Saturday, May 30, 2009

A few photos from KVFM87.7

I have been given a disc of all the photographs taken during the KVFM87.7 three weeks, and also the training sessions beforehand and the special session to record the jingles.

I will post a few up here. I know we will have a formal event where Steve, Wendy and Sheila will present videos and photographs but if you cannot wait, here is a little taster.

Euro campaigning this morning

We had three teams out knocking on doors in Kensington this morning, in beautiful sunshine. I was a bit apprehensive before we went out, but I needn't have been. Labour promises are holding up fine, there were a few grumblings, but really hardly any compared to what I was expecting. We also identified some new promises by calling on the doors of people who we know vote, but had not caught at home before. Wendy lead a team, Liam lead a team and I lead a team, with Arlene McCarthy and my very good friend Suzanne.

There was an impressive array of window decorating for Everton's FA Cup Final today, loads on the Beatles estate for instance.

I finally got the chance to meet Val in person too, a resident who I know reads my blog and who sometimes emails me with issues and observations, so that was really nice (Hello Val!).

I just hope that everyone understands that if we are to prevent Nick Griffin becoming an MEP in our area for the BNP, we need people to go out and vote for a mainstream party. Obviously I want them to vote Labour, but if they are not naturally Labour supporters, they still need to vote for their usual party to ensure that nasty Nick cannot win here.

We are building our team for polling day, so if you are free at any time on Thursday and would like to come out and campaign in such an important election, please contact me and we can let you know where we will be and when. It is great fun, very motivational and sociable and you may even get a tan if the weather is as good as it has been today!

Almond in West Derby

Last night I went out with Stephen and Kev for a drink in West Derby. There were no signs of any shooters, it all seemed pretty safe to me! We ran into Vicky from the Academy with one of her colleagues, which was nice. It was such a beautiful evening, all the beer gardens were full of people enjoying themselves and looking forward to today's FA Cup Final.

We ended up in Almond in the village, which is a really impressive restaurant, using only locally sourced food and I thought the service was particularly good, very warm and friendly. I was a bit shocked at the size of the bill, but we did drink two bottles of wine with our meal, and have at least two courses each, so I suppose I should not complain. We ate olives, bread and pesto, then I had a pate starter, followed by pan fried chicken on a potato and red cabbage rosti with wild mushrooms, mange tout and carrots. It was gorgeous. I can definitely recommend it but take plenty of money with you, we paid £35 a head, which is a lot more than I would normally pay, even despite the wine.

A very good evening with two good friends and lots of quality conversation, a great way to end the week.

Wednesday was over-crowded diary day!

Last week was a funny week, no engagements over the weekend, working on Tuesday, with a short visit to the European Neighbours Day at Venture Housing, which went very well, and then there was Wednesday. Wednesday was madness, I barely had enough room to write all the appointments in the space provided!

I started at 9.30am, a visit to Kensington Regeneration at the Job Bank where Natalie Nicholas, Alan Kelly and I interviewed the three organisations who had submitted tenders to run next year's Kensington Remembers, Holocaust and Genocide Remembrance Day event. Good quality entrants, we are looking forward to working with the successful bidder on next year's event.

We finished about 12.30pm and I rushed over to Venture Housing on Boaler Street for a Putting Our Neighbourhood First meeting. This brings together partners and agencies working across the L6 area of the ward, principally Molyneux and Elm Park. Our allotment plans for the Tudor Street/Cambria Street area are coming along very well and we have had support too from Parry Estates which is really important to our success. I think this work will commence very soon, we are setting up a working group to organise it all properly, more on this later.

We also talked about the successful Sparkles Day in April which included a Kenny Crufts dog competition which Jane Kennedy and Liam Robinson were part of the judging panel. It was a very popular event which we will want to run again.

The next Sparkles Day is August 1st, so if you live in Kensington or Fairfield and want to join in with our mass litter picking, get in touch!

I had to leave the meeting a few minutes before the end because I was due at the Register Office for 2.30pm to perform a citizenship ceremony - we were joined by the new City Solicitor whose department the Registrars fall into. I think he was moved by the service and I know the staff were pleased he took the time to come along. We had a few observers from the Home Office too, staff who will have worked on some of the naturalisation applications of the new Brits.

I popped into the Municipal Buildings for a chat with our Leader, then went off to C7for a meeting of the Neighbourhood Services Task Group which is a part of Kensington Regeneration and is attended by all partners and agencies engaged in environmental work in the new deal area. Apparently a load of cobbles have gone missing from one of the Kenny Fields streets. This is becoming a real problem, some flags have been stolen elsewhere in the area, blatant thieves pulling up in vans, levering them up and taking them away. I think the cobbles might be retrievable though, as they disappeared as part of roadworks so we have a good idea who took them. We also discussed the success or otherwise of some section 46 notices, designed to enable LCC to prosecute people who don't manage their waste disposal properly.

Wendy and I had half an hour to kill before our next meeting, so we popped into McDonalds for a coffee. It was really strange being there without the radio station. I kept expecting Steve or Sheila to appear.

At 7pm we were at the Elm Park TRA meeting. We were sorry to hear that Margaret Smith is still very poorly in hospital, we send our love and best wishes to her and all the family, and hopes for a speedy recovery. It can be hard for a TRA when key members cannot take part but the officers of Elm Park are keeping the work going and it was a useful meeting. Our only real disappointment is the continued failure of Enterprise to empty the bins in Parton Street, sometimes you have to wonder if it is deliberate, or perhaps I should say, wilful.

