Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why can't the North be more like the South?

Next Monday on Radio 4 the World Tonight at 10pm will feature a special programme on the North /South divide in the UK. It features a personal piece by the effusive Walter Menzies, the chief executive of the Mersey Basin Campaign. A scot by birth, wandering Walter interviews people around the city of Manchester, in Liverpool, in Salford Quays and up in Rossendale. He asks the question: Why can't the North be more like the South?

I was interviewed, I don't know what will make the cut and what won't, but it's a worthwhile endeavour. For the record I don't go in for this "It's grim down South" stuff. There's a lot to do in the North West, people I speak to every day tread a thin line between believing their own hype and wishing a bright new shiny future into existence. Trust in the entrepreneurs, the adventurists and the risk takers, I say.

Mugged by reality

Observer journalist Andrew Anthony has followed his colleague Nick Cohen in writing a book about the moral drift of what passes for the liberal left in the west. There was a powerful extract in the paper at the weekend. Top Manchester blogger Norman Geras has an early copy and makes some observations about reactions to 9/11 here.

I concur with a great deal of what Andrew Anthony says in the Observer. His account of a vicious assault he witnessed in London, here, is one I've experienced too.

Violent Blackburn

Thanks to Steven Lindsay for passing on this latest news item following our "roughing up" of Arsenal last Sunday.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger today issued a further attack on Blackburn Rovers by hitting out at the "violent" shot from David Dunn which gave Blackburn an equaliser in the second half. Wenger said: "It was a disgraceful act of violence which could have damaged Jens Lehmann's fingernails."The Arsenal manager said: "Instead of Dunn passing the ball gently to Lehmann, he chose to hit a long-range violent shot which upset my goalkeeper for the rest of the match. I think Blackburn's violence is totally inexcusable. David Dunn didn't care about Lehmann's feelings when he struck the ball violently. It could have hit Lehmann on the face. It could have wounded him. Blackburn are a disgraceful violent team."The Arsenal manager was also unhappy with the handshake from Mark Hughes at the end of the match. Wenger said: "Hughes gripped my hand a little bit too tightly at the end. I thought it was another act of violence," said the limp-wristed Frenchman.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Funeral

I've had a lot of people asking me if I went to Anthony Wilson's funeral yesterday. I did, but it was a private solemn occasion. So I don't intend to write about it here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Swift shandy

Saw A Cock and Bull Story last night, the film based on the book the life and opnions of Tristram Shandy. Great film. Really funny. It was clearly a massive 24 Hour Party People reunion with virtually all the same cast and crew. And good to see Anthony Wilson playing himself - intelligent, witty, well informed and very very kind.

They don't like it up 'em

This blog's flag and the family had a very enjoyable day out at the Rovers yesterday. I love it that none of the so-called Big Four won yesterday. The way Arsenal played really betrayed the arrogant belief that they simply deserve to win. They can't comprehend another team beating them, or preventing them winning, by fair means. It has to be "violent Blackburn" or "goalkeeper error". Do me a favour? Every time an Arsenal player was tackled he goes down like he's been shot by a sniper from the roof the Jack Walker stand (was it you Jack?). Did we not gift them a soft goal too?

Fouls were about even. We had more possession and more shots. Make no mistake, they can play some lovely football, but so can Rovers. David Dunn and Chris Samba were immense yesterday. Not for lumping or hoofing, but for their quick feet and some intelligent passing moves.

It's been 7 years since Jack Walker died. I never thought we'd still be in such good shape without him, but we are. RIP.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Careless Santana - UPDATED

Have you seen the shiny new adverts for Setanta Sports? We were seduced anyway. We've had such a bad experience with the evil Sky and the witless cable that this seemed a good alternative. And the kids seemed keen on getting this new "Santana Sports". Oh dear. We are now trapped in a Kafka-esque customer services nightmare.

I ordered the service two weeks ago. The card arrived but the box didn't. When I rang they said my payment had been declined. On further explanation it was because the nice Scottish lad who took my payment had entered the wrong issue number. When were they thinking of telling me this? Anyway, it still hasn't arrived so I went to Comet, which is always good. I used to get Currys and Comet mixed up. Not now. Comet = yellow and black = good. Currys = red = rubbish.

So, in order that I waste a chunk of Saturday when I'm relatively chilled and keen on sitting on the sofa (and sore from golf) I bought a Thomson recorder today, which means I've got Sky Plus without the Sky. Cool.

