Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pete McCarthy - McCarthy's Bar

During snatched moments this weekend I have read Pete McCarthy's book, McCarthy's Bar, a travel book around Ireland as Pete visits the home of his family and then wonders round the island visiting places with McCarthy's bars in them.

The eighth rule of travel apparently states "Never pass a bar that has your name on it".

I doubt very much if there is a pub out there called Baldock, but to be sure there is a Post Office, probably a petrol station and almost certainly a junior school, in a certain market town in Hertfordshire that I should never pass.

As a very passionate Eirophile I devoured this book. Interestingly in this book Pete went to lots of places I missed out and missed out on lots of places I have visited, so if I add his experiences to mine I am slowly getting the full picture.

He spent a lot of time in West Cork, as I did two years ago, but in a different bit of West Cork and didnt go to Baltimore or on the Ferry to Nowhere, like I did, whereas he was in Drimoleague where his grandparents lived and I dont even remember passing through it.

I worship West Clare, Kilkee, Kilrush, Doolin and the cliffs of Moher, he didnt stop at any of them but went all the way up to Westport, Mayo to meet mad Americans who thought it had something to do with Tuna dressings (!!)

A fab book, published in 2000. By a remarkable coincidence I picked it off Claire's shelf in her new home in Tuebrook on Saturday lunchtime, read the first two chapters and then left it behind to drive to Glossop. Yesterday evening I found it on Suzanne's shelf and picked up where I had left off at a quiet moment this morning before the house was stirring.

It's been seven years, maybe you have already read it, but if not, and if like me you are in love with Eire, get it out of the library or buy it in Oxfam (or ask me if you can borrow Claire's copy) straight away.

The wonder of Shawn Klush - the world's greatest Elvis

Last week's launch of The World's Greatest Elvis was fantastic.

My blog entry on Saturday attracted more than 700 hits so the interest in the competition was clearly massive

I was really looking forward to the final, but had to watch it tonight on DVD as I was away in Glossop staying with my mate Suzanne Richards last night. (Had a great time, thanks love!)

Five remaining Elvii (as Vernon Kay insisted on describing them). I must have missed an episode in the week which whittled the 15 down to 5, but my two favourites, Lee Memphis King and Shawn Klush were still left in the competition, thankfully.

They all came on and did a great version of the American Trilogy together. It is a great song, we always used to end with it two decades ago when as the youngest person in the room by about 30 years I used to go to Country music nights in Working Men's Clubs in the north of England. Cue lots of flag waving (union and confederate) and some gun-slinging.

They are a handsome bunch and it is very interesting that they came from different countries. Entries from Norway, Wales, Canada and two from the US of A.

Kavan was first up, a young man from Ohio in USA, impersonating Elvis from his early 1950s Rock n Roll era singing Blue Suede Shoes. He was very handsome, imposssibly young, very cute and using a 50s style microphone which was a nice touch. But he wasn't the Elvis I remember. But then my Mum was herself only a teenager way back then.

Next was Gino Monopoli from Toronto in Canada in a sexy GI uniform. He sang Now or Never. I didn't rate him at all, he was more John Inman than Elvis as far as I could see because he had some very odd wrist flicks but he was very handsome.

Then we had Kjell Elvis from Norway. Imagine a Norwegian whose speaking voice showed definite northern European inflections, being able to imitate Elvis. He sang well with lots of passion, not a song I know, I think it was called Dream right now. He looked more like Elvis facially than any of the others with his ruffled quiff and his full bottom lip, but he wasn't Elvis.

Lee Memphis King all the way from Wrexham was my second choice last week after seeing all 30. He had side-burns to die for, or side-boards as me and my sister used to call them. He sang Way Down with a perfect verbal reconstruction. He was gorgeous, I had no idea there were men in Wrexham as fabulous as that, I would advise Wrexham landladies to prepare for an influx of female visitors any day now. He was much slimmer and sexier than Elvis himself was by this stage of his career. I would have definitely put him through to the last stage.

When Shawn Klush from Pennsylvania took to the stage it was already all over. In fact a Suspicious Mind might have thought he was miming to a tape of the original. If the competition had been based purely on a still photograph of Elvis, Shawn would have come last. He doesnt really look like Elvis at all, his hair colour and his eye colour are all wrong. But with consummate professionalism he had not only got the voice exactly and perfectly right, but every single mannerism was uncanny. He crumpled his eyebrows, twitched his nose, flashed his eyes, curled his lip. I think on a bad hair day for Elvis, when he was a bit hung-over, had eaten too much and popped too many pills, he would have come second to Shawn in an impersonation contest.

Interestingly, he kept the act up the whole time, when the judges were discussing his performance, when he was chatting to Vernon, he kept on impersonating. I think that shows the difference really.

There was a head-to-head where bizarrely Gino was put up with Shawn as the best final two. I can only think that was to make Shawn look even better, Lee Memphis King was clearly the best of the rest.

They sang Are You Lonesome Tonight but managed not to fall about laughing uncontrollably like one favourite version of Elvis's where he got the giggles. The "talky bit" showed Shawn in as much control of the speaking Elvis as the singing Elvis. Gino actually did a better job with this song than he had with the first one, but with my eyes closed he was still not Elvis.

Then came the voting and Shawn was the unsurprising winner. One judge described him as having captured "extraordinary detail" as I was noting precisely the same thing myself.

