Monday, December 19, 2011

1500th blog post!

The blog post that proceeds this one, about the carol services I have been to this year turned out to be the 1500th entry on the blog.

This fits handily with the 154,041 page loads since I put statcounter on to the blog about a year in, enabling me to monitor who visits the blog, what they searched for, what they read, how long they visited, whether they came back, how often, which were the most popular entries etc. A few years later I also had the benefit of Google Analytics which does pretty much the same thing.

25,000 unique visitors on average visit each year, last year it was 26,000 and a staggering 7000 people are regular visitors each year.

In the last month, the main referrals - where someone linked to me from - are the Daily Post, Dale Street Blues presumably, Facebook, Blogger itself - I must have featured as a sample blog at some point this month, Twitter and cemeteryscribes.

Most traffic though comes through Google, which is not surprising given that Blogger is a Google platform and they always promote their own sites above those of say wordpress in their search results - or I am assuming that is the case. 934 people in the last month came to me via a Google search for key words which they found on my page.

Depending on the day and the time of day when you search, and how recently I made a new entry, if you search for simply "Louise" or "Baldock" I am often on the first page of Google UK. Now you tell me whether that is exciting!

I began writing the blog in April 2006, 5 years and 8 months ago.

In that time I have won national awards from Total Politics, four times. In 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011, this year making it into the top 75 left wing blogs. You can link to the results for each award by clicking on the logo to the left of the blog, this will show who else was awarded and where we all appear on the list.

But it hasn't been plaudits all the way. Readers will know that the injudicious use of the "b" word concerning political opponents, written on the blog in 2007 in a story about candidate fixing, was consequently reported to the Standards Board by one of them in 2009 (obviously a slow reader), and this resulted in my being forced to resign from the shadow cabinet following all the fuss. (The standards board chose not to investigate or take the case forward, but the local newspaper did a hatchet job after being sent a leaked letter and the damage was done).

I was determined not to let that stop me blogging though and have gone to write long articles about infertility, the monarchy, the AV debate, written a short story for Autumn, publicised community events as an online notice board for organisations in the ward I represent, commented on art, literature, culture, gardens, plants, parks, holidays, cars, weddings, funerals and citizenship ceremonies, LGBT events, particularly Pride, days out and days in, and generally had plenty to say about all sorts of eclectic things.

The most popular articles remain the two about fake golden virginia and dodgy cigarettes being produced and sold in Kensington, 20 people a month read those, every month, for several years now. I hope I am helping some people to stay away from counterfeit tobacco products as a result.

The many entries about our beloved Deane Road Jewish Cemetery and the funding we have received from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support its restoration get lots of visits from people keen to set up their own projects and looking for inspiration and advice.

Interest never declines either in stories about cash machines and having to pay to draw out your own funds in poorer areas.

I get asked to undertake a tremendous amount of interviews with media students at Liverpool John Moores University (and I always say yes) as part of their studies, enabling them to practice their questioning skills and their film techniques. I do smile to myself thinking about the poor tutors on the course thinking "Here's that Louise Baldock again!" as they mark their students work. These requests often come because a student has chosen to write about a subject that I have written about and they have found me through a search engine - inner city regeneration is a very popular one.

I have seen many other people start blogs and then falter over those years (and amen to that in some quarters!), they often don't realise how much commitment and perseverance you need to keep on writing stuff, how you have to keep a little corner of your mind alert to things that people will find interesting and want to read.

You really do have to put the work in and in some years I have written much more than others. In 2008 I wrote by far the most number of entries, an amazing 393, that is more than one a day, it doesn't surprise me though to see it was that year, given my passion for culture, it was Liverpool's year as European City of Culture and I was making the most of it by going to so many fabulous events.

This year I have written only half that amount, although have written some much longer articles as opposed to streams of shorter ones. Of course with my interest in all social media, including Facebook and Twitter and my professional website at I guess I don't have the same time to give to the blog either, without  short-changing other forms of social media.