But though digital TV is working fine, I can't get Setanta to work and I can't speak to a human being. I have a contradictory set of instructions on two pieces of paper. I am confused. They are taking my money but not my call. The phone number on the information instructions with the viewing card was wrong. They then tell me to register on-line. This fails.

Do you know what I think? They can't cope. They have hired young inexperienced people on low wages to answer the calls and they've given up. Their systems aren't robust enough to cope. It is such a missed opportunity and such a damn shame. Meanwhile, I have decided to put my feet up and wait and to get my frustration down on the blog to stop me sniping at the kids.

Update: 15:00 hours. Finally spoke to a human being (God bless her, she was lovely) who explained that I was entirely correct about the failure to cope. It's in meltdown. She talked me through the activation process and hopefully it will work.

Update: Sunday. The signal came on, as the lass explained, but froze just as Newcastle and Aston Villa was due to kick off. The signal then just died. Could I get through to customer services? Could I heck. Still can't. An absolute shower of shite. It might work now, haveing reset everything and started from scratch, but as they're off air I won't know. I notice that Martin Lewis - Money Saving Expert has a page on these clowns. I will not let this one go, I am appalled.

Update: Monday. I've been contacted by someone at Setanta. Just as well. They've taken loads of money off me and it still doesn't work. I'll take this offline for a while and see what happens. They've acknowledged they are swamped and are working hard at sorting it out.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ten thoughts on Anthony Wilson

Ten thoughts this Friday are about Anthony Wilson, as my thoughts have been all week. Some are personal memories, and there are so many more too.

* The Bruges rosette. Apparently he was still chided in the street by Scousers who remembered that he wore a rosette on Granada Reports, supporting Bruges in the run up to the 1978 European Cup Final, after being warned by his producer: "not to say a word". Genius.

* The Sid Vicious story. What's our tone of voice? asks Steve Connor. The voice of Tone intervened, and this is accurate: "When Sid Vicious was asked if his music was for the man in the street, he said "I've met the man in the street and he's a cunt." Write for who you want."

* The North West Flag, link here. Designed by Peter Saville, it was such a laugh celebrating the launch of such a doomed enterprise as regional government for the North West. Loved it.

* Memories of the Hacienda. It was jaw droppingly impressive. There's a wonderful personal account here from, of all places, an Everton fanzine - When Skies Are Grey.

* His wonderful outfits. Apparently, back in 1984, Richard Creme, giant fashion retailer of this parish told him he "dressed like Oldham's left back". Creme got him into Yohji Yammamoto and Comme De Garcons. He wore one outfit to our Leaders Lunch in 2004 - I told him what he told me outside the Hacienda in 1985- "You're not coming in here dressed like that." Story is in the Stockport Express, here.

* He was always very nice to people he worked with. This is what Phil Griffin said: "Ask any spark, make-up artist or stagehand and they’ll all testify to his peerless skills, generosity and good nature. He’s amongst the greatest television presenters on the planet, ever.”

* He was always very kind to people who stopped him in the street, or in a club, even though people were rude to him. I saw this so often. As my pal Andrew Page said: "He had every right to be up his own arse, but he just wasn't." So many tributes here, from people who were touched by him. As Alex Ogg, an understated and annoyingly modest chronicler of music, said: "You know if you can bond with traffic wardens you have the human touch."

* He always called me a "fucking Tory", which is why my birthday present was a book by Terry Eagleton. I'm not, never have been, never will be. We debated this live on air in June 2007.

* Phil Griffin described him wonderfully as incorrigbly interesting. I always found him incorrigibly interested as well. He always had so much to say about things you never expected, but he also listened and learned too.

* He was a cradle Catholic. I came to it later, we talked it through and he was sure it was a force for the good. God bless you my friend. There will be some party in heaven. Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The tail that WAGs the dog

I am a huge supporter of the backlash against the WAGs, which started after the World Cup, but has gathered some slow momentum. So, fair play to Roy Keane for his contribution reported in full here:

Sunderland manager Roy Keane attacked “weak” footballers whose sporting lives are dictated by their girlfriend’s uncompromising quest for designer labels, reports the Guardian. Keane attempted to sign a series of players who turned him down because their WAGs were apparently unimpressed by the shopping opportunities in the northeast. “It tells me the player is weak and his wife runs his life,” said Keane. “The idea of women running the show concerns and worries me.”

I wouldn't go so far as to recommend a website such as this, here. Or even a t-shirt such as this, here, but thought you should at least be aware of it. God Hates WAGs? If they repent they may be forgiven their sins of avarice, lust, greed, vanity and stupidity.

