Monday, December 31, 2012

Death Of A Liar

Ring out the old, ring in the new. It's a phrase that will resonate with many tonight. It also has an extra resonance in the case of Irvine Patnick, whose death was announced yesterday ( ).
Patnick was, of course, the source for the Sun's infamous front page a few days after Hillsborough; he was the willing conduit for South Yorkshire Police's campaign of lies & smears. Patnick happily supplied Murdoch's rag with the allegations that, inter alia, the fans pickpocketed the bodies around them, that the fans drunkenly & aggressively stormed the gates to the Leppings Lane terrace (a myth repeated by Bernard Ingham in his "tanked-up mob" quote to the press less than 24 hours later), that the fans urinated on the bodies of their fellow supporters, & that first aid staff were attacked when they attempted to help.
This blog named Patnick almost exactly six years ago ( ). I continued to cite him periodically over the next few years, knowing that Patnick couldn't sue for libel because it was, to coin a phrase, The Truth. However, his passing, welcome though it is to many, now means, regrettably, that he won't appear in court on a charge of perverting the course of justice. 
That tiresome sentiment about not speaking ill of the dead was wheeled out by some on Twitter last night, notably Harry Cole ( ), contributing editor of the Spectator --a magazine which has always had such good things to say about Merseyside-- & Donal Blaney ( ), an occasional scribbler for the Daily Mail's curiously-titled Right Minds blog &, in the words of Iain Dale, "The closest thing we have in Britain to a Fox News commentator". Sometimes you really are damned by your own allies, aren't you?
If it really is indecent to criticise & castigate those no longer able to speak for themselves, it's a convention that Patnick himself patently ignored. Patnick was a liar & a coward of the first order. Let that be his epitaph.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Joe Talks The Talk, But Will He Walk The Walk?

Lenin isn't much quoted these days (well, it was a while back & his utterances pertained to a different country & century), but he did have what would now be viewed as a pithy soundbite for those who complain about poverty & deprivation, yet won't do anything to challenge the system that creates it: labour lieutenants of capital.
It's a phrase that came to mind when Joe "Tea & Sympathy" Anderson wrote to David Cameron last week, complaining about the effect of the ConDem cuts on cities like Liverpool ( ):
"Mr Anderson said he feared the council would not be able to help vulnerable and desperate people in 'some of the most deprived communities, not just in Liverpool, but the country'.
"He wrote: 'I believe community cohesion is being seriously threatened by the lack of funding to our city and others.'
"Mr Anderson added: 'I believe that the so-called "summer of discontent" will happen again if we do not address this issue.' "
Strong stuff, eh? So what is Joe prepared to do about the cuts that, as he rightly says, will cause so much damage to the city? Well, he'll call a "cuts summit" ( ).
The LC article reports that Anderson & James Jones will invite the leaders of the councils representing Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle & Sheffield to to the meeting at the Arena & Convention Centre on January 18th, at which they'll "demand changes to what they say is the Government's unfair distribution of local authority funding."
Certainly, the need to highlight the issue is unarguable. Liverpool faces a 52% funding cut between now & 2017/18.
However, awareness of the situation is, or should be just the starting point. Anderson, unfortunately, seems not to realise this:
" 'We are demanding the Government listen and take notice of the dire situation faced by local authorities, and we will be highlighting how their policies are jeopardising the services we provide.' "
All very well, But what if Cameron & Co. take time out from their busy schedules, smile pityingly at this civic cri-de-coeur & continue apace with the cuts? What then?
Well, the answer is nothing. Joe "Tea & Sympathy" Anderson, along with the rest of the current Labour Party would never countenance a strategy of disobedience or Militant illegality.
That unwillingness to go down the road of rebellion is the real issue here, not Anderson's doubtful claim that the civil disturbances of August 2011 will be repeated (apart from a handful of scally-orchestrated incidents, mainly around Smithdown Road, Liverpool didn't burn that summer; Toxteth '81 it wasn't).
So I'm afraid it will be a case of cometh the hour, cometh the cuts, administered by a whimpering Joe & Co.
Of course, it doesn't have to be that way, not when the disdain & hostility of the ConDem cutters is evident to all ( & when, moreover, the class warfare of the cuts is being explained to a US audience ( ).
The BBC report on Anderson's letter to Cameron was accompanied by a comment from the BBC's North West political editor Arif Ansari, who observed:
"David Cameron did want strong, outspoken city mayors. He has found one in Joe Anderson."
A "strong, outspoken" city mayor wouldn't complain about the cuts, yet meekly implement them. However, that is precisely what Joe "Tea & Sympathy" Anderson will do.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Song For Justice

It probably won't have escaped your attention that a version of The Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" has been recorded by the Justice Collective to raise funds for the families of the 96 in their campaign for justice. The single is officially released on December 17th, but ban be pre-ordered on iTunes ( ) & Amazon ( ).
Here's the video: .

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Green Property's Shabby Treatment Of A Building & Its Tenants

