Thursday, 27 March 2008

The day approaches....

No not election day - my second date with BBC's Mastermind programme.

The recording is at the end of May and I am into revision mode.

This is a pleasure to do, as my specialist subject this time is the TV show Seinfeld and watching and rewatching the episodes is actually very relaxing.


Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Funders Fair information

I've posted below some information about a Funders Fair which is taking place in Garston next week. Having worked in fundraising, I know just how time consuming it can be getting all the information about the various organisations and their criteria. So this is a great way of making good use of that time.

Anyway.. its on 1 April and is organised by the Garston and District Community Council.

Press Release



Garston and District Community Council is pleased to invite you to a Funders Fair on:

Tuesday 1st April 2008 between 10.00am and 3.00pm
in the
Aylward Room and adjoining rooms, the Bridge Chapel Centre
Heath Road (off Mather Avenue) Allerton

This is an informal event so community and voluntary groups can drop in any time during the day to discuss informally funding opportunities and support available to complete applications

Funding and support organisations who will be at the event are:

Community Foundation Merseyside Liverpool Charity and Volunteer Services

Big Lottery Merseyside Disability Federation Hemby Trust

Eleanor Rathbone Charitable Trust Liverpool Culture Company

Company Sheila Kay Fund South Liverpool PCT COMTECHSA

Refreshments and hot food can be obtained reasonably priced from the Bistro within the building. The Bridge Chapel Centre has full disabled access and ample free car parking to the rear of the building, sign posted as you drive into the centre grounds of Heath Road

If you have any questions or are unsure how to get to the centre please call Dave Hunt 0151-427-5308, email Madeline Evans 0151-427-5307

Somali problems

The fact that starvation in Somalia is in the news again today is shameful.

But it is also an indictment of the way news is reported.

Some time ago I worked for Save the Children. We helped run a computer programme which did something called Riskmapping. Basically it was a pretty sophisticated way of predicting where there would be areas of food pressure or famine. It had all sorts of data in it, including material about coping strategies in different regions etc.

Because of this, and because of anecdotal reports from staff in the field, it was often possible to publish or broadcast warnings. Obviously these all went to various international and national bodes, but we would also want to get this information into the news media as that can often be a way of raising the issue and the money to avoid catastrophe.

My experience when trying to do this was two fold.

Firstly, if any other African country had been in the news recently, editors would use that as a reason not to cover the warning story. When you think how big the continent is.. and the fact that the other story may well have been nothing to do with food security (south african politics for example) its a pretty poor reason.

But, and more shamefully, the reply we often got was that the story couldn't be covered yet because the famine hadn't started! Given that we were trying to do something to prevent it, that is a particularly annoying thing to hear. The sad fact is that if you don't have pictures of very thin people, or mass migration.. or you don't have babies crying from hunger, it is hard to get the coverage. And so that potential element of the early warning is lost.

Now I realise that a story saying famine can be averted, or at least ameliorated if x or y is done is not as compelling as one about actual starvation. But maybe every now and then we ought to sacrifice the most "compelling" story decision for one that will make a difference.

Just a thought.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

The three who never speak

The agenda for the next City Council Executive Board includes a major report on regeneration in Garston. Its part of a long term plan which has been being worked on for years and includes decisions about use of money for a number of projects, including some on St Mary's Road in Garston. The Lib Dems had already said they wanted this project to proceed, but the exec board paper is effectively the formal decision process for this. I cannot stress too much what a major thing this is for the area.

As ever with proposals like this that go to the executive, local councillors covering the relevant area are asked to comment on it. This consultation informs the decision making process.

But yet again the three Labour Councillors who cover the area haven't bothered to respond (and given that responding means sending a letter or e mail or making one phone call it's hardly a big ask).

I remain bemused as to how they spend their time.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Award winning garden - Heydean

Out for a spot of early (well early ish) morning delivery today. I had known that the residents in Heydean had won a Britain in Bloom award some time ago for their communal garden. But I hadn't realised just how nice it is. It was so tempting just to wander out and sit in the garden rather than run up and down the stairs. But then my protestant work ethic came into play and I did the leaflets. Maybe I can sit in the garden next time.

Election briefing

Last night saw me at the Town Hall along with a group of other candiate/agent/organisers from different political parties for the annual returning officer's briefing on the rules surrounding the election process. David Kidger has this down to a fine art. So he should being something of an expert on elections. He is frequently consulted on arrangements all over the world.

Nothing much new, but it was good to be reminded about some of the rules surrounding the form filling.

