Saturday, 31 January 2009

Shop locally

As we were showing the new Chief Exec of Sefton MBC around Birkdale(more of which later) I was pointing out how good many of the shops in Birkdale are. I have referred to Robert Tear's excellent Butcher's shop before but as we looked at the village, as it were with fresh eyes, we are fortunate to have such a wide range of shops locally.
It is always invidious picking one out from a range of shops but I was thinking that Paul Halliday's Fishmongers shop that also sells game and poultry is a gem.
I am told that there are some blogs by a certain type of politician which studiously avoid the import issues that face us; the economy, the environment and the fraught state of international affairs and instead publish recipes. I am disdainful of this approach. I suspect it is all an attempt to be seen in 'soft focus' and persuade folk that you are essentially a nice person-which I don't doubt they are. I guess they are the type of politician who considers it gross bad manners to be asked a tough question. It is not that I expect a learned dissertation on endogenous growth theory in every posting but just that I came away with the belief that if they were called upon to make important decisions on economic policy or foreign affairs they would know what they are talking about.
Nevertheless as I have had my leg pulled about the absence of recipes from this blog I undertook to produce one. As I was pointing out the Birkdale Fishmonger to the new CEO I noticed the blackboard outside which advertised a brace of pheasants for £6.89p-significantly less than the price at Tesco and Waitrose last time I looked.
So what to do with a pheasant? At this time of year they tend to be a little tough and frankly after Christmas it is best to casserole them rather than simply roast them. A brace of pheasant's will give you a hearty meal for four or an adequate one for six. First you need to joint(two legs two breasts each) which with a sharp knife is remarkably simple and very satisfying.
Season them with salt and pepper and fry them in butter and oil-you'll need about 40g of butter and a couple of tablespoons of oil-until they are golden brown. Transfer them to a large shallow flameproof casserole. Next peel a dozen or so shallots and fry them in the oil and butter after 3 or 4 minutes move then to a plate Next you need about 12ozs of those little cubes of bacon that most supermarkets stock, fry them in the fat until brown and keep them to one side with the shallots. Then you need to peel and chop 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, get handful of fresh thyme and a couple of bay leaves and add them to the pot. You need to add some fluid then: 10 fluid oz of stock and the same of Madeira. You really need the driest Madeira you can get your hands on which comes from the sercial grape. You can use dry sherry instead but don't substitute the sickly sweet stuff that some folk glug into their trifle.
Now bring the lot gently to the boil, fit a tight lid and leave it to simmer for about and hour on the hob. Then add half a pound of small whole mushrooms and the bacon and shallots and put it back on the simmer for 45mins or so until the birds are tender.
Finally take everything out of the casserole except the fluid and put it on a plate in a warm oven, make a smooth paste of 40g of soft butter and 40g of plain flour and whisk it into the fluid to thicken the sauce, pour over the rest of the dish and serve.

Lembit at the Tree Tops

Lembit is of course an accomplished teller of stories and he regaled us with a few choice ones last night. I think the one that will stay longest in the memory is his conversation with Ian Paisley who offered to carry out a wedding for him and with his usual megaphone delivery promised to 'tie the knot very,very tight!'

I was less persuaded by him asking 'why don't true socialists like Earl Grey tea? '

Because all 'proper tea is theft'', which of course is a play on Proudhon's famous quote. Personally I would have called Proudhon more of an Anarchist that a socialist. Incidentally I was gobsmacked recently when I chanced up a copy of David Owen's book 'Face the Future' when he calls Proudhon in aid of his ideas. He described him as a mutualist...

Anyway to the substance of Lembit's talk. Clearly his part in the Northern Ireland peace process has had an enormous impact on him and he suggested that the lesson's learned there should be applied in Afghanistan, Iran and Palestine. He condemned the 'War on Terror' and called for dialogue with groups who clearly had popular support.

All in all it was a good evening and Richard Clein's campaign to become the MP for the new constituency of Sefton Central is clearly gathering pace.

A curious incident at TreeTops

I turned up at the Tree Tops Hotel last night to support Richard Clein who had organised a dinner with Lembit Opik the Lib Dem MP for Montgomeryshire.

I was a tad concerned when the first person I saw was Paula Parry the Tory Leader on Sefton council, I turned around and there was one of her colleagues Martyn Barber-both extremely unlikely candidates for defection.

