseyside representative (even though he doesn't live in the region), another local effect of the ConDem cuts in the Department of Transport has been signalled with the impending cancellation of the second Mersey crossing & the electrification of the Liverpool to Manchester rail link ( ).
Perhaps we could arrange an army of volunteers to ensure both projects go ahead. What do you think, Phil?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wanted: A Budding Bigot

Some things defy satire. So it is with Roy Greenslade's observation that The Sun is looking for a new Kelvin MacKenzie ( ).
Yes, Murdoch's minions are on the look-out for someone who can be a natural successor to the creature who's done for journalism what King Herod did for neo-natal care. So if you happen to know an ignorant, semi-literate, obnoxious waste of space who spreads lies about tragedies, fosters xenophobia & likes the sound of his own voice, you know what to do.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Last Stand

Reluctant to talk &, understandably, wary of individuals arriving on the scene to ask questions, the occupants of the Peace Camp in Parliament Square were monosyllabic in their answers to my queries on Saturday evening. London mayor Boris Johnson has now obtained a court order, allowing the Metropolitan Police to clear the site any day now. Though the points they make about Iraq & Afghanistan are prettty much unarguable, they've done themselves little favours with some aspects of their stay. On Saturday the camp looked a little forlorn & bedraggled, as those surviving members of the camp, set up after an anti-war demo in May, shared food with just a handful of Central London's homeless population.

A Tale Of Two Cities

As circumstances would have it, "Dave" Cameron's Big Society speech in Liverpool ( & ) coincided with a short city break for me in London (just a tube station away from Notting Hill, in fact). However, I was amused to see Professor Redmond escort "Dave" & arch-Thatcherite Eric Pickles for the benefit of the cameras.
Yes, the Big Society, indeed. As someone remarked to me in the Westminster Arms pub earlier, that phrase may well go the way of Back To Basics, as even the Daily Mail readers slowly realise that the cuts will hit them, too. The irony of a Tory Prime Minister lecturing people on the need to do more for themselves & not rely on the state in a city like Liverpool is so rich as to be obscene.
Cameron's now on his way to Washington where Obama might give him, ooh, 20 minutes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Compare & Contrast

The good & the bad of journalism have been on display this week. The good came this evening on Channel 4 News when its irrepresible & forensic anchor Jon Snow handled millionaire Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, caught fiddling his expenses, magisterially ( ).
Goldsmith, said to be worth a handy £20m, shamelessly tried to evade the evidence against him, claiming he had been stitched up & showed his true class by warning Snow, "You want to watch it."
Well, I was watching it & it was worthy of Paxman at his best.
The bad has been provided by Trinity Smoking Mirrors (who else?!) as they sat on the story about the farce at NML. Wayne's been ahead of them all week with the story ( ).
David Fleming's rank mismanagement & ineptitude at one of the blots on the Liverpool waterfront has caused some red faces on Oldham Hall Street. However, if you only read the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo, you'd be largely oblivious to the considerable charge sheet against Fleming.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Before The Storm Breaks

That well-worn phrase, the calm before the storm inevitably comes to mind with the publication of the latest unemployment figures ( ).
Overall, the figure is down. However, the caveat to contemplate is that there has been a growth in part-time jobs at the expense of full-time employment. It is also necessary to point out that the ConDem cuts haven't yet had time to be reflected in any statistics. Factor those in to subsequent jobless figures & you'll begin to see exponential rises in unemployment. The Guardian piece has a breakdown for each parliamentary constituency.

17.30 UPDATE: By way of clarification, I should have pointed out that these were the benefit claimant figures, not the unemployment figures, per se.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Delivering The Home Truths About Tom & George

James McKenna's stirring address at the Spirit of Shankly rally outside St George's Hall last Sunday is now on the SoS website: .
It is worth noting, however, that James' bluntly-expressed opinion of Chris Bascombe, ex-Liverpool FC reporter on Oldham Hall Street & now hired hack for Murdoch's News of the World, didn't make the final edit. Maybe the lawyers put in a phone call. That said, James was spot-on.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Seven Streets Refuses To Be Shanghaied

About a month ago David Bartlett was belatedly alerted to the Seven Streets website & remarked how impressed he was with it ( ).
Alas, David may now rue those words, as Seven Streets has followed the good Professor's lead ( ) & taken a sensibly dispassionate & sceptical look at the city's, erm, presence at the Shanghai Expo ( ).
Seven Streets' piece couldn't be further away from the mindless cheerleading the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo have done for this waste of money.

Still Got Nick's Phone Number, Warren?

As the ConDem cuts start to bite locally ( ), it's worth recalling the words of Warren "War Zones" Bradley just two months ago. Responding to concerns that the Fib Dems were going to be complicit in the axe-swinging assault on the public sector, Bradley claimed that Nick Clegg had assured him that Liverpool would be spared the sort of cuts which were the hallmark of the Thatcher years. For good measure, Bradley declared, "Social justice that Liberal Democrats believe in will be a golden vein that runs through the coalition government." ( ).
If Bradley can take a moment out of his busy schedule, & inventing excuses for Sharon Green's despicable Facebook "joke", he might like to explain to parents in the city how social justice fits in to the swingeing cuts which will affect their children's education.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Spirit Of Shankly Rally

Despite the sniping & jeers, particularly from those who are in no position to pontificate, yesterday's Spirit of Shankly ( ) rally against the ruinous reign of Hicks & Gillett ( ) has to be judged a success by any criterion. A finely-balanced event, the droll one-liners from John Bishop adding to the quips from MC Neil Fitzmaurice injected typical Scouse humour into the proceedings. The musical guests couldn't be faulted, a pugnacious Pete Wylie & an amiable John "bad hair day" Power perhaps the stand-out acts.
All, however, were trumped by the appearance of Karen Gill, Bill Shankly's granddaughter. She waited a few good minutes to speak as the crowd on St George's Plateau repeatedly sang her grandfather's name.
Any qualms about the day? Well, perhaps there were a couple of instances where the anger voiced at the lying duo was couched in terms that could have been construed as anti-American. That said, I witnessed no attempts to set the Stars & Stripes ablaze, something predicted by those content to carp & sneer from the sidelines. The event was impressively handled, organised & stewarded. The address by senior Spirit of Shankly spokesman James McKenna was perfectly judged; short, punchy points about the mess Hicks & Gillett now preside over were accompanied by a recognition that SoS' message should go beyond the ownership issue, stressing the need to regenerate the entire Anfield area. He also acknowledged the mistakes SoS made in the past which hostile media elements eagerly seized upon. Candour & transparency are just as important as organisation & planning.
Spirit of Shankly's campaign took a major step forward yesterday. Liverpool FC's chief executive Christian Purslow, who has derisively called SoS "sons of strikers", needs to recognise that.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Team Talk Is Dead

This is how every football team should prepare for a game: .
However, I can't see Roy Hodgson introducing it to the Anfield dressing room next season.