So who’d you have as aides if you were US President?

I was having a conversation with my old political buddy Andrew Blackburn the other day and we talked of who we would have in our team if we were the US President. It was re-watching the 1st season of The West Wing which inspired this conversation. It must be one of the best series that I’ve seen on the TV. So anyway here goes with my personal list of West Wing characters and some personal additional aides.

Those in brackets are the actors playing the parts in Season 1:-

The President (Martin Sheen) – Me of course! – Delusions of grandeur of it seems:-)

Vice President (Tim Matheson) – Phil Holden – needed to pull in the right of centre vote. All but a Republican he’s never the less far from being a right-wing nut-job. Has a fine analytical mind with which I often don’t agree but is useful in balancing my Social Liberal ‘leftie’ outlook.

Chief of Staff – Leo McGarry (John Spencer) – Andrew Blackburn – Always sees the wider picture, is very loyal and will tell me what I don’t want to hear.

Deputy Chief of Staff – Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) – David Rimmer – the most polite and successful political hit-man I ever knew – ‘Leave it to me boss, you won’t hear of it again’ and I didn’t.

Communications Director – Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) – David Tattersall – Turns government-speak into straightforward language voters can easily grasp.

Deputy Communications Director – Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) – Steph Prewett – The best at seeing required end results and making sure they’re achieved. As with David Rimmer, the buried bodies are never seen again.

Press Secretary – (CJ Cregg (Allison Jamney) – Layla Moran – Progressive, Liberal, naturally outgoing and likeable, has the common touch which few in politics have. She’s a natural to talk for my White House on any matter of public importance. Good to have someone of Palestinian descent in high office too.

Personal Aide to the President – Charlie Young (Dule Hill) – A young Charles Walker – Cheeky, full of fun, loyal and generous. A lifetime of wide experiences to fall back on make him an essential team member.

Secretary – Mrs Landingham (Kathryn Joosten) – Christine Polanski – 100% reliable gets rid of time wasters, knows when I need support and can make me laugh when stress levels are high.

Special advisors not a part of the West Wing –

Special Advisors Defence & Foreign Policy – Paddy Ashdown, Tom Tugendhat, Ming Campbell, Robin Cook

Special Advisor – Social Policies, housing & planning – Roy Connell

Special Advisor – Education and crime – Geoff Howe

Special Advisor – Environment and climate change – Caroline Lucas

Special Advisor – The arts, culture, broadcasting and media – Andrew Beattie

Special Advisor – Liberty, freedom, charities, poverty – Iain Brodie Browne

Special Advisors – without portfolios – Peter Gibson, Barry Smith, Dave Martin, Lord Peter Smith, Ken Clarke,

Special advisor – Transportation – Amtrak Joe

Finding out more about Liverpool-born architect Alfred Waterhouse

I’ve blogged previously about Liverpool’s rather brilliant architect Alfred Waterhouse – here’s a link back to one of my previous postings:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/03/25/liverpool-alfred-waterhouse-the-citys-very-own-world-famous-architect/

If you’ve read my previous posting you’ll realise that I mention him being from the Liverpool district of Aigburth but that seems to be wrong as he was actually born in Everton. The background note about him below, which I was given on a Heritage Open Day tour of the Waterhouse buildings of Liverpool University last week, is very informative:-

Daughter Jen and I enjoyed, with around a dozen other folks, a 2-hour tour of the University’s Waterhouse buildings, and here’s a few photos I took during the tour – but firstly a map:-

These maps help with an understanding of the university campus buildings Waterhouse worked on.

Victoria Building

Victoria Building interior shot

Liverpool Infirmary’s porte cochère entrance

Liverpool Infirmary rear view

Liverpool Infirmary fact sheet

The Infirmary was laid out mainly with ‘Nightingale wards’ i.e. large rectangular wards with big windows but because of site/land ownership issues Waterhouse designed a couple of circular wards too. This is a view of one of them.

Waterhouse designed ironwork

Sunlight streaming into a refurbished corridor in the Infirmary Building.

I would highly recommend a Heritage Open Day Tour of Liverpool University’s Waterhouse buildings. We really enjoyed our visit, the tour guides are very knowledgeable and the buildings are quite wonderful to see.