What on earth was going on? There were about eight or so Tory councillors in the bar all jumbled up with the 50 plus Lib Dems.

Well of all the hotels and restaurants to choose from we had both booked the Tree Tops. Everyone behaved decently and we happily went our separate ways.

But where was Lembit? It transpired that he was lost. He had left London at 5am, done a breakfast meeting in Mid Wales and via another meeting he was on his way to Formby. My picture shows Martyn Barber on the phone along side Richard Clein giving directions to a no doubt bewildered Lembit !

Martyn Barber deserves a vote of thanks for for being most helpful and giving Lembit's driver accurate direction.

Lembit always brings a rather surreal atmosphere to an event but for me it was heightened when-due to Lembit's lateness-the photographer from the Champion had to leave and asked me to step into the breach and send the Champion a photo. Well the Champion have never published a photo of mine. I need to check but I'm fairly confident that they ignored the one I sent them of Nick Clegg and me at the Lib Dem NW summit and the one of Norman Baker and me at the launch of the campaign for a high speed train to the NW and other related rail issues including the inclusion of the Burscough Bends in our investment plan. So watch out and see if I break my duck this week

Thursday, 29 January 2009


Many people gathered in Southport last week to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. A leading rabbi spoke on Radio 4 Thought for the Day drawing out the lessons of the Holocaust for today. This evening I recieved an email that sought to demonstrate another lesson that should be learned from the past.

This year the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day is standing up against hatred. And I've just signed a petition that does just that.The petition demands that BNP leader Nick Griffin publically apologises and retracts his dangerous and upsetting Holocaust denying comments. Griffin has said that the "extermination tale" is a mixture of propaganda, lies and hysteria. He also said that the chimneys in the gas chambers at Auschwitz are "fake" and built at the end of the war.Sign the petition and demand a public apology now -


Tuesday, 27 January 2009

New Chief Exec comes to Birkdale


Sefton Council’s new Chief Executive, Mrs Margaret Carney, was taken on a whistle-stop tour of Birkdale last week (Tuesday 27 January) by ward councillors Iain Brodie Browne and Simon Shaw.

Mrs Carney took over her new role on 1st January and has asked to visit each of Sefton’s wards to hear from councillors about local issues. Her first such visit was to Birkdale ward.
Councillors Brodie Browne and Shaw showed Mrs Carney the five primary schools in Birkdale, including Farnborough Road Schools, where a £1.5 million building programme will take place over the next 18 months.
"As well as the schools, we also took Mrs Carney to Carr Lane recreation ground as one of our priorities for improvement," said Councillor Brodie Browne.
"We also visited Birkdale Village, and discussed what the council can do to help retailers, and the local economy generally, during the current difficult conditions."
Mrs Carney added: "Although I know Southport quite well, it was certainly helpful to have a detailed tour round Birkdale Ward. I am looking forward to similar visits to the borough’s other wards over the coming weeks."

Pictured (by Clare Knight) outside Farnborough Road Junior School with Sefton Council’s new Chief Executive, Mrs Margaret Carney are Councillors Iain Brodie Browne and Simon Shaw; also (right) headteacher Mr Adrian Antell, together with 4 pupils.

Kent Rd lamp posts

Richard Hands has been dealing with residents in Kent Rd who have been concerned about the state of the lamp posts. Following Richard's intervention remedial action has been taken

Grot Spot

Action at last over the state of the Birkdale Library grounds. We are about to enter the planting season and we have secured an major tidy up for this area.
(Picture by Sam Shaw)


Simon Shaw is seen here in the alley off St John's Rd Birkdale. Weeds and litter have been accumulating here and Simon has been active in getting the matter sorted
(Picture by Sam Shaw


We have been approached by residents keen to see trees planted along Liverpool Rd. We are very pleased that these have now appeared. In addition the ones at Hillside that were the victims of vandalism and decease have also been replaced
(Picture by Sam Shaw)

Monday, 26 January 2009

Sir Ron blasts his own Leader

Sir Ron blasts his own leader This is a headline from this week's Southport Champion and marked 'exclusive' over a story written by their Editor Martin Hovden. Firstly I should say that it is exclusive to the newspaper and I can't find it on their website.

