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.

Great start to 2017 in Cornwall.

After a couple of days spent at my parents house over my birthday and new year I headed down to Cornwall. There was time a stop at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor, made famous by the writing of Daphne du Maurier which offers great views over the moor, a bite to eat, a shop, rooms to stay (if your brave enough with ghost stories) and a small museum.

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View from Jamaica Inn

Our next stop as National trust members was a look around Trelissick Gardens in the winter sun. The Gardens are worth a visit and walk around in any season, and offered beautiful views over Carrick Roads in the winter sun. There was even a chance in the festive period to get an “elfie” by the Christmas tree.

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View over the Carrick Roads

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Winter colour

As the afternoon drew on we headed into Falmouth for St Michael’s Hotel, with a large garden down to the beach and promenade. This was my first visit to the hotel and Falmouth and can’t fault anything, with exceptional service and cleanliness throughout. I booked with my partner after seeing a January deal with a 3 course meal, and my parents booked when I mentioned it, which was lovely.

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Sunset over Falmouth

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Balcony over the sea

It was also a great surprise my mum got us an upgrade to a seaview room with a huge balcony to watch the sun rising and setting over the sea 🙂 The room was large and luxurious with dressing gowns and slippers to use, and kept spotless. The pool was lovely and warm, along with a well kept Jacuzzi, Sauna and steam room. There is also a gym which my partner used and had a lot to offer. The ambiance of the hotel reminded me of being on a small cruise ship with many personal touches.

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Christmas tree in the bar

The food at breakfast and dinner was delicious and with a great choice of options. Unfortunately for myself on the second night I was wasn’t feeling great so had to miss dinner, but the receptionist and other staff were fantastic and refunded me the dinner charge which I didn’t expect, and feel all would go out of their way to help offering the best service.

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View over the Bay.

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View over to St Mawes

On the second day I also felt energised after taking a 7 mile walk along the coast in the winter sun seeing the breathtaking views of the bay as we went. I would recommend St Michael’s and Falmouth, and will definitely return again.

A new start in 2017 and trying to push past the negatives.

I like many am trying to see 2017 as a new start and moving on from the negatives in the world and I experienced in 2016 although there were many good moments. My top 16  great moments of 2016 were:

1. Firewalk raising money for Warrington Disability Partnership.

2. Starting to learning to Drive after a 10 year break.

3. Steam Train ride in Llanberis, Wales.

4. Attending a conference at the Maritime museum in Liverpool on the way forward with the referendum result.  

5. Listening to a lecture by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England.

6. Short breaks on the Isle of Wight in May and November.

7. Helping out at the 6,000 prize tombola with WDP.

8. Week long cruise on Britannia around La Rochelle, Bilbao, Last Coruna and Guernsey.

9. Trip up to Northumberland early in the year.

10. Lymm Transport Day with Friends of Warrington Transporter Bridge. 

11. Day at Chester Zoo.

12. Afternoon at NT Croome Court near Worcester for my birthday.

13. Keeping up my with blog and writing.

14. Meal out for the 5th Anniversary of meeting my partner Paul Sapple in early May.

15. Creating underground style maps including Warrington, Chester & the Isle of Wight.

16. My cat Jasper getting better after being ill.

As talked about in a previous post on anxiety and  depression, both of which I have experienced throughout my adult live, and have spent days stuck in the house and having feelings of inadequacy in regard to employment. I constantly compare myself to others, and get into a cycle of feeling like I am not worth as much as others, as haven’t “made it yet”. Application forms and interviews I do dread at times with the feeling I won’t be good enough so what is the point? I know I have made mistakes in a couple of jobs I didn’t enjoy and have feelings of guilt about letting myself and others down. I also know have at times procrastinated not knowing which way to go next.

Although I know I am lucky relatively living in a house, get the food I need, have a loving partner, and some great family and friends, and get to visit places I enjoy going to. I need to remember my positives of gaining my degree and the community groups I have been involved with locally.

This new year should be the one I look forward and push past the negatives, and start to train myself to think “make it happen” in regard to employment and feelings of achievement instead of waiting around for something that may never come along.

Supreme Court Article 50 ‘Brexit’ Appeal Summary

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Day One: 5/12

The first morning began by making an order to protect claimants from physical harm or harassment. The Supreme Court then invited parties to indicate whether they want any Justices to stand down, with the parties universally content with court.

