At 500 days to go hope still remains!

On a November Friday evening in the City of Liverpool a group of North West MPs, MEPs, Councillors and concerned members of the public met to discuss the huge issue of Brexit. Alison McGovern MP, Maria Eagle MP, Julie Ward MEP, Louise Ellman MP and Theresa Griffin MEP attended from the Labour Party. Liverpool City Councillors Richard Kemp of the Liberal Democrats and Tom Crone of the Green Party also participated.

The panel was chaired by Michael Dougan, Professor of EU Law at the University of Liverpool. Michael has shared concise videos online surrounding the referendum and since.

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The government may like us to think the country has come together to support the Leave direction, but there is much evidence to say this would be to the detriment of the country. This is also an attempt to keep the Conservative Party together by rallying to an extreme faction, words mirrored by some of the panel.

Alison McGovern, MP for Wirral South began with the ironic words of Brexit Secretary, David Davis that in a democracy you can change your mind. As the lies and approach of Theresa May’s government continues to unravel there was consensus this may be sooner rather than later. Maria Eagle, MP for Garston and Halewood spoke about how close the Conservative government is to falling apart with a possible election on the horizon. Julie Ward MEP for the North West spoke about constituents’ concerns regarding immigration which can be challenged in the right way.

Cllr Richard Kemp shared his story about his neighbours being from all over Europe and the world. This helps to showcase the city being open and tolerant.

The questions and answers covered the Brexit Withdrawal Bill, a possible second vote, the Northern Irish border with the Republic of Ireland, likely independence for Scotland and fascist similarities in words and actions of the current government. Prof Dougan himself spoke of the current government being proto-fascist in the context of the Henry VIII powers, giving them more control. This especially comes following the letter from MP Chris Heaton-Harris to University Vice Chancellors concerning whose lectures cover Brexit.

The clock is ticking with around 500 days to go until the date Theresa May has set for officially leaving the European Union. This is not a done deal however, as many stumbling blocks exist within parliament; votes in both houses, and changing public opinion will make a difference to the final outcome of the referendum. There is always hope that the UK will not turn its back on the 70 years of peace we have had since the end of Second World War. As quite a poignant thought at the time of Armistice Day, we should not forget all we have achieved together.

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Are we there yet?

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The phrase “a week is a long time in politics” attributed to Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson is as relevant as ever. The 1960’s may be long gone but the words still hold sway in our times of Brexit and volatility.  The last week alone gave us much discussion over the speech in Florence, the German election, the Labour conference, and now the Bombardier tariff row with the US.

If a week is a long time then the fifteen months since the referendum can seem like a lifetime. The red bus with a certain multi-million pound figure pasted on the side is still vivid however. Imagine this nightmare analogy with Theresa May as its driver and the rest of the cabinet squabbling behind crying “are we there yet”? Boris Johnson would then be trying to become the back street driver. Would more issues with trade deals and lack of clarity over what is next bring the bus to the edge of the white cliffs of Dover? Let us all hope the brakes are ready!

It appears the foreign secretary may be playing his own games as well as wanting to drive the red bus of Brexit. Calls for him to be sacked from the position continue to surface. Most recently there has been an accusation of breaking ministerial code, as reported in the Independent. Allowing a hard Brexit event at the Foreign Office is an abuse of position in technical terms. Worries over its undertones surrounding The Institute for Free Trade wanting to roll back EU regulations may give Teresa May another headache. Possibly even another walking holiday with time to think what should be done next.

The Conservative cabinet appears every day more broken and imploding like the wooden namesake. Maybe it’s the toxicity of the DExEU? It does seem to be loosing staff, and maybe best to avoid at all costs! A high profile loss would be ex-chief of staff James Chapman, who now through social media backs remaining in the EU. Chapman also describes himself as a recovering daily mail political editor and George Osborne’s right hand man. Admiration should be given to showing courage to admit you were wrong under mounting evidence.  Many more could switch sides in the months ahead as progress continues to unravel.

Remain voters crying out in despair at the supposed lack of fight left from the two main parties shouldn’t lose hope. Jeremy Corbyn may be stuck in his ways but London Mayor Sadiq Khan has hinted he would press for a commitment to a further national vote. This came after Kezia Dugdale, Labour’s former leader in Scotland, said the public had the right to have its say in a second referendum. Many out there still feel no Brexit deal would be struck that will be good enough for the country as a whole. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has also told reporters in Brussels that “clarity” had been reached on a number of issues following the Florence speech. However he warned that the EU-imposed starting line to move to trade talks could still be “months” away, with the divorce bill to be settled first.