He sang The Wonder of You in a glorious finale. Shawn, it is the Wonder of You that Elvis fans the world over are now celebrating.
(I have just copied this photo from the Shawn Klush fan club site at it doesnt look much like the man who was in the BBC competition but I have to believe it is him. This will make a mockery of my earlier comments but I cannot help that....)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Comtechsa AGM

Another night when I come home feeling uplifted

I went to the Comtechsa AGM tonight at Greenbank College.

All 90 councillors were invited. Barbara Murray and I were the only two there other than Steve Rotheram in his capacity as Deputy Lord Mayor.

And what a treat they missed.

Three wonderful presentations on the theme of New Life for Old Buildings. One from Robin Riley about the marvellous work of the Friends of St James Gardens (which surround the Anglican Cathedral). These gardens have been there for 250 years and had fallen into serious disrepair. The friends have put in 4500 hours so far, cleared tons of rubbish and overgrowth and carefully disposed of 2500 syringes (count them!) They have recreated this important oasis in the heart of the city.

Colin Shearer from the Church Conservation Trust talked about their work to bring 350 derelict churches into the community centres they used to be. They are currently working on St James Church a bit further up the road from the Cathedral. He spoke passionately about the different ways in which these magnificent spaces can be regained for the community.

Then we heard from Tommy Calderbank, a local Toxteth man who has already successfully spearheaded the campaign to save Toxteth Town Hall (and was visited by that carbunkle hater, Prince Charles to compliment him on his work) and the campaign to save the Belevedere (the Belve) which was inches away from demolition. He is now working on a plan to save the Florence Institute, the Florrie. Interestingly, he also talked about the Beaufort Street Board School which lies in ruins and cannot now be saved. He wants though to save the mosaic above the front door. I was particularly interested in this because Great Great Grandfather Millward's sister sent her children to school there. Some pictures here

I pledge again, through this blog, to do what I can to preserve and restore our heritage and resist the bulldozers other than when they are truly necessary.

The '08 programme is announced today

Some really good stuff in the proposed 08 headline events for next year

Macca and Ringo, although not on stage at the same time or in the same venue.

Key poets - Seamus Heaney is my hero - between my finger and my thumb my squat pen rests, I will dig with it.

Key artists - the first ever showing of the works of Gustav Klimt in this country, my sister will be desperate to come to Liverpool if only for that exhibition.

Key classical music events, about which I know nothing, but I am reliably informed there will be lots of them.

Key comedy events lead by that old Liverpool favourite from Knotty Ash (am saying nothing more about that)

Masses of other stuff, click the link in the title of this entry for the full programme announced today. Can friends and family please start booking the spare bedroom soon, it is going to be very competitive, I can sense it already.

Now all I have to do is learn to trust an organisation I have little faith in, to deliver something so important, I have everything crossed, hope you do too. We really need this to happen.

Jacqui Smith announces a new Sexual Assault centre for Liverpool

I am very interested to hear the news that Jacqui Smith has announced a special new sexual assault centre in six cities, including Liverpool.

These centres will be staffed with supportive and thoughtful and sensitive staff who are armed with the best forensic scientists and the best counsellors and the best police, to ensure that women who come forward as victims of sexual assault get proper attention leading to higher conviction rates.

It couldnt come soon enough.

I have some personal experience in this area, which I shant go into in this public forum, but I do think that anything that makes the horror less horrible and anything that improves the number of guilty verdicts from the abominally low state we find ourselves in, must be welcomed.

On a whole other note, I am sure I am not alone in delighting in the fact that we can have a cabinet minister called Jacqui Smith. Go girl!

Jack Straw - caped crusader

Well I must say, I do see Jack Straw in a new light today.

On four different occasions he has tackled criminals, men who have burgled, assaulted, robbed and attacked others.

He is using his personal experience to change the law in favour of what he calls the good citizen who decides in a few seconds to tackle the fleeing hand-bag snatcher, or whatever they may be.

Fancy that, Jack Straw, Superman.

Good for him, I am proud of him, and what a good citizen he is. I genuinely think that.

However, I cannot help thinking, unkindly, about cartoons of John Major with his underpants on the outside.

The real question must be whether Steve Bell feels that way too

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Michael Shields Petition

Are you familiar with the story of Michael Shields?

He was a teenager on an exciting visit to Bulgaria to see his beloved Liverpool FC in a big match.

Another young man from Liverpool, has admitted to attacking a Bulgarian barman, seriously wounding him by hitting his head with a paving slab.

Michael was asleep in bed at the time of the attack.

The Bulgarian police got a lead to his hotel and worked their way through it, until they found Michael.

They arrested him, took him into custody, shackled him in the police station reception and then brought lots of witnesses in, past him, shackled.

Some of these witnesses then identified him in line-ups.

That is only scratching the surface of why this was a terrible and unjust convinction.

Michael was convicted for a crime committed by someone else.

We are all convinced of his innocence, Cllr Joe Anderson is spearheading his campaign (and he is an Evertonian by the way) accompanied by Labour MP Louise Ellman and Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy.

Michael has been imprisoned in Bulgaria and latterly Wigan and is being moved to Preston as he has just become 21.

His release date is now earmarked for May 2010.

Sign up today please - you can access the petition by clicking on the title of this blog

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Letter in the Liverpool Echo this week

I WAS very disappointed to see the composition of the new Culture Board.

This board is supposedly going to save the Capital of Culture and make sure it is the success we all hope for.