I am occasionally asked to give presentations at conferences about the use of social media and how you can use it to promote yourself, ideas, political campaigns, community issues and so on. While I describe the many different ways in which one can engage with the wider public through social media, through blogs, websites, facebook, twitter etc, I do tell my audience that I am not an expert by any means. Rather I see myself as a "jobbing" social media proponent who uses all of those means but is not ever going to be called into Newsnight for my views (just as well really, to be honest).

Because my blogging is eclectic and I concentrate mainly on Liverpool rather than the national picture, I certainly don't get the same following as the national political sites for instance. But that was never my aim. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people out there who want to write about national politics and about who said what to whom during a debate in Parliament. That has never been a market I felt I could or would want to break into. I prefer to keep it local and relevant to a particular readership. And I try to pitch my contributions to people who I probably know and who can feel a connection with me when they read what I write. And I never wanted to write a blog that was just about politics, I like to talk about a much wider range of subjects, as my readers are very well aware.

The people I write about - often with praise - like our local community police team, or the staff in the Registrar office for instance, are all regular visitors and will often talk to me about things they have read here.

The only thing that disappoints me, and I have never quite known how to surmount it, is the small number of people who actually comment on the articles they read. I get stopped in the street (no really, I honestly do) and in the workplace, by council officials or people from the many organisations I am part of. I get emails and texts about things I have written, I see them shared on FB and Twitter, but the place where a comment would be logical, right here, is rarely the place where it actually happens.

I wonder why that is? Do readers find it difficult to master Blogger's comment system? Or do they think I wont publish them if they write them? Years ago when the blog was under permanent attack from a certain political party, I often deleted comments, but these days I publish 99% of them. Do people fear having their identity known? I only wish I knew what holds people up from writing here where we can all share. What are your thoughts on this? I know I wont get them here, but you can stop me in the street and tell me if you like!!!

Anyway, if you are still with me, thanks for making it all possible, worthwhile, rewarding and exciting. I look forward to sharing the next 500 posts with you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The voice of Christmas

We all have our favourite thing about Christmas. For some it is the face of their children on Christmas morning, for others it is a restful holiday from work, for the extroverts it is the festive parties, for me it is always the Carol Service.

And I have enjoyed three this year (and it is only the 15th, albeit late at night) so I might get a few more in yet, and will definitely be in Wesley's favourite octagonal chapel on Christmas Day morning.

This week I have enjoyed a lovely service at the RC Cathedral (Saturday 10th December), St Hilda's CE School Christmas Carol Service (where I am a Governor) at the Anglican Cathedral (Tuesday 13th December) and tonight I enjoyed the Liverpool Welsh Choral Christmas Programme at the Philharmonic Hall.

All wonderful and all featuring exciting versions of this year's seemingly new favourite carol, In the Bleak Midwinter (frosty wind made moan).

I am feeling thoroughly Christmassy now, thanks to all the great choirs, speakers, conductors and musicians.

May I echo that vital lyric as I wish you all the best for the Christmas season "We all want some figgy pudding so bring some out here!"

Tory PM David Cameron's £448m Troubleshooting scheme for "problem families"

I am just throwing these thoughts out there in the hope that someone will engage with them. I will make this as easy and simple as I possibly can in the hope that someone will poke a hole in my argument if I have it all completely wrong (but I don't think I do).

In Liverpool we have had something we call Family Intervention Projects for several years now, actually we call them FIPs because in Local Government acronyms are King, but I digress.

We have been working with the NSPCC and with Domestic Violence Forums to support individual families who need extra help in order to grow and develop on a level and lawful path (that's my description not theirs).

These schemes, which have tremendous success rates were funded by the Labour Government directly to local councils, through something called the Area Based Grant, ABG, amongst other funding streams.

The Tory/LibDem coalition was quick to pull the ABG as one of its first acts and our FIPs are funded to a lesser degree now than they were.

I have been driving up and down the M6 for several hours today listening to the Radio and listening in particular to interviews with PM David Cameron and Louise Casey who is apparently to head this up for the Government (she of the Inclusion and ASB programmes for the Labour Government). And this is my question and my concern.

How does any part of what is being suggested differ in any way from what was already being done and if the Tory/LibDem Government thinks this is the way to go, then why did they already pull the funding that paid for FIPs (and put less back in than they took out, by the way)

Or am I missing something obvious?

