Wednesday, September 24, 2008



Speaker..................Harry Barnes

Subject...................That Was Parliament, That Was

Time.......................7.30 pm

Date........................Friday, 17 October

Venue.....................Peel Centre, High Street, Dronfield

Entrance Fee...........£5 (including wine and refreshments)

A talk on my life as the local MP from 1987-2005


At the moment I am attempting to write my political autobiography, in which I hope to draw political lessons for the future. Blogging interferes with this project. I will use the opportunity provided by my giving the above talk, to do some research into my period in parliament. I do not particularly need to do this for the purpose of my talk, but it is a useful discipline for the purposes of the book which I have already started writing. I will, therefore stay away from blogging until after 17 October and I have hidden all comments until then. But I will then return to blogging and reopen my comment boxes - although my own blogging activities may only then emerge in fits and starts for some time.

Give Us A Goole

In The End Goole Are Cut Down To Size

Sheffield FC have averaged home league crowds of 417. But yesterday evening in the first round of something called the President's Cup the attendance dropped to 211. It didn't help that the Club's web site and match programme told us nothing about the nature of the bauble that was at stake. From the teams playing in the cup that night, it seems to be a contest involving the teams in both the North and South Leagues of the Unibond First Division.

As this is a sort of Unibond Carling Cup for the lower leagues; Sheffield rested their goalkeeper Leigh Walker, full-back Gavin Smith, mid-fielder Asa Ingall and striker Scott Partridge. That's almost the guts of the team. They did not even have a substitute goalkeeper on the bench.

Sheffield still spent most of the match weaving towards the visitors goal. They were playing Goole AFC, but I have no idea how many reserves Goole were playing. Sheffield missed chance after chance, desperate defenders bodies got in the way of goal bound shots and two of the Goole players almost scored spectacular own goals.

Yet it was Goole that grabbed the lead in the 7th minute, when our goalkeeper failed to stretch out his hand far enough when he dived at a shot from Nicky Darker. He made amends in the second half with a fine tip over the bar. Which was just as well as we were still 1-0 down.

Yet it was nearly all attack, attack, attack from Sheffield. Man of the match, Martin Goddard won ball after ball in the air, controlled through balls and set up his colleagues. It was justice when he got the eventual winner. But this did not arrive until the 84th minute. Andy Gascoigne coming on as substitute having vollied a fine equaliser in to the back of the net after 73 minutes.

But we had trailed for over an hour in a game that we were dominating. Our only problem was that we were so extended in attack that some of our reserve defenders were in danger of falling to the odd sucker punch from the Goole attack.

Yet when the deserved victory finally arrived it meant that Dave, Janet and myself could then reflect on the good things in this non-event when we finally retreated to the Coach and Horses bar. Its a pity that the President's Cup doesn't provide a backdoor into a European Cup Competition.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Making The Quorum

I was prepared to sacrifice football for politics on Saturday. For although my local team Sheffield FC were playing at home at Dronfield, I went instead to a Constituency Labour Party meeting held six miles to the south in Chesterfield.

But the meeting lacked a quorum, so John Gilbert (the Constituency Secretary) and myself made it back to the match just before the kick-off.

Managing to get to a match at the last minute in unexpected circumstances is always a great treat. The weather was great and we met up with Ted who was part of a crowd of 457 which meets any quorum. In fact Sheffield FC are the best supported team in their league.

It was a tough game in which the goals came at the end of each half.

Gavin Smith, our right back gave us the lead in the 39th Minute. His role as an attacking full-back tends to have been taken over by his colleague Paul Smith. But Gav has a tendency to creep up into the opposition's six yard box unnoticed by fans and the opposing defence alike. The goal he headed in close to the Stamford post was his second effort.

The game had been held up earlier as a bucket of earth had to be assembled to provided the means of filling in a deep divot on the pitch. These little extras seldom happen on Premiership grounds. The hold up meant that it was difficult to judge when the half time whistle would sound and hence when I should anticipate this in order to dash to the Coach and Horses to get the drinks in. But extra goals resolved the problem for me.

First, Stamford equalised on what is officially recorded as 45 minutes. Then immediately Matt Roney put us back in the lead with a smart shot that went in off the post. Judging that lighting would not strike three times in a row and whilst everyone was celebrating Roney's goal, I dashed out of the ground for the bar as fast as my walking stick would enable me.

It wasn't, however, until the 89th minute that matters were settled at the ground with Pete Davey putting matters 3-1 in our favour.

