Here’s why I’m IN!

It seems strange to be writing this on the very eve of the EU Referendum vote. I’ve wrestled with writing something for weeks now but this debate has made me so angry, depressed, upset and fearful there just doesn’t seem to have been a right time to do it. I’ve feared I’d slip into some sort of blinkered, personalised rant; filled with the very ire that to be fair the majority of the last 10 weeks of campaigning has been littered with.

This has not been the United Kingdom’s finest hour. Language on both sides of the debate has been at best highly charged and at worst fuelled by hate. I would argue that this type of discourse hasn’t started with the EU referendum campaign. The bile, veiled threats and gutter politics has been growing for well over a decade now. We’ve just seen a crescendo over the past 10 long weeks of which I personally, haven’t seen in my lifetime and I don’t know if we’ll ever recover from it in the near future whatever the result. More on that in a future blog I feel!

Putting all of that aside though, yes, I am a remainer! Feels good to write that. It’s a perfectly innocent word. To continue to be. I’m in and not out. I’m a British, English, Scouse European in no particular order of merit. I’m happy to embrace all sides of those cultures together with any remaining trace of Irish ancestry embedded within my own and many Liverpudlian’s DNA.

There’s no treachery there. There’s nothing unpatriotic about that. Nobody can seriously claim otherwise.

There are lots of reasons why I’ll be voting to stay in the EU. I won’t go through each of them here as over the last 10 weeks people far more eloquently have put arguments across that I’ve shared through social media. I will just touch upon the ones that I feel most strongly about.

Firstly, I’m from Liverpool. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the European Union saved the city of Liverpool. The EU saved it from a Tory government with a Thatcherite policy of “managed decline”. Under that government Liverpool qualified for European Objective One status. Reserved only for the poorest parts of Europe as a whole. Just think about that for a moment. Our own government let Liverpool and other areas of the UK rot until they were officially the poorest regions of the entire EU. So much for the 5th most prosperous economy in the world! Europe bailed us out. You can’t walk around Liverpool without walking past something that is there only because of European funding. It’s a vibrant centre that millions visit. The bars and hotels are full every weekend and there are just so many of them now! It’s not Utopia but just what would have happened to Liverpool and other vast swathes of neglected, typically working class areas, without all that money from Europe? (Note to Frank Field: Can you actually remember how run down Liverpool and the City Region were? Are you sure you’re in the right party? Maybe you should take your own advice and “think the unthinkable” of a Merseyside devoid of all those European millions begging for the crumbs off the Tory table?)

Secondly and following on from above, the UK will not be able to get a better trade deal than almost an entire continent. There’ll be no special treatment for us from the rest of Europe if we decide to go. Quite the contrary. We’ll be made an example of to quell any other nations who may question their European status. The “5th largest economy” is a misnomer. The majority of that wealth sits with the top 2% of our population anyway and that’s not because of Europe! To suggest we’ll still have access to the European market on our terms because we’re Britain and they need us is nonsense. Leaving Europe will be like a bitter divorce and asking for free trade on only our terms would be like asking your ex-wife to have free access to her home and complete use of all the facilities whilst expecting to continue to make love to her on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Bank Holidays!

Thirdly, you simply have to look at who wants us to leave. On the face of it that’s a point based on personalities but it’s far deeper than that. It’s about their political DNA. Anyone contemplating voting to leave the EU has to at least stop for even a second and think about the long-held beliefs of those campaigning for Brexit. Why are this lot so keen to leave the European Union? Really, think carefully about it. Why? 

Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Ian Duncan Smith, Nigel Farage, Priti Patel, Paul Nutalls of the UKIPs, Toby Young, Katie Hopkins, Neil Hamilton, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Rupert Murdoch, Liam Fox, Nigel Lawson, Chris Grayling etc. Not one of them have done anything for or have any good will towards the working class. Between them their policies include, privatising the NHS, dismantling the BBC, scrapping workers’ rights, commercialisation of the education system, relaxing gun laws, denying climate change, further austerity, reducing public services even further, supporting bankers’ bonuses (yes those people who caused the financial crash in the first place!) banning satire, scrapping social housing, attacking the disabled, protecting tax havens, scrapping support for legal representation to those who cannot afford it, defending zero-hours contracts… The list goes on.

