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

Blue Wheelie Bins – It’s all about communication

Whatever the rights & wrongs (in recycling terms) of Sefton Council indroducing a 4th wheelie bin per household the issue is one that has many Sefton folk hot under the collar about, indeed some folks have been asking me (I’m a Lydiate Parish Councillor) to explain to them why it’s happening.

My understanding is that Sefton Council’s leaders must beleive there’s a good reason to separate out glass bottles and jars from other recycling materials which presently all go into the Borough’s brown wheelie bins like paper, cardboard, plastic, tins etc. It must be a good reason, or at least I really hope it is, because it’s costing £1.7m to order 100,000 Everton or Manchester City coloured bins! But as I’ve not seen the background information I don’t know whether the move is a good or bad one and I say that as a committed environmentalist & recycler.

But what I do see is a communications disaster due to the lack of clear messaging from Sefton Council. And that takes me back some years to when I was Leader of Sefton Council and a certain Councillor David Tattersall was Cabinet Member for the Environment. David was in public relations professionally and he realised as soon as Sefton was moving towards separating household waste into non-recyclable and recyclable that public messaging was vital. If I recall correctly some of the popular national press were sending out messages at the time against wheelie bins so clearly getting messages out to residents in the Borough was going to be difficult; all but a propaganda war.

The point here is that David realised that proper timely messaging was important via mail shots and even sticky labels placed on wheelie bins together, of course, with carefully placed local newspaper adverts and news items. I also recall that David told me that officials were not too keen on his demands for messaging but he was not to be put off.

Councils so often do things to their residents rather than working with them, command and control management I suppose you could call it. But, of course, imposition breeds resentment and a lack of cooperation/buy-in in a democracy, especially where folk are subject to alternative views and ‘facts’, or should I say even fake news/opinion.

Now I also realise that people with small outside spaces will, almost as a matter of course, be far from chuffed to find room for yet another wheelie bin. I even know of a Sefton resident who hardly ever uses their recycling bin but who drives to a local recycling centre to dispose of glass items. And yes there’ll be folk who oppose recycling in any form because that’s their political stance you might say. So there was always going to be a section of the Sefton community who just don’t want more wheelie bins, be they blue or any other colour, and they may even send their new bin back. However, the vast majority of folk just want to know in straight forward terms what they are being asked to do and why it will be of benefit to the environment, their ability to recycle etc. etc.

But, if you don’t get a clear message out or you just rely on messaging via press articles don’t be surprised that folks start asking ‘what’s going on?’. Politicians all know that personal messaging is what voters are more likely to respond to positively, that’s why political parties will often address political propaganda to you at elections. Why do those same politicians not realise that similar messaging is required when it comes to important council communications?

And to put the tin lid on it, so to speak, it’s only just over a year since Sefton ceased collecting food waste and that service cessation suffered from poor communication too as my blog posting of the time made reference to:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/06/13/sefton-council-food-waste-collections-cease/

Iain Brodie Brown is new Mayor of Sefton Borough

I was delighted to see that Sefton Council had elected Iain as its new Mayor this week, not least because Iain is a friend of mine. I wanted to write up a personal tribute so here it is at the start of his mayoral year.

Iain with one of his daughters and grandchildren. Photo credit OTS news

Iain with one of his daughters and grandchildren. Photo credit OTS news

You meet all kinds of folks in politics as you do in life generally but Iain is one of those people who sticks out as being firm in terms of his guiding principles.

A Liberal through to his very core he is also well read in political and social history as readers of his occasional blog site – Birkdale FOCUS – will know .

During my time as Leader of the Lib Dem Group on Sefton Council and my 7 years as Leader of the Council (2004 – 2011) Iain was always there backing me along with David Tattersall, David Rimmer, Sue McGuire, Andrew Blackburn, Roy Connell and many others. I valued them all but Iain’s incisive political brain and his knowledge of political history both locally and nationally was always important to me.

When I stepped down as Group Leader Iain took up that role and I tried my best to support him until I came off the Council. Of course this was in very changed circumstances as Lib Dem fortunes were on a downward trend except in Lib Dem strongholds such as Southport. Reneging on Tuition Fees for example had hit the Party hard so Iain had a much more difficult political climate to operate in. But he did it with this usual confidence often being the most well informed councillor in council chamber debates.

Iain is also a long time campaigner for improvements for those facing mental health difficulties setting up his own company to provide care in this often neglected area of health provision. It is no surprise therefore that Iain will be promoting mental care issues during his mayoral year.

A fundamentally decent man whom I am sure will be a credit to the Borough of Sefton, I hope he and his lovely family have a great year.