I got home about 12 hours after I left, and popped down to the Richmond to see Colin acting as quiz master. I think a bit of diary management might be required in future, I dont want to do everything all on one day!

Monday, May 25, 2009

One of my favourite folk songs, just listening to it on tape now

A True Story (Kate Clinton, John McCutcheon, & Betsy Rose)

One morning while reading the paper, in search of a new set of wheels
The classifieds had a most curious ad in their listing of automobiles
I read in suspicious amusement what seemed like a great stroke of luck
"Corvette Stingray," it said, "low mileage, bright red, '83 model - sixty-five bucks"

Well I was used to my newspaper's typos, still I called up that number straightway
"'Bout that '83 'Vette -- have you sold the thing yet?"
She said, "No, you're my first call today"
I said, "There's been some mistake in the paper, they printed the ad wrong somehow"
"Oh, no," replied she, "they got that from me."
I said, "Don't sell that car, I'm leaving now"

Well her address was in the part of the city where I'd ventured just one time or two
Where the doctors, bank presidents, and lawyers are residents, and the houses are massive and new
As I drove up her half-a-mile driveway, there in the heat of the day
In the sunlight it gleamed, the car of my dreams - and just sixty-five dollars away

Well the interior was made of white leather, it had a 587 V-8
Bow wingspan doors, Hurst four-on-the-floor, and the 8-channel tape deck was great
There was chrome on the chrome on the fender in an aerodynamic design
A phone, a TV, and it was bogglin' to me how for sixty-five bucks it was mine

Well I suspected the woman was crazy, to be selling the car at this price
But as we walked down the lane she seemed perfectly sane - she was charming and really quite nice
And she smiled in such great satisfaction as she handed me title and keys
I said, "I've just got to know why you let this thing go - what's wrong with this car, tell me, please?"

Said she, "I'll be sixty come Tuesday, and I've lived here with my husband Earl
After thirty years wed, and without a word said, he left me for a silly young girl
With his credit cards here on the table, I knew that he couldn't go far
Last night from Florida he sent a wire to me, said 'I need money, dear, sell the car!'"

Bank Holiday Jaunting

Whitsun Bank Holiday Monday, one of those days in the year when an outing is de rigeur. But being a woman of small means and an almost empty tank of fuel, I suggested to Colin that we restricted "our day out" to somewhere local.

So we had lunch in the Richmond Tavern ("I think you'll find it's my pub!")principally because I wanted to eat outdoors on such a beautiful sunny day (I had lemon and herb chicken with baked potato and Colin had a gourmet burger) and then we went over to Sudley House.

I have not been for a few years, not since the refurbishment anyway, and can say that it is all looking really good. Well done to Rex and Shirley Makin and the other people who supported the work. There are some truly fine paintings, you can keep your Turners, he does nothing for me, far too depressing, but I do love a good pre-raphaelite and Studley has several. A couple of Frederic Lord Leighton's best paintings, which hold you spellbound; 'Angel Playing a Flageolet' by Edward Burne-Jones which I have bought on notelets and cards many times over the years, and the wonderful 'Gypsy Sisters of Seville' by John Phillip, throw in a couple of paintings of John Everett Millais and I was in heaven.

There is also a fascinating exhibition on at the moment of clothes and momentos from the Thinne family of sugar merchants, dated mainly between the wars.

Having had our culture, I suggested we went to the most unusual park in Liverpool, Reynolds Park where I swear they cut the grass with nail scissors. It is very smart, manicured within inches of its life and exactly the right place to go after a walk round Sudley House. I could almost see the Edwardians traversing the pathways. Sadly the walled garden was closed, but having peeked through all three gates, I can tell you it is currently a seasonal work-in-progress, they have not sorted out the dahlias yet, which will be so fantastic in 3 months time. It has been a green-flag park for 7 years now, and I see nothing to suggest that will change any day soon. The azaleas and rhodedendruns were spectacular.

I came home to water my new hanging baskets with a renewed sense of optimism, those fuscia will be fabulouse when they come into bloom.

Photo: taken on my birthday in Reynolds Park in 2007

Moving On

- not me, the BBC

Every day last week at about 2.30pm in the afternoon, was a special made-for-TV play, in a series called Moving On

All written by Liverpool playwrights, filmed on Liverpool streets (I even spotted a few purple wheely bins) and most featuring Liverpool actors, produced by Jimmy McGovern.

All were heavily featured in the Liverpool Echo in the run up to last week, so I was keen to watch them.

I didn't watch them as they happened, I watched them this bank holiday weekend making the most of TV On Demand, and after I watched the first one (arguably the best as it happens) the other 4 episodes were most definitely "on demand" as far as I was concerned.

A great series, a great idea, to give local Liverpool people the opportunity to write screen plays, work with the greats, as it says on the BBC website, they were "written by up-and-coming writers and experienced writers, who were all chosen by, and worked closely with, Executive Producer Jimmy McGovern."

The first one, The Rain Has Stopped by Karen Brown, starred Sheila Hancock (yes really!) as a widow of some 10 years who had met a man on holiday in Eastbourne (or somewhere like that) but all hell broke lose when he moved in to the family home with her. Not only was he an unwanted replacement for their father, but he was a Ghurka to boot, Sheila's son called him "Illegal" as in "illegal immigrant", which of course he wasn't and the course of true love ran anything but smooth. Thank heavens for a happy ending.