What a shame then that the six committee members they have chosen are all white middle-aged, middle-class men; no women, no-one from the black community and perhaps only half of them actually even live in Liverpool.

Have we learnt nothing about not involving local people in the plans?

Cllr Louise Baldock, Labour, Kensington and Fairfield

Stabbings and murder in Slaithwaite

Just writing the title of this blog seems unreal.

A little boy of 4 has been stabbed to death and his 14 year old sister is in hospital following an attack allegedly by their father, in Royd Street, Slaithwaite, Huddersfield.

I lived for a while in the next street, we had our office in the next street, I knocked on every door in Royd Street at least once. In fact the MP I campaigned for lives in the next street too.

You hear on the news all the time people saying "This is a quiet place, we never expected anything like this to happen where we live" and now for a community in Slawitt, it has.

I send my prayers and my best wishes to the family and the community. It is truly shocking.

Lots of debate out there about GB calling the next general election soon

Frankly I dont care how high in the polls we are riding, I am much more worried about the fact that I have used up all my annual leave until Jan 1st - mainly on the local elections and two byelections we have had this year here in Liverpool.

I hope my workplace will let me take a few week's unpaid leave if GB does announce a poll.

I am still personally unclear about the need for an election, we have a mandate until May 2010, at the outside, we would ordinarily expect to go in May 2009 if the climate was okay.

What is to be gained then from an October 2007 election (apart from more blisters on my poor feet?). Assume that the next election then would be May 2012, that means we gain just two years by going now.

I am always keen for more years, but it doesnt seem a big enough advantage to me.

What if this BlueTongue disease goes big in the next month or two, or there is a calamatous rail crash or a terrorist attack or a rush at the Abbey National? We could lose an election, maybe, two years before we needed to, indeed two and half years before we needed to.

I know GB is not making his decisions on what I think, more is the pity. I will of course step up to the mark whenever it is but I dont think I quite understand the reasoning behind the pundits assumptions yet.

Does this speculation mean that they think that we cannot win in a few years time so we need to go now instead - and what is making them think that?

Genuinely puzzled - going to put my feet in a bowl of warm water in anticipation....

An interesting meeting of GEARS residents tonight

We heard from the police and the wardens about the RESPECT week planned for November 12th when there will be a great emphasis in Kensington and Fairfield. There will be all sorts of enforcement teams here, environmental, police, dog wardens, clean-up teams. But also some fun activities and lots of positive community building. We might be able to use this opportunity to get our community garden on Edge Grove underway too.

Respect Week is part of our new campaign, launched by the Government, to give respect, get respect.

I cannot wait.

Burglaries in Kensington - teenager caught in the act and arrested again today

Just a few short lines really.

Those readers who live in the Kensington area will be very well aware that a certain teenager, with an Irish surname, who is short in stature has (allegedly) been burgling very prolificly of late.

We all knew who was doing it (if only because he was openly tauting householders) but he was savvy and was not leaving physical traces.

He was arrested last week in the act of disposing of his stolen goods, taken into custody and then into court. Possibly because of his young age he was remanded not into custody as we all hoped but into a secure home. He was put on a 7pm - 7am curfew pending his court case.

He took no notice of the terms of his remand and was back out burgling again more or less straight away.

Local police who have dedicated themselves to this case after local residents campaigned vociferiously, caught him again today, after chasing him all round the streets. They caught him in the act of burgling and have witnessses who can identify him at an earlier break-in this afternoon. We are all now crossing our fingers, police and residents alike, that this time the judge will lock him up until his court case comes up.

I have to praise the police for getting stuck in to this.

Grahame Morris to fight Easington

I have just heard that my old mate Grahame Morris has been selected to fight Easington, winning with a staggering 75% of first preferences.

Great news, I am really chuffed - although it was pretty much a foregone conclusion, he was so obviously the perfect choice.

Well done mate!

(Link to his website by clicking on the title of this blog)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The World's Greatest Elvis

I dont watch a lot of TV but tonight was fab

The world's greatest Elvis

Elvis performers from all over the world, competing to be the best impersonator

Some of them looked so much like him that they must have had plastic surgery, but you cannot have plastic surgery on your voice.

Two guys sang so much like Elvis, it was frankly a bit unsettling.

Shaun Close - surely the winner (next week on Saturday night) (Shaun Clush? I never saw it written down)
and my second place winner would be Lee Memphis King

There were guys who cannot even speak English giving the performances of their lives.

I always loved Elvis, it wasnt anything I had to think about, it was a bit like loving my family. I just loved him, never really thought about it.

I was barely 12 when he died but my sister Maxine and I were inconsolable for a couple of days.

Time goes by and you forget. You hear the name, you know who he is, you know what he sang, you know a lot of the words and you could sing along if you wanted to. Indeed I do a pretty mean "I just can't help believing" myself, for a girl. But you forget how deeply in the world's pysche he remains. And how deeply we all still love him.

Watching these guys perform tonight focussed my mind on Elvis. And it all came flooding back. You wont know what I mean, unless you watch next Saturday night and you feel the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as you hear the man you loved and took for granted, singing all over again.

I bet none of my mates have ever heard me mention his name, I have never heard them mention his name either, but I wouldnt mind betting that given a burst of the black and white Jailhouse Rock to watch, or one of those sweaty Vegas cabarets where he gave his silk towels to the audience, it would all come rushing back to them too.

