UKIP – Endangered Species?

Here is a controversial thought: The UK Independence Party serve no purpose and may as well use their manifesto booklet to create paper mache hat for Jean-Claude Juncker.

Here’s another: UKIP is proving itself to be a fighting force in the 2017 election and have every chance of securing a majority (or at least a couple of seats.)

Which is more true? As the election campaign 2017 (2K17 as the youthful Lib Dems may say) has shown, there can be ups and lots of downs. The class clown and the butt (or Abut) of jokes has been Diane Abbott. The wishful thinking Shadow Home Secretary showing how politics most definitely is not done.

Paul Nuttall, the leader of UKIP incase you were scratching your head, renamed the Plaid Cymru leader Natalie in a bizarre election debate (her real name being Leanne). Perhaps it demonstrates the far cry the party of purple has come; from one of the most significant politicians in a generation to perhaps the most unprepared.

Nigel Farage was a character. He’s not dead but he very nearly was killed before the polls had even closed at the 2010 general election. Flying a plane with a tail banner, reserved only for the most enthusiastic football fans, which suddenly became caught in the engine, sending the then UKIP leader and his plane down to the ground. Somehow, Theresa May  donning the brown leathers for a trip in the sky is unlikely to appear this time around, however satisfying I think it may be. The message really is about how charismatic Nigel Farage was as a leader of something he passionately believed in.

Whether that something was right or wrong is a matter of opinion. There are those who call UKIP a racist, homophobic, out-of-touch party, and those who say that the party is standing up for the interests of the United Kingdom. Fair enough on both sides. What differs is the type of person who leads that party.

When Farage announced he was stepping down as its leader, following the 2016 EU Referendum, there was a sense of sadness. Never before have I been amused when watching the ten o’clock news, but when Mr Farage turned up, the news turned into a comedy performance. From his facial expressions to his drinking a pint with the crosshatch coat brigade, he was the politician and leader who stood out from the rest.  Though he had fans and his enemies, UKIP sparked debate and conversation about politics.

For UKIP-ers in 2017, the story is bleak. Their only MP decided to sit as an independent MP rather than represent the party. Its current leader (Paul Nuttall incase you’re still scratching that head) lacks that personality and performance that Farage gave when talking about politics. When Mr F got himself into a hole, and there were many, he managed to somehow squirm his way out with a few potent hand gestures and a couple of big words from the Dictionary of the European Commission.

On the other hand, Paul Nuttall’s recent downhill tumble seemed to begin with Hillsborough. A sensitive topic, particularly on his home turf of Merseyside. His claims about being caught up in the disaster were found to be untrue. When a colleague of his said they were responsible for the message about the incident being posted, it was clear that although Nuttall was apologetic he was perhaps an untrustworthy leader.

The issue for me is about passion for politics. There is no doubt that the current UKIP main man has an impressive CV of political involvement. However, watching the interviews, the debates, the talking heads, there is no sense of passion. Where Farage could draw a crowd and speak truly of what he believed in, Nuttall’s polar opposition to the old dog is not engaging. He may not be the greatest public speaker, nor the greatest person to remember names, but the flare and enthusiasm that UKIP and its supporters had during previous campaigns seems to have fizzled away.

Will UKIP become extinct? It could be argued the party had risen from extinct-ness in the latter half of the 2000s. Though the party has been around 1993, its purpose and pledges to create an independent United Kingdom seemed to speak reason to British people by 2010 onwards. Their target? The traditional Labour red seats. And although the land hadn’t been turned purple at the last election, there is no doubt that a successful campaign of taking controls of local councils helped in creating a new political landscape which targeted issues that many traditional Labour voters felt had been ignored – that of immigration. It seemed to be their only pledge, or at least the only one which was reported, and still the other leaders in the 2017 campaign accuse UKIP of using immigration to solve the array of issues in the UK.

