Friday, June 24, 2016

Choose peace and hope, an evening with the Mizens

Amidst all the hate, the naked racism and division throughout our society, Rachel and I were fortunate to take our seats in a public meeting last night to hear a strong message of love and hope from Barry and Margaret Mizen.
Eight years ago they lost their son Jimmy in a brutal attack in south London just a day after his 16th birthday.
Ever since they have dedicated their lives to promoting peace and love, driven by their strong Christian faith, through the For Jimmy charity.
At a time when my confidence in our politics has never been so low it was a reminder that there are many ways to change the world. And never has it felt more important to embrace that message of love, forgiveness, peace and hope. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Stone Roses at the Etihad - joyous, raucous and middle-aged Dads inbucket hats

What a joyous, raucous, fun and happy night we had watching the Stone Roses at the Etihad last night. 
I can't explain how much so many of their songs mean to us. A time, a place, a feeling.
Really proud of Rachel and our lads, and glad we shared such an occasion. Also had some real characters around us from Liverpool and Scotland. Thank you Robie from Fife for keeping us entertained.
I know there's been loads of sneering at middle aged blokes in bucket hats and Adidas trainers with their mini-me sons, well that was us and I don't give a toss, that's who we are.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Here we go again - I'm so tired of the hate

I feel numb. Sick with shock and fear. I really don't know where we are going as a country. The murder of Jo Cox MP, if it is to mean anything, has to wake us up to the hatred and bile that ferments everywhere.

This referendum wasn't necessary. It isn't about a law, or a treaty, it's about something far bigger than can be summed up in one question. So the campaign to Leave has made it about immigration. No matter that our trading island will be less well able to police our waters, process in Calais, or support refugees in continental Europe.

We are living in an era of post-truth politics. It doesn't seem to matter what the evidence is, just what facts suit your prejudices. The answer "it's complicated" isn't good enough any more, it has to be the easy answer, the anger, the war cry, the condemnation. There has to be someone to blame, someone to hate.

Fascists declare direct action against Sadiq Khan. That UKIP poster. I don't know any more than any other twit with a keyboard whether it flipped a troubled mind, but he didn't do it last week, or last year. He did it yesterday and now our nation is denied a talented servant and her family is robbed of a mother and a lover. Awful.

There were people yesterday afternoon literally willing the murderer to be a Muslim so they could say 'I told you so'. As facts emerge about Tommy Mair, then that gets used by others as evidence of a right wing coup, a white supremacist assassination. Social media enables others to make snap judgements - me included - the latest being an army of instant experts on mental health. I'm weary of it.

I'm tired of the anger, tired of the sullen insolence that demands a voice, a right without a care for the consequences. Where's the love? The joy? 

I applaud, by the way, the "thank your MP" hashtag. I imagine our Tory MP works hard, so do some of our councillors, so do people who deliver leaflets or knock on doors. Yet it seems like open season on us all. Some of my political opponents get under my skin from time to time, but we have to take responsibility here for the dehumanising language we use and the way we all conduct ourselves.

So proud of this amazing Manchester Metropolitan University film

I love this new film, showcasing our University, that was aired for the first time at the Chancellor’s installation on Monday.

Introduced by Vice-Chancellor, Professor Malcolm Press, the stunning five-minute film tells the inspiring story of Manchester Metropolitan, connecting our modern spirit of creativity and innovation with our 19th century roots in, among others, the Manchester Mechanics Institute and Manchester School of Art.

 The campus is captured in glorious cinematic quality and sweeping shots. The film brings to life the student experience at Manchester Metropolitan while promoting our unrivalled facilities, our research and knowledge exchange, and our contribution to the wider city region.

The Vice-Chancellor said: “It was a privilege to introduce the film to our guests at the Chancellor’s installation ceremony on Monday. It set exactly the right tone for the day, and left our audience in no doubt of our illustrious tradition and our continuing potential for transformative impact. The film offers a great insight into what we’re about and what makes us distinctive. We want these films to inspire, to inform and to tell our story as we seek to realise our potential in the city region, in our teaching, through research, internationally and by strengthening our partnerships.”