Why are those people with their track record so desperate to leave the EU?

Finally, I’ve seen so many people viewing this referendum as some sort of vote to get rid of the Conservatives. There’ll be no General Election as a consequence of this vote. We have fixed term parliaments now. You might see the back of Cameron and Osbourne only to usher in the new dawn of Johnson and Gove and strengthening the position of Farage and the far-right.

This isn’t about anything other than our future in Europe, potentially our future as a United Kingdom and protecting our children and grandchildren’s rights, mobility and influence on our own continent and beyond.

It really is no time, with all the issues facing us as a planet, never mind Europe, to be isolating ourselves on an opportunistic right-wing whim.

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Having a Pop at the Pundits

They get let off the hook week in week out. As the game of football has grown and more matches are broadcast live on a multitude of channels so standards have dropped.

No, I’m not talking about players who can’t score or defend or even move for that matter or referees who can’t tell a handball from an offside or a ball out of play. These days they do not escape as camera angles and technology and experts dissect every wrong move, every missed opportunity and every poor decision.

What about the experts though? Who is monitoring them? Why isn’t there a dubious pundit panel alongside the mysterious dubious goals one? Why is there no Global Head of Punditry, rigourously assessing the likes of Alan Shearer, Michael Owen and Robbie Savage? (Although granted the latter may need a whole dubious committee of his own)

I don’t think it is a bold statement to suggest, indeed, categorically state that the state of British football punditry is at an all time low. Mark Lawrenson, in hair terms the Donald Trump of punditry, looks bored by his own presence in a studio. Michael Owen seems to have been bought the Complete Works of Colemanballs, digested every word and is determined to use each gaffe on BT Sport and Glenn Hoddle for all his media and ex-pro sycophants who lament his loss to the game and his tactical nous still conjures up the spirit of Eileen Drewery. A man who seems to amazingly impress all his fellow pundits with his “knowledge of the game”, “tactical acumen” and bewilder them as to “why there seems to be no room for him in today’s game” yet still to my clearly untrained ear talks absolute twaddle when he comes anywhere near a live microphone. You could say much the same for Harry Redknapp and his financially astute dog.

Here’s an example for you. BT Sport have the goal-fest that was Norwich v Liverpool the other week. Prior to kick off Michael Owen, Steve McManaman and Glenn Hoddle are perplexed by Jurgen Klopp’s decision to start with Robert Firmino up front as opposed to Christian Benteke. Firmino gets a hammering from the team and to a lesser extent Klopp for going with Firmino. The fact that the pundit’s preferred choice of Benteke has played a 90 minute version of footballing statues in recent outings counts for nothing as there is abject bewilderment that Firmino should get a look in ahead of the former Villa goal machine. Sure enough Firmino scores 2 goals and narrowly misses a hat-trick in a man-of -the-match performance for Liverpool.

Later on in the game with Liverpool 3-1 down, Klopp substitutes Jordan Ibe and brings on Adam Lallana. Glenn Hoddle is beside himself, his tactical know-how just cannot comprehend how “the lad” and the “really talented young player” can be hauled off being one of the only members of Liverpool’s squad who can “directly influence the game”. I personally was also beside myself thinking if Hoddle had been watching the same game as me. Ibe had beaten his opposing full-back early on in the game and then faded into obscurity, offering nothing offensively and failing to do any tracking back, constantly exposing Alberto Moreno. Hoddle had other ideas though but strangely went quiet when shortly after Klopp’s dodgy substitution Liverpool proceeded to quickly go 4-3 up. How much Glenn Hoddle could give still give to the game of football, if only he was given the opportunity!