It is the way he looks, the way he moves, the way he sings, his smile, his massive charisma. The world should be glad he wanted to be a singer and not a dictator, else we would all be living in Memphis now, not Memphis Tennessee, but Memphis the world.

Apparently, according to tonight's show, Elvis played to 1 billion people by satellite in 1973 in Hawaii, a third of the world's population watched they said. I cannot believe that, it seems incredible and in any case I dont think we had a TV in 1973, so I wasn't watching, but what an amazing fact, if it is true.

As one performer said tonight, Elvis is alive and living on planet Elvis. Surely he will live there for all eternity.

The Liverpool Mural Project - open letter to Phil Redmond

This letter was sent to Phil Redmond on Friday.

Dear Phil

I am very impressed with The Liverpool Mural Project which is a unique project which is aiming to bring the skills and experience of mural artists from all communities of Belfast, working together and with community groups in Liverpool.

As you will know, their objective is to create distinctive non-political murals for our Capital of
Culture year.

The project has been supported and welcomed by many members of the Liverpool, Irish and Northern Irish creative and artistic community; Ken Loach, John Fay, Professor Marianne Elliott, Director of Institute of Irish Studies, Ian Jackson - The Liverpool Art and Culture Blog, Robert Ballagh, Professor Phil Scraton, Jimmy McGovern, Danny Morrison, Terry George, Peter Sheridan, Phil Hayes of the Picket, Christy Moore and many more.

It has also been the subject of many supportive letters in local newspapers.

I understand that the Culture Board have so far rejected the project for inclusion in the 08 programme on the grounds that it is "not edgy enough".

However given that you have said you will re-examine rejected suggestions in an effort for 08 to reach out to more ordinary local Liverpool people and given the big support this idea has, I hope you will reconsider

Best wishes

Louise Baldock
Labour Councillor for Kensington and Fairfield (and I would love to see a mural here!)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Yellow House

I am feeling quite uplifted today

I have just been to the Yellow House at 8 Marmaduke Street

Somehow I have been slow at discovering this wonderful place, but thanks to Steve Faragher for making the introductions I have now met George and Gosia McKane.

They have a big georgian house that they took over last year, on three floors.

Essentially they work with young people from the Kensington area who are generally in one way or another disaffected before they come through the open door. Perhaps they have had a hard life and have come through referral, or maybe they have a disability of some kind and dont find it easy to engage in regular activity that other young people do.

So they find their way to Yellow House and then get involved in the various art projects on offer.

That is art in its fullest sense. Painting, drama, theatre, reading, film and so on, but also a holistic approach generally, they can learn about cooking, budgeting, learning to be an adult.

It was clear from just one visit that this art is not dumbed down, if anything it is dumbed up, if there is such a thing. The young people made a film a few years ago about Dante and Beatrice, set in Liverpool. Their current project is an exhibition entitled Look Up Liverpool currently on display at no less a place than St George's Hall. It is a photographic exploration of Liverpool's architecture, history and heritage.

George and Gosia and Yellow House (named after Van Gogh's home - he always had an open door too) have worked with young people all over the world. I counted 24 on the brochure they gave me.

Inspirational, not just for the young people, but for national and international respected figures in the arts world.

I am going to take advantage of their open door to make sure I learn more about them and their work and hopefully meet some of the young people who they are working with.

Website found by clicking on title of this blog

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Retiring MPs

I just found this interesting list of MPs who are retiring at the next General Election - click on the title of this entry to see them all.

A few surprises I had missed somewhere along the line.

No more Michael Howard or his bete noir Ann Widdecombe.

Phil Willis who I shall always remember on May 2nd 1997, going into the school where he was headmaster to tell the kids he had just been elected as a LibDem MP quite out of the blue and would not be back!

And some friends of mine; Colin Challen, who I worked with for five years in Yorkshire, my fellow GMB conspirator. I expect he is going off to do some Environmental work. Colin, if you catch this, let me know what you are up to. Richard Caborn in Sheffield, longest serving Sports Minister, lovely man with a lovely family.

Chris McCafferty, one of the best MPs I ever campaigned for, if not the actual best. Her work with women on the international stage has never received the credit it deserved. She has been marvellous on those subjects that nobody likes to talk about - tax on sanitary towels and tampons, female genital mutilation, enforced sterilisation programmes. Not a high flyer, nor a Minister, but her contribution to women's rights has been fantastic and she has achieved so much in her time in office. She is the kind of politician that makes you proud to be a Labour Party member.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Empowering Neighbourhoods Scheme in Kensington and Fairfield

Letters should be going out very soon letting local community groups in Kensington and Fairfield know how how they got on with their application to Liverpool's The Empowering Neighbourhoods Scheme (TENS)

Liverpool City Council has made available £300,000 to support community initiatives which contribute to the well being of residents in each of the city's 30 wards.

We have worked hard in the ward to promote the scheme and I am pleased to say we have managed to allocate the full £10,000 in the first round.

Funds are still available in lots of other wards though, so it is worth getting on to your councillor to see if you could receive a grant. Click the title of this blog to see which wards are still to grant funds.

The successful bids we have supported this year are

Lister Residents Association 1500
Kensington Vision Community Radio 3000
All Arts for an Italian event for one world month 1400
United Colours of Kensington for training 2500
Fairfield Community Network 1600

Congratulations to them all

Liverpool West Derby - it is Stephen Twigg

Stephen Twigg has won the Liverpool West Derby selection and will be Labour's candidate for the next General Election. Popular local councillor Roz Gladden was second, Bob Wareing MP came third.