An old acquintance has become a WAG, and is with a once portly Premiership journeyman. They moved North and I made an effort to be friendly. Her reply to my invitation to my birthday party last year was:

"K is at training camp in Germany and I have better things to do than hang around hotels in Salford on my own."

It's not like the party was at the Dock and Duck in Little Hulton, it was at the Lowry. Which is where the England team stay; so my invite was actually the nearest they'd ever get. Miaow.

It's a wide open road

I've had a right palaver getting my new car. I enjoyed driving this German tank for a while, but am glad to have gone for something not so brutish.

I organised it through Ling's Cars, after a personal recommendation from my pal Ruth Shearn. Viewers of Dragon's Den may recall Ling's slightly chaotic but lovable pitch, which saw her turn down investment from Duncan Bannantyne. A link is here.

Anyway, we were on, then we were off, then we were back on again. The correspondence has been amusing, if a little bizarre. When it all went wrong, I thought she might be the flaky side of unconventional, but to be fair she sourced a new car as she said she would.

Here is her response to my sober thank you email once it was delivered yesterday:

That is great!! I'm so happy you have the car at last. Hope it's lovely.

Well, this took some doing, as well as giving you my build/delivery slot :) I am still waiting for MY car, ordered March :) Can you get me a little write up anywhere? I do my best to please and I have just gone past 600 customer letters on my website!

Let me know if you need anything. I'll send you a small survey letter soon. Go and drive it, hehehe! Where is the sunshine?????

So, yes, do check out Ling's cars. Here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The incorrigibly interesting

The best Anthony Wilson tribute yet. Phil Griffin writes here.

Having a go

Outside the shops, drunk on cider and pumped up with bravado the young skinhead (14, but looked older) asked the woman for a fag, not without charm. She smiled, it'll stunt your growth, she said. One of his five mates, a punk, even drunker (maybe on glue) and with greater delusions of his own charm and bravado told the woman to fuck off. You slag.
The woman's husband, inside the house, putting the kids to bed, heard this. He wasn't happy. He went outside. The gobby one ran off with the others shouting back. The skinhead laughed. Wallop. He hit the ground. He was threatened with a good kicking.
The kids inside cowered, partly with embarrassment. It's us who'll get bullied now.
They didn't though, and they never gave that woman any more abuse.

The woman? My Mum. The man? My Dad.

I tell you what, I wouldn't fancy doing that now.

Book review in a lift - GB84 by David Peace

Stayed up late to finish this one. Brilliant. It's a novel set during the 1984-1985 Miners strike. Like his more recent book on Brian Clough - The Damned United, Peace tells the story through a series of monologues interspered with staccato stories of some key characters in the strike. Dirty Tories. Bastards. And the scabs. Dirty bastards. Secret state. Stop at nothing to crush our class. Based on real characters like David Hart (the Jew), Roger Windsor (Terry Winters). Scargill and Thatcher are viewed from a distance.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Don't walk away, in silence

The tributes to Tony Wilson have been amazing. I think the depth of love for one of the true legends of the modern Manchester has been really moving. As for the earthquake, well, that was you wasn't it Tone?

There's a great pic of Ant and Vet on the front page of the MEN tonight and a lovely story, here.


Here's the Manchester Confidential story, followed by a wonderful tribute board, here.


Rachel spotted someone washing spray painted slogans away from the wall of the Hacienda. I hope it was suitably rebellious and respectful of his memory. "The Hacienda must be rebuilt", or "Don't Walk Away, in Silence".


Already there are loads of ideas knocking around for a suitable tribute. I had coffee with Steve Connor to see how the Pennine Lancashire project can keep its momentum.

We will also be flying the North West flag at half mast.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Season starts

I can't be bothered with Fantasy League, but we are running a prediction league in the office.

Also, for the record is my forecast for the season, before I heard a single score today.

Man U
Liverpool
Chelsea
Spurs
Arse
Villa
Rovers
Everton
Sunderland
Newcastle
Reading
West Ham
Portsmouth
Birmingham
Man City
Bolton
Middlesbrough
And for the drop...
Derby
Fulham
Wigan

Other tips:
West Brom to win the Championship, Burnley and Preston mid table, Blackpool stay up.
Forest to win League One in some style, Dirty Leeds to go down again.