The cavalier disregard for one of Liverpool's most distinctive & elegant buildings, India Buildings by its owners Green Property group has sadly continued since I commented on the matter a few months ago ( ).
The owners stupidly (& illegally) removed six bronze plaques from the building's exterior last month ( ). According to the Post's report, the building's tenants were informed that "in the interim the public will soon be denied access from the Brunswick [Street] entrance."
Green Property's intention to deny access to the public in this way has become something of an embarrassing farce for them; contradiction has become the watch-word for their approach. You have to wonder about the expertise & judgment of their PR advisers Paver Smith ( ), an outfit which proudly declares "managing reputations" to be its forte on its home page. 
There is controversy concerning Green Property's wish to deny public access through the arcade. Its thoroughfare was built on what used to be Chorley Street & legal opinion seems to suggest that permission from Liverpool City Council would be sought for such a move.
Perhaps realising that their position is very much open to question, Green Property performed a volte-face on the plaques, restoring them to the building's exterior ( ). However, the damage caused by the plaques' removal in the first place was significant ( ).
Green Property are seemingly unconcerned about the fact that people's livelihoods are at stake on this issue. Instead, mixed messages have been issued from the owners, perhaps reflecting a level of pathetic incompetence or internal dissent within the group ( :
"Green Property manager Gill Thom wrote to shop tenants saying two retail experts reviewed the arcade and there was no positive feed back on the arcade's future.
"She wrote : 'We were advised the space would be better used as management offices to support the building as staff would be more accessible. We will contact tenants in due course.' 
"But Green Property director Mike Tapp said: 'There are no plans to close the Brunswick Street entrance or public access to the arcade.
" 'We are committed to spending capital money for modernisation and changes. It is a struggle to get retailers into Holt's Arcade because it is not a destination, so we want to put building management offices there as a stop-gap.' "
Judging by their hitherto lamentable actions, one has to take their claim that such a move is "stop-gap" with a pinch of salt. Additionally, it could be argued that the reduced footfall in the arcade is attributable to, among other factors, an unwillingness or inability of Green Property to properly project to a local audience the asset they own; Liverpool One's emphasis on tacky consumer culture is absurdly cited by some as a factor. It isn't. What the arcade has to offer is qualitatively superior to Grosvenorpool's tawdry fare ( ).
A sit-in by the building's tenants is planned at 1.30 tomorrow afternoon. If you're in the vicinity, showing your support for them would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, December 03, 2012

One City, Different Worlds

Recommended viewing while it's still available on the BBC iPlayer: a BBC 4 documentary which shows how "The American Dream" is little more than a mirage for those in areas like New York's Bronx district while a select coterie just a few miles south on Manhattan's Upper East Side entrench their privileged positions:  .

Friday, November 30, 2012

Rodent Rushes To Save Tabloids' Sinking Ships

The squawks of indignation from the tabloids (& the Telegraph) over Leveson's recommendations were entirely predictable; never mind that his report paid worryingly scant attention to online publishing ( ).
Rushing to rubbish Leveson were the usual suspects, those who think that hacking the mobile phone of a dead schoolgirl is no more than an unfortunate mistake, & that "privacy is for paedos" ( ).
Scuttling out of the sewer to augment the cause of mendacity & smears is a rodent who has had ample cause to lie low in his subterranean habitat over the last few months, Kelvin MacKenzie. Not so fresh from his doorstepping by Channel 4 News' Alex Thomson ( ), the well-known liar appeared on LBC Radio in London to talk about Leveson &, yes, Hillsborough ( ).
Being MacKenzie, he doesn't do remorse or contrition. He'll do embarrassment, for sure, as was so memorably evident when Thomson accosted him. However, the word "apology" is absent from the liar's lexicon. Moreover, MacKenzie feels that, in his own warped way, he is "a victim of this", adding that he fell for the smear story from South Yorkshire Police "hook, line and sinker". Many may well feel that the nautical phrase is apposite in that a watery fate would be the right one for a creature described by Trevor Hicks as "a low-life".
Be that as it may, MacKenzie's words of bluster & self-pity (to coin a phrase) only serve to entrench the image of him as someone who would knock women & children out of the way in the rush for the lifeboats as the ship went down:
"[MacKenzie] insisted he took 23 years to apologise as he didn't have the 'vaguest idea' that 'the whole thing was a parcel of rubbish' until the Hillsborough Independent inquiry report found there was no evidence to support the allegations."
Should we believe him? I do. I also believe that the moon is made of cheese & that Rupert Murdoch is a kindly old soul who sincerely believes in The Truth.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nailing The Hillsborough Lies

Recommended reading: Cath Bore's account of the "Speaking Truth To Power" event at St George's Hall just over a week ago: ).

Future Media Trends

With exquisite timing, the Leveson Report was issued just a couple of hours after the latest court appearances by Rebekah Brooks & Andy Coulson. Intriguing as it is to pore over the minutiae of the report as well as its main findings, Emily Bell displays clever counterintuition in a Guardian piece ( ).
Formerly of the Guardian & Observer, Bell, who is now based in the US, observes:
"The free press of the 21st century consists of the distributed social platforms, the WordPress blogging software and the 'dark social' matter of the hidden web, as much as it is the venerable institutions that have local accountability to whatever regulator the UK government should seek to appoint.
"In her evidence to Leveson, Claire Enders -- a well-respected media analyst -- repeated what is probably a common perception, that important journalism needs to be done by existing institutions, as the web has produced nothing which would match the scale and projection of legacy organisations. From a distant perch in the US, where Pulitzer prizes now go to recent web entities such as Huffington Post and ProPublica, this assertion already seems out of date."
For all of today's (justified) broadcast coverage of Leveson, the trend identified by Bell is the one to track for the future. 

Gustafson's Support For Suspected Criminal

Carol Gustafson may convince herself that her continued vow of odious omerta regarding her support for Bettison's appointment as Merseyside Police Chief Constable in 1998 will ensure that the issue goes away. It won't. Her arrogant refusal to account for her actions has already cast a stain on Bootle Labour Party.
Bettison's tainted character has been rightly scrutinised & exposed over the Hillsborough cover-up. However, the Yorkshire Evening Post today runs a story which raises further questions about the man's history ( ).