Another busy week is coming up with the Conservative Party conference in Manchester and the Stop Brexit march on Sunday alongside. The country may still leave the EU but there are still many political and legal reasons showing the impossibility in delivery. The referendum shouldn’t have been allowed like it was lacking proper plans on a leave result. However it is a learning curve for the future regarding how campaigns should be run. More games and revelations will be played out in the coming months and even years surrounding the UK’s departure or non-departure from EU.

From Belfast to Brighton, Paisley to Plymouth, and Liverpool to Lowestoft the uncertainty is felt by both sides of the Brexit divide. Businesses, Scientists, Healthcare professionals and those in Education have all shared their concerns over the future. The longer the negotiations go on the more the monetary and diplomacy pains will increase.  Some of the public may even be thinking when it is going to end and wish the clock was turned back to before June 2016. The belief for staying as part of the bloc and the growing reasoned evidence on remaining won’t evaporate. If recent polls are anything to come by the tide could be drastically turned back very soon indeed.

Word Play: A journey within half a million words.

On a warm, terrific and wicked evening at the Statham Lodge Hotel in Lymm, Gyles Brandreth brought his collection of words. It wasn’t quite the entire Oxford English Dictionary of half a million but included many phrases and anecdotes. Only the Chinese language comes close with French having around 100,000 within it’s vocabulary.  Excitement, a word from Shakespeare himself led to insomnia on my part. Although the anticipation of a few days away in Devon and collecting my first car this week may have contributed.

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After a succint introduction by North West political commentator Jim Hancock, Gyles began his one man show. This gave the first joke of the evening concerning his ‘brief’ career. Although the five years as MP for Chester could be said to have been well spent. Gyles has recently become Chancellor of the University of Chester, from where I graduated in 2012.

Stannah stair lifts, the Queen watching the Full Monty and subtitle discrepancies were almong the evening’s conservation. Gyles may be about to be the face of the first. Prince Philip was quoted as saying “she has seen it all before in Papua New Guinea” regarding the second. The third included the replacement of “a minute’s violence” for silence, and the the “arch bitch” for the archbishop of Canterbury. A huge laugh from the audience resulted from “nipples leading”. This phrase describes dictation and communicating clearly. Other memorable moments were the pronunciation of Llanfair PG by Kevin in the audience and the 22nd most used greeting being “piss off”. Going back to the Queen “an opportunity to tidy” is said to be the royal expression for the delicate matter of visiting the lavatory facilities.

There was an opportunity to buy a copy of the book for the evening. Copies of Word Play and Jack the Ripper: Case Closed were available. Gyles then sat signing copies and spoke to members of the audience on their departure.

We all collect words, stories and poems throughout our life and it creates much discussion and lengthening of our years keeping the mind active. Some are hilarious, blunt, emotive, suggestive and euphemistic. The evening has enhanced my appreciation of words and the frequently overlooked role they play in our world.

 