Note – Please click on the information sheets (& photos) to enlarge them for reading

The last photo is amongst my Flickr photos at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

3 Sefton Libraries on just 3 or 2 day a week opening – 3 on 6 day opening

Maghull Library has been on a 2 day week as a consequence of Covid Lockdown for quite some time now and I’d been assuming, always a dangerous thing, that it would soon be opening up 6 days per week. However, a recent enquiry seems to indicate that increased hours/days may not presently be on Sefton Council’s agenda. Anecdotal evidence indicates, I might add, that staff shortage may be the reason for keeping it to 2-day opening.

Time to try and get to the bottom of this me thinks so I’ve approached 2 Sefton Councillors asking them both to try to find out what’s going on.

Maghull Library is within Meadows Leisure Centre and has been since the centre was opened in 2009, although sadly Sefton Council has steadily been reducing the size of this library in favour of other activities. It’s now, I guess, less than half the size it started out at just 11 years ago. Interestingly, Meadows Leisure Centre itself is now opening, according to Sefton Council’s website, at these times –

Monday to Friday 6:30am – 10.00pm
Saturday and Sunday 8:00am – 5:00pm

Whist Maghull Library only opens on a Tuesday and Friday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

A check on the opening hours of the other Sefton Borough libraries reveals this:-

Bootle –
Tuesday 10am-4:30pm
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm

Crosby
Monday 10am-4:30pm
Tuesday 10am-4:30pm
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Thursday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm
Saturday 10am-1:30pm

Netherton –
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm

Formby –
Monday 10am-4:30pm
Tuesday 10am-4:30pm
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Thursday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm
Saturday 10am-1:30pm

Southport –
Monday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Tuesday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Wednesday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Thursday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Friday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Saturday – 10.00am-2.00pm

I’m not sure what’s going on here as personally, I’d expect there to be reasonably common opening hours across all of Sefton’s libraries. Clearly, 3 libraries, (Bootle 3 days and Netherton/Maghull 2 days) are bearing the brunt of whatever problems Sefton Council are facing but I fear the short opening hours could well have further-reaching consequences. Firstly, what about vital access to IT equipment which those who are job seeking and/or on benefits use our libraries for as the cost of having broadband at home is beyond their budgets. Surely the 3 libraries in the Borough on 3 and 2 day opening only cause problems for them which if they live in Crosby, Formby or Southport they don’t face. A postcode lottery you might say?

My other concern is the viability of these 3 short-hours libraries because reducing them to just 3 or even 2-day opening is akin to reducing the number of buses on a route or trains on a railway line; you get to the point where folks just stop using them and try to find other ways around the lack of availability. In my view Sefton Council needs to get the 3 short-hours libraries back up to similar opening hours as the 3 that are already running 6 days per week and this needs to happen sooner rather than later.

As always, if I’ve got any facts wrong in this posting please let me know and I’ll try to put things right.

Birkenhead – It’s rather lovely Williamson Art Gallery & Museum

I recently visited this art gallery and museum with daughter Jen and a fine place it is too. Sadly, due to austerity and money troubles for Wirral Council, it’s had more than a few threats to its continued existence but thankfully it is safe for now. Here’s a link to its website:-

williamsonartgallery.org/

I took quite a few photos of the exhibits and here are my personal favourites:-

Trams at Woodside by George Anthony Butler 1927 – 2010 – Painted in 1988

Winter Twilight by James Thomas Watts 1853 – 1930 – Purchased 1913

A beautiful display of pottery. The wooden and glass case is as beautiful as the exhibits

There are some cracking lasrge scale ship models such as these Mersey Ferries

An interesting former Birkenhead Corporation ferry poster

Well worth a visit I’d say. Can’t really understand why it’s taken me all these years to have my first visit, but glad we went.

We’re exploited for our intolerance and fears

We live in a society where far too many of our political representatives seem to all but promote intolerance and fear. Those two words are often at the heart of what, usually in more deliberately vague language, is being peddled and promoted. Of course, much of our press is on the same regressive agenda. They work with politicians to exploit intolerance and fear which they then manipulate to enable messages to be sold to folk who, to put it bluntly, are being played.