It is usual for cynical members and cynical journalists to suggest that there has been interfernce from Downing Street or the national Labour Party when people from outside are chosen to fight in these campaigns.

I remember the same worries being raised in Wigan, that there would be interfering.

There wasn't then and there wasn't this time either.

Stephen did all his own leg work. He came every weekend to campaign in Liverpool during the local elections, Feb, March and April. Since May he has been here more or less permanently and has used that time to visit nearly every single party member at home and talk to them about the kind of candidate and MP he would want to be in West Derby. He also put in a lot of time in Warbreck, helping with the local election there (even though it is not in West Derby). If you want to win a selection then that is the way to do it, meet the members and prove your dedication.

I dont know what the results were, or how close it was, or where the other three came. But I do know that he and Roz were giving each other a lot of support throughout the contest, despite being top rivals for the job, and it has been a very clean campaign.

Big commiserations to the other people on the shortlist, particularly Roz who would have done a good job if selected, but big congratulations too to Stephen. He is a keen campaigner who gets on very well with everyone he meets and will be very good for Liverpool Labour Party in general.

Personally I am delighted!

Binge drinking at LibDem conference?

I was appalled to read an article in the Local Government Association magazine, First, written by Councillor Richard Kemp. He is in Brighton this week for Liberal Democrat Annual Conference and describes how the week will be.

"Life at a Liberal Democrat conference is gruelling. We start with meetings from 8am and finish drinking at 7am! We train and drink, we talk and drink, we pass resolutions and drink, we sometimes drink and pass resolutions - which is not thought to be in the right order. But we do work hard!"

This raises so many concerns that I hardly know where to start.

We have already seen some LibDem resolutions from previous conferences where we know they have voted to lower the drinking age to 16 years old. We know they oppose the use of ASBOs and have never come up with any real plans to tackle yob culture. Now we know why, they are too drunk to come up with any sensible policies.

We know that Charles Kennedy had a drink problem, it would seem he is not alone, they are all at it!

I read in the Liverpool Echo last week that Cllr Kemp wants to do something about the numbers of pubs and bars on Allerton Road, what an irony! He should be encouraging them to open more, surely, so that when his Party holds its annual Spring Conference in Liverpool next year, and LibDems come from all over the country, they will have somewhere local to carry on their "sessions".

At a time when binge drinking is a really big issue in this country, when young and old alike are suffering from the effects of this, either as drinkers or victims of drinkers, this advertisement of their heavy drinking is in extremely bad taste.

(Richard Kemp represents Church ward in Liverpool and is the leader of the Liberal Democrats in Local Government)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Shock Tory Result

I have just picked up a story on the Vote 2007 website, pointing out that David Cameron had appointed a shadow Minister for Liverpool, Chris Grayling and that both of them have been visiting Liverpool, along with the Shadow Chancellor in recent months to curry support for their party.

This makes their derisory seventh place, 40 votes in Warbreck on 13th September all the more shocking.

As member Trident points out, there was a time in the 1980s when the Tories held all three seats in Warbreck. They were beaten by Labour, LibDem, BNP, UKIP, Green and Independent candidates. Only the Liverpool Labour Community Party faired worse with a mere 32 votes.

Imagine the main party of opposition, hoping to win the next General Election, doing so badly.

1.2% share of the vote.

Actually "badly" is not the right word, it is a total catastrophe. Of course the Tories could win enough seats to run the country without recourse to any seats in Liverpool, but what kind of a mandate would it be with a share of that sort of size?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Labour gain Warbreck ward from LibDems with massive swing

Celebrations tonight in north Liverpool as Labour's Richard McLinden has won the Warbreck ward by-election with a massive swing.

Labour 1796
LibDem 1024

Other results have not yet been received from the count - all of our phones have been buzzing for the last half an hour with updates, a real surge in text traffic!

Update and full Echo coverage available by clicking title of this entry

Richard McLinden (Labour) 1,796;
Ritchie Roberts (Liberal Democrat) 1,024;
Peter Stafford (BNP) 136;
Michael Langen (Independent) 131;
Joseph Moran (UKIP) 52;
Kim Graham (Green) 45;
Mark Rea (Conservative) 40;
Alfie Hincks (Labour Community Party) 32.

A 770 vote majority whereas the result in 2004 when Joan won the seat for the LibDems was about 1400 the other way.

Councillor Bradley has some explaining to do to his group

2006 - Labour gained 3 new seats
2007 - Speke byelection in March - Labour gain
2007 - Labour gained 5 new seats (and lost one)
2007 - Warbreck byelection in September - Labour gain

Not exactly a record of achievement is it?

Brocklebank in the Daily Post this week reckons that Cllr Storey is indeed in training to take back his leadership after being forced to resign last time. Interestingly he said in full council last week that he was aware he had done things and made mistakes that he now regretted. Clearing the decks perhaps?

So it looks like the comments I made in May about his limbering up were probably right.

I wonder how and when the dirty deed will be done.

Meanwhile our group goes from strength to strength, everyone positive, looking forward, united, ready to serve this great city, ready to lead, ready to tackle the big issues

Leadership, not drift, that is what local people want.

