Robert Hampton

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9th November 2010

Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Woolas?
Posted by at 10.44pm | Politics | No responses

The MP Phil Woolas has been stripped of his seat in the House of Commons, after a Court ruled that he breached election campaigning laws.

As a consequence, Woolas has been expelled from the Labour party, a decision which has not pleased everyone. Colleagues and sympathisers are stumping up for his appeal.

In the Guardian, Michael White argues that half-truths and unkeepable promises are par for the course in election campaigning. That may be true (although it’s not a fact that reflects well on our politicians) but Woolas went a bit further than most though: accusing his opponent of funding his campaign illegally and associating with Islamic extremists.

And if you still don’t think he’s done anything wrong, consider this: e-mails from the campaign team revealed during the court case show that there was a strategy to ”galvanise the white Sun vote”. His seat is in Oldham. Of all the places where stoking racial tension is a bad idea, that would have to be near the top of the list.

If Woolas’s appeal fails and a by-election is held, it will be interesting to see how the result turns out. The Liberal Democrat candidate lost by just 103 votes in May 2010 and would be expected to win this time round. Will the coalition cost the Lib Dems votes?

1st January 2010

2009? More like Two Thousand and Fine!

July saw Merseyrail’s run of bad luck continue, as a train rolled out of the depot and derailed. To atone for their sins, they introduced a new day ranger ticket, but I wasn’t convinced. This was something of a train-y month for me, as I did my bit to help out the previous generation of Merseyrail trains. Trains were also on the Government’s mind, as they announced that the Liverpool to Manchester line would be electrified.

In London, the Police proved once again what a wonderful organisation they are. In Rome, a swimmer suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.

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3rd August 2009

The Voice of Merseyside… in Oldham

Today marked the start of a brave new era, as the Liverpool Echo is now printed at Trinity Mirror’s Oldham printing press. According to Liverpool Confidential, editors are “acutely sensitive” that this move will undermine the paper’s credibility as a champion for Merseyside.

As I said when this news was announced last year, they are right to be worried. This is not an anti-Manchester thing, more a concern that the changes required to accommodate the move will destroy the paper completely. I’m particularly interested that an “evening” paper will now have a deadline of 7am! We had an example of the damage early deadlines can do only recently, when the Echo was unable to carry any news of Steven Gerrard’s acquittal until the day after the verdict was delivered, by which time it had been thoroughly gone over by TV, radio and the morning national papers and was generally old news. Yes, newspapers are being undermined by the internet, but it seems odd of Trinity Mirror to respond to that threat by making their publication appear even more irrelevant and out of date.

I haven’t been impressed with the Echo for years. Yes, they have run some important campaigns, but they are let down by sloppy reporting, sensationalism (count the number of times the words “CHAOS”, “TERROR” or “HORROR” are used in headlines) and an obsession with generally unimportant matters (car parking, Mersey Tunnel tolls, “Miseryrail”). Their good columnists (Will Batchelor, Laurence Westgaph) disappeared, while tedious rant-merchants like Joe Riley and Pete Price stay on. They’ve even dropped the Willie cartoon!

So I will probably be saving my 47p a day in future. My advice is to use the internet (I highly recommend Liverpool Confidential) or at a pinch, the BBC Radio Merseyside news bulletin at the top of each hour. But if you do this, for God’s sake, turn it off again as soon as the news finishes so you don’t have to listen to the rest of that station’s output.

9th September 2008

Liverpool Ech-oh dear
Posted by at 4.20pm | Liverpool | 1 response

So, the Liverpool Echo is moving its printing press to Oldham. The editor is begging outraged Scousers not to abandon the paper, and has hit out at “misinformed media pundits” for daring to criticise the paper and its parent company, Trinity Mirror.

Some clots in the media have tried to portray this as a move to Manchester. Let me give them a basic geography lesson. Oldham is five miles from Manchester.

That’s true. Specifically, it’s five miles to the North East of Manchester, making it even further away from Liverpool than Manchester is.

There are surely sound economic reasons for Trinity Mirror to have one big printing press instead of loads of smaller ones dotted around the North of England. But in one important respect, this leaves the Daily Post and Echo in a difficult position, given their history of vigorous campaigns against organisations which have proposed to move jobs out of the city.

The most recent example of this came last month when the Royal Mail proposed the closure of its Liverpool office, with mail sorting operations moving to Warrington. The Echo said this:-

Royal Mail’s disregard for the people and status of Liverpool, as part of a slapdash programme to bolster its own floundering financial fortunes, must not be tolerated.

Royal Mail jobs and services must remain where they belong … in the city.

How can the Echo make comments like those above in the future, when they have arguably done a similar thing within their own organisation?