Rangers to win the Scottish prem, Hibs to get third spot.
Spurs to do well in Europe, maybe even get to the final.
Rovers to do OK, but to parade the Intertoto Cup around in an open top bus

Friday, August 10, 2007

Anthony Wilson 1950-2007

Well, he never made it. I rang Anthony Wilson this afternoon to say hello, because I was going on HIS radio programme this evening, he didn't pick up the phone. But the show went on. HIS programme. It always will be, with all respect to Andy Buckley, who was standing in so well tonight.

A sports programme on BBC Radio Manchester has to be opinionated, to have attitude, to slag off London and its Olympics, to get that spark going between City and United. And the reason it is so is because that is what the media in Manchester should be. And the reason the media in Manchester has to have that edge over anywhere else is because of great journalists like Tony Wilson who died today.

When I got to the studio at 6.30 I heard he'd been read the last rites earlier today. But be bold and do the show. Everyone has been expecting the call all day, but it's HIS show. And Tony, I hope we did you proud. We probably didn't. Had he been listening he'd have called me later and said - you wanker!

The facts can be read here, but they don't tell you what a warm and affectionate friend he was. What a supportive and passionate journalist he was. He always teased me about living in Marple, where he grew up, happily, living on Strines Road, so he wouldn't fall in with bad guys in Salford. Now, there's an irony.

Every meeting with him was a joy. A flurry of inspiration and ideas and wonderful stories. I'll never forget an otherwise workaday meeting at the offices of the Mersey Basin Campaign where we were co-authors of a forthcoming book about the River Mersey. Some of the other writers were asking about "tone of voice". The voice of Tone intervened, and this is accurate: "When Sid Vicious was asked if he wrote for the man in the street, he said "I've met the man in the street and he's a cunt." Write for who the fuck you want."

He did, and you will be able to read it later this year. His mark is on my bit too, but I pushed myself knowing a fine writer like Anthony Wilson was also contributing and I couldn't let the side down.

He always pushed me to think differently about things: Lancashire, Marxism, Catholicism, Islam, and music (where he utterly failed to get me to like some of his awful hip hop and rap).

Whenever we did shows together he always dragged up things to get the conversation going. He was a broadcasting genius. There will be a great deal written and spoken about Tony Wilson over the next few days and all of it will be true, because it was what people wanted to think about him. But he always maintained, even when there were film posters for 24 Hour Party People, bearing the legend Poet - Genius - Twat, he said his public persona had nothing to do with him. But it did. Even in the last sick few months he used his position as the faintly ridiculous "Mr Manchester" to rail at the injustice of the postcode lottery over his medication. Not for him, who had pals who funded his relief, but for those in Manchester who could not.

He was wonderfully close to Yvette, who I feel so bad for tonight.

He was a truly special person who I was honoured to count of as a friend. I will miss him, but his spirit will never be forgotten. All of us in media, and I dare say music, will feel the same.

Paul Weller in Uncut (and a Ray Winstone tale)

Thoroughly enjoyed the Paul Weller retrospective in this month's Uncut magazine. They ask 30 people (celebs) for their fave tune penned by the Modfather.

Predictably the top 3 songs were from The Jam: Going Underground, Town Called Malice and That's Entertainment.

Best comment on Weller was from cockernee actor Ray Winstone, who chose Little Boy Soldiers, a great track from Setting Sons:

I sometimes think he should make movies, because he's got that great aspect to his work. He paints a picture. Paul's a lovely geezer too. No airs and graces. Most pop stars these days sell five records and think they're Jack the Biscuit. Paul's the opposite of that.

I've never met Paul Weller, but I met Ray Winstone once. I was getting into some grief at the Groucho Club (I know, I know) and some poncey drugged up Nathan Barley was calling me a northern scummer. I can't fight, I'm not hard at all but I tried my best stare. Mysteriously, it worked and he backed off but stumbled over a carelessly placed foot. Next thing Barley's on the floor and his glasses are across his face and someone's pint is all over him. The owner of the misplaced foot removed his shoe from the sprawling Barley, winking at me as he did so. Dusting himself down, Ray Winstone, for it was he, promptly ordered a fresh round for all concerned while Barley left to annoy someone else. We had a nice natter after that.

Ground Rules

Last week a few of the team had some media training on how to sound intelligent on the radio and TV.

I've got a chance to put it into action tonight at 7pm on BBC Radio Manchester on Ground Rules, a sports programme. It should be presented by my pal Anthony Wilson, but he's still not well.

If you miss it live, it's on the interweb here.

I'll be talking about the new football season with some other guests.

Did the earth move for you?

