Sunday, January 30, 2011

Census 2011 - Merseyside Irish & Proud Campaign


Merseyside Irish & Proud Campaign - Invitation to Launch


The Irish are the biggest ethnic group on Merseyside

The vibrancy and uniqueness of Merseyside – our accents, our music, our politics, our humour are all rooted in the unique connections that this area has with Ireland

Its time to stand up + celebrate our Irishness.

You can join our Merseyside Irish & Proud Campaign now on Facebook

The National Census in March 2011 is a real opportunity to celebrate + assert your Irishness. The key questions are:

Census Question 15
‘What is your national identity?’ - Write ‘IRISH’ in the section marked ‘Other’

Census Question 16
‘What is your ethnic group?’ - Tick the ‘IRISH’ box

For details of the national census take up campaign see

What’s it all about?

27th March 2011 is Census Day. Information is collected every 10 years on a standard census form about every man, woman and child in Britain.

Why bother?

Whether you are first, second, third or fourth generation Irish, or beyond, wherever you were born, you have a right to be proud of your heritage + to declare and celebrate it. Here some of the reasons why it is important to maximize the numbers of us declaring our Irish identity on the census –

Pride – We have a right to promote + celebrate our Irish identity and rich cultural heritage

Influence – The more we can get organized + recognized as a community, the more we can influence local + central government

Health – Certain health issues, such as higher risk of liver disease + higher mortality rates, can affect Irish people more than others. We need to register our presence, statistically, for health organizations to focus resources on this.

Merseyside campaign launch
Date: Monday 14th February 2011

1pm – 3.30pm (lunch 1pm – 1.30pm)
Venue: St Michael’s Irish Centre, Boundary Lane
Off West Derby Road L6 5JG

Irish Community Care Merseyside
0151 237 3987

Love in every language - Valentine event

Merseyside Polonia has the pleasure to invite you for an evening of international love poetry:

Love in Every Language

6.30 pm - 8.30 pm on Friday, 11 February 2011

The Academy of St Francis of Assisi, Kensington, Liverpool, Gardner’s Drive (off Sheil Road by the main gate to Newsham Park), L6 7UR

If you would like to present a famous love poem (or sing a song) from your country please bring the original version with English translation and be there at 6.00 pm.

Entry is free and we hope you’ll enjoy the poetry as well as the drinks and cakes that will make the evening even more sweet.

Please help us promote the event.

For more information:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Libdem campaign damned by leading LibDem MEP

A sour LibDem has sent me this email to them from Chris Davies MEP, you may find it interesting, I think it blows huge holes in the LibDem campaign, in their credibility, in their unity and in their ability. I hope this blog will be shared far and wide.


Most readers of this e-mail will know that I spent a decade and more building up the party in the old Littleborough & Saddleworth seat. I contested it on three occasions, and was elected to Parliament in the 1995 by-election - only to fail to win the new Oldham East & Saddleworth (OE&S) seat two years later.

OE&S has remained one of our top target seats. The vast majority of wards in the constituency continue to be held by Liberal Democrats. On too many occasions, and for a variety of reasons, we have failed to win the parliamentary seat by a whisper.

Then along came the Court's decision against Phil Woolas's despicable leaflets and the calling of a by-election. The Liberal Democrat HQ was just 600 metres from my home in Saddleworth so there was no escape for me - despite it being the coldest few weeks on record.

I believe that readers of this e-mail are part of the Liberal Democrat family, and mostly live the North West of England. I admit to being disappointed that the by-election 'signing-in book' includes more names of Liberal Democrats from London than it does from my own region. I'm really sorry that we in the North West didn't pull together more effectively, despite the efforts of Andrew Stunell, Tim Farron, Gordon Birtwistle, John Leech, John Pugh and Mark Hunter, all of whom put in plenty of appearances and got down to work in the snow and ice.

(Interesting that the NW LibDems are not on-side, is that because they don't like what the Coalition are doing to our communities? I reckon so, what do you think? Ed)
Against the odds we did well. I like to think that we could have done even better. Here are my reflections.



It reveals naivety on my part that it was only after the polls had closed in Oldham East & Saddleworth that I learnt that no opposition party had lost a by-election in a seat it held since 1982, when Labour was beaten by the Conservatives at a time when the latter were riding the crest of the wave after Britain had recaptured the Falkland Isles. Had I known this beforehand I would not have placed a small bet on the Liberal Democrats to win, even with the odds at 10-1 against.