My other favourite, Dress To Impress by Arthur Ellison was about a young man of 17 who has been secretly dressing as a woman. When his father finds his secret stash of women's lingerie and fripperies, he believes his wife has bought them to wear them for his birthday. When they don't materialise, he believes his wife has been deceiving him with another man and huge family rows ensue. Only when the son, desperate to save his parents' marriage, dresses up in the hidden clothes and comes downstairs to confront them and his own secret, is the family finally able to come back together, after many tears. I was particularly impressed with one scene where the young man is online on a webcam, talking to another transvestite young man about his passion for cross-dressing. He tells his friend that it may be a phase and that he might grow out of, the friend says "How long have you been doing it?" and he replies "About 10 years". "A bit too long to be a phase" comes the reply. It is sympathetically done and I think the LGBT community will be pleased with it. It is anything but sleazy.

Speaking as someone who can let days go by without turning on the "goggle box", I would say we need more drama of this calibre.

Another reason to be proud of Liverpool.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Working class music festival - at the New Picket

A great night on Friday night, well worth missing the Labour Party CLP meeting for!

Colin and I went down to the New Picket on Jordan Street, my favourite venue in the city, and we listened to Attila the Stockbroker with his wonderful poetry, Alun Parry, who I am a big fan of (Colin bought me a CD which I am really enjoying) and the man himself, Billy Bragg.

A really great evening - and thankfully the only people who recognised me were friends so nobody gave me a load of stick for being a Labour politician.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Laura Moffatt MP - someone to admire

Never mind duck islands, moats, champagne flutes, flipping, antique carpets, shoe repairs, dog food etc

Let's hear it for Laura Moffatt, MP for Crawley who claimed £20 this year on her expenses and says she sleeps on a camp-bed in her office if she cannot get home from Parliament because "I have always believed it is wrong for public servants to make money out of the public purse and I do not defend anyone who does so."

She went on to say "The record shows that I have consistently voted against pay rises for MPs in the Commons and this year gave my entire pay rise to charity."

What a fantastic representative, the people of Crawley must be delighted - (and I hear she has a tattoo of the number "37" on her foot, which refers to her slender majority, let's hope she needs to go back to the tattoist for some more inking after the next general election, at least another two digits! I will even pay for it myself).

Welcome to my "bistro" yard!

Mum and Roger came over yesterday to help me sort out my yard, now that May is here. They bought me hanging baskets for my birthday last year but the seasons have been against us until now. Actually that is not true, they came over not to help me, but to actually do the work, while I watched and made helpful suggestions.

It is looking fantastic, Roger worked incredibly hard, on his knees, with a scouring brush, sweeping and hosing and turning my mossy, dandelion encrusted yard into a thing of beauty. And the baskets Mum planted up look wonderful. I am such a lucky daughter.

We had a smashing chinese take-away last night from the place at the end of my road, Chopsticks, which is on the corner of Lance Lane and Woolton Road, near the Blue Coat playing fields. I can definitely recommend the mixed starter for 2, which was more than enough for 3, for £7 - prawn toast, salt and pepper chicken, spare ribs, chicken satay, spring rolls, seaweed.

To blog or not to blog...

... that is the question.

I promised this debate last month, when I resigned from my front bench position because I had got into trouble over something I wrote on my blog a few years ago.

I have been busy with other things, not least of which was our wonderful radio station, but now I am back and ready to have the discussion. I do hope people will be attracted to this entry and will engage with it, because I really want to know what people's views are, wherever in the country they are.

I started blogging before I was a councillor, because let's face it, I have always had plenty to say for myself and there is something very fulfilling about putting your thoughts and ideas out there, and having people respond accordingly.

As an active and long-standing Labour Party member, I have also always enjoyed using the blog for campaigning - bigging up our side and teasing the opposition for instance, great fun that is shared by many, on all sides, even while they are cursing me.

When I was elected to serve the good people of Kensington and Fairfield as a Labour Councillor, it gave me further opportunity to be able to talk about the issues of the day in the ward. To use the blog as a means to communicate with residents and other councillors about issues like regeneration, jobs, community, environment, equality and diversity, heritage, parks etc.

It is also a sort of round-robin, like the notes that some people send out with their Christmas cards. If my mates or family want to know what I have been up to, they can always come and take a peek, and often do.

And I love writing, I probably won't ever write a book, maybe not even a short story, but with a blog I get to write as often as I like, with the gratification of nearly instant feedback and engagement, you cannot know how heady that is until you have tried it yourself.

And my readers are wide and varied; some are fellow politicians - from Liverpool but also from other parts of the country, some are local residents, some are friends, family, former work colleagues, current work colleagues, and some come because they are attracted by a particular story - who did you think was the best Elvis impersonator for instance? or what is happening about 24 hour off-licences? Occasionally even an ex-lover will turn up and leave a comment, curious presumably to see what I am making of myself. And the final group that come to read my stuff are some of the agents, partners and council officers, RSL colleagues etc who work with me locally or in the city and want to see what I am saying about projects we have worked together on. For instance, I know the Registrars like to see what I am saying about the citizenship ceremonies and the Police want to know how I am reporting on their operations and projects.

100 people read the blog every day - and they wont be the same 100 people, although there is a lot of repeat traffic. I get really interesting stats about where people come to the blog from, and what words they used to find it, I can share those with you sometime if you would like.

But the question I want to debate here is about the political content.

I have generally been of the view that there is no need for me to comment on national stories, because the whole web is full of people talking about those and my thoughts will generally have already been expressed with greater eloquence by some like-minded person - and in case I have never set myself up as a mouth-piece of the party, even when I have held national or regional positions. Unless you consult with a very large group of people, it is difficult to claim to be speaking on their behalf.

