Monday, May 28, 2007

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

I had a great day today, visting MIMA - Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, with Mum.

Built in the civic quarter of the town and opened in January this year, it is a splendid glass iconic building housing the best of modern art. If you want to learn more about MIMA click on the title of this entry to go to the widipedia entry.

The first gallery housed a very special exhibition "Notebook" 2004 by John Wood and Paul Harrison.

We sat mesmerised for at least 40 of the 50 minutes that the film runs for, in company with a man, his two toddlers and his mate and two couples, sitting on benches round the wall in front of the big screen. Later as we walked round the rest of the gallery we found a window where a further dozen, with their noses pressed to the window, continued to watch from above.

The film takes place in a plain white room, probably a portacabin but certainly a very plain office room. The main feature is a white rectangular table, upon which, at about 20 second intervals, marvellous things occur. My personal favourite was the deck chair, which you will see if you click on the link I gave above.

A white deckchair sits adjacent to the table. On the table are a dozen or so "matchpots" of different coloured paints. As we watch the matchpots, fastened to a small plank, tip up and start to pour down the back of the deck chair, creating the colourful stripes so beloved of seaside scenes.

In another favourite, a dozen boats have been made out of blue napkins. They blow gently along the table and gather together at the other end, grouping just before the table edge.

As I watched I marvelled at the hours the artists must have spent, measuring, calculating, trying and testing before creating their perfection.
The toddlers were at least as fascinated as the grandmother I sat next to. Any work of art that reaches so many people of such differing types has to be a winner.

We wandered off round the further four galleries and exhibition spaces, I noted two Augustus Johns, two Lowry's (both of the old Middlesbrough Town Hall), some fabulous Bridget Riley's created in 1965 and even a Tracy Emin.
Brian Sewell, as I recall, thought the MIMA was wasted on the people of the North, I think he said the same about the Angel of the North and presumably also Gormley's other masterpiece, the iron men of Crosby. Just shows what he knows!

Alex's 8th birthday watch

I took advantage of the bank holiday weekend to spend some time with my family on Teesside.

Alex has just had his 8th birthday and asked me for a "Constant Boy's Digital Watch".

He chose it himself from what my mate Lisa calls the "book of dreams" otherwise known as the Argos catalogue.

It was the best £6.99 I have ever spent. He was thrilled with it, he and his brother spent hours running round the house, up and down the stairs, timing themselves on the stop watch. He cannot wait to get to Spain today on holiday to test it in the water either but I am not sure he will get down to 50m so he may have to take the manufacturer's word for that.

I found this all quietly amusing until I recalled that on my 8th birthday, back in 1973 (yes I really am that old), I too had a watch, a smashing little timex which, apart from the fact that we were on holiday in Dartmouth, is the only thing I can remember about such an auspicious occasion.

Can you remember what your 8th birthday present was? Was it a watch?

He asked me if it was a 13 hour digital watch, I said yes, well, 24 hour actually. And he said he knew that to work the time out, you had to take off ten and then take off two. I wondered about that, I dont recall learning maths that way, I am sure I have always "taken twelve off" but it sounds much easier his way.

He also wanted some pyjamas and seemed very pleased with them too, and they say that it is hard to satisfy children these days. Perhaps we have the worst still to come?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Nasty people leaving nasty messages

For people who understand about these things, I would like you to know that the following IP address has left 16 entries on the blog, most of which I have published but some I have not, like one left today which was particularly unpleasant. It is obviously someone who is quite well read as there are historical and political references amongst the bile. (

They use google to find the site and the search words "louise baldock blog"

Does anyone have a clue about this?

To the uninitiated it would appear that the writer has an email account at John Moore's University. It would be easy to think that was Councillor Frank Doran who I understand works at a University in Liverpool, but I would not want to libel him without having my facts straight. Indeed it might be a coincidence and he might not work in that university, so I dont want to point the finger at him until I am more confident.

Does anyone know how to read IP addresses?

I am getting fed up with fending off the deeply unpleasant comments, they are out of all proportion to the entries they relate to.

Should I get in touch with JMU and ask them to look into this?

Thanks for your help with this.

Late edit: Big apologies to Frank, I understand you dont work there, I am glad it is not you, I am very happy to clear that up.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Annual council meeting and special inauguration

I got to the Town Hall at 4pm to witness the inauguration of the new councillors. I was so pleased, it was a "proper" do with photos and certificates and a bit of a fuss. Just what I felt was lacking last year and I was very pleased that the Committee Services staff took this on board and sorted it out.

We then had a photo taken of all the Labour Group women together (less a few on holiday).

There was a big protest outside the Town Hall when I arrived, the care workers chanting "We care, so should you" about their cut in wages after they have been told they cannot claim travelling time any more, only time spent with the people they visit. A total disgrace. This LibDem council has done some terrible things with Adult Services, this is just another example.

They were there because it was the annual council meeting tonight, where the councillors elect their new Lord Mayor (who has always been the Deputy Lord Mayor in the previous year) and their new Deputy of the same, ready for next year. (Steve Rotheram, Labour Cllr for Fazakerley will be Lord Mayor next May, half way through the year of culture, following LibDem Paul Clarke).