No really, I mean it!! Please advise!!

North Liverpool pensioners enjoy a Queenie Christmas

Herbert Howe, of Herbert of Liverpool hair sylist fame, his sister and her husband stepped into the breach this year to support the Pensioners' Christmas Party held annually by the police of Tuebrook Police Station.

In recent years local councillors have used part of their devolved budgets to fund the festive lunch enjoyed by hundreds of pensioners in the north of Liverpool, however council belts have been considerably tightened this year. Anxious that they should not be scrooges this year, the Police, lead by the wonderful Sergeant Simon Joyce, his supportive Inspector Paul Harrison and their hard working team, approached Herbert to ask whether his family's Trust in the name of their beloved mum Queenie, could help.

The Queenie fund said a big yes and Herbert, his sister and her husband were at the Devonshire House Hotel on Tuesday (and Wednesday) joining hundreds of pensioners in a fabulous festive knees up.  I popped in during my lunch hour on Tuesday and was thrilled to be in time to hear the lovely school children from St Michael's RC Primary on Boaler/Guion Street sing to the happy diners. Afterwards they joined the adults, rocking round the Christmas Tree.

Another wonderful event, with the community police and local partners and agencies, including our much loved Cathy Patterson waiting on the guests.

Well done everyone! And a happy Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Unofficial NW Regional Labour Party Christmas Quiz

I found the original of this photograph in LP Regional Office last week. I would say it shows the 1992 Labour Party General Election candidates for the NW of England (with the manifesto), although I am not quite sure why Harriet Harman is in the photo in that case.

How many candidates can you name? and which constituency did they stand for? You will have to say where they appear in the photo, otherwise you might just have googled them!

Good luck!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Carol Festival at RC Cathedral, Liverpool

Lisa and I had a wonderful day today. We began with a viewing of Alice in Wonderland at the Tate on the Albert Dock then moved through the city, having something to eat at Sahara, a lovely Lebanese restaurant behind the Everyman and then a fabulous carol service in the RC cathedral. As an officanado of the same I can tell you that this was a beautifully sung and delivered programme. I feel really christmassy now!

You just can't beat a bit of Cliff

While I was away in Coventry last week with the good people from the Local Government Association, one leader told me that she had stood next to Cliff in a motorway service station on the M6 the week before. Apparently she was behind him in the coffee queue with some of her colleagues, and she nudged them and indicated Cliff to them as they waited in line, but not everybody recognised him. I wish I had been there! I could have told him how much I love this particular song. Do please enjoy and  draw from it everything you can.

Friday, December 09, 2011

RJ Swift Consultants Ltd : A warning

On 24th October 2011 I agreed a deal with RJ Swift Consultants Ltd
Registration Number: 7618470

I would pay £500 for 53,000 email contacts of NW businesses, and to help me to verify the data, Jeanette Mccambridge @JenMcCambridge their enthusiastic saleswoman said “we will run and manage 3 x email campaigns to the NW data (approx 17,000 per send) and after you have done all 3 campaigns we will give you the full file of 53,000 contacts to keep. We will create the HTML free of charge per campaign and send you full reports from our analytical software.”

It sounded like a great deal.

I paid £500 that evening by internet banking.

A week or so later when there had been no progress, I contacted and spoke to John Murphy at the firm who told me that they had had to sack the young man they were hoping would develop the campaigns for me, as he had been caught selling data to competitors. John assured me that he would be hiring someone else as a matter of urgency. Mark then contacted me in early November saying he was the new starter, and we began to work together on a campaign which was to promote some marketing training I was delivering in Liverpool.

On 8th November however, when work seemed to have stopped again, I wrote to him (at his private email address) and he replied saying “I have left this company now as I was not completely happy with their business practices.”

At this point, on the grounds that they no longer had my confidence, I wrote to the company asking for a refund. I directed my correspondence to Jeanette the saleswoman and copied in John Murphy the manager, neither responded. I wrote several times more to no avail.

