Blair – Progressive but authoritarian

Tony Blair is a man much disliked particularly within Labour Party circles but, without doubt, he has been the most progressive PM the UK has had in many generations. Yes, I know that’s not saying a great deal because all the other PM’s who have won General Elections, have been Conservatives.

The left and particularly those who are within Labour’s fold seem to hate Blair with about as much passion as they hate Thatcher. This has long intrigued me not least because all the other elected PM’s, as I said, in recent times have been Conservative and therefore regressive of political nature.

Why does the left despise Tony Blair so much?

Readers of this blog site will know that I’m no supporter of Blair or indeed Labour as both are generally too right-wing and authoritarian for me. As a Social Liberal, I certainly don’t see myself as a centrist or a moderate, more as someone who is of the left but not a socialist. Having said that, I am happy to acknowledge that Blair is the nearest thing we have had to a progressive winning elections and sitting in No.10 because for me it’s a statement of fact. Yes, he was too moderate, too centrist, too authoritarian and not progressive enough for my political taste and of course he fouled up hugely over Iraq but having said all that he is still the most progressive PM to win general elections in many a year.

Listening to Labour folk talk about Blair over the years I think the reason they dislike him is due to his perceived middle-classness. With Labour very much a class-based party being working class is very important to them. And how many times have I mentioned the Labour Group on Sefton Council launching into a chorus of ‘we are old Labour’ whenever Blair or New Labour came up in a council meeting whilst TB was PM; it must have meant a lot to them to need to be seen to distancing themselves from their own party in government. The odd part of all this is I’ve rarely if ever heard Labour members chuntering about Blair because of Iraq. You see to those of us lefties who are not within the Labour fold that was his greatest foul-up.

I’m also guessing that being anti-Blair is something those within the Labour Party have to be for them to have credibility, so there’s probably a fashion in Blair-slagging even from those Labour members who have a sneaking but unspoken liking for him and his governments.

Do I like Blair? No, not really, he often comes across to me as rather superior and irritating to listen to. Having said that he sometimes has well thought out progressive things to say and at times I’ll say Blair is right. Trouble is most Labour folks cover their eyes and put their figures in their ears whenever Blair appears on the TV.

Blair’s Government called it both right and wrong over Sefton’s Council Housing

One of his government’s unnecessarily authoritarian moves affected the Borough of Sefton and in particular its council housing stock and it shows how Blair could be good and bad at the same time. He was spot on when it came to realising that council/social housing across the UK was not up to standard so his government devised a policy called Decent Homes Standard. Sefton Council was in the frame for a big chunk of his government’s money to bring its council housing up to this new standard BUT, in a typically Labour move, they took the view that the council was not the appropriate body to get the work done. They demanded, as my friend and former Borough Councillor Geoff Howe recently pointed out, that the Council transfer its council housing stock over to a housing association or there’d be no money provided to bring Sefton’s council housing up to the new Decent Homes Standard. It sounded to me like blackmail then and it still does now. It led to Sefton having to ballot its council house tenants over such a transfer, which on the first ballot they refused but then agreed to via a 2nd ballot.

I never quite got why the council would not be an appropriate body to get the work done; did Blair’s government think Sefton would take the money and use it unwisely? It certainly showed a lack of trust in the council in my view yet there’d been no previous fall-outs with them before they took what I saw as an unnecessarily authoritarian position; a position which led directly to a new housing association having to be set up to deliver the Decent Homes Standard with both land and housing needing to be transferred to it. I still think the whole saga was a waste of time and resources because it also meant that Sefton Council no longer had control over its social housing stock. It was a ‘we in Westminster know what’s best for Sefton and if you don’t agree there’s no money to do up your council houses’ position and it was ridiculous authoritarian micro-management. I don’t have a problem with housing associations, I might add, it’s just that in Sefton’s case it was simply an unnecessary requirement to have to create one in my view.

So yes I have big issues with Blair both nationally and locally but whichever way you cut it he is still the most progressive politician to win the PM’s seat in General Elections for far too many years. On that basis can I suggest that hounding Blair for his failures whilst not being willing to acknowledge his generally progressive position on a number of important social issues is counter-productive as the alternative has always been a Tory one!

Switch Island – Too complex and the junction with Brooms Cross Road does not work

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-42946503

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

During my time as a Sefton Councillor I was involved in pretty much all the activities which eventually led to the building of Brooms Cross Road.

It all started with us marching through Thornton to try to get the new road project back on the agenda of Sefton Council. It had previously fallen off that agenda with the demise of what was then called the ‘Blue Route’. That former project would have seen a great deal of tree loss through Ince Woods and it fell pretty much for that reason. Here’s a couple of photos of us marching back around the turn of the century:-

Cllr. Geoff Howe and a young me on this shot marching with Thornton residents. My placard says ‘83% of Thornton residents want a relief road’.

Thornton residents marching to get the new road built.

The campaign gathered momentum and we managed to get all-party support for the new road (without damaging the woods) on the then balanced Sefton Council where no one party had a majority. Then I went, as Sefton Leader, to try to gain support from regional governmental bodies which existed at the time but are now defunct. We got that support.