It is a meeting in two parts, first the ceremonial business and then, after a break, a few bits of business and some formalities about who the Libdems have chosen for their chairs of committees, cabinet members, reps on outside bodies etc.

The main items of interest were that Cllr Steve Radford has become chair of the select committee I sit on, in place of Josie Mullen. I liked working with Josie, I hope Steve is as independent as she was, I suppose it is his prize for the deal he did with them over K&F and Clubmoor. Ironically the deal didnt work for either of them.

The LibDems have put forward that they want both places on the Kensington Regeneration Board again this year, despite having only four of the nine councillors that cover the area. If this is their idea of Liberal Democracy then I can only marvel.

Just a warning though guys, if you insist on this, we will make absolutely sure that every single resident in the area knows how little you think of them and their votes over the last two elections. And the challenges to the decisions and actions of the organisation will be much more direct and focussed than they have been. I sense a rash of FOI questions on their way. I shall also want to know why the minutes are not on the website any more and why the meetings are not advertised properly in advance and lots of other similar things. The bullying will also be challenged. Community involvement? Not so that you would notice.

We were all deeply disappointed that Councillor Warren Bradley, the Libdem leader with a majority in free-fall, chose to poke fun at Councillor Ann O'Byrne on this her very first meeting and at a time when everyone was falling over themselves to be non-partisan. Why would the leader of a leading British city think that was a suitable way to conduct himself?

For the record, he stopped mid-speech about neighbourhood committees to ask Ann if she was falling asleep. She apparently yawned, he should be used to that, most of us yawn at his contributions. But it was definitely not "cricket" for him to "name" her in that way and draw attention to her at this mainly ceremonial event. A really unsafe pair of hands if you ask me.

After the meeting we had the mayor-making meal upstairs in the town hall. Very pleasant evening, I am always amused as those of our members who like to chat with their members come back and report the conversations.

Apparently Frank Doran thinks I am in a weird religious sect - so it is him then that has been leaving all those weird posts on the blog. For the record Frank, the methodists are about as least weird as you can get, and certainly not a sect.

He also evidently calls Wendy, Claire and me the "Witches of Eastwick". I suppose that means he has found out about the dolls we have with pins stuck in them, and our late night meetings on the heath with our cauldrons, all part of the plotting to get rid of him and his friends. Be afraid, be very afraid. (Silly man).

Monday, May 21, 2007

St Sebastians Community Garden grand opening

Wendy and I were very pleased to attend the opening and blessing of St Sebastian's new community garden at the back of the club on Lockerby Road.

Pat Dermott and her committee have worked incredibly hard to turn this rough and overgrown waste land into a lovely peaceful garden which will bring pleasure to the whole community.

I was glad to support their bid for some money last year from The Empowering Neighbourhoods fund and to help them source some garden benches when their original supplier fell through. We had a lovely photo taken with all the supporters and the hard workers which I hope will be in the Echo and the Kensington Regeneration newsletter in due course.

A lovely sunny event which put everyone in a great mood.

Election to Labour Group Executive Board

I am very proud to have been elected to the Labour Group Executive Board as Policy Convenor, thus a promotion to "front bencher".

Essentially my role will be to work with LP members, councillors and supporters, Shadow Spokespeople on the Labour Group, senior officers and the Leader and the Campaign Convenor to draw up a manifesto for the City of Liverpool that we can campaign around

I am very excited about it!

I have also been asked to be the Labour Deputy on the Sustainable Environment Select Committee, with a place on a whole host of relevant committees, like Merseyside Waste Authority, the Port Health Authority and the Environmental Regulation committee. I do hope my life is not going to become too meetings based, I like to be in the community best but am looking forward to learning lots of new stuff and making my contribution to these big topics.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Central Youth Club boys win top BBC prize

9 boys at Central Youth Club, Walker Street, Pythian Estate, Kensington have won a top BBC competition.

With the help of Tony Ealey of Eek Films Ltd ( they made a short 30 second film, recreating a favourite moment from the FA cup in times gone by, a la Skinner and Baddiel, which they entered in the BBCs Sport Academy competition.

They chose Liverpool's Djimi Traore's own goal against Burnley in the third round of the Cup in 2005. (A bit of a strange choice given that most of them are Liverpool supporters....)

The film beat others from all over the country which is a fantastic achievement. If you have the right kind of software you can click on the title of this entry and go to the BBC website where you can view the film.

The judges said they particularly enjoyed the commentary!

The whole community is so proud of them, I dont know anyone who ever won a BBC competition. Truly amazing.

We had a presentation tonight where they all had a certificate from the club celebrating their achievement.

What was the prize? Well, that's the rub really. It was two tickets to the FA cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United on May 19th. You could argue that nobody in Liverpool would want to watch and support either, but of course the reality is very different. An FA cup final is a FA cup final and this is a historic one, being the first to be played in the new Wembley stadium.

But how do 9 boys use 2 tickets for a match in London?

Answer, you have to have a draw amongst the 9 and the lucky winner gets to take an adult with him who can supervise the journey and the day.

Guess who they asked to make this draw and thus become the most unpopular woman on the estate for 8 of the boys? Yup, yours truly. Wendy tried not to laugh as I was thrown to the wolves.

