Sunday, 28 December 2008

Boxing Day

Boxing Day I went to see Southport play Burscough away. It was a scrappy game with Southport winning 3:2 having been 2 nil up. The most memorable thing about the afternoon was not the football, or the brilliant sunset over the Blowick gasometer but the penetrating cold weather. Let hope the return at Haigh Ave is memorable for all the right reasons

Monday, 22 December 2008

Clegg's first year

Clegg's first year has produced a fair crop of article's and editorials. These have all be covered elsewhere in detail. I was most struck by the contribution he made himself in a lecture to the Demos think tank.

One section has been widely and deservedly quoted:

'A liberal believes in the raucous, unpredictable capacity of people to take decisions about their own lives.

A Socialist believes in the ordered, controlled capacity of the state to take the right decisions about other peoples' lives.

A liberal believes a progressive society is distinguished by aspiration, creativity and non conformity.

A Socialist believes a progressive society is characterised by enlightened top-down Government.

Meanwhile, the Conservative tradition in British politics has oscillated wildly between a paternalistic view of the state - as sceptical as the Left of the capacity of people to take charge of their own lives - to an aggressive consumerism wedded to an unreformed model of politics at home and a brittle, slightly neurotic, nationalism abroad.'

The full speech can be found here

CEO and Assistant CEO depart

Friday afternoon saw the farewell party for Sefton's CEO and the excellent Assistant CEO. It was good to see them both in fine form. Chatting to former senior Labour Councillor I was pleased to learn that he thought his successors (and their partners in the Tory party) whose actions meant that these two staff did not serve out their time and complete the Sefton plan as it was originally conceived were 'plainly bonkers'. This accords with my view. I have not always agreed with the out going CEO but i do respect him and appreciate that he has given straight forward and professional advice. I guess that is what has caused the problem.
Anyway it was a 'good do' with many off the record comments-most of which I shouldn't repeat as those it was aimed at are too thin skinned and lack the self knowledge to appreciate how ridiculous they are and I have neither the time or the inclination to remedy that.
Steve Sheridan the Ass CEO who really is one of the great writers of reports and whose talent for turning other people's ramblings into coherent english one has to marvel at has had a long career in local government. All his training and experience had prepared him for his move to the Chief exec's department where he would grapple with the big strategic issues -like tree planting in Blundell Sands or (as a Tory Councillor whispered to me) the fate of goldfish.
Equally it should be said that the impact on the Merseyside Pension Plan of the CEO's lump sum has not caused more problems than the credit crunch. Indeed we are lucky that the CEO did not decide to go down the legal route after the 'illegal council meeting' that triggered these events, if he had then there would, I suspect, be a much larger whole in the public finances.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Recycycling Christmas Trees

Eight million Christmas trees will be bought
this year in the UK, generating over 160,000
tonnes of additional rubbish, that ’s 400 times
the weight of a full Jumbo Jet !

To arrange a Christmas tree* collection for recycling in Southport, please contact Sefton Plus on 0845 140 0845. This is a limited service so book early to avoid disappointment .
First come, First Served!
or take it to the tip by B&Q
* only real Christmas trees

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


Southport Area Committee met this week and it was good to see Les Byrom back after his recent ill health. Les was on good form with some brilliant little interventions which could not have failed to hit there intended targets-as long as they were paying attention.

The most explosive contribution came towards the end of our meeting when a regularl attender of the Area Committee suggested that the Council should buy Woolworths. Les told him straight forwardly that the suggestion was 'bonkers'. I was a little shaken as I thought he had been reading the back page of Liberator and stumbled upon Lord Bonkers diary

Monday, 8 December 2008

Sefton Tories embarrass their friends?

More on Southport's own 'Joe the Plumber' from the Sunday Mirror:

The builder at the centre of a party political broadcast row yesterday blamed the Tories for "embarrassing him". Shane Prescott was shown by the Tories blaming Labour for the recession, but hours later it emerged he had gone bust in 2006 - at the height of the boom.

The Mirror reports at the end of its story:

"Mr Prescott, who is now running a new firm, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Joanne said: " We are not the typical back street family."

Well if they lived in Cambridge Ward I think we can agree with with Joanne. But an interesting quote from her nevertheless.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

We could have predicted this...

Why on earth didn’t the Tories check their facts before launching their own version of ‘Joe the Plumber’ on an unsuspecting world. The man, Shane Prescott, a Southport builder is quite well known around the town .

First of all the story broken on Mike Smithson Political Bettting website:

1. Well, David Cameron has been standing up for the lazy and slothful, by featuring in last night’s party election broadcast a builder whose firm went into liquidation in 2006 owing £240,000, after which he went on an £11,000 holiday in Australia.”
If they’re going to do the whole Joe the Plumber/Sarah Palin thing can they please replace Osborne with Nadine Dorries.No need to worry about the economy when you can see the end of days.

It got hastily followed up by the Daily Post and then amongst other places the Evening Standard

You would have thought that at the very least they would have consulted their local party. Ah, perhaps they did.

