Saturday, August 30, 2008


This is a photograph of a class of schoolchildren taken at Sunniside in County Durham. I am trying to make out what is written on the board held by the girl in the centre of the front row. It starts with the words "Sunniside", then there is a date which seems to be 8th December, 1921. Has anyone the ability and the eyesight to make out exactly what is on the board? To get a larger view of it just click into the picture.

On the right of the girl holding the board (our left) is my mother who was born on 20 February, 1909. If I am correct about the date on the board, then she would be 12.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Washington Or Moscow, Or Neither?

This photograph appears on the front of today's Morning Star. It shows what the paper calls Anti-War Campaigners who are about to hand in a letter to 10 Downing Street protesting about US and British actions in relation to Georgia. The Campaigners led by Tony Benn are in fact spearheaded by the Stop The War Coalition.

What they say in their letter is only at best one side of the truth. But these strange Anti-War Campaigners then fail to go on to condemn the actions of Russia for their invasion of Georgia and for their subsequent hard and dangerous line. I doubt whether they will now be delivering a letter to the Russian Embassy condemning Moscow's actions.

The Socialist Workers' Party used to have a slogan "Neither Washington Nor Moscow, But International Socialism". It is a pity that the bulk of today's Revolutionary and Hard Left don't re-examine the contemporary logic of that position.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another Harry's Place

Update 28 August: that other Harry's Place is back up and running. Here is their analysis of what occurred.

Harry's Place Is Under Threat - But If This Link Works It Has Not Yet Been Removed.

What Appears Below Is Taken Directly From "Harry's Place" And Explains What Is An Entirely Unacceptable Situation In The Tradition Of Book Burning By Adolf.

"Don’t panic if we disappear briefly…

Brett, August 26th 2008, 11:42 am

Harry’s Place may be removed (or rather have it’s DNS disabled) after a ‘complaint’ to the company that our domain name is registered with.

We assume after threats were made on the weekend that this ‘complaint’ originates from Jenna Delich or her supporters.

Though we have not yet seen the complaint submitted, we assume it runs along the lines that pointing out that Ms Delich linked to the website of a known neo-Nazi figure and former Ku Klux Klan leader is defamatory.

This is extraordinary since Ms Delich has not denied that she circulated links to David Dukes website. There would be no point since the evidence is in the public domain.

Nevertheless, a malicious complaint has been made to the company hosting our DNS.

We would like to assure readers of Harry’s Place that we are doing everything we can to prevent a disruption, but that - of course - we will not concede any ground. We have posted nothing defamatory, and we stand by the information we have supplied.

ISPs often run scared of UK libel law and malicious complaints are thus common. Sadly, it is a well known - and usually successful - way of censoring websites which publish truths that they’d rather not be generally known.

We ask our readers and supporters in the meantime to publish this information as widely as possible. The disgraceful tactic of dishonest and malicious complaining should not be allowed to succeed.

Those on the UCU list, please also make this know there.

Please spread the word.

If we go down, email us at harryblog at gee mail dot com for updates.

UPDATE: For those who can still see us - we’ve put up an archive of the Delich-related material here, which we will use to post updates on this saga: "

Searching My Memory

Psycho's Penalty Saved - So Thatcher Resigns 4 Months Later.

I have had the painful experience of being tagged by both Bob Piper and Tom Harris on a Blog Meme initiated by Iain Dale who has nothing better to do with his time. I have to try and remember where I was when I first heard about the following five events. This could be embarrassing. But here goes.

Princess Diana's Death : 31 August 1997

Luckily my wife has a better memory than I have. She tells me that we had just returned from our summer holiday in Malta and were in the flat which I rented in London when I was an MP. Radio Sheffield rang up for my comments. It was the first time I heard the news. I don't think I then invented the phrase that she was the "People's Princess", but with my memory who knows. I had heard Diana speak once at a Charity event in the Lords, but the only Royal I have ever had a discussion with is Princess Anne who showed a serious understanding about the situation in Northern Ireland.

Margaret Thatcher's Resignation : 22 November, 1990

Even I can remember this one. I was passing through the Members Cloak Room in the Commons when Geoffrey Johnson-Smith, the Tory MP (1959-2001) rushed up to get me to read the tapes in the corner of the room showing that Thatcher had gone. He was excited and pleased. I served on the "Members Interests Select Committee" which Geoffrey chaired, so we knew each other well. Years earlier I had watched him on TV presenting the Tonight programme with Cliff Michelmore and interviewing a young Bridget Bardo. I haven't forgot that either.