We Stand Together

Over the two weeks since the Manchester attack the flowers and tributes continue to grow. Visiting St Ann’s Square in the centre of the city will fill you will sadness, but also hope. The people of Manchester and from a far have come together in solidarity. The response over the last week and a half has been incredible.  Manchester has a spirit and vibrant atmosphere that refuses to be broken. Vigils in the city and beyond along with acts of compassion are shared via social media. The Great Manchester Run went ahead as planned. There was even a pause in general election mud-slinging from all parties for a few days. Praise should also be given to the outstanding work of our emergency services who responded quickly as the event unfolded. This can also be true of the tragic attack on London Bridge over the weekend.
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This isn’t the first time Manchester has been attacked during recent history. In June 1996 the largest bomb in the country since the Second World was detonated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Warnings were left which meant no fatalities but 200 were injured. The only attacks on a city’s infrastructure being more financially costly are Bishopsgate, London in 1993, and the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11th 2001.  Manchester has since been given much investment and a revitalised city centre. As one of the top most visited UK cities Mancunian’s are proud of their home. The large conurbation in the North of England is notable for its industrial history, architecture, music, sport and many other offerings.
This bombing at the Ariana Grande concert may not have been as large but any deaths within a city bring sadness along with the best of humanity. Manchester bands Oasis and Take That have left messages of support with the latter donating proceeds from their recent Liverpool Concert. A crowd of 50,000 came together for the One Love Manchester concert in aid of the victims on Sunday.  The proceeds of £2 million from the night went to the Red Cross’s Manchester Emergency Fund. This takes the total fund to over £10 million.
Charities and organisations have come together after the dark day two weeks ago through the #WeStandTogether campaign. This has been created and led by the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. The charity based at the Peace Centre in Warrington describes it as “more than just a set of words” and being a “call to action”. It aims to bring together stories that reveal the very best in humanity with individuals pulling together in the face of adversity. Many of the victims of the arena attack are already being supported by the Survivors Assistance Network, which is part of the foundation. The charity itself was set up after the tragic deaths of 12 year old Tim Parry and 3 year old Johnathan Ball from the IRA bombing Warrington experienced in March 1993. The town is 18 miles or a short train ride from the centre of Manchester. Warrington may include “War” within its name but can be considered a town of peace.
The Foundation for Peace (http://foundation4peace.org/) works on many areas:
  • Transforming communities with interventions to bring about change.
  • Offering advocacy to train people to raise difficult issues.
  • Creating a safe and supportive environment where people can share experiences.
  • Opportunities for dialogue between conflicting parties.
  • Encouraging conflict resolution in a non-violent way.
  • Developing leadership skills which people can take back to their own communities.
Colin Parry who set up the charity with his wife Wendy in memory of their son joined BBC Question Time last week. While in Salford, Greater Manchester for the show Mr Parry tweeted: “Facing an intelligent audience asking intelligent questions in tense times is tough but vital if we’re to beat intolerance and hatred”. While speaking on the show Mr Parry described the modern multi-culturalism of Britain where we have to “accept each other” and integrate. The problem is that people do these attacks to “divide the country” and “cause discord and discontent”. Mr Parry himself has been a prominent campaigner for peace in Northern Ireland. Meeting and inviting the late Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein over to Warrington in the past to talk has split opinion. Personally I commend and feel inspiration from this for putting differences aside even after the tragedy of 1993.
Politicians have also visited the peace centre recently. Home Secretary; Amber Rudd and Liberal Democrat leader; Tim Farron stopped by to witness the work of the foundation. Mr Farron said how “inspirational” the centre was and how it is “a wonderful example for the whole country about we respond by standing together to the unspeakable violence that we saw the other night.” The Lib Dem leader also added in the Warrington Guardian: “You don’t need to be personally in Manchester to be seriously affected by this attack on our children.”
Warrington itself has also held prayers and a minute’s silence by the golden gates of the town hall for the 22 victims, their families and those injured at the arena. Nick Taylor, chief executive of the foundation also added in Warrington Worldwide: “It’s important that #WeStandTogether in the light of Monday’s horrific events.”
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The threat of terrorism may be on a different scale today when looking back to the troubles of Northern Ireland. The media is constantly filled with stories of attacks not just here but across the world. The values and purposes behind organisations like the foundation for peace can still play a major part in making a big difference. Anyone is welcome at the peace centre whatever their beliefs or experiences. Sides are not taken here as justice and truth is for the Police, courts and government to deal with. Pausing at these tragic moments to understand how peace can be achieved is the way we can all move forward. Hatred and violence can be avoided by standing together and remembering our similarities are stronger than our differences.

Successful launch of Liverpool for Europe

Officially launching the group; Liverpool for Europe held an event this week in the city. At this pivotal moment as we enter the General Election, and the UK begins negotiations with the European Union the strength of feeling within Liverpool has been growing. A feeling and solidarity that can be replicated up and down the country. Walking towards the CoWorkz on Brunswick Street near the waterfront you got the first sense of this with the EU blue flag, inclusive of the group emblem as the window display showing how deep this feeling goes.

After a short time for food and networking the chair of the group welcomes everyone with how the group has grown since June. Brenda Bixter then added: “If someone had told me two years ago, I would be chairing a political meeting, I would not have believed it”.  Laughter was then heard throughout the audience with the words: “We are not behind Theresa May… although with the image of standing next to a cliff edge, it is tempting”. Liverpool itself voted massively for remain last June, and is seen as a vibrant, friendly and welcoming place to be proud of to it’s residents and new arrivals. “We have several (non UK) nationals who have been here for decades and are now unsure of their future”.