It was, however, a game which made me feel more confident about our progress this season. Chris Dolby's policy of playing a settled team seems to be working. Mick Goddard our striker also seemed to me to have his first impressive game since we signed him from Retford. When he was replaced by Gary Townsend, things were just as good. Gary came to us as a striker and was then moved into the mid-field. He impressed in both roles until he suffered a serious inquiry last season. His role this season has normally been that of a substitute midfielder. He hadn't then got back to his old form. Now for the first time he was back as a striker. I felt that this was the old Gary, near his best once more. Things can only get better.

More fun, we have a home cup game this evening.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dull? Possibly. Inconsistent? Never

My responses for Normblog's profile have been judged by Road Sassy as being dull. He states "what struck me about his answers was the earnestness of the exercise, no creativity and no sense of fun". Perhaps he is correct, or we just have different senses of fun and of priorities.

But I make no similar concessions to the argument by Freedom John (then repeated and elaborated upon by The Wardman Wire and The Thunder Dragon) to the effect that some of my answers to Norm's questions were inconsistent with each other.

Amongst themselves this trio claim that two of my answers are inconsistent with my commitment to democratic socialism and my opposition to totalitarianism. Namely, the claims that (if only I had the influence) I would seek to (1) replace most private transport with public transport and (2) would restructure the United Nations to allow it to run world-wide military and financial controls.

Freedom John et al are free to argue against such propositions, but they are wrong to accuse me of inconsistency. For (if I had the influence provided in Norm's questions), I would naturally pursue and then sustain my objectives by entirely democratic and anti-totalitarian methods.

Even if I am thought of as being foolish and wrongheaded, at least I have been entirely consistent. Consistently wrong possibly, but never ever inconsistent.

Apologies to Road Sassy if he or she finds my defence of my logic to be deadly dull. But that is logic for you.

I need to point out, however, that I haven't recently been receiving wall-to-wall criticism from bloggers. Curly's Corner Shop, the blog! has a thread entitled "What I like about Harry Barnes". Its not my politics (he is "right of centre") nor my logic, it is my love of footy and the fact that we are both Sunderland supporters. All Sunderland fans (at least) should link to Curly's blog.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On Being Normblogged

After suffering a loss of gravitas by trying to pander to Ianin Dale's blogging circus, I may have been partially rehabilitated.

I appear today on Noram Geras's web-blog as his 261st profile. I was required to answer 30 questions he set me. If anyone is confused by answers, then I am prepared to elaborate on them. I enjoyed his final question in particular.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sidney, Where Art Thou?

The original version of Clause IV, drafted by Sidney Webb (left) in November 1917 and adopted by the Labour Party in 1918, read, in part 4:

"To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service."

This was replaced by a commitment to a "dymanic economy". Well we have arrived.

Tackling The Crisis

Gordon Brown opens the way for Monopoly Capitalism, whilst George Bush turns to Public Ownership and the Daily Telegraph looks to Karl Marx via today's Comment Page Cartoon. Things can only get stranger.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Up For The Cup

Only 12 More Wins And Its Ours
On Saturday the sun shone at and on Sheffield FC. They progressed into the Second Qualifying Round of the F.A.Cup with a 3-2 win over Colne.

Yet at half time we led 3-1. With the rest of the home crowd I thought we were in for an easy win, especially as Colne play below us in the non-league pyramid in the same division as AFC Flyde whom we hammered 4-0 in the previous round. In the end, however, we were glad to hold on for a narrow victory.

Colne grabbed a lead only five minutes into the game, which was in conflict with everything else which happened in the first half. Our central defender Greg Wright upended Liam Garbutt when the Colne striker had already failed to control the ball. Martin Brodrich converted the penalty.

The game then, however, settled into one way traffic. Within 2 minutes Daz Winter equalised with a fine header. On 20 minutes our striker Mick Goddard prodded a ball home - he has yet to score from more than 8 yards. Five minutes later we were 3-1 up from a Scott Partridge header. We were coasting it.

But then we let Colne back into the game in the second half. It took two great saves from our goalkeeper Leigh Walker to keep us in the game. Then with only 6 minutes of normal time left Colne's Ted Cockett beat Walker on the rebound from a further save. The final whistle was more than welcome, we were in the draw for the next round with only four more FA Cup matches to win before we get drawn against the likes of nearby Chesterfield!

There were a number of reasons why we did not live up to our early promise. Paul Smith (Smudge) was missing and we missed his passes and runs forward from the left-back position. Matt Roney who has been our super-sub had earned a start, but he ran out of steam. Then we need Vill Powell back from inquiry in his striker's role.