Politicians know that most of us can be tribal in outlook and tribalism is the big brother of intolerance and fear. If you can gauge what sections of the voters are intolerant about and then feed those voters fears which magnify such intolerances then you can lead them by the nose into voting for things that they feel will ‘deal with’ what they fear and can’t tolerate.

Of course, virtually no one will admit to being a racist these days as it’s deemed to be socially unacceptable but that does not mean there are fewer racists about; they’re still there but don’t like being labelled racists. However, you’ll often hear them say ‘I’m not a racist but’ and that ‘but’ often means that in reality, they are a racist. So the fears of racists are there to be exploited by dog-whistle political comments seemingly made to us all but actually aimed at the racists who get the message. Words like immigrants, refugees, illegal immigrants etc. are used in contexts that blame such people for our ills and try to make us think they are from a DIFFERENT tribe, they ARE a threat, they are using scarce resources which OUR OWN poor should be accessing etc. etc.

Think which tribes you are a part of – religion, football team, your colour, the language you speak, straight or gay, the town you live in, the party you vote for, the paper you read, the clubs organisations and societies you’re a member of. Most of us are members of quite a few ‘tribes’ and we can view those who are members of different tribes as ‘not one of us’, or we can exhibit intolerance towards them, indeed we can even fear/hate them. It’s those doubts, worries and fears which unscrupulous politicians are openly exploiting together with a press/media friendly to such agendas.

If you’re being told that ‘we are losing our Britishness’, ‘our way of life is under threat’, that ‘outsiders are taking our jobs’ then our first reaction should be why are we being told that and what’s the agenda of politician or media outlet sending me such messages. But those producing the messages know that the vast majority of the time we don’t act logically, we simply hear messages which seemingly fit with our own often ill-informed perspective and they comfort us because they agree with what we’ve been thinking.

Of course, the less educated and more insular someone may be the more they can be open to being exploited by the unscrupulous. That’s why we need our up and coming generations to be well educated, with open minds rather than them carrying the prejudices and intolerance of previous generations of their families like a weight on their shoulders. I’m firmly of the view that we don’t hate as a matter of course we do it because it’s taught behaviour. Tribalism, prejudice and intolerance are simply the irrational fears of previous generations (anti-Semitism comes to mind) which are passed down as a right of passage. They close down young minds, they create fear where none needs to exist and they lead to racism and manipulation by media and politicians.

If you’ve ever said in front of a child ‘I don’t like the French, Italians, Irish etc.’ what are you trying to do? You’re probably hoping that child will come to hold the same view when logically they’ve no reason to hold that view. Or how about ‘I hate supporters of X football club’, again you’re hoping the child will think likewise; you’re trying to close down a mind because you don’t want them to come to a different view to your own. So what if you keep saying migrants, illegal immigrants? Yes, you’ve guessed it you’ve done it because you think such people are a threat and you want the next generation to think that too. Future generations will be open to being exploited by unscrupulous media and politicians if we don’t open up children’s minds so that they welcome their views being challenged and want to get to the truth rather than what passed for the truth from someone banking on them still carrying their family prejudices on their back.

We can be free of intolerance and fear and the exploitation that comes with it but only if we open our minds up and stop closing the minds of children down.

Maghull – The 1955 opening of its County Secondary School (Ormonde Drive)

My good friend Robbie Fenton has loaned me her copy of the brochure produced for the opening ceremony of what was called at the time (June 1955) Maghull County Secondary School. She was 12 years old and participated in the ceremony as part of the school choir. Robbie has lived in Maghull and Lydiate all of her life and has been a local councillor I might add.

I’ve scanned the brochure and here it is, a document very much of its time:-

The school looks very different now as the building that was the subject of this 1955 opening ceremony was demolished recently to be replaced by a brand new one:-

Maghull High in March 2019 as construction of the new main school building was ongoing.

My thanks to Robbie for sharing the document as it’s very interesting to me personally and I’m sure those who have attended the school over the years. I was there 1969 to 1975 and am now a Governor of the school. And my favourite teacher? Jack Petty every time. He taught Geography and History in the first two years I was there and after that craft. He was an expert builder of Christmas displays and he would build one every year mainly from polystyrene in the foyer of the 1955 building. They were beautiful with motorised figures and my old school mate Pete Roberts only mentioned them to me recently. I learned a lot from Jack.

Click on the photos and documents to enlarge them