A little background for those who have not been following this saga. The new Tory leadership of Cllrs Porter&Parry on Sefton Council have conducted a rather nasty and foolish campaign against two former Tory Leaders both of whom represent the Dukes Ward in Southport. Their colleague David Pearson -a popular former Mayor-has suffered some collateral damage having been suspended from the group and having his retirement prematurely announced by Cllr Parry. To their credit the Dukes ward members ignored her and reselected David and he was re-elected with a thunderous majority. I should say all three Dukes ward councillors Sir Ron, Les Byrom and David are convinced Conservative. Sir Ron and Les of the Thatcherite mode and David whose role model I suspects harks back to the more inclusive model of Baldwin and Macmillan. These three are amongst the most experienced and competent folk on the Tory benches they may not be ideological bedfellows of mine but I can respect them, they are people of substance.

Sadly Cllrs Porter & Parry have turned on them. The long tale of their appalling conduct toward Cllr Pearson is well document. Things got so bad for Les after a display of really nasty behaviour towards him that he up and left and joined the Labour Party. Les 'opened his heart' to the reporter John Siddle, the story is still here,
We don't have to guess why Les left he has told us:

''I didn't want to get kicked anymore'
A SENIOR Tory’s decision to join Labour was forced by internal wranglings within the local Conservative group, it has been alleged.
In an exclusive interview with the Southport Visiter, the Dukes Ward politician says “petty-mindedness” is dividing the party and insists he has lost affinity for the Tories.
Cllr Byrom, who led Sefton Conservatives for 14 years until 2005, was reported to have left the party after disagreeing with national policy on detaining terror suspects.

But the Ainsdale father-of-two has revealed that his “shabby treatment” by local party bosses over a long period of time was the real reason for his resignation.
He told the Visiter: “If you are in a party blighted by rows and arguments and where you are getting a kicking from the party leaders, you are going to leave. I was not prepared to be kicked any more.”
The suspension of close friend Cllr David Pearson – who had the party whip removed for ‘not maintaining party discipline’ – and the Tories’ involvement in the current leadership crisis engulfing Sefton Council are major factors in Cllr Byrom’s decision to defect.
But it was his removal from Merseyside Fire Authority which was, by his own admission, “the final straw”.

What is significant here is that the man who replaced Les on the Fire Authority has a history of poor attendance. He was to Tory spokeman on Environment and then switched to Performance to shadow me. I speak as I find and frankly in both roles we often didn't find him

Now Sir Ron is rightly getting justifiably annoyed because the Parry-Porter leadership has compiled an attendance record which found its way to the press. The six month period includes a period when Sir Ron was poorly. We all knew he was poorly he was clearly in some discomfort at the Chief Exec retirement function. Was this a smear? I suspect that this was designed to show Sir Ron in a poor light.
The Porter -Parry leadership have previous for such conduct. My colleague Robbie Fenton who was also very unwell last year found her attendance record being bandied around. When confronted Mrs Parry allegedly replied that 'nobody had told her Robbie was ill' This is a case of guilty until proved innocent.
The truth is that the Porter -Parry leadership would benefit greatly from the advice of their senior colleagues from Dukes ward-and the whole body politic would benefit if they listened. It is a matter of profound regret that they have not the grace to do so.
For those wanting further background I have tagged the relevant blogs

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Getting a man in to do the job for you

Southport F C are riding high in the league with games to spare over those above them. This weekend they meet Torquay in a FA Trophy tie which I guess will bring one of the biggest crowds to Haig Ave this year and lots of visitors to the town.
A little while a go a new supporters organisation was formed Trust in Yellow. Our MP John Pugh met them and was impressed by their enthusiasm and ideas. They drew up a programme and top of the list was new signage to the ground.
I was pleased to meet their (then)Chair who had carried out a lot of research and met with the Highways folk. It seemed to me that this was a highly appropriate scheme for the small pot of money held by the Southport Area Committee and so I proposed it at the next meeting. I had hoped that the scheme would be shared by all the wards but the Tories refused to put their hands in their pockets and did not support the proposal. Nevertheless we did not let their niggardliness get in the way and we paid for the ones that had to sited in their wards.
The picture is of Richard Hands and me by the sign in Ainsdale.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


The privacy debate is at last taking off this article in today's broadsheets reflects growing unease across the political spectrum about the Government's assault on liberty. There is even an editorial here

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Vince Cable: The Storm

Vince Cable has a book coming out-I heard it first on the Newsnight Review. I am sure Mr Broadhurst will be stocking it. Simon Shaw also note Vince's success elsewhere; Vince Cable for Chancellor! Last Week’s Vote. Lib Dem Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable stole ahead in last week's vote, taking a full 34% of the vote and putting Gordon Brown firmly in second place, with just 21%. Kenneth Clarke was the only other real challenger, with 18%. Not George Osbourne's vote. Anyway back to the book.