We campaigned to win OE&S. There may have been some in the organising team who realised from the beginning that a respectable second place was the best that could be achieved but if so they did a remarkable job at maintaining morale by keeping such sentiments to themselves. They showed great dedication to the job, leading from the front and working themselves into the ground. For weeks on end they also braved the lowest temperatures that most of us have ever experienced in an election campaign.

(And of course all parties had the same weather, Labour worked through the cold too, and the Party was magnificent in its efforts. Incidentally, to say it was the coldest is to forget Hemsworth which was deep snow almost throughout, I know, I was a sub-agent!)

If the election had taken place in the immediate aftermath of the Court case that saw the MP disbarred then all might have been well. But parliamentary by-elections are not mere local affairs, they command national attention, and it was inevitable that the agenda would move on quickly from Phil Woolas to the record of the Coalition Government.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats were neck and neck last May, separated by just 103 votes. Since then, according to the polls, Labour’s support has risen by 10 points and ours has fallen by at least 13. The tide hasn’t simply turned since May, it has raced out in a torrent. How could we possibly have won such a by-election in these circumstances?

Raced out in a torrent? Really? Yes it would seem so, I have been unable to find any serious LibDem voters who are staying with their party in several weeks of campaigning in Kensington and Fairfield. Is this the end of the LibDems in the NW I wonder?

The challenge was clear enough on the doorstep. During every canvassing session I met a couple of people who had voted Lib Dem in the past but who were not going to do so this time. The mere fact that we were in coalition with the Conservatives was repellent to some, the impression of broken trust over tuition fees saw off the rest. Each time I would return to the campaign HQ feeling that a few more grains of sand had slipped through our fingers.

Can anything be more damning than the above few sentences?

Anyone who assumed that Labour supporters might feel betrayed by the actions of Phil Woolas were quickly disabused. However bad the nature of the divisive and racist (“make the white folks angry”) campaign he ran, Woolas’s past supporters didn’t like him having been thrown out by the Courts. That said, I’m still pleased that Elwyn Watkins mounted his legal challenge; his success drew a line that candidates and agents everywhere may be reluctant to cross in future elections.

(LibDem aggressive campaigners in Liverpool please note. I don't live in Woolton, whatever Frank Doran's hand written letter in 2008 might have suggested...)
On the other hand we DID mount one of the most effective third party squeeze effort in the history of parliamentary by-elections. The Tory vote collapsed as their supporters took the tactical decision to back the Liberal Democrats. But we needed to gain two votes from the Tories for every vote we lost to Labour, and that was too tall an order.

Political commentators question whether the Tories pulled their punches and mounted a campaign that was less than wholehearted. It’s true that they didn’t launch an all out assault on their coalition partners but the Tories don’t have a single borough councillor in the constituency and no party organisation worth mentioning. They were always going to come third, and a more vigorous Tory campaign would have had only one consequence – to increase the size of the Labour majority over the Liberal Democrats. How would that benefit the Coalition Government?


We didn’t win, and realistically we couldn’t have won, but Liberal Democrats secured a creditable result in the circumstances. The question that has to be asked now, as it should be after every such event, is what could we have done differently and better? The OE&S campaign left me convinced that we need to review our approach and learn some lessons for the future.

(Does anyone have a copy of the inevitable "two horse race" graph at this point. Mr Davies is saying "realistically we could not have won" but what did their leaflets say?)
I have no complaints about the organisation; administratively it seemed close to flawless. Campaigns Department pulled together a team of dedicated young people, some of whom were not born when I set about the task of turning derelict wards in the constituency into strongholds of local Liberalism. Amongst them was a great esprit de corps, with apparent rivalry to demonstrate who could go without sleep for the longest period and drink the greatest amount of Diet Coke. Their efforts and tactical planning suffered initially from having too little outside support (it was before Christmas and weather conditions across much of Britain were terrible), yet even with the pavements covered in snow a great many leaflets got delivered.

(Oh yes, leaflets, deliver as many as you like Mr Davies, but what people want is engagement, not bits of paper, your party learns this lesson even more slowly than grind the mills)
My concerns are not with the organisation but with the politics, and particularly with the belief that in some quarters seems to have taken on the mantra of religious doctrine that elections are won by pushing out more paper than our opponents, and that sheer hard work will win the day. I do not share this view. Good graphics and technical wizardry (“look, we are so clever that we can produce individual leaflets with the elector’s own name on them”) do not make up for the lack of effective political content.