Well done boys, we are all immensely proud of you. I only wish there had been two tickets for every one of you, but at least you have the satisfaction of knowing that your film was the best in the country. Wendy said to Marie afterwards, the youth worker at the club, "It is so good to see kids doing great things and being so successful, people are so quick to judge all young people as yobs."


Do watch it, it is great

999ers looking for 99s

Last month a Cadbury's lorry loaded with 23 tonnes of ice cream was stolen on Merseyside. The empty truck was found on a Burscough Industrial Estate.

Yesterday a trailer containing 250,000 Cadbury's flakes was stolen from St Helens.

Police say they are looking at ice cream vendors.

No really, honestly, you couldn't make it up!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Newsham Park Festival working group

Another meeting of the people who want the Newsham Park festival on June 30th to be a big success.

I was there to help talk about PR and marketing mainly but was very impressed with the contributions from around the room.

In particular, Lisa, who is a teacher at St Francis of Assisi Academy and is not an Events manager per se has done a fantastic job, truly amazing, in pulling it all together.

Get it in your diary.

I am helping them to promote this, it was fantastic last year and the weather was so hot we nearly fried, hope it is nice but not that nice this year

Anyone who fancies a stall or some engagement, do please let me know

Anyone who can offer free publicity with posters, websites, radio coverage, stories in the papers, handouts, hand bills or a bit of space in their journals or magazines or newsletters, do please also let me know.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Gordon Brown's bid for the leadership

I just got this email from Gordon Brown

I thought it would be interesting for all readers of the blog

"I wanted to email to explain that I have decided to stand as leader of the Labour Party because I want to make my contribution to meeting the challenges ahead. There is so much more to do to make Britain the country we all want it to be.

I believe I have the values to understand what Britain needs, a record of experience that is an asset to the Labour party, and the right vision for the future of the country.

I know where I come from, what I believe, and what I can contribute.

What drew the British people to new Labour in the 1990s was that we would give priority to the needs of hard working families – and this must drive all our decisions now and in the future.
I want to learn from you about how we can reach out to renew the coalition that brought us to power in three successive elections. Together I know we can win an historic fourth term for our party.

You can read the statement I made at the launch of the campaign on Friday. If you have any comments or want to get involved please visit the campaign website
Gordon Brown"

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Colin comes to stay

My mate Colin from Sheffield stayed over on Thursday while he was doing work with Liverpool University on a research project.

We went to Penny Lane wine bar, the Tavern and then finished up in the Richmond with Colin and Mike, Ian and Rachel putting the world to rights.

We talked about the election results in Sheffield, my old campaigning grounds, was sorry to hear that old timers Alf and Veronica had lost their seats. But delighted that John Robson goes from strength to strength as does Harry H.

We had a long chat about Blair and his legacy as this was the day he made his announcement - a day later than I had anticipated.

Neither of us would describe ourselves as Blairites but both are very moved by the end of an era and the huge change we now face.

I remember in 1997 in May and June, hearing the Radio presenters talk about "the Prime Minister" and curling my lip figuratively, thinking about John Major before recalling that this was now Tony Blair. I suppose we will have it all to go through again soon.

Met Colin after the second of our Pythian Estate surgeries, Wendy was roundly congratulated and hugged and kissed.

We are looking foward to the celebrations of the fact that local youngsters have won a BBC national competition. More on this later.

Parks Scrutiny Panel - How safe are our parks?

A fascinating session, hindered only by the incessant rain which poured on our three quarters of an hour tour of Newsham Park. What an irony, I bring the panel to the park in my ward and for the first time the weather is not with us...

A poor turnout too from the panel members, apologies or not, but thankfully four local ward councillors turned up and gave good if not a tad overly lengthy contributions.

We identified a host of issues in the park itself during our walkabout which I am hopeful will form part of the sizeable Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the park that we are now ready to consult on.

I was also delighted that Harald Braun of the Friends of Newsham Park was able to come and share their wish list with us.

We then got on to scrutinising the safety and security aspect of the parks' strategy for the city. City Watch are now running mobile CCTV vehicles on a 24/7 basis across our city park. I had not been aware of this before, it sounds great but I still want to see a sample of their timetable before I can believe that they make it into and around all our parks each day.

We were unanimous in agreeing that we need to provide activities in parks for young people so that they are not diverted into damaging the existing provision out of boredom. We were particularly interested in the fitness trail - parallel bars, equipment to encourage sit-ups, stretching, all those sorts of things, and markers on the ground every 50m for runners and joggers etc, so that getting fit and sporty is a draw instead of trashing swings and slides.

We talked about better lighting in parks to protect walkers after dark, but did not entirely resolve the subsequent dilemma of encouraging people to think they were then safe.

All in all a fascinating session that we all enjoyed, do read the minutes, along with all the others, on the Council website

Neighbourhood Services Task Group - Kenny Regen

Went to NSTG on Tuesday teatime - one of the Kenny Regen committees

Have committed to finding answer to the follow questions

1. When is 24 Freehold Street finally being demolished after the Council learnt it would cost £90k for them to shore up this house in private ownership pending the owner tackling it themselves. Too big a price to pay in my view, however well meaning, a shame but probably the right decision in the end.