Monday, November 19, 2012


Watching an all-too rare home victory from a distance of three-and-a-half thousand miles was a welcome pleasure during my time in Manhattan. That the win was watched in the Liverpool Supporters Bar, located in the East Village ( ), made it all the better.
Credit, too, to the owners, staff & regulars for helping out with the relief effort in the local neighborhood after Hurricane Sandy (the East Village was flooded) as well as raising funds for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

When A Story Doesn't Fit The Media's Narrative

One striking thing about the US media is its chronic aversion to open criticism of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians. There are honourable exceptions, to be fair. The Huffington Post departs from the collective narrative. Supposedly "liberal" papers such as the New York Times, however, are deeply reluctant to condemn Israeli acts of war, such as the latest vile outrages in Gaza. Taking their cue from an Obama administration which pulls its punches over Israel ( ), the networks & printed media have read from the same hymn sheet.
It was therefore striking to see a large & vocal demonstration against Israel's actions today here in New York. Situated at 7th & W42nd, near Times Square, the crowd was addressed by a labor activist & an organiser of Occupy Oakland as well as Palestinian & Muslim American figures. A small counter demonstration was held just a block away by a motley collection of individuals waving Israeli flags. Two of their number attempted to rush the main demo, taunting the crowd whilst waving the Israeli emblem. The NYPD, out in force, wasted no time in arresting them.
Thus far, there has been no mention of this story in the mainstream US media, despite the presence of at least one TV camera crew. One wonders if this collective omerta would apply if it had been a small band of Palestinian figures attempting to rush a large pro-Israel rally.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Manhattan Moment

Arrived in New York last night for a short vacation. Tired & exhausted after a queue of Biblical proportions at JFK Customs & Immigration (largely due to the Thanksgiving holiday), I checked into my hotel & then found a pizza place off  Broadway. The Beatles' version of "Money" was playing on the radio as I walked in.
The guy behind the counter smiled & said to me, "Great band, huh?"
His eyes widened when I told him that I was from their home town. What his response lacked in eloquence it made up for in enthusiasm.
"No shit, man!"

Friday, November 09, 2012

Fox Flummoxed

Recommended viewing: Jon Stewart's skewering of Fox News' meltdown on US Election Night: .

Oldham Echo Voices A City's "Burning Question"

Obama's re-election this week has, of course, been the dominant story. The failure of Romney & his rabid allies of Fox News & the Tea Party to unseat him has been met with an almost audible sigh of relief around the globe. Now that the election's over, the Oldham Echo has a suggestion for the Commander-in-Chief: visit Liverpool ( ).
Neil MacDonald's puerile piece begins memorably:
"US President Barack Obama was re-elected through the night, but despite the many challenges facing him in the next four years, the burning question on everyone's lips is when will he visit Liverpool?"
Yes, indeed, when will he pay such an important trip here? It's a question that has been leading all the news bulletins on CNN, the BBC, ABC, NBC, CBS & even Fox News (the network's anchors referring to "Marxist Merseyside"). Moreover, it's such a "burning question on everyone's lips" that possible & planned trips to South East Asia, the Middle East & Russia may have to be rescheduled to accommodate Obama's visit to Liverpool. The White House is expected to make an announcement in the next few days, I understand.
The Echo draws up five reasons why Obama (or POTUS, as it refers to him, nicking a piece of jargon from The West Wing) should pay the city a visit: 1. "One of America's founding fathers was born in Liverpool." Fair enough, I suppose, but sufficient reason to make a visit? 2. The International Slavery Museum. By all means, draw attention to the way in which the Slave Trade enriched the city's merchants, but is that a unique selling point? 3. The Fabs. Ah yes, it wouldn't be a proper Echo piece without a gratuitous reference to John, Paul, George & erm, whatisname from Thomas the Tank Engine, would it? 4. The Port of Liverpool. Mildly interesting to Americans, perhaps, but a compelling reason for Obama to visit? 5. "Loads more reasons". Yes, MacDonald really did write that. To be fair, he does mention a few more connections, however tenuous, between the city & the US. The mental image, however, is of a hack desperately grasping at the slightest link for the purposes of his piece.
It's an image that remains in the mind when MacDonald concludes:
"Do you know any more links between Liverpool and America, or reasons why President Obama should visit the city? Let us know in the comments below."
Hear that sound? It's the sound of wooden fragments which formed the base of the barrel being scraped frenziedly.
We've been here before, of course. Not long after Obama's 2008 victory the Echo was asking the same question ( ) & repeated it a month later ( ) when both the city council & Oldham Hall Street had high hopes of an "imminent" visit.
It would be interesting for Obama to contrast his own economic stimulus package with the savage cuts that Joe "Tea & Sympathy" Anderson is making on behalf of the ConDem government, I suppose. Perhaps that thought has crossed Mayor Joe's mind, too.
Anyway, we hope the invitation's been issued. We wait with baited breath.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Satire's Sharp Blade Becomes Blunt

Satirising the Tories has produced many a memorable moment over the last thirty-odd years. However, Nadine Dorries' decision to temporarily abandon her full-time job as an MP for a reality TV show ( ) surely trumps the best efforts of comedians & commentators. Why devise a comic burlesque when your target is beyond parody itself?
That doesn't stop the Guardian's Michael White from having a go with a mildly amusing piece which presents a future political landscape changed by Dorries' success on the show ( ). And why not, you may ask. After all, Dorries is rapidly turning into the UK's answer to Sarah Palin.
Alas, White's mockery is marred by the sort of gratuitous jibe which comes straight from The Sun school of lying & libel:
"What had clinched it for Nad and turned her into a national heroine both in Australia and back home was the snake-eating bit of the contest. You don't get fazed by a bloody python if you've grown up among Liverpool fans in Anfield. Nad had strangled hers and fried a few python steaks for the TV crew. It tasted fine with some tomato sauce and a lager."
Those who work in the Westminster bubble are almost always divorced from the reality of life for those outside it. It seems like White is a case in point.
Enjoy your G&T in the Strangers' Bar, Michael.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Beeb To Rerun Liar's Appearance