Attack On Twin Towers : 11 September, 2001

Ann and I were on holiday in Lazarotte because our daughter worked there. We were sunning ourselves, when I decided to return to the hotel room for a comfortable kip. But I switched the TV on just after the first tower had been hit. I rushed to tell Ann and we dashed back to see the second tower being hit. Our son and future daughter-in-law had been up to the 107th floor of the World Trade Centre the year before. 6 months after the twin towers were brought down I visited the site with a Parliamentary Committee.

England World Cup Semi-Final : 4 July, 1990

Over the years football matches merge into each other. Sunderland 1 Grimsby 2 on 19 October, 1946 is something else, with my Dad sitting me on a concrete barrier at the Roker End. For England, I just about remember Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missing penalties in the shoot out. I imagine that I watched it on a large screen in the Commons. The business of the House was on the Adjournment to avoid us having to pull ourselves away from the screen by voting. That evening the Sheffield paper "The Star" carried an article about me headed "Anti-Poll tax MP prepares for Court". Now I remember what all that was about.

President Kennedy's Assassination : 22 November, 1963

As your short term memory goes first, I can easily remember this one. Ann and I had only been married for 2 months and she came with me to a meeting of the Staff-Student Philosophy Society at Hull University where I was an adult student studying Politics and Philosophy. I was addressing them on Rousseau who met at the crossroads of the two halves of my studies. It was before the meeting started that we heard of the Kennedy assassination. It was the main topic of conversation before and after my turn - and I imagine during it. Just so that I can brag as to how prestigious these meetings were, I will point out that Professor Bernard Williams (whom Shirley Williams was married to for a while) was one of the later speakers. I remember because Ann fancied him, but I never felt the same about Shirley who went and ratted on the Labour Party.

I now have to pass this meme thing on to 5 other unsuspecting souls and I don't even know if some of them have already been caught up in it. So I finger -

1. Modernity Blog
2. Plattitude
3. Unrepentant Communist
4. Your Friend In the North
5. Roger Darlington

Variety is the spice of life. But this mixed bag will all have to be over 55 or so to complete all the categories.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Defend Iranian Democrats

Tony McNulty MP
The letter below is self explanitory. I have sent a completed version to my MP (who isn't Tony McNulty opposite, but provides an avenue to approach him in his capacity as a Government Minister).

If you agree with the letter, then I hope that you will adapt it for use with your MP. To discover your MP's email and/or web-site details click into the list here. If you need to check out who your MP is then add your post code in the box provided.

Even if your MP is unsympathetic to the points made, there is no reason why they can't forward the letter to the relevant Government Minister on your behalf and seek a reply which can be forwarded to you. MPs have a set of standard forms for such purposes and you can expect them to act on behalf of a courteous and seriously expressed representation from one of their own constituents.

The case being dealt with concerns the well-being of one of Tony McNulty's constituents. Tony is also the Government Minister handling the case. The Speaker's ruling is merely that when an MP takes up a case involving someone else's constituency, they should let the Constituency MP know what they have done. So your MP at the most needs to tell Tony McNulty the MP that they have written to Tony McNulty the Government Minister!

Now for my email covering the serious issue involved -

Dear ......,

Arash (Abu-Ali) Mohajerani-Nejad has been arrested and detained in Charing Cross police station and is in danger of being deported back to Iran at any time.

In Iran he will be in considerable danger from the authorities as he is an active Iranian pro-democracy dissident advocating peaceful forms of opposition in support of his stance. His views and actions are similar to those of his brother Gholman-reza Mohajerani-nejad as expressed here -

Whilst the Home Office needs to be active in containing Islamic fundamentalism and terrorist threats, Arash's position is that of a genuine Iranian secular pro-democracy activist who pursues actions entirely in conformity with the principles he advocates. He should be encouraged and not have his life and liberty placed in serious danger by being deported.

Can you make representations yourself to the relevant Home Office Minister, Tony McNulty or at least forward this representation to him and request a reply. When it comes to you undertaking the normal courtesy of letting Arash's own MP know that you have taken up this issue, then this is Tony McNulty himself !

Thank you for your anticipated help.

Yours sincerely,
................ (add your address).

