Merseytravel – Are they delivering?

Well according to their Chairperson, Liam Robinson, they are.

I reported on OPSTA’s (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers assn) public meeting a few days ago which was actually held in the community room of Southport Fire Station of all places. That posting was about the utterly appalling train service, or indeed the complete lack of a train service last week, on the Ormskirk Preston Line and here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/11/23/northern-trains-could-the-ormskirk-preston-line-be-the-most-poorly-performing-in-the-uk/

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not blaming Liam Robinson in any way for Northern’s terrible performance but he listened to stories of Northern’s Failures at the meeting (he was our guest speaker) and because he has an influence on Rail North those sad stories were heard and you never know……….

I quite like Liam’s handling of transport issues on Merseyside and I feel he has been a positive influence on what to me seemed to be struggling public sector organisation before he took the chair of it. Yes, I know we live it terribly tribal party political times and I’m expected to hate anyone who is not a Lib Dem; well I don’t think in traditional British political tribal terms………

Stadler Class 777 – The new Merseyrail trains that will soon replace the Class 507/508 EMU’s

Cllr. Robinson presented his vision of how bus services could be improved in the Liverpool City Region (beyond the present Bus Alliance with Arriva and Stagecoach) and he talked in very enthusiastic terms about the Class 777 Stadler trains that Merseytravel have ordered for the Merseyrail network. Without being prompted he also made reference to the potential to extend Merseyrail Northern Line beyond Ormskirk to Burscough and even Preston although he was clear that he was not promising that it would happen. To be honest passengers on that line would welcome it being run using the Titfield Thunderbolt of Ealing Comedy fame as surely no one could run it as badly as Northern have been doing.

The other rail thing that he touched on and which is vital to expanding the Merseyrail system is the lack of capacity at Liverpool Central Station. If that issue is not seriously addressed in the near future there’s every possibility, in my view, that Merseyrail will be stuck with a bottle-neck which will impede the running of our local railway.

So yes I was pleased to sit and listen to Liam at the meeting and readers who have a liking for tribal politics will have to be disappointed with me.

Tribalism – I’m in the tribe so everything the tribal leaders do is OK by me

Politics is full of tribalism and the Labour Party wears its tribal loyalty like a badge of pride as an obvious example. I don’t think I will ever forget MP Andy Burnham making it clear that his party came first in a Labour Leadership hustings interview, only to be shouted down by one of his own (MP Liz Kendal) saying ‘Country first’.

But here in the UK we have always had a sneaking admiration for those who at face value are a part of tribe but who are actually mavericks with a mind of their own. MP Ken Clarke is an obvious non-tribal Tory who will kick out when he thinks his party is in the wrong. Of course Jeremy Corbyn MP made a name for himself by not supporting the Labour Leader of the day when he was a back bencher. It’s ironic that he’s now whipped Labour Remain MP’s to vote for Brexit and that the vast majority of them actually followed him down a Brexit road they do not believe in! That’s taking tribal loyalty far to far in my book.

As a Liberal I take the view that if my Lib Dem party tries to push me a certain way then by instinct my reaction can easily be to refuse. Liberals are by their very nature very hard to whip as they are free thinking individuals who coalesce around a common broad agenda.

But with the advent of Trump and his supporters we start to see a whole new and hugely troubling tribalistic agenda that his supports are fully signed up to. They don’t check whether what he says is right or wrong, they simply back it. They don’t actually care if it is right or wrong/truth or lie, if he says something/anything they want to hear. They will seemingly follow him anywhere he goes like the unthinking have followed despots across the world before. This is of course the road to fascism!

We all like to belong to groups that think like us but we do ourselves a great disservice by blindly following the crowd or the tribe and we believe/support everything our chosen or given leaders tell us.

You can’t be a a Liberal without questioning most things you come across, its a burden at times when siting back and repeating the propaganda of a leader is a lot easier.

Just look at this way who does trump rant against? The media, immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans etc. Who does he put in power? The powerful, the wealthy. people who disrespect our world environment, people who think like him.

Any leader who surrounds themselves with too many like thinking people is facing trouble as leaders need to be challenged by advisors not told they are wonderful.

As for Trump’s attacks on the media, yes of course some media outlets are utterly irresponsible. We saw it in the UK over Brexit – There was nothing some media outlets would not stop at to fuel prejudices that they had implanted in the minds of their readers over generations even though their ‘truth’ was obviously lies to anyone who looked behind the ranting headlines. BUT we are supposed to live in a free society with a free press. That means that the press can say things that are not true but they can be challenged by those who know the truth is being distorted. Trump only wants his ‘truth’ to be heard/printed not the ‘truth’ and that’s another step towards fascism.

