IT FEELS good to belong to something. As a teenager in the mid-1980s I proudly walked through the streets of Liverpool with many others chanting "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie - out, out out!"

There was a siege mentality in the city back then underlined by a perception that Margaret Thatcher's 'Death Star' Government would happily have let off a cruise missile and wiped Merseyside off the map, if it could have gotten away with it.

At times, the then Prime Minister pursued her political ideology beyond the boundaries of decency and humanity and the results were devastating. However, she also made painful but necessary changes to the structure of the British economy ...

MAGICIANS call it misdirection - cleverly persuading the audience to focus away from the conjuring trick that's happening right under their noses.

We know that David Blaine and Paul Daniels don't perform real magic but we suspend our belief and gasp in awe. We are complicit in the deception.

And so it is with the state of the public finances. We are complicit as the finger is pointed at "benefit scroungers" and immigrants. The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.

Ben Ashton recently spent a week working alongside us on the Liverpool Post business desk. Last year, he graduated from the University of Westminster with a degree in politics. This week he guest-writes my blog, posing the question: What is value?

The Cost of Value, by Ben Ashton

WHEN you buy something how often do you stop to consider its worth - not its price, but its value?

In recent times we have experienced so much economic doom and gloom - from rising food and fuel prices to the loss of the UK's AAA credit rating ...

AS I sat at my desk listening to Chancellor George Osborne deliver his "giveaway" Budget I couldn't help but think of Phineas Taylor Barnum. PT Barnum, as he was more famously known, was a 19th century American showman, businessman, entertainer, conman, hoaxer and, for a time, politician.

"I am a showman by profession and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me," he once said. He was also credited with coining the phrase "there's a sucker born every minute".

Early on during Osborne's speech the Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle had cause to admonish shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, telling him: "Let's not let this become a circus."

I fear, by then, it was already too late ...

One of veteran Liverpool comic Mick Miller's gags refers to the time when his car broke down: "I called the AA and when the man he arrived he said to me 'what's the matter then, eh, eh," (say it out loud and you'll get it).

It wasn't one of his best (his 'Noddy' routine is much funnier).

Did the man from the credit rating agency Moody's ring Chancellor George Osborne at the end of last week and crack a similar joke - with an extra "eh"? If he did, it's doubtful George would have laughed ...

A few years ago there was a scene in Coronation Street where Deidrie Barlow, played by Anne Kirkbride, is preparing Sunday lunch.

Watched by her mother Blanche, played by the brilliantly comedic and now sadly deceased Maggie Jones, Deidre takes a packet of ready-made Yorkshire puddings out of the freezer.

Blanche screws up her face in disgust and exclaims: "Shop-bought Yorkshires - it's the convenience culture gone mad!"

Her point is well made - often there is great value in the effort ...

Shortly after Prime Minister David Cameron revealed his plan for a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union, a North West business leader gave his reaction.

David Ost, North West region director of EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, said it was right that Mr Cameron should seek a better deal with Europe, but added: "This strategy is not without risk."

You can say that again ...

When I was 14 it is fair to say I looked a little older than my years, something that was brought home to me one day in a slightly humiliating fashion.

I had turned up at Anfield for a Liverpool football match and was attempting to gain entry via the cheaper under-16s gate, when the man behind the glass said to me: "Ah eh lad, this is supposed to be for the kids."

The days of 14-year-olds turning up at a cash turnstile at Anfield are now long gone. Apart from the odd one-off game, the typical entry fee is £40-plus and a ticket in advance is usually required. So how far has English football strayed from its roots? ...

At 5pm on Sunday, December 23, at the height of the Christmas shopping frenzy, Tesco in Liverpool One closed its doors. Many other stores shut at the same time.

Seven hours later, at midnight, Tesco re-opened and continued trading until 7pm on Christmas Eve. Such is the craziness of Britain's Sunday trading laws.

At every hour of the day and night over Christmas, millions of people bought goods online without restriction. Is it any wonder so many on the high street are struggling to survive? ...

It's plane crazy that we are losing ground in the global aviation sector.

There was a time I wasn't that keen on flying. The first time I flew wasn't in a plane but in an airship.

It started well, with myself and a colleague admiring spectacular views of Liverpool from the air. It ended less well with my colleague and the pilot enjoying spectacular views of me projectile vomiting.

My early relationship with planes was also an uneasy one but regular trips to the south coast on propeller-driven 50-seater aircraft that was tossed around by high winds proved effective shock therapy and I can now happily sit on a 737 without a murmur of complaint ...

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Tony McDonough

Tony McDonough - covers business news and issues for the Post and Echo from across the Liverpool city region, with a particular interest in commercial property

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