Is Liverpool City Council in denial?
This blog post is dedicated to Ellen Forster (who has started a regular weekly vodcast called Conversations by the Sea) and Anna Codrea-Rado. Both have taught me a lot in a short time and reminded me some of what I’d forgotten.
By John Brace (Editor) and Leonora Brace (Co-Editor)
First publication date: 2nd March 2021, 10:44 (GMT).
Yesterday, the at times camera shy Merseyside Police (who seem to (indeed in common with some court hearings I’ve reported) had managed to attend an incident and left their bodycam video off again)) managed to go an entire Liverpool City Council Licensing & Gambling Committee meeting without insisting it be held in camera (Latin phrase for in private). However it was about enforcing the COVID regulations (which in itself is a matter of public debate and controversy) and the 4 Es came up (yes all very College of Policing) which are engage, explain, encourage and enforce. As a journalist I do a fair amount of the first three (engage, explain, encourage), but rarely have to go as far as the fourth.
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I write this because on a good day, I haven’t ended up believing that I can’t do anything about the situation I find myself in. In the meeting, the Chair of that Committee, Councillor Christine Banks in response to those connected with the Richmond Hotel moaning presumably about an article about the incident in the Liverpool Echo (the very incident that led to the urgent review and please leave a comment if you have a link to it) being blamed by those representing the Richmond Hotel for various events that happened after) went on a tirade not just about the move of the printing presses for the Liverpool Echo (a local tabloid newspaper) from Liverpool to Manchester in 2008, but the media in general and stated (at the 56:12 point onwards), “Mr Hesketh, I can assure you I don’t buy the local newspaper, not since it moved out of Liverpool. I’m very, very, really angry about that. So I don’t, I don’t go to the press or listen to the press or whatever they say, a load of lies anyway. Youse, the lot listening to this I’ve had it then. I’ve already said it now I’ve had it”.
Reading this you may point out that politicians making speeches attacking the media is nothing new (in fact some would see it as a sign someone in the press is doing their job properly if those in power react this way), but this moves to the next theme of this piece.
People tell themselves stories internally to make sense of the world. The media create stories too, but unlike politicians it’s not for votes or political power but it’s part of the culture in this country of a very diverse media holding those in power (especially those with political power) to account.
Politicians attacking the press as I pointed out earlier is nothing new, it was taken much further than this by former President Trump in America, so far that the press not only feared for its safety but had to change the way it held power to account. Do you publish a quote from a politician that’s untruthful because that’s what was actually said, or as the American press found in the Trump era, in the interests of accuracy do you have to balance it with the truth?
The press, the media and journalists in the UK (including myself) have been through a lot in 2020 and 2021, there has been a lot of internal debate privately within the industry about the way forward and in the press itself.
Yet, I will put this down as somewhat of a line in the sand now, as a record of what happened which is a mix of fact, opinion and autobiography.
The people that made the major decisions about society over the last 2 years (there were decisions made before the outbreak in Wuhan, China), the decisions that ended up being literally life and death decisions (at this point in time 122,953 in the UK are known to have died) were politicians. That is a fact, however much politicians may try to deflect accountability and responsibility by blaming other groups (at the start there was an extremely worrying amount of racist rhetoric and xenophobia) or indeed other politicians or political parties.
You cannot have that many people die, this level of disruption to people’s lives without consequences and I’m not referring to at the ballot box at the next election. Last May elections were cancelled – which is partly why people feel that they have no say.
There will come a time when the press and the people finally ask all the difficult questions and there is some sort of detailed inquiry, with a long report and answers as to what really happened and why.
Meanwhile, the damage to people’s mental health and the restrictions on people’s rights and freedoms goes on.
Yes, I did see part of this coming in my younger days – so terrifying it became a recurring dream or nightmare, yes I was lied to by those in power, yes I tried to make changes. I did my best.
I was scared by that vision I had back in the 1990s, a vision involving a chemical smell like too much bleach, many people dying and looking down at myself and I wasn’t actually there – it was a little too much for my teenage self to understand. The Troubles, censorship and terrorism going on at the time didn’t help I suppose – growing up with one parent a Catholic and one a Protestant meant I didn’t feel I belonged to either side and just wanted peace. Peace came much later but at a price.
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