The goal of the group is to bring the community together and discuss building momentum, both in the short and long term. Campaign Officer Steve Gavin, then spoke about the aims moving forward: “we believe that Liverpool is a great European City & Liverpool for Europe wants it to stay that way.” Steve added:  “to achieve this aim we are committed to carrying out activities that keep the remain campaign in the public eye.”

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Professor Michael Dougan, from the University of Liverpool was the invited speaker for the evening. The Professor of EU Law has gained a great following since before the vote in June through his online videos which have received views into the millions, and has been invited to speak all over the country. Michael began speaking on his four predictions made before June 23rd , which were cast out as “project fear” by some, but now proving “project reality”. The first was the risk to protective regulations on social & environmental matters by leaving. The Great Repeal Bill has been mentioned by May’s government. The second was the risk to UK unity. Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister of Scotland) has recently put across again her pledge for a second Scottish referendum on independence. There is also the issue of the Northern Irish border with the Republic of Ireland that would still be in the EU. The third considers the time it would take to leave as negotiations can’t start until the divorce is settled, not 18 months that the government hopes for. The fourth and last considers our trade deals with the rest of the world once leaving has been completed. Michael also doesn’t mince his words calling May’s government “viciously antidemocratic” and Brexiteers are still “fighting the campaign over and over”, and not preparing the country for what lies ahead.

Short speeches from local political candidates were then given, starting with Graham Hughes, an independent. Graham is an adventurer who traveled back from South America to stand against Labour Stephen Twigg, and knows how tough trade would be across the world rather than on our doorstep within the EU. Councillor Richard Kemp of Liverpool City Council spoke about how Europe is at the centre of the Lib Dem manifesto for the upcoming general election. Richard added: “We demand a second referendum. People decided to go on the path to leave. As negotiations make clear what leave entails, they need to vote”, with the party united on this. The Mayoral candidate Tom Crone of the Green Party then spoke: “EU made rational policies to protect the environment.” A Bonfire of regulations” is seen as a real threat”. Existing MP and election candidate for Wirral South; Alison McGovern of the Labour Party defended membership of the single market and importance of getting out to talk to voters.

There was a chance to ask questions of the candidates, and further networking after the panel had finished their speeches. Liverpool for Europe was grateful to all those attending, showing how the movement is growing. The words could be said to be inspiring and motivating from the range of speakers. Professor Dougan himself gave optimism with the words: “never be ashamed of being British” as we are the owners of the true values of this country, not the leave campaigners and officials. Even with the all the depressing news shown by the media on a daily basis, there are reasons to keep positive!

Albert Dock: Creating a Quality Destination for Liverpool

The Albert Dock, an iconic landmark and part of the city of Liverpool’s  UNESCO world heritage waterfront, needs to continue to evolve to protect itself as a destination.

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A report was launched this week entitled ‘Albert Dock: What Part in Liverpool’s Continuing Renaissance?’ This was undertaken within the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice, by Professor Michael Parkinson and Dr Alex Lord. It’s aim is to reflect on the impact that the Albert Dock has played in the reinvention of Liverpool. The city has re-invented itself since the 1980’s while the report feels to some as hard-hitting in setting out recommendations for the attraction as it looks ahead. This is especially crucial as the Dock will celebrate it’s 175th anniversary in 2021.

While being launched in the Dr Martin Luther King building on the Dock, Professor Janet Beer as Vice Chancellor of the University of Liverpool spoke about the Institute and University as a whole playing a key part in the challenges and opportunities ahead. Sue Grindrod, Chief Executive of Gower Street Estates, and Richard Wilson of Aberdeen Asset Management, which co-commissioned the project, welcomed the report’s findings saying that it underpinned their shared vision for the future of Albert Dock. Ged Fitzgerald, Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council, also gave his judgement on the report, and said how the Mayor Joe Anderson feels positively about the Dock as growing up close by. Bob Pointing, Chair of the Canal and River Trust felt the waterfront should invest in floating restaurants, and ask TV chef Gordon Ramsey and retail guru Mary Portas to look at the restaurant and retail offering on the Albert Dock.

The report claims that the Albert Dock’s retail and leisure elements are not offering a quality contribution to Liverpool, taking the creation of Liverpool One as a comparison. The complex may have “fallen behind it’s neighbours” and needs to be made more consistent at this “important cross road” as a clear strategy is put into place. Research has also picked up on concern locally that the Albert Dock just doesn’t attract enough people from Liverpool and Merseyside. The museums, shops, restaurants and bars have all expressed a desire for more local footfall but the Dock appears to have become “the prerogative of the weekend tourists” from the rest of the UK and abroad.