The country is at its limit. Once proud, green space is now occupied by new homes. There are still fears, from UKIP’s 55+ demographic (according to YouGov), that immigration is the crippling issue affecting our services. However, immigration is being tackled by the big parties – Labour saying freedom of movement will end once the UK leaves the European Union but still no concrete target on those numbers; the Conservatives also have an immigration pledge but according to one of their senior figures they don’t know when it will be achieved nor how much it will cost.

So, the issue returns back to passion. UKIP’s previous role was to demand an EU Referendum. That has now happened. Supporters appear to have moved on from the UKIP days and its clear their passion was for Nigel Farage and the supposed holy path he walked along. Those actively involved in the campaign remain passionate but from television news reports, there is an element of fear tingling in their eyes.  Mr Nuttall just doesn’t seem to do the job of Farage; he’ll say he’s not a Farage puppet but instead his own man. Yet his messages don’t seem to be sparking the debate that Farage’s once did.

UKIP has been accused of racism and all kinds; something which the party and its former leader say is untrue and a fabrication of media representation. Politics is about voting for policy but also placing faith and trust in the leader who makes those pledges. Sadly for UKIP, the passion once owned by Farage and his fans has dwindled. They may still have a purpose but just to be on the safe side, a purchase of shares in a paper mache company may be advisable.

 

 

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“No-Brainer” – Get the ducks out of the dock

And where better place to return to than one of the stories I last featured. The Liverpool Yellow Duckmarine.

Three months after one of Liverpool’s iconic yellow bus/boats sank in the Albert Dock, this weekend saw a “disaster” unfold. All in front of hundreds of people who watched from the dock walls of the freezing water below. Another one of the fleet sank. This time, full of passengers and tourists.

The incident unfolded just after 4pm on Saturday 15th June when “Quacker 1”, the same vehicle The Queen had travelled in, entered the waters of the Albert Dock in the “splashdown” finale. On board, terrified passengers have been quoted as saying that the vessel almost immediately began to sink into the waters just seconds after it entered. It remains unknown as to what caused the sinking, although a loss of power or the impact of the water as the bus entered is being considered.

Tourist Terror - Passengers jump to safety as the craft goes down.

Tourist Terror – Passengers jump to safety as the craft goes down.

Amateur video footage has also been released (see below), showing the “duck” filling with water and eventually tipping, becoming nearly completed submerged. The footage, filmed by one of the many onlookers, shows the passengers leaping to safety into the dock waters, whilst tourists on dry land threw down life rings in concern of the safety of those left perishing in the waters. As the bus becomes nearly fully submerged under the water, one onlooker shouts “there’s still people in there”. All of those on board had a lucky yet damp escape.

All of the fleet have been grounded. On Sunday (the day after the incident), a popular tourist day in Liverpool, there was no sight of any of the amphibious vehicles in the city centre or at the tourist drop off zone, close to the Albert Dock complex. In a statement, the Yellow Duckmarine have insisted that the vehicles were carrying valid certificates to hold passengers and that “following the incident involving Quacker 1, we are working closely with our regulatory body, The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Merseyside Police.” All of the vehicles are now in storage whilst an investigation takes place.

The Final Haul - The Duck is raised from the water. But will it be for the final time?

The Final Haul – The Duck is raised from the water. But will it be for the final time?

So are we likely to see the return of the duck to the streets and waters of Liverpool? Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, thinks not. He says: “It is absolutely a no-brainer after this accident that these boats don’t go back into the water at all.
They can argue they’ve got safety certificates and had their checks, but for two to sink in the last three months, it’s just not good enough.”

When asked what was next, Mr Anderson suggested the vehicles should be mothballed and put into a museum, adding that if the company wants to continue, they must invest in new vehicles.

The investigation continues.

Hillsborough, 24 years on: The truth, the 96, and the tributes.

The Kop at Anfield has been full to capacity this afternoon as Merseyside pays tribute to the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough. 24 years on. The memories are still raw for many, and the 96 remain a huge part of the LFC and Liverpool city community. It has been a poignant year for the families. The truth revealed for the nation in black and white. Today is possibly the biggest anniversary memorial in the Hillsborough history.