A bit of a debate about rules about the boxes that get put outside the polling stations (for those outside Liverpool these seem to replace tellers). Personally I would ban the boxes. They are a real pain just at the point when you are very tired. And actually I think the data within them has become pretty suspect. But I appear to hold a minority view on this.

Interesting to see that the Green party opted to receive all the electoral roll stuff on paper whereas the rest of us went for CDs!

And the BNP's interest in carrying out citizens arrests if they don't like your leaflet was a tad worrying. I can tell them now they won't like mine!

Monday, 17 March 2008

Looking into Iraq decisions

If the Independent is right.. Gordon Brown has said there will be a full public inquiry into Iraq. He has also said the time is't yet right.

Good news if it actually happens.

Vote for my mates.. or else

Government minister Andy Burnham has rather crossed a line I think.

Visiting Liverpool for various ministerial engagements -including the opening of the re vamped Bluecoat arts centre in his position as culture minister - he also spoke at a business breakfast.

Nothing wrong with that in itself.

But it's what he chose to say.

The full story is on the Daily Post website but you can sum it up as.....

vote for my mates in the Labour party here as the government always gives a better deal to Labour Councils.

Whenever others have said that Manchester gets a better deal because the Government is politically partial when it comes to Cities, I have always felt a bit dubious.

But here we have it from the horses mouth.

Government Ministers, particularly those with involvement in funding decisions, are obliged in their official life not to be partial. So either Mr Burnham has been very poorly reported, or he was way over a line, or he was not acting as a minister (but then I suspect Liverpool business people would not turn up simply to hear an MP from Leigh)

Either way, I do hope that he can show that his travelling to and from the event, and any speech preparatione etc, was not funded by Parliament or the ministry and did not involve his ministerial transport or staff in any way whatsoever. Perhaps someone ought to enquire.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Delivering again...

A few days off delivery (my broken leg a few years ago healed but every now and then the ankle decides to play up - which it did this week.

Feeling a bit better today so managed to deliver some leaflets for Cllr Elaine Allen, the hard working Lib Dem in St Michael's ward.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Graduate jobs?

The front page story in todays Daily Post is about a lack of "graduate level" jobs for those young people completing their degrees. Apparently there are considerable numbers who end up taking jobs for which a degree is "not needed" and there is some debate about whether we ought to be encouraging quite so many young people to do a degree.

Well, as someone who is employed as a University Lecturer I clearly have a vested interest. But I do think that the marketing of degrees as a way to get a good job has gone a bit too far.

Obviously there are subjects like law and medicine which are clearly aimed at producing people to work as lawyers or doctors. And there are other subjects, like journalism and the one I teach on - PR - which aim to give graduates a chance to get jobs in those professions.

But a degree should never be just about the job market.

My degree is in Philosophy. And let's face it you don't see many job ads in the Guardian for Philosophers. But I gained a huge amount - in intellectual development, high level thinking skills, the ability to research independently etc - from my degree. And it also demonstrated that I had the ability to pursue something at a particular level over a period of time and succeed in it.

And that's what doing a degree should be about. I remember one particular school teacher who said to me that the important thing wasn't learning all the scientific formulae ( a good job as I was useless at chemistry) but learning to think for yourself, to find things out and to develop a life long ability to learn. She was dead right.

Now however we have a situation in which young people are told that they must do a degree to get a job, while racking up loads of debt along the way. No wonder there is some disappointment when the job market is not as easy as had been implied.

I put a lot of time into working with students to help them develop those extra skills and accomplishments that will make them stand out from other graduates. And they will - they are bright young people who know about going the extra mile.

But we must never see degree courses as simply three years preparation for the world of work. They are about a lot more than that.

Grants for groups!

This looks like a good thing (pasted below) if you run a sports club, or an organisation doing some sport in Liverpool. I haven't pasted on the form as it'll make it far too long - but there is a weblink and a phone number towards the end. The application deadline is the 30th April.


Liverpool Sports Forum, in conjunction with Liverpool Sport & Physical Activity Alliance, is able to make grant awards to clubs and voluntary groups to assist them in providing sport and physical activity opportunities for local people. In order to qualify the organisation must fulfil the following criteria.

Be based within the City of Liverpool (and draw the majority of members/participants from within Liverpool) and have an open membership policy.

Be a club or voluntary group from which no individuals make a financial gain.

The group must have a constitution and bank account with a minimum of two signatories.

Your organisation has not received a LSF grant in the past 12 months. Clubs or groups seeking a second grant should not request funding for the same purpose as detailed in the first award.