Hat tip - Azarmehr

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Acts Of Unjust Justice

Sheffield FC's Goalkeeper To the Rescue (Photo From Dave Hill)

After three games, Sheffield FC are top of their League, leading goalscorers, top crowd pullers and are playing a settled team.

I have already reported on how pleased we were to grab a 2-2 draw in our last game, but it had nothing on yesterday's events.

Our opponents were Quorn from Leicestershire, who must feel robbed to have ended up in the League's relegation zone. They stormed all over us in the first half. Thankfully our goalkeeper, Leigh Walker was on top form. The photo above shows him pouncing to smother one of the Quorn's attacks.

Justice was done for Quorn in the 21st Minute when they took their lead in a totally unjust fashion. The Quorn striker, Justin Jenkins was clearly offside when he ran onto a through pass with only our goalkeeper to beat. That his goal was offside is confirmed by Dave, Martin, Mark and myself and all the other Sheffield FC fans situated in line with the linesman. What further independent evidence is needed !

We all breathed a sigh of relief when we rushed for a half-time pint at the Club's pub. The score had not progressed beyond 1-0 and the second half might be different.

Football is of course a game of two halves - except for the Sunderland v Derby County game in September 1894 which was covered in our match programme. It had three halves, for reason's that can best be explained in a pub quiz. But we were limited to the normal two halves and Sheffield FC turned the game on its head in the second half.

Sean Bowles in the Quorn goal now matched and surpassed our own goalkeeper's first half performance. Especially as he was allowed to get away with enough time-wasting to have accommodated for a third-half. Scott Partridge was a constant danger in our attack and was denied what should have been a penalty in the 70th Minute (well that was the consensus around me).

But the minutes passed and Quorn were headed for victory, until in the 85th Matt Roney our substitute did his Rooney act. He beat three defenders cutting in from the left wing and hit the back of the net with a fierce ground shot from more than 20 yards.

As the 90th Minute approached, Scott Partridge got his revenge for being denied a justified penalty 20 minutes earlier. He now engineered a penalty. Paul Smith (Smudge) is the master of dead ball kicks and even the mighty Quorn keeper had no chance with his penalty shot.

Now well into added time Roney/Rooney struck again. Cutting into the box from the left-wing he hit another firm ground shot into the back of the net.

3-1 was a flattering score, although each of our goals was a form of gem. It allowed us to end up with 7 points out of our first 9, when we might have had to settle for a total of only 3 points. It has been late twists in our last two games which have saved us.

Sheffield FC have now attracted the three largest attendances in the League for the games they have played in - 408 yesterday. The games have all been pulsating in their different ways. So we may hold on to some of the new fans. Martin's mate Mark was a first time attender and is an obvious convert.

Even if things go wrong, we have our goalkeeper to entertain us. He is liable to walk towards the half-way line when we are on the attack and he continually shouts instructions to the rest of the team - even to our captain. Well it is fun until it goes wrong.

His volatile behaviour is countered by our new player-manager, Chris Dolby. To start with he won't play himself and stays on the bench. Then he sticks with the same (non-losing team) when he can. There have only been two forced changes in the initial line-up. Steve Hawes (midfield) is an holiday, whilst from our mid-week game Vill Powell (striker) has a hair line fracture of the tibia which will keep him out of the team for 6 to 8 weeks.

Perhaps Chris is wise not change a non-losing team. But I have two suggestions for a modest reshuffle. In the absence of Vill, why not move Gary Townsend up into his old position as striker where he was highly effective on his initial arrival at the Club? Then he has a returning Steve Hawes or even himself to put into Gary's current mid-field position. If Chris doesn't then like how he is playing, he can always substitute himself.

For an alternative report of the match and photos see here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More Than A Dynasty

Ann Cryer (left) the Labour MP for Keighley has announced her intention to retire at the next General Election. She was a revelation when she came to Parliament, but this came as big surprise to me.

At one time Bob Cryer had been an MEP for the Sheffield seat which also covered sections of North Derbyshire where I live. This is how I first met her. Bob was a very forceful character who when we were later MPs together, I discovered had a great expertise about parliamentary procedures as well as on the issues involved. So when a vote took place on a matter that I wasn't active in, I would often ask him "what is this one about then Bob?". In a couple of sentences he could explain the procedure and the principles involved. We did not always agree, but his explanations meant that he was something of a principled unofficial whip on the left. But he did not kid people in order to get their support for the line he was himself pursuing.