It was the worst footballing disaster in British history and remains one of the world’s worst incidents. 96 Liverpool fans were killed on what was described as a warm, spring day. The cause – they were crushed to death after a string of errors by police officers. The truth of this was only revealed in its full extent in September 2012 when the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, published the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report. The report found details which the people of Merseyside had known all along – the police had allowed the crush to happen, safety at the ground had been compromised at every level, and ambulances were not allowed onto the pitch. The report found that there was no evidence that suggested the Liverpool fans were responsible.

In other astonishing details, South Yorkshire Police created a false account of the event, painting a picture that the fans were the cause and the police were at risk. The evidence of this came from the documents which showed how 164 witness statements had been altered, with 116 of them being changed to remove any negativity toward the police. Officers took blood samples and checked national databases from all of the victims, some of them children, in an attempt to “impugn their reputation”. The then Conservative MP Irvine Patnick passed on false accounts to the press which led to a widespread view that Liverpool fans were responsible.

Hillsborough

This led to possibly the greatest boycott in the United Kingdom. Kelvin McKenzie, the then editor of The Sun, favoured the headline “The Truth”, suggesting some of those false allegations – fans were ticketless, drunk, violent and urinating on the victims. All accounts of fans at the Sheffield Wednesday stadium contradict these false and malicious reports. The headline and reports were printed just days after the disaster – there was little evidence and the formal investigation had only just begun. Since that headline, the people of Merseyside, regardless of their team, do not buy The Sun newspaper. Campaigns such as “Don’t buy The Sun” are still rife amongst Liverpool today – and quite rightly so. Kelvin McKenzie apologised in the aftermath of the report being published. It does nothing to help or build bridges with Liverpool or the families.

The original inquest, led by Lord Justice Taylor, backed a 15:15 cut off point at the game. The inquiry said that none of the victims could have been saved after this time and all of those who died at the stadium were dead by this time. Therefore, none of the events following this time have ever been investigated. The Independent Report says there was evidence to support that “up to 41” of the 96 could have been saved. It added that by simply placing “merely unconscious” people on their backs resulted in their deaths. Furthermore, due to the Coroners cut off point it was never investigated as to why only one ambulance reached the Liverpool end of the stadium and why no more had been sent in, yet they lined the outside streets.

It has been an astonishing year for the Hillsborough families and has shown how their courage and strength has been worthwhile. New inquests will be held into the deaths of the 96. It makes the 24th anniversary even more remarkable.

Standing ovations are often the scene on the 15th April every year at Anfield. Fans, from Everton and Liverpool, and even those who do not follow football gather for the traditional memorial event. The names of the 96 are read out, followed by hymns and prayers. Readings from the families and those involved with the history of the disaster, including members of LFC, the Bishop of Liverpool and MP’s are often welcomed by the strong and supportive crowd.

The Kop has long been the home to annual memorial services to mark Hillsborough.

The Kop has long been the home to annual memorial services to mark Hillsborough.

Everton Chairman, Bill Kenwright, spoke of how the event would change him for ever. He spoke of how it could have been Everton in the FA Cup Semi-Final, praising the families for their strength and progress. Liverpool’s owner, John Henry, said he was outshined by the work of the families for justice, adding that the families and those who died “will always be a part of Liverpool Football Club.”

It has been an incredible point in time for Liverpool, the families and the search for the truth. The release of these secret documents have highlighted the efforts of the families of uncovering the truth. This strength will continue throughout the inquests and eventual outcome. There have been many apologies; many people outside of Merseyside have stereotyped the fans as causing the disaster. For that, the Prime Minister apologised on behalf of all previous governments. Subsequent apologies surfaced from South Yorkshire Police, Kelvin McKenzie and Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.

There still remains a minority who still do not understand the clear black and white. Comments from many ill-informed individuals still bring hurt to the many who now fully understand what happened in April 1989. It is with great confusion that I see some high-profile figures, such as Oliver Popplewell, as he criticised the conduct of the families and some figures still remain certain that it was the fans fault and that the police were not to blame. All that despite the report conclusion.

