Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Bench to be repaired

A women who attended our last surgery complained about the damage to a bench outside the Red Chapel. I got the following email this morning:

I refer to your recent enquiry regarding the seat outside Methodist
Church Liverpool Road Birkdale

I wish to inform you that a works order has been given to our contractor
to repair the seat

Ainsdale/Birkdale- an an Italian Meal

We had a good night at Dolce Vita in Ainsdale where there was a goodly turn out to support the first joint fund raising event. Haydn and his team had done us proud and the raffle surpassed the usually collection of unwanted bottles and recycled presents.

Before I got there I chair a meeting of the governing body at Farnborough Rd School and welcomed four new parent governors. We met, for the first time, in the new canteen which is an excellent space and an asset not just for the school but the whole community. Birkdale is very short of such facilities. There will be a formal opening next month when we shall also be opening the new sports facilities

Monday, 27 September 2010

Segway owner dies

News just in on the BBC suggests that the founder and owner of the Segway has died whilst riding one of his machines

Birkdale's part in the Beveridge Plan

The Liberal Party was ill prepared for the 1945 election. They had argued in vain that the war time coalition should continue until Victory in Japan had been achieved. It was not to be and the party suffered badly despite high expectations. In Southport Bob Martin was the Parliamentary Candidate and at a meeting held on 15th of June he read out a letter from William Beveridge, then the Liberal MP for Berwick on Tweed:

'I am more than sorry not to able to visit Southport during the Election because I will miss re-visiting one of the scenes of my childhood. With my sister I was left for three years in a small school in Southport from an age of 4 to 7 whilst my parents were in India. If, as many psychologists say, these are the most critical formative years of life, then Southport is largely responsible for everything I had done, including the Beveridge Report!

We know from Jose Harris's biography that the school was in Birkdale. I passed this information on to a local historian preparing a book on Birkdale Common, but sadly I couldn't find the reference.

Photo of Beveridge with Violet Bonham Carter both of whom insucessfully fought the 1945 election

One of the hands that was bitten by Henry Fairlie....

In 1947 Bob Martin stood down as Southport's parliamentary candidate. The executive looked around for a replacement and having failed to persuade Dingle Foot (until 1945 the Liberal MP for Dundee) they turned to a young journalist on the Manchester Evening News one Henry Fairlie. He went on to be a renowned journalist writing a column in the Spectator under the alias 'Trimmer'. The obituary below comes from the Manchester Guardian. He didn't turn up most after being selected as his job moved to London. the Executive finally wrote and asked him to resign
It was about this time that Simms Mitchell lost his seat representing Talbot Ward and promptly joined the Tories. He was still council as Chair of Planning in 1984 when I joined but this is not the time to go into the saga of the sea bathing lake or the Bowling Green at the Park Hotel.

Gladstone's reading

On this day 280 years ago (which was also a Monday) I note that Gladstone's diary records that he spent most of the day reading Marquis de Spineto's book 'Elements of Hieroglyphics and Egyptian Antiquities'. the book is still in print and available on Amazon .  

10 bob profit for Gladstone Women's Liberals

The accounts of the Southport Gladstone Women's Liberal for 1960 have come into my possession and on this week 50 years ago they held a whist drive and raised 19/0 of which they spent 9/6 on prizes

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Economic stimulus still an option for Lib Dems

Conference are all very well with there set piece speeches in the main hall but it is on the fringe that the real debate and exchange of idea usually  happens. There are a couple of fringe meetings from Liverpool that I want to reflect on, firstly the Adam Smith Institute/IEA and secondly in a separate posting the Social Liberal forum.

The Institute of Economic Affairs has 'history' with the Liberal Party. In the 40s and 50s the party had been racked by attempts of a small group to capture the party. William Wallace reflected on those times in a letter to the Liberal History Journal:

'The group of free-trade Liberals that included S.W.Alexander and Oliver Smedley had drive, financial resources, and a clear sense of Liberalism in a libertarian, minimum-state interpretation. The almost anarchic structure of party assemblies allowed for such groups to exert real influence.
RRG, (Radical Reform Group) as I recall, provided the most coherent alternative definition of Liberalism – much closer to the radical Liberal tradition, and to the nonconformist beliefs which a high proportion of its members held. It helped enormously that Jo Grimond as leader was naturally sympathetic to the RRG perspective; but the existence and activities of RRG, and the arguments of its members on the Party Executive, made Grimond’s task in reorienting the party much easier.