However, there are occasions, like the business over the Parliamentary expenses, where I am very unsure about the right thing to do. On one hand I feel it would be dishonest of me, as a person and politician prepared to blog about most things, to somehow ignore this and pretend I have not noticed. But on the other hand, there is always the very distinct possibility that anything I say will be taken and used against me, or my party, certainly locally here in Liverpool.

There will be those who take the very firm view, and I think my Mum is one of them, that I have got myself in quite enough trouble already and the best thing I can do is keep my mouth shut and restrict myself to what Marc Waddington, journalist from the Liverpool Echo has called the anodyne.

But there will also be those who like the fact that their politicians (and sometimes fellow politicians) are prepared to put themselves out there and engage. That such things are able to be discussed, that there is a entry upon which they can vent their own feelings, particularly if they can do so anonymously - and generally they can on here. The only comments I don't publish, generally, are those which are personally abusive, either to me or to a colleague.

We are told repeatedly as politicians that we should harnass the power of the web in our efforts to engage, and I cannot help but think that does sometimes mean having to defend ourselves or our party, when things go badly wrong, and sometimes it means being critical of things we have not agreed with.

Marc talks about transparency in his blog and about the many blogs that hide behind anonymity to stick the knife in to others. We have a plethora of those in Liverpool, some of which are most definitely published by elected politicians. It is easy to say whatever you like, to defame, to slur and to ridicule when you are hiding behind a persona, nothing brave about that.

What makes my blog different is that it bears my name and my photograph. I have always been proud of that, being honest, open and up-front, but that can be where the problem lies too. If I say something which someone objects to, then they can move against me, as with Steve Radford in this case. Or they can print something on a leaflet, like my comments several years ago about wheely bins which found themselves onto a LibDem leaflet.

Of course it is incumbent upon me not to provide bullets for other people to fire, either at me or my party, but although I do try to think really hard about things before I post them, sometimes I get it wrong. Although in my defence, unless there are some unfired bullets I am not currently aware of, nothing I have said in the last couple of years has got me or the party into bother (or if they have, I have forgotten them just now). I expect you will remind me if there are any such.
The choices would seem to be as follows;

1. Vanilla entries that offend no-one (but which maybe no-one reads? Would you still come if there was never anything remotely controversial?)
2. Anonymous blogging (and just hope to heaven that no-one finds out who wrote it, because they always do in the end you know, you have been warned!)
3. Keep on keepin' on, but try harder to steer away from the ice-bergs.

Thoughts please? All entries welcome, even from LibDems, I don't mind anonymous entries but it might be useful if you at least say which party you represent (if you do) when responding.

Update on Drug Operation in Kensington and Fairfield

I went to a Quality of Life meeting yesterday at Kensington Regeneration and took the opportunity to ask for an update from the police on the drug operation I reported here and here

Of the warrants issued, only 5 are now outstanding, everyone else has been arrested.

The details of the missing 5 have been circulated throughout the country, one man was arrested at Liverpool Airport, about to board a flight.

About half of those arrested have been charged already. In some homes drugs, weapons, cash and stolen goods were also found, and they have to be processed forensicly before charges can be brought in these cases. Apparently they cannot just proceed on the evidence they had already gathered, but need to process all the new evidence too. So we can expect a further raft of charges in due course.

Many of the alleged dealers were allegedly involved in national and international dealing, part of an organised network.

The police say any convicted dealers are looking at long prison sentences.

Money Made Clear – Money Guidance Service at North Liverpool Citizens Advice Bureau

Email from NLCAB

North Liverpool CAB is pleased to announce a new service that will provide individuals with face-to-face money guidance. This new service is called Money Made Clear and is funded by the FSA (Financial Services Authority) in partnership with the Government.

The Money Made Clear service provides information and guidance on the following topics:

· Budgeting

· Mortgages and borrowing

· Savings & Investments

· Insurance and life assurance

· Pensions & retirement planning

· Tax

· Welfare Benefits & Tax Credits

Our trained Money Guide, Danielle Bretherton, will be able to see individuals face-to-face and explain:

· Jargon around financial products and services

· How different financial products work and their pros and cons

· Issues to consider when choosing or changing a service provider/product or when seeking an Independent Financial Adviser or additional help

This service is impartial and does not promote or sell any financial products or services. Our aim is to help individuals understand their finances and be able to access appropriate advice and support when necessary. In addition to receiving face-to-face information, clients receive an action list, which details the actions that they may take in order to meet financial goals such as budgeting to save for a family holiday, changing a mortgage to take advantage of better deal or planning for retirement. In addition, clients may receive printed information and/or be signposted or referred to additional sources of information and advice.

In order to book a free face-to-face money guidance session for your staff or clients please contact:

Danielle Bretherton

Money Guide

Walton CAB

37 / 39 Walton Road

Liverpool, L4 4AB

Tel: 0151 207 6974 extn 2015

Email: Danielle.b @

(remove the spaces which I have put in to avoid her getting spammed.

Congratulations to Beatrice and Tim

I should have written this before, but I have been busy with other things since last weekend. I want to personally congratulate Beatrice Fraenkel on becoming the new Labour Group Spokeswoman for Ethical Governance. I know she is an expert in this area and she made a very good contribution on her first outing on our front bench at the AGM on Tuesday, in the debate about the appointment of school governors. A big hug to you Beatrice, I am looking forward to working with you on this important topic and sharing my thoughts and ideas with you, and hearing more about your own.

