As someone who has always considered himself to be on the centre left of British politics I have often wondered why progressives splinter into so many factions and parties. The right is far simpler in many ways, you have a Conservative Party that includes people who are really Liberals through to right wing ‘hang them and flog them’ types. Other than that further to the right is the ‘one issue’ UKIP and then the BNP. The left is made up of many Lib Dems, Labour and then more fringe socialist parties than you can shake a stick at. And the left seems to splinter more when times are hard, as they certainly are now!
The left’s challenge now is ‘deficit denial’ and the old problem of heart ruling the head. Many sensible people on the left are keeping quiet or are being drowned out by the chants of the rising extremists who could well be Labour’s ultimate undoing. The Frank Field’s of this world know that if Labour had won the last election similar cuts would have been inflicted on the public sector, indeed Alistair Darling had the Labour cuts (and tax increases) all mapped out; we know because Peter Mandleson has told us in his book. And Tony Blair clearly knows that cuts are necessary to get the Country back on its feet as he has said so in his book. But the Labour Front Bench continues to try to give the impression that if they had won last May all would have been fine and loads-a-money would have been available to spend, spend, spend.
The trouble is they (the Labour Front Bench) know they are talking rubbish and are just using the cuts to bash the Coalition Government, as that is what oppositions do in the rather sad old world of British politics. However, their spinning is something that others on the left want to believe and the further you travel to the left the more they really do believe it. So each day Labour sucks in the very people it spent years trying to get rid of in the days of John Smith (probably one of the best Prime Ministers we never had) and Neil Kinnock. There will be a reckoning as a Labour Party full of deficit deniers, who really do think you can keep on spending and borrowing for ever, will become unelectable once again.
Progressives within the Lib Dems know the deficit is very real and has to be tackled, despite the pain, because the alternative is to end up like Greece or Ireland. My trade union colleagues keep saying that there is an alternative and we must fight for it. I am sure there is at the margins but the fundamental deficit denial stance that many trade unionists and socialists have convinced themselves of is nothing more than comfort blanket because the economy really is shot full of holes.
Watch the rise of the extreme left, it is happening under that Labour comfort blanket with ‘deficit deniers’ weaved into its every thread.
Yesterday evening I was at Melling in Bloom discussing with this great group of community volunteers how to take things forward in the summer of 2011. Next week we are having another Steering Committee meeting for Maghull in Bloom.
And ‘In Bloom’ is not all about flowers, it’s about environmental protection, recycling, litter, community clean-up’s and grot-spot tidying. If we can bring together folks who care enough about their community to want to make a difference then our communities will be all the better for that effort.
The summer of 2010 saw the Melling volunteers change the whole look of Ledson’s Bridge in the Waddicar part of the Parish by their wonderful barrier planters on the bridge parapet. My ward colleague Cllr. Geoff Howe is pictured with the display.
Local history is fascinating and just down the road from our house is Maghull’s newest historical plaque. It commemorates the ‘Old Forge’ that was Maghull’s blacksmith for many years.
It is now the lovely home of the Olsen family but prior to them recently renovating the property it had been a place where time had literally stood still. You see the blacksmith business closed many years ago but the property remained as it was the day the business ceased. Only 3 or 4 years ago you could walk right up to the window and be treated to a previous time some of some 40 years ago.
Pictured is Mayor of Maghull Geoff Howe with Mayoress Jenny and the Olsen family on the day the new plaque was unveiled.
Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes was in Sefton last Friday as part of an education policy review that he is conducting. He visited a Bootle School and College during the day and later spoke to Lib Dem campaigners from across the Borough in a packed event at the Bold Hotel, Southport. Here I am welcoming Simon to the Borough.
The letter in the Times from Lib Dem councillors was measured but tough. I have said before that Eric Pickles is unimpressive and that is clearly a widely held view and not just within the Lib Dems. I know of Tories who are equally unimpressed with him.
Today the Times had a follow up letter from some south of England Tory and if it was not a childish put-up response to genuine Lib Dem concerns I would be surprised. What it accused Lib Dems of i.e. spending too much money when in office is laughable when here in Sefton we have been trying for months to stop Labour, with Conservative support I might add, spending £8m on a new Southport Market and new Netherton Activity Centre that the Council simply does not have and can’t afford to borrow! That ridiculous spending means that we are having to make bigger savings elsewhere!
We Lib Dems are fully signed up to getting the British economy back on the rails after the bankers and Labour had done quite a job in bankrupting us. So that means we must make cuts in public expenditure, tough though they may be. No disagreement there then. BUT our message to the Coalition Government through that letter was on two specific issues. Firstly, the cuts are having to be made in a hurry and that means we don’t have enough time to turn around the slim down the Councils in a controlled way. In other words we have said that Government must understand that giving local government a little more time to make the savings would result in better outcomes. Secondly, as I said earlier we do not have any confidence in Eric Pickles as the Minister responsible for local government. I don’t take any satisfaction in saying that but his gunboat diplomacy and wise-cracking remarks do not go down well with anyone.
Like everything else in the Borough Youth Centres are likely to be cut back as we desperately try to balance the Council’s books. What terrible times we live in economically!
Yesterday evening I went to spend some time at one of Sefton’s largest Youth Centres to see things for myself and talk to youngsters and youth workers. You probably don’t need me to tell you that what I found were dedicated staff and volunteers doing their bit well for local youngsters, which makes it all the more difficult to make these savings.
I was asked whether the savings were being made because the Council had been told that the Youth Centres were not performing well. No, this is certainly not the case, it is simply the huge lack of money to run many services in the way that the local authority has done in the past.
I was asked by a young person why young people were paying a price for what adults had done and it is more than a little difficult to explain to a young teenager why the collapse of banks some 2 years ago now across the world has ended up with their local youth facility being under threat.
I left the Youth Centre full of admiration for the work being done but with that ever present big black cloud saying you have no money to fund these facilities following me home!