The BBC's current compulsion to exacerbate matters when given the opportunity to exonerate itself continues. It emerged this week that tonight's episode of Would I Lie To You? featuring Kelvin MacKenzie is a repeat. The programme was first transmitted in 2009. Given what has long been known about MacKenzie, & clearly reiterated via the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, you would think that the BBC will shelve that particular repeat & air another one, wouldn't you? Well, they won't.
Seven Streets highlights the state of corporate dysfunction at the corporation ( ):
" SevenStreets scribe, Johnny Meadowcroft complained -- rightly in our opinion -- that it was disrespectful and wholly inappropriate to air the programme, while proceedings were continuing, and old wounds are still raw.
" 'We understand you're unhappy Kelvin MacKenzie will be on the programme as you feel he's an inappropriate choice of guest.
" 'This is a repeat of an episode first broadcast when Kelvin MacKenzie appeared as one of the panellists. We have taken extra care to check that there are no references to Hillsborough during the programme or to the Sun's reporting or the city of Liverpool in the light of the recent Hillsborough report.
" 'We'd also like to assure you we've registered your complaint on our audience log.' "
So the BBC is happy to repeat a programme which features an individual who participated in the largest cover-up in British legal history. Moreover, the corporation seems to think that the absence of any references to Hillsborough makes MacKenzie's appearance acceptable. Additionally, it is unconcerned that MacKenzie's actions may go before the Director of Public Prosecutions at a future stage.
Let's remind ourselves of the liar's cowardice when faced with the sort of investigative TV journalism which was once the BBC's preserve ( ).
While we're on the subject of lies ( & its eager practitioners), it was grimly amusing to see Roy Greenslade round on a tweet from Rupert Murdoch a couple of weeks back in which the discredited mogul sneeringly referred to phone-hacking victims as "scumbags" ( ). Greenslade addressed Murdoch directly in the final few paragraphs of a post on his blog ( ):
"Well, humble man, I guess it takes one to know one. Good luck with the News Corp AGM when scumbag investors ask pertinent questions about your company and then vote against you and your board.
"Not that it will unseat you, of course. You have the voting shares tied up. It's great to live in a free market when it's tilted in one's favour, isn't it?
"But this kind of insult could yet rebound. We're all scumbags now. So I call on all the scumbags of the world -- celebrities, readers, movie-watchers, satellite TV payers, investors, journalists -- to unite and throw off the shackles of the great media mogul. Boycott all that he owns."
Stirring stuff, to be sure, & no one of sound mind would demur from Greenslade's sentiments. However, it's a pity that Greenslade didn't take a similarly astringent view of Murdoch's surviving UK rag the day after the publication of the report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel ( ). Isn't it? 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Liar Receives Licence Payers' Money

A good deal of the criticism surrounding the BBC over the Savile affair is warranted. Augmenting that criticism, however, is opportunistic attack from those who have always been opposed to the corporation's presence over the airwaves. An obvious source of hostility is the Murdoch empire. It's therefore crass & grotesque for the BBC to have the well-known Murdoch lackey & proven liar Kelvin MacKenzie as one of the guests on the BBC TV show Would I Lie To You?, to be transmitted on Friday evening ( ).
Presumably, some genius at the Beeb thought having MacKenzie on a programme whose title draws attention to his mendacity would be oh so clever. One can only assume that the Savile affair has denuded those responsible for MacKenzie's appearance of all critical & ethical faculties. Perhaps the same people will invite Gary Glitter along to this year's Children In Need show.
There is, sadly, the probability that the show has already been recorded. However, you can still let the BBC know your views about MacKenzie's appearance & fee (understood to be about £1000) by visiting this site: .  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Multi Millionaire's Meltdown

The lamentable record of A4e has been well documented elsewhere. Tonight's Channel 4 News had some fresh information on the organisation chosen by the ConDems to force unemployed people into applying for wholly unsuitable vacancies. There followed a live studio exchange (let's not dignify it with the word interview) between Krishnan Guru Murthy & A4e's former boss Emma Harrison. What ensued came straight from The Thick Of It & warranted the term car crash TV. Sit back & enjoy, this is a YouTube moment: .

Time For Answers From Gustafson

Now that Norman Bettison has resigned as West Yorkshire Chief Constable with immediate effect, as opposed to March of next year, the time of his own choosing ( ), it's as good a time as any to look again at the role played by Cllr Carol Gustafson as chairwoman of Merseyside Police Authority when Bettison was appointed as the force's Chief Constable in 1998. Gustafson has flatly refused to discuss or account for her decision to support Bettison, despite what was then suspected of his role in the Hillsborough cover-up ( ).
It is understood that a growing number of Gustafson's Labour colleagues on Sefton Council view her as a potential electoral liability & that only her resignation as a councillor will lance the boil. Bootle's Labour MP, Joe Benton, has refused to comment on Gustafson's position, a stance which may well jar with many of his constituents. He can be contacted on 0151 933 8432.
Just a reminder of Gustafson's contact details: phone no. : 0151 928 6130. 
email: .

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another Word

Former readers of the now-defunct Word Music Magazine have teamed up with the magazine's contributors to set up a website dedicated to continuing the magazine's spirit & tradition of irreverence & eclecticism called The Afterword ( ).
As with the sadly-missed magazine, it's well worth perusing.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bettison's Role In Hillsborough Smear Campaign To Be Investigated

