Starmer shown red card and has early Bath

It seems as though Keir Starmer can add unlucky to his present list of troubles following his unfortunate encounter in Bath with a Brexiteer.

Your first thought is how on earth did his minders get him into such an encounter; the very kind of publicity he’d not have wanted.

But then on further reflection, what on earth was he doing campaigning in Bath which is already represented by a radical and progressive MP. You’d have thought his efforts would have been better aimed at a Tory seat rather than helping the Tories to unseat an MP of the centre-left who is far more radical and progressive than the vast majority of Labour MP’s. Having said that maybe it’s as simple as he’s on the same track as Jez Corbyn i.e. get rid of all other radical left of centre MP’s who are not Labour; the Tories can wait until we’ve achieved that. Trouble is that the tribal approach simply does not work and it lets the Tories have a free run.

Whilst Starmer is clearly more electable than Corbyn he’s no progressive leader at all and he seems to spend much of his time making progressives both inside and outside of the Labour Party cringe. He also seems to be on a very different course to Tony Blair who gathered progressives around him, made friends with the then Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown and made himself look like a progressive who could and would win. Starmer’s approach seems to be one of hiding behind his party political sofa saying as little as possible and certainly not reaching out to other progressives in the Greens, Lib Dems etc. So the ‘one more heave’ policy of Labour under Corbyn is still thought to be alive despite it being pronounced very much dead in the December 2019 General Election.

The trouble with Labour is that they are a wide collection of political sects from the right, through social democrats and off into the many sects of socialism. This means working-class right-wingers, who have bought into Johnson, are in the same overall tent as Momentum! No wonder Labour spends so much of its time fighting itself and trying to heal internal divisions. They call it a ‘broad church’ but it’s so broad that its internal sects often hate each other more than they do the Tories.

So no one on the progressive left really has any idea where Starmer is heading as he clearly didn’t in Bath.

Having read this far you may think I want Starmer to fail but actually, the opposite is true. We desperately need a centre-left, progressive and yes radical alternative to our UKIP-type Tory Party. A Progressive Alliance of Labour, Lib Dems & Greens is required but for that to happen Labour has to stop attacking fellow progressives and Starmer has to start to look like a real leader of women and men. Sadly, the way things are going there’s not much room for hope and the Tories march on without a credible opposition.

The origin of ‘Nowhere to run’

I’m presently reading ‘Come and get these memories’ a book by the famous Motown song writers Brian & Eddie Holland of the Holland Dozier Holland partnership.

One of the interesting things about this excellent book is that they explain the origins of some famous songs. This Martha Reeves & The Vandellas’ track struck me in particular:-

Nowhere to run – written to mark the sending to Vietnam of a 19-year-old friend of Lamont’s who’d been drafted and was terrified. The poor chap was later killed when he stood on a landmine…..

And here’s a YouTube link to the song……

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABbc-O_3_Ac

Shirley

The death of Shirley Williams has touched me deeply; she was a unique politician and a very good and decent human being. As a fresh-faced lad new to Liberal politics in 1980 I was soon swept up in the most amazing political experience; the Crosby by-election.

I met many famous politicians of the day during that campaign such as Roy Jenkins, David Steel & Jo Grimond but it was Shirley who I grew to know, respect and admire. Apart from her boundless enthusiasm and ability to put in many hours of hard slog day in day out she was the most enjoyable person to be in the company of. I recall that when she was listening to you she always seemed to lean her head to one side which I found most endearing.

Of course, like many others at this sad time, I’ve gone looking for photos of Shirley so here they are:-

Andrew McKinlay with Shirley – Maghull Country Club December 1981

Either side of Shirley are Dave Hylands and Jack Parkin – Maghull Country Club December 1981

1983 General Election in Southport – Shirley is with Iain Brodie Brown

Shirley with Anthony Hill in 2009 – Pritchards Book Shop Crosby

Shirley with Andrew Blackburn also in Pritchards Book Shop 2009

Lord Ronnie Fearn, Shirley and John & Annette Pugh

Tony Robertson, Shirley and Richard Clein – 2008

We shall not see the likes of her again and our political life is all the poorer. Today, at least to me, our leading politicians seem to have little stature and few if any are held in high regard across the political spectrum. Shirley was liked and indeed loved by many who did not share her left of centre and sometimes radical views; today our politics in comparison looks childlike, petty and far too tribal and no good will come of that. Shirley’s guiding hand will be missed by many for years to come but her legacy is to have inspired many young women to become politically active and that is a huge legacy of good.