I then wrote to Rebecca Jane Clark, the director, at the email address which is advertised on the firm’s website, telling her that I was contacting the people who featured in the testimonials in the marketing materials that Jeanette had initially sent me about their offer. I said I was going to talk to them about the level of service they received from the firm and the level of service I was receiving.

That unsurprisingly triggered a phone call from Jeanette saying that a cheque would be put in the post forthwith. She also asked me about the conversations I was having with "their customers". A second phone call a week later apologised for the lack of cheque but promised it was still in hand. It is today 9th December 2011 and having still received no refund,  I have submitted a claim online in the Small Claims Court.
The invoice/order form for the firm shows that they are registered at 31a Station Road, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear NE26 2QZ They also advertise themselves at operating at 4 Boyd Street, Ouseburn, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, NE2 1AP (in Jeanette’s email footer) and on the website for RJ Swift Consultants Ltd.

I assume they are closely related to the company Swift Mailing 7227070 who claim to be located at 1 Boyd Street, Shieldfield, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, NE2 1AP

They are both registered at the same address in Station Road, Whitley Bay. The director for Swift Mailing is Thomas Brian Murphy. I don’t know whether he is related to John Murphy whose email address appears on this website and who I have spoken to on matters relating to RJ Swift Consultants.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Movement for a Republic, Liverpool meeting

If like me you are a Republican - you believe that Great Britain should be a republic, rather than have a heriditary monarch -  you might be interested in tipping up for this meeting.

Republic in the North West meeting: Liverpool, December 10th
The newly formed Republic in the North West will be holding its second meeting this weekend. Items on the agenda will include jubilee plans and how best to campaign across the region.

The meeting is 1-5pm: Quaker Meeting House, 22 School Lane, Liverpool L1 3BT

All Republicans are welcome!

Carol singing at the Newsham Park bandstand on Saturday


10th December
4.00 – 5.00pm
Followed by Refreshments

Victorian Christmas at Edge Hill

Victorian Christmas
At Edge Hill Station
Tunnel Road, Liverpool L7
Saturday 10th December 2011
12pm – 4pm
With Brass Band, Carols, art and craft stalls, festive food and drink, theatre and also Father Christmas with a toy for every child.
Victorian Costumes
Everyone Welcome

RIP Wally Edwards, Labour and Co-operative Party stalwart 1923 - 2011

Yesterday was Wally Edwards' funeral at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Norris Green.

It was very well attended by hundreds of Labour Party and Co-operative Party members along with Wally's family.

The eulogy concerning Wally's political life was given by Councillor Martin Cummins and was very well written and delivered. So much so that I have asked him to send it to me so that I could put it here and leave it as a permanent memorial to our dear friend.

Peter Dowling commented to me as we were leaving the funeral that Wally "always played with a straight bat". Who could ask for a better epitaph?

This is what Martin had to say

Brother Wally Edwards – A Eulogy

Sisters, Brothers how will I find the words to express the depth of gratitude  that we owe to our wonderful Brother Wally Edwards for a life time of service to his beloved Labour Party, the ideals of Co-operation and to us his brothers and sisters gathered here today to celebrate his life.

I was 22 years old when I found out that I had a brother. It was Wally himself that told me. The first words he said as he shook me by the hand when I joined were: ‘Welcome to the Labour Party, Brother’

When Wally called you Brother, or Sister, he did not mean these words in a ceremonial sense or indeed figuratively. He believed, with all of his soul, that when we join the Labour party we become part of a family whose rich, majestic ancestry binds us together in a lifelong struggle for social justice and which compels us to unconditionally strive to achieve : ‘From each according to their ability, To each according to their need’

People have asked me how long our Brother Wally was in the Party. I tell them he was in our family long before I was born, others will tell you that he was there before their parents, or even their grandparents were born. It is said that on Mount Sinai when the Good Lord was handing the commandments to Moses he ran out of stone tablets. Turning around he saw Wally there and he wrote the 11th Commandment on Wally’s heart. Looking down Wally read the words emblazoned on his heart. They read:

‘Thou shall be socialist ’

And our Heavenly Father placed his hand on Wally’s broad shoulders and said:

Whatever they do to these, the least of my brethren  ... they do unto me.’