We have now drawn Bacup Borough at home in the next round. They also play in the North West Counties League alongside Colne and AFC Fylde. But they were giant-killers on Saturday, dispatching Cammell Laird who play two leagues above them. In a dramatic fashion they won 3-0, scoring all their goals in the first three minutes.

We will have to ensure that we aren't caught napping next time at the start of the game.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Heavens Open

The heavens opened on Tuesday evening as I made my way to the bus shelter. I was going to watch a football match at Sheffield FC's home ground and decided to get the bus for the short trip because of the dodgy weather.

I was surprised that the game hadn't by then been cancelled as this is what kept happening all the time last season. But improved drainage and a dedicated ground staff had seemingly overcome the problem.

The torrent as I ran to the bus shelter was unbelievable. But I could not return home without being drowned. So I jumped on the bus and made a quick dash for the Coach and Horses pub which is next to the ground.

Surprise, Surprise - the heavy rain stopped and it was game on with a soggy pitch. It was a pity really, for we lost 2-0 to Shepshed Dynamo.

This was the third home league game of the season. They have all followed a similar pattern. Each time the opposition has taken command in the first half, then when we have brought Matt Roney on as a substitute we have come fully into the game. This led to us grabbing a 2-2 draw against Charlton Town (see here) and then a 3-1 win over an unlucky Quorn (see here). The luck ran out against Shepshed.

In the first half it looked as if the gods were with us thanks to desperate defending, missed chances and the woodwork and it was 0-0 at half-time. Straight after half time Shepshed got what they deserved and took the lead (guess who hadn't got back in time from the Coach and Horse's to see the goal?).

Then Sheffield come into the game. Matt as substitute backed by Smudge (Paul Smith) who was playing as an attacking left-back, helped to take over the left hand side of the pitch. Just as the Benjamin twins (numbers 10 and 11) had done for Shepshed in the first half.

It wasn't so easy for the Benjamin twins to progress down the left-wing in the second half as they were now at the worst drained part of the pitch. Yet this did not stop Shane Benjamin scoring twice. The second was from a penalty given for something-I-know-not-what. But the rough justice delivered a just result.

Today (with some sunshine around), I am off to see our home game against Colne in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. We qualify thanks to a 4-0 win over AFC Fylde in a preliminary round replay (see here).

But for our problematic home form in the league, we should be favourites to win today as Carlton (like Flyde) play at the 5th step of the Non-League pyramid, a step below Sheffield FC. And we all know what the FA Cup is like.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

50,000 For Key Football Match In Baghdad

Who would think it. 50,000 attended a football match in Baghdad on 24 August between Al Zawraa and Arbil. Here is one report and another aspect.

Hallelujah - But Are We Facing The End of Blogging?

Great, I can once more access Grant's "Political Opinions", but will this put an end to all blogging (trawl up)?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Nowt - But Goals

Janet And Martin Celebrate (David's Photo And Wife)
Tuesday evening's FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay between Sheffield FC and AFC Flyde was so enjoyable that Janet, Dave, Martin and myself resolved to make the trip to Loughborough Dynamo's ground yesterday to see our away game. Unfortunately, the game was postponed at the last minute due to a waterlogged pitch. But we had had the foresight to anticipate this and called off our trip 3 hours earlier.

Apart from goals, there was a shortage of supplies for the Tuesday evening game. Janet bought the club scarf which she displays in the above photo, but when Dave decided to buy the only other scarf in the Club Shop they had sold out. Then Martin went to buy a pie just as the game got going and they had none ! I mean what is a football match without scarves and pies? Luckily this one was quite something.

The replay resulted from a 1-1 draw at AFC Fylde just three days earlier and Sheffield FC's administration had been caught on the hop. Luckily, the same had not happened to the team.

Apart from even exchanges at the onset, Sheffield FC dominated proceedings and ran out 4-0 victors over last season's FA Vase winners.

First, Mick Goddard scored his first goal since his move to Sheffield FC following a fine cross from Smudge (Paul Smith) plus a fine header by Asa Ingall. The second goal came from that-man-again Smudge as he headed home a Gavin Smith free-kick.

Unlike the Sheffield FC administration, our group made its own forward planning and Mark made it to the Coach and Horses bar to line up our half-time drinks.

The football, therefore, looked even better in the second-half. Although Scott Partridge had a perfectly good goal disallowed, he went on to split the AFC Fylde defence in the 61st Minute and Daz Winter smashed the ball into the back of the net. Mick Goddard rounded off the festivities when he converted a penalty in the 86th Minute.

For the second time this season we had run riot in front of a crowd of 285. The previous time being at our 5-2 win at Gresley. In future we will have to close the gates when the magic number is reached.

