Martha Payne – NeverSeconds Blog

Have you ever heard of anything so appalling as banning a child from taking pictures of her school meals! Having heard a representative of Argyll and Bute Council trying to justify the ban on Radio 5 Live a little earlier all I can say is that the Council looks utterly ridiculous.

This is about free speech and a clumsy attempt to shut this young lady up. I think the Council needs to think again!

Church and State – Gay marriage drives a wedge into this inappropriate relationship

Firstly, let me be clear I was brought up as C of E but have no religion now. Yes, I was choir boy at two local churches (St. Andrew’s – Maghull and St. Helen’s – Sefton Village) with parents who held religious beliefs – Dad was C of E whilst Mum was more from the Chapel tradition of Methodists. But some years ago now Andrew Beattie a good friend and I (Andrew is sadly no longer with us) discussed our two similar family traditions of observing the C of E faith. We jointly decided after much debate that we did not in fact have a religion and soon after this we both also moved on to realise that we were free thinking Liberals.

I was married in one of the churches I had been a choir boy at but in my twenties and thirties, especially having read the views of writers such as Ludovic Kennedy, I became most uncomfortable with religion.

All this was brought back to mind by the agonising of Anglicans over gay marriage this last week and frankly it confirmed to me that I am well out of the religious life. Not only are some of the comments from within the established church about gay marriage offensive to many they also beg the question as to why we have an established church at all. The state and religion should not be connected and if such a connection did not exist and someone suggested such a tie up with one particular religion now the response would be one of incredulity across society. Yet we have an established state church for historical reasons and if the Coalition Government’s move towards gay marriage helps to, inadvertently, break down those state and church ties all well and good.

I have no problem with folks following a religion and I do attend religious ceremonies to observe the rituals (weddings, funerals etc.) of others but for the life of me I can see no good reason why gay members of society should not be married if that is what they want. If any religion wishes to stand in the way of that then they, of course, have the right to do that and as a Liberal I will defend their right to express their views. However, people expressing such views should not be surprised when folks like me also challenge their prejudiced view of how we should conduct our lives.

Frank Hornby Trust – Kicked out of Trust I helped to create!

Sad to say it is goodbye from me as a Trustee of the Frank Hornby Trust. I was a founding member who fought for Meadows Leisure Centre to be built and the Hornby Room to be included within it so it came as a bit of shock to find that the Council I once led has kicked me out of being a trustee without any prior consultation or notification. Indeed, I only found out by reading a list of outside body appointments made by the present Leader of the Council. I see that Cllr. Kermode is to replace me and I must admit to not having any knowledge of his interest to date in the Trust. However, such is life in politics and I assume I was removed simply because I am not a Labour member of the Council.

I was about to start some further detailed work on the Trust’s proposed Lottery bid to further fit out the Hornby Room but assume that Cllr. Kermode will take this over or he will pass it on to one of the other Trustees.

I wish the remaining 4 original Trustees well as I consider them to be personal friends whom it has been a pleasure to work with.

Labour really do want to control everything and I am sure I am not the only long serving representative working with a community group in the Borough who has had the chop in Labour’s unseemly grab for absolute power.

Fruit Trees for Maghull?

A while ago I blogged about a visit to Todmorden to see their Incredible Edible project whereby food to be eaten is grown in the streets, on bits of waste land and in landscaped areas of the Town.

My friends at Maghull in Bloom have taken up the challenge and they have actively been looking for sites within Maghull where fruit trees could be planted. An initial list of potential sites has been drawn up, experts consulted and I hope the project will move forward to public consultation soon.

So often trees and bushes are planted in public areas but they simply sit there looking nice. To have trees and bushes that are productive and feed us free of charge and that we can each pick as we wish when the fruit is ripe sounds great to me.

Let’s hope this project is a success.

Sefton Labour’s Good & Bad Days – The ups and downs of local (or national) politics

In May this year Peter Dowd’s Labour Party won outright control of Sefton Council but just a month later his older brother and fellow Sefton Councillor Mark has been ousted by the same Labour party from his long reign as Chair of Merseyside’s greatly troubled Transport Authority – Merseytravel.

It just goes to show how one family can see the extremes of politics being visited upon them within a very few weeks.

All political careers end in failure; a quote often misquoted (as here) from an Enoch Powell speech. And I suppose that is case because failure is not what you necessarily see for yourself but more what others rightly or indeed wrongly perceive of your period in the public eye. Many years leading from the front with strong support can quickly become a negative view of your most recent period and frankly it is only what is thought of you now that folks react to. In other words 20 years in a job, 19 of which were seen to be great count for nothing if the knives are out for you in your 20th year.

I don’t doubt that Mark Dowd, his supporters and his family are hurting a great deal now because what we rarely think of when a political career comes crashing down, especially when it happens in a very public way, is that there is a real hurting human being at the centre of it all.

I often think that the most important judgement you can make in politics is when it is time to move on. Too often politicians cling to power to their very last breath even when most other informed commentators know the end has already come. In public life we all have our period when we feel that what we doing is right and we enjoy what we are doing. But when the criticisms become loud and/or the will to get up each morning and innovate and grasp new opportunities becomes a chore it is surely time to say to yourself that a new challenge is the best way forward before others say it for you.

Merseytravel – The last act of the old guard but what of the future?

News reaches me that Cllr. Mark Dowd is to stand down as Chair of Merseytravel following moves within the Labour Party to oust him.

I have commentated on the troubles of Merseytravel many times before so the big issue now is how can the embattled transport authority for Merseyside rebuild itself.

This has been a long and bitter battle with Labour Leaders openly trying to remove Mark Dowd over many years. Now they have done it what does the future hold for those of us outside of Liverpool?

Will Merseytravel now commit to do all it can to get the Burscough Curves reconnected? Will it get Maghull North Station built? Will it finally see that working to improve the rail access to Southport from the east is vital to the Town’s economy? Big questions that are vital for Sefton but which have been stuck in the sidings for far too long.