Cycling and crossing Maghull’s ‘Berlin Wall’

The new (ish) cyclist unfriendly Alt Junction in Maghull

Maghull is very flat so you’d expect it to be perfect to cycle around and yet the busy A59/Northway cuts Maghull in half. I’ve always said it’s akin to the Town’s own Berlin Wall when it comes to cycling and even to some extent walking. I have of course blogged about this matter many times before and called upon Sefton Council to improve the lot of cyclists wanting to cross and cycle safely along Maghull’s great divide. Here’s a link to a previous posting of mine on this matter:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/09/03/maghull-lydiates-berlin-wall-the-bible-of-cycling-infrastructure/

I was and for that matter still am unimpressed with the new(ish) Alt junction as, in my opinion, it’s not cyclist-friendly. Expecting cyclists to dismount and then follow the same circuitous route that pedestrians have been landed with at this junction is not encouraging folks to leave their cars behind, in fact, it probably has just the opposite effect!

So, why do I return to this subject now? Well, improvements are afoot as shared-space cycle/pedestrian routes are being constructed on either side of the A59 between the Town Hall/Hall Lane and Damfield Lane junctions. The Damfield Lane/A59 junction, which has a poor accident record, is also being turned into a traffic-lighted one.

So the lot of cyclists is being improved although clearly, an A59 safe cycle route needs to pass through all of Maghull and indeed Lydiate to reach the cycle tracks along the A59 to the north of Robins Island in West Lancs. But don’t be churlish Robertson progress is being made which should be welcomed, and I do indeed welcome the progress.

Here are some shots of the work presently being undertaken at Damfield Lane and along the A59 to the Hall Lane junction:-

Looking towards the Town Hall/Hall Lane junction with the new and widened shared space path.

Elevated view of new Damfield Lane junction layout.

Damfield Lane junction looking north

It will be interesting to see how cyclist-friendly the Damfield Lane junction is when works are completed because from my perspective cyclists should not have to dismount to travel through a junction as seems to be the highway engineer’s want at the Alt junction. Junctions should be designed so that cyclists can go through them safely whilst pedalling not via having to walk.

I’m sure there’ll be much more to comment on as our presently very limited local cycling network is painfully slowly expanded.

Covid-Safe Workplaces?

I was a Branch Secretary for PCS trade union for 22 years and held other lay posts within that union and indeed its predecessor unions (IRSF & PTC) throughout my working life in the civil service. So it’s probably no surprise then that my now-retired eye was caught by the article below on the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-56647149

I’ve been troubled throughout this wretched pandemic about how safe UK workplaces really are and the telling thing for me has been that I’m yet to hear of any employers being prosecuted for unsafe C19 conditions. Trade unions, of course, will always be (or at least should always be) on the front foot should their members have concerns about unsafe workplaces.

Here’s what the Health & Safety Executive say about how they get involved with workplace Covid 19 concerns:-

www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/regulating-health-and-safety/index.htm

I’d heard about the Swansea situation a while back and it seems like my former trade union and indeed its members in that agency of government have decided enough is enough. Clearly, even if all guidelines are being followed by DVLA (and I’ve no reason to think they are not) something is far from right with such large numbers of staff falling victim to C19.

But just think for a moment about all those non-unionised workplaces across the UK and how safe the staff feel who work in them, over C19 or indeed other matters, if there’s no union to take their employer to task.

We generally have safe working conditions in the UK because of the efforts of trade unionists over many generations. It’s best to join a union in my view; indeed when I first started work in the civil service it was and had been government policy for a long time to encourage all civil servants to join their appropriate trade union. That was good advice to me.

Lydiate – Football changing room transformation

I’ve blogged a number of times previously about how Lydiate Parish Council is upgrading its sports/fitness/football facilities at Sandy Lane Playing Field. The works include new additional changing rooms (which should be put in place towards the end of May) and a big refurb’ of the existing changing rooms. Additionally, outdoor fitness equipment has been relocated from LPCs Village Centre Site in Lambshear Lane and land drainage under the football pitches is actively under investigation with a view to resolving water-logging issues as far as possible.

The project is complex and is being supported financially by the Football Assn. One of the significant aims is to get to a position where women’s football is properly catered for. And there’s still another big issue which we need to find a way forward for; turning the tennis courts into a multi-sports area (MUGA) with a much-improved surface, but not everything can be tackled at once.

These two photos show some remarkable progress with regard to the old changing rooms which are being transformed as I type this blog-piece:-

A disability toilet has already been installed and there’s a bespoke fitted out area in the present building for the making of refreshments/a community cafe.