Battle was joined and Social/Radical Liberalism won the day. Like then the state minimalists are not short of a bob or two.  And listening to the hangers on from the IEA -young men in expensive suits with even less experience of life tan Ed Milliband-I felt we were being taken back in time. I initially dismissed Richard Grayson's suggestion that a new minority group were trying to take over the party and move it in a direction at odds with its members. I remember discussing those battle with Desmond Banks. He had no doubt that the party took the right path under Jo Grimond's leadership. It seems we shall have to be watchful for fear that they will try to scramble back on board now we are successful..William concluded his letter :

Arthur (Seldon) had ‘left the party over free trade’ and was engaged with others of that group in finding an alternative vehicle for their ideas – which became the Institute for Economic Affairs, through which free-market liberal ideas later influenced Margaret Thatcher and her advisers '

Let's give that madness a miss. Plenty of it was on display at the IEA meeting. An interesting panel had been assembled. Amongst them Paul Staines (alias right wing blogger Guido Fawkes, formerly of the SDP) Professor Stephen Hassler (another exSDP man) who taught me Politics when I was an undergraduate, Professor Richard Grayson (formerly Head of Research under Kennedy) and chaired by Mark Littlewood.

There was much debate focused on whether the deficit reduction policy of the Government were correct. The two Professors were extremely sceptical. Hasler in particular was scathing. he argued that with fiscal tightening going on simultaneously across Europe demand was shrinking everywhere. He felt that the new(and proper) obligations being laid on banks to to rebuild and expand their capital reserves meant there was little money left for them to lend and thus he foretold doom. Mass Unemployment and social breakdown would haunt us, He felt we should get on board with Obama and go for a stimulus. Grayson rehashed his arguments first made in his pamphlet for Compass , namely that a small group of ideological 'small staters' had captured the party's thinking on these issues with out reference to the membership and against the grain of the party.

I'm fairly pragmatic about these matters.I am uncomfortable with a big state throwing its power around and interfering and regulating in areas best left to individuals and communities, mind you that goes for big private  corporations as well. I was signed up for deficit reductions well before the election. It seemed to me correct to stimulate the economy and to nationalise the banks but equally that borrowing ought to be paid back and should never have got into the current account. Keynes believed that government should stimulate demand at the pit of a recession but as David Grace said in his speech at Liverpool 'the last Labour Government spent its way out of a boom'.
left to right Stephen Hasler, Paul Staines, Mark Littlewood and Richard Grayson
The question that remains is how quickly that reduction should take place and over how long? I found Chris Huhne convincing on this matter in another fringe meeting that was also reported by Steve Richards in the Independent firstly he acknowledged the real political situation:

The Liberal Democrats gained quite a lot from the Coalition negotiations, but made one substantial shift in the defining area of policy, the speed and depth of spending cuts. Those at the top of the party insist they did so out of conviction, but it was a change nonetheless and not a minor one. There is a big difference between Labour's plan to cut spending by £80bn, already ambitious, and Cameron/Osborne's plans to cut £120bn. The parliamentary arithmetic propelled Nick Clegg towards the Conservatives after the election and he played his limited hand with immense skill, but he has signed up to an economic programme that is highly risky.

before he went on to the substance of the situation:

Huhne's response to questions about the deficit also conveyed the pragmatic instincts of a trained economist. He compared the current economic policy to steering a boat across the Mersey, arguing that, if the conditions change, the direction of travel will change too: "You assess these things as you go along". In other words, if Cameron/Osborne's rush to wipe out the deficit has an adverse impact on growth there could be a change of course. I have heard other Lib Dem Cabinet ministers make the same point in private. I wonder if their more ideologically committed ministerial colleagues will be so flexible.

I understand by that if Stephen Hasler's prediction come to pass the party is at liberty to change policy to suit the economic circumstances. It follows that Keynesian style stimulus is still a club we carry in our policy bag and we have no ideological objection to using it if needs be.

Obituary Cecil Ramage, Liberal MP and Southport Candidate

Cecil Ramage fought  Southport in the Yellow Book General Election of 1929. By all accounts he was an excellent candidate and galvanised the constituency. We have previously feature Ramage on the blog and his song book can be found here. He has also featured on Liberal England  as their Man of the Day.

This obituary, from the Daily Telegraph, reached me via the usual route having originated with Mr Ascott Snr of Birkdale whose grandson and great grandson I spied at the Sandgrounder beer festival recently.