And secondly, I want to congratulate Tim Moore, who I have been mentoring this year, for his promotion into a senior Labour position, by becoming our new Policy Convenor. I really enjoyed my two years in this post but felt it was time to move on to something different. I really need to concentrate on the Community Cohesion agenda now which is simply massive and very time consuming. I am sure you will enjoy the work Tim, I am very proud of you and will always be there to offer any advice or support if you need them in the future.

Lord Rennard of Wavertree resigns LibDem post

I have just seen this story on the BBC.

He has resigned as Chief Executive of the Liberal-Democrats, but says it is "not linked to criticism of his expenses. He is reported to have claimed over £40,000 for a second home when he owned a flat near Westminster."

Right, good to have that cleared up.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

IDAHO day at Liverpool Town Hall

Today was IDAHO today across the world. For the first time Liverpool City Council flew the rainbow banner from the Town Hall, and I believe from Municipal Buildings. And at least 100 LGBT folk had tea with the Lord Mayor. I met some really interesting people, the two women from Our Story Liverpool that I blogged about a few weeks back, women from the Lesbian and Gay foundation - who gave me a policy document to read about supporting the delivery of a sustainable LGBT sector in the North-West, Merseyside Gay and Lesbian Support Network - the flag is flying from all of our police stations today too, and the organisers of the gay film festival in FACT each October.

The Lord Mayor said it was the first time the flag had been flown here and although nobody else did it, I want to thank Andrew Nembhard, Head of Equality at Liverpool City Council, for paying for the afternoon tea and arranging for the Town Hall to be open for so many people to come and celebrate together. We spoke at the end about how we can encourage more councillors to come next year, something to discuss at our next Community Cohesion Task Group.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Email from Gordon Brown

Dear Louise,

Like me, you joined the Labour Party to make Britain fairer and stronger. It’s always hard work campaigning in politics – but I know that it’s even harder than usual at the moment. You deserve better than the scandal that is casting a cloud over Westminster right now. All of us take our place as Labour members, campaigners, councillors, organisers or elected representatives because we believe in something quite fundamental – that we achieve more together than we do alone. We come into politics not for what we can get but for what we can give.

This week, I apologised on behalf of all politicians and all parties and set out Labour’s determination to put things right - not through words, but through action.

Two MPs have been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party this week while the Standards Commissioner investigates their cases – investigations that we ourselves have asked for. And a third has stepped down as a minister while he is being investigated.

I have discussed this matter with the General Secretary and Chair of the NEC and we are all clear that where wrongs need to be righted the Labour Party will not hesitate to invoke its disciplinary procedures.

This is not a time for papering over cracks – it’s a time to clean up the system as a whole. I have called for every single expenses claim made in the last four years to be put to independent scrutiny – and an independent process to decide what should be paid back. Already we have ensured that outer London MPs won’t get the second home allowance, that just like any other organisation MPs should submit receipts with their claims, and any MPs who have second jobs should declare them properly. And we are looking at strong rules to regulate the tax and mortgage affairs of politicians –that’s only fair.

You’ll know from your own campaigning on the doorstep that politicians’ most precious asset is trust and I know that we have a lot of work to do to regain it. Now more than ever people on modest and middle incomes need a Labour government standing by their side, so you have my word – when it comes to cleaning up politics, I’ll do whatever it takes to make you proud to campaign for Labour.



KVFM87.7 - the signal is turned off

A little bit of prose I wrote yesterday;

I am already imagining the pang of driving past Maccies, and knowing you are not there any more. No place for me to be drawn to, no glass box in the heart of Kensington, holding something that has swiftly become so precious to me, that I cannot keep away. Where am I going to go for my fix now? Such a strange three weeks, buffeted by emotions; loss, drama, joy, misery, anger, laughter, tears, music, poetry, endless cups of coffee, chocolate and chips and a plethora of tall boys and short girls. I will miss you very much indeed.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gordon Brown should call a General Election

Disclaimer: This post is made in a strictly personal capacity. It is not made by the Vice Chair of the Labour Party in the North West, nor the Labour councillor for Kensington and Fairfield, nor the Secretary of the Liverpool Co-operative Party. I have not taken sufficient soundings from anyone I represent in order that I could claim otherwise. I do not therefore expect it to be reported anywhere else in terms of "Labour Party or Co-op Party person" is commenting on this matter

The Parliamentary Expenses scandal is now so severe that the only decent democratic course of action must be the immediate calling of a General Election. The PM should go to see the Queen as soon as possible.

I am not a fool, I have been a political campaigner for 17 years, I know the Labour Party would suffer serious electoral damage, but I am afraid there is no choice. I dont think we should hang on, hoping for the polls to rise up above the appalling and scary 20% they have apparently fallen to today, I think we should lance the boil. I don't think that waiting for a better political climate would be the right course of action, I believe the people deserve the best representatives and that all parties should deselect anyone who has not behaved honourably, unless they resign themselves of course, and find decent people to stand in their place.

And then we should let the public vote for new representatives that they can trust.

No other course of action will do.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wot no wall?

On Sunday, Wendy, Peter Morrison and I were on KVFM87.7 appealing for a suitable wall to host the Kensington and Fairfield mural. We really fancy the one on the corner of Kensington where the Old Post Office used to be, and Peter and I are going to call round and see if we can chat them up.
Another choice might be the wall on the corner of Lorne Street and Prescot Road. We have also had our eye on a wall on Boaler Street.
The money is there (thanks to the Culture Company), the painters are on standby, the community is working on the design, now we just need that wall.