After Bob's sad death in a car accident (Ann was also in the car) she took his former place as MP for Keighley, although he was MP for Bradford South at the time of his death. I soon realised that she was an active, knowledgeable and principled politician in her own right. Unfortunately, when Bob was our local MEP I had stereotyped her as just being a loyal and supportive wife. But I should have known from my own experiences that there is often more to a marriage than this. When she took over as MP for Keighley after Bob's death, I saw how mistaken I had been about her personal abilities and commitments.

Her son , John then also arrived for a spell as MP and displayed all the family's likeable characteristics. The family home when Bob, Ann and John discussed politics during John's youth must have been quite something. I am not normally an advocate for dynastic politics, but I think that it would be great if John followed on from Bob and Ann as MP for Keighley.

Given the ethnic make-up of Keighley, Ann took brave and principled actions in calling for immigrants to learn English and against "honour killings" and forced marriages, whilst Bob had correctly defended the right to have had the "Satanic Verses" published. I know that John would be part of that tradition, yet like his mother and father he would also make his own specialist contributions. Ann also handle the BNP in a principled, tough and effective way when their leader Nick Griffin stood against her at the last General Election.

In her retirement I know that Ann will still be fully involved in politics and that the wider Labour Movement will still benefit from her wise council.

Hat tip - Jane Griffiths

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Smudging It

Who says that politics and football don't mix? This is a photo taken by one member of the Dronfield Labour Party of four of his comrades celebrating (or is it commiserating ?) in Sheffield FC's pub after last night's match. The chap on the left is John Gilbert the Constituency Party's Secretary, next is Janet Hill Labour's Vice-Chair of the Derbyshire County Council, then Martin Brader the Constituency Party's Treasurer and myself the Constituency Party's Political Education Officer (in an old Sheffield FC "Dennis The Menace tie"). Dave Hill the photographer being the former Labour Mayor of Dronfield - the town in Derbyshire where Sheffield FC's ground and pub is situated.

The match we had just seen was both entertaining and disappointing. After our 5-2 away win at Gresley, we had hoped for a continuation of the fun. But Carlton were fully in command for the first half-hour. We then broke away and new signing Scott Partridge made a defence splitting pass for Vill Powell to run on to and put us 1-0 ahead.

The game was then turned on its head for the next half hour with Sheffield FC in command. We then had a mirror image of the earlier change in fortunes and Carlton not only equalised but took over once more, taking the lead a few minutes later.

It was only in the later stages that Sheffield FC rallied, but the game now went too and fro and anything could have happened. Luckily for us it was Paul Smith (Smudge) who helped save the day.

In the second half he took three free kicks between 25 to 30 yards away from the Carlton goal. His initial shot early in the second half rattled the bar. His next effort went just over the bar. When he took the third free kick after 87 minutes, the Carlton goalkeeper knew what to expect. So instead, Smudge hit a low shot which bounced back off the startled goalkeeper and Scott Partridge returned the ball back into the net.

With four minutes of added time, a great chance fell to Sheffield's substitute Mick Goddard who ballooned the ball over the bar when it was crossed to him in the six yard box.

But I was happy to settle for a 2-2 draw. For over the 90 Minutes Carlton were the better team. Unfortunately, Vill Powell our striker collided with the Carlton goalkeeper late in the second half and had to be carried off the pitch, with an ambulance then arriving to take him to hospital.

On the positive side, 480 turned up to watch the game. It was the highest attendance of the 20 games played in our League this season - one at each of the League's grounds. The second highest crowd was at our away match at Gresley on Saturday. That crowd was nearly 200 fewer than last night.

Sheffield FC will need to step up a gear from last night's performance to hold onto such crowds and challenge for promotion. If they fail, however, then as you can see from the above photo we know how to drown our sorrows - it could be the same when it comes to politics.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Understanding Pakistan And Its Neighbours

There is a valuable article about Musharraf's resignation as President of Pakistan in today's Daily Telegraph by the leading Pakistan journalist Ahmed Rashid (see photo). It is entitled "Masharraf leaves a fractured Pakistan". See here.

Ahmed Rashid is an expert on Central Asia and is well worth reading and listening to. The Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley have conducted two hour long interviews with him which are worth examining. The first took place on 26th March, 2002 and the latest on the 12th June this year. For the videos of these see here and here.

His latest telling book is currently on sale in major bookshops and is entitled "Descent Into Chaos ; How the war against Islamic extremism is being lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia" (Allen Lane, £25). See here.

