Liverpool Prison – This should not be happening in a civilised society

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link below

What I’m about to say will not be at all popular in some quarters but my view is that if you treat people like wild animals don’t be surprised if they behave just like that.

Prison has to be about reform where that is possible. Yes there will always be a hard core that are probably beyond any kind of reform but if we are to look upon ourselves as being a civilised society we have to treat prisoners in a humane way.

I also worry that undiagnosed mental health issues will be at the root of many behavioral issues in our prisons.

That our prison system seems to be regressing towards the pre-Victorian era is hardly encouraging. What’s more damming reports from prison inspectors don’t seem to be leading to big and timely reforms of some appalling conditions across the prisons system.

How come there are so many deaths in our prisons? Does this not indicate that that the conditions are well below decent, that mental health conditions may not be being managed at all well, that violence is far too prevalent etc. etc.

This is just something else that the Billions being shoveled into the Brexit black hole could be responsibly be spent upon but I guess that Brexiteers will disagree.

Local Democracy – Who investigates the goings on in local government these days?

I recently came across a scheme funded by the BBC (or more to the point more probably by its licence fee payers) to address a matter I have long had concerns about – see the link below:-

Having been a councillor since 1985 I have watched the demise of local reporting on local government with increasing concern. The demise has followed the loss of many local newspapers but even where the local newspapers do exist there is rarely any serious investigative journalism going on these days. I can recall 3 former newspapers that served my community from the not so distant past – The Maghull & Aintree Star, The Maghull Times & The Maghull & Aintree Advertiser and of course we have also lost the regional Daily Post too. This loss of local newspapers is sadly replicated across most communities.

I recall the days when the Maghull reporter for the Maghull & Aintree Advertiser would sit through most meetings of Maghull Town Council listening to and reporting on the debates that went on. Every year or so the reporters would change as new trainees were taken on. Nowadays you would be hard pressed to see local reporters at any meeting of Sefton Borough Council (or Merseytravel, the Fire Authority, NHS decision making bodies etc. etc.) unless a big issue is already on the agenda and even then the reporting is usually of ‘x’ said this and ‘y’ said that nature. You might say the local media often just passes on opinions these days. My point is there is little in the way of getting behind the politicians/officials spin.

A local paper on the warpath would once have been as worrying to a local council as the District Auditor if things were going wrong; now neither pay much attention to what a Council does so who is uncovering the goings on within local government and indeed within the other local decision making bodies that affect the lives of us all? Putting it bluntly no one the vast majority of the time.

Yes we see local government stories in the local press but they are virtually always built upon press releases from councils or the politicians who run the councils, or they are about party political spats between opposing politicians.

Is the issue that the remaining local media is not training young journalists to get to the heart of what is going on in local government? Is it that they can’t afford to pay the kind of wages required to bring on good investigative journalists? A good and experienced local government reporter would once have been expected to know as much or indeed more than the local political bigwigs they were reporting on so that they could take on the spin and expose the facts.

The problem is of course a national one, of that I have little doubt. I wonder how many uncomfortable moments that councils and publicly accountable local bodies across the land should have had (and would have had in the days when the local media was a force to contend with) are not being picked up at all these days, unless the matter is so bad that it reaches the national press/media such as the Rotten Boroughs page of Private Eye?

This challenge is, I think, what the BBC scheme is trying to address but will it have any effect? Are a new generation of independently minded investigative journalists going to be created via it? Is the present day poor reporting by the BBC a reflection of too few good investigative journalists coming through the system and is that why the BBC has launched the scheme?

As the majority of journalists will have started at the bottom of the journalistic ladder reporting on the goings on of the local parish councils will we once again see bored young reporters sat listening to the debates of Little Twittering Parish Council awaiting a juicy story?

In a functioning healthy democracy well informed investigative journalists are a big part of keeping the powerful on their toes and I fear the demise of them at a local level is doing us all a disservice.

Gun Crime – It’s an almost everyday event these days

The Liverpool Echo has the latest gun crime ‘event’ on its web site (this time in Bootle) see link below:-

Worryingly, there is every danger that we will start to see gun crime incidents as normal every day events as the media relentlessly churn them out. Normalising may creep up on us when we should be treating each event as totally unacceptable in a civilised society.

Liverpool – Austrian students attacked – The shameful march towards racism of Brexit Britain

The Liverpool Echo has the appalling story on its web site – see link above

It’s as though the day after the EU referendum the forces of racism felt that they had been given the green light to treat anyone who is not British and white as undesirables. I’ve read numerous pieces since then where increased racism has been linked to the Brexit vote and I fear that there really is a link.

What on earth was going on here? The attack was allegedly by 15 year old girls! It’s utterly appalling and brings shame on Merseyside which has long been a place to welcome visitors from far and wide. And remember children are not born racist, it is conditioned into them by those around them. In other words they have been taught to be intolerant appalling racists.

Better Days Ahead – Well there has to be surely

Above is a link to a most wonderful tune by jazz guitarist Norman Brown.

Hey things are more than a bit grim at present. The NHS is falling apart at the seams, the police are so under funded they struggle to protect us from crime, our schools are at breaking point with budget cuts, Northern would rather run buses than trains, Government is all at sea and their Official Opposition doesn’t seem to know how to oppose them. Trump keeps going bonkers, global warming is going to create a living hell for future generations and Brexit is going to see job losses, an economic downturn (yes we can keep going down!), less environmental protections…………. But you get my drift, as a progressive times have never been so tough – Thatcherism and Reaganomics were grim but we are are potentially on the road to far far worse.

So what do you do in the face of all this misery? You realise that there will be better days ahead as the electorate are sure to slam the brakes on whose they put in power and U-turn the political juggernaut away from the march towards fascism back to a progressive way forward. Well we’ve got to hope so because staying on the course the UK is presently on means a very poor outcome for us all but for the poor it does not bear thinking about!

But until May is put out of her misery and until Corbyn learns to oppose try listening to this tune by Norman Brown entitled Better Days Ahead, it will lift your weary soul…..

Gun Control – Can kids beat the gun loving American establishment

The BBC has the article on its web site – see link above

Well can they beat the American gun culture that is so strong and more importantly so supported by the US political classes? We worry about our urban gun crime problems in cities like Liverpool (and Merseyside generally) where shootings are a weekly event but in comparison with the USA they are fortunately on a much smaller scale.