(At last someone in your party gets this)

Too much of our election literature in OE&S was simply vacuous, and for all that the Tory squeeze was effective there were some examples (‘personal’ letters in particular) whose content made me squirm with embarrassment. On a number of occasions I delivered pieces of literature that I thought would not persuade a single extra person to vote for us, and sometimes I feared that they might do us actual harm. Voters complained that they were assaulted by the sheer number of leaflets, but a criticism of greater concern is that too much of the paper we distributed said nothing worth saying. If electors felt that our approach was condescending they had good reason.

Why do we do this? I learnt many political lessons in Liverpool from Sir Trevor Jones (‘Jones the Vote’), who used to tell me never to underestimate the stupidity of the electorate. By this he meant that we should distil the messages, keep them simple, and repeat them often. But he countered this by telling me that at the same time I should never underestimate the intelligence of the electorate, by which he warned not to patronise the voters and to make sure that I had something worthwhile to offer and that would hold their attention. I’m not convinced that our present strategists have got the balance right.

It might be argued that Labour’s campaign literature in OE&S was wholly negative; they attacked us for broken pledges on tuition fees and imposing excessive cuts. But if the position had been reversed we would have done the same. We didn’t confront criticisms that found a strong resonance amongst the voters. More importantly, we did very little to counter them by promoting the achievements of Liberal Democrats in office. I know the arguments about not allowing opponents to dictate the agenda but if we are not to celebrate the role of the first Liberal Democrat ministers in our lifetimes then what is the point of us fighting elections in the first place? We surely should adjust our mindsets, treat the voters as adults, and be prepared to address serious issues - while doing it in a way that ensures that the appearance of our literature secures sufficient attention to pass the doormat to dustbin test.


It’s difficult to write these words without implying criticism of people I like and for whose efforts I have admiration, and I am well aware of the rebuttals that can be made. Whatever flaws I might suggest, surely the fact that we not only held our own against the outgoing tide but made a tiny advance in percentage terms speaks for the success of the strategy? How can I prove that the result would not have been worse had we done differently?

It’s possible that we would have done less well if we had devoted more space in our election literature to putting across the arguments of Liberal Democrats in government. It is indeed a risk, but it’s not a question that can be answered because we have not attempted to convey the achievements of our party in an attractive manner. Now we are in government we must start to do so.

I want Liberal Democrats to do well in elections. I also want us to be proud of ourselves and of the political messages we convey. There are lessons to be learnt from the Oldham East & Saddleworth campaign, and there are new approaches that must be explored.

18 January 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Could you be a foster carer in Liverpool? No really, I mean it, could you?

Liverpool is crying out for loving homes for children and young people who for whatever reason cannot live at home any more.

We offer a decent allowance so you don't have to fund the cost of care yourself.

It doesn't matter whether you are young and old, gay or straight, black or white, fat or thin, it doesn't matter which football team you support, what matters is that you have a big heart and you want to help a youngster who is having a hard time by bringing them into your home and being there for them.

That is essentially what we need, people to care for our youngsters. It might be for one night, a week, a few months, or a few years or forever. Children and young people have different needs, no two children are the same.

Except that they all want a loving home to call their own.

If you can help, then please have a look here  and here and maybe here

Liverpool children are waiting for your call.

The Alternative Vote Referendum - why I am a No

I wasn't going into enter into the AV fray, but having just read this letter from the Yes campaign to Margaret Becket, I am now firmly resolved to vote against the idea.

I see no value in personalising the campaign by targetting the individuals who desire to keep the First Past The Post system. The letter with its confrontational language and extremely patronising tone has got right up my nose.

Who is this Jonathan Bartley that can speak so disrespectfully to such a senior, distinguished and long-serving politician? Is he this man? Or is that a coincidence, someone with the same name?

He comes over like a bully, challenging a kid to a fight in the school yard. And as someone desperate for time in the limelight, sulking because he has not appeared on TV as often as he would like. Well guess what Mr Bartley, it's not all about you!

It is most distasteful and I wish to completely disassociate myself from his campaign, so I guess it's time to put the argument for the no campaign, which I shall now join.