The Mathew Street debacle has damaged the credibility of the LibDems because it shows they were not leading, they did not have "a grip" on the situation, nor indeed on a whole lot more either.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Liverpool West Derby selection - Labour Party candidate for next general election

For those who like to know these things, the short list for the Liverpool West Derby selection for Labour candidate in the next general election is as follows (in alphabetical order)

Martin Cummins (former Liverpool Councillor and member in Norris Green)
Roz Gladden (Liverpool councillor for and resident of Clubmoor which used to be in West Derby) Cherie Hill (former Ellesmere Port and Neston Councillor and ethnic minority candidate)
Floyd Millen (already shortlisted in Putney and Bristol West and ethnic minority candidate)
Stephen Twigg (former Enfield Southgate MP who famously beat Michael Portillo in 1997)
Bob Wareing (sitting Liverpool West Derby MP)

The clear favourites are Roz and Stephen who secured the most nominations between them.

The voting will be carried out on Sunday 16th, on a single transferable vote basis which means that Labour Party members within Liverpool West Derby will be asked to vote for their first choice, their second, their third and so on, up to six.

If a candidate secures 50% plus of the vote on the first round then s/he will be elected. If no candidate secures 50% then the bottom candidate drops out (or more, if their combined vote is less than the fourth placed candidate) and the second preference on those ballot papers will receive their votes instead. This procedure carries on, with candidates dropping out in each round and the next preference on their ballot paper receiving their votes.

This should mean that the candidate who is finally selected secures the majority of votes of the the majority of members.

It does remind me of a scene from Auf Viedersehen Pet, where the lads vote for their preferred colour for the inside of their residential hut on their building site in Germany. Barry announces after much deliberation that using the STV method they have voted for pink paint. When challenged by Oz to explain why it is to be pink when nobody has voted for it, Barry says that is democracy, that it is the least worst option.

I hope West Derby picks the most best option........

Norman MacAskill and Ann Darlington's wedding

My friend Susan Watson and I went away this weekend to join our old mate Norman MacAskill at his wedding party in Ullapool.

Ullapool is on the west coast of the North West of Scotland, in short it is a very long way away!

We left York, where Susan lives, on Friday lunchtime and got a train up to Inverness where we stayed the night at the Thistle. The next day we picked up a hire car from Thrifty car rental (very cheap, very clean, definitely to be recommended) and drove up to Ullapool. We had a relaxed journey on both days and arrived in good time for the wedding party.

We even had time for fish and chips from the chippy Rick Stein has called the best in the UK. The chips were average, although chips are always average to me, but the fish (haddock) was the best I have ever tasted. Thanks Cllr Richie White for recommending we go and thanks to Norman for reminding me of it.

Norman and his bride Ann both looked very happy and Susan commented that their mutual love and affection was flowing strongly all night. We were both delighted to share the evening with them.

We were entertained by the Federals, a Scottish BlueGrass band who played all the kind of stuff I really like. I did get up and have a few dances.

The wedding and party were held at the Celeidh Place, a wonderful small "family" hotel with a great atmosphere. The rooms were not described by their views or the number of beds they contained but by the reading list of the books provided in each for our perusal. I bet it gets huge ticks from everyone who stays there.

We did have a long journey home, I havent worked out how far it is, but I was home in about 12 hours on Sunday.

I would not have wanted to go without Susan and we made a great team together, I dont have any photos, I seem to have damaged my camera so my pics are suddenly now all blurred but I understand Susan has put some on Facebook so I will see if I can save some and post them up on here

Friday, September 07, 2007

KUCF AGM - really enjoyable - top Liverpool player in attendance

What a thoroughly enjoyable AGM last night in Fairfield police club.

We applauded some of the young men receive coaching certificates from the County FA, we saw a new Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer appointed and heard about some of the successful tournaments over the last 12 months or so. We heard from a county FA referee about how the lads could earn potentially £70k as referees and offering to show them a career path to make that happen. We heard from a guy from Kick Racism Out of Football, or Kick It Out. All very good stuff.

But the highlight was the speech from Howard Gayle, Liverpool FC's first black player who joined the squad in 1977 and won a European Cup champions medal with them. He explained about the racism he faced as a player and how he learnt to tackle that by playing his best and scoring as many goals as he could. He encouraged the youngsters from all round the world who have now settled in Kensington and who were at the meeting, to put their education before their football but not to stop dreaming the dream.

He played for lots of other clubs, notably Newcastle, Birmingham, Fulham, Halifax, Dallas, Blackburn, but as a reds fan his heart always belonged in Liverpool and playing for them was the highlight of his career.

The young lads were delighted to have their photograph taken with him afterwards, and get him to autograph their certificates.

A great meeting, I just wish there had been more there, to see for themselves the truth that football breaks down the barriers in communities, whatever colour you are. The beautiful game, team spirit, comradeship, it is a great weapon to fight division.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Full council meeting tonight, full of incident

A miracle happened tonight, I actually enjoyed a full council meeting for the first time ever.

I dont know why that should be exactly, but I suspect that despite earlier misgivings, the new format does suit me after all. Instead of having upwards of 90 motions on the paper, we now really only have half a dozen.

But also of course I enjoyed it because we discussed lots of very important topics at length where I had lots of things I wanted to say. Those who have seen me in a select committee will know that I speak to every single item, ask hordes of questions, really need to know lots of details and get very involved. Whereas I dont speak very often at full council because it doesnt really lend itself itself to contributions. In the end I only spoke once tonight but could and would have spoken at least another twice if the time had allowed.

