Love Activists please go home

Love Activists

After occupying and desecrating the wonderful building that is the former Bank of England Liverpool HQ on Castle Street and attempting to spoil the party of the amazing spectacle that was the three Queens by camping out at the Pier Head, the time wasters and laggards who call themselves ‘Love Activists’ well and truly shot themselves in the foot last Friday as they barnstormed an event that was raising money for the Jamie Bulger foundation.

The excuse from this sad bunch of individuals for an outrageous and unforgiveable act of violence was that they ‘didn’t know’ the Titanic Hotel was hosting a charity night. They thought it was a Labour Party function.

Well, that’s ok then, because we all know how supportive and committed Liverpool Labour Mayor Joe Anderson has been to the government’s austerity programme.

Of course, their excuse, and their claimed cause, is pathetic. In my view they neither care or are concerned about the memory of James Bulger as they are playing politics with the reputation of a city that has spent more than a decade now revising attitudes that painted it as a basket case full of Militant, anti-establishment loonies.

How many of these protestors are from Liverpool or have any genuine connection with the city? How many of them are genuinely homeless? And how many of them are claiming welfare benefits from addresses outside of our city boundaries?

It is time for law enforcement agencies in the city, principally the Police, to sort this lot out, and run them out of town. This week they have occupied the former bar MelloMello – where next?

The police claim they can do nothing, their hands are tied. As someone who witnessed Miners being stopped, searched and turned around on motorways in the eighties as they tried to support their colleagues picketing activities during the Miners’ Strike, I find that very hard to understand.

The barrage of laws that have been introduced in recent years in the name of combatting terrorism allows the police an unhealthy range of powers to deal with almost any incident.

Surely good and legal reason can be found for getting a grip of this small bunch of malcontents who are, quite literally, dragging our city’s name into the gutter.

Labour needs to move left like FIFA needs 5 more years of Blatter


It never ceases to amaze me how little politicians, journalists and commentators learn from history.

Post the General Election we have had our very own political editor, Jim Hancock, virtually declaring the death of the Labour Party and urging a realignment of the left, which would constitute some form of bizarre arrangement with the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and even the Scottish National Party.

We then have the group of ideological, infantile lefties suggesting that Labour’s loss was due to the fact that it wasn’t left wing enough!

Finally, a whole range of ‘experts’ are suggesting that the UK is now Tory forever, and Labour faces a lifetime of opposition as the nation turns blue.

Jim’s argument isn’t new. Indeed it was one articulated by trendy London modernisers throughout the eighties and early nineties as we appeared to be in the middle of a nightmare scenario that would deliver us a Thatcher led administration for eternity.

Proportional Representation and deals with other anti-Tory parties seemed the only way back for Labour to this relatively influential group of individuals. Then along came Tony Blair, a landslide election victory and ironically many of these figures went off to become special advisers to New Labour Ministers.

Also worth noting, following Blair’s three, count them, three consecutive General Election victories, the same commentators who are writing Labour off today were doing the obituaries for the Conservative Party.

The ‘not left wing enough’ claptrap is something I have been brought up on throughout my time as a Labour Party member and politician. When I was 16 I sort of sympathised. By 1983, a year when Labour presented a Manifesto that is now remembered as the longest suicide note in history, I quickly abandoned the fantasy politics of the left.

It wasn’t simply my desire to see Labour actually win. It was the fact that I was knocking on the doors of people in Skem who were virtually laughing in my face as I asked them if they would be voting for a party that was advocating unilateral nuclear disarmament, wide scale nationalisation, and taxing the wealthy ‘until the pips squeaked.’

If we couldn’t convince traditional Labour supporters of our case, then our case was wrong, and we needed to change it.

The modernisation of the party, and the drive to drag it back to a centre left policy and strategy position was a long and arduous one. Labour had nearly got there by 1992, but a combination of Neil Kinnock’s leadership and, more damagingly, a ‘tax bombshell’ that was being offered by the then Shadow Chancellor John Smith, done for them.

Blair and New Labour reminded the party that it was in the business of politics to win, not to protest. It wasn’t anti enterprise or anti aspirational- indeed it needed to embrace the notion of celebrating entrepreneurs and wealth creators, for without creating wealth, how could you redistribute it?

New Labour also did the sums. From official and independent treasury figures it recognised that taxing people at 50% was gesture politics of the highest order. From the day HMRC started to record tax collection figures they have proved positive that they take more revenue when the top rate of tax is 40% than when it is 50% or higher.

Huge investments in our schools, the NHS and other public services that had been neglected over an eighteen year period; the introduction of the minimum wage; Trade Union rights for workers at GCHQ; civil partnerships; an outward looking, pro –European stance; the regeneration of our major provincial cities; plus devolution of powers and the establishment of the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. These are among a list of New Labour achievements that the ‘left’ prefer to ignore, as they associate Blair and his government with one issue and one only – Iraq. It is easy politics, but it’s lazy and not particularly clever either.