Give tribalism the boot, it leads to despotism and fascism.

Did the Lib Dems hold back the worst excesses of the Tories?

www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/david-cameron-and-george-osborne-should-not-forget-the-lib-dems-know-where-the-bodies-are-buried-a6952641.html

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

I think even the most extreme Coalition hater (I await the rants to start) will concede that the answer to the question is yes especially as those worst Tory excesses are being played out now as there is no brake on the Tory right wing what so ever.

You see you have to try to see past the Clegg hating which for some, after his Tuition Fees U-turn, is all but impossible. To many voters if Nick Clegg said today was Monday they would automatically assume he was lying even if today was indeed Monday! What a legacy Nick has to live with.

But of course this Independent article makes some well informed comments, although it has to be said the electorate actually voted, under our utterly unrepresentative electoral system, for more right wing Tory policies in 2015. Well that was the effect if not really the intention because the Lib Dems were either battered for holding the Tories back or alternatively battered for not holding the Tories back enough. Only our first post the post electoral system (so loved by Tories and Labour) could deliver a new government of the Tory far right when more than 60% of the electorate was seemingly trying to create the opposite.

But to return to the Independent article, I was also taken by this quote from David Laws “The Lib Dem leader thought that a major weakness of both David Cameron and George Osborne was that they had little sympathy with or understanding of people on very low incomes, and were inclined to write them off politically as ‘not our voters’.”

Yes of course it sums up well how many Tories look at those less fortunate in our society but I have also heard Labour folk use a similar turn of phrase when talking about other matters. In other words if you come from a section of society or a place that does not return Labour MP’s/councillors why should we give a stuff about you.

It is of course pure tribalism and both Labour and Tories represent their own tribes and care little and indeed have great hatred for the other tribe. Sadly, UK politics is very much based on such appalling tribalism and that’s why we are in the mess that we are in.

With thanks to my spotter Jen Robertson

The Left – Every sect thinks it’s tribal way is the right way hence the Tories are in power more often than not

The left of British politics has always been factionalised with numerous socialist parties coming and going, the Labour Party often engaged in vicious internal warfare (as they are at present) and the Lib Dems, in recent years, having been pulled towards economic rather than social liberalism. Of course looking back a while the SDP also failed to ‘break the mould’ as it became split by the ‘Owen’ factor amongst other things.

The lack of unity on the left has always been a problem and our warped first past the post electoral system has also helped to put many Tory Governments in power who have nothing like majority popular support; just like the present one.

What beggars belief therefore is why when Labour have grabbed power for the odd short period they have not pursued electoral reform and a fair voting system. I suppose the last Labour government was too arrogant and thought their ‘New Labour’ guise would last and be popular for generations. Well it wasn’t so Labour went further to the right in opposition, even openly bashing the poor along the way. But as they became labeled Red Tories the electorate said stuff that we may as well have proper Tories.

The Lib Dems also discredited themselves by lying about Tuition Fees in 2010. Nick Clegg thought the electorate would forgive him. They didn’t. Indeed, because many of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 thought he was a straight forward chap whom they could trust his backing out of a clear promise caused them to drop him and his party like a stone. They expected other parties to tell porkies but having been persuaded the Lib Dems were trustworthy they turned against them big time. Rebuilding that lack of trust in the Lib Dems is probably Tim Farron’s biggest challenge.

The Greens tried lurching to left after 2010 and were the most socialist of the mainstream parties at the last general election but of course this move set their traditional environmentalist sect against an upstart socialist sect. Socialism and environmentalism have never sat comfortably together in my experience. Socialists on Merseyside that I have come across have always seemed to be very much disinterested in environmental issues.

But within the left there is at the heart of so many of its difficulties one major factor that causes the disunity which the Tories always benefit from. Many left wing sects think they are absolutely right and all other left wing sects are utterly wrong. Such tribalism then sets these sects against each other and the Tories win again whilst the left debates, often viciously, who is right and who is wrong. In differing ways I think that the emergence of the SDP and the rise of Tony Blair were reactions to the self destructive nature of the left.

The SDP failed and despite huge initial success Blair’s New Labour failed because he wandered to far right, got involved in the appalling Iraq war and probably laid the foundations for Labour to be cat called ‘Red Tories’.

The real danger that the left faces now is that we could have a seriously right wing Tory Party in power for a generation with UKIP effectively pulling their levers. Is this not enough of a nightmare to sober up the left of British politics?

Women in politics – Jen Robertson checks out Caron Lindsay

On the subject of women in politics, which I am, there’s a Lib Dem who seems to be making very good sense – see link below to Lib Dem Voice:-

www.libdemvoice.org/its-the-tories-stoopid-47434.html

I read a few of her other blogs and she seems to have a better head on her shoulders than many far more well known politicians.