Above anything, THE REAL TRUTH of Hillsborough has strengthened Liverpool as a community who are renowned for ‘sticking together’ and defending their own. The conduct of the families HAS been above and beyond exceptional and now the road to justice and prosecutions is well underway. Anfield is always a sea of emotion during football fixtures, but never as emotional as the time of the Hillsborough anniversary. Standing shoulder to shoulder, fans and ordinary people alike pay tribute to the victims who perished, yet changed the face of football. They will never be forgotten. Their legacy will always be a part of Liverpool.

The 96 Victims
Jon-Paul Gilhooley, 10, M
Philip Hammond, 14, M
Thomas Anthony Howard, 14, M
Paul Brian Murray, 14, M
Lee Nicol, 14, M
Adam Edward Spearritt, 14, M
Peter Andrew Harrison, 15, M
Victoria Jane Hicks, 15, F
Philip John Steele, 15, M
Kevin Tyrrell, 15, M
Kevin Daniel Williams, 15, M
Kester Roger Marcus Ball, 16, M
Nicholas Michael Hewitt, 16, M
Martin Kevin Traynor, 16, M
Simon Bell, 17, M
Carl Darren Hewitt,17, M
Keith McGrath, 17, M
Stephen Francis O’Neill, 17, M
Steven Joseph Robinson, 17, M
Henry Charles Rogers, 17, M
Stuart Paul William Thompson, 17, M
Graham John Wright, 17, M
James Gary Aspinall, 18, M
Carl Brown, 18, M
Paul Clark, 18, M
Christopher Barry Devonside, 18, M
Gary Philip Jones, 18, M
Carl David Lewis, 18, M
John McBrien, 18, M
Jonathon Owens, 18,M
Colin Mark Ashcroft, 19, M
Paul William Carlile, 19, M
Gary Christopher Church, 19, M
James Philip Delaney, 19, M
Sarah Louise Hicks, 19, F
David William Mather, 19, M
Colin Wafer, 19, M
Ian David Whelan, 19, M
Stephen Paul Copoc, 20, M
Ian Thomas Glover, 20, M
Gordon Rodney Horn, 20, M
Paul David Brady, 21, M
Thomas Steven Fox, 21, M
Marian Hazel McCabe, 21,F
Joseph Daniel McCarthy, 21, M
Peter McDonnell, 21, M
Carl William Rimmer, 21, M
Peter Francis Tootle, 21, M
David John Benson, 22, M
David William Birtle, 22, M
Tony Bland, 22, M
Gary Collins, 22, M
Tracey Elizabeth Cox, 23, F
William Roy Pemberton, 23, M
Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton, 23, M
David Leonard Thomas, 23, M
Peter Andrew Burkett, 24, M
Derrick George Godwin, 24, M
Graham John Roberts, 24, M
David Steven Brown, 25, M
Richard Jones, 25, M
Barry Sidney Bennett, 26, M
Andrew Mark Brookes, 26, M
Paul Anthony Hewitson, 26, M
Paula Ann Smith, 26, F
Christopher James Traynor, 26, M
Barry Glover, 27, M
Gary Harrison, 27,M
Christine Anne Jones, 27, F
Nicholas Peter Joynes, 27, M
Francis Joseph McAllister, 27, M
Alan McGlone, 28, M
Joseph Clark, 29, M
Christopher Edwards, 29, M
James Robert Hennessy, 29, M
Alan Johnston, 29, M
Anthony Peter Kelly, 29, M
Martin Kenneth Wild, 29, M
Peter Reuben Thompson, 30, M
Stephen Francis Harrison, 31, M
Eric Hankin, 33, M
Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons, 34, M
Roy Harry Hamilton, 34, M
Patrick John Thompson, 35, M
Michael David Kelly, 38, M
Brian Christopher Mathews, 38, M
David George Rimmer, 38, M
Inger Shah, 38, F
David Hawley, 39, M
Thomas Howard, 39, M
Arthur Horrocks, 41, M
Eric George Hughes, 42, M
Henry Thomas Burke, 47, M
Raymond Thomas Chapman, 50, M
John Alfred Anderson, 62, M
Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron, M

Do you have a minute for Mrs Thatcher ?