We stayed to clap the team off the pitch, not least because we knew that the half-time crush at the bar is seldom repeated at full-time. The lads behind the goal had chanted "We're going to wemb-ber-ley". That is the beauty of the FA Cup, we only have to triumph in 12 more rounds for that to come true. And only 5 victories will put in the hat with Football League teams.

It was celebration time, which was completed by the fact that Martin our computer expert had discovered that Smudge originates from Easington Colliery - as I do. When I then discussed this with our man of the match, I discovered he had lived only seven doors away from my parents and from my own earlier home. Furthermore (unlike myself) he had played for my old school's team.

It is now roll on Tuesday evening for the next game against Shepshed Dynamo. There is only one problem. All our games against teams with "Dynamo" in their title have (like yesterday) been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Still the Coach and Horses will be open!

Friday, September 05, 2008

We All Need "Political Opinions"

Does anyone know where this former link from Grant has gone ?

Azarmehr On Arash

Good News. See here on this.

A Fine Book On Sunniside Reviewed

Sunniside Days : My Maternal Grandparents (Click Photo To Enlarge)
Sunniside is a former coal mining community situated in County Durham. At its peak it had a population of over 1,500. Its main pit was sunk between 1866 and 1868, but numbers of the miners who settled in the village also found work at neighbouring pits in the Crook and Tow Law area.

When the pit was closed in 1925 (with much of the surrounding coalfield also being worked out), many local miners and their families moved to larger and deeper mines near the Durham coast. The pit was, however, re-opened for a period between 1937 and 1965 with coal extraction taking place beneath the local school.

Today Sunniside has no shops and few services and a population of under 500, but it remains a closely knit and friendly community.

I have culled this information from a fine book which is entitled "A History of a Village : Sunniside" edited by Julie Ward. It is published by the Sunniside Community Association at £7.50p (ISBN 978 0 9555487 0 3). Copies covering postage, package and handling can be obtained for £11 via Julie Ward, 43/44 Gladstone Terrace, Sunniside, Bishop Auckland, Co Durham DL13 4LS with cheques made out to the "Sunniside Community Association".

My interest in the book arises from the fact that my mother's parents settled in Sunniside following their marriage in 1898. My Grandfather, John Gray died in 1920 and my Grandmother Lizzy (Elizabeth) joined the exodus to the Durham coastal coalfield area in 1929. She moved the home to Easington Colliery as my two Uncles had found work at its pit.

I have only ever visited Sunniside once. I was a young boy and it was shortly after the end of the second world war. My Uncle Joe was one of the few miners in the area who owned a car at the time and he lived and worked at Easington's neighbouring Colliery of Horden. When he turned up to give my mother and myself a lift to Sunnside, my Aunt Alice and Cousin Robert were with him. My mother Betty was Alice's sister. They were both born in Sunniside.

When my Grandfather died he was 46, leaving my 43 year-old Grandmother with six surviving children. Three of these were still at school - Robert (12), Betty (11) and Alice (10). The only finances available came from the wages of Bill (18) who worked at the pit and whatever was available from Annie (20) and Bella (15). But the girls worked as domestic servants probably in Whitby (this is a correction added 6 September) and Oldham and would receive little in wages beyond their accommodation and meals.

The harshness of the conditions at that time is shown in the book. Julie points out that annual "epidemics of measles, mumps, diphtheria, scarlet fever, chickenpox and influenza were common well into the 20th century" (page 11).

In addition to general poverty, there were two particular factors which would aid the spread of disease.

First, there was the use of middens as toilet facilities. To use a midden residents had at the minimum to cross a road. As areas of houses were built back to back, those living on the far sides from the middens had to embarked upon a walk round the end of their street. The only way in which the contents of the midden was controlled was by adding the ashes deposited by the coal fires. The middens were emptied by "midden men" with the contents being shovelled out onto a horse-drawn cart and transported to the "shit tip" (Page 37). The only time in my life I have used a midden was on my trip to Sunniside. It is my main memory of the visit.

A second hazard is that the winters in Sunniside were the complete opposite of what its name indicates. My mother told me of how they were cut off from the outside world in winter snow drifts. These occurred because Sunniside is the highest village in County Durham and is situated on a ridge. The stories my mother told are fully confirmed between pages 58 and 61 of the book in a section researched from the school log book and the Northern Echo. These are illustrated with dramatic photographs.

I know that Lizzy and John's first child Louisa was born in the winter conditions of January 1899 and the child died 15 months later. My mother also spoke of a teacher making a comment which hurt her mother when a second child had died. The teacher had said that at least the loss would not be as bad for Lizzy as she had a large family. I hold a copy of a small "summary" birth certificate which indicates that this child was Henry Gray born on 3 July, 1913.