(My friend James thinks I should make it clear at this point that I was already a probable "no" and that Mr Bartley only firmed up my resolve, his letter was not the deciding factor in itself. I couldn't possibly associate myself with the Yes campaign after reading that, even though I was probably not going to anyway. What he did was push me into open debate. Hope that helps)

When someone votes in an election, they are not voting for which Parliament or Coucncil they wish to see, even if they have a view on this, they are electors only for their division. They are voting for the individual they wish to represent them. That person will probably belong to a political party, although they need not. The successful candidate will represent the whole of the electoral division when they turn up in the chamber, and they will make a choice about which if any party groupings they wish to join in with, in order for a ruling group to be formed. Usually in this country that will be based on party lines, although there are parts of the Highlands of Scotland for instance where most people sit as independents.

Indeed that person can choose to leave that grouping if they wish and join another, but they will still be the elected representative of the division.

If more people vote for candidate A, then candidate A should be elected. It is not right to decide that the rest of the electors who did not vote for candidate A, but cast their votes across a range of alternatives, should get the chance to overrule those who did vote for candidate A. If they had been organised enough to coalesce against candidate B and put up an alternative who could beat them, as happened in Tatton in 1997 then fair enough, but otherwise, if you win,  you win.

Are we to say that we dont like Chelsea winning the 2009/10 season even though they got the most points, because they only won by 1 point and so we should redistribute the points won by Man U and Spurs and Arsenal and thus rank the order differently?

Do we tell Usain Bolt that his gold medal wont stand because his margin of victory over the next fastest runner did not exceed the cumulative time of all the other runners? Or that actually we would have preferred the guy that came 4th to have the medal?

The fact remains that unless something is a two horse race, you cannot win 50% plus 1 of the vote

If you want choice and more candidates/runners and riders, you have to accept that the margin of victory will be considerably less than 50%.

There was a scene in Auf Weidersehen Pet in the first series I think, where the lads were choosing what colour to vote the walls in their hut. Barry persuaded them to try alternative voting, a system used if I recall correctly by the West Bromwich pigeon fanciers club, and they ranged their preferences, from white to blue and yellow and green, and there was uproar when they ended up with a "pink" result, despite nobody having voted for it "first".

This is a big problem, it leaves everyone dissatisfied with the end result, because nobody voted for what they got, or very few did. You could get 25% on the first ballot and then get 100% of the second preferences and take the seat, which would leave a lot of people wondering why they bothered. It would turn an election into a campaign for second preferences instead of first ones. If that's democracy, you can keep it!
Voters choose a representative, the representative, along with other similar representatives, make the next choice, about how to formulate a governing body. The proposed system ignores that, it takes away the right of the voter to choose the person they want, gives more strength to political parties against the non-aligned, gives succour to the less popular who could have been first if they had been sufficiently more attractive

First past the post has served this country perfectly well. We had a Tory Government from 79 - 97, a Labour Government from 97 - 10 and now a Coalition, with the LibDems having the post of Deputy Prime Minister and a number of Secretaries of State. How has FPTP been ineffective in giving people what they want?

The Yes Campaign serves only one purpose, to prop up minor parties. Minor parties who cannot win enough support on their won and so want to steal support from others. The Labour Party was a minor party once but it built up the support it needed over 100 years until it could rule for three terms. If minor parties want to rule, I suggest they work on building up their own support.

If I had to vote in a local election using AV, then I would naturally vote for Labour, followed probably by Green and then maybe some fringe left party, and would vote LibDem last, because that's how I feel about them. (I would not of course vote for the Tories or the BNP even assuming they stood) And a LibDem voter would probably vote in a similar way to me, but in with 1 and 4 reversed. So the beneficaries in that scenario would be the minor Green Party. But would my vote for them be a positive endorsement? No not really, it would be a vote against the LibDems. And that is a ridiculously way to organise representation. That the winner is someone you "least loathe" rather than "most want".

It's winning the arguments we should be aiming for, FPTP makes you work for your votes, and win hearts and minds. Whereas AV is like picking a football team in the school playground, "We'll have Smith and Jones, sir, anyone but Bloggs".

Don't fall for it

Louise Baldock has been a political campaigner for 19 years and an elected representative for over 4 years, under FPTP.

edited as further thoughts struck me

Saturday, January 15, 2011

College money to be scrapped

Educational Maintenance Allowance, EMA, so what's that then? There seems to be a fair amount of rumblings over it.