Norman Bettison may have believed that taking early retirement from South Yorkshire Police would provide immunity from any possible criminal investigation into his role in the Hillsborough cover-up. Today's statements by the Director of Public Prosecutions & the Independent Police Complaints Commission will have disabused him of that notion ( ).
The words of the IPCC's Deborah Glass will concentrate Bettison's mind:
"We are going to be launching an independent investigation into those new matters. We've carried out a review of the report and begun looking at the 450,000 pages of underlying evidence. We have identified a large number of potential criminal and misconduct offences".
Just in case Bettison is slow to absorb the ramifications of those words, Glass helpfully elaborates:
"A large number of current and former officers will be under investigation, including Sir Norman Bettison". 
That Bettison is still very much under scrutiny will be welcome to the families of the 96. Scrutiny of the decision by Carol Gustafson to support Bettison's appointment as Merseyside Police Chief Constable in 1998 will also be intensified. The Labour councillor for Bootle's Derby Ward has caused anxiety within the ruling Labour group on Sefton Council; one councillor has privately conceded that Gustafson's stance could cost the party a couple of Bootle seats, a hitherto unthinkable notion. Many within the Bootle Constituency Labour Party are also livid that Gustafson's emphatic refusal to even discuss the issue has turned what may have been an entirely private matter into a political one; there are uncorroborated, though persistent, rumours that Gustafson's relationship with Bettison was more than professional & platonic.
Whatever the machinations of Sefton's Labour Group, one thing is for sure, today's news represents a quantum leap for the families in their long fight for justice, as David Conn expounds in a companion Guardian piece ( ):
"The families want justice now, and they will not be satisfied until people and organisations are held accountable. Yet whatever happens, this is another day of complete vindication for their complaints, their outrage at perceived injustice, the knowledge they were subjected to police blame-shifting and cover-up, when also dealing with the needless, horrific deaths of their loved ones."
How galling it must be for the families that a local Labour councillor is of the view that personal considerations of ego & vanity should take precedence over justice for the 96.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Damned & Discredited By Her Own Reticence

Those who have dealt with Carol Gustafson in the sometimes bitter world of Sefton Labour politics will all agree that reticence is not one of her character traits. It seems strange, therefore, that she should now declare a Garbo-esque wish to be left alone & not talk about her support of Norman Bettison's appointment as Merseyside Police Chief Constable in 1998 ( ).
Moreover, it's instructive to read Cllr Gustafson's response when questioned about her decision: "I don't want to talk about Norman Bettison at all, it was a period of my life that was hell. I really don't want to talk about him."
I'm sure the families of those who died at Hillsborough will understand that Cllr Gustafson's hellish period should preclude any inquiries or discussion regarding her decision to back a discredited copper.Why persist with the trifling notion of securing justice for the 96 when we have the bruised ego of safe-seat Labour councillor to worry about?
Her unwillingness to be reminded of her association with Bettison is a source of surprise, as David Bartlett notes with his comment that "a rummage through the Post and ECHO archive shows that the pair were clearly not averse to doing photo calls together during Bettison's six years in Merseyside" ( ).
Cllr Gustafson was re-elected as Labour representative for Bootle's Derby Ward last May. Given her refusal to account for the most fateful decision of her political career, the voters of Derby Ward may wonder about the character of the person they returned to office. It is, of course, possible that Cllr Gustafson's colleagues (of whom there are more opponents than allies, it's said) within the Sefton Labour Group will be forced to address the issue internally. They know as well as anybody else that this matter won't go away. The families of the 96 will see to that.

Postscript: It's worth noting that one of those Merseyside Police Authority members who supported Bettison's appointment was Doreen Jones, wife of well-known local businessman & former city council Liberal leader Trevor Jones ( ). Perhaps "The Dame of Disaster" ( ) could now account for her decision.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Bettison Councillor Keeps Her Own Counsel

Now that Norman Bettison has shown that he had nothing to do with the Hillsborough cover-up by quitting as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police & taking a generous pension ( ), it's time we returned to the role played by Councillor Carol Gustafson when the discredited senior copper was appointed as Chief Constable of Merseyside Police in 1998 ( ).
Many had hoped that Cllr Gustafson would have provided some sort of explanation by now about the role she played. Alas, the silence has been deafening.
Perhaps her own constituents could raise the matter at her council surgeries in the Derby Ward of Bootle ( ).
Cllr Gustafson will be at Bootle Library, 220 Stanley Road, L20 3EN, on October 10th between 12.00 & 1.00; Orrell Library, Linacre Lane, Bootle, later on the same day (time unknown); & Bedford Road Community Centre, Bedford Road, Bootle between 6.00 & 7.00, again on the 10th.
Others who want answers from Cllr Gustafson over her support for Bettison could contact her directly by phone (0151-928 6130), or by email ( ).

New Labour's Spin Operation Over Hillsborough

The sound of what sounded like a letter being posted through my door puzzled me. It was last Sunday. No post on Sundays, of course, but there it lay on the floor. It looked like a letter but it wasn't. It was, instead, an envelope containing a campaign leaflet from Jane Kennedy, Labour candidate for the Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner election on November 15th. Kennedy drew attention to the ConDems' cuts in the budget for Merseyside Police before thoughtfully informing me how I could sign up for a postal vote.
Missing from her missive, however, was any mention of a matter which had just been reported in sections of the media, namely, the role Kennedy & other local Labour MPs played in 1998 when the discredited Stuart-Smith Report on Hillsborough was released. More specifically, the matter related to attempted media management of local news outlets at the time ( & ).
Also mentioned in the reports, quoting from the Hillsborough Panel's findings, were George Howarth, MP for Knowsley, & Peter Kilfoyle, MP for Liverpool Walton. All three MPs weren't just backbenchers. Howarth was a Home Office minister (working closely with his boss Jack Straw). Kilfoyle was a junior defence minister. Kennedy was the Labour whip.
The phrases used in government papers are very much of the time; the MPs were told of the importance of remaining "on message", a quintessential New Labour phrase.
Predictably, all three have indignantly squawked their innocence. Or, rather, Howarth & Kilfoyle have. Kennedy? Her response should not be confused with a denial:
"This wasn't a formal meeting; it was probably a conversation. The language that is attributable [in the memo] is completely alien to anything any of us would have used."
Sheltering behind the shield of circumlocution is a sure sign of panic & anxiety about being found out, & that very much applies in the case of Jane "Janus" Kennedy.
It is a grotesque turn of events that now sees Kennedy running as a candidate for a post whose remit revolves around accountability, transparency & justice.
So back to Kennedy's election leaflet. She declares:
"Although none of us have sought this election we can send the Tory/LibDems a message.
"Election day is 15th November. It may be cold, wet and dark on polling day but that doesn't need to put you off."
Actually, we can send Kennedy a message: yes, it will be cold & dark on polling day (something to do with winter weather, I'm informed), but voters on Merseyside, particularly her former constituents in Liverpool Wavertree, won't be put off from expressing their disdain for a politician who placed the machinations of New Labour ahead of justice for the Hillsborough families.  