One has to admire the Telegraph's use of euphemism. To describe Ramage in later life as having a 'somewhat excessive conviviality' would no doubt today have been rendered  as 'he was an old soak'. One of his last performances was in The Holly and the Ivy which I saw revived at the Arts Centre back in 2008. It is said that his drunkeness threatened to close the show early on several occasions. Written by |Wynyard Browne the play was made into a film in the 1950's and starred Ralph Richardson. In the Arts Centre version the part was taken by Philip Madoc who played Lloyd George in the BBC biopic of the Welshman.
Those wishing to know more about Ramage and his time in Southport should consult the online edition of Southport Liberals, the first 100 years.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Trident-reasons to be gruntled

 Blogging as The Disgruntled Radical David Grace records the success of the motion on Trident at Lib Dem Conference last week.He has every reason to be more gruntled than usual. The party wanted to debate the issue and if a way had been found within the rules for Emergency Motions to decide that Trident should be scrapped, I am confident the party would have backed it no matter what the platform thought. (I notice that a poll in the summer suggested that 60% of the population was of that opinion also.) Mind you getting the motion on to the order paper was no mean achievement-there was a lot of establishment lobbying going on. Interesting the motion targeted as the one to promote instead of Trident was on one on Tibet. It should be stressed that the movers were unaware they had been so honoured.

David explains the aftermath:

As I suspect you all know by now the Liberal Democrat Conference on Wednesday passed unanimously the emergency motion calling for Trident to be included in the Strategic Security and Defence Review. For a few more days, you can find the debate on BBC I-player

I know that demanding that Trident should be in the SSDR is only a step, but conference demanded it unanimously and the Tories and the public can be in no doubt about where Liberals stand now. Whether or not Nick Harvey succeeds in delaying the Main Gate decision until after the next General Election, the pressure is now on the Labour Party. So far their defence spokesman Bob Ainsworth continues not only to look like a relic of the cold war but to sound like one as well. If, as Nick suggests, the Labour Party fails to support the Tories over Trident during this parliament, we will have placed a freeze on Tony Blair's premature decision to replace Trident and with luck be able to kill it off at the next election.

One great help was the speech by Shirley Williams. She gave multilateralism a good name. Too often in the past it has been a position adopted by those who wish to frustrate disarmament.  Shirley's passionate advocacy of a policy that was designed to achieve disarmament was cheered by the delegates.

Photo Shirley and David Grace before the debate

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bumping into old friends

It is always good to bump into old friends at conference. In recent years so many folk have put in an appearance after a long absence. 

Erin (pictured ) used to work in Southport before going to London and now works with Burnely MP Gordon Birtwistle  

Shame on the Minister who took down Keynes's picture..........

Several delegates at the Liverpool conference reported that a Liberal Minister in the Treasury had taken down a picture of Keynes and put up one of Gladstone . Shame on them. There is nothing wrong with Gladstone you understand -he did so much to usher in our representative democracy, establishing principle of universal franchise, secret ballot, decentralisation etc.  In foreign affairs his belief in an ethical policy and that our role lay in international co-operation especially in 'the concert of Europe' are core Liberal beliefs. In economic policy he was a man of his time and in his time the average life expectancy of a Victorian working man was only 35. The provision of services like pensions, health care were seen as no business of the state. Later generations of Liberal changed all that as one of them wrote:
'Conservatism leads nowhere; it satisfies no ideal; it conforms to no intellectual standard; it is not even safe, or calculated to preserve from spoilers that degree of civilization which we have already attained Half the copybook wisdom of our statesmen is based upon assumptions which were at one time true, or partly true, but are now less and less true day by day. We have to invent new wisdom for a new age. And in the meantime we must, if we are to do any good, appear unorthodox, troublesome, dangerous, disobedient to them that begat us'.
That man was Keynes. He was a Liberal and his ideas were first fully expressed by the Liberal Party in the Yellow Book of 1928 and the subsequent manifesto for the 1929 called 'We can Conquer Unemployed'
It is therefore scarcely necessary to say that it is not appropriate to just adopt the old 1929 policy un-amended but it would be wise to keep firm hold of the belief that governments can and should do something about the economy. We should strive to run the economy as if people matter. If the impact of the cuts is to pull us back into recession then we must be prepared to change tack. Let me finish (for the time being) with another quote from Keynes:
We believe with a passionate faith that the end of all political and economic action is not the perfecting or the perpetuation of this or that piece of  mechanism or organisation, but that individual men and women may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly'

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Well once we started winning.

The Southport delegation had a good conference. Over 20 of us turned up-surely the biggest delegation in living memory- even bigger than when the Conference/Assembly was in Southport. (Please note Conference Committee we'd love to welcome you back to our new improved facilities.)

