Port of Liverpool access road goes on back burner?

Rimrose Valley Country Park.

Place North West has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.placenorthwest.co.uk/news/delays-in-store-for-port-of-liverpool-link-road/

But of course there’s the paralel issue of government under pressure over its climate change busting £27b road building programme which is being seriously challenged in the courts by the likes of Transport Action Network:-

tan.creationtest.co.uk/campaign/legal-action/

So there’s a possibility here that the time being lost to delays could be used to further the environmental campaigns to save Rimrose Valley from having a road bulldozed through it. Having said that Highways England*, which is in my view not sufficiently regulated by a powerful independent regulator, could simply be told to keep the new road project going by the Secretary of State for Transport, its ultimate boss.

My thanks to Bob Robinson for the lead to this posting

* Highways England is a private company limited by shares, wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Transport. The Highways England Board is the primary governance arm of the company and is accountable to the Secretary of State for Transport.

Rimrose Valley Country Park in the foreground and the Port cranes in the background.

An open letter to Michael Gove from Bob Robinson

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MICHAEL GOVE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, MP

Dear Mr Gove,

“TRUCK QUEUES COULD BE 7,000 VEHICLES LONG WHEN TRANSITION ENDS” – MICHAEL GOVE – THE GUARDIAN.

Thank you for responding so quickly to my earlier open letters,(posted on the Facebook Lib Dem Chat Group) albeit not in person. You are to be congratulated for your candour – albeit somewhat late in the day. You do, I take it, clearly understand the implications of what you have said. As a retired bean counter, I spent my career eliminating the need for holding inventory by promoting the use of “just in time” manufacturing techniques – stock although an asset on the balance sheet is not as liquid as cash. Liquidity is going to be critical to our recovery. Turning inventory into finished goods adds value and turning finished good into sold goods is what generates business liquidity. Please do not feel that you can duck behind coronavirus as an excuse – the seeds for this were laid long ago when some balding chap with glasses appeared talking about reshaping British Industry – He was looking for the next generation of disruptive innovation. Perhaps at some point, you might like to tell me how that’s going? No Pain No Gain only works if the same people asked to bear the pain can be given cast iron guarantees that they, not rentiers, will enjoy the gain.

In the meantime, might I suggest, until you have a spiffing response, you might need to avoid the honourable members for Southport and South Ribble – (they are/were on your side of the House). Both constituencies sustain a substantial part of the United Kingdom’s horticultural sector – in particular, fresh salad vegetables to Supermarkets. In addition to top quality tomatoes and salads grown locally in the area – the growers put the Wonder into Golden Wonder crisps. In addition to growing, they have built specialist packing and preparation plants that employ many workers. Britain, however, has long passed accepting seasonality in fruit and vegetables and in the off season, imported produce is shipped from Spain and other warmer climes, minimising handling damages. These are brought in by truck and packed for major supermarkets. This ensures door to door delivery but it does have to run to a tight, just in time, timetable. I am sure that whilst, in your Botany class at school, somebody explained to you that once a lettuce is cut – it starts to die. Two days extra in transit will increase the amount of not fit for purpose lettuce, sitting either on shop shelves or customers fridges – imposing knock on costs to supermarkets and consumers alike. The shipping time is therefore critical. I am sure you will also appreciate that queues of lorries outside European ports will represent a tempting target for desperate people.

Katherine Fletcher, the newly minted MP for South Ribble and Damien Moore will no doubt be catching it hot and strong soon. Indeed, the local Tory Parties are traditionally supported by major growers. If your party’s cash flow takes a hit following recent revelations – you may need to look to your home-grown supporters for help. Damien Moore, by the way, was, in his former, life a Manager at Asda – he will understand just what this kind of (expletive deleted) could turn out to be for Supermarkets. He will also know the best way the sweep up Maltesers. Just ask yourself – if this what you want to happen to you?

Best regards Bob

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/23/truck-queues-could-be-7000-long-when-brexit-transition-ends-ministers-warn

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/04/uk–businesses-demand-urgent-talks-over-fears-brexit-border-chaos

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-54260470

P.S. Archie Norman, the Chief Executive of ASDA, used to begin his welcome to new staff, including myself, by recalling his early experiences on the shop’s shop floor. Sometimes Maltesers would escape and represent a “slip” risk. The easiest way to sweep them up was not to chase them with a broom and shovel – but to tread on them. Nudge-nudge-wink-wink stamp-stamp Mr Gove – Know what I mean.