This week, one Liverpool fan site has polled its readers and who came out as player of the month? Why, none other than Roberto Firmino. I’m guessing for all of Owen’s, McManaman’s and Hoddle’s bluster Christian Benteke wasn’t troubling the scorer (as -per) in that poll!

Now there may not be, at present, a dubious pundit panel, but there is a TV Anchor, in this case Jake Humphrey. Did he expose the pundits for their nightmare in Norwich?

No. Of course not and that’s the problem. Players and referees are pulled apart and their every action or lack of it exposed and criticised. There is no problem with that. It’s a professional game after all but when pundits get it wrong, particularly so spectacularly wrong, then the host should point it out and expose them for it. They are paid well too as is the host and it would sure make a change from the blase “bon-hommie” that exists currently. Match of the Day can be almost unwatchable as Gary Lineker chortles along with his pundit pals whilst the in-jokes keep coming. All Jake Humphrey had to say was, “So, Steve, Glenn and Michael. Robert Firmino man of the match and an inspired substitution from Jurgen Klopp. Not such a good day for you guys was it?”

Incidentally, what is it with Steve McManaman? He really does need a suitable haircut for his age. At this rate and if he ages badly he’s one step away from becoming Mick Hucknall.

Ex-LFC Player Pundits – A Short Rant

Jurgen Klopp arrived in Liverpool with a fair amount of hype. There’s no doubting that the appointment of Klopp following the sacking of Brendan “David Brent” Rodgers was quite a coup for Liverpool F.C. He brings some much needed life to the club after the endless droning from Rodgers about “character” and “the group”. Now things are measured in terms of “this moment” and whether the football or decision making on the pitch is “cool” or not. Whatever Klopp brings to the party, things are certainly not going to be dull.

In his first press conference, the former Dortmund manager quipped about the British press, saying that he had heard a lot about them and that it was up to them to prove all that he had heard was wrong. The assembled football journalists that crowded into that press conference were charmed and Klopp probably bought himself some time with them in terms of getting things right at Anfield. However, there was one section of the football media that were not in attendance that day and seem ready to crank up the pressure on “the normal one” from the get go.

Step forward the ex-LFC player pundits.

There are usually warning signs that a Liverpool manager is about to be given his P45. Press conferences become a bit awkward, “people outside the club” with “agendas” are often spoken about and as the paranoia really begins to set in the former players in the press start getting blamed for the current incumbent’s inevitable fate. Houllier, Hodgson and Rodgers are prime examples of this belief that they had somehow become victims of these mysterious outside influences before finally biting the dust at Anfield. It is something I’ve never really bought into although I’ve found the behaviour of certain ex-LFC players now plying their trade with the likes of Sky and BT Sport somewhat sinister.

It’s almost as if the classic British media trick of building someone up only to take glee in knocking them back down has been triggered early in some of them. Maybe the clocks changing back to Greenwich Mean Time has confused the likes of Souness, Carragher and McManaman somewhat?

Following the weekend’s visit of Southampton in the Premier League, Souness and Carragher were up in arms and that was just at half-time. They complained about the shape, the balance of the side, nothing having changed since Klopp’s arrival and there being nothing to get excited about, particularly “for two Liverpool fans”. Now, of course, these guys are entitled and paid to have an opinion. Hold on a second though. This was Klopp’s third game in charge! He’s been in the job two weeks! Not only that he’s had a horrific injury list to contend with resulting in the only fully fit, available striker being the fourth choice Divock Origi. There may be talent lurking in there, but he’s fourth choice for a reason! This is also someone else’s team and an unbalanced squad full of forwards (if mainly on the treatment table), “number 10s” and lacking in wide players. It’s also a squad lacking in confidence following Brendan’s chopping and changing of formations and playing players out of position. It really didn’t matter who breezed into Liverpool the other week, this is something that’s going to take some time to put right.

Since Carragher turned pundit, he’s sadly become somewhat of a rent-a-gob for me, hamming up his comedy double act with his new best mate from Manchester, Gary Neville. As for Souness despite a stellar career as a player, this is a man who as a manager of Liverpool brought Julian Dicks to the club.

