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

Today would have been Uncle Albert’s 100th birthday

My good friend Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker at Birkenhead Tramway Museum next to a restored Wallasey tram that he rode on as a boy.

If my dear Uncle Albert had made it he would have been 100 today; frankly many of us who knew him well very much expected him to make the milestone but sadly it did not come to pass and my obituary from 2017 is linked below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/01/11/goodbye-uncle-albert/

I don’t really commemorate such anniversaries but I make an exception in Uncle Albert’s case because he was exceptional. A man whom I did not get to know until he was 74 became a very close friend indeed and I loved being in his company. He was funny, cheeky, well informed, and had led a fascinating life which he loved to tell folks about. All you had to do was to sit down and listen to him and take in his wartime and wider experiences and you learned so much. His mind seemed to be one of a young man which was open to learning more and he was able to make friends with anyone he came across. I never met anyone who did not like Charles Walker – Uncle Albert was his nickname which many of his friends used.

I still miss him terribly as I could run things past him, seek his advice, and as I said before learn from his wide range of experiences.

Andrew Blackburn and I would tease him unmercifully about him being the living embodiment of the part played by Buster Merryfield in Only Fools and Horses and he loved it. Indeed, he even changed his name badge at a conference we attended with him to ‘Uncle Albert’!

Happy Birthday Uncle Albert; I know you’re not looking down on me as I’m an atheist and don’t do heaven and earth. However, the other big tease we had with Charles was that if he went anywhere it would be downwards due to the terrible and very rude RAF songs he would occasionally launch into! The first time he did it was on a car journey with Andrew Beattie (who sadly passed on in 1999), Andrew Blackburn, and myself. To say we were taken aback is putting it mildly but the 4 of us became very firm friends from that day onward – we knew we’d come across a right one!

Note – Charles lived in Poverty Lane Maghull from 1960 until his death and was a Maghull Town Councillor for 15 years or more up to the age of 90. He was originally from the Wirral but had also lived in Bootle. His daughter Carole, son-in-law Phil, grandsons, David, Michael, and their families are today holding an online quiz in his memory as he loved to attend the quizzes that were once a weekly fixture of Maghull Town Hall.

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.

Peter Taylor RIP

Peter Taylor worked for Maghull Town Council* for many years firstly as a maintenance engineer and then as head of its parks and gardens maintenance arm.

He was one of those people full of innovative engineering ideas that could come up with solutions to many problems but he was modest of nature and did not seek praise or recognition; a true behind the scenes man. However, give him some steel or wood and the appropriate tools and he could make virtually anything and he’d most likely enjoy every minute of the work too.

Here are a couple of postings of mine from quite a while back where Peter’s team at the Town Council got a positive mention:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2012/12/31/maghulls-meadows-leisure-centre-car-park/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/12/28/maghull-grafiti-covered-boundary-sign-cleaned-up/

And here’s some photos of Peter’s handiwork:-

Entrance to Dodds Park Maghull

Entrance to Mersey Avenue Park Maghull

Entrance to Balls Wood Park Maghull

Indeed, anywhere across Maghull’s 13 parks, gardens and play areas where you see blue metal fencing there’s a good chance that Peter Taylor made it. Sadly some of the work he did is very much in need of a rub down and a coat of paint or the rust will see the fencing off. Let’s hope that this is tackled soon.

I only found out about Peter’s passing yesterday from my old friend Roy Connell who had bumped into one of Peter’s neighbours who lived in Scarisbrick a couple of doors away from him. It seems Peter had died earlier this year, aged 64, from heart problems. Coincidentally, Roy was himself a former Maghull Town Councillor and as Chair of the Council’s then Personnel Committee back in the day he was a part of the panel which interviewed and appointed Peter. Roy, a lifelong trade unionist like myself, has often commented along the lines of it was probably the best appointment to a job he ever made. He shares this view of Peter with fellow former councillor Andrew Blackburn.

I liked Peter and recall how his eyes would light up when a technical problem was presented to him; he was a really nice helpful chap. He may not have ever lived in Maghull but the work he did across all of its parks and gardens, together with his team of course, is a tribute to him.

RIP Peter Taylor

My thanks to Les French for supplying the photo of Peter

* Peter ceased to work for the Town Council around 5 years ago

Liverpool & The Mersey – Cruising the Cut

Liverpool Waterfront Panorama

My good friend Andrew Blackburn has a bit of a thing about vlogs entitled ‘Cruising the Cut’ of which there are a great many. He showed me a few some time ago and you know there’s something mesmerising about them and I’ve now watched quite a few myself, although I’m told that therapy may help:-)

The reason I’m blogging about this is that in October 2019 the vloger, former TV presenter David Johns*, came to Liverpool to experience crossing the Mersey estuary in a narrow boat. And here’s his vlog of the experience which sits with his many other vlogs on You Tube:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v9wASAnIvY

Museum of Liverpool and Link from the docks to the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

I hope you enjoy this vlogger’s take on Liverpool & the Mersey and you never know you may even get hooked on Cruising the Cut!

* He used to work as a local TV news reporter for ITV in the south east of England. After 13 years of doing this and working in radio, he decided to chuck it all in and buy a narrowboat to cruise around the canals on.

David even does his own merchandise and yes I bought one of these mugs for Andrew.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Jim Sharpe RIP

My friend Jim Sharpe has sadly passed away in Aintree Hospital after a short illness unconnected with our present health crisis.

Jim will be known to many people across Sefton & West Lancashire for his ‘One Man and His Dog’ column in the Champion Newspaper.

I am not aware of many pictures of Jim as he was always stood beside the press photographer (usually Marin Snape who sadly passed on himself not so long ago) but here he is in 2014 caught on camera press notebook in hand with Cllr. Edie Pope of Lydiate Parish Council.

I blogged about Jim back in 2017 in a posting associated with him being interviewed by Maghull Radio. Here’s a link to it:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/10/20/maghull-an-unexpected-contributor-to-a-maghull-radio-show-about-local-journalist-jim-sharpe/

Looking back on that 2017 posting it seems to say pretty much it all about Jim as I knew him but here are a couple of addition anecdotes. Jim’s politics were very much of the right and mine are very much of the left and yet I recall him being delighted when I became leader of Sefton Council; I knew his congratulations were genuine and I very much appreciated them. Jim and I would still chat from time to time in recent years indeed he phoned me about a month ago saying he was bored and wanted to a chat with me. We talked for half an hour or so about politics, life, the lockdown, his boat* on the Norfolk Broads and former councillors & other community minded folk we had known over the years.

He also kept in touch with former councillors Andrew Blackburn and Dave (Mr Lydiate) Russell. Jim would dine with Dave & Pam Russell at their house from time to time.

I know that his neighbour’s had been doing his shopping for him during the lockdown and he’d told me how much he appreciated that help when we last spoke.

As I said in my 2017 posting Jim was a journalist of the old school. At his best he was the people’s eyes and ears on the shoulders of those in power on the council locally. But he also liked good news stories about his home town of Maghull which he’d lived in for the vast majority of his life apart from a few years in and around the Colchester area working in public relations for British Telecom.

I will miss Jim because he was a decent chap, a good journalist and he cared deeply for Maghull the town I lived in for 43 years. RIP Jim

* Jim told me some years ago that he was going to leave his boat ‘Manxman’ to the YMCA in Birkenhead because they’d done so much for him.

PS – My good friend Andrew Blackburn has dug out this photo of a Maghull Mayoral charity fundraising walk in 1994 and Jim is there with us with his dog of that time too. It was taken outside the Running Horses Pub in Lydiate – Thanks Andrew