I’ve read recently that some folks think that Sefton Council was asked to make a financial contribution to the project late on. In fact Sefton was always putting money into the project, indeed it was the promoter of the new road knowing full well it was going to have to put money in the pot.

The junction of the road with Switch Island has of course been the big issue especially as so many accidents have occurred there since the new road has been open and connected to an already complex junction.

Photo taken during the construction of Brooms Cross Road This is the Switch Island end of the yet to be completed road

I recall being shown a computer programme by the Highways Agency (now called Highways England) which predicted traffic flows and how they would change with the new road in place. I must admit to being sceptical at the time but the professional engineers said they had taken account of all the issues and that the plan would fly. It didn’t.

With the benefit of hindsight and the experience of watching what goes on at Switch Island my view is that the junction is simply too complex. What I mean by this is that new or irregular drivers encountering it have a bewildering array of signs and road markings to take on board. Unsurprisingly, they get things wrong and then have to swing across lanes, often without the due care required. Add into this the small minority of irresponsible regular users who expect to be able to fly through the junction at high speed (often running red lights) then you have a heady brew and accidents are always going to be on the cards.

The new lane indicator lights are innovative but how much they will actually help is yet to be seen. What I can’t get my head around is why speed/red light cameras were not been installed a long time ago. Surely dropping the vehicle approach speeds and taking the manic red light running out via such cameras would dramatically reduce the accidents, would it not?

Does Switch Island need fly-overs? Well yes it does and it has needed them for a long time now. Surely A5036/Dunningsbridge Rd docks trucks should be able to access the M58 without having to negotiate the island/junction and the same with traffic coming off the M57 wanting to travel down Brooms Cross Road.

And a final thought, beware of those promising to sort out Switch Island because with increased traffic it may only get worse, especially if no speed/red light cameras are installed.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Maghull’s Independent Councillor re-launches NHS Walk-In Centre Campaign

Below is my press release to the Aintree & Maghull Champion in support of Cllr. Matt Gannon’s campaign

Former Sefton Council Leader backs NHS Walk-In Centre Campaign for Maghull

Former Lib Dem Sefton Council Leader Tony Robertson is throwing his support behind Independent Cllr. Matt Gannon’s push to get an NHS Walk-In Centre in Maghull.

Says Tony “We fought but sadly lost this battle once before so I am pleased that Matt is giving it another go.

Back a few years ago local councillors led by former Sefton Lib Dem Cllr. Geoff Howe put South Sefton and then the merged Sefton Primary Care Trust under a lot of pressure to deliver an NHS Walk-In Centre in Maghull to serve the East Parishes part of the Borough. We made progress and were told that Maghull Health Centre was to be rebuilt, that a Walk-In facility would likely be included and that the money for the project had been allocated. But when we made the information public the NHS ran for the hills, denied it all and subsequently did nothing about rebuilding the Health Centre.

We were badly let down and were also told by the NHS that Litherland Walk-In facility (in the old Litherland Town Hall) was meant to provide a service to the East Parishes communities of Lydiate, Aintree Village, Melling and Maghull. Trouble is the public transport connections to it from our part of the Borough are appalling so those without cars can’t access it.

I wish Matt well as Labour, who took all 9 local council seats on Sefton Council, did nothing to progress the campaign and it has taken the election of a non-Labour councillor to get the fight back on track.”

*****ENDS*****

Cllr. Tony Robertson
Lib Dem member of Lydiate Parish Council
28th July 2016

Maghull Nostalgia – Before the Meadows Zebra Crossing & Roundabout

Here’s a bit of local history with a road safety theme.

Long-term Maghull residents will know that there has not always been a Zebra Crossing and mini-roundabout at the junction of Hall Lane and Liverpool Road South by the Meadows shops and pub.

Before - Late 1980's at the Meadows corner with no Zebra Crossing or mini-roundabout. Geoff Howe and fellow campaigners Sandra Morgan and Andrew Blackburn are in shot.

Before – Late 1980’s at the Meadows corner with no Zebra Crossing or mini-roundabout. Geoff Howe and fellow campaigners Sandra Morgan and Andrew Blackburn are in shot.

This meant that pedestrians trying to cross the road and vehicles exiting Hall Lane were at quite a disadvantage. Sadly there were a number of accidents at the junction, which is on a sharp bend. The final straw was a youngster being run over and a campaign was launched to get the junction made safer. The lead campaigner was a certain Geoff Howe who’s daughter had been knocked down. Fortunately his daughter recovered but Geoff was determined to get some action taken by Sefton Council.

After - Zebra Crossing and mini-roundabout in place thanks to Geoff Howe's campaigning.

After – Zebra Crossing and mini-roundabout in place thanks to Geoff Howe’s campaigning.

AFTER - a 2nd after shot. Just look how the shops behind have changed.

AFTER – a 2nd after shot. Just look how the shops behind have changed.

Of course he won, with the backing of Maghull Town Council, and subsequently Geoff became a Town Councillor and Sefton Borough Councillor, ending his time as a councillor as Mayor of Maghull.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.