Outside of the cozy studio bonhomie of Sky, it was the earlier Europa League fixture against Rubin Kazin which sparked a pitch-side Steve McManaman to lose his cool. “They’d have been booed off if this was Rodgers”, he moaned before anguishing with words tossed around such as “poor”, “frustrating” and “not acceptable”. McManaman was a man close to bursting, his face bright red, looking if he was about to implode. What the former blind-alley merchant failed to recognise though was that this was game TWO! Klopp had barely had time to figure out who was going to post the next picture of him enjoying Liverpool’s nightlife and there stood Steve McManaman, badly in need of a haircut that suits his age, raging on the Anfield turf about how everything is just STILL so poor a full 180 minutes into Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool reign.

Klopp needs time at Liverpool and he’ll get it, just like Brendan Rodgers did before him. This isn’t Leeds United or Aston Villa we are talking about here where a manager’s life expectancy is shorter than that of a mayfly.

Personally, I couldn’t understand why McManaman was so upset. It’s not as if Klopp was holding the club to ransom, refusing to sign a contract extension before jetting off on a free transfer to Madrid now was it?

Prickly Heat

At long last summer in the UK has arrived. Get the barbecue out, set sun factor to 50 and dust off those shorts folks because we’re having a heatwave!!! Wimbledon is here, the ice cream van owner is finally smiling and turn up Cliff Richard’s “Summer Holiday” up to the max for some “fun and laughter”.

Actually, on second thoughts, best scrub the Cliff Richard bit, just to be on the safe side!No matter though because it’s officially a heatwave and time to get out those paddling pools, fill the coolbox up with ice and get the super-soakers out for some fun in the sun. Sounds great doesn’t it? It’s what we’ve all been waiting for hasn’t it? – Well, hasn’t it?!!

Perhaps not. Barely day one into this festival of sunshine and the naysayers have been out in force droning out the common British phrase, “It’s too hot!” They go on and on and on about it too. “It’s toooooooooo hot! Oh my,it’s tooooooo hot!” they say, “Oh I’m melting in this! It’s just tooooooooooo hot!!!” These will be the same people who a few days earlier will have been moaning about how wet it’s been and constantly asking the question, “where’s summer?” Waxing lyrical about how summers were better in the 70s and dismissing global warming at a stroke.

Ok, so you think you can avoid the naysayers perhaps? Possibly, but it seems these people all work in the media too. Aside from the obligatory two kids together with an ice cream shot and a scantily clad, bikini shot of Emma (22) and Claire (19) from Kent enjoying the beach, the papers aren’t exactly to sold on the weather either.

The list of sun-related problems we’re about to face makes you wish it was Christmas already (which helpfully is only 25 weeks away – hurrah!). Here’s what we need to be on the look out for as we go into “meltdown”:

  • Just surviving is going to be an issue. This hot spell only means one thing. – Death! Heatstroke, exhaustion, skin cancer, dehydration, killer bees, crazed terrorists and drowning. Probably best staying in then and seeing this out.
  • Infrastructure. It can’t cope can it? Not in this heat. The roads are going to melt like they’d been laid by the Devil himself at the Core of Hades. Trains aren’t going to fair much better either, the tracks are going to be buckled so much that a single from Liverpool to Manchester could see you ending up in Middlesbrough. Let’s face it nobody wants that!
  • Foreigners. If they’re not trying to kill you then at the very least they’re going to spoil your holiday with ferry strikes, road blockades, air traffic control disputes and generally not being able to speak English!
  • Water. No man is an island they say but thankfully Great Britain is, surrounded by water and with plenty of rain for the other 50 weeks of the year. Expect a hosepipe ban in place by the end of the week.
  • Idiocy. Let’s face it if there’s one thing we Brits are good at it’s summer idiocy. If it’s not jumping from high ledges into shallow water, or all day drink-fuelled nuisance or the classic leaving dogs with the windows shut in the car until they become a Korean delicacy. Let’s not forget the discarded cigarette that will turn half of the Yorkshire Moors to dust too. If there’s one thing we can rely on in this hot spell it is the rise of the idiot.
  • Extreme Weather. If it’s not enough that the heatwave is destined to kill you one way or another than if there’s one thing a hot spell will bring with it is thunderstorms and heavy rain. Classic cathedrals, iron waving golfers and Wile E. Coyote are all at risk from being struck by lightening. Then there’s the torrential rain and flash flooding destined to see people stranded in their cars, sheep stranded on small hills and Paul Daniels marooned in his house in the middle of the Thames unable to escape. (I thought he was a magician?) Despite this the hosepipe ban will remain in place for another three weeks.
  • Facts. Heatwaves bring stats and lots of them. If it’s not the torrential rain that will drown you, it’ll be the stats. Highest temperatures, (since records began), lowest water supplies, (since records began) greatest humidity, (since records began) and so on. Who started these records anyway? Is there a record of this? (since records began) and is there a record (since records began) of when the records began, since when records began there was probably no record of this. – (Incidentally, if I hear just how many portions of strawberries and cream will be consumed at Wimbledon this year one more time my blood, if it isn’t already in this heat, may just boil.)

So, there we go then, day one of the heatwave and just thank God you’ve survived it. Make sure you’re well prepared for the apocalyptic meltdown that we face over the next few weeks and remember be careful! It’s an arid, barren, melting-pot of boiling, burning death out there and frankly it’s just too hot!

3 Queens? I’ll pass on that thanks!

This weekend in Liverpool will see thousands of people line the iconic waterfront for the arrival of Cunard Line’s “3 Queens”. The cruise liners Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria will visit the River Mersey to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Cunard. Apparently, this is a huge event. Liverpool will be jammed with people trying to get a glimpse of the 3 ships over the next few days in numbers akin to the visit of the “Giant Spectacular” last summer.

I however, won’t be one of them. Here’s why.

Firstly, I’m not a “spotter”. I’m not a plane spotter, a bus spotter, a train spotter and I’m not a boat spotter. That’s essentially what you’re doing by going down to watch this event isn’t it? Boat spotting? It’s 3 big boats slowly coming in, stopping for a bit and slowly going out again.

Secondly, as a staunch republican I can’t support any notion of reverence to the Royal Family. Maybe if they were renamed after Queen? The Freddie Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor perhaps would be more of a sight to see. Then again maybe other queens should be celebrated across the cultural spectrum? I’m thinking Queen Latifah, Queen of the South (to keep the Scots happy) and of course Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Let’s face it though, whatever their names it’s just 3 big boats slowly coming in, stopping for a bit and slowly going out again.

Maybe I’d go if there was some jeopardy to the whole thing. Couldn’t there be a Queens battle royal? They could have the 3 liners ramming into each other until there was only 1 left floating. Perhaps they could be hunted down by warships or submarines or try to negotiate a tough course of strategically placed mines? The whole thing could even be hosted by Grimmy or some such fella.

Finally, if you go down and stand on the coastline or quayside, you’ll be there standing, waiting for the big boats to slowly come in. It will probably be hours before you see anything dependent on the weather and the tides. When they do slowly come in and stop for a bit you might find yourself waving at the people on board. Nothing wrong with that you say except that those people on board, some of them maybe even waving back, are looking at you on the shoreline and thinking just one thing. “Look at them,” they say, “all those people waving at us as we slowly come in and stop for a bit. They’ll probably be still there waving when we slowly go out again. Take a good look at them waving at us, they’ll never be able to afford to stand here waving back!” That’s the big rub isn’t it really? Thousands upon thousands of people turning up to celebrate the super rich lording it over us all. Well not for me thanks. I can sit in the relative comfort of my own home, turn on the TV and watch the super rich lord it over me and when you truly stop to think about it…

It’s just 3 big boats, slowly coming in, stopping for a bit and slowly going out again.