The morning session was about general but fundamental points on the royal prerogative, as the prerequisite of the government’s case that is has the power to use this prerogative when triggering article 50.

Jeremy Wright AG said it is perfectly proper that Claimants should bring the case as a “very important principle of open justice”, and perfectly proper that the Supreme Court should hear it. He also says foreign affairs prerogative is not an ancient relic but a modern necessity, and the imposition by the SC of a precondition (of Parliamentary action) that Parliament itself did not impose upsets a delicate balance.

James Eadie QC on behalf of the government said prerogative doesn’t stem from statute, it is limited by statute, and the continued existence and exercise of prerogative powers is subject to control (implicitly: only) when Parliament chooses to do so. Eadie developed this as part of his written case: (thanks to Jolyon Maugham QC for the tweets on this)

The Supreme Court justices asked a few questions, many of which seemed simple but went to the heart of the government’s case. Lord Sumption asked about the nature of the prerogative power: was it a power to decide things that could change domestic law or something more general?

On the afternoon session; about the relationship between the prerogative and the legislation passed by the UK parliament giving effect to EU law, the government continued to set out its case but it encountered hard judicial questioning.

Day Two: 6/12

On this Tuesday morning the Government continued and finished setting out it’s case on this appeal. The session began with James Eadie QC continuing his adress to the court. His main submissions concerned the legal significance of the 2015 referendum legislation and the importance of the royal prerogative in regard to foreign affairs.

Following on from Mr Eadie was another government minister, the Scottish advocate-general, Lord Keen. Lord Keen, a well-known and successful lawyer, covered the Scottish and Welsh devolution points for the UK government, and his legal argument was rather simple: there were no devolution issues in regard to Scotland and Wales.

The devolution issues in this appeal make the reach of this appeal wider than that of the High Court decision. In principle, a devolution point may turn the case, and therefore the dismissive approach of the UK government to the Scottish and Welsh legal arguments may turn out to be counter-productive.

The appeal continues into the afternoon, with submissions in favour of the UK government from the attorney-general of Northern Ireland, as the Supreme Court is dealing with two reference from Northern Irish courts as part of the appeal. From mid-afternoon Lord Pannick QC, the lead barrister for the claimants in the appeal, those who are seeking a declaration by the court that the government alone cannot just use the royal prerogative to take the UK out of the EU, the whole of parliament needs a say.

Lord Pannick’s submissions were framed very straightforward, and  contended that the Referendum Act 2015 itself did not provide any legal basis for the government to invoke Article 50. His advocacy overshadowed the other submissions made on Tuesday afternoon, which were on the potentially significant issue of Northern Ireland. On behalf of the Northern Irish government, it was submitted that there is nothing in the Good Friday Agreement or any relevant legislation that required primary legislation and the peace settlement would be unaffected by Brexit.

Day Three: 7/12

Lord Pannick continued with his submissions on the Wednesday morning, with the main focus being the relationship between parliament and the referendum result. In particular, the question was posed: what was the legal rather than the political significance of the Referendum Act 2015 and the referendum itself from it, resulting in a vote to leave the EU in June 2016?

For the claimants, the Lord contended that the referendum had no legal effect or at least no legal effect so strong as to limit parliamentary sovereignty or violate fundamental rights. For him there was a balancing act: whatever the significance of the referendum result, it would not be sufficient to outweigh the core doctrine of the sovereignty of parliament, or the principle that rights can only be taken away by express and deliberate provisions.

It could be said to be significant that the Supreme Court justices pressed Lord Pannick on the point of the constitutional significance, if any, of the Referendum Act 2015. The Supreme Court could be said to be approaching the issue with a sense of, to use a legal phrase, anxious scrutiny.

Lord Pannick was then followed by the other claimant lawyer, Dominic Chambers QC. His submissions were about parliamentary sovereignty in general, and about how parliaments and the executive usually deal with treaty-making in detail.  Mr Chambers continued for a short while in the afternoon, and then the case is turned over to the interveners and interested parties, including the Northern Irish parties, and the Scottish and Welsh governments.

Brexit in the context of these two devolved nations raises new and  important legal issues it can be argued, with what happens in respect of both can shape what happens in England. .The submissions by David Scoffield QC (Northern Ireland), Ronan Lavery QC (Northern Ireland), and James Wolffe QC on behalf of the Edinburgh government; mean the Supreme Court judgment will have to range far wider than the narrow issues of parliament versus prerogative. Mr Wolffe said there would have to be formal consultation with Scotland and special legislation, with the representatives of Northern Ireland arguing similarly.