Lord Mandelson, in his new role as Chancellor, features on the film talking about Manchester being at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse agenda, and the factors that attracted him to Manchester Metropolitan, including our many exciting plans for the future.

Poet Laureate Professor Dame Carol Ann Duffy talks about the University’s ability to open up, take risks and to inspire. Students feature too, praising the teaching that helps them to reach their potential.

 This is just the first in a series of films which will be produced over the coming months to support the ambitions of the University and showcase our outstanding offering. The films will be developed to reach and nurture our key audiences, reinforcing our ambitions and celebrating our story.

Watch and share the film as widely as possible.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Seven great songs in seven days for seven good friends

Over on the Facebook, my friend Chris Barry nominated me for the music challenge, which meant that for the next seven days I shared a tune a day.

I'm going to kick off with Berry Gordy's Desert Island Disc I heard this morning in another tear jerker on Kirsty Young's peerless interview with the castaways. The Tamla Motown founder clearly still holds a torch for the love of his life Diana Ross, here performing I Hear a Symphony. I'm so lucky I'm with mine.
For one of my dearest and longest friendships and who really got me into Northern Soul and Motown I nominated Kevin Parkes to delve into his musical archives and share his top tunes for the next seven days.

My second choice is Preposterous Tales by I, Ludicrous.
All of us at some point have met a Ken McKenzie. In fact if you can't think of someone in your life that's like him, it's probably you.

As Facebook is about old friends and new I'm going to celebrate the old again and nominate Paul Swinnerton to pick a new tune a day for the next seven days - as he introduced me to this song back in the late 1980s. Apparently he was good mates with them!. It's true, man!

Day three of the musical challenge takes me to Perth in Western Australia, the world's most isolated city. A big song about loneliness by a band who embodied so much about their home city - flatlands, wilderness, big and empty.
It's Wide Open Road by The Triffids.

But I love it especially because I used to have it on a VHS that my friend Roy Jopson (RIP) made for me when we shared a house in Perth. When I moved to London I'd watch it after a night out, to take me back to nights (and mornings) sat up chatting with ABC TV's Rage on in the background. The track after it was Atmosphere by Joy Division, two bands that belong in, and are a product of, their unique time and place.
I'm passing the baton for the musical challenge - pick a tune for the next seven days - to Adil Bux, a Perth pal to this day, who Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with and witness his lovely family growing up. Hope to see you for a lemonade in London sometime soon my friend.
Much love to all the Perth crew - Keep the Faith.

Part four of the seven day musical challenge finally brings me into the 1990s (which apparently was the point).
I love the pomp of the Pet Shop Boys and this awesome reworking of a Village People disco anthem.
This is dedicated to the honeymooners Jason Prince and Lee Clarkson who are indeed heading that way in a few days. Consider yourself nominated, but take your time and enjoy the West Coast. Life is peaceful there.

Day five of the musical challenge. And I had to promise to stick to the 90s, which apparently was the point (whoops). This is from the soaring "comeback" album from the Manic Street Preachers. I saw them supporting Oasis at Cardiff Arena in 1996 and trying this stuff out. 20 years later they were filling stadiums and now they're doing the Welsh team's song for the Euros.

I'm going to nominate Martin Cook to take up the challenge of a new tune every day for the next seven. "I wish I had a bottle... ".

Day six of the music challenge and it's THE Oasis track of the time, Don't Look Back in Anger.
I did this song with the band who played at my 40th and at the Y Factor charity gig we did for MENCAP, raising over 150k over a few years.
The greatest tribute to my musical prowess was from Terry Christian: "he's dancing to the words".

The leader of the band and the most musically gifted of all of my friends on here is Jeremy Smith, soon to appear at Glastonbury as part of Barclay James Harvest. Over to you maestro to pick a 90s tune a day for the next seven days....

Final day of the music challenge.
I went all the way back to 1994 for this one. A song that reminds me of going freelance for the first time and the optimism I needed to sustain me through the uncertainty.
The song was also used three years later as a campaign song for New Labour in the landslide election of that year. A time of optimism and togetherness I feel our country has long since left behind.
The song is of course Things Can Only Get Better by D:Ream, featuring Professor Brian Cox on keyboards.
Today is the day we formally install New Labour's Peter Mandelson as Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University. I was sat with Peter last year at an event at the other University when Brian Cox was speaking. Peter asked me what band the pop Professor had been in. I told him. "That was our song!" he exclaimed.
Not quite a guacamole moment, but it did mark a time and place that has led to us now working together at ManMet.
With me that day, who I now nominate is comrade Steve Connor.