His earlier books have all been well received. They are -

"The Resurgence of Central Asia : Islam or Nationalism" (1994) - here.

"Taliban : Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia" (2000) - here.

"Jihad : The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia" (2002) - here.

At the moment I am half way way down this list - the videos are the clinchers.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hear We Go

Sheffield FC (blue) Attack The Gresley Goal
(Photo by Janet/Dave Hill)

Yesterday Sheffield FC kicked off their "Unibond League Division One South" season away at Gresley Rovers.

Gresley's ground is made up of bits and pieces and is full of character. They have a fine clubhouse from which the pitch can be observed. So I knew that this time I wouldn't miss any of the goals when I slipped away for my half-time pint.

Janet and David Hill provided me with a lift to the ground, with Janet doing the driving. Although both Sheffield FC and Gresley play in Derbyshire, the grounds are 57 miles apart. The motorway journey took us into Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.

It's The Only Place

As we made our way through Leicestershire we passed Ashby-de-la-Zouch, so I burst out into the only two lines of the song I know - "Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle Abbey. That's the only place I long to be." But Janet and Dave either hadn't heard it before or my tones confused the issue. I accept that it was before their time when I used to hear it on what we then called the wireless.

Before the game started, we bought £1 raffle tickets. When we opened the envelope it predicted the score. In my case a 3-4 away win. Each envelope contained a different score between 0-0 and 6-6. I estimate that this covers 39 options. The prize was £25, which is reasonable.

There were a good number of Sheffield FC supporters present, which accounted for the crowd being the biggest of the day in its league. At 285, this was one more than at a game at Stamford. Tom was the one. I had not seen him at any of the pre-season friendlies due to his shift work and his dislike of non-games.

Game On

As the game started, I attempted to sort out our team, because some of the old favourites have departed.

Compared to last season we had four new players in the starting line. Our goalkeeper, Leigh Walker had not even played in the pre-season games - he has previously been on the books of Sheffield United and Scarborough. Yet the keeper who had then performed heroics in the friendlies, Steve Hernandez had moved on to sign for his third on-loan spell with Worksop Town from Sheffield United. We are only lucky that he did not play for Worksop in our last competitive game when we defeated them in the final of the Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior Cup.

The other three newcomers were (1) a striker, Scott Partridge who has moved into the area from the south west, (2) Steve Wooley from Lincoln United who plays what used to be called outside left, and (3) Greg Wright in central defence - he is from Retford Town but was previously on our books.

Gresley's pitch slopes. Sheffield kicked uphill in the first half. Our two strikers struck to give us a 2-0 lead at half time. But the moment of the match came in the 42 Minute when Gresley's goalkeeper David Clarke made a double save from the same two strikers. This was the non-league equivalent of the double save Montgomery made in the 1973 Cup Final against Leeds United which ensured that what was then a Second Division Sunderland became giant killers.

Second Half Mix

The windows at the club house served their purpose when I spent time on my pint at half time. Again our two strikers hit home and we were 4-0 up. I could only win my £25 if Gresley now staged a revival. After I nipped to the toilet at one stage, Tom told me it was now 4-3. He was only joking of course, but I responded by demanding that the referee should blow the full-time whistle.

Matters were soon settled, however, when Asa Ingall made it 5-0 on the hour. Next Chris Dolby our new player-manager moved (in stages) to use his three substitutes. Unfortunately, he did not include himself. We lost the momentum. Gresley's David Blenkinsopp scored twice.

We ran out 5-2 winners and went to the top of the one game league. I don't know if we will still be there after another 37 games. In the old days no-one would ever produce a league table until at least three games had been played.


When Janet and Dave asked me who I thought was our man of the match, I could not come up with anyone. For Gresley, it was their goalkeeper or their goalscorer. Ours was very much an all-round performance. There were the goalscoring strikers, our own goalkeeper who also brought off a fantastic save, a defence that normally contained and then set up attacks and a mid-field which kept probing.

We only had one grouse. The Gresley programme contained a full page advert from the leader of the South Derbyshire Conservatives. Hardly something that would appeal to a Labour County Councillor, a former Labour Mayor and a Labour ex-MP.