And then before publication but after writing the above this happened – The lorry and logistics crisis just got worse. The Guardian has just published the latest round of revelations including a twitter copy of the letter by Michael Gove to the RHA.

You could not make it up

An end to rail franchising – but what next?

Rail franchising has been an expensive failure and I think most involved with the rail industry will acknowledge that due not least to the fragmentation it’s caused to what needs to be a national infrastructure.

Northern Rail Franchise Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

In effect rail has been re-nationalised as the 1980’s high profile privatisation project has hit the buffers, indeed it’s been bumping into those buffers for a long time now. Of course Railtrack was nationalised into Network Rail quite a while ago.

The Railway Gazette has an interesting article on its website – see link below:-

www.railwaygazette.com/uk/uk-government-announces-the-end-of-rail-franchising/57396.article

Being a railway enthusiast means that I’m probably not a reliable witness but I’ll have my say, biased though it may be, anyway. That British Railways was in many ways a bit of a mess is a given but the route the Conservatives took to address its shortcomings was to say the least drastic, although I also appreciate that they did it to big up their policy direction of the day and there will have been little thought for what they were setting in train (sorry) and how things would actually look further down the track (sorry again). Such is politics, short term voter approval is all that is required and beggar the consequences as the other lot will be in power when the train derails!

What we managed to lose during the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s was anything approaching an integrated transport system (remember that the infamous Bus Deregulation Act plays into this too) and now we are paying the price. Yes of course there have been some positives with rail travel increasing year on year until Covid 19 came along. However, we now need to reinvent the wheel and build an integrated transport system which rail (both train and tram) will need to be at the heart of.

That many European countries and beyond have successfully done this means it can be done and should be. We’ve ended up in a kind of halfway house between many counties who have progressed integrated transport very well and the likes of the US and Canada who have all but tried to kill off public transportation completely.

A Virgin Trains Frabchise Pendolino train at Liverpool Lime Street Station.

The big question now is where will our Conservative government drive transport policy now. Certainly they are big on roads and cars and are planning huge infrastructure investment in new highways despite roads being the very opposite of what is required to tackle climate change. The old ten bob note they recently held up to pay for the reversal of Beeching cuts in our railways was of course all political froth as that tiny budget will pay for nothing much at all.

Of course Conservative voters don’t use buses and trains much, if at all, although all those right wing former Labour voters who backed Johnson at the last GE do.

Can’t say I’m optimistic about the future of public transport under the present occupier of 10 Dither Street, London.

My thanks to Bob Robinson for the lead to this posting

THE GRAVY TRAIN SET – Guest posting from Bob Robinson

Michael Lewis in his seminal 2018 book “The Fifth Risk” describes how with each change of administration, supporters of the American President are appointed to head various Government Agencies. The LSE blog, at the time, crisply summarises Mr Lewis’s account of what went on at the National Weather Service.

“The choice of Barry Myers, head of private weather firm AccuWeather, to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, a scientific agency within the Department of Commerce) is both striking and predictable. Acknowledging that Mills’ appointment represents an attempt to effectively ‘dismantle’ NOAA through privatisation, Lewis writes that ‘the private weather industry, unlike the (government-based) National Weather Service, has a financial interest in catastrophe’ (172). The ‘dystopic endgame’ Lewis senses with weather forecasting can be extended to a host of other issues and risks, from nuclear waste to food security”.

blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2018/11/18/book-review-the-fifth-risk-by-michael-lewis/

For those who think it could not happen here – you might be in for a shock

On the 16th September, The Guardian reports that Shanker Singham, one of the main proponents of the so-called “alternative arrangements” for the Irish border, is understood to have teamed up with the customs expert Robert Hardy and the technology company Fujitsu for the Trader Support Service (TSS) contract. It goes on to describe the contract, the as the first of the “BREXIT SPOILS” in Northern Ireland, that was put out to tender in the summer with the appointment announced in time for implementation in September.