2. What is happening at the Fruit and Veg market? The recycling people are slowly encroaching on the market's space pending its ultimate closure and coversion to new schools.

The Chair of KNDC once again insisted vociferously that Prescot Road is not in the KNDC area despite Lynn Spencer confirming it is, in writing, to me, since the fire.

Please can someone get this sorted? I am sure you read this, between you. What is the truth?

Follow up post re Tony Blair

Of all the discourse, debate and coverage of the resignation timetable this week, I have been struck by the comments of one contributor, cannot recall who it was.

They said that the country had felt and still believes that TB should have been able to resolve all the problems in this country and indeed in the world. That he was meant to right all wrongs. That it is his failure to do this that has caused such terrible loss of trust and support etc.

I thought about this a lot.

You might like to get your head round this too.

Did we expect him to right the world's wrongs?

I think the commentator might be right.

I cannot point to another politician in this country or another who we thought should be able to do this, but in TB such expectations were explicit and implicit.

But now that it has been put to me, as a radio listener, like that, I can clearly see that was the case and also why it was ridiculous.

As he said himself, we expected too much, of him and of each other and of the world.

Expectations were too high.

He is not and did not describe himself as our nation's saviour nor the world's saviour, but much of the criticism levelled at him is about his failure to be such a figure, although not in such an obvious or vocal way of course.

I wish I could remember who said this, but it was a valuable lesson and I am thankful for it.

What did you expect of Heath, Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher or Major? Or earlier leaders? Less? the same? more? Is it reasonable?


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tony Blair to stand down on June 27th

I cannot let this moment pass without an entry.

I feel very mixed up emotionally about the finality of the news.

I was never a Blairite, I voted for Margaret Becket for Leader and was very active in the Defend Clause IV campaign after his election (I wanted to save the committment to the "social, political and economic emancipation of the people of the world" which was part V of Clause IV).

Then I started working for the party and I met him lots of times and he was always perfectly charming. I have watched on countless occasions while he has had his ear chewed off by people who wanted to give him a piece of their mind and he was always courteous and dignified. I sat with him on the NEC for over a year and heard him explain patiently over and over again why he had made certain decisions that he had.

I came to respect him and to trust and believe that even if I did not always agree with him I could see that he acted out of a genuine belief in the rightness of his argument and conviction. I dont believe he was a liar. Not about Iraq or anything else. I can see how one can say that presented with the information he had one would have taken a different tack. But I dont believe he had a blood lust for war that meant that he deliberately falsified papers to justify this.

His experience at that time, in Bosnia and Sierra Leone would have shown him that a short burst of military action could result in a stable peace. I believe he thought this would happen again in Iraq.

I think he steered the LP and the country through some great initiatives (via his Secretaries of States and their Ministerial teams.) I recall managing a petrol station in 1995 where the staff were on £2.60 an hour and having to supplement their meagre income with benefits. I remember security guards across the country were on £1 per hour and had to provide their own uniforms and dogs. That is not such a long time ago and inflation has been held right down by the efforts of TBs chosen Chancellor, so that £1 would not be a great deal more now if it were not for the minimum wage.

I recall the horror of the Manchester bomb and the Warrington bomb and the Omagh bomb, violence continue to rumble on over the Northern Ireland/Eire problems, right through the early 1990s.

Now at last there is a peace, and one in which the two most extreme sides of the argument have been able to come together and move forward together. That is a miracle, a total miracle. I recall one annual Party Conference, 1999 in Bournemouth where we had Gerry Adams and his entourage in one part of the building and David Trimble and his entourage in another part of the building and we had to keep them apart, me leading Gerry round the back corridors of the conference centre, on the walky talky to my colleague leading David Trimble round the front corridors. It is beyond imagination that we have come so far on this and I believe it has happened because Tony Blair never ever stopped talking about it and working on it and tackling it and pushing the politicians to sort it out.

I think about the advances in equality of opportunity that this Government has made with him at the helm. Gay young men allowed to have sex at 16, like their straight counterparts, gay men and women allowed to adopt children, allowed to join the armed services. People who have been through sex changes allowed to change their birth certificates to reflect this. Civil Registrations held in Register Officers with flowers and witnesses and proper rights for the new partners. No more having to give up death-bed medical decisions to distant members of family instead of live-in partners, no more disinheritance. It is now a crime to discriminate against old people or young people. It is now a crime to discrimate against people because of their religion. Real action to tackle institutionalised racism in the Police Force. The introduction of the DDA which has in my HR experience made a big difference to people at work as well as helping them to access public services. I am sure I have forgotten lots of things, this was a quick rush through the equality agenda.

The concentration on lifting world debt in African countries and the promise to boost spending on international aid to 0.7%.

The genuine fight against Anti-Social Behaviour, finally recognising something very uncomfortable to the Labour Party for decades, that the victims are our people as well as the culprits and we cannot sit by and see their lives ruined.

I could go on but my lunch time has come to an end

Critics and those who hate him will never change their mind, whatever I say, but I just wanted to say, on behalf of all the people who have asked me to let you know this, thank you very much.
Photo circa 2000 - when we were young!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Mike Storey's result in Wavertree

Sorry, I know you were all waiting breathlessly to learn how Mike Storey did in Wavertree, given that he had repeatedly told us how close it was.