Manchester city centre has been hit by an earthquake. I didn't feel it. We had them around the time of the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and they were real rumbles.

Ten thoughts on the Rovers this coming season

I went for a cup of tea and a chat with John Williams yesterday. He's the executive chairman of Blackburn Rovers Football Club, and therefore has quite an important role as a trustee over a very important part of my life.

Here are ten thoughts for a Friday on the coming season, partly based on our two hour chat (which was off the record), partly on what I think anyway.

* There is quality cover in all positions this season. We've got a decent squad.

* We let in too many goals last season. With Nelsen and Samba fit, we should be more solid. Who do you start with at full back? Warnock on one side, Oojer or Emerton on the other.

* Is centre midfield a weak spot? Tugay is still class, but one of Dunn, Savage and Reid isn't a bad midfield by any measure. Dunny has never looked fitter in all the years I've watched him.

* Outside of the big red teams and Chelsea you won't find a better wide pair than Gamst and Bentley. And isn't Gamst good in the air for a little fellah with a funny haircut.

* The transfer window closure can't come quick enough. Players could be sold for big money, but we're not selling. However, Chelsea's injury crisis makes the chance of a big money offer for Benni a danger. The chairman's phone didn't ring too often in the meeting. A good sign.

* It's a good selection headache to have five quality strikers. First choice on Saturday will probably be McCarthy and Roberts.

* We make hardly anything from the UEFA Cup. But it's about the glory, and hopefully this year, the trips away.

* The cut price season ticket deal has worked. We're up on last year, but crowds could still be better. We're certainly getting 7 for our tribe.

* The club shop is rubbish. I wanted to buy loads of stuff for the boys but couldn't even get this season's new kit, or last season's DVD in the shop, I had to buy it in the ticket office (???). I might start an unofficial merchandise business seeing as Rovers have given up. Simon Garner t-shirts, anyone?

* There is no progress on the sale of the club. There are various interested parties, but there is no active due diligence process underway.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Frankly speaking - book review of Blood and Sand by Frank Gardner


Brave bloke, came to journalism late, gave up banking, grafted to become BBC Security Correspondent after various stints in the Middle East. Eventually paid a high price by getting shot in Saudi Arabia and left for dead. Comes across as a hard working and honest journalist with a genuine love of the Arab world. Knows his stuff too. Heard him on the radio tonight talking about the latest threat from Bin Laden's Barmy Army and I had a tear in my eye, thinking of him in his wheelchair.
Subscribes to the "central command" analysis of Al Qaeda, as opposed to the "like minded ragbag" which Jason Burke has expounded.

Comeback kid

I'm not a massive rugby fan, but I was really pleased to hear that Bob Skinstad has made a comeback and has made the Springbok's squad for the World Cup in France. I met him at a dinner in Lancaster a couple of years ago and he went out of his way to do kind things.

Kevin Roberts takes up the story on his blog, here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Don't Look Back in Anger

There was a good piece by Jenny Turner in the paper yesterday about the current wave of nostalgia books - you know, The Dangerous Book for Boys, and now the Great Big Glorious Book for Girls and various others. She thinks it's all part of a "bizarre artefact of middle class nostalgia" but aimed at concerns and dreams for our children's future. She is also quite disparaging about the aspirations of such tomes to be "old-school posh". Anyway, a link is here.

Also, according to Jenny Turner:

Such books are not meant to be really meant to be read at all. They are what the publishing trade calls "gift books" for people who don't much enjoy reading to present to people they don't really know or like.

As I've spent a good portion of my spare time this year hacking away at producing a tome called The Dangerous Book for Blokes, my own take on middle-class nostalgia, then I hope you will also buy this for people who you don't like too. I also hope it's worth reading and not just filing. I'm not counting my chickens though, there's a long way to go yet.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Send the Spice Girls to Baghdad

Very generously, the Spice Girls have offered fans the chance to put their city on the map, and on the list of places Spice Girls will be visiting on their upcoming world tour, all through the power of internet voting. Wouldn't it be great to send them off to entertain the beleaguered citizens of Baghdad?

God knows, the people of Iraq have had a bloody awful time of things lately. Okay, so they won the Asian football cup, but that would just pale into insignificance compared with a visit from the pop behemoth that is the Spice Girls, their live show and their 'crazy' antics.

So be nice to the Iraqis: vote by clicking here.

Just imagine how much fun Mel C, Geri, Emma, Mel B and especially Victoria would have playing in that historic city. When you vote for Baghdad, make sure the B is uppercase and, while you do have to input an email address, you can put in any old one (even, dare I suggest, a fake one) as you don't need to confirm it.