There are great opportunities for the Albert Dock and Liverpool as a whole if the quality offering and connecting the destination to the rest of the city. The leaders of the Dock complex needs to come up with a clear master plan about their approach and which markets are looking to be attracted. The idea for the giant Liver bird on the Mersey would also bring more people in, and contrast well with the existing historical attributes the waterfront offers. Nearby Warrington is also going for City of Culture in 2021, maybe a link up with boat trips for example could be offered as this iconic piece of waterfront celebrates it’s 175 years since it’s completion in 1846?

Also looking ahead, Lord Michael Heseltine said at a conference in the city in November: “I had no way of predicting where Albert Dock would go in the 37 years since I set it up. Equally I have no way of knowing what the next 37 years will bring. But I do know that the answer to that question lies with the people and leaders of Liverpool, just as it did in the past.”

The full report can be found at: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/media/livacuk/publicpolicypractice/HeseltineReport_AlbertDocks.pdf 

Warrington: an underdog for Capital of Culture?

Warrington may not be the first place you think of as a cultural paradise. The town’s skyline is dominated by the Unilever factory and the town itself is overshadowed by its location between the large North West cities of Manchester and Liverpool. It’s understandable if Warrington is hardly known by some in the South of England and, certainly, negative press doesn’t help, such as when the Royal Society of Arts placed the town as worst for culture in 2015. Yet for all of that, Warrington is surrounded by three motorways giving it great transport links to the rest of the UK. The town also includes many historic buildings including the town hall pictured below, live cultural events, a ring of beautiful parkland and the UK’S first IKEA store!

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A direct non-stop train from London Euston will glide you up to Warrington Bank Quay in around 1 hour and 50 minutes. Although not a city the borough is home to just over 200,000 residents, similar to the population within the boundaries of cities; York and Portsmouth. Ten other contenders have put forward a bid for 2021: Coventry, Hereford, Paisley, Perth, Portsmouth, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Swansea, Wells and St David’s in Wales: the UK’s smallest city. The winner, to be announced in December, will be the third holder of the title following on from Londonderry in 2013 and the current holder; Hull. The Heritage Lottery Fund has announced a £3 million commitment to the successful bidder for 2021, and those recipients that follow to boost local heritage.

You may ask does Warrington have any history or is it just a new town created in the 1960’s? Yes the population may have doubled since then but the town has a long history going back to when it was founded by the Romans as a crossing point on the River Mersey. Warrington became a centre of manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution with steel (particularly wire), textiles, brewing, tanning and the chemical industries. The cultural quarter of the town centre includes the Parr hall for comedy and concerts, and Warrington Museum sharing a building with the Library which originally opened in 1848 as the first rate-supported library in the UK. A heritage centre for the village of Lymm within the borough has also been given planning permission. A number of well attended festivals, carnivals and walking days are held annually in the borough including the Warrington Music Festival, Stockton Heath Arts Festival and Lymm Transport Day. There are also 140 structures listed in the borough by English Heritage.

As reported in the local news of Warrington Worldwide, Cllr Dan Price, who is chairing the bid team said: “We’re bidding for City of Culture because we are ambitious for Warrington – and why wouldn’t we be? Not only are we transitioning to become a New City, but over the next few years, we’re spending more than £100m improving the town centre and culture is fundamental to this transformation.”

Cllr Price added “There’s a strong economic case for investing in culture. Hull’s brought in £30m of extra funding and more than double that indirectly – just imagine what could be achieved in a thriving economy like Warrington.

“We’ve got a lot going on – we’ve just not been great at shouting about it. The initial response has been brilliant and I’d encourage everyone to get behind the bid. Now’s our chance to tell the country what Warrington’s really made of!”

Warrington Arts Council secretary Dr Michael Murphy spoke after a City of Culture of Workshop at the local historic Walton Hall: “Warrington is a town of best-kept secrets.”

“The town is well-run and its economic progress and employment prospects are the envy of many other towns but now that we are bidding to be City of Culture, we need to show that Warrington has much more to offer than just rugby and meat pies.