On Tuesday night at 7.45 pm we are at home to Carlton Town. Last season they finished level on points with Gresley. It is only if we repeat yesterday's performance that we can start thinking of promotion.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Middle East In Harmony

Barenboim Conducts the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

In my profile I list my favourite music. There are 14 entries. Yesterday evening, three of these came together when Ann and I went to the BBC Proms and saw (1) Daniel Barenboim conduct (2) the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra who as an encore played (3) Wagner - the overture from Die Meistersinger.

The programme covered the work of Haydn, Schoenberg and Brahms. These were all brilliantly performed. Schoenberg is not someone we normally listen to, although we recognised the considerable technical skills shown by the Orchestra in playing his Variations for Orchestra, Op 31. Yet nothing could surpass the Wagner for reasons that went way beyond (and came together with) the telling skills and standing of the music.

Barenboim is Jewish, holding both Israeli and Palestinian passports. The Orchestra is drawn 50-50 from Arab nations and Israel. Yet the encore they chose was from what many see as the most anti-semitic of Wagner's works.

We didn't think that any other encore could have been so telling. Barenboim and the Orchestra have faced up to a major division which is played upon to create turmoil in the Middle East. They faced up to anti-semitism and the conflicts between Israel and the Arab world with that which transcends hatred - peace, sharing and harmony.

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was founded in 1991 by the late Palestinian academic Edward Said and the Jewish conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra are the best of the Middle East and the marker for us all. We can now listen to Wagner without feeling guilty. We have seen that his hatefulness has now been transcended and that this is no longer the marker.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Latest Blairite Plot

Which Government Minister is involved? Trawl down here for clues.

The Silence Is Deafening

Russians Bomb Gori
Image what the response would have been by the "Stop War Coalition" if America rather than Russia had bombed Georgia.

I did, however, march with them when they attempted to stop the invasion of Iraq. It was only afterwards that I thought they lost the plot. I am, therefore, now awaiting their call to join them once more in a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy. Or are we to be selective about the wars we wish to stop?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

China's Blades

On the day of the opening of the Olympics in Beijing, Sheffield FC were at home in a pre-season friendly against the Chinese team Chengdu Blades.

In January 2006, Sheffield United bought a controlling interest in the Chengdu team, whose name had previously been Chengdu Wuniu. They won promotion last season to the top league in China - the Super League, where they are mid-table. They have been touring the UK during a mid-season break.

In May, Chengdu was rocked by the Sichuan earthquake and the team has played a full and active role in bringing aid to the victims. Fund raising included their pre-tour game at home when they lost 7-0 to Chelsea.

The Chinese Blades were far too sharp for Sheffield FC (especially in the second half) and won 4-1. Sheffield took the lead and were holding on at 1-1 at the interval. I did my standard trick and went for a pint at half-time and missed seeing Chengdu immediately take the lead at the start of the second half. Beer and a weak bladder have now robbed me of seeing no-less than 5 pre-season goals in total!

The Chinese had a seven foot goalkeeper who was seldom troubled, whilst our five foot six keeper was in the thick of it. He saved a penalty, brought off some fine saves and saw Chengdu waste chance after chance.

It was a pleasant but cool evening. Dave is now a regular and unlike myself had seen Wednesday's game hosted by Sheffield FC when Sheffield United (including four first-team players) defeated Chengdu 3-1.

We also had a good chat to John Austin who with his mate Malcolm Ford wrote a key and serious study on an era in Dronfield, entitled "Steel Town : Dronfield and Wilson Cammell 1873-1883" (Scardale Publications, 1983). The Steel Works were uprooted and taken to Workington.

Dronfield is now the home of Sheffield FC. I hope that no-one decides to uproot them and the Coach and Horses pub.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Frying Tonight

It may be how he tells them, but I have just been enthralled by what I assume was a TV repeat on the Parliamentary Channel of a talk given by Stephen Fry on "The Future of British Service Broadcasting". The text of his talk is published here on his web-site. Those with the skills should be able to access the talk itself via his homepage. I recommend it to anyone like myself who missed it earlier.

Politics, Pints And Missing Goals

The Coach And Horses Abut Sheffield FC's Ground

In less than a fortnight, Sheffield FC have played six pre-season friendlies on their home ground. So I have had good value for the pensioner's pre-season ticket I purchased.

There have been 20 goals so far. Unfortunately, I missed eleven of these.

Politics robbed me of seven. For the only game I missed was a 7-0 victory over the Welsh team Newi Cefn Druids. Instead, I went to my first full Labour Party Constituency General Committee meeting since I retired as MP over three years ago.