Criticised: Dave Whelan wants football fans to remember Mrs Thatcher.

Criticised: Dave Whelan wants football fans to remember Mrs Thatcher.

I was most amused by the response from an elderly Wigan lady on tonight’s news when asked “if she had a moment to remember Margaret Thatcher?” The response was traditional northern “NO” followed by “Not a chance”. The question was being asked to residents after Wigan Football Club Chairman, Dave Whelan, suggested a minute’s silence be held in Baroness Thatcher’s memory.

As I mentioned in my last post, she was a very divisive figure, creating a North/South divide. Her policies allowed the richer people in society become richer, mainly in the South and the working class people suffered as mines closed and industry was privatised in the North of England. So it was most bizarre to hear the chairman of a North West football club ask for a moment to remember the former Prime Minister who had hurt so many during her three terms.

Mr Whelan suggested the nation should pay their own thanks to the service of former Prime Ministers, however the Football Association has said no silences will take place at FA and Premier League games this weekend to remember Thatcher. It is easy to see why. After closing the coal mining industry of the North of England, forcing thousands out of jobs, and subsequently causing riots, it is clear what the reaction will be from the football fans. Booing, chanting and hysteria will surround the games and, judging by responses on Twitter and tonight’s news, many football fans do not wish to pay a minute’s silence to remember someone who had such negative impact on Northern lives.

Margaret Aspinall, Chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said that it would be a “huge mistake” for games to pay tribute to the late PM. She went onto state that many questions still remained unanswered following the Hillsborough disaster, in which the then government played a huge part in covering up the truth of how 96 Liverpool fans were killed at an FA Cup Semi Final. Last years Independent Panel Report highlighted how the police created false stories to blame the Liverpool fans for the death of their own crowd. The government at the time was led by Margaret Thatcher. Although current Prime Minister, David Cameron, did apologise on behalf of previous governments, there was never an apology from Thatcher. A reason which has highly contributed to the belief that Liverpool never loved, liked or admired Lady Thatcher.

Cover Up: Thatcher in the days after the Hillsborough Disaster.

Cover Up: Thatcher in the days after the Hillsborough Disaster.


Lord Sebastian Coe stated that “Thatcher never really understood sport” which supports the fans argument that there should not be a silence in memory of her. At one point, she campaigned for identity cards to be issued to all football fans.

Whilst I agree that marking the death of a woman who did not support the game, someone who was involved in a huge football disaster cover up and a woman who virtually destroyed the lives of many Northern industry families is somewhat inappropriate, I do disagree with the open celebration many people have had in the days following her death. Groups consisting of hundreds of people, many of them who weren’t even born when Thatcher was at No.10, have held banners, cheered and appeared openly joyous about this womans passing. Regardless of her job, Mrs Thatcher was still a mother, daughter, grand-mother and family woman. Former Labour PM Tony Blair said they were in “bad taste”.

It would be a mistake to encourage football games to mark the death of Mrs Thatcher, as it would quite clearly not be adhered to. The only silence which will take place this weekend will be between Liverpool and Reading, marking the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster. This at such a prominent time in the road to justice. All involved with Liverpool Football Club and those on Merseyside have reiterated that their silence will have no connection to remembering Mrs Thatcher, only remembering the 96 fans who died at the Sheffield Wednesday stadium. Quite right.

The Iron Lady is no more

Untitled
The Iron Lady. A woman who did not turn. Tributes have been paid to Lady Thatcher after the announcement of her death, aged 87. She had suffered a stroke.

A divisive individual, she brought about anger in the North of England with the closure of mines. The privitasion of many sectors, including the railway industry proved to be a legacy (good or bad) which is still felt today. Her leadership during the Falklands War is something which is significant when considering her impact.