Ermm... he won by a shed and a half.

About 1800 or so

So what do you know?

It was either very poor polling on their part that suggested things were close, or dare I say it, a whopping big LIE!

You decide

So he is BACK and fighting (oh no, bad choice of word)

Game is now on for the election of the new leader of the LibDems and the city

Place your bets, the wheel is spinning...............

Leafy Mossley Hill

Just a word about this whole phenomena of who is local and who is not

And I send this message to both parties, not that I am convinced either is listening

Nobody cares where you live, okay?

Wendy does not live in leafy Mossley Hill, she lives in a terraced house off Penny Lane but the LibDems repeated this over and over again. Cllr Invisible actually left the ward to live in truly leafy Allerton with his new wife, who seemed really rather nice at the count from the little bit of time I had to observe her and has been described with warmth by at least one of my colleagues, but we wont go into detail. We chose not to mention his address, it demeans public representation.

And anyway

Janet Kent does not live in Belle Vale but won
Barbara Murray does not live in Yew Treet but won
Ian Jobling does not live in Picton but won
Jimmy Kendrick apparently does not live in Anfield (I have not checked this)

Some councillors even lie about where they live, as if it really mattered.

I am sure there are other candidates who did live in the ward and won and again some who lived in the ward and did not win. Why are we still going on about this? Why are we playing into the hands of these little Englanders, lets all give that up guys!

Apparently, if I were to take a pin for every one of the 90 councillors and put it in a map of where they live, lots live within a mile of my house, as do activists from all parties and candidates too. An interesting phenomenon.

But not relevant to one's ability to serve

Please can we stop now, it is starting to get on my nerves!

Stories from the count and the day

The defeated LibDem in Warbreck apparently went through so many colour changes in his face that he would have made a good litmus paper test.

Janet Kent won well in Belle Vale despite apparently living in a mansion. Police investigations are likely to ensue over certain actions but I dont want to go there until there is more to say, dont want to prejudice the case.

Mary Rasmussen won Speke by yet another 800 votes, that is all three seats won in 12 months by a healthy majority, so much for the LibDems' campaign strategist who thought up the byelection wheeze. Sack him, oh not it is okay, the voters sacked him instead.

The LibDems in Anfield, with the failed LibDem candidate from Speke in attendance, were taking a man round the ward who claimed to be a bin man facing the sack. I hope someone got that on camera too, disgraceful behaviour but it obviously worked as their lies helped win them the seat. (Paula has now asked me to say that she did not meet a bin man, fake or otherwise on polling day. Happy to make that clear. She obviously was not in on the ruse.)

According to all the papers, the LibDem leader (for now) Warren Bradley, hit our candidate for Croxteth, Jim Noakes, in another melee as they recounted Croxteth for the umpteenth time. (Jim lost by 10 votes in the end). Shocking, for the people of this city to see photos in the Echo of our leader having to be separated from the counting staff by ranks of burly coppers with folded arms. What image does this give for 2008 city of culture? City of yob culture more like!

One of our newly elected councillors has told me that as she arrived to sign her papers today, she saw cllr Bradley and cllr Storey on the steps in the middle of a big row. I bet we can all guess what that was all about - blips and blows I would think.

Former Councillor Marbrow turned up this morning to the umpteenth plus one recount in Croxteth where it transpired that he was actually the agent. So not only did he clear off leaving Cllr Doran to do his best to get another recount in K&F and save the day, which I have to say, all hats off to him, he was vociferously trying to to without success; and not only did he not stay to shake Wendy's hand, something that Jimmy Kendrick did last year to his eternal credit but he didnt even stay around to supervise the fisticuffs in Croxteth, a total disgrace to his party.

He was alive and well and looking okay as far as we can tell.

Jim Noakes came to our afternoon drinks, bruised (literally) but unbowed to a big round of applause. He has lots of years in him yet, beware.

Lots of talk about how the results affect the balance of power on various committees and outside bodies and who should hustle for what. All very exciting and lots of opportunites in K&F for Wendy and I who now have the balance of power in the Prescot Road and Drive debate for instance. How glad a I though that we only have to go through this once a year...

Five more blips in Liverpool

Link to the Echo coverage of the election by clicking the title of the blog - then come back!

Just a little bit of an edit here to give you the flavour

"The party won Yewtree, Belle Vale, Speke Garston and Warbreck from the ruling Liberal Democrats, and in perhaps the biggest result of the night, took cabinet member Richard Marbrow’s seat in Kensington."

And they were all women as I promised!

There are now 17 women in the Labour Group, out of a total of 35, that makes as near to 50% as you can get really, a truly wonderful result.

I now have to tread the careful line between crowing and humility. A tough one really. I can feel a bit of the former coming on...

First things first, the K&F result. This was an amazing result, not because Wendy won, which was wonderful and extremely well deserved and I was, if anything, even more thrilled than her, but because of the detail of it.

For one thing it was a count of extreme highs and lows.