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Bettison Falls On His Sword

Handing in your resignation while maintaining that such a move doesn't amount to an admission of culpability or involvement with the Hillsborough cover-up could be seen as a case study in cognitive dissonance. Norman Bettison has certainly invited scrutiny of his self-proclaimed integrity with the decision to step down as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police next year ( ).
If Bettison, as he's always claimed, has nothing to hide over Hillsborough, you would think that a determination to continue in his post would be expressed & adhered to. Wouldn't you? 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Them & Us

Sharpening the divide that has been evident for some years now (taking in the latter part of Labour's period in office), the ConDems' approach is as plain as can be. A litany of reports on the consequences of "austerity" has appeared over the last few weeks, some of which detail in stark terms what it means for those at the bottom ( ).
Even those who once considered themselves "safe" now realise that the term has a relative meaning ( ).
What it means for those who fall through the cracks was articulated through the quiet desperation of a supposedly "Middle England" family in an accompanying Observer piece ( ).
The local effects of the cuts are evident to many; the acres of wasteland & boarded-up retail units outside the city centre tell their own desolate tale, a grim continuation of a deindustrialisation process which intensified during the early 80s & hasn't abated. Its human cost in the city is an indictment of a failed system ( ) .
Parallels with the 80s are obvious, a phenomenon strengthened by the callousness & stupidity of Tory MPs who claim that the jobless can sing for their supper (it's OK to busk in Church Street now that BID have thrown in the towel) & toil for a pittance which makes the minimum wage look extravagant ( ).
All of which allows the elephant which has always been in the room to raise its trunk & shriek the walls down. I am referring to class. As in class divide. As in class warfare. However, contrary to the perennial cries from the mouths of the titled & tax-dodgers, that war has long been waged by those who think nothing of calling police officers "f***ing plebs" who should know their place ( ).
It's a philosophy & approach which has now begun to exact the grimmest of tolls from those earmarked as the new 21st century scapegoats ( ).
I make no apology for dwelling on this avalanche of gloom & injustice. This is Britain in 2012. This is the sobering reality.
So is there a ray of light in all this? Difficult to say. However, there are those who have cleverly & humorously sent up the double standards of this recession's architects. Take UK Uncut ( ) who continue to highlight the tax dodging dealings of the corporate crowd. A group of protesters, known as the Black Tie activists, recently gatecrashed a retirement do for HMRC boss Dave Hartnett at a splendid & sumptuous dinner in Oxford. Hartnett has seen to it that multinationals such as Vodafone & Goldman Sachs certainly aren't in the same boat as the rest of us; cosy, secretive deals have been agreed.  With an elegance befitting the occasion, the protesters presented Hartnett with a spoof award for services to tax dodging. The words uttered by a minion who eventually ejects them tell you everything you need to know about them & us ( ) .

Thursday, September 20, 2012

With Subtitles

You may have caught Nick Clegg's seeming penitence on the TV news reports yesterday & wondered at the choice of cliches, platitudes & buzz phrases he employed. Thankfully, some kind soul has provided a translation from bullshit into plain English ( ).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

MacKenzie Gets Doorstepped & He Doesn't Like It

Three cheers for Channel 4 News' Alex Thomson as he finally corners the well-known liar Kelvin MacKenzie: .
However, I think Thomson is being way too generous to the liar & the rag he edited when he says that the claim was made "in good faith". MacKenzie wasn't used in a black propaganda exercise by South Yorkshire Police, he was a willing party in the greatest libel that British journalism has ever known.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bettison's Role In Hillsborough Cover-Up

Some aspects of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report inevitably attract greater attention than others. One detail, hitherto overlooked, was reported in yesterday's Independent on Sunday ( ).
The IoS article states:
"In what was last night condemned as another 'black propaganda' operation, senior officers considered charging Lord Justice Taylor with perverting the course of justice after a police driver claimed he had overheard the judge state that the South Yorkshire force would have to carry the can for the catastrophe, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans in April 1989.
"But although the alleged conversation took place only three days after the disaster, the driver waited a year to 'put the record straight' over the 'injustice' suffered by the force. Documents published by the Hillsborough Independent Panel last week show that he only reported the allegations after he was 'encouraged' to do so by his colleague Norman Bettison -- then a key figure in a South Yorkshire Police unit that attempted to exonerate the force and blame Liverpool fans for the tragedy."
Meanwhile, Carol Gustafson, Labour councillor for Bootle's Derby Ward & chair of the Merseyside Police Authority in 1998, remains tight-lipped about her support for Bettison's appointment as chief constable.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Parish Notice

You would think that after the last few days broadcasters would consider Kelvin MacKenzie to be damaged goods, or, as I prefer to think of him, toxic. However, it's still possible that producers at Sky & the BBC cretinously think his presence on discussions & newspaper reviews will somehow add to the sum of our collective knowledge (when we already know that MacKenzie is a proven liar).
Sky may well be beyond the pale when it comes to MacKenzie (the Murdoch links are still there). That said, it is possible to contact the BBC & let it be known that you don't want part of your licence fee going towards any more appearance fees for him. You can make your feelings known here: .

Local Councillor's Support For Bettison

By a hideous twist of irony, Norman Bettison was appointed chief constable of Merseyside Police in 1998. His role in the Hillsborough cover-up was already known to some. He appeared on Roger Phillips' phone-in on BBC Radio Merseyside shortly after his appointment. At least a few callers challenged him on his record in South Yorkshire. Bettison lied through his teeth, claiming that he was merely involved in the collation of police officers' accounts; it's since come to light that his involvement extended to the alteration of the accounts.
A few members of the Merseyside Police Authority resigned their positions in protest at Bettison's appointment. One member who didn't, however, was Carol Gustafson, the then chairwoman of the authority. She is currently a Labour councillor for the Derby Ward in Bootle ( ).
To be fair, the political fall-out from the Hillsborough report is still in its infancy & it may well be that Cllr Gustafson is preparing to present her case & account for her decision to back Bettison fourteen years ago. What isn't in any doubt, however, is that she has questions to answer.    