When I was told that Wally had completed his work on this Earth I felt the same acute sense of loss I experienced when I was told of John Smith's passing. It was as if something fundamental, something irreplaceable had been lost.

What I find profoundly sad is that I will probably never be able to reach for a book about the life and times of Wally Edwards, Man of Labour, the international best seller and required reading for all Party members.

And so it rests with us, his family to pass on his legacy by word of mouth. What, brothers and sisters, will we tell future generations?:

I will tell them, in the words of another,   that our Brother Wally was a natural, a born counterpuncher with a whip quick mind and a fine musician’s instinct for stringing words together.

Our brothers Jimmy Woods, Phil Rowe and Liam Moore will tell them that as a young man Wally’s mettle was forged at a time which saw the nationalisation of the Bank of England, of civil aviation, of the railways, of  telecommunications.  That he saw the creation of the National Coal Board which supplied 90% of the nation’s energy needs. That he bore witness to the establishment of the National Health Service, the nationalisation of canals, road haulage and electricity and of the iron, steel and gas industries for the common good.

Our Brother Nick Croft will tell of the fact that Wally served under 5 Labour Prime Ministers and that at annual conference in 2008 he received the prestigious merit award and he will speak of the tears we all shed when he was honoured with the award of Honorary Presidency of West Derby Constituency Labour Party.

Our sister, Sheila Murphy and colleagues at Region will tell them that Wally was a legend, a man of great integrity and unquestionable loyalty who always listened to other people’s point of view and who never judged those who had different opinions to his own.

Our Brother John Mooney will tell them about the day in 1997 when Everton were playing their last game of the season against Wimbledon, a match they had to win to avoid relegation. When John got to the ground the cash gates were closed. Forlorn and  ticketless he made his miserable way home only to bump into Wally who insisted that John take his ticket for the game. Gratefully declining John wished this true socialist farewell and went on his way a much happier man particularly when he found out that his brother had watched Everton sensationally avoid relegation.             

Our brother , Dave Hanratty will tell them of his skill in the boxing ring and that his twinkle toes and dulcet tones were enjoyed by  thousands who saw him sing and dance with the Pirrie Players in order that in his words ‘the old folk could keep their feet tapping’. (The Pirrie Players – 25 women, Wally and Alex, I wonder what the attraction was!)  and of  how he and his right hand man Alex, both well into their 80’s at this time, were fondly known as the Over the Hill mob as they topped the bill singing Match stick men and match stick cats and dogs  at Karaokes nationwide.

Our sister Pam Thomas and our brother Courtney Owen will tell them of his encyclopaedic knowledge of Labour Party rules and the humility and compassion with which he would offer advice and guidance to calm stormy waters at passionate disputes during meetings which would surely have disintegrated into chaos were it not for his benign intervention.

Our brother, Pete Mitchell will tell them about last year when Wally, aged 87, was campaigning in the local Government elections. Pete received a call to tell us that Wally was going to be arrested for breaching electoral policy. We rushed to the polling station to find a bunch of Lib Dems shouting about the fact that Wally was unduly influencing voters with what he was wearing. We turned around to see Wally’s cheeky grin peeking out from behind a Labour party rosette the size of Big Ben. He then spent the rest of the day rallying our flagging teenagers with the words: Come on sisters, brothers only another six hours to go.

His brothers Tony Jennings and Phil Knibb will tell  of the Friday afternoons  they spent with him over a beer shortly before he passed on when they spoke of politics and the old days  and of how much Wally said it meant to him to be in the company of old Comrades. And of how he would then break the reverent silence with a chuckle saying: ‘Pity I wont remember any of you tomorrow’

Our brothers Jimmy Woods and John Volleamere will tell them that the very ink that wrote these words flowed through his veins:

 To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.’