A further lurch to the left is the greatest way to make Labour irrelevant for another decade. The party needs to remember that ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you get what you always get’. Poor leadership, offering tax rises, and having a narrative that is perceived as left wing leads to election defeats. Fact. New Labour – played three, won three!

I‘m not advocating a total regurgitation of the five pledges, a New Labour offensive and a re-run of 1997. That would be nearly as daft as what the left is saying. But Labour needs to find a way that reconnects it with those that matter, the electorate. And it needs a leader that understands that too.

Some will accuse me of being a middle class professional who has no understanding of the ‘working class’. But as the son of a trade unionist bus driver, who spent six months on the dole, and worked for years as a Welfare Rights adviser I’d say that’s bollocks.

Politics just got Interesting

Politics Interesting

As the old saying goes a week is a long time in politics, but it will take longer than seven days for political pundits and commentators to get over the shock General Election result witnessed on May 7th – and it will take the Labour Party much, much longer than that.

It was a devastating result for Ed Miliband and his team, made worse by its unexpectedness, but had we all looked at the campaign less tribally and more objectively, then the Tory victory, actually, should not have come as that much of a surprise.

No party in modern times that has gone to the electorate offering tax increases has been successful at the polls; wheeling out a cross dressing celebrity to campaign in Glasgow and getting the leader to have a cup of coffee with an elitist hippy shouted ‘out of touch Londoners’ to even the most traditional of Labour supporters; and the less said about the ‘Ed Stone’ the better.

Labour must now get itself up and dust itself off as quickly as it can practically do – and if the party has any sense they will leave the Blair/Brown days behind, jump a generation and take a risk of one of its up and coming young guns to lead it into the 2020 General Election. Labour needs a leader that can beat Boris – not someone who can go head to head with Cameron.

Talking of the Prime Minister, there was probably nobody more surprised, and relieved, than him when the ballot papers had all been counted.

Only a fortnight ago I and many others were predicting an early demise for Dave, as predators such as BoJo and Theresa May eyed his job. The election victory has bought him some time, but he will be more aware than anyone that he has a difficult balancing act of chastising his swivel eyed backwoodsmen and keeping his modern Conservatism agenda on track.

The EU in/out referendum was a panic promise too far, as he must surely realise when now analysing the UKIP performance, but he must go ahead with this folly now, risking the ire of both business and his own Europhile MPs.

His majority is far from huge, and therefore the chances of him going through the lifetime of this parliament without experiencing his own ‘bastards’ moment is highly unlikely. However, he has two big advantages over John Major. First, he has already announced he will not be fighting the next election, so on a personal level he has nothing to lose. Second, the official opposition will take some time to recover from what was a massive and unexpected setback.

Devolution remains a big part of the chancellor’s agenda, so opportunities for the north will offer themselves; whilst the whole issue of the Union, in light of the SNP’s surge, will keep the new government busy on many a front – and give us all plenty to talk about, and keep us interested over the next five years.

As for Farage and Co, and the almost extinct Liberal Democrats, for me, they got what they deserved.

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies


“The truth – you can’t handle the truth.” So responded Jack Nicholson to a question posed to him by Tom Cruise in the movie ‘A Few Good Men.’

It is a line that David Cameron and George Osborne would probably articulate to the great British public given half a chance, because it is the very fact that they have been telling ‘the truth’, as they see it at least, that they have not moved significantly ahead in the polls as they had anticipated by this stage of the General Election campaign.

The downbeat message of Osborne and the Prime Minister may paint an accurate picture of where the UK Plc’s finances are, but it is difficult to get anyone particularly enthused to support another five years of hard slog and austerity.

So, with this, the Tories, with almost gay abandon, decided to go on a bit of a spending spree this week, promising a host of positives including Rail fare freezes, £8 Billion extra for the NHS and a big announcement offering everyone in the public sector 3 days off to volunteer during the year, at a cost of – well who knows?

The Conservatives lead when it comes to ‘managing the economy’ is fairly healthy in all opinion polls; but even so these ‘bag of a fag packet’ commitments have allowed Labour to level the charge of a Tory Party scrabbling around for attractive goodies to hand out before the election, without having any clue as to how they will be paid for.

Labour itself is so paranoid about its reputation in managing the country’s finances, that they have put themselves into a ‘triple lock’ discipline over future fiscal policy that was spelt out on the first page of its Manifesto, launched in Manchester on Monday.

Other than protecting the NHS budget and overseas aid, you will go a long way to find any Labour spending commitment worth talking about.