The combination of having to try to use middens in the depth of winter would add to health hazards, as would "slopping out" at any time of the year.

Lizzy's surviving children had no option but to leave school as early as they could in order to find work. My mother was always top girl in her class (but was never able to surpass the top boy). She would have loved to go on to have become a teacher, but she was obliged to join Bella in what they called "place" when she was 14. All but one of the siblings started work at that age. The boys at the pit and the girls in domestic service. Only the youngest, Alice stayed at home when she reached the school leaving age due to her bad health.

Julie provides evidence to show that the Gray's eventual move of the family home to Easington was a common feature of its time. She provides a relevant quote from the school log for 21 September, 1928. It stated that the "number of children on the registers is very unsettled - families moving to Easington, Sherburn and to other places where work is more plentiful" (page 15).

Yet Sunniside for all its hardships built a close and mutually supportive community. The Grays reflected this social bond and when the children set up families of their own, they would meet up regularly even when three out of the six offspring moved distances away from Lizzy's home.

On the day I visited Sunniside 60 or more years ago, I don't know who we visited. Both Lizzy (nee Lauder) and John Gray had come from large mining families in the area. Some of these I later visited at Crook, Tow Law and Shildon.

Julie's book is a must for anyone who knows Sunniside, even someone with my limited experiences. Yet it should also be of interest to anyone with a concern for social history, including researchers. Its strengths seem to me to be (1) the work done on school log books from 1878 to the local school's closure in 1960, (2) the description of an area of Sunniside drawn from the 1881 census and (3) the use made of Kelly's Directories in describing services in the Village up to the final village shop closing in 1996 and the Post Office (by then limited to postal services) departing in 2002.

There are two fine pieces from the past by John Armstrong who was born on 12 June, 1910 (only 16 months after my mother). His piece about his father is particularly telling. His father showed a selfless care for others and this led to his death when only 27.

It must, however, be two school matters on which I close, especially given there significance for the Gray family.

First, for 14 September 1920 in the school log we have - "No exercise books, pens and ink have been received over 13 months, and at the time of inspection the ink had been watered to make it last out, pens couldn't be changed and every available space in arithmetic exercise books was written on. Consequently everything was much below the normal quality of work. The paper of some books supplied is so thin that the ink runs through the other side". At this time my Uncle Robert, my Aunt Alice and my mother were studying under these conditions, as was the above John Armstrong. It was the year in which my Grandfather died.

Secondly, Julie adds that difficulties "caused by the protracted miner's strike in 1921 prompted the school to be in a mass feeding programme in April with breakfast and dinner being served in the school for 'necessitous children'. By June the canteen committee was also providing soup on a daily basis for adults" (page 15). The Gray's would need to draw fully on such essentials. It was the year my Uncle Robert was 14 and would be obliged (when he could) to start work at the pit. Yet this fine school photo also seems to have been taken later in the same year.

Further tough times lay ahead with the closure of the local pit in 1925 and the lengthy mining strike of 1926. Yet the Gray's always looked back on their time in Sunniside with great affection.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Loss Of Gravitas ?

In Iain Dale's rating of Labour Bloggers, I first appeared in 70th place for 2005-6 when I was a novice blogger. Then I bounced up into 21st place for 2006-7. So full of enthusiasm, I jazzed up my blog with the help of a scanner at the start of this year. What is the result? I have fallen back to 62nd place in this year's ratings.

Admittedly, Iain does not compare like with like this time. For this years list is for "Left of Centre Blogs" in place of "Labour Blogs" - in ideological terms I'm not sure if this widens and reduces the field for some Labour bloggers don't qualify for Left-of-Centre status from my viewpoint.

I can only assume that my attempt to be modern and "with it" has dented my saintly image. But I can't revert back again. A loss of gravitas is much like a loss of virginity. So with the help of more of Dave's photos of Sheffield FC games, I will continue to be promiscuous.

Weather permitting we have a FA Cup replay this evening.

But if I can't make it as a political blogger, perhaps like Iain I can make a bit of money in the publishing world with my own annual rating of footy bloggers - I might even get the backing of an Oil Sheik. But I won't be including Iain Dale's separate West Ham United blog in my list. This has nothing to do with my taking the hump over his political blogging ratings. It is just because I haven't got over West Ham's 8-0 defeat of Sunderland when Geoff Hurst scored 6. Then on my first two visits to Upton Park, Sunderland whom I have supported for over 60 years lost 6-0 and 6-1.

There is only so much that human flesh can take.