Brothers, sisters this is a sad day but it is also a day filled with hope and pride. A flame never goes out if you use it to kindle another. Looking around this Church I can see so many flames kindled by Wally Edwards. To those who say we will never see his like again I urge you to re consider. Because we are Wally’s family we will see Wally all around us. We will see him in our Brother Joe Anderson as he lies awake deep into the night worrying about how he can protect the vulnerable from savage Coalition cuts and in the 20 hour working days he puts in with our brother Paul Brant and cabinet colleagues to protect their beloved Liverpool from the Camerons and Osbornes and Pickles of this world. We will see it every time our sister Roz Gladden visits a nursing home or a care home or a day centre as she valiantly seeks to defend the elderly and the sick from the ravages of Government policy which targets the infirm and the impoverished whilst the rich languish in yet more bonuses.

We will see him every time our brothers Steve Rotheram, and Stephen Twigg, and our sisters, Louise , Maria and Luciana  stand up for us in the Commons to do battle against the want, squalor  disease, ignorance and idleness hurled with  callous indifference against our people by the Coalition benches.

And brothers, sisters Wally will be there every time we pick up the phone or knock on a door canvassing for our party, shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters who represent us in the Council chamber on the path, God willing, to a new Labour Government which will see compassion replace contempt, justice replace inequity and humanity replace a number on a Capitalist spreadsheet.

To Wally’s immediate family I offer on behalf of the Labour Party, our sincerest gratitude for your grandfather, your uncle, your brother, your dad.

To our Wally I say God Bless you Brother …. May you rest in Peace Comrade.

Friday, December 02, 2011

LGA Leadership Academy

I have been away in Coventry a lot this week, planning and then co-ordinating a programme for Local Government leaders (that is Councils to you and me), helping them to develop their leadership skills. Warwick University Business School is a fantastic venue, wonderful staff, great rooms, fab food, and thankfully the participants from different major political parties were all great people. We learnt a lot together and I hope they go away energised and ready to work on their personal leadership challenges. I look forward to January and February for our next two modules about political leadership and community leadership. They know who they are and I expect they will be dropping in to this blog via Google any day now. I am waving an enthusiastic hello! You have my details and if you need to contact me, you know I am keen to support you and make this experience really useful.

And to the participant who said I should have a pay rise, a big smoochy kiss!

Sri Lankan shop assistant murdered in Huyton

I have been working away for a few days and have come back to catch up on the Liverpool Echo editions piled up behind the front door.

I was horrified to read about the murder of a Sri Lankan shop assistant in a corner shop in Huyton on Tuesday night.

Police are waiting for their investigations to progress a little before they decide whether this was racially motivated hate crime or a robbery gone horribly wrong but early indications in Thursday's paper suggested nothing may have been stolen from the shop.

The Echo naturally drew parallels with the murder of Anthony Walker but we should not jump to conclusions.

Whatever the facts turn out to be, please rest assured that I will be following developments very closely indeed.

Liverpool Public Sector Workers Strike November 30th 2011

I was proud to march with 12000 people angry and concerned about unfair changes to their pensions. I am in a private stake holder pension these days - and my bosses don't contribute towards it, but I still have sympathy with the public sector. I have been in 8 pension schemes since I started work, a balance between company schemes, personal schemes and public schemes, and 4 stakeholder schemes (3 where the employer did contribute). Many of them will not deliver what I was promised when I took them up. 

I was told I would retire at 60, now it is 67. How old will I be before I actually do retire, will the goal posts be moved again? Will I even be alive to receive a pension by the time they let me go?

They do say that we are all living longer, but you tell that to the people of Everton who die at 68 years old on average, and Kensington isn't much better.

My residents may as well forget the very idea of a pension! Worked into the grave thanks to an uncaring Government.

And there is the young woman aged 25 I heard on the radio, a teacher, still living at home with Mum and Dad told to pay an extra £100 per month into her pension - and retire later - just to stand still with where she would have been a few years back - and that is from a frozen salary with a miserly 1% increase in future years. She said she wont be able to move out for ages now that her income is so reduced.

A picture tells a thousand words - and here are mine.

PS Councillor Richard Kemp, LibDem Deputy Leader in Liverpool tweeted on Wednesday  ‘Lots of Liverpool Council staff working today. Well done all’. And later, that the shops were full of shoppers as a result of the strike, and that ‘Every cloud has a silver lining.’ So we know where he stands!