Bent Copper Clings To Myths & Smears

I suspected there would be a few who would cling to the smears that have persisted for twenty-three years. One of them is Norman Bettison, chief constable of West Yorkshire Police ( ).
At the time of Hillsborough, Bettison was part of a black propaganda unit at South Yorkshire Police. Its remit was to smear & discredit the fans, & completely exonerate police officers of any blame. Part of Bettison's self-serving statement yesterday warrants dissection:
"Fans' behaviour, to the extent that it was relevant at all, made the job of the police, in the crush outside Leppings Lane turnstiles, harder than it needed to be. But it didn't cause the disaster any more than the sunny day that encouraged people to linger outside the stadium as kick-off approached."
Bettison clearly isn't stupid. Therefore one can only surmise that he is being mendacious in citing the non-existant factor of the fans' behaviour; it wasn't relevant at all & Bettison knows it. Moreover, the police's job was made "harder than it needed to be" by the woeful organisation put into place by South Yorkshire Police on the day; I still recall a dazed junior PC telling me as we finally left the ground that it was his first day on the job & he hadn't been equipped with a police radio. As the situation worsened, he had no means of communicating with his fellow officers.
Furthermore, implying that the sunny weather "encouraged" large numbers of fans to "linger outside the stadium as kick-off approached" is both insultingly flippant & untrue. It also infers ever so insidiously that the "drunken fans" myth still applies. It's difficult to fathom the warped mentality of a force which checks the corpses of children to see if they had alcohol in their systems.
The online campaign to have Bettison & Patnick stripped of their knighthoods is to be commended. However, such a move is hardly tantamount to justice for the families. Prosecutions of the guilty people (Duckenfield, Bettison, Patnick, MacKenzie, et al) are the least that is required.  

15.20 UPDATE: Bettison has released a statement, expressing his apology ( ). Perhaps the thought of what may yet come, & what it would mean for him, concentrated the mind & prompted this seeming mea culpa.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Justice Delayed, Not Denied

It's been a long road for the families. Yesterday, however, a chink of light broke into the darkness ( ).
That the families had to endure a persistent libel over a quarter of a century is one of the most outrageous travesties in British legal history, as David Conn --- a journalist whose work on Hillsborough should be singled out for praise -- expertly documents ( ).
You would think that the panel's findings ensure that the names of those who colluded in the lies & smears will always be mud. You would think that, wouldn't you? However, Roy Greenslade doesn't ( ).
Pre-Leveson, the people of Merseyside & beyond recognised that rag for what it has always been; a leopard can't change its spots & it reflects badly on Greenslade for suggesting that "sincerity" lies in its commercially-driven cry of mea culpa.
As for MacKenzie, his status as a liar of the first order has now been officially recognised, a view endorsed today by a Seven Streets piece ( ).

Postscript: Eyebrows were raised by some when I named not just MacKenzie, but Irvine Patnick & others some years back. At the time it would have been possible for them to sue me. They didn't because they knew that what I wrote was The Truth.

Friday, September 07, 2012

A Fair And Balanced Libel

Ahead of the release of the Hillsborough documents at the Anglican Cathedral next Wednesday, the spotlight is being shone on the invertebrates responsible for the libel against Liverpool fans. One such specimen is Harry Arnold, the "journalist" who wrote up the Sun's infamous story which was then presented by the well-known liar Kelvin MacKenzie as "The Truth".
Arnold has spoken to the BBC ( ) about his role in MacKenzie's lie:
"He said his story had been written in a 'fair and balanced way' because he understood that the claims -- which were later shown to be totally unfounded -- were no more than 'allegations'. "
So this "journalist" thought a story which was fictitious as well as offensive from start to finish was written in a "fair and balanced way", did he? By speaking in such terms, Arnold has revealed himself to be just as spineless & cowardly as the liar MacKenzie.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A Fistful Of Awesome

Jon Stewart's take on Clint Eastwood's routine at the Republican National Convention last week was a magisterial ten-minute tour de force ("the Outlaw Josey Wailed") which merits another airing ( ).

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Trapped In Its Own Echo Chamber

When it isn't glamourising the antics of hooded scallies in areas like Kirkdale & Bootle, drooling lasciviously over the money made by local drug dealers, breathlessly relating the comings & goings of Z-list local celebrities , failing to ask the right questions about the city's two football clubs, or running nostalgia pieces on Merseybeat (it's 50 years since Love Me Do, did you know that?), the Oldham Echo is encouraging us to be proud that we're Scousers.
At least once a year the Echo doesn't so much scrape the bottom of the barrel as serve up the wooden fragments that once formed it. So it's nice to welcome back that old favourite from Oldham Hall Street (drumroll; adopts exaggerated Liverpool accent), what makes you proud to be Scouse (la!) ( ).
So who's penned this latest paean of praise to all things Scouse? Why it's our old friend Paddy Shennan (hello, Paddy!). Sit back & peruse this effusive epistle from one of Big Al Machray's more reliable minions:
"It has often been said that Liverpool is a city in England, but not of it -- that the Republic of Liverpool has a special identity and a character that distinguishes it from the rest of the country.
"Dr Samuel Johnson famously said: 'When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford' -- but he clearly meant Liverpool."
We're all indebted to Paddy for providing us with this amazing historical revelation.
It gets worse. Well, it has to, doesn't it? I mean, we are talking about the Oldham Echo here.
Paddy recites a litany of all the obvious topics (football, Beatles, Grand National, etc.). That said, he does allow himself a jocular reference to the mutilation of the waterfront (a potentially heretical offence on Oldham Hall Street).
On the subject of which, Paddy later writes:
"Landmark Liverpool locations and buildings -- where would you start? What is your favourite building? What is the one place, above all others, that makes your heart swell with pride?"
Paddy goes on to summarise in a single paragraph some of the more overlooked & neglected aspects of local history. Aside from that, however, the tone is populist, predictable & puerile.
Such "journalism" has long been accepted as the norm on Oldham Hall Street, of course. Additionally, the standard of reporting on that sorry rag is set to deteriorate even further, as Seven Streets noted recently ( ). Hold The Front Page & Roy Greenslade in his Guardian media blog have also picked up on the story ( ).
Yes, I'm afraid that "journalism", you know, the investigation & reporting of issues that really matter to local people is very much a thing of the past with Trinity Mirror's sinking ship, & it's confirmed by the latest circulation figures which show a 5.5% decline in sales for the first half of this year ( ).
Rather than ask people what makes them proud to be Scousers, Paddy & co. would do better to ask them why the Echo's circulation figure continues to drop like a stone (here's a clue for you, Paddy, it isn't just the web). But they won't, & parochial pieces that masquerade as journalism will only hasten the Echo's decline.