There were a number of awards and competitions we were involved in. Firstly the ALDC campaigner awards-where this photo was taken. We had no luck there. Then the were the BOTY's-where we were shortlisted but no luck there either. Congratulation to the Lanson Boy -to whom we have 'linked before- who won on our category with his talk of choughs and All Blacks. It was also good to meet Mark Valladares from Liberal Bureaucracy whose blog by a Parish Councillor surely deserved recognition in a category all of its own. Anyway still no luck. We moved on to the Penhaligon Awards. Nigel Ashton gave a presentation in a cramped room in the Jury's Inn which wowed the judges and we shared the prize with Suffolk Coastal. Well done to the team. What is the Penhaligon award? Well it's not about baking seed cakes-David once spoke up for the 'seedcake members' who didn't ever formal join the party but who were loyal supporters. More details and photos to follow when those more intimately involved get them to me. And then I won a bottle of whisky-nicely boxed in a House of Commons packaging and signed by the former chair of Thameside YL's 

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Importance of saying Thank You -a leaflet from Southport in 1910

Saying thank you properly after an election is so important. There is nothing worse when you finish the count-whether you have won or lost -for nobody to have thought about a party for everyone to wind down and talk over the election. This is particularly true in a General Election when so many folk have put their lives on hold, desserted their families and taken annual leave to help with campaign. Michael Braham's book -available online at our website has some excellent examples. 
On this blog we have written a lot  about the first 1910 election when Baron de Forest was the candidate but there were two 1910 election and in the second Mr Woodcock was the candidate. He went on to become a Judge. sadly he lost -by less that 700 votes. The card from  him and his wife was sent to all workers.

Michael' s book records:

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Earliest Election leaflets for Birkdale 1892?

I was having a pint of Nutty Slack with Michael Braham at the Beer Festival on Saturday, well actually it was a half, when talk turned to elections in Birkdale in the time before it merged with Southport.  (You may wish to check out the context in more detail than this posting will allow so please consult the online version of Michael's History of Southport Liberals which can be found on the Birkdale Lib Dem website.) 

Michael maintains that these may be the oldest council election leaflets in existence from this constituency. They come from the second set of County Council elections. The Councils were set up by Gladstone to be 'Parliaments for the Provinces' in 1888. If you click on the leaflets you should get an enlarged and readable version.The first set of elections were known as the 'Allotment Election' as they were fought chiefly on the provision of allotment sites by Councils.
These leaflets date from the second elections and are quite fascinating. Firstly voting was on a Saturday which produce a high turnout. In fact the last council election held on a Saturday in these parts, 1947, produced the highest turn out of any post war  local election except when they coincided with General Election as in 1979 and 2010.
It is worth examining the list of nominations, you will see Rev Wellbeloved a Unitarian Minister, given what has been written about the importance of Unitarianism to Liberalism in the last few day since Cyril's death especially over on Liberal England  and in Jonathan Calder's article in the new edition of the Liberal History Journal  I thought it was worthy of note. George Chamberlain JP is another Unitarian and also Chairman of the Cheshire Lines Railway Company-now the name of a fine Real Ale pub in Southport!  

Women (as long as they were married) got the vote in 1894 for local elections, so the long list of women who couldn't vote supporting the Liberal Mr Hodge was impressive. ( can't remember whether single women with property got it earlier) One name stands out Eleanor Ryley-was she the mother of Kate the first women to hold elected office in Birkdale when she was elected to the Birkdale School Board in 1889? There is a suggestion that the family were Unitarians

The two letters reproduced as a leaflet from the Liberal supporting Southport Guardian give us a glimpse of the campaign  issues. The sitting Tory Mr Clinning is portrayed as an irresponsible spendthrift acquiring land for a hospital that was never used. It is of course important to note how wide the powers of local Boards were including hospitals!

The second letter from a 'Workingman' tackles the scare tactics used to keep the Catholic vote with the Tories. I should explain that Southport was predominately a non conformist town  but there was a significant catholic population and in this part of Lancashire that meant they were English Catholics who tended to vote as the local Catholic squirearchy decreed-ie Tory, unlike the immigrant Irish Catholic voters who tended to vote Liberal after Gladstone's attempt at Home Rule. On this occasion the suggestion is being put about by the Tories that the Liberals would make life difficult for catholic education.                                                                                        

The final leaflet take up the issue raise in the first letter to the Guardian namely the lack of a polling station in Ainsdale which had clearly been promised by the Tory and not delivered.(Ainsdale was part of the Birkdale division before being annexed by Southport in 1912. It was quite an imposition to have to go to vote several miles away in Formby and of course the 1883 Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act meant that you couldn't  pay for 'conveyances or animals usually let for hire ', hence the reference to nobody being allowed to pay your railway fare.

Well after a fine scrap Mr Clinning was returned and has a Birkdale road named after him. Interestingly all the roads in Birkdale Common referred to in the  letter over the workhouse, field hospital and isolation cottages have all been renamed-probably to try and remove the stigma attached to their former use

After all that I could just fancy a visit to the Cheshire Lines for the 'other half ' of that Nutty Slack.