Euro Rally in Liverpool

Last weekend we had a big Euro Rally in Liverpool - a few hours of speeches in the Casa on Hope Street, which I missed because I could not get out of bed after the wedding party, and then several hours of campaigning.

I lead a team of campaigners around an estate in Picton, securing Labour promises so that we have a good number of people to get out to vote on June 4th. There were 10 in our team, and I think there were 4 teams altogether out on the knocker. Then another team of 10 was leafletting elsewhere in the city, with a fifth team on the phones calling voters. We had the candidates from the Labour Euro panel, plus the retiring Gary Titley MEP, thanks to all of them for coming over.

Then we had a drink and a chat and the best buffet I have ever eaten in my life, courtesy of the Co-op Party in Manchester, in a bar on Parr Street - is it called something like 3354? We were joined by dozens of young people, from Liverpool Universities, Manchester Uni and the Labour North West LGBT group. It was all organised by the irrepressable Kev Peel and he deserves a very big thank you, well done mate! What a great boost to the campaign.

My friend Suzanne stayed over afterwards and we caught up on all the Manchester and Liverpool gossip together. She is running in the Great Manchester Run to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society this weekend, go girl!

(And it really cheered me up on a very bad day for Parliamentary democracy)

Dave and Peter's wedding evening at Aldo's Place

We all had a great evening last Friday at Aldo's Place to celebrate David and Peter's wedding. They were married in the Town Hall, Dave says it is his second home after all! They both looked fantastic and we had a great time, singing, dancing, eating and drinking. It was great to share such a special day with them, good luck to you both for your future together x

Quick visit to Gina in Leeds

I had a quick visit to see Gina Greenley in Leeds last night. I dragged myself away from KVFM87.7 where I was loving sitting watching community radio in action (not something you get to do very often, to be honest) and crossed the Pennines, with my honorary Tyke passport in hand.

I have not seen Gina for ages, years perhaps, we calculated, although that seems all wrong to me. We had a lot of catching up to do as you can imagine!

She was telling me about the European election campaigns in Leeds and we swapped notes on campaign tips and the brilliant new virtual phone on membersnet.

We had a curry and a few glasses of wine and really put the world to rights. And - Colin and Wendy in particular please note - she gave me loads of books to bring home, and I am talking about 50 here, not just a handful! So I shall stand back so as to avoid the crush as you fight to be first to pick them over.

She is going to be a grandmother later this year, and we talked about what she might be called by her grandaughter when she arrives. My grandmothers were "Nana" and "Grandma". Gina says she thinks the baby will call her Gina, because everyone else does, but I reckon that she will find that everyone else will call her "Gran" (or whatever they choose) to this little girl, and she may well find she gets a name like that anyway.

The other exciting bit of news was that she spent nearly 8 weeks in Chicago working on the Obama campaign last summer, how special is that! I was really envious, what a wonderful memory to have.

We have already put a date in our diary for her to come over in the summer, so we wont be leaving it so long next time! I had a lovely time. Thanks for having me!

Not everyone is "at it" after all

Just picked up this story on the BBC

It is good to see that there are still some people out there who I can really admire.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Utterly immoral

That is my view on the expense claims scandal, utterly immoral.

If I hear one more MP say it was "all within the rules" then I will choke them, with my own hands. We put our trust and our faith into these people, to represent us, we cannot all go to Westminster after all, we have to send someone on our behalf. And we expect them to be dignified and decent, and do their best.

We do not expect them to rub their hands in glee as they rake in oodles of tax-payer's hard earned money. Nor do we expect them to disappoint and anger almost the entire population, so that our democracy suffers such a wounding blow.

To paraphrase Mr Bumble, the rules are clearly "an ass"!

We should pay MPs a salary of £100k each, and let them sort themselves out with where they want to live, from a park bench to Park Lane. No more of this, no more

Friday, May 08, 2009

Colin and I were at Loggerheads at the weekend...

I have been dying to say that!

Loggerheads is a national park beauty spot in North Wales next to Colomendy where Liverpool school children go away on outward bound holidays. It doesn't mean we were daggers drawn!

We drove over there via a certain couple of places on the Wirral that I want to take Wendy to over the summer, on the trail of her ancestors. We had no clear idea of our destination, just "Wales" but then I spotted Moel Famau on the map and thought it would be good to be there, looking back at Liverpool, for a change, instead of the other way round. We did not actually get all the way there, but close enough.

We had lunch at a pub called "We 3 at Loggerheads", a lovely Sunday roast dinner of Turkey in my case, I think Colin had Steak and Ale pie, then we went for a walk along the river, stopping to look at interesting bits of old industrial buildings - a fabulous water mill for instance. It was muddy because of the rain so I rolled my trouser bottoms up into my socks as we walked, I looked far from fetching. There will be no photos of that! Having satisfied ourselves that we had properly walked up and down and show suitable willing, we allowed ourselves an icecream from the Tourist office shop before going back to the car, I had honey comb. Delicious.

The journey back to Liverpool was much faster, it turns out to be only about 25 miles if you don't go via all points and if you don't dawdle.

I may very well go again

May Day - International Workers Day

I realise that I have not said anything about our party last week to celebrate International Workers Day. Liverpool Labour Party invited friends and supporters to join us at the Devonshire House Hotel for a night out. A hot pot supper, speech by John Prescott as part of his Go Fourth tour, and then some really lovely music from John O'Connell.

Wendy, Liam and I invited lots of our friends from Kensington and Fairfield and filled two tables.