OBI Property 'Beyond the Bomb' - Manchester 20 years on

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Underwhelmed by Owen Coyle's appointment as Blackburn Rovers manager

Owen Coyle is going to have to turn around not only his own flagging career, but the mindset of an exhausted and insulted group of fans AND the fortunes of a club in the financial mire. If he manages it, then he could well have a religion named after him.

Can he do it? On the evidence of his last three jobs he has lost the touch he once had at Burnley. Crap at Wigan, Not good at Houston in the MLS and sacked from his dream job at Bolton. When he got Burnley promoted I thought he was a decent bloke who understood how football should be played, but he torched all of that when he took the Bolton job.

I'm not excited by this appointment, I'm underwhelmed by it.

I'm not offended by this appointment, but we all long ago gave up on any notion that the Venky's knew what they were doing.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Manchester Mayor - at last, the penny drops - this is a golden opportunity

There is now a wide open window for some creative energy to blow through the campaign for a Greater Manchester Mayor in 2017. One that not only seeks to build on the incredible range of powers devolved to Manchester, but to start thinking about what else can be done.

But there are also massive risks for Labour, which I have outlined in this new book, Labour's Identity Crisis, England and the Politics of Patriotism, edited by Tristram Hunt MP and published by the University of Winchester.

Overshadowing so much of what social democracy can be in the next century is Scotland. Labour’s destruction there, the surge of the Scottish National Party, is underpinned by three major drivers: economic justice, national identity and a statecraft to address the other two.

In the North of England, I’m convinced of the need to address the first. In fact, everyone is. Where I see an opportunity is through devolution, federalism and empowerment at the most appropriate level that finds a way to tackle this imbalance. Where this is trickier is in how anyone can negotiate the political and cultural structures that underpin this. In truth, the compromise of an eleventh member of the Greater Manchester cabinet - effectively the power that a directly elected Mayor will have - isn't massively game changing. There has been a stark lack of buy-in for a devolution project that offers us an opportunity to shape our own destiny in ways that have never been granted before. Yes, it’s flawed, and yes, there is too much emphasis still on a sequence of dismal caveats, summed up in eight binding words – ‘at the discretion of the Secretary of State.’ But it’s a start. Just as Scotland was.

What brighter future can be imagined? What does a Manchester Health network look like? How do we encourage the values of co-operativism in the delivery of public services across the whole of Greater Manchester? And how do we encourage ambition, innovation and prosperity in a cold climate?

We still have a lot of growing up to do, but maybe as a city region and as place at the forefront of a new social democratic politics we can build on our successes, not just wallow in our defeats.

But there’s a weakness in the identity element here too, a massive deficit from the Scottish experience. Any regional English political project is inevitably tied to weary Westminster culture where Labour are losing and seem hell bent on continuing to do so. If Scotland has taught us anything it is that the firm link between identity politics, aspiration and better governance has proved truly inspirational. Similarly in Catalonia.

There are pockets of surging civic flag waving in our cities, but they are not a foundation upon which anyone is suggesting we can build a viable political project. But it could be. In this age of political easy answers it is not beyond the realms of the imagination that a popular, successful Mancunian, with no particular political ties, could emerge as a catalysing and insurgent force. What if Gary Neville thought he’d like a go? A Manchester Movement, led by a successful sports personality, a super-bright business achiever too, a well-connected property developer and savvy media performer. The more you game it, the more urgent it becomes to seize the opportunity to do a Greater Manchester version of our values in a bold, inclusive and distinctive way.

Much as I’d like it to be so, there isn’t a strong Northern or Greater Manchester identity anything like as historic and emotional as that which drove the Scots awakening and sustains support for some fairly poor statecraft under the SNP.

But maybe cities are different? More open, modern, globally focused and therefore less tied to a static view of nationhood. More English, in fact. For there has to be far more to a modern English identity than just Britishness with the Scots lopped off the top.