Be able to deliver your project and fully expend any grant award by 31 March 2009 at the latest.

All applications will be expected to meet the following priorities in order to be considered for funding:

The project must demonstrate how it will create new sports opportunities and attract new participants into sport.
All sports clubs applying must demonstrate how they will use the grant to work towards achieving governing body club accreditation (Clubmark, FA Charter Mark or equivalent) if they have not achieved this status already.

Grants of between £500 and £2500 can be provided to assist clubs and voluntary groups in the following areas:-

Training coaches, officials or volunteers
Production of publicity material
Payment of coaches
Facility hire
Organising taster sessions for schools or local community groups
Establishing new teams or activities
Obtaining professional advice
Organising events

(*Please note we do not fund football kits. You can now apply to the Football Foundation for new kits

How to apply

Complete the attached form and return it to LSF Grants, Sport and Recreation Service, Everton Park Lifestyles, Great Homer Street, Liverpool, L5 5PH by 30th April 2008. The application form is available electronically from - electronically completed applications are encouraged.

Applications must be supported with details of suppliers and prices for equipment and services (eg quote, price list, estimate).

Your application must be supported by a copy of your constitution and three bank statements (from within the last 3 months).

LSF grants are up to a maximum of £2500.

Once we have received your application the request will be considered by a Grants Panel made up of members of Liverpool Sports Forum Executive Committee and officers of Liverpool City Council (Sport & Recreation Service).

We will try to give you a decision within 28 days of receiving your application.

For further information or guidance contact 0151 233 6336 or 0151 233 4217.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Bluecoat Reopens!

The brilliant Bluecoat Arts Centre, in the centre of Liverpool, is to have a grand re opening this weekend - after a considerable amount of building work.

This(below) from the Centre's website.

Opening programme revealed
On Saturday 15 March 2008, after a £12.5m redevelopment, the Bluecoat will throw open its doors to the public for the first time since early 2005. A full programme of Visual Art, Live Art, Dance, Music, Literature, Family and Heritage events has now been announced with events from March - May, including the opening weekend available to view.

As well as the huge celebratory opening weekend, highlights of the opening programme include the first exhibition to be held in the stunning new galleries Now Then, a live performance by Yoko Ono in April, literary events from Jeanette Winterson and Tom Paulin, a festival of the best new Live Art Happenstance, including Franko B and Rajni Shah. There will be music highlights from the Steve Reid Ensemble, local band's band of choice Clinic and Grime Godfather Wiley.

Conference over

A great speech from Nick Clegg at the end of the Lib Dem Spring conference yesterday.

Actually it wasn't the end for quite a few delegates and MPs as they went out delivering leaflets in quite a few parts of the City for us.

So big thanks to those who helped... and sorry to those who got rained on!

It was interesting to see how the Convention Centre works. The staff were really helpful and we had a record attendance at this conference so they probably had more people to deal with than expected. In his end of conference thanks, Simon Hughes said the staff at the conference hotel - the Crowne Plaza -were the most helpful of any conference hotel he had been to - so huge praise for them too.

The party is looking at coming back to Liverpool. I hope so.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

National honour for local member

Great news. One of our long standing members - Akbar Ali MBE - has been up on the platform at conference to get a long service award from Party President Simon Hughes MP. Really good to see Akbar honoured this way. He is a member in Cressington ward, and Garston and Halewood Constituency - so I know him well.

Now if we are to do the double, we need Ken McKelvie to get a President's award at the regional conference next week - I nominated Ken after overcoming his modesty. Ken is another long standing member - also Cressington ward - who needs to have his work recognised.

fingers crossed!

Conference and Campaigning

I love party conference.. but I love campaigning too (well when the dogs are absent).

Have just finished a session carrying out a residents survey - and am now off to the convention centre. A bit footsore but then that's an activist's occupational hazard.

Conference rally last night

Our Lib Dem Spring Conference kicked off last night at the new Liverpool Arena and Convention Centre - with a reception and rally. Nick Clegg spoke really well - and I think the other star of the evening was Carole Woods from Durham - PPC and councillor. I am sure she'll be one of our future MPs.

Later went to the awards ceremony run by the Local Government Association. Mike Storey picked up a special award there.

Friday, 7 March 2008


So a Lib Dem Councillor has defected to Labour today.

I am not one of those who thinks all defections are bad. In some cases people genuinely wrestle with their concience and it is a slow and painful process. These people on the whole defect quietly.