It was absolutely heaving, totally packed out. Both Johns were great too and everyone had a lovely time. It is sometimes hard to get my head round, as I watch the national party suffer and struggle, that Labour in Liverpool is so buoyant.

The hot pot was fab too, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Liam took loads of photos so hopefully I can persuade him to let me have a few to share with you.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Our Story - Memories of gay Liverpool

I was in Kensington library for my surgery this morning and noticed a really great display they have recently put up. It is near the end of its third and final week, so if you want to see it, you need to hurry

Our Story - memories of gay Liverpool, comprises display boards featuring stories from gay men and women born throughout the 20th century. There is also a booklet and a CD which you can listen to on one of the library's computers - or presumably take away.

The exhibition has come here from Central Library and no doubt will move on to other libraries and it may be that it had loads of publicity before that I have missed, but in case you had not heard about it, then I thought I would flag it up here.

According to the introduction, the project is a community history project managed by the Unity Theatre and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Liverpool Culture Company.

Very sadly, one of the staff told me that the day after the exhibition went up in Kensington, one of the principle participants, Yankel, a gay Jewish man from Toxteth, died - he was born in 1920.

Other stories featured include Sheila born in Everton in 1930, Alan born in Burnley in 1930, Grace born in Old Swan in 1932, Diane born in Bristol in 1943, Rebecca born in Gillingham in 1946, Jan in Broadgreen in 1951, Meredith from Crosby, 1953, Gerry from Scotland Road 1962, Bob, Mold 1925, George, Old Swan 1944 and his partner Eric, Margate 1936 and Brian S, Ealing, 1930, all of whom lived in Liverpool.

The exhibition is as much about the changing social and political landscape of the 20th century - before 1967 practicing gay men were all breaking the law, now they could be married in the registrar office, just like one of my colleagues will be tomorrow.

If you get the chance, do call in and have a look, but if it has moved on and you are still interested in seeing it, or watching the CD, then let me know and I will find out where it is due to move next.

Edit: I met the two women responsible for the project at IDAHO today. And they had the exhibition in the Town Hall with them so I took a few photos of it. Sadly I still dont know how to turn the pictures the right way up when I take them on my phone, so you will have to turn your head.

They are looking for L,G,B and T people, aged 45 plus to interview and talk to about their experiences over their lives. If you are interested please let me know and I will put you in touch with Lou from the project.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

John Prescott endorses full time community radio for Kensington (and Fairfield)

We had Prezza in Liverpool on Friday night, I will blog about that later.

But while we had him, Steve Faragher managed to get a quick interview with him for KVFM, and also get him to endorse full time community radio for Kensington and Fairfield. This is Kensington Vision's ultimate aim.

You can hear John here

Monday, May 04, 2009

KVFM 87.7

We have a plethora of tall boys

Are you tuning in, live, online to 87.7FM?

Local community radio for Kensington and Fairfield on air for two more weeks.

I simply cannot keep away, I have been in every day, sitting listening, chatting to presenters, texting in, getting under feet, commenting on the blog!

Our next show is Thursday 7th May but I cannot promise not to pop into someone else's show in the meantime, it is addictive! Our community, coming together, live on the radio. It is FANTASTIC!

Dolls II

My friend, the artist Stephen Seymour Clancy has shared this painting with me, which he has recently completed. I was naturally curious about it, what it represents and what it means, so I asked him. His response follows below; I should just point out that if you click on the photo it will display in a larger format and you can examine it more clearly. Please do not reproduce it on any other website as it is the property of the artist. Thanks very much. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts, both on the painting and also on the point of view of the artist and the reasons behind his creation. I have not asked him for the name of the painting, but I think we are safe to call it Dolls II for the moment.

Please also let me know if you would like to be put in touch with Steve, to find out about his current portfolio, exhibitions etc.

"I have to have something in mind - a point, an argument, a set of miseries or joys, something I feel strongly about, something to have an inner itch that needs a damned good scratch. The scratching can take months as with the final picture on this short list. (The painting shown here is the second in a series of three, the others have not yet been finalised)

I am rapidly beginning to hate television ... not the medium itself but what vapid, facile images it carries and delivers to a populous that seems to have an unquenchable thirst for pulp and mediocrity.

I can understand the commercial reasons for this and sadly I can understand how those whose lives and personalities are shown to be anodyne and crease-free, straight teethed and unblemished are portrayed. All image and no substance. I know this is an adolescent rant though the older I get the less I am able to identify certain individuals belonging to certain ‘victim’ groups. They are mostly women and they all look the same... the Stepford Wives, that Beckham woman, and more scarily the unstoppable doll faced credo that makes even young girls want/need to conform to the personality-less stereotype.

Yes its a daft rant. However, I took three images. Firstly I have a picture of you from the bash Cath and I had in Holmfirth, I thought it a good picture, a real uncompromising picture of a real uncompromising woman. Juxtaposed with two invented images - on the left a cold (hence much blue) woman robbed of personality and like the Beckham woman devoid of emotion but with the only thing she has left ... her body which, of course she would be dissatisfied with. There’s no eye contact, no recognition of a world outside of her being, just her and a need to conform and to show that she belongs to the Stepford Wives circle. Then there is the real doll on the right. A slightly (to me anyway) sinister Chucky smiling homunculus-like thing that has more than a tenuous link to the blue women.
And a real person is a central focal point in the whole arrangement.

The other two works are ‘in progress’ and predicated on the same itch so I’m off to keep scratching."