It is a sum of money, introduced by the last Labour government, to help young people afford to go to college who would not otherwise be able to afford it. It is a sum up to £30 per week depending on your family income. And if you are a young person in college, in further education, it pays your bus fairs, for a few books and a sandwich at lunchtime.
7700 young people in Liverpool claim EMA. 6900 claim the full £30.

Tory/LibDem coalition is scrapping the EMA

Goodbye to students, to courses, to success and confidence building.

Goodbye to new talents and new skills

Goodbye enthusiasm

Hello cynicism, anger, disappointment, hurt, betrayal, fear,  and ultimately, for some, hello to the scrap heap

Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree has been up in the House talking about this and urging change and progress for months, good luck to her, she is going to need it with this Government in charge!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Steve Bell comments on the LibDem result in Oldham East and Saddleworth

Funnily enough, it looks a bit like Camborne North, Cornwall CC UA too!

Those mill chimneys could easily be tin mines and wheals.

LibDems definitely not "winning here"

Debbie Abrahams (Labour) 14718

Derek Adams (British National Party) 1560

Kashif Ali (Conservative) 4481

Peter Allen (Green Party) 530

David Bishop (Bus-Pass Elvis Party) 67

The Flying Brick (Monster Raving Loony Party) 145

Loz Kaye (Pirate Party of the United Kingdom) 96

Stephen Morris (English Democrats) 144

Paul Nuttall MEP (UK Independence Party) 2029

Elwyn Watkins (Liberal Democrats) 11160

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Alun Parry to appear at Liverpool Remembers 2011

We are delighted to confirm that we have secured Alun Parry for Liverpool Remembers.

As part of the programme, he will be singing songs about racism and homophobia and the importance of unity in the fight against hate crimes.

Alun is Liverpool's leading folk singer, founder of AFC Liverpool and the Working Class Music Festival.

The event will be on January 23rd, from 2pm until about 5.30pm. St Francis of Assisi Academy, Gardners Drive, Fairfield L6 (off Sheil Road).

Liverpool Remembers 2011 - Sunday 23rd January

An afternoon commemorating the Holocaust with contributions from members of the Jewish community. A chance also to reflect upon other human rights tragedies and genocides affecting people across the world with communities now based in Liverpool.
A discussion and presentation about tackling hate crime in 2011.
Workshops for children and young people - families are welcome but some of the material may be difficult so supervised workshops and craft tables will be provided during part of the afternoon.
Hot food and refreshments, vegetarian and Kosher
Klezmer music - and hopefully Alun Parry, if he confirms with me.

St Francis of Assisi Academy, Gardners Drive, Fairfield, L6
2pm - 6pm (probably, rather than 5pm)

Please get in touch if you want to know more details.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Venture Housing Association gains a star


Tenants get a "fair" service and decent homes from Liverpool-based Venture Housing Association, according to independent inspectors.

The Audit Commission praised Venture's easily accessible services, tenant involvement in service improvements and the condition of its housing stock.

Inspectors from the national watchdog say the association - which manages 1,300 homes in Liverpool and the Wirral - plays a leading role in managing its neighbourhoods and its properties are generally attractive, clean and in safe areas.

Their report highlights the fact that estates are well-maintained, effective partnership working is improving community safety, most homes are maintained to a decent standard, the rest are being improved and properties are re-let quickly.

Other strengths include Venture's effective arrangements to deal with domestic abuse and hate crime and its service to provide aids and adaptations for tenants with extra needs, such as the elderly or those with disabilities.

Inspectors gave Venture an improved rating of one star in recognition of improvements made since the last inspection, saying it provided a "fair" service to tenants.

The Audit Commission made a number of recommendations for further improvements, including working with tenants to enhance service quality and value for money, ensuring services are focused on what customers want and effectively monitoring performance and tenant satisfaction.

The Inspectors stated "Venture has acted positively" in making improvements over the last two years and "is preparing itself well for the future".

John Tolen, Venture's Chief Executive, said: "We welcome this report and are pleased that our hard work and improvements over the last few years have been recognised. Our sole aim is to provide excellent services and value for money to our tenants, and we are committed to placing tenants at the heart of all decision-making.

Many improvement initiatives are already under way and we are certain that, working with our tenants, service delivery and value for money will continue to improve."