Amazon says of it:


'Cable's the star of Newsnight's credit-crunch discussions, the go-to guy for a sagacious economics quote for broadsheets' front-page leads, the man whom Tory Alan Duncan described as "the holy grail of economic comment these days".

' Stuart Jeffries, Guardian 'Everything a politician should be and everything most politicians are not.'

Jeff Prestridge, Mail on Sunday 'A heavyweight in anybody's cabinet'

Matthew Parris, The Times"

Product Description

In this brilliantly incisive short book, Vince Cable, the most universally respected parliamentarian on the current world economic crisis, explains how we got here and where we're going.

There are some eerie similarities between the booming, increasingly integrated, global economy of the early twentieth century, at the end of that long era of peace, and the booming, increasingly integrated, global economy of recent years. Then, a golden age of rising prosperity was destroyed by war, inflation, depression, protectionism and another war. Yet the necessary lessons seemed to have been learned after World War II. Governments understood that they had a role in providing financial economic stability and a welfare safety net to complement, and to mitigate the harshness of, dynamic capitalist economies.Yet within a short period of time this comfortable consensus has given way to something alarming: an economic storm has blown up with remarkable speed for which few appear prepared. A series of adverse developments have coincided and reinforced one another: the credit crunch; bursting bubbles in housing market; the commodity price shock, particularly for oil; and, a breakdown in multilateral economic cooperation, notably over trade. To pursue the storm analogy, it has already become clear that some of the boats are not as sea worthy as their owners claimed. Captains and crew, as well as passengers, are panicking. And the worst of the storm is yet to come.

About the Author Vince Cable is Member of Parliament for Twickenham and has been the Liberal Democrats' main economic spokesperson since 2003, having previously served as Chief Economist for the oil company Shell from 1995 to 1997. He was elected as deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in March, 2006 and was acting leader of the Liberal Democrats until the election of Nick Clegg. He is currently the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Privacy Commission

Nick Clegg has announced a 'privacy commission'

The Commission’s members are:

David Heath MP (Chair) - Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House
Simon Davies - Privacy International; Fellow at LSE
Shami Chakrabarti - Director of Liberty
Baroness Sue Miller - Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson in the House of Lords
Henry Porter - Journalist on The Observer
Prof. Ross Anderson - Professor of Security Engineering, University of Cambridge
Richard Rampton QC - Barrister at law, specialising in libel
Richard Allen - Former MP; Head of Government Affairs, Cisco Systems

Nick Clegg said:

"With Britain now among the most watched upon countries in Europe, there has never been a more vital time for proper scrutiny and protection of privacy."Under this increasingly authoritarian Government, a combination of intrusion and incompetence has resulted in the steady erosion of our right to privacy and the protection of our personal data."This is an exceptionally well-qualified team bringing together experts from a wide range of fields. I am confident that they will work to provide real solutions to check the growing threat to our privacy."

There are whole sections Britain who have forgotten what liberty is all about and do not recognise it's importance. Too many civil servants and politicans assume we are all subjects who ought to accept the 'superior will ' of central government. They are aghast that some people dare to believe that we could organise society differently.

This commission has a very impressive membership and more can be found here.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Leaders' dogs

Earlier posts about politicians dogs brought and unexpected rush of emails-and clearly we aren't the only people watching out for his choice. It all began when Obama agreed to let his daughters have a puppy for the White House In a shrewed public relations move Obama has let it been known that he is choosing between two breeds of dogs; a labradoodle a designer dog if ever there was one-I find myself agreeing with the Daily Telegraph about this matter. The alternative is a Portuguese Water Dog-the rather fine fellow on the right-which is a sort of second cousin the the Irish Water Spaniel.

My favourite is still the Welsh Terrier favoured by JFK (and me) our Toby is pictured (left) other politicians dogs can be viewed by by following the dog tag below

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

I wonder who they could be talking about?