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/16/alternative-to-irish-backstop-consultant-shanker-singham-in-line-for-200m-contract

How easy is it for Liberal Democrats to hold the government to account on what appears to be, in euphemistic terms, “Cosy relationships”? Are there other examples of this? Does it amount to crony patronage? Robert Townsend in his seminal pop business book “ Up the Organisation” described Management Consultants as “Someone who borrows your watch to tell you’re the time – and then walks off with your watch”. Plus ça change……………………………….

Are we witnessing “Déjà vu all over again”, bearing in mind the Conservative previous catastrophes inflicted in the name of Privatisation? This fiasco occurred in what seems like not too long ago not so good old days.

www.theguardian.com/society/2019/may/16/part-privatisation-probation-sevices-to-be-reversed-offender-management-nationalised-chris-grayling

That by the way is the same Chris Grayling as this Chris Grayling

www.politicshome.com/news/article/conservative-anger-as-boris-johnson-makes-chris-grayling-chair-of-intelligence-committee

As Lib Dems, we should keep in mind the adage “What gets measured gets managed?” – Should we start keeping and publishing the score?

* Bob Robinson is a member of Central Bedfordshire Liberal Democrats

Our democracy is under attack!

Fake news, Russian bots, millions not even on the electoral register so what is the response of Government? Propose abolishing the Electoral Commission which actually needs more powers rather than being kicked into a ditch!

Here’s what the Electoral Reform Society thinks about Government threats to our electoral guardian:-

www.electoral-reform.org.uk/our-elections-watchdog-needs-strengthening-not-scrapping/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=ers-email&utm_campaign=blog-roundup&utm_content=Blog+Round+up+4/9/20

My good friend Bob Robinson sums up the worrying situation very well when he says – ‘Not content with ploughing up the level playing field – the Tories now want to nobble the referee?’

My thanks to Bob for the lead to this posting

How not to take the House with you – A guest posting by Bob Robinson

I read “Conservative Home” – for as the axiom hath it. “If you read only one newspaper, read the one published by the opposition”. A Fanzine, written by Tories – for Tories, “Conservative Home” often has me spluttering my cornflakes. But Andrew Gimpson’s piece following Prime Minister’s questions on the 9th September was remarkable – not only was he calling a spade, a spade but also he was calling a charlatan, a charlatan.

www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2020/09/andrew-gimsons-pmqs-sketch-johnson-starts-to-sound-like-the-boss-of-a-tractor-plant-in-minsk.html

“At the end of PMQs, Sir Desmond Swayne had asked the Speaker, on a point of order: “What remedy is there for those of us who enthusiastically support the Prime Minister but nevertheless want to restrain the Government’s ability to govern by order without debate?

Boris Johnson was sitting on the Treasury bench, smiled and nodded gently as the Speaker exploded with fury at the absent (Matt) Hancock. The Prime Minister’s demeanour was that of a schoolboy who finds it amusing that one of his chums is being given six of the best.

Johnson might have done better to look grave. For one of the problems from which he himself suffers just now is an inability to take the House into his confidence, and thereby carry MPs with him. He naturally expected Sir Keir Starmer would challenge him on the shocking admission the day before by Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, when asked about the Internal Market Bill: “Yes this does break international law in a very specific and limited way.

I suppose one might say Lewis was taking the House into his confidence, but not in such a way as to carry MPs with him. The Prime Minister seized the chance before facing Starmer to make a bald statement: “We expect everybody in this country to obey the law.

Starmer then ducked the argument about the rule of law. This was an odd decision, for it is a necessary argument. However preposterous the PM’s attempts to extricate himself from the appalling statement made by Lewis might have been, we wanted to know what they were.

This is something the Commons can do extremely well: expose ministers when they are talking nonsense”.

Andrew Gimson concluded:

“This is a Government that puts its arms round the people of this country,” Johnson said at a later stage of PMQs. Again, this sounded like a strange, faintly totalitarian, even creepy remark for a Tory Prime Minister to be making. We don’t want the Government to put its arms round us. We just want it to do various things reasonably well”.

Alex Ferguson was famed for scorching criticism of poor performance even by the Galactico’s in his team as David Beckham recalls. It was known as “hair-drying”

www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2057556/David-Beckham-Alex-Fergusons-hairdryer-secret-success.html

Boris would be well advised to ask not for whom the hair-dryer blows. It blows,,,,,,

For those who missed PMQ’s you catch up on the BBC’s “Match of the Day” Channel – BBC Parliament.