Although I arrived in good time at 10.15pm as per the invitation, the verification of the postal vote had already happened. We didnt know at that point how many PVs had been cast or how we had done, although generally I would not expect Labour to do as well as the LibDems in PV terms.

The first two boxes were interesting, one was overwhelmingly supporting us, the other was a bit more favouring them, although not by much, but it was a small vote anyway. Whereas the first was a big vote. I felt good about both. The third box was one where we did badly last year but this year we did much better, although were still behind them.

At this point Councillor Invisible left the count and was not seen again (until this morning, only that is a different story). Presumably he thought the game was up and having been so deeply unpleasant to so many people so often he didnt want to stay and face the music when the result was announced.

I didnt know he had left, he wasnt at our table but for all I knew he thought it was in the bag (having seen the PVs which I had not) and had gone off to stand at a different table. It was only later that a friend, out on the front having a cigarette at the time told me he had seen him leave.

The rest of the boxes were either even or us a bit ahead, apart from one where we did not do particularly well. When I totalled up everything we had seen, we were 50 votes ahead. But we had not seen the PVs and I thought they must have gone against us by at least that many. I thought it would probably go to a recount or at worst we would have lost. Then we learnt there were 700 PVs cast, it sounded like a disaster to me.

I was miserable but we had a job to do so we stayed monitoring the rest of the process.

At the end they finally started piling up the ballots at the end of the table. For about 10 minutes the tables were showing the LibDems ahead by about 400 votes. It was a terrible ten minutes. Wendy had to leave the table and go and see how other counts were doing as the tension was almost too much. I knew just how she felt. I couldn't even comfort her with faint hope because I did not have any.

All I could see on the table still left to count and pile up were LibDem votes.

Then the presiding officer came forward and suddenly he started to pile up votes at our end. We went from 1200 to them and 800 to us, to neck and neck. Two piles of 1200.

I didnt know how to feel, I was numb, all around me were party workers of both parties, chewing their nails and staring at the table. We were all breathless.

Then in an amazing about turn he found a partial bundle of about 40 and put it on our pile.

My heart soared, could this be it?

Then the officers counting went away into a huddle for what felt like 100 years and came back and said that their totals for each candidate did not match the total votes polled. The majority was 38 and the miscount was 12 and she did not feel able to let this go. She was going to order a recount. We held our nerve, even if all 12 votes went to them we would still have won.

They took all the bands off and counted every vote again.

One of the LibDem piles of 50 turned out to have only 35 votes in it. Another bundle of theirs contained one of our vote. We had gone up by a further 16 votes.

I might have the maths fractionally wrong here but who cares

The presiding officer was ready to declare.

RM was his own agent and having left the count already he was not there to call for a second recount. But not to worry Cllr Doran called for one anyway, despite our protests. The returning officer was called, the chief returning officer was called, the leaders all arrived along with hordes of party workers and there was bit of a melee.

Labour kept stressing that Cllr Doran was just a bit part player in the proceedings and had no authority but in the end the Chief Presiding Officer agreed to check that the bundles added up to the result which took about 10 seconds. They did. Wendy had won, by a sliver.

The turnout was 34% according to the presiding officer although the council website puts it at 30% I understand. We were on 24% last year which shows what a battle we had on our hands!

The rest as they say is history...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Eve of Poll, and my feet are killing me....

Couple of funny stories today, both are unfortunately at my own expense....

The first is that, having now received my leaflet from Tim Beaumont, the LP candidate in Wavertree, I see that he is being strongly supported and endorsed by a woman who looks uncannily like me and lives in my road but who is named Lousie!

The second is that Oliver Martins, Tony Concepcion and I went to a school gate this afternoon to chat to parents and encourage them to vote. We blew up a load of gas filled balloons from the boot of the car, and thrust each one past the rear parcel shelf into the car as we went along. After we had done about as many as we might need, I bobbed down to look in the car window to check how many balloons there were, and the car was empty! We then noticed the sun roof was open and we looked up into the sky to see all the balloons floating far up above us.
We laughed that much we nearly had to be resuscitated by passers-by.

Another great day with people stopping Wendy and I in the street to shake our hands and wish us well. Now we just have to get them all out to vote tomorrow!

The wonderful leaflet full of endorsers has gone down really well. I cannot remember how many endorsers there were now, about 30 or so?

Everyone is backing Wendy Simon!

Three times today people spied us walking past and came out of their houses to shout encouragement up the street.
We got a full ward drop out today, the team was nearly on its knees by 8pm when the last leaflet was delivered but the feedback has been incredible.

I cannot wait for tomorrow, hope the weather holds, I predict "blips" right across the city, it is going to be great.

The only sour note was the disgraceful antics in Belle Vale which I cannot say too much about as it is now the subject of police proceedings.

We could see another five Labour women newly elected tomorrow and perhaps a couple of Labour men too.

I dont know what my prediction is really, but I would say we should hit more of our targets than we had initially imagined and maybe even a few we had not previously anticipated

Bring it on!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hazel Blear's background

In an earlier post someone asked me about Hazel's background, what was she doing before 1997 when she became an MP.