We had some very good contributions from external speakers, a man from the anti-war coalition about the LCC pension fund (Merseyside wide) investing in weapons, a young woman from the youth parliament about anti-bullying and a TU rep from the National Museums of Liverpool about their industrial action over their 1.5% pay offer, all very well worth listening to!

We began with our extraordinary meeting where the Labour councillors called for an independent inquiry into the Mathew Street festival outdoor stage cancellation, as opposed to an internal one. Despite our efforts to persuade the ruling LibDem group that we could not expect council staff to investigate each other and particularly the big bosses, or that there would be accusations of a cover-up, or that important players in the process who do not work for the council would not be involved, or that the cost should never be a hindrance to the need for an inquiry, they voted for the cover-up option anyway.

We then had a debate about the right reaction to the murder of Rhys Jones. On paper the main difference between the two parties was whether we had a local "summit" or a national "summit" or both, to discuss the way forward. Unfortunately, Cllr Bradley completely misjudged the mood and the tone of the meeting and went into a rant that basically said that if we had not been at war with Iraq, or won the Olympic bid in 2012 then there would be more money for the police and there would be no crime of this sort in Liverpool. It was a real shame to hear our leader, even though he is on "their" side rather than mine, miss the chance to echo the solidarity that the football teams and supporters have managed, and the people of Liverpool have managed, by turning this into a political rant. I was very sorry to hear his contribution, it was deeply disappointing. There was lots of wriggling on the LibDem benches, I think some might have been ashamed of him. Bizarrely, one contribution, from Sir Trevor, diverted us a long way from the point by saying that the real problem was that Labour didnt love the Beatles enough.

This was followed by a debate calling for Cllr Bradley to resign over Mathew Street and his early promise to the public that he would save the outdoor stages, when he could not, and then that he sent an email to the Chief Exec asking him to suspend the head of the Culture Company even while he was telling the public that he would carry out an independent inquiry and would not prejudge the findings. If we had not been convinced before this moment, we were by his speech I have just mentioned. Cllr Anderson (Labour leader) spoken well, calmly and thoughtfully, about how Cllr Bradley was the captain of the ship and must take responsibility for the shortcomings of his administration.

Needless to say we lost the vote but interestingly at least a dozen LibDem councillors stayed seated as their colleagues stood to clap Cllr Bradley as the vote was declared. One has to assume that splits are deepening and that those LibDems with a social conscience are squirming in embarassment and upset at the performance of the leadership.

I don't want to go into lots of detail about very item of the meeting, you can read the minutes if you want to but I would like to close on one particular thing that rather upset me.

Cllr Twigger, a young man in his 20s only just elected to the council as a LibDem in Knotty Ash, had submitted a motion to council and had prepared his maiden speech. Unfortunately there was not time left at the end of the meeting for his speech but we took a vote anyway. The Lord Mayor called for a vote and the Labour Group voted yes to accept his motion. The Lord Mayor then asked the LibDems why they had forgotten to vote on the motion, come on he said, get your hands up you lot, and then he and we became aware that they were not going to support it. As I sat with my hand up I gestured several times to Cllr Bradley to put his hand up, but he shook his head and mouthed that it was a ward issue so they could not support it.

We dont have the same rules on our side of the chamber that they have on theirs, on our side all of our motions have to go through the Group executive board for approval (and 99% are approved) but on their side anyone can put a motion straight to the council. Obviously no-one had bothered to help or assist Cllr Twigger to learn what was okay and what was not by their standards. In the end our side voted for his motion and their side voted against it. What a terrible position to put this young man in. I felt dreadfully for him, I think they should have made an exception for him and not put him in this situation, even now I am still shaking my head when I think how hurtful they were and how unneccessary it was.

Anyway, I think I do like the new format but perhaps I need a few more meetings to decide?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Message from Paula at Kensington HEAT

Got this message from Paula at HEAT that I want to share with you. I have just told her that I have put this up here and if she wants it editing, it wont stay this way for long, but in the meantime, good news, read on.

Hi Louise
Just thought I would drop you a line having read your blog.
As you know HEAT is based in the KNDC area and is a local advice agency. HEAT is currently accountable for five projects: Winter Survival Project, Kensington Community Assistance Programme, Kensington Advice Training and Employment Project, Kensington Family Support Group and Kensington Domestic Violence service.
The overarching theme that links all 5 projects is to improve the well being and quality of life of the inhabitants of the Kensington community through the provision of assistance to vulnerable households. HEAT does this by providing a range of integrated and accessible welfare advice and support services which enable the service user to access an integrated package of assistance and ensures access to and improved delivery of existing services.
HEAT’s target audience is the most socially excluded members of the community I.e. older people, people with disabilities, lone parents, refugees and asylum seekers and more recently migrant workers from the A8 and A2 countries. The project’s main focus is residents who have traditionally fallen through the net in relation to anti poverty services. HEAT staff has developed expertise and are specialists in relation to reaching and working with people within this target profile. In particular the team have provided an effective home visiting and outreach service which reaches many people in our communities who were previously unable to access wider service provision.
The reason I am telling you this is because like you I feel that the wider area of Kensington and the area south of West Derby Road have been overlooked especially in relation to the services offered in the KNDC area e.g. advice agencies. It was with this in mind that HEAT applied for funding to expand its geographical area to cover parts of Liverpool 6 and the wider area of L7 and were successful. So, having read your blog I contacted Venture Housing and suggested HEAT be placed on the mailing list for future Neighborhood meetings as I feel HEAT's services would compliment the partnership.
My direct number is 263 2232 if you would like to visit HEAT to find out more about what we do and what we have achieved we would welcome the opportunity.
Kind Regards

Monday, September 03, 2007

What's happened to Ireland?