Nick Harvey has told MPs that the timetable might slip for the renewal of Trident. He has made no suggestion that there is a proper re-evaluation of the part Trident plays in our defence. The correct thing is not to treat Trident separately but to subject it to the same scrutiny as the rest of the defence spending. It is not just a question of whether it is value for money but rather what part it plays in furthering our foreign policy objectives. War, armies  is just policy pursued by other means.

Southport bucks the trend again and again and again........

Writing in the current edition of the Liberal History Journal John Prof Curtice looks at the Party's 2010 performance. I have no doubt his figures are correct- the only problem for me is that the conclusions he draws do not fit Southport-we did far better. It is not the first time we've bucked the trend. Chris Rennard in his obituary of Cyril Smith pointed out that there were 4 important new second places at the 1970 election -and one of them was Southport. In some ways even more exceptional was Sam Goldberg's second place in 1959 achieved in a three cornered fight. So, is there something we can teach others? -we have rather a reputation for not slavishly following the Campaign Departments advice!

First let us establish the facts. John Curtice's analysis show how Lib Dems performed in different types of seats. This is set out in the table below
How the Liberal Democrat performance varied
First party/second party 2005 Mean change in Liberal Democrat
share of vote since 2005
Conservative/Labour +3.3
Labour/Conservative +0.6
Conservative/Liberal Democrat +0.5
Labour/Liberal Democrat +0.4
Liberal Democrat/Conservative –0.4
Liberal Democrat/Labour –0.9

So in a seat like Southport you'd expect a negative swing. Indeed in the NW if we look at the two seats to the south of Manchester-Cheadle and Hazel Grove- that looks right. In Hazel Grove the share of the vote slipped 0.7% and the Tory vote rose 3.9% and in Cheadle the vote fell 5.2%. As the table below shows in Southport we rose 3.3%

Southport General Election Result
Turnout: 43757 (65%)
Liberal Democrats: 21707 (+3.3%)
Conservative: 15683 (−1.2%)
Labour: 4116 (−3.4%)

Curtice's second point of interest is that:
Meanwhile, the party’s vote actually fell back somewhat in those seats it was attempting to defend.

Well that didn't happen to us-and we were not alone as Curtice acknowledges:

The one group of Liberal Democrat MPs that did manage to increase their support quite substantially comprised those who f irst captured their seat in 2005 and were thus defending it for the first time. On average their vote increased by 3.1 points

that certainly fits in the NW with Tim Farron's performance but again Southport doesn't fit even this 'exception' . John Pugh was first elected in 2001-I should know I was his agent. We won well particularly as he was not the incumbant. In fact Southport has won 5 of the last 6 general elections and therefore it may have been expected that we would have suffered some of the fall off in vote that other seats experience.

A later posting will look at some of the suggestions of how we bucked the trend....... I wonder if anyone wants to hear?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

NHS freeze of plans to restore kids’ healthcare to Southport described as a ‘betrayal’ by MP John Pugh

John Pugh speaks out about child health care

email from France brings news of BOTY and Lynton Rd crossing

An email from France where one of my fellow Birkdale councillors is meant to be holidaying brought news of that Birkdale Focus has been shortlisted for the Blogger of the Year Awards in the category for Lib Dem holding Public Office.

The full shortlist is:

A Lanson Boy by Alex Folkes

Liberal Bureaucracy by Mark Valladares

Check it out for yourself and you will see that the competition is very tough. Many thanks to everyone who has supported the blog since it began in March 2007. In those days it's chief purpose was to chronicle the unbelievable antics of the local Tories. At that stage none of us realised the extent to which they would self destruct. In recent times we have broadened our scope and our readership

Talking of the BOTY can I commend Nick Thornsby's blog which has been shortlisted in the best new blog category. I am sure that I am not alone in checking out his late night reports from the Electoral Court sitting in Saddleworth which is investigating Phil Woolas. In fact I know some folk who have even join twitter with the sole intention of following his reports!

Anyway back to Simon's email, remember that this man is meant to be on holiday with his family, but not only has he spent time checking out LDV for the BOTY nominations he has also been chasing Richard and me about casework. So if your reading this Simon, yes we understand your point out Waterloo Rd crossing and the impact on Lynton Rd. My advice is to you is to switch off, enjoy the good food and wine and the company of your family and we will take care of the case work till you get back.

Abbey Gardens re-surfacing news

My colleague Richard Hands has been our 'progress chaser' over the spending of the extra road maintenance money that was included in the budget. Residents will note that Sandon Rd has already been treated under this initiative but we were anxious about the lack of action over Abbey Gardens.
Richard received the following email today:

Cllr Hands

I have followed up you query in relation to when and if Abbey Gardens are going to receive micro surfacing treatment.

