Saturday, March 28, 2009

Byers tells it like it is

The North Tyneside MP's comments on Gordon Brown's economic policies this week may have been deeply unhelpful, but his analysis is spot on. Here's today's Journal column.



At the start of the year, I wrote that Gordon Brown’s chances of political survival up to the next general election would ultimately depend on whether his economic rescue package showed any signs of working.

There will be those who claim the fabled “green shoots of recovery” are already appearing – in the London housing market for instance.

But it will take more than a few satisfied estate agents to convince the rest of us that the economic downturn is bottoming out and that the good times are just around the corner again.

After all, there remains considerable doubt even among some of Mr Brown’s natural allies as to whether his remedies for the country’s economic ills are the right ones.

Mr Brown would like to believe there is a broad national and international consensus for the “fiscal stimulus” measures he has been advocating, and which he continues to claim are being copied the world over.

Unfortunately for him, this is very far from being the case as events this week have only served to emphasise.

If it was just the Tories who doubted the efficacy of his proposed solutions, Mr Brown would have less cause to worry – but some of the opposition has been coming from people who might have been expected to show him more support.

Most notably, it has come from the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, and his former Labour cabinet colleague , North Tyneside MP Stephen Byers.

Mr Byers may normally be a mild-mannered sort of chap, but his comments ahead of the Prime Minister’s world tour this week to drum up support for his measures ahead of next week’s G20 Summit could not have been more wounding.

He claimed the proposed summit agenda was too ambitious and also called for the withdrawal of the 2.5pc pre-Christmas cut in VAT, the centrepiece of Brown's domestic economic stimulus.

“The 2.5pc cut in VAT may appear modest but it comes at significant cost. On its own figures, it will cost the Treasury £8.6bn between April and the end of the year,” he wrote.

He suggested this money would have been better spent on raising personal income tax allowances in the Budget by £1,520, taking around £1.7m low-paid workers out of tax altogether.

More damaging still was Mr Byers’ claim that Mr Brown’s attempts to get international agreement on an economic rescue package at the G20 Summit will fail, with serious political consequences for Labour.

He said the next month would prove "make or break time" for the Prime Minister, with the outcome of both the Summit and the Budget likely to be decisive to his chances of re-election.

Although this will have been regarded in Downing Street as deeply unhelpful, Mr Byers is correct in his analysis of the government’s position.

It shows that the supposedly “settled will” of the Labour Party, that Mr Brown should lead the party into next election come what may, is not necessarily as settled as all that.

It was perhaps unlucky for the Prime Minister that Mr Byers’ intervention came on the same day Bank governor Mr King went public with his doubts about the Brown strategy.

He told the Treasury Select Committee that the government should not unveil any further fiscal stimulus in the Budget because the public finances are already in such dire straits.

The Tories couldn’t believe their luck. Shadow chancellor George Osborne, said: "Not only has a former Labour cabinet minister attacked the ineffective VAT cut, but the governor of the Bank of England has said Britain cannot afford a further fiscal stimulus.”

“It leaves Gordon Brown's political plans for the G20 and the Budget in tatters. It is the Prime Minister who is now isolated at home and abroad."

For all Mr Osborne’s bullishness, the Tories have been having troubles of their own this week, with Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke taking a sledgehammer to the party’s flagship policy of raising the inheritance tax threshold to £1m.

His comment that this was an “aspiration rather than a promise” was followed by furious backpedalling on his part, but the damage in the eyes of the voters has probably already been done.

I suspect Mr Clarke was just telling it as it is, as is his wont. It does, after all, stand to reason that an incoming Tory government faced with a huge black hole in the public finances is going to be in the mood to cut taxes straightaway.

But inheritance tax remains a totemic issue for the Tories – not least because Mr Osborne’s autumn 2007 pledge to cut it dealt Mr Brown and Labour a blow from which they have never really recovered.

The debate over inheritance tax is just one more illustration of just how much the world has changed since then.

Mr Osborne’s dramatic move provoked Chancellor Alistair Darling to effectively double the threshold for the tax in his October 2007 pre-Budget report, but the truth is neither party would have made such pledges had they known what was around the corner for the economy.

Sure, any tax cut constitutes a “fiscal stimulus” of sorts, but like the cut in VAT, slashing inheritance tax is not going to make a real and substantial difference to the spending power of large numbers of people.

Meanwhile the wait for the “green shoots” goes on. And slowly but surely, time is running out for Mr Brown.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Fiscal stimulation



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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Celebrating life together

A few years ago I project-managed the launch of the memorials website Lasting Tribute. Since those relatively small beginnings the site has gone from strength to strength under the leadership of Elaine Pritchard and this week its tribute to Jade Goody received 36,000 page views in a single day, with 340 people leaving messages of condolence.

Here's something a few LT folk put together last week to illustrate, in a fairly light-hearted way, the purpose behind the site. Eagle-eyed readers will spot a guest appearance from yours truly.



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Monday, March 23, 2009

In BOD we trust

Having lived in Cardiff for two very enjoyable years of my life in the mid-90s and found it impossible not to get swept up in the passion and excitement that Six Nations rugby generates in that city, I usually support Wales against everyone else in the tournament bar England.

But on Saturday, I have to confess to having cheered on the Irish as they pursued their dream of a first Grand Slam in 61 years.

Partly it was down to sentiment - Wales have won their fair share of Grand Slams in that period after all - but mainly it was because Brian O'Driscoll is the greatest rugby player these islands have produced in the past 20 years (sorry Johnno and Jonny) and if anyone deserved the accolade of captaining a Grand Slam team it was him.

After a sublime Six Nations tournament, BO'D is once again in contention to captain the Lions this summer, and although his main rivals, Welshman Ryan Jones and fellow Irishman Paul O'Connell would both be perfectly adequate, I think he should have the job.

O'Driscoll, of course, has unfinished business with the Lions. I remember being in the Queen's Head for the opening Test of the last series against New Zealand. As the game got under way, the pub's rugby-mad owner, Dick Watson, called out "win it for us, Brian."

And win it he may well have done, but for the fact that, less than a minute into the game, his tour was over.

Brian was the victim of a disgraceful spear tackle by the All-Blacks Keven Mealamu and Tana Umaga that could have left him paralysed or even dead and which most British rugby fans continue to believe was premeditated.

Nothing would give me greater pleasure this year than to see this great, great player join John Dawes, