Saturday, 17 June 2017

Humpty Dumpty and the Arrogance Of Yam: The Fallout Of A Most Unnecessary Election

Image Source: Twitter
Written By: Scott Gunnion

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Having arched ambitiously in their kitten heels and reached confidently for the sun armed, not with conceit, but with what seems in retrospect to be an overwhelming sense of self-belief armed with a touch of conceit.

Victory was assured, it seemed. The glory days of Thatcher resurrected and realised once more under the steady hand of Yam.

Nothing less than a mammoth Tory majority of Thatcherite proportions would suffice, with Mother Theresa reigning supreme. Destined, they thought, for an inevitable coronation.

Such assumptions were universal across the political divide. "Disaster" cried the Blairite left. A rumbling not seen since Michael Foot's 1983 manifesto aptly dubbed the “longest suicide note in history” was cast in stone from the get-go.

But last Friday, Britain awoke in a state of bewilderment, a state of disarray. From the Daily Mail middle to the mobilised millions of younger voters in the infancy of their political involvement.

At the time, Yam called the whistle on the general election, Corbyn was a contaminated brand. It was fact. A rigid idealist and aging relic burdened with the forgotten dogma of 80s-era Labour. He was unelectable. Everybody besides Diane Abbott said so. It was the flawed assumption successfully masquerading itself as a fact.

To be fair, Yam's decision to call an election was far from ill-advised.

The Tories benefitted from an immensely favourable political climate, with poll leads stretching north of 20%, enough to make even the bitterest cynic salivate and fall into line. The lead was insurmountable, it seemed.

Jezza was cream. Or toast, at least.

Then came the backlash over the dementia tax, the first massive gaffe of the campaign. Far from strong, steady leadership, Yam threw a wobbler. She bottled it, and then she backtracked. Then, she denied backtracking. The would-be heir to Thatcher U-turning the way Thatcher swore she would never do.

Then, rumours began to seep out that she failed to consult senior ministers about the “dementia tax” that she operated an autocratic regime that sidelined collective Cabinet government in favour of an inner circle of sycophants and yes me, neither elected nor accountable.

Sure, it was nothing compared to Diane Abbott's daily splash of gaffes, but it showed that she was weak-willed. This much-hyped (much, much-hyped) strong, stable leadership was nowhere in sight.

Yet UKIP's inevitable evaporation seemed to buttress her poll numbers, making an outright victory seem all the more assured.

But for all her qualities and attributes, of which there are many, Yam is dull on the stump. As awkward as she is cautious. The role of chief salesman for the party did not come natural to her.

She doesn't inspire, but she does divide.

But what was Theresa's grand folly?

Recent terrorist atrocities thrust national security in the election spotlight. Yam spent six years as Home Secretary but she failed to seize the initiative on this front.

Mumblings about Corbyn's pacifist inclinations and his alleged IRA sympathies never seemed to gain traction beyond the exclusive circles frequented by the right wing commentariat. His economic populism seemed to strike a chord with his natural constituency whilst appealing in particular to millennials and first time voters.

Jezza, to his credit, speaks clearly and is indisputably principled, and he energised his supporters with his populist posturings. He speaks to his constituency and he speaks for his constituency, talking about the issues they believe in and from the viewpoint and perspective with which they live, feel and breathe them.

As the election went on, Corbyn crept up, though the polls consistently predicted large Tory leads and similarly large majorities.

The announcement of a snap election reeked of naked opportunism. It seemed more of an attempt to swell the ranks of the parliamentary party than an attempt to secure the strong mandate (allegedly) essential to the successful implementation of Brexit.

Yam began the campaign with strong approval ratings and a modest working majority: a sufficient, functional working majority. So was it hubris or greed that motivated her to call an election midway through the life of a parliament and risk it all? It was, I suspect, hubris. Yes-men goading her and whispering in her ear. A distraction we could have easily done without.

Though the outcome was far from disastrous for the Conservatives. They scored 42% of the popular vote, an increase in 6%. For some context, Cameron never passed 37% of the vote. The downside is that Corbyn added 10% to the party's 2015 performance. That's 10% more than Ed Miliband achieved and, all the more shockingly, 11% more than Gordon Brown could muster in 2010. The Conservatives did well, very well - but Labour did better. Blair won 43% in 1997 and secured a colossal majority, same with Thatcher in 1983. But both benefited from severely weakened opponents. No such luck for Mother Theresa.

The result, from the perspective of Corbyn, was nothing less than a stunner. Sensational.

Prior to the election, all the internal rumblings from Labour insiders were of imminent, irrevocable doom. Well that shut them up.

Has there ever been an election where the winning side behaved as though they had lost and the losing side paraded about as though they had won, when clearly they had not?

Now, the prevailing mood in Labour is one of vindication. It ought to be smug, and so easily could have been, but that fails to have materialised. From the ashes of limp and flailing opposition, written off and ridiculed in equal measure, stands a government in waiting.

And nobody saw it coming. Did they?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

A Modern Plague

Image Source: Independent Liverpool
Written By: Scott Gunnion

Take a stroll up Lord Street in the city centre, and you'll be greeted with an all too familiar scene. Several homeless people scattered erratically on the landscape, inhabiting shop doorways, begging at the fringes.

Homelessness is a swelling epidemic that, in these economically challenging times, visibly plagues the streets of Liverpool, most notably the city centre where the number of people sleeping rough would appear to have multiplied substantially in recent times and, it would appear, continues to rise.

It's hard to imagine that, in these enlightened times, anybody should want for shelter.

Homelessness is a modern crisis that blights the city's image both in the eyes of residents; reactions ranging from concern to despair, and from the perspective of tourists and critical outsiders.

You can scarcely walk 50 yards in the city centre without happening upon one of society's dispossessed curled up in a shop door-way in a vain attempt to seek shelter.  Walk another hundred yards and you'll see another.

We have a moral responsibility to care for the disadvantaged in society. Liverpool must be seen to be tackling the problem head on.

Continued inaction, be it through inertia or ineptitude, will only cease to deflate and diminish our collective conscience as a community, tarnishing our reputation for being a compassionate people with a strong sense of social justice and basic human decency.

The strength of our commitment to social justice will dictate the size and scale of our response to this grim affliction. Nothing less than a full and far-reaching assault will suffice.

There's no fix to be found in indifference. The problem isn't going to retreat and disappear. Nor is this the time for gimmicks. Clearing the shop doorways and moving people on is a quick fix and a purely artificial one at that.

There needs to be more high quality hostels staffed by well-trained and sympathetic staff well-versed in the issues facing homeless people such as mental health, drug and alcohol dependency and chronic unemployment.

This will require an investment, the commitment of public funds.

I've heard anecdotal reports of hostels operated by the YMCA and Salvation Army imposing what amounts to punitive service charges on its residents. That's right, inflicting further hardship on the already destitute.

The picture painted by word-of-mouth is nothing less than bleak. A passive layer of organisations staffed by detached officials completely barren of any concept of duty of care.

Far from Christian, it seems the YMCA can be a deeply unfeeling beast.

The charitable sector is failing the homeless.

That is why the public sector has to step in and step up to the mark. That will require investment.

To clean the streets, not just superficially, we must commit ourselves to expanding access to quality accommodation and to support workers with the skills to rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have fallen on hard times and found themselves consigned to the fringes.

I believe that John and Joan Everyman understands that society has a duty of care to the most vulnerable in society and will be supportive of the expansion of state-provided services and solutions to tackle the homelessness epidemic with which we are faced.

Perhaps it's now time for a full and frank debate about homelessness and the devastation it wreaks both on a forgotten underclass and on wider society.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Rotheram Rocks It

Image Source: Twitter
Written By: Scott Gunnion

So, true to what surely must have been almost universally-held expectations, Steve Rotheram has been elected Mayor of the Liverpool City Region. It was a decisive victory for a campaign that was never ever really in doubt.

And splat goes Anderson, diminished and dethroned. Egg on face in place of his usual morning fry-up. And though he never could seem to fit into those pinstriped parachutes he wore as suits, it was the local Labour electorate that decided he was ultimately too big for his boots.

His very political survival is now entirely dependant on being adopted as the Labour candidate for Liverpool Walton, though there are rumblings that Corbyn's son has his eyes on the plum seat, plus what's to guarantee they'd have Anderson anyway? After all, he did poll pitifully behind Rotheram in the primary to decide Labour's candidate for the Metro Mayoralty.

What is truly interesting about the result is that the Tory candidate, perennial bridesmaid Tony Caldeira, managed to crack 20%; I expected 10%, at best. And even that would have been impressive. Perhaps that is an omen for things to come in the uber-marginals on Merseyside: Wirral West, Wirral South and Southport seats.

The Lib Dems were decimated, polling a paltry 6%. You have to remember, up until 2010, the Lib Dems ruled supreme on Liverpool City Council. Now they are nothing. They're not invited to the stag night and they're certainly not invited to the hen party.

So what now for Steve? He has a vast budget to preside over. In Parliament, he was Corbyn's bag man (Parliamentary Private Secretary officially), but now he has the chance to be his own man.

He starts at an immediate advantage: he isn't Joe, who seems to me to be widely reviled, discredited, sneered at and dismissed. For some reason, Liverpool Labour just hasn't taken to him.

But this is Rotheram's time to shine. He kicked Caldeira to the kerb and now Joe's a no-show at the table of decision-makers.

The Liverpool region Mayoralty, like its Manchester equivalent, will be the standard by which future guinea pigs in this democratic experiment are judged by.

Get it right, and this could mark a whole new era in devolution and democratic participation. Get it wrong, and power will retreat from the people and land in the safe haven of Parliament's smothering embrace and the covetous hands of the London-centric elites.

We shall wait and see ...

Friday, 21 April 2017

Wham! Bam! Yam!

Image Source: Twitter
Written By: Scott Gunnion

May, or Yam as I call her affectionately, must be confident.

Some polls have the Tories as much as 20% ahead, some on double the support of Labour.

She's braver than John Major or Gordon Brown were, both of whom - PMs without an electoral mandate - allowed the life of the Parliament to expire before they put themselves before the electorate. Both, for clarity, expected to lose, though only Brown did.

Yam hopes to bolster her fickle Parliamentary majority in order to make a success of Brexit.

To do so, she must make make a stand and advocate and embrace popular but unfashionable policy stances. She must be unequivocally anti-immigration and commit herself to reduced migration from Europe. She must open the doors to selection in education, committing herself to a new generation of grammar schools. So too must she abandon Cameron's flashy and vacuous commitment to 0.7% of GDP towards foreign aid. It isn't a vote-loser, per se, but it isn't a vote-winner either. Nobody cares. Cut at its throat and throw it overboard. Time for aid to Africa to walk the plank.

But for the first time in an entire generation, there are clear and unequivocal policy differences dividing the two major parties. To put it simply, there is choice. There is contrast over which to debate and deliberate.

As confident as Yam may be, there is no room for complacency. You can't put Corbyn in a corner and he isn't going away anytime soon.

Remember Trump? They all said he would lose, that he was unelectable, lacked credibility, lacked temperament. And still he won. There is no room for complacency; it can't be said enough.

In 2015, the Tories annihilated the Lib Dems in their South West England heartland, cushioning them from losses in the North and helping them on their way to the first majority Tory government in over twenty years.

But the Lib Dem's bounced back in the Richmond by-election post-Brexit riding a wave of pro-European sentiment. They could be headed for a resurgence. Vince Cable could return to reclaim his seat. In fact, I predict he will do just that.

More chance of that than the deeply toxic Esther McVey staging a comeback in Wirral West in what should naturally be a Tory seat, especially at this election.

You have to admit - Yam has balls. She could wind up with a diminished majority - or no overall control - and then what for Hard Brexit?

Irrespective of the outcome of June's election, Yam is safe as leader what with Boris safely distracted with foreign diplomacy, Osborne and Gove already emasculated and Andrea Leadsom well and truly put in her place.

This is indeed the age of Yam - and it isn't over yet, not by a stretch.

Anderson's No Thai Bride - He's A Prize Pig

Image Source: Daily Mail
Written By: Scott Gunnion

It came as no surprise with the news that outgoing Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, had set his sights on the ultra-safe Commons seat of Liverpool Walton, the very seat currently - but only temporarily - being kept warm by Anderson's prevailing rival for the Liverpool Region Mayoralty, Steve Rotheram.

You could call it an official trade - one job for another.

If you ask me, Joe Anderson gets a bad rap.

I often find myself on the receiving end of his (seemingly) insurmountable number of critics. So too do I often absorb innumerate casual references to corruption, incompetence and an alleged penchant for "backhanders". All non-founded and no proof has ever been offered up, from my experience. But said accusations are often condemning by virtue of their very existence.

He hasn't got a bad heart. His suits may be ill-fitted, but his sincerity isn't in doubt.

And I don't think he'll ever be at the centre of "Operation Yam" - the name of a potential future prostitution or abuse scandal like Operation Yewtree and its sister investigation.

Rotheram relinquishing his seat in Parliament - the safest Labour seat in the country - and, by my estimations, the only in which the winning candidate achieved in excess of 80% of the vote, has created a natural opening for Anderson.

Being Labour's safest seat, it would ordinarily be fiercely sought after and contended by the creme de la creme of Labour's most esteemed and distinguished consortium of budding candidates.

But due to the snap election, candidates are likely to be imposed on local constituency associations by central organisations.

It is bluntly obvious that Anderson is the perfect candidate and would be a fierce advocate for the interests of Liverpool Walton.

He would be ill-inclined to divert his attentions away from politics in favour of the enticing carousel of corporate offerings and directorships likely to fall at his feet as he exits the Mayoralty. He has no background in business and, I strongly suspect, no appetite for a second life in the private sector.

It is nothing but a natural progression for somebody who, for five years as Major, has enjoyed an imposing public profile and enviable name recognition.

Being Mayor of Liverpool offers an unparalleled bully pulpit. There is a minimal number of big city mayors in the UK. Liverpool is unique in its full frontal embrace of the big city mayoralty and always has been.

Anderson is a dependable fixture on the Sunday morning news programmes, bestowing upon him the fruits of a largely unrivalled platform from which to speak up for the city, the region and its interests.

Anderson's fierce doggedness and obvious passion would make for a ferocious backbencher in what is likely to be a strong Tory government with an imposing majority.

So too would Anderson's well-fined media skills make him both high-profile and high-calibre. He would stand out in what is likely destined to be a shrunken parliamentary party, bereft of talent with the mass exodus of experienced MPs in marginal seats and the high number of largely-inexperienced, novice newly-elected MPs potentially likely to be elected lacking the benefits of his extensive local government experience and the skills and talents that come with it.

Walton could do far worse than Anderson. If anything, he is the ideal candidate.

Reports of Jeremy Corbyn's son Seb being parachuted in by the central party should be cause for concern.

But when push comes to shove - rather the bitch than the pup.

But that's just my opinion.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017


Image Source: Glamour
Written By: Scott Gunnion

It must have been a slow news day when the front page of the Echo was reserved, albeit on a Sunday, to cover the matter of rising levels of HIV in Liverpool.

There can be no doubt that the rise in HIV infections across Merseyside, as alleged in the article, is acutely linked to the increased and ever-increasing popularity of online dating apps. This matter was covered and tackled in Sunday's Echo on the front page and on page 5.

But that alone is not to blame. The way I see things, there have been three generations of gay men throughout the AIDS epidemic.