Dr Murphy added: “We have a vibrant classical arts and music side, which has been largely hidden and we want to show it off.”‘

The time to increase the promotion of the cultural capital the town can offer has begun, aiming for a shift in how people view Warrington: both locally and nationally. Like many I haven’t always lived in town but believe it has a lot to offer visitors if promoted in the right way. The heritage including the golden gates of the town hall, the only rail transporter in the world that just celebrated it’s centenary, and the Barley Mow public house from 1561 are a few of many interesting structures within Warrington. A website and social media campaign has started and will increase over the near future towards the short listing. Warrington needs to keep up the ambition to show its strengths as it competes with the other bidders.

Are we all “Chained to the Rhythm”?

You would be forgiven for not noticing that Katy Perry’s new track ‘Chained to the Rhythm’ was released recently and she has since performed it at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles and the BRIT Awards in London. Yes, yes! I know what you’re thinking but bear with me. This does have a political point!

During the rendition at the BRIT Awards last week she was joined on stage by two giant puppet skeletons which looked weirdly familiar. One skeleton wore a black suit and a red tie, while the other wore a red blazer and skirt. The puppets were even holding hands, which hinted at what we were really looking at. This was pop culture meeting political culture as there, on the stage; we saw a re-enactment of when President Trump met Prime Minister May at the White House. The only thing missing was the promise of a trade deal and an offer of afternoon tea with the Queen.

It’s easy to over-read this kind of political statement but it does make one wonder if we are in danger of cheapening political debate by making politics into a literal larger-than life puppet show.

The video for Perry’s song was also released last week and it depicted a futuristic theme park, where visitors are seduced and delighted by the distractions offered. The lyrics describe a world of repetition and ignorance where technology has placed us in a bubble where real problems are pushed aside:

Are we crazy?
Living our lives through a lens
Trapped in our white-picket fence
Like ornaments
So comfortable, we live in a bubble, a bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, the trouble

Bubbles are, of course, very relevant to the modern political mood. Politics is often described as bubble, and the politicians living in it don’t understand the public’s attitudes to Brexit, Trump and other big issues. The video plays with all the cliches of state control. Around the park there are adverts for the “greatest ride in the universe” which turns out to be a hamster type wheel with a long queue. So are we all conforming and chained to this rhythm, and trapped like cogs on a machine like hamsters, and not able to break out?

Perry might be commended on her attempt at political commentary, as is a different theme from her previous tracks. Knowing about the bubble is different to breaking out of the bubble. Perry is just one mainstream and highly commercial artist who borrows the visual language of rebellion but for ends which, really, do little to promote individualism.

The lyrics that muse that we all “think we’re free” but are, in essence “stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah.” Is this a swipe (hehe) at social media, the time we spend online or using a camera phone? As we all know, modern technology can be perceived as bad. People who take photos aren’t enjoying the moment, and glimpsing what we think of as other people’s perfect lives leave us lonely and empty.

There is an odd moment, in the video, when the grandson of Bob Marley, Skip, appears on stage and begins to rap the most politicised lines of the song. Are we just taking in the lies from those in control, and a revolution will occur, or is the talk of revolution just a cliché in a pop song?

It is my desire
Break down the walls to connect, inspire
Ay, up in your high place, liars
Time is ticking for the empire

The truth they feed is feeble
As so many times before
They greed over the people
They stumbling and fumbling and we’re about to riot
They woke up, they woke up the lions

We should be aware and cautious about treating pop culture as thought it’s capable or worthy of commenting on the political. Beyonce’s Lemonade was also recently celebrated for its political message but, really, one wonders if the message wasn’t just subverted. This would give the artist a greater credibility in the marketplace. Beyonce is not Bob Dylan and, despite her over political gestures, Katy Perry is no Johnny Rotten. Both treat politicians like they are puppets to be waved around without actually offering much in the way of meaning.

At last week’s Grammys, she began her performance behind a picket fence before bursting forward in a white pant suit that was clearly meant to be a copy of Hillary Clinton’s. She then joins hands with Skip Marley in front of a projection of the US constitution. Again, is this clever and sincere politics or more gestures? I leave it for you to decide. Politics is important and perhaps too important to be left to pop stars? Or does it give an audience who may feel left out of politics a voice?

Warrington – A Garden city

The Love Warrington business breakfasts started 2017 with a talk by Steve Park; Managing Director of Warrington & Co at the Base office building near to Warrington Central Station. After a chance for local businesses and those helping to promote the town to network the talk began. Steve outlined the current developments in Warrington including Time Square and the stadium quarter, and looking ahead to the town becoming a garden city, given the unique pattern of green spaces. I see the parks around the town centre, and the Sankey Valley along the canal as places you can almost forget you live in large town between two major cities.