Thatcher was an individual who did not take hurt or offence from the newspaper headlines and her strong-minded approach is something which could have brought about parts of her downfall. An uncompromising approach to the economy and straight view of privatising industry are some of the factors have caused intense debate. In recent years, suffering from illness, Margaret Thatcher was rarely seen in public. The last time she was seen was in Downing Street during the leadership of Gordon Brown.

She was pushed out of office by her colleagues in 1991 – the longest-serving and the first and currently only female British Prime Minister. Her policies and personality divided opinion. As today’s commentators have insisted, there may have been disagreement over her policies, but there is respect for a politician who has had such an impact.

Osborne’s disabled space embarrassment

The Evidence: The Daily Mirror image which shows the Chancellor's embarrassment.

The Evidence: The Daily Mirror image which shows the Chancellor’s embarrassment.

Could George Osborne be one of the most embarrassing Chancellors to have served the UK? Well it is quite possible. After fiascos including the ‘train snobbery’ and the booing by 80,000 sports fans during last years Paralympic games, today it can be revealed that Mr Osborne’s privatley driven car was seen parked in a disabled car space. Flouting the rules.

The pictures were taken on the M4 Motorway were the Chancellor was seen entering a service station for a McDonald’s meal. Onlookers have described how the car park was not full and the £50,000 taxpayer owned Range Rover was in no hurry to move. Charities have criticised Mr Osborne for the incident.

After announcing huge cuts to the welfare system, including millions of pounds worth of disability benefit, the Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, Richard Hawkes said: “Many are already struggling to make ends meet, yet the Chancellor’s response has been to cut vital financial support and squeeze local care budgets. They will see this as rubbing salt in their wounds.”

In the defence of Chancellor, a Tory spokesperson has insisted that he went into the service station unknowingly that the car was to park in the disabled space and that it would stay there. It remains unknown if the senior Tory cabinet minister condemned the driver of the Range Rover.

It’s not the first time Mr Osborne has been publicly ridiculed. Last year, he was forced to cough up £160 after sitting in a first class seat on a train with a second class ticket. After initially refusing, the story unfolded thanks to ITV Reporter Rachel Townsend who was on the same train. At the Paralympics he was booed by an 80,000 strong crowd at the London 2012 stadium, after huge cuts and little sign of an economic recovery.

In further bad news for Chancellor Osborne, workers inside the service station have told news agencies that they did not recognise the Minister – instead they thought it was his Labour Party shadow, Ed Balls. So another embarrassment for the Chancellor and for the government. What will be next? It’s like waiting for a car space.

Miliband brother quits parliament.

Brotherly Love: The Milibands split from politics.

Brotherly Love: The Milibands split from politics.

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband has quit parliament to begin a new life and career in New York. Miliband who was famously pipped to the post by his brother, Ed, for the Labour Party leadership contest, said that “After a great deal of thought I’ve decided to accept the position of President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC)”.

So what effect will this have on both brothers? Ed Miliband always insisted the door was open for his brother to be a part of his shadow cabinet, however David did not take up the offer, suggesting he would be a part of a “soap opera” within politics. Considering if he stayed on the back benches of the Labour party, Mr Miliband (D) said he would not be able to fulfil his role and interest in politics and serving the people of the United Kingdom and his constituents of South Shields. Clearly a very difficult decision where David Miliband has been caught in a no win situation. Quitting as an MP and taking on new challenges is probably the only way forward.

For Ed Miliband, his full concentration can now be on leading his party and preparing for the 2015 General Election, without the knowledge he would be hampering his brother’s political chances. For both brothers, however, there is the news that they are to split and reside on either side of the Atlantic. I’m sure this would be a difficult decision for any family, regardless of career and figure in the political world. What the long-term effect will be on both brothers will be will become clearer in the coming months and years.

Will David Miliband return from the United States and will Ed Miliband feel politically lost without his brother supporting him? Either way, todays decision is, as some commentators have suggested, “a touch of love”. The David Miliband exit is to allow his brother to develop further as a leader and for the greater good of his party. Former colleagues of Miliband including Lord Mandelson have hinted he could return to politics in the future; Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said he hoped it was “time out and not time over“.