I have now received the following response;

"My Journey from Salford to the Cabinet table

I grew up in the 1960s in Salford in a traditional working class street, with children playing outside terraced houses, and neighbours who looked out for each other. My Dad was a fitter in a factory. He was a union man, who always paid his dues to the AEU. As a teenager, my Mum had won a scholarship to a London arts college, but couldn't afford to go. She worked as a secretary for the EETPU.

When we were little, they filmed the classic black and white movie "A Taste of Honey" on location in Salford. The director Tony Richardson saw me and my brother playing in our street. He knocked on our door and asked my Mum if he could film us. My Mum, being a proud working class woman, scooped us up, put us in our Sunday best, and we appear in the film as the best dressed street urchins in Britain!

Today, I live in Salford with my husband Michael, my parents live a few miles away in Swinton, and my brother drives a Manchester bus.

I grew up with a strong sense of social justice, life just didn' t seem fair to me. At 14, I saw a homeless person eating dinner from a rubbish bin, and I was angry that someone had to live like that. As a teenager I wanted to change the world, starting with Salford and the people on our street who worked hard but never seemed to get the breaks.

I joined my trade union before I joined the Labour Party, and went on to be a branch officer for NALGO. When I did join the Labour Party in 1979 it was still a traditional party with men in caps. My first meeting was in a the back room of a pub where the pigeon fanciers held their meetings. We were discussing the evils of Thatcherism, while pigeon feathers floated around us. I left my first meeting as GMC delegate and was branch secretary within three months!

I studied hard and qualified as a solicitor. I worked in local authorities in the North West, and ended up as Manchester City Council's Education Solicitor. In 1984 I was elected as a Councillor on Salford council because I wanted to make a difference. But in the 1980s, all we could do was try to stave off the worst impacts of a Tory government which left places like Salford to rot. Until 1997 councils like mine simply managed programmes of cuts to services, as the Tories squeezed our budgets every year.

It took me 12 years to get into Parliament. I contested Tatton in 1987 against Neil Hamilton, and in 1992 I narrowly lost in Bury South. I had been a candidate for three years, and as well as the heartwrenching disappointment of seeing Labour defeated nationally, I had to face up to my own defeat by 800 votes after three recounts. I was devastated. I remember my Mum saying “ the way you make steel so tough is by tempering it". It was certainly a toughening experience.

I was elected in1997 for Salford. With the party in government, we could really start to make a difference. In ten years Salford has been transformed: more jobs, better schools, more houses, the NHS off its knees, more police and communities coming back together.

As a Health minister and Home Office minister, I am proud to have been at the heart of a radical Labour government, with our most successful prime minister at the helm.

I am the first person in my family to go on to higher education, never mind to the cabinet table. I've done it the hard way. And I know that without the Labour party, I would be nowhere. My socialism is a product, not of academic seminars, but of my experience: from the streets and estates of the inner-city. I work in London but I live in Salford, and I always will."

I found that very interesting, it certainly explains to me why Hazel should be Labour's next Deputy Leader.

Mass intimidation tactics today but they wont work

The LibDems are rising to new heights of intimidation today.

First I was copied by Cllr Bradley into an email to Pauline Walton telling her that it was now 23 hours since his demand that she stop what she was doing and furnish him with the name of the officer who told her whatever it was about the waste facility. Not sure what he thinks gives him the right to behave like this. Particularly interesting to note that it was a strike day today for civil servants fed up with having their rights eroded.
I wonder what LCC staff would make of their elected leader saying he was going to have someone disciplined as soon as she gave him the name.

Not quite behaviour that UNISON would approve of methinks.

And then Cllr Jan Clein wrote to Colin Hilton, LCC Chief Executive, complaining that I had said that RM had had the meeting stopped in CML yesterday. He wrote and asked me for comments (Colin Hilton that is). I replied saying he should take it up with Tony Hunter to whom I made a lengthy and detailed complaint yesterday about this very matter. I will not put up with my important council work being interfered with and hijacked by these people. I have saved the the Lomond Road development from considerable and very costly delays and saved the authority huge sums of money. I have also saved the face of this truly dreadful council by organising that meeting.

Of course the LibDems wont know this or understand it because they never took the time to find out what the meeting was for or what the implications were if it did not go ahead. But officers knew which was why they jumped at the chance to hold it, and now Tony Hunter knows because I gave him chapter and verse in my complaint.

Local people know too how important that meeting was and will be giving their verdict in two days time.

RM did insist officers did not attend, I have had that confirmed at the highest levels.
Councillor Clein would do well to concentrate on the campaign in Greenbank and leave me to sort out the HMRI plans for Fairfield.

I dont know how they have got away with this sort of behaviour in the past, but let me tell all those LibDems who I know pay such close attention to my muses, you wont get away with it any more. We wont put up with it any longer. You have been warned, the fight back has already started. These intimidatory tactics will not work any more. Officers are acutely aware that they may well have new political masters (and mistresses) in 12 months time and they wont want to damage those relationships by agreeing to your silly games.

Your bullying days are over, though you can stamp your feet and lie on the ground and drum your heels all you like.

We wont be playing that game any more and I doubt very much if officers will either come May 4th

You have been warned!

Tuesday's campaign update

Got Wendy's final leaflet printed and put into rounds today, ready to go out tomorrow, it is a knock-out.