The reason I have kept away and concentrated on activity in my local Labour Party in Dronfield is that I did not want our new MP (Natashca Engel) to feel that her predecessor was sitting in judgment on her. I would have hated the equivalent if it had happened to me - which fortunately it did not.

I had been to sections of two previous meetings, but only (a) to give a talk based on this and (b) to listen to another speaker Barry Johnson. Both events were about Labour History and not contemporary politics.

But now that Natashca has her feet under the table and has just been re-endorsed as our Parliamentary Candidate, I have returned to the scene of my earlier crimes and have become the Constituency Political Education Officer.

The first time I held this post was back in 1970. Seventeen years later I became the local MP. At that rate I will be returning back to the Commons when I am 89, as long as we still have a Labour Party left. Natascha will then have had a 20 year spell as MP and will probably have had enough.

The reason I missed a further four goals during the six games I did attend is due to the glories of summer afternoons and evenings at Sheffield FC's ground. The trick is to spend half-time and other periods at the Club's fine pub which abuts the ground. It is even better with good company, fine weather and outside seats.

This habit means that I was slightly late back for most second half kick-offs and missed those goals. The worst was for the game against a Sheffield Wednesday XI where each side scored so closely to each other from the kick-off that as I returned to the ground a loud speaker announcement was telling me who both goalscorers were.

Reports on all seven games appear here (with photos). All that I will add is that our new goalkeeper Steve Hernandiz has been sensational, admired by no-one more strongly than York City supporters many of whom had come over by train. From an earlier fixture they already appreciated the attractions of our Coach and Horses pub. Then Steve Hawes whom we have just signed from Worksop Town has been a mid-field inspiration.

Yesterday evening was typical of the summer and socialising advantages of these matches. As is now normal, I was with fellow Labour Party activists, Janet and Dave Hill. Janet is County Councillor for Dronfield North and Dave is a former Mayor of Dronfield.

We then met up with John Dunn whose political pedigree goes back at least to key roles he played in the Clay Cross Rent Rebellion from 1972 and the Miners' Strike of 1984. Poacher turned gamekeeper, he had a long spell as County Councillor for Clay Cross and came to Chair the Derbyshire Police Committee (Correction 6 August- it was the Committee dealing with the Fire Service, so its not as good a story!). I dare not say more about him as he claims to read this blog (Correction 6 August ,I accept that he does) - but for the football and not the politics! (So much for the impact I had on him when I was his tutor on a Derbyshire Miners' Day Release Class in 1975-76.)

He was with Len Badger the former Sheffield United full-back and star, whom I first started to watch from the terraces at Bramall Lane when I arrived in Sheffield in 1966.

What could be better than a bit of "all our yesterdays", sunshine and a good pint. The surprising thing last night is the the Chesterfield fans nearly all missed out on the half-time dash to the Coach and Horses. That made it easier for the regulars to get served. But perhaps the York City fans should have a word with them.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

My Bias On Byers

An Andy Davy cartoon of 21 August 2006 when Stephen Byers came up with the idea of solving our problems by cutting inheritance tax. Gordon was still Chancellor.

Before it was absorbed and included in this article, The Observer gave today's front page coverage over exclusively to comments from that political has-been (and never-was) Stephen Byers in order to continue to stir the pot against Gordon Brown.

The Observer states that Byers "told The Observer it was time for radical new ideas big enough to capture voters' imagination and claw back marginal seats".

Is Byers suggesting that Brown should emulate his friend Tony Blair with equivalents to (a) the embracing of a pro-capitalist agenda, (b) the invasion of Iraq without understanding anything about it and (c) the destruction of Britain's manufacturing industry?

We have memories in this area over Stephen Byers' clear failure as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to take moves which could have saved 700 jobs at Biwaters in Clay Cross in the year 2000. Matthew Carr in Red Pepper covered the shameful issue tellingly in their issue of January 2001. Unfortunately I can't find a link to the article, but I keep it on file.

I am no great enthusiast for Gordon Brown's political stance, but I am very much aware that it is Stephen Byers' form of extreme New Labourism that it at the root of Labour's current problems (problems which the media are stirring for its own news-making and ideological purposes). For as I said to Red Pepper, "you can try to reconcile the free market and social justice, but in the end you have to come off the fence and when they (New Labour) do so it is in the interests of capitalism".

It is not that I am biased against Byers, its just that I am not bothered who stops him.