Their best plan would have been to check with us –Sefton Tories do have a reputation in some quarters for serial incompetence! Just consider very recent events;

firstly the take David Cameron to Southport Market to have his photo taken to celebrate a decision the council hasn't taken and to welcome spending no one has agreed to
then there was the £750 000 that the Southport Tory MEP Den Dover claimed (Cameron should have cottoned on to Sefton Tories lack of judgement at that point-after all it was so bad he had to kick Den Dover out).

the they pay so little attention during a key debate in cabinet –about improving our links with Lancashire- that they land up voting the against it, insisting that their dissent is recorded and then deny that they did it! (I notice that on reflection they did try to change the minute altho’ they’ve done that before to cover up their embarrassment,)

then their was the planning committee when they tried to run a populist campaign against the placing of a phone mast –almost literally egg on face –as they had led the residents to understand that the mast couldn’t go out of harms way in the local cemetery as most folk wanted only to find the representative of the company contradict them

then there was Tory Cllr Tom Glover taking it upon himself to withdraw an objection to a traffic management scheme which was made by a local resident only for it to become apparent that he had got the wrong end of the stick (again) doh!

It goes on, and one and on and on...........Did I tell you the one where they drummed their own former leader out of their party, or their attempt to deselect one of their most successful councillor for ‘having a loud voice (apparently that is Sefton Tory speak for daring to dissent in private-it must of been in private because we knew nothing about it)

David, David you may have thought you had found your Joe the plumber, instead you got yourself a Sarah Palin

Marquand and Milton

Few of us who heard David Penhaligon talking about Milton's Areopagitica will forget it. Not only did he pronounce the hitherto unnoticed silent 'h' at the beginning he quoted with passion the key bit :

'And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter'
The Areopagitica was the symbol of office for Presidents of the Liberal Party

I bought the Guardian on Saturday to read the Ofsted interview about their failings on Baby P and notice an editorial on Milton's 400th anniversary which included:
'A new essay by David Marquand in Political Quarterly argues that Milton shaped three great themes of English popular politics: republican self-respect as opposed to monarchical servility, engaged civic activity versus slothful private apathy, and government by challenge and discussion rather than deference or conformism.'
Marquand's writings were central to reconciling many in the Liberal Party to working with a section of the Social Democrats in the early 1980's. I well remember being sent an article Marquand had written-I think it was in a magazine called Encounter or some such- which
persuasively argued what most of us thought was an essentially 'liberal' analysis.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Lynne Featherstone

Iain Dale the leading Conservative blogger has been comparing and contrasting the performance of the two Haringey MP's our own Lynne Featherstone and Labour David Lammy. It struck me when I looked at responses on Dale's blog to the beastly behavior of our own dear Sefton Tory leader towards her colleagues how foul mouthed and uncouth some of them were.

All this raises the genuine difficulties challenge for those involved in local government. Sometimes life gets too cosy & consensual and the culture is against asking the difficult question or robustly challenging the confident reassurances of officers-many of those are very,very nice people.
There is a extra dimension in Sefton where the necessity of maintaining the all party administration-chiefly because no one can find an alternative- is important. This can lead to people biting their tongues where if they had been in opposition they would have pursued an issue. It is an environment which may let the officer run the show without check or hindrance and where the usual 'holding to account' of politicians may be diminished

More Praise for Vince part 78

For those not familar with the Political home Web site this is worth a visit. Anyway 'Vince the Invinsible' romps away with an increased rating especially amongst the 'expert and insiders'

A correction

It has been brought to my attention that my memory about Simon Shaw's victory in the 1981 local election is less than perfect-particularly describing the ward he won as Dukes. (My excuse is that I am not so old that the past is in better focus that the present) I am indebted to the then constituency Chair -Southport's top local historian- Michael Braham who reminds me:

'You will recall that while there are 7 District Wards there were only 6 County Council seats. The boundaries that Simon fought and won included a hefty chunk of Kew Ward covering if I remember correctly the section from Linaker Street to Railway street which had formed part of the old Southport West Ward and we lost some 'Tory' bits at the Manchester Road end to Cambridge so it was around 70% Dukes Ward.'

He went to to comment:

'The Tory was Mrs Morland whose husband Robin, was their constituency Agent. All eyes were on the seat being defended by Jean Leech into which we put a tremendous effort. Anyway Dennis Grifiths won which we all thought pretty sensational. Then somebody came over and said that Simon`s seat was too close to call. I told them not to be so bloody stupid. Nevertheless we all rushed over to the Dukes count. I don`t how Robin Morland ever explained his candidate`s defeat to his Constituency Chairman let alone his wife'

My memory was that the Tories were so shell shocked that they didn't even ask for a recount Both Micheal and I agree that Simon's campaign was one of 'highly expressed emotion'

Details of Michael's publication on Southport Liberal's-The First Hundred Years can be found here, he co authored the famous tome on Southport Football Club, and lots of articles

Monday, 1 December 2008

Morning Coffee

Saturday morning and so to Lord Fearn's for a coffee morning. It is worth noting Norwood is a formidable fundraising and election winning machine. Alone amongst the Southport Wards it is the only one that has not changed hands since Sefton was established-even the Tory bastion of Dukes ward was stormed by Simon Shaw in the county council elections of the early 1980's. Mind you those of us that were there on the night celebrating is 6 vote majority had to prevent the young Shaw demanding a recount because he thought it should be 9......

General Election date

There has been a fair bit of discussion about the General Election date. I think that autumn 2009 is now a real possibility. Why? Well for those in a job, fuel prices will have fallen dramatically, mortgage rates fallen and any impact of the 'fiscal' stimulus will have been felt. On top of that there is some suggestion-RBS-that house prices may have reached their floor. The negative bits of Darling's package will not have been felt-tax rises, and the near freeze on public expenditure in 2010. I think October may look better than May for Labour