Sankey Valley Park

The talk began mentioning the developments that have been completed or underway including the launch of the Base, the University Technical College next door, the logistics and manufacturing hub of Omega by the M62, and the progress being made with the new market and Time Square development in the town centre.

Other developments on the horizon will look to create a vibrant, dynamic and colourful city by 2040, with Steve himself believing Warrington could become a city within 5 years. The City Centre masterplan, which is worth a read is split into the following areas;

  • City Centre Parklands (the unique framework of open spaces that form a green necklace around the town)
  • Keeping the City Centre Moving (enhancing the transportation networks to avoid the current congestion including new road and bridge plans)
  • Development Quarters (Time Square & the Cultural Quarter, Stadium Quarter, Bank Quay Gateway, Southern Gateway and the Waterfront)
  • A City of Culture (Warrington’s distinctiveness with the Museum, Parr Hall, festivals etc)
  • City Centre Living (8,000 new homes in the heart of the city)
  • A New Focus for Business (new offices and hotel space)
  • Management & Maintenance (management and relationship built between all those involved in the city centre)
  • Programme Management & Delivery (timescales for delivery)

Jo Jackson, the Employment Development Manager of Warrington & Co also spoke and discussed upcoming projects supporting local jobs, and helping people into work.

As a member of the Friends of Warrington Transporter Bridge and the Civic Society I personally see this as an exciting time for the town, and the positives on offer moving forward in gaining city status. After living in Warrington for  over 7 years and made the town my home, I have enjoyed getting involved within the community to promote it’s distinctiveness to residents and outside. I think is great news that the Transporter Bridge is seen and important heritage asset by the council, and being an integral part of the development plans for the waterfront.

The redevelopment of the Cabinet Works, although I feel a shame to loose has been left in a state of disrepair and now a damaged shell that needs redevelopment. Creating a landmark on this site I feel should be sensitive to the past, while building a city centre for the future.

I believe this is an exciting time for Warrington looking forward, and residents and businesses can get involved with, to create a new city we can all be proud of.

 

 

Another week of Brexit horrors?

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As well as the inauguration of President Trump to look forward to, although I would rather avoid the coverage, this week like many in the whole period since the result in June, has given much to talk about. I have picked three that caught my eye the most:

Firstly the pound has slumped to a  31-year low today with investors concerned by reports that Theresa May is heading for a hard Brexit from the EU. The pound has dropped 19% against the US dollar since the 24th June, with last October another low point, not long after the Conservative Party Conference, with the news we would leave the bloc by 2019. The pound’s latest drop comes ahead of a of a speech by Mrs May tomorrow (Tuseday), in which she is expected to spell out Britain’s negotiating strategy for Brexit.

Secondly power sharing in Northern Ireland is on the verge of collapse after Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness pulled out of the executive last week, over how a government scheme funded by the taxpayer was handled. From this evening, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire will have the authority to trigger new elections, in the hope that new politicians will be returned to the parliament and power-sharing can then continue. An election has now been called for the 2nd March however if still issues and Stormont is collapsed, Theresa May might be unable to trigger Article 50 and begin the withdrawal process from the EU, as Northern Irish politicians will not be sitting in parliament. This could lead a delay of several months as NI politicians would not be able to approve Brexit plans.

Thirdly in his first UK interview with former Justice Secretary Michael Gove for the Times; Mr Trump boosted Brexit supporters’ hopes of a quick US-UK trade deal, which would begin soon after 2019. However Emily Thornberry, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, raised the prospect of the UK being forced to agree to unpopular aspects if any agreement was rushed. Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the interview had exposed Mr Trump’s opposition to helping refugees and environmental protections and his backing for President Putin. Tim Said: “I don’t know the shape of the Europe that Trump dreams of but I know it frightens me.”

This eventful and divisive period in the history of the country, has shown up many flaws in a referendum campaign I don’t believe should of been allowed in the first place. There was no proper plan for a Leave win before the 23rd June, and nothing has given me confidence since. The thought of leaving also makes me feel sick and have a sense of dread, similar words used by Monica Grady, of the Open University on BBC Question time last week. The whole talk of Brexit has really shown how polarised political views in the country have become, and I really hope politicians and the electorate can be shown what the next step means, before we jump to take us all down that road.