“When we disagree, and there’s plenty of potential for that when it comes to the economy and foreign affairs particularly, we should do so by highlighting our liberal values rather than demonising Corbyn.

The SNP needs to do more than get the popcorn & plan Indpendence referendum II, Labour needs to give up habit of a lifetime & quit the toxic factional in-fighting, sense of entitlement to power and tribal hatred of anyone who isn’t them.

As for the Liberal Democrats, we just need to make sure that we are authentically and instinctively liberal in our responses to things. We should not be painstakingly calculating which centimetres of space we should be inhabiting on the political spectrum. We should be boldly advancing a radical and reforming liberal agenda, tackling vested interests wherever we find them. If we can avoid phrases like the meaningless centre ground, then so much the better.”

Somebody put that woman on a policy panel!

Lydiate – First impressions of a Parish Council under Labour

I mentioned the rather odd matter of the Champion newspaper reporting on the election of a new Lydiate Parish Chairman 6 days before it actually happened recently but here are some further impressions of Labour running a parish council.

cropped-Lydiate-Parish-Council-Logo-e1372273297819

Party political? Very much so and it led my colleague Cllr. Mark Courtney to point that out only a few minutes into the first meeting with Labour in charge. He had not seen the Council being used for party political advantage before and did not care for it.

But what was Mark getting at? Well on arriving at Lydiate Village Centre we were told we could not go into the meeting room until 7pm because the Labour Group were having a pre-meeting. Shades of what goes on at Maghull Town Council here, a pre-meeting (to decide what will happen at the public meeting?) and it does not shine our democratic processes in a good light at all! By the way I do hope that Labour will be paying for the hire of the room.

When it came to appointing a councillor to act as Parish Press Liaison it very quickly became apparent that it was going to be a party political position i.e. one to glorify the Labour Party. I made my views known and was attacked for the Lib Dems allegedly making Lydiate Parish Council political! What was meant was that the new Labour members thought that we had been the first political party to stand for the Parish Council so therefore we had started the party politicalisation of Lydiate. Well no we were not and clearly Labour members need to learn about the history of the council they have just got control of.

In fact Lydiate has had Labour members before, up until the early 1980’s I recall and it has also had Conservative and independents members. It has even had a member not so long ago who is now a Labour member of West Lancs Borough Council. Lib Dems making Lydiate PC party political? Get your local history right please Labour.

But what these two incidents said to me was that Labour were saying ‘our way or no way’. They were exhibiting that all too obvious tribalism that I have mentioned in previous posts on this web site.

Labour did not seem to be able to grasp that when former Cllr. Dave Russell held the press liaison role for Lydiate PC he did not use it to glorify the Lib Dems and that he simply reported the facts in a straight forward way. In Dave’s day we did not learn about what the Parish Council had done in the paper before the Council had actually discussed the matter. And I say that as I found it to be exactly what happened on Maghull Town Council when Labour took control. The number of times I read in the Champion newspaper what the Town Council was up to when as a Council member I had no idea before seeing the article.

Lydiate PC has always been inclusive no matter who was a member of it, now it seems to be going down the line of being exclusive i.e. if you are not a Labour member of it some things will go on in the background that you know nothing much of, if anything, at all. I would very much like to be proved wrong here I would add.

I suppose all this shows why we Liberals have such a different approach to politics from Labour. It’s not a socialism V liberalism issue its more that the Labour Party is very much a tribal organisation that simply does not grasp or want to grasp that their secret, exclusive way of running a council is wrong. They don’t understand our open inclusive approach to matters although they often talk about openness as though only their interpretation of it can be right.

Labour are all about power and control over councils and community organisations. Empowerment is pretty much a dirty word to them except if people are empowered on Labour’s terms and conditions.

I am sure we will soon read all kinds of stories in the Champion newspaper about how Labour have done this, that or the other for Lydiate and how terrible previous non-Labour councillors were. We have of course been around this circle once before locally with Maghull Town Council.

Oh and one final thing, it looks like Lydiate under Labour will be leaning on Maghull Labour for support and guidance. Bearing in mind that Maghull Labour lean on Bootle Labour for the same thing will they soon be implementing the wishes of Bootle Labour in the Parish of Lydiate? Not so much empowerment more centralisation of power in Bootle which is a process that has been going on for some time now across the Borough of Sefton under Labour rule. Pretty soon it could even be centralisation of power in Liverpool if Liverpool’s Labour Mayor gets his way under the Tory Government’s guidance and we end up with a Mersey Metro Mayor!

And what does this mean for Lydiate? Time will tell but the indications from the first meeting of Lydiate PC under Labour is that the Labour Party will always come first and everything else second.