Not quite ‘carry on regardless’ more ‘re -arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ would be a fairly accurate description of the oppositions approach to its economic policy offer to the electorate, with the usual rhetoric of hammering those with ‘the broadest shoulders’. An increasingly confident looking Ed Miliband and his would be Chancellor Ed Balls will be hoping that they don’t meet the same resistance to a very similar Labour message trotted out by Neil Kinnock and John Smith in 1992. History tells us that parties that promise tax rises have not fared particularly well in UK General Elections.

The lack of ambition contained within the Manifestos of the only two political parties who can form a government basically demonstrates a realistic view from them as to where we are in terms of public finances. But, it is not a particularly exciting message, and it is failing to turn the voters on.

Instead, for ‘vision’ and fantasy politics, those who have a wanton desire for radicalism over reality have opted to support fringe parties who, quite frankly, can say what they want and promise what you want with no fear of having to carry out their barmy policies. It was a trap the Liberal Democrats fell into five years ago but, unusually for them, it came back to bite them on the bum – no tuition fees anyone?

This time around it is the Greens offering billions of pounds of public spending; Farage’s mob promising to rid the country of pesky foreigners and the SNP building a whole nation’s economy on oil, despite the falling price of the black stuff in recent months.

Between them, the so-called minor parties are currently polling around 35% of the vote accumulatively, which tells me that a significant number of UK citizens do, indeed, prefer ‘sweet little lies’ to the brutal truth. Who would be a politician?

Are Politicians Anti-Business?

Ed Miliband

The Sunday Times decided to devote half a dozen pages and an editorial lead last weekend to expose how business ‘unfriendly’ Ed Miliband and the Labour Party is. And, despite the mindless repetition among the thousands of words written to prove its point, there is no doubt that the narrative being used by the official opposition does not lend itself to one drawing the conclusion that the private sector has the full confidence and support of Labour’s leadership.

Indeed, though Shadow Business Minister Chuka Umunna has been at pains to point out that it is tax dodgers, unscrupulous bankers and poor employers that Labour has a problem with, the consistent and constant attack on ‘the private sector’ has led many to conclude that Ed actually is ‘red’ and he would lead a government determined to strangle enterprise and wealth creation.

But, just as there appeared to be an open goal for David Cameron to knock the ball into, and prove the Tory Party’s business – friendly credentials, the Prime Minister decided to shoot himself in the foot by telling bosses it was time they gave their employees a pay rise!

The problem with the rhetoric from both Labour and Conservative’s at the moment is the generality with which they speak – and the obsession with the negative.

For all the talk of ‘economic recovery’ it is a fact that many small businesses are still facing challenging times, and that far from being in a position to increase pay, they worry about being able to keep the staff they have.

The fragile recovery has not allowed business to increase their prices to customers, so where is the additional cash for wage hikes to come from?

The failure to distinguish between ‘big’ business and the vast majority of UK companies who are ‘SME’s’ is starting to grate with many business owners and entrepreneurs.

Have our political leaders thanked all those businessmen and women for fighting through tough times, keeping on staff and surviving by taking a pay cut themselves? Has the Prime Minister called on the treasury to give small bosses a break and be less aggressive when it comes to collecting VAT or corporation tax (no sweetener deals for the small or medium sized company I’m afraid), or indeed have Ministers been exploring how UK Plc can take the pressure off a business owner by actually meeting a promise they all make pre -election – and genuinely cut red tape and bureaucracy?

There is no doubt that unscrupulous employers, illegal tax dodgers and financiers on the fiddle should be held to account and punished. However, they are a very small minority of what makes up the business community of the UK, and it is time for politicians from all sides to start to acknowledge the hard work, honesty and contribution that the vast majority of business owners make to the well -being of the country.

The Footy

And so it came to pass that another bonanza football deal has been brokered, with a sum in the region of £5Billion being paid by a diverse range of media outlets for the TV rights to Premier League football. As I wrote last week here we will be witnessing a fixture programme that will stretch throughout the week, and I do believe this is the beginning of the end for the game.

Dopes like me who have an addiction to a football club, rather than the game itself, will probably continue to moan and groan, but like a chain smoker that has been threatening to pack in the fags for years, will find it almost impossible to ‘give up’ something that is no longer interested in the supporter. However, kids, the next generation of fans, will see football as a TV series, and they are likely start to choose to support teams randomly, depending on results. They certainly won’t be stupid enough to brave a cold, dark Wednesday night to watch Stoke battle out a mid- table fixture against West Ham!

If grass roots football was to benefit, or indeed prices for tickets were to be slashed, there may be something to celebrate. But the additional cash will simply go into the pockets of overpaid footballers, their agents and football ‘administrators’.

To those at the top of the game at the moment of course, this is an irrelevance. ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ should be the FA’s new motto, and one they could inherit from the banking community who had such an attitude during the financial boom – and look what happened to them!