I can confirm that it is down to be done and will defiinately been done before the end of November.  Is has been suggested that due to location that it would be good to undertake the work on a Sunday - if this is given the go ahead it will be done before then.

blocked grid overflowing and causing a terrible smell

I see I'm not alone with struggling to get flooding problems sorted. But I can report one small success this morning. The issue was raised with me by a resident who works in Tulketh St near the offending drain. I finally got a note  this morning confirming that action had been taken:

'Dear Councillor,

Further to your e-mail of 16th August 2010, regarding a blocked grid in
Tulketh Street, Southport that was overflowing and causing terrible
smell. ....... work was issued to the contractor on G2R123 to have the gully checked. 
On inspection it was found that the problem was on a private or pre-1936 drain connecting 
into the waste water interceptor, however, because it posed a health hazard I requested the
contractor to clear it, which he did.'

Tory Runner and Riders for Dukes Ward

The Tories only clung on to one ward in Southport last year -Dukes Ward. Essentially this is Shoreside Birkdale (home to championship golf courses and retired footballers) and the southern section of the Town Centre (which in socio economic terms is the most deprived in Southport) this is the only seat we have never won on Sefton Council. It is our belief that at the General Election John Pugh came very close to winning the votes in those polling districts.
Dukes Ward is also the centre of the spectacular row that has broken out  between local Tories leading to resignations , desertions, and a level of nastiness and vindictiveness the like of which I have never witnessed before.
As we have reported before membership of the local Conservative Assoc (as reported to the Electoral Commission)  is in sharp decline as is the Tory vote. True to recent form the Tories do not appear to have got their act together over selection of a candidate.

Three names now appear to be in contention; Former Association President (resigned) and local solicitor Jeremy Myers, a genuine Dukes Ward Tory and former PPC for West Lancs, who was announced as the candidate after Les Byrom the former Tory Leader crossed the floor claiming that all the nastiness and back-biting was too much for him.

Mrs P. Ball who appears to be ambitious

And finally the women described to me by a local Tory as the '****** choice' Mrs C Reagan. (On a family blog I couldn't possibly use the phrase although I fully appreciate the sentiment)

So their chances? Jeremy seems to be fully occupied at work so I guess he must be marked down to 'evens'. Of the two women-well it depends who makes the selection-the ward or the association, I have Mrs Ball slightly in front.

Birkdale hosts model railway exhibition

Having posted on Council Leaders interest in Mansfield Town F.C. it would seem appropriate to draw attention to Southport Model Railway Society's exhibition to be held at Birkdale High School 25/26 September, as that is Cllr Robertson's real hobby

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Tony Robertson makes it on to Sandgrounder website

Readers may recall my posting after the Southport v Mansfield game which I squeezed in before nipping off to the Beer Festival. I failed to report at the time that Lib Dem Council Leader Tony Robertson was also at the game. He is pictured here with the Mansfield Manager. Tony has written round saying how much he enjoyed the game and the friendly atmosphere at the club. You can see the Club's record of Tony's visit here
Tony hails from Mansfield and I think he is sporting his Mansfield Town supporters Club tie.

webcasting council meetings

As regular readers will know I have been looking at the webcasting experiments that other local authorities have undertaken.  At present Sefton has a little used video link between Bootle and Southport Town halls and we have just cut upgrading it from the capital programme. Personally I am very keen that we should be opening up our meetings to the public. I just don't think that allowing the public to attend in person  is good enough- especially when most of the decision making meetings are held during the working day and the borough is so spread out. Wecasting may be part of the solution particularly if the costs can be kept down. Anyway I have one more Council to add to me list: Cornwall. Take a look. It does the job even if the camera work only get 2/10

Gatliff Trust

One of the other by elections of the early 1970's was at Chester-le-Street the stomping ground of my old friend and sometime Durham County Councillor Derek Morse. He and I regularly used to go walking in the Lakes. We also used to go on longer expeditions completing long distance footpaths like Wainwright's Coast to Coast and the West Highland Way. On one of our longer expeditions we went way out west and stayed in the little hostels run by the Gatliff Trust in the Western Isles. I think our last visit must have been in the late 1990s. The picture  is of the hostel at Garenin near Calloway on Lewis. Derek and I were there for several days including a Sabbath Day and believe me there was nothing like a Lewis Sabbath. Particularly memorable was our trip to the Wee Free Kirk with its Gaelic service and music. I found a youtube clip and it is certainly very close to the singing we heard, the harmonies in particular are quite amazing and very different

 I arrived home to find that the newsletter from the Gatliff Trust had come in the post and it brought back many memories of my visits. Now I don't know if Cameron would claim the Trust as an example of the Big Society but I certainly commend it as a group of enthusiasts who have made a real difference. It is well worth a visit to their website

Southport 24 hour race

I first met Cyril in a Mini car...

Yesterday was Cyril's funeral held at Rochdale Town Hall. The BBC appropriately decided show a programme on Golden Age of Northern Civic architecture which featured the gothic glory of Rochdale. I got to thinking about the times I met Cyril.

When I was a student there were a string of by elections. Cyril's victory in Rochdale was the first, it was followed by success at Sutton and Cheam-where I much of my spare time in the Autumn term delivering, Berwick upon Tweed, Lincoln ( I didn't go there) Ripon, Liverpool Edge Hill, and the Isle of Ely all of which we won. But I think that it was at the Uxbridge by election that I met Cyril first.

The ALTU chair, Ian Stuart, was the candidate who lost his deposit even though polling day was on the same December day as Graham Tope's triumph in Sutton. Most Young Liberal spent their time helping Tope but a few of us decided that a token visit to Uxbridge was in order. We spent the day handing out leaflets at the railway station and in the evening we went to the public meeting where Jeremy Thorpe was the speaker and Alan Sherwell and I cadged a lift home with him.

As I recall, and it was 38 years ago, Cyril turned up with an LPO employee in a mini. I sat in the back! I came across Cyril often after that and although we didn't always agree he didn't seem to hold it against me too much. I spoke immediately before him in a Liberal Assembly debate on strategy-in those days we had endless debates about strategy -he and I were taking a line somewhat different to the leadership and he was very reassuring. He spoke for me at the 1983 General Election when we held an open air meeting in the Lord Street gardens in front of what is now the Vincent Hotel. Years later he came to Middlewich where we failed to persuade him to get on a trailer Ged Devaney had rigged up with a sort of throne on it. Instead we drove around and I remember introducing him to a pensioner who had been christened with the middle names Lloyd George in honour of the introduction of the Old Aged Pension.

There is no doubt he could be difficult and there are times when he didn't always understand what was going on-particularly at the beginning of the Thorpe affair. He had a strong sense of individual rights and privacy. You wonder today whether his father would not have been 'outed by the media'. As others have noted his Unitarianism was central to his belief system .

There is little doubt that there were some who didn't rate Cyril. I remember one leading 'adviser to the Leader' briefing the press that he was just fat. But for the foot soldiers he kept us going and was one of the few Liberals who managed to get himself heard -even if you weren't quite sure what he was going to say.

everyday casework....

The everyday lot of a councillor is to deal with casework. Today I have dealt with the removal of a dead tree in Liverpool Rd, the replacementof a 'box grid' in Guildford Rd and a planning concerns in Bolton Rd. I am delighted the report that the gardens at the front of Birkdale Library have been replanted. In truth my colleague Councillor Hands deserves the credit for this-the contractor 'botched' the job first time round in the Spring and so -without cost to the ratepayers-they have been back to do it again.

Kennedy on Cuts

A tad more subtle than Bob Russell-altho I realise that is not setting the bar very high.......The BBC has the story

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sandgrounder Beer Festival 2010

After pausing to have a take away from the Curry House-I recommend the Lamb Sagwalla-it was off the the Beer Festival. This year it was held in the Scarisbrick Hotel as the Arts Centre is under going major renovations. The new venue certainly attracted more younger folk and offered a much improved seating area.

There were some excellent local beers on offer and given the smaller venue the organisers had concentrated on NW brews. I sampled the Thirstquencher Bitter from the Spitting Feather brewery in Chester which at 3.9% demonstrates that it is possible to produce a really flavoursome session bitter and that high alcohol content is not necessary. I've long thought that Camra's campaign for lower duty for on low alcohol beer in pubs is an excellent idea. Then we moved on to the Millds, Stouts and Porters. The Southport Brewery's Tower Mild got rave reviews from my colleagues and I was impressed with the Nutty Slack Mild from the Prospect Brewery in Standish.  Sadly the Rum Porter from the Boggart Hole Brewery had all gone as had the Chocolate Cherry Mild from Durham Massey  but Dark Knight from Darwin and  Deep, Dark Secret from Northwich were hits. The best, Best Bitter of the night was Cunning Stunt from the Fuzzy Duck Brewery-not to be talk about if you lapse in to spoonerism of a few pints.