22.40 UPDATE: Seven Streets highlights yet another crass Echo front page ( ).

Make His Day

Neutering A Malevolent Merseybeast

Recommended reading: Seven Streets assessment of the civic & cultural liability that the Mathew Street festival has become ( ).
Seven Streets' opening is both damning & unquestionably accurate:
"It's a real shame that, for a large majority of us, the annual lead-up to the Mathew Street festival is filled with complete dread. Liverpool city centre becomes a no-go zone, only for the bravest of the brave. Like one of those 'are you man enough?' army adverts, except with a minefield of half-empty Carling cans and vomit."
Given the financial question mark that hangs over the festival's future, Seven Streets looks at ways in which the event can be saved &/or improved, each suggestion it makes possessing more than a modicum of feasibility. It addresses, inter alia, the booze issue; reducing the number of outdoor stages; making it more family-friendly & integrating the Fringe festival, the latter idea being particularly innovative & welcome.

BID Hits Discordant Note

Stories & developments that occur in August tend to be overlooked; silly season stories predominate & most people are preoccupied with their kids' considerations during the school holidays. However, the pincer movement of Liverpool City Council & BID against street entertainers has both been reported to a wider audience & legally challenged.
A piece by Christian Eriksson for the Guardian's Northerner page dissected the role & methods of BID ( ):
"Around 650 businesses currently make up the BID, and each pays a levy on top of their business rates to fund it. Besides extra cleaning, care and security, this levy effectively grants businesses an amplified voice in local democracy. Like BIDs in other British cities, Liverpool's is a quasi-govenmental corporate body which works with local authorities, but is not wholly accountable to them."
Eriksson later related in his piece:
"Now Kirwans [a Liverpool law firm], acting on behalf of Liverpool buskers and its client Siobhan McDermott, has given notice to Liverpool City Council of its intention to seek a judicial review over the 'unreasonable, overbearing and unfair' decision."
Liverpool Confidential also reported this development ( ).
The Oldham Echo did report on this development...a few days later.
Joe "Tea & Sympathy" Anderson & his unelected, unaccountable mates at BID will doubtless be pleased to know that a judicial review will spread the word far & wide that a city which shamelessly milks the Beatle cash-cow wishes to discourage or exorbitantly charge local buskers who perform in public spaces.
On a semi-related note, I'm indebted to my New York-based friend & senior editor of Time magazine Tony Karon for this video of a group of buskers known as The Human Jukebox  in the Big Apple: .
I'd like to see Ged Gibbons of Liverpool BID try his luck with these guys.

When Egos Collide

Remember Channel One Television? Go on, you must, surely. No? Oh well, it was the brainchild of the Oldham Echo in the late 90s. Its output was, at best, ditchwater-dull. At worst, it was execrable; "local, much-loved celebrities" -- such as Billy Butler -- were regular faces on it (there's some gruesome clips on YouTube, but I won't inflict them on you).
Alas, Channel One had the plug pulled a few years back -- just as well, perhaps, given its dire output & unfortunate ability to attract the attention of the Independent Television Commission (ITC) ( ).
Like most local cable TV stations, Channel One was very much a 90s phenomenon; the advent of the web rendered such ventures obsolete. However, it seems such technological changes haven't been explained to Ofcom ( ).
The notion of Frank McKenna & Phil Redmond engaged in a "beauty contest" to decide who should broadcast a mixture of mediocrity, parochialism & nostalgia disturbingly questions that commonly accepted definition of the term beauty. As the photograph* above shows, McKenna is the sort of individual who is keen to promote his, erm, appearance as well as his renowned business acumen. Redmond, sorry, Professor Redmond has contributed greatly to the cultural heritage of the city...hasn't he?
Two aspects of this silly season story are baffling. Firstly, surely Ofcom would have heard of the web by now. Secondly, who in their right mind would consider these two characters as leading contenders to provide a "local" TV channel?

*Photo courtesy of the Liverpool Preservation Trust.

Answers Needed Over India Buildings

Nobody familiar with Liverpool needs to be informed about its historic buildings. However, some are more famous than others. Largely & mystifyingly overlooked in terms of architectural distinction is India Buildings on Water Street ( ).
However, a recent stroll through its main concourse provoked concern rather than civic pride. Once a bustling hub of businesses & commerce, it now looks & feels empty, each sound made echoing eerily around the place. Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in an empty church, each step & voice amplified disproportionately.
It makes you wonder what sort of future the building's owners, Green Property Ventures ( ), envisage for the complex.
The question of ownership regarding India Buildings has been a relatively secretive affair over the last few years ( ). A little clarity on the future of one of Liverpool's finest buildings would be appreciated both by those who work there & the rest of us who enjoy visiting it.