HANSON FOR MERSEYTRAVEL?
As forecast here last week, pressure is mounting on Merseytravel chairman Mark Dowd to go. His vigorous response to accusations of broken contract rule has merely galvanised opposition to him within his own Labour Party ranks.
Leading the way has been Liverpool Cabinet member Joe Hanson who it is now clear is the person behind a critical report on Cllr Dowd’s record. Hanson may be the man to challenge Cllr Dowd when the authority holds its annual general meeting later this month.
The fact that he is a Liverpool councillor, and traditionally such posts are held by politicians from councils in the rest of Merseyside, may now be less of a problem. Reports suggest that St Helens councillors on the transport authority have joined the call for Cllr Dowd to go. St Helens is traditionally the council most sensitive to Liverpool dominating the city region.
WARRINGTON NEW LEADERSHIP
Who is going to fill the gap left by the departure of Chief Executive Diana Terris? Sources suggest she found it difficult to work with the Labour administration which came into office last year. My information is that the authority will take its time to make a permanent appointment. In the meantime we can expect an announcement shortly of an experienced pair of hands to guide the authority through the transition.
CONSULTATION OR CHAOS?
Labour does want its pasty and eat it.
I mean the government changes its mind about the tax on this product and an MP called Chris Leslie is all over our screens saying the whole budget is in chaos.
He’s miffed because he won’t be able to beat the Chancellor over the head about the issue again or the tax on static caravans. The tax on church conversions is rumoured to be next.
Of course George Osborne made a mess of his budget, allowing everyone to focus on these irritating issues which are small in the great scheme of things. This has obscured his determination to keep getting the deficit down and the fact that millions of poorer people have been taken out of tax. The latter largely because of Lib Dem pressure.
So the government has changed its mind. All credit to them I say for listening. That’s what democracy is all about.
NICK ROBINSON AND BRIAN REDHEAD.
Spin, sleaze and splits. That’s the staple diet of political journalism. But should we replace some of that with substance?
That was the question that the BBC’s Political Editor Nick Robinson posed at a memorial lecture this week in honour of that great North West journalist Brian Redhead.
Partly driven by the demands of editors and also by the incessant demands of 24 hour news, political coverage does tend to concentrate on those three s-words. But Nick was asking how far this has contributed to the yawning chasm that has opened up between politicians and the people.
If the public is constantly told their politicians are on the make, if they think the reporter is being manipulated by spin doctors or is telling them about internal party squabbles that they don’t care about, then probably journalism has some responsibility for low turnout.
So Nick suggested we need to do something about the fourth s-word, substance. Perhaps we should have more coverage of how policy is made, why it is so difficult, what factors are taken into account.
The problem is who would watch it or read it? Nick feared it might be regarded as “eating your greens television.” In other words good for you but not necessarily very enjoyable after a hard day’s work.
I was privileged to host a question and answer session after Nick had spoken at the lecture in Salford Quays. Nick had first worked for me at Piccadilly Radio (now Key 103) in January 1983. He had a year to fill because he could not go to university following a terrible car crash which saw his great friend Will Redhead killed.
Nick paid tribute to Brian, who included presenting the Today programme and editing the Manchester Evening News, amongst his achievements and said he had inspired him to take up journalism.
Brian encouraged all young journalists. In the early eighties I always hoped he’d be on the mid morning train to Macclesfield after we had both finished working in London. If he was you’d be guaranteed a couple of hours of inspiring chat which was substantial but included a bit about spin, sleaze and splits too.