Day Four: 8/12 

On the morning of the final day, the focus shifted to the individuals and their families who may be affected by the consequences of an Article 50 notification. Before this the Lord Advocate were submissions made on behalf of the government of Wales. As with Scotland, the Welsh government argues that its devolution settlement is such that it is not open to the London government to make such a fundamental decision without appropriate legislation and involvement of the devolved government.

Helen Mountfield QC, representing the crowd-funded “people’s challenge” on behalf of various individuals (including Grahame Pigney and citizens of Gibraltar) whose rights would be affected. Ms Mountfield set out how the prerogative powers, which the government argue allow it to trigger Article 50 should not be used to attack such rights. She scathingly compared the government’s arguments from silence on the availability of the prerogative to those who claim that a lack of evidence does not disprove the existence of the Loch Ness monster.

One powerful set of submissions were made by Manjit Gill QC on behalf of EU citizens in the UK. He contended, with evident passion, that such citizens face deportation when Brexit officially occurs.

The final session on the Thursday afternoon was dominated by the government’s reply. To meet the devolution arguments, Lord Keen put forward the view that the devolution legislation  did not stop Westminster and Whitehall from doing as they wished. The rule was merely a self-denying ordinance. Mr Eadie made some strong points on how the Referendum Act 2015 meant that parliament had, in advance, decided no further legislation would be needed.

It does appear that the real reason for this case coming forward is not some clash of grand constitutional principle, but a simple lack of forethought by legislators writing the Referendum Act 2015.

The Court was adjourned with  the judgment likely to be handed down in January. Until then, Theresa Man is bound by the high court declaration and it would be unlawful for her to make the Article 50 notification, and like the rest of us will have to await the decision.

Special thanks to David Allen Green for his commentary in the Financial Times: https://t.co/IhdVRn4Sz5

The Spectre of Monetarism

On Monday (5/12) I had the privilege to listen to the speech given by the Governor of the Bank of England at the Roscoe Lecture in Liverpool’s BT Convetion Centre, on behalf of Liverpool John Moores University. Sir Jon Murphy; the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, and the custodian and chair of the Roscoe lectures introduced Mark Carney on this 144th lecture, of the longest public lecture series in the country. He compared the governor Mark Carney to William Roscoe; who has been described as ‘Liverpool’s greatest citizen’ and the founding father of the University, as both men of extraordinary talents. Sir Jon Murphy also talked about saving his pocket money (10 shillings) as a boy for a Subbuteo football game team, and got in a quip about Dr Carney being on the Everton ‘blue’ side while himself a Liverpool ‘red’ supporter, although both have a dislike of Arsenal to bring them together.

Mark Carney spoke about monetary policy and inequality, backed up by data to try and assess what is really going on, and fished with a question and answer session at the end of the hour. He began his speech with “real incomes have been falling for a decade”, with “the legacy of a searing financial crisis weighing on confidence and growth” and a time where “the very nature of work is being disrupted by a technological revolution.” This was compared to the middle of the 19th century, with Liverpool in the midst of a “golden age, where this kind of revolution is changing the nature of work again.

You could “substitute Northern Rock for Overend Gurney; Uber and machine learning for the Spinning Jenny and the steam engine; and Twitter for the telegraph; and you have dynamics that echo those of 150 years ago.”

He set out to discuss during this lecture the role of monetary policy in this time of great disruption, while focusing on the underlying causes and consequences of weak real income growth and inequality across the advanced world.

A recording and a transcript of the lecture including charts on income and growth can be found here: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Pages/speeches/2016/946.aspx

Dr Carney focused on three priorities as a way to move forward:

  1. Economists must clearly acknowledge the challenges we face, including the realities of uneven gains from trade and technology.
  2. We must grow our economy by re-balancing the mix of monetary policy, fiscal policy and structural reforms.
  3. We need to move towards more inclusive growth where everyone has a stake in globalisation.

In regard to globalisation “for the societies of free-trading, networked countries to prosper, they must first re-distribute some of the gains from trade and technology, and then re-skill and reconnect all of their citizens. By doing so, they can put individuals back in control.”