Cannot wait to get it out into people's houses.

Two funny stories today - LibDem Councillor Robbie Quinn was caught red-handed knicking our not very well delivered leaflets from a letter box by Jane Corbett's agent who was leafletting on the other side of the road, as they were helping their mate Brian Dowling in Anfield.

A leaflet has gone out from the LibDems in West Derby saying that the people of Wavertree are backing him...!

Some of those voters who voted for Elizabeth Pascoe and the Liberal Party have been in to see me today, they wanted posters as they are backing Wendy this time. I expect it was the endorsement from Jonathan Brown that has tipped the balance. So, I was right, those 180 votes that are up for grabs following the decision of Liberals to withdraw, in a pact with the LibDems, are coming to us.

Goodie goodie! Wendy's majority is stacking up nicely.

We have just re-polled a sample 200 Labour promises from across the ward, identified in the last 5 years, 185 are firm, 5 against and 10 undecided, that is a fantastic, I dont think I have ever seen a vote hold up so well before.

We went to Latham Court residents meeting again this morning, a lovely sunny day and a great turnout. They are pleased with the action we are taking on their behalf and we got a very warm reception.

Was going to go home early tonight, about half past eight but then discovered my hand-bag had been locked in the office. So while I waited for someone to turn up with the keys I spent some time with Brian Dowling helping him stick labels on some very nice cards he is putting out tomorrow. There were about ten of us so we soon got the job done.

Witch hunt in Croxteth

DUP loving LibDem candidate in Croxteth has been in touch with Tory candidate in another Liverpool City Council ward, asking for any dirt on Labour opponent Jim Noakes with whom he went to school.

There wasn't any - just more red faces within the LibDem group for their shabby practices and lots of yellow yolk on their ties

When will you people learn???

CML meeting

Cllr Invisible (who nobody recognised) and his sidekick (ditto in the main) turned up at my CML meeting today.

That was totally amazing because
1. They had just forced officers not to turn up as they didnt want me getting the upper hand
2. Officers had agreed not to turn up as LibDems were not invited/coming
3. No-one thought the LibDems even knew where CML was

They tried to muscle in unsuccessfully but seeing as they didnt know either the residents or the issues they were left floundering and posturing while I actually got on and resolved the issues for these lovely people.

Shameful, it reflected badly on them and on the council for kowtowing to them. But not for much longer, I give Cllr Invisible about 3 days - "Who did you say he was? How long did you say he has been my councillor?" and his mate about 368 days.

In the meantime, we got on despite them and sorted out our three main issues. Officers now understand that they will accede to our three reasonable demands or face a mass protest in the magistrates court on Thursday, I am satisfied they will see the sense in all three.

1-0 to Labour's common sense, practical approach to get the job done!

More horoscopes

Monday's Claire Petulegro horoscopes

LB - Dreams and ambitions finally come within your reach...

Marbrow - Honesty can only be a good thing though, especially after last week's lies.

(I can see you dont believe me, read them for yourself!)

A friend of mine with a birthday this week should be pleased to read that it says that "Put yourself out, it is sure to make yourself, as well as others, feel good, my friend"

Further bad news for Sagittarians "Events from the last few days may well cause you to ponder who your true friends are. Someone seems to have let you down in some way and those born under the sign of Leo are significant"

I can scarcely breath in anticipation of learning when Cllr Bradley and Cllr Storey's birthdays are...

Hot off the press

Couple of interesting items for today's campaign update

1. Not content with bullying Janet Kent, Labour's candidate in Belle Vale, throughout this election, Cllr Bradley has today written to Labour councillor Pauline Walton, demanding that she tells him which officer told her the truth about the proposed dump in the area. He has given her until 9am on Tuesday morning.

Interesting that he thinks he can make such demands of Labour politicians, of course we will not be complying. Cheeky sod, who does he think he is? It is not our job to tell him what his staff are saying, if he had a better grip of them then he would know anyway.

Young Daniel believes he is just trying to bully the Labour women in Belle Vale but that returns show that these hard-working stalwarts will be triumphant on the day, the voters at least know who is doing the business for them. Cllrs currently representing the people told them six weeks ago they would not be coming to any more meetings until after May 3rd because of purdah. Local Labour Party activists are bemused, purdah only applies to officers, they have carried on representing electors, as they should, regardless.

Great day in K&F today. We got the rest of our leaflets out, exposing Cllr Invisible for the total and absolute contempt in which he holds local people by never ever turning up to any of their meetings. We also clearly identified Labour's positive agenda for each of the nine areas we covered.

Most bemusing of all was the three calls from residents in the Holly Road neighbourhood who received leaflets today from the LibDems that they had already had 12 months ago. Orange leaflets with Cllr Bradley on the front, bemoaning the closure of local post offices (still hasnt happened) the insides ask voters to support Jimmy Kendrick. I beat him 12 months ago and now he is standing in Anfield instead hoping they wont have noticed.

So the question is this really.
1. Are the LibDems as rubbish in their leaflet delivery as they are in their service delivery, or
2. Is there a dissident LibDem out there who has deliberately messed this up to help get rid of the LibDem candidate once and for all

You decide!