Posts in Opinion

Le Bateau.jpg

You hear news sometimes, and you just feel old. I might be nearly 33, but the final end of Duke Street's (and arguably Liverpool's) best ever club, Le Bateau, makes me lean back and mull over what has been and gone as if I were a Nan in my eighties. I might be a politician now, but once upon a time, I was a teenager, and Le Bateau was a very important place in my young years.

The long nights dancing, the music that changed us, the friendships made, the clothes we wore, happy times we had. For those of us of a certain age, the 90s were our 60s.

Without Le Bateau, I would have never heard the following musical miracles from the past: Stevie Wonder's brilliant re-working of The Beatles' We Can Work It Out, Curtis Mayfield's inspirational Move on Up, Julie Driscoll's beautiful Let the Sunshine In. And many more. It was the place you first heard new music, and it broke down the artificial barrier between 'dance' music and 'guitar' music.

THERE is no hotter political hot potato than bin collections.

And in the last week, it's been a veritable feast of rubbish, what with the possibility of a bin strike looming large and the news that the council has worked out that spending £400,0000 on telling people that their household rubbish won't be collected once a week any more would be a waste of money.

£400,000? Do these lot consider dining at Claridge's slumming it, wonders Mr Brocklebank, incredulous that anyone could have thought spending such an eye-watering amount could have ever been considered.

Our society is organised to facilitate business activity, to cut big companies as much slack as possible and to try to enable capitalist enterprise to operate freely within the market environment.

At least nominally, however, all individuals and businesses were and are supposed to be equally subject to the relevant applicable UK and EU laws.

It would seem that no longer applies to big business in this country as evidenced by a number of events in recent years, leaving aside how so many global businesses shaft UK taxpayers by paying little or no tax here despite one of the most liberal tax regimes and (despite their empty rhetoric) successive governments' tolerance of tax avoidance in the western world.

Proposals to give the UK government legal means of accessing anyone and everyone's emails, phone calls, text messages and anything else that takes their fancy for fishing expeditions have reared their ugly little head again following the brutal and senseless killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, despite the security services opining that possessing such powers would not have prevented that particular tragedy.

Previously these proposals had been shelved by the Coalition Government after vehement Liberal Democrat objections which I would like to think were motivated by genuine principle rather than a (correct) perception by the Lib Dem leadership that their party at large would have rebelled en masse if such a thing looked like being enacted.

Nevertheless, it is a near certainty that such proposals will be included in the Tory manifesto at the next general election.

lenin2.jpgAs it happens, I've read several books about Russian history in recent months, including John Reed's account of the November 1917 Revolution, "Ten Days That Shook the World."

What was salutary was how passionately involved in political discourse and how idealistic most members of the Russian working class seem to have been at that time.

How ironic that less than 80 years later, with capitalism reintroduced, the former Soviet Union produced a new breed of oligarchs following the privatisation of state owned enterprises who acquired riches on a vaster scale than any Tsarist acolyte ever did.

turkey_christmas.jpgTHERE are probably very few people in Liverpool who would say their local councillor is 'one in a million' - and they'd be wrong to if they did, because they're actually one in five thousand.

Currently, 90 of the city's great and good represent between them around 450,000 city residents.

But some in political circles have argued for some time that having close to 100 councillors is a luxury the people of Liverpool can ill afford, and given how few people turn out to vote in certain wards come election time, the public don't exactly give a ringing endorsement of the worthiness of their elected representatives.

To mark International Women's Day, the excellent History of Parliament project (twitter: @HistParl) has been seeking examples of women in history whose political influence has gone unnoticed. Nobody who knows me will be surprised by my nominee: the Liverpool-born academic, politician and social reformer, Eleanor Rathbone. In the course of my exchange on twitter with @HistParl, I recalled a short piece I'd written about Rathbone and her political significance back in 2007. Having discovered that the website for which it was written no longer exists, I'm re-posting it here as a record of one of Liverpool's many remarkable female social reformers. Re-publishing the piece also seems timely in light of the recent reforms to Child Benefit, which mean that it is no longer a universal provision.

For once, Joe Anderson had positive words to say yesterday about Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Pickles' announcement that he will not be calling in the Liverpool Waters development scheme for public inquiry was welcomed by Liverpool's directly-elected mayor as "fantastic news for Liverpool". In addition to transforming acres of semi-derelict dockland, the development proposals, submitted by the Peel Group, are predicted to create 20,000 new jobs.

If ever there were an area in need of 20,000 jobs, it is north Liverpool. In Kirkdale, 48% of the 7,751 households in the ward have no adult in employment. In three neighbouring wards, all with similar numbers of households, the proportion with no employed adult is similar: 57% in Everton, 46% in Anfield and 45% in County. Worklessness in these neighbourhoods has been at this level for decades, following mass job loss in north Liverpool's docks and related manufacturing activity from the 1960s onwards (20,000 new jobs would be equivalent to about half the decline in the total number of Dock workers in Liverpool since 1945).

SOON enough Liverpool's central library will re-open following its £50m refurbishment.

And so many millions of pounds worth of treasures will return from their current sojourn deep underground in a Winsford salt mine to re-take pride of place on the shelves.

The most valuable item the council has (excluding the priceless 1207 city charter) is Audubon's Birds of America, which is valued at around £7m.

Some of the creatures beautifully hand-painted in the 19th century tome are extremely rare (indeed some now extinct).

This country has had successive governments for over 30 years which have advocated free market economics coupled with more lax regulation, resulting during that period, amongst other things, in the predictable gradual erosion of workers' rights, increasing centralisation of power in Whitehall and a widening gap between rich and poor.

I am old enough to remember the regular debates over several years of the mid-1970s about what the UK should do collectively with the once in a lifetime windfall of money from the (at that time) embryonic North Sea oil development, which it was posited, was going to enable the transformation of Britain.

Dale Street Associates

David Bartlett

David Bartlett

City editor of the Post and Echo covering politics, regeneration, and urban affairs.
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