He started summing up as with “the MPC (Monetary Policy committee) indicated in the spring that the impact of a vote to leave the EU on inflation would be the product of its impact on demand, supply and the exchange rate, and it stressed then that the implications for monetary policy would not be automatic.”

Dr Carney’s final words before taking questions were: “Whatever economic developments and prospects, the MPC will always set monetary policy to maintain price stability and promote the good of the people of the United Kingdom. As it did when it was the only game in town after the global financial crisis; and as it will going forward, in better balance with fiscal and structural policies. Monetary policy will continue its good work as the UK economy adjusts to new opportunities with Europe and the rest of the world. In the end, monetary policy isn’t a spectre but a friendly ghost.”

The Q&A session was run by LJMU Honorary Fellow, and radio broadcaster Roger Philips. The first question was regarding Liverpool as a strong remain city from the referendum, with the EU helping to create a thriving city; “What can we do to carry on, after our exit from the European Union?” Dr Carney answer touched on the progress that has been made with tourism and retail, “built on the historic strengths of Liverpool”, and entrepreneurs who can think of what is next, who can push the attractiveness of the city without looking to the EU for funds, while mentioning the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ as a way of linking the country.

The Second question was about what would the EU look like in 10 years time? “It will be smaller by one country”, and Euro currency area will have to “take some difficult decisions  to deepen some aspects of integration in those economies”including the labour market, which will be a challenging process in his view. There was a discussion on referendums around Europe, and the challenge of making sure people are skilled for any changes in the job market. Another question on helping the poorest had the answer about keeping “inflation on track”, as deflation leads to debts just building up and up, with a “sweet spot of around 2%” being the best.

The lecture concluded with LJMU vice-chancellor Prof Nigel Weatherill presenting the Governor with a Liver Bird statue, specially created by sculptor and LJMU Honorary Fellow Emma Rodgers.  I felt this had been a well thought out lecture, with a lot to take away and think about as we all move forward with the uncertainties ahead, not just from the referendum result, but cultural and technological changes that affect the monetary system and all our lives.

Mark Carney

The Fightback is Growing

The result in Richmond Park with Sarah Olney of the Liberal Democrats overturning Zac Goldsmith’s 23,015 vote majority is significant, and may lead to a pattern moving forward.

Zac may have said as he stood down from the Conservative Party over the issue of Heathrow Expansion, but  Sarah is also opposed to the third runway, and fought the campaign on the issue of Brexit. The other five candidates including Labour also lost their deposits as they did not receive enough votes, with Ms Olney polling 20,510 votes to Mr Goldsmith’s 18,638. The Conservative Party, UK Independence Party and Green Party did not field candidates, as they felt would further split the votes in favour of the other contender they were furthest from supporting.

I have a lot of respect for Sarah, who only joined the party recently like myself, who feel the country is heading to an uncertain future and being worse of, unless we fight for what we think is right.

After the result was announced she said: “The people of Richmond Park and North Kingston have sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit government, and our message is clear – we do not want a hard Brexit.”

“We do not want to be pulled out of the single market, and we will not let intolerance, division and fear win.”

She added that if Article 50; the legal process that sparks Britain’s exit from the EU, is put to a parliamentary vote, she will vote against it. Zac held the opposite view as a Leave campaigner even though over 70% of the constituency voted Remain.

The fightback is definitely on the way, which begun with Liz Leffman’s second place result in Witney after David Cameron stood down, and I can see more shock waves on the horizon next week with the Supreme Court case.


Exit from the European Union: Article 50, Parliament and the Prerogative in the UK Courts

On Monday afternoon (28/11) I had the opportunity to go along to a seminar on the above topic at the University of Liverpool. The panel discussion was led by Adam Tucker; Constitutional Lawyer at the University, and Mike Gordon; Senior Lecturer in Constitutional Law, also at the University.

The discussion began with a brief mention of the recent litigation on Article 50 process at the High Court, and the appeal next week at the Supreme Court. As there has been so much discussion on the case it seemed only right to hold a discussion at this time. The two main comments were there has been a lot of talk of the case being “obviously wrong or obviously right”, and politics does play a part but the discussion today will favour common law rules.

The first speaker was Professor Aileen McHarg of Public Law at the University of Strathclyde who focused on the constitutional impact of the case, with the judiciary being in a “difficult position”. The Miller case litigation can be seen as “an attempt to halt Brexit” with the Liberal Democrats and 80 other MP’s creating a stumbling block in Parliament leading to delays. “The time to argue process was before the referendum, not now”, and yes the referendum was not binding but expected to be followed. Prof McHarg also added that “parliamentary sovereignty does not mean should decide everything”, and has the view of many that “vetoing Brexit could be undemocratic”, and the vote should be respected. However “it is not clear what it means and Parliament should have a say” on that.