What sticks in my craw is when someone callously plans an event, deceiving a lot of innocent bystanders on the way.

Today Beatrice Frankel tells us that she decided to defect in January. Its obvious to me that she waited till today to create a media stunt. But in between January and today she has e mailed committed party members claiming to want to carry on being involved, come to meetings etc. What on earth are they to think now? I have just had to spend some time with one elderly gentleman who is deeply upset that not only was he lied to, she could not even be bothered to contact him personally to explain what she was doing. I suppose talking to the "little people" is a bit much when you have a date with the Liverpool Echo!

Now I have no problem with Beatrice joining the Labour party. I have known for some years that she was moving that way. What I have a problem with is the way she has disregarded people's feelings (not mine I am pretty shockproof these days) in order to advance herself.

Interestingly she told the Roger Phillips programme that she will be a Labour candidate in May. Not in Cressington, she says, as there is already a candidate.

I wonder where then as I would imagine most wards have a Labour candidate already, and those that don't would involve the sort of work that would not appeal. So if you are a Labour candidate I recommend you speak to your leader today to make sure it is not you who is in the firing line.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Still on call in Garston!

I was stopped, very early this morning on the way to the bus stop, by a neighbour wanting to raise a problem. He knew I wasn't his councillor any more but had pretty much given up hope of the existing ones replying to him. I said I'd be more than happy to help. Had quite a chat about things. He's the second one this week - earlier I took a phone call from someone in a similar situation. Well not being elected didn't stop me wanting to help. But you do wonder what those who were elected actually do with their time.

Child Poverty figures

The government it seems is not even close to meeting its pledge to halve child poverty by 2010.

The pledge was made back in 1999 and according to a study by MPs its likely to be missed by close to one million. Mind you if the figures included housing costs when looking at family incomes the miss would be greater - around 1.6 million (and surely when we are talking about poverty, housing costs are significant).

The MPs report is published by the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

When I worked at Save the Children and NCH I was very involved in issues around child poverty. I did a lot of interviewing of parents and children and helped with PR work to highlight the issues. I never failed to go away deeply upset at how the families were struggling to cope, and angry that the system seemed to have them trapped. In many cases a relatively small amount of material help would have made a huge difference.

But alongside that material poverty there was often another sort which to my mind is just as bad because of the way it limits people. That's poverty of ambition or aspiration. And you'd often find it ran through "leadership" figures in communities like teachers, doctors, ministers. I think one of the cruellest things you can do to a child is to tell it - whether directly or indirectly - that people from their area don't go on and succeed, that people from their area should restrict their ambitions to certain sorts of jobs. It's a self fulfilling prophesy.

We need to tackle the material poverty. But equally we need to tackle the poverty of ambition too. I suspect dealing with the second problem is harder.. but will pay more dividends in the end

Youth Live issue three.......

is out later this week. Hooray. The young people, and some of the slightly older ones, are having a bit of a celebration on Thursday.

Mind you work is already underway on articles etc for issue 4.

We are always looking for young people interested in getting involved. If you are, or you know someone who is, do get in touch

We are looking to cover Merseyside in general - not just Liverpool.

The website is at

Monday, 3 March 2008

Hang my head in shame!

This month's Lib Dem conference will see the first Gender Balance award for female bloggers.

But did I make the cut? Did I heck!

Mind you I suspect mindlessly losing a whole year's posts in an attempt at clever editing didn't help.

I have voted for Linda Jack who is outspoken and clear - although quite frankly all the shortlisted women have great blogs.

Memo to self - must do better!

Too young for shakespeare?

This morning's Today Programme carried a report on how the RSC wants to encourage more primary schools to do Shakespeare.

I certainly didn't come across any Shakespeare until secondary school, and then it was Midsummer Nights Dream - which seems to be the one most commonly used with children.

But I am sure I could have understood some of it at a younger age.

Last year I went along to Banks Road School in Garston for their annual Shakespeare performance.

This is a primary school. But every year they do something from the bard and on that occasion they were doing Hamlet.

I have to say that on the way there I had worried whether Hamlet would be too difficult. But with a few cuts (and I mean a few) they did it brilliantly.

So let's hope the RSC will be able to persuade more primaries to follow Banks Road's lead.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Delivering in Kensington

Off to Kensington this morning to deliver leaflets with a team plus Lib Dem Councillor Frank Doran. Got lots done. Frank is very recognisable and was stopped for chats by quite a few people. He had to shoot off to do his councillors surgery - but we went for what must be one of the best value cafe breakfasts in Liverpool. Hope I get given that area again