I know that is what you are all thinking, what's happened to Ireland. She was there for a week and we have not heard a dicky bird nor seen a photo.

Fret not, it is coming, but I have to edit the photos first to take out the bits of car bonnet and backs of people's heads and so on, so that they are truly lovely.

Be warned though, it is pretty much all castles and cliffs - apart from my new "The return of the rain poncho; just when you thought it was safe to go out in a field" photo.

I have got this new software, the delightfully named GIMP which is free shareware for editing images, but I cannot work out how to use it, I need some training really.

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to me

The city was 800 this week, I was a mere 42, but both events went very well.

I took some great photos and video clips of the 800th birthday pageant but they are on a different laptop so will have to load them up later.
I enjoyed the service in St Nicholas's Church on the front, the mariner's church, with all the different religious leaders sitting together at the altar. I loved the pageant, lots of colour and pizzazz and everyone was so beautifully dressed and choreographed. My defining moment though has to be when Pete Price got all the "dignatories" to do a Mexican wave, bishops, captains, mayors, lord lieutenants, minor royals, councillors, you name it, up we all got. The tears were running down my face, I was laughing that much.

The horse muck was an interesting saga - will it still be there by the time the pageant arrives and two thousand people have to walk through it - or will some poor soul have been deputised to pick it up (the latter eventually, and just in the nick of time)

Met the Italian Ambassador during the reception in the Town Hall, she wants to come to the Italian night in Fairfield Police Club, I took her card.

For my birthday I decided on lunch at Bistro Jacques on Hardman Street - three courses for £7 and all very tasty, I had soup, salmon and creme brulee, a bargain and a half. There was Mum and Roger, Wendy, Jane and Peter, Stephen Twigg and my manager Elaine, she didnt know whether to courtesy, tug her forelock or what - Jane is "our" Minister and civil servants set an inordinate amount of importance and stock by them. Colin and Mike were meant to be there too, having arranged their holiday so that they would be back in time, but they had the journey from hell coming back and missed it.

Apparently Ryanair cancelled the flight back from Santiago del Compestela on Thursday after leaving them hanging round for five hours first. The next flight would be Tuesday they said! So the guys joined another couple in hiring and sharing a car all the way to Madrid 750km, in the hope of finding some flights out of there. They caught one to Luton in the end, then got a coach to London and spent the night walking round, dragging their suitcases, waiting for Victoria to open and let them in for a warm. They finally got the coach back up north at 9am the next morning, only for it to break down in Milton Keynes! Two coaches later, via Manchester, they finally arrived on Friday evening

What a nightmare

Friend of Emma's gets in touch

Had a nice email from a friend of Emma's today to say that she was looking for her on the net, hoping to catch up with old times, getting nowhere looking for her until she tried Google and hit my blog and the wedding photos. She has asked me to put them back in touch.

The power of technology, what a great story!

Byelection time is here again....

Welcome to the Warbreck Byelection update - I know how much you all love them

I ran a phone bank on Thursday night in WAA, good solid returns and a bit of casework to do. The Ann O'Byrne factor is startling. Everyone knows exactly who she is and all claim to have voted for her - it reminds me of the old jokes about Maggie T, only in reverse.

Saturday was a bit hairy, Mum and I were leafletting in the Welsh Streets when we were joined by a group of LibDems, Jimmy Kendrick and I had actually to form an orderly queue to leaflet the same letterboxes. It was all quite jovial though, I had a brief chat with Ron Gould about Reynolds Park where we had visited for the first time yesterday, really beautiful, especially the walled gardens, a hidden gem indeed.

A big group of Labour councillors were out and about in the ward tonight, some delivering leaflets, some knocking on doors. I was with the candidate, Richard McLinden, and with Councillors Doreen Knight and Mary Rasmussen from Speke, they are byelection queens now. We had an amazing response, we were knocking in Orrel Park which is very nice, beautiful houses, Devonfield Road has its own green flag gardens. As we walked round I kept trying to decide which house I would most like to live in. It was not traditional Labour territory, believe me! And yet, house after house, door after door, they were voting Labour. In actual fact we ran out of posters, now that is rare!

Richard Roberts is the LibDem candidate, the councillor whose seat Ann won in May. His leaflet mainly contains photos of him, on his own, on his knees, in the road. Not sure what we are to make of that, symbolically, but it does point towards the looming presence of Richard Marbrow as his agent whose sense of what makes a good photograph has always been dire - hence the badger baiting photos on his own leaflets, as we learnt to call them.

Now I am not complacent, it will be a small turnout which could make it closer than it was in May, but I would be extremely surprised, let's put it like that, if the LibDems can hold on. We found at least a dozen switchers - used to be LibDems now Labour - in the three streets we visited in our team tonight.

I predict a Labour gain, or should I call that a blip Warren?

Incidentally it will be interesting to see whether there are any rogue LibDems in the chamber on Wednesday night who are prepared to vote with us on the motion of no-confidence in the LibDem leader. I think a lot is going to hang on the Warbreck result, wouldn't be too surprised if the quiet noises of doubt which are being made "off stage" become louder and more strident.