Another facet of the festival was the re-introduction of live music after an absence for a few years. The live band Gallimaufry were, like the beers, local. Their website is well worth a visit and if you click on the heading of this posting you should hear a snatch of the music (If you don't I'm sure some of you will email to let me know)

The 11th Sandgrounder Beer Festival -although smaller than some of the earlier ones-was a great success.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Haig Ave

At Haig Ave this afternoon to see Southport play another former League side, Mansfield Town. Deservedly Mansfield won although the Sandgrounders had plenty of opportunities to score, Blakeman in particular was guilty of squandering chances.

At this level of football segregation of the crowd is not as strict as it is (and needs to be) at higher level. We sat in the stand at the Blowick End and met many Mansfield supporters. Two couples who sat in front of us were making a weekend of it and it was interesting to hear the impressions of Southport. They were full of praise for the their Guest House-the Norwood. I cannot claim to know it but one of the women who was disabled spoke highly of the way they had accommodated her. They all 'loved' the town and were looking forward to exploring more tomorrow. It will be interesting to see an economic impact assessment of the football club since we moved up to the Conference Premier. I suspect that the four folk we were chatting to were not the only ones to have 'weekended' in Southport.

Thanks to Geoff Wilde and Michael Braham's excellent book I can tell you that Southport's previous record against Mansfield is:
played 48, won 16, drawn 13, lost 19, Goals for 74, Goals against 100.

So the result was to be expected!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Dikerogammarus villosus

The Independent today has a most worrying article, it claims the discovery in Britain of a 'killer shrimp' that could wipe out the native brown shrimp and thus devastate the 'potted shrimp' industry in Southport. The paper reports:
A particularly voracious and aggressive predator, Dikerogammarus villosus preys on a range of invertebrates, particularly native shrimps and young fish, sometimes causing their extinction. It tends to dominate its habitat, killing and maiming unselectively.
Its aggression – it bites and shreds its prey to death but often leaves it uneaten – is matched by its versatility, and it can survive fluctuations in temperature, salinity and oxygen levels. As a result its numbers have grown rapidly in the long rivers of western Europe in the past 20 years, damaging smaller species and ruining ecological chains.
The area around Southport and Formby is also renowned for another endangered species-the red squirrel. The National Trust reserve at Freshfied has done excellent work in supporting the habitat and combating the encroachment of the more aggressive grey. 

I raise this topic because of an interesting conversation I had with a couple of constituents about the management of the sand dune network at Birkdale. I must stress that this was a wholly rational conversation unlike some folk who have approached me about this topic!

The first concern that the couple raised was that the beach management team were preparing the area for housing development and that opening up the dunes to wider access would allow them to proceed without further consent. Well they were talking to the person who led the campaign to have Crossens and Marshside Marsh included in the green belt back in the early 1980's so as to prevent development there and to open the area up to 'green tourism'. I'm delighted to say that the RSPB Reserve developed on the site has been a great success. I am confident that no plans exist to build on the dunes.

Their second concern, and here we return to the killer shrimp, was that if nature allowed the sea buckthorn to flourish on the dunes then it should be left alone. I think not. That thinking would allow mink to take over our waterways, the shrimp to be devoured by its killer cousin and all manner of devastation. It is rather like the economy, these habitats need to be managed and not just left to their own devices

Monday, 6 September 2010

Congratulations all round

Many thanks to Sarah Harding for tipping me off about our ranking in the Total Politics Blog Awards for 2010. Birkdale Focus is up from 39th in 2009 to 23rd this year. thanks to all who voted. Southport Liberal Youth were in at 61st and Mike Booth and Kew Focus entered the listings at 40th

1 (2) LibDem Voice
2 (5) Mark Reckons
3 (7) Caron's Musings
4 (6) Liberal Vision
5 (36) Mark Pack
6 (8) Liberal England
7 (11) Stephen's Liberal Journal
8 (12) Jennie Rigg
9 (22) Always Win When You're Singing
10 (19) Andrew Reeves
11 (13) Cicero's Songs
12 Bureau of Sabotage
13 (10) Quaequam Blog
14 (15) Lynne Featherstone MP
15 (14) Millennium Dome Elephant
16 (60) A Lanson Boy
17 (17) Peter Black AM
18 (31) Fraser Macpherson
19 Men in Suits
20 (56) Max Atkinson
21 (4) Norfolk Blogger
22 (23) Freedom Central
23 (39) Birkdale Focus
24 Ffranc Sais
25 Dib Lemming

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Our statistician recognised

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

My colleague Simon Shaw has just skipped off to France for three weeks-just as a leaflet arrived back from the printers. Before he left he wrote this article examining the Liberal Democrat performance since the General Election. It features at No 3 in the Lib Dem Golden dozen this week, which in essence means that according to their clever counting widget it was a very popular item last week.
Well done Simon and we will do our best to get the leaflet out before you return.