The first generation found themselves infected unknowingly and eventually died. The second generation were acutely aware of the virus and, consequently, became incredibly vigilant and resistant. The third generation, the current generation, haven't grown up around HIV/AIDS and therefore haven't taken it seriously or ever really acknowledged its presence or its potential impact. It is this generation that finds itself impacted.

And though it has never been easier or more casual to get tested, it is still the case that a stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS dominates and perseveres.

Grindr, Bendr, Hornet, and so on, and so forth. The mobile dating apps have taken over, and the gay scene has suffered indisputably.

Online dating apps have replaced face-to-face dating, irreversibly so. People who would once go out religiously on a Saturday night in search of 'the one', for example, are now content to sit at home tapping away on apps like Grindr without leaving the comfort of their own front room. People who would once cross eyes across a bar now vet one another by their profile pictures and the stats that accompany them.

These apps all have similar sounding names. I've always liked the idea of Koshr for Jewish singles, Burkr for Muslims and Bangra for lonely hearts of Indian descent.

As for rising levels of HIV, with levels of infection rising persistently, I only hope that those at risk get tested at an early stage before the disease has the chance to take hold.

HIV rates may be on the rise, but early testing might squash the burgeoning epidemic. As for online dating apps, a return to traditional dating rituals might go some way to calming the storm.

Yes, online dating apps are partly to blame, but they merely replace the role traditionally played by gay cruising areas. Gay men have a habit of engaging in risky behaviour; they always have done. Mobile dating apps are just the next phrase in the trajectory of inevitably risky gay cruising habits.

If people used condoms, then we wouldn't be faced with these issues. They're given out for free on the gay scene, so there's no excuse.

If we are to fight rising levels of HIV infection, then the gay community has to abandon its inclinations towards risk and embrace safe sex. It isn't hard, but it's imperative if we are to combat the rising epidemic with which we are faced.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The imminent ascent of Rotheram

Image Source: Twitter
Written By: Scott Gunnion

To be frank, I am both surprised and slightly taken aback by the mock furore surrounding Steve Rotheram's latest campaign leaflet that takes aim at the Tories, as striking and glossy as it may be.

I've been left largely confused.

What did it say that hadn't already been said hundreds of times of before, and that is a conservative estimate?

Liverpool is anti-Tory to its core. Unapologetically so.

The leaflet was both visually striking and acutely (indeed effortlessly) tuned to the concerns of its target electorate.

If anything, the leaflet is flawed only in that it neglectfully restricts Merseyside's woes to the well-documented traumas of the 1980s and fails to acknowledge that Liverpool did not suddenly rise like a Phoenix to become a cultural and economic powerhouse under 13 years of Labour rule. Liverpool was no heir to Blair and remained stale and in decline under Brown.

The fact that the Conservatives routinely receive as little as 5-10% of the vote across the length and breadth of Liverpool is plainly indicative of the fact that they do not, have never, and can (probably) never hope to identify with the voters of the Liverpool city region.

The leaflet spoke to and delved deeply into Liverpool's deep anti-Tory sentiment.

It is and will no doubt be a vote-winner, not a loser, in what is reliable Labour territory. Will it increase turnout? No. But will it encourage those already inclined to vote? Yes. Of that, I am in no doubt.

The epic dominance of Labour in the Liverpool city region leaves a vacuum that needs to be filled. But it poses this question: how do you establish and define yourself against an enemy when your nearest rival is polling as little as 10% and fortune happens that you enjoy a monstrous majority exceeding 50%, even on a disappointing day?

Rotheram's leaflet is confident, albeit unremarkable, in most respects, completely unexceptional.

Nothing fresh, nothing new, but reassuring to the voters it seeks to appeal to in its frank familiarity.

It marks him out as a forceful leader with a deep understanding of his constituency's past and a towering, infinite zeal for the passion and ideas that will drive its future.

To the council members on the opposing side of this debate, I say: quit your bitching and quit your biting. Accept that new leadership is on the horizon and make a conscious effort to be part of the solution and not the problem. It is far easier to protest than it is to make a positive contribution. Distinction is found in devotion, not dissent.