Gudbye t'Dave

Dave Charnock, the man behind the excellent drug dealing counter-operation in Kensington last week, has finally left his post in Tuebrook and has moved to South Liverpool on his promotion.

He was a Sergeant when I first met him, but a few years working with us in Kensington and Fairfield has seen him get promoted twice and now he is leaving us as a Chief Inspector. I fully expect a queue of clamouring Sergeants to be begging to come and work with us, if this is the reward they can expect!

Dave, you have been terrific, we Councillors and residents are all very grateful that you listen and you take action when we tell you what our priorities are.

Twice in three years you have run operations to clear the prostitutes from Kensington after we told you how much damage this was causing to community well-being.

When we told you and your team about the anti-social behaviour in Molyneux Road, you agreed that your officers could work on an operation to sort this out, but also agreed to meet with young people and talk to them about their concerns too.

When the community was on its knees over the huge spate of burglaries last year, primarily carried out by one young man on his own, you dedicated every officer you could find to disrupting him and his activities, seeing him locked up several times. And again you met the residents to reassure them that you were taking this seriously.

You have always ensured that we are informed of any unusual criminal activity that has taken place, phoning us to explain the background and the action you are taking.

And if I had any doubt that you were listening and responding to the people's priorities, I only have to look at the massive operation to rid our streets of drug dealers, nearly two years in the making, and I know you had to work hard to raise£200,000 to fund it.

We have always taken you on trust, that you were doing something about drug dealing, even though at times we did despair that the situation was getting worse. We have told residents a hundred times that just because they could not see anything happening, it did not mean that the police were not out there, gathering evidence and surveilling. Given that it was not something you could ever tell us about openly, we had to be satisfied with the odd nod or wink, that you had the situation in hand.

And now we know for certain that you had.

I hope everything goes really well for you in your new posting, you have been a credit to your uniform and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you have done for our residents - and indeed for me personally on the two times I have been a victim of crime in Fairfield myself.

We will miss you terribly but we look forward to working with your replacement, he has a hard act to follow, but we will mould him in our ways!

All the best!

Dad in a hot air balloon

For his birthday last year, my brother, sister and I paid for Dad to go on a hot-air balloon trip. For various reasons concerning the weather, it has taken 8 months for him to finally get air-bound, and he has sent me this photo of them up in the air.

He tells me that it was the largest balloon (317000 cubic feet) in the world, except for just one in Europe somewhere.

I don't know about you, but it gives me the screaming heeby-jeebies, just looking at it! I am glad he enjoyed it though.

One move forward, one move back

Thanks to Matthew Fox for his newsletter which drew this article to my attention.

After many years the Government has finally bitten the bullet and will legislate to make proper sex education compulsory in all schools. This means that faith schools will no longer be able to opt out.

Quite why it has taken so long is anyone's guess, but I remember the deep horror I felt when I first learned about the Magdalene Laundries - at a Mary Coughlan concert in 1996 in Sheffield, as the last one was closing down in Ireland. A shameful part of the history of Roman Catholicism.

And we know that there are still problems with female genital mutilation in some of our new communities, and that there are extreme Muslim groups overseas, with some followers in the UK, that stone attractive young women almost on a whim.

So sensible education is absolutely vital in overcoming some of the terrible abuses committed against girls and young women in the name of faith.

I am however deeply disappointed and unhappy that the same faith schools seem to have won a concession to be allowed to preach against homosexuality at the same time. Where is the Equality and Diversity here? Won't we just replace one set of scapegoats with another?

As a committed Christian, I know that we are all God's children and I don't believe that Jesus would have countenanced this for a minute. Homosexuality is not a sin. End of.

I know that Faith Schools often have better discipline and better exam results that main stream schools, but at what price if the kids are taught fear and reprisal and discrimination? Perhaps it is time to reconsider the concept?

Further news about the arrests of the drug dealers in Kensington

This was the original message from Sgt Simon Joyce that went out to partners and agents on Thursday

This morning (Thursday, April 30) Merseyside Police arrested 24 people across north Liverpool as part of its total war on drugs.

Around 200 officers including the Kensington Neighbourhood Police Team executed search warrants in the culmination of a 12-month investigation into the supply of Class A drugs.

The operation was launched in response to information received from the community and targeted drug dealing on the streets. It is linked to a similar operation in January when 23 people were arrested in south Liverpool on suspicion of drug offences, 18 of whom were subsequently charged.

Officers arrested 21 people aged 17 - 60 years from the Kensington and Tuebrook areas. Several seizures of Class A, B & C drugs have been made, along with quantities of cash.

Local representatives from Kensington Regeneration, Community 7 Housing, Venture Housing and local Councillors attended the Police briefing and witnessed some of the operation from Police Headquarters.

The Kensington New Deal Police Team have been listening to the residents concerns about drug dealing and want you to know that any information received about drug dealing has been used as intelligence for this operation. We expect that many of the individuals arrested will be receiving custodial sentences and we shall keep you informed of the outcome.

We will work with our partners to reduce drug dealing and educate people as to the effects it has on the community and we shall support Housing Agencies to evict those convicted of drug offences.

Merseyside Police will continue to enforce the law to the fullest extent and urge anyone with any information about the supply of illegal drugs to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111


I can now confirm, having kept my ear to the ground, that 14 of the 21 who were apprehended on Thursday have now been charged. I still need to learn about the other 14 - a mixture of those we did not find on Thursday when we went out looking for them, and those that were arrested but had not been charged as Saturday morning.

Keep watching this space - but isn't that great, 14 alleged dealers charged already!