(From Holy Moly)

Bridge of death

Remember the footbridge over London Road in Manchester? The one that links Canal Street to Piccadilly Station. Apparently the bloke in the bright coat standing guard is on suicide patrol. His job is to stop people chucking themselves over the edge.

Hat tip to Stephanie Sloan, Insider's employee of the month, for pointing that out.

Can't stop the music

The Liverpool Daily Post is in a rage today over the cancellation of the Mathew St music festival.

A link to the full fury is here.

Larry Nield says it is right up there with the death of John Lennon as a body blow to the city.

Top blogger Nigel Hughes has an altogether different take on it, here. It is actually a weekend of bevvying that is no-one's to cancel. The show can go on. Other Liverpool club and pub owners agree.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Liverpool festival cancelled

Disappointing news that the Mathew Street music festival in Liverpool is to be cancelled just a few months before the city is the European City of Culture. The reason: Health and Safety. What a shambles.

A link to good coverage on new site Liverpool Confidential is here.

As my old pal Ian Hamilton Fazey says: "So how much were these London-based health & safety consultants paid to tell the council this? Did they consult the Director of Public Health of the political and economic consequences of shooting yourself in the foot? (No point in shooting yourself in the head of course it has no effect on the gormless). "

Thai takeaway

Reports that assets from Man City could be frozen add a new dimension to the rolling story.

A link is here. Thaksin has also been dabbling in Burma, so he's going to have John Pilger on his case as well.

Another angle is this: what do the landlords of the City stadium think. For the purposes of clarity the owners are Manchester City Council, a Labour controlled authority with strong policies on human rights. Indeed the constitution of the city enshrines it. You can read it in full, here.

Here's an amusing spoof story, here, claiming that any human rights abuses "weren't that bad".

Court out

I don't usually run stories about football hooligans from Preston, though I have encountered a few over the years. But check out the link to this story, here

Don't you love pics in regional papers?

The mail

We get plenty of junkmail. We get our bills. We wish we didn't, but we do. We get our many magazine subscriptions. Mysteriously, every time one of us has a birthday a card will go missing with money in it. We try and complain about this and we get the bums rush. The person sending it has to complain instead at the point where they posted it, yet the problem is obviously at the Marple end. It stinks.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Curtis Warren to buy Everton

Here's a question for any football fans out there, that I bottled out of posing in Insider magazine's latest issue on football finance.

Everton are looking for a new rich backer. What if Curtis Warren offered to buy the club.

What would the reaction be?

a) Would he be opposed tooth and nail as an unfit custodian of the People's Club?

Or, b), would he be welcomed with open arms, including words like, "at least he's a local lad, not like them Yanks that have bought the red shite"?

Or, possibly, c), grilled at length to see whether he actually had enough money, whaever the source, to buy Leighton Baines and Alan Smith.

I don't pick on Everton for any other reason than they are desperate for a buyer. See Dougal Paver's blog for good comments on this, here.

But also see the craven acceptance of Thaksin's purchase of Manchester City from their supporters. I had a look on the 606 message board and just found the most moronic abuse heaped on the BBC for daring to have a go at "Frank" Shinawatra (Sinatra, geddit?). Have a look for yourself, I couldn't find anything I could even stomach putting on here. Link is here.

The congestion charging thing

So, the councils of Manchester decided to bid for the Transport Innovation Fund afterall, which will necessitate the introduction of congestion charging. They did so despite the outright opposition of Trafford and Stockport councils and without winning the hearts of minds of the public, or of the business community.

If there is a need for better public transport in Manchester, then there is a case for it to be funded. Indeed, there is a commitment to do just that. It is deplorable that Manchester's councils should have been blackmailed in this way, worse still that they were complicit in it, unforgivable that the public debate on the subject was conducted with such bad grace and included such muddy promises and luke warm assurances of future transport plans.

Central government does not have the will or the stomach to introduce road charging. Instead, they are sneaking it through the back door by allowing local politicians to sell it on a false premise. The really depressing thing about this is the only other council group bidding is Cambridgeshire.

I've read the bid guidance. A link is here. But I'll point you towards one crucial, though vaguely worded line in the bid guidance.

“A first small scheme might be implemented around 2010/11 and a larger scheme following a couple of years later.”

Who do you think will win the bid? And who do you think will be left high and dry wondering what all that aggro was for, when a rerun of the sorry saga is started all over again?