Apparently there is much concern at Tory Central office about some of their candidates in key seats. Read Michael Crick who has the full story. They appear to be nervous about the quality of some of the women.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Big Brother Government

Everytime I meet a senior Police Officer I feel the urge to ask if they have read George Orwell's book 'Big Brother', or Mill's 'On Liberty' or Milton's ' Areopagitica' so far I have resisted the temptation, but I have been sorely tempted.

Today there is frightening assumption that the fear of terrorism is a justification for the erosion of liberty and worse still once an exceptional measure has been enacted to deal with the 'terrorist' threat' there really is not reason why it shouldn't be rolled out to cover millions of citizens who aren't terrorists.
Bob Marshall Andrews recently wrote about his interview with the Labour Chief Whip seeking to cajole him into the government lobbies:
'I had been invited to her room to discuss my my persistent failure to support the Government on legislation concerning human rights. It was not an unfriendly meeting. I expressed the view that the continued and continuous erosion of individual and political freedom would prove disastrous at the ballot box. She smiled wearily with disbelief. "People in my constituency don't give a damn about civil liberties," she said.

There were three depressing things about this statement. The first is the remote possibility that it may be true. The second is that she firmly believes it is true and the third is that she obviously approves of it. In her view the collective indifference of her constituents chimes precisely and accurately with Government policy.............................

The aversion to traditional freedoms reflects a more fundamental belief that modern politics are not about principle, but populism and prejudice. At the heart of this psephology stands Mondeo Man, the famous, symbolic, unprincipled voter invented by Tony Blair. This car-polishing political animal is, according to the prophets of New Labour, motivated entirely by self-interest and individual advancement as opposed to the collective or communal good. To this individual, it is said, universal civil liberties, the ultimate collective values, are the subject of indifference, even contempt. He (or she) "doesn't give a damn.'

Interestingly that is very similar to the views expressed to me by a senior policemen. He began by asserting that he couldn't see a problem about the police cameras with ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) forming a 'ring of steel' around the borough so that most vehicle movements could be tracked. The information could be kept for up to 5 years and the system was linked 80 other data bases but he confidently went on ' if you've nothing to hide I can't see the problem'. Of course the proposal now is for there to be a new mega national data base for ANPR cameras. Big brother is watching you.

We have all heard of the government plans for another mega data base for our personal, private communications. All the broadsheet media carried the story again recently and most revealing was this :

'The private sector will be asked to manage and run a communications database that will keep track of everyone's calls, emails, texts and internet use under a key option contained in a consultation paper to be published next month by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary.' in full here

I was taken by the comments of Sir Ken Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions who has had first hand experience of the government machine. He dealt with the issue of authorisation-another issue where my policemen didn't really see a problem an said:

"Authorisations for access might be written into statute. The most senior ministers and officials might be designated as scrutineers. But none of this means anything," said Macdonald. "All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen."

My policemen thought everything was ok because a superintendent, chief superintendent or some such had to authorise access; a man of rank and therefore trustworthy.

The cost of present day surveillance has been put at £20billion. The cost of the email/text etc data base is said to be £12billion.

Now my bobby thought that if you asked the man in the street he would back cameras, so that was ok. In so doing he rather confirmed Bob Marshall Andrew's point that politics had become about ' not about principle, but populism and prejudice'. The bludgeoning of the few by the many.

So what to do? Well firstly the legislation must catch up with the new technology. My bobby boasted that his system was governed by the highest standard. A little digging unpacked that bit of spin to reveal that they obeyed the law! Well sadly there is no law about privacy and ANPR cameras a fact which the Information Commissioner has pointed out in two consecutive annual reports to parliament-and was a concern to Select Committees of both houses of Parliament.

Next read a bit more about it here and then sign up here. And while you are in the mood and by way of amusement have a look at what Norman Baker found out about the mission creep that inevitably infects police action here. Mind you David Howarth discovered an even more sinister fact about police action and spin and mission creep here.

Personally I wouldn't be so sure that all this Big Brother stuff is popular. David Davis's by- election may have been fought on a rather narrow understanding of freedom but his forthright opinions on the issue of 42 days detention without trial and the issues dealt with in this articles does suggest that there is a wide spread concern about these matters. The cost and ineffectiveness of the proposal linked to their intrusion into the legal activities of free citizen's may not be as much to the liking of the people as some would wish.