Prof McHarg made two main points; with the first being the Miller case doesn’t guarantee a parliamentary say as a bill could just be approved, and “parliament is not in any better decision than the government to decide.” The second point is the territorial dimension e.g., Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the Scottish and Welsh assemblies intervening in the Miller case. This could be “democratically problematic and could lead to resentment” if this led to blocking Brexit. The Scottish government have felt “forced to intervene in the case”, which could have decided behind closed doors and avoided this conflict. The strictly legal rules here will “force the courts to make a choice” on this difficult decision where “the law is not clear”, and the attacks against the judges have not been excusable. The “irony of the Brexit vote to restore constitution has led to this litigation”.

The second speaker was Dr Richard Kirkham; Senior Lecturer from the University of Sheffield. Dr Kirkham spoke on the Courts and the duty to exercise restraint. The “deeper issue is about how we interpret law”, which the case will have to decide. The real problem was in 2015 when the referendum act was created as “the worst bit of legislation ever written”, as included nothing about what happens afterwards. Dr Kirkham gave the prediction that the result “should be respected whatever”, and this could be a “delaying tactic but not a mistake”, as a part of political constitution and democracy. The conduit argument of joining the European Community with the ECA in 1972 was mentioned quoting J. Finnis as an “alternative rights based analysis”, where the “prerogative power includes the right to make or break treaties”, and only a “statutory right created by Parliament that can not be changed.” The decision in the Miller case is “not a bad example of judicial activism”, the case would require activism either way. The main problem leading to this mess after the referendum is that there was “very little governance in the 2015 act”.

The third speaker was Dr Hélène Tyrrell; Lecturer on Public Law from the University of Newcastle, who focused on the European Communities Act from 1972 and the narrow legal question about the scope of the prerogative power. She explained that it was “not a question on whether parliament should have a say, but whether the executive (PM) have the authority?”. In the Divisional Court, the Government argued that authority is given by the prerogative power to conduct foreign affairs. The claimants argued (successfully) the contrary, on the basis that the effect of an Article 50 notification would “frustrate” the ECA 1972. The claimant’s arguments have since been challenged by a number of academics, who suggest that the statute (ECA) should be understood as merely ‘ambulatory’ (a ‘gateway’ a ‘conduit’, a ‘filter’) for the rights existing on the international plane. If that is the case, then an A50 notification affects rights on the international plane only, not rights found in domestic law. That would be well within the foreign affairs prerogative. Dr Tyrrell was not persuaded by those arguments, giving reasons as to why the analogical reasoning was not strong enough to support it. She concluded with some general reflections, including a feeling that the Supreme Court will be under “enormous pressure to give an unanimous decision”, even if for slightly different reasons. Although it will be more interesting for the academics, if they do not!

The fourth speaker was Professor of Law; TT Arvind, also from the University of Newcastle who began talking about the broad issue with the whole spectrum of hard Brexit to soft Brexit, as no one knows what agreement we will get. The key question is “who should decide what Brexit looks like; the government or Parliament ?” TT Arvind feels it is “a tragedy that the case has come to court”.

Mike Gordon gave a sum up point of this being a fascinating debate that we are all engaged in, and now contextually more informed. There was some time for a Q&A from the audience with the first question being; “Would a codified constitution make our lives easier?” The answer given was that there was nothing on this before the referendum, and there would be “problems creating a written constitution” as there are “profound differences of opinion on what democracy means.”

Professor Michael Dougan of EU law at Liverpool, was in the audience and added some comments that the decision could be seen to be more political than to do with law. He added that this is a major “defining moment for 100 years” politically, legally and economically. “EU rights and obligations have been transmitted into domestic law” over the last few decades, and “the case will set a tone in an increasing power of the executive.”  It was agreed by the panel that UKIP created this referendum, and now we have a debate about “the will of the people versus law”, and “do we need more democracy or less?” The referendum “was a travesty and should not have been allowed like it was”, as was self serving on both sides and is a “massively grave case for concern.” Also there is a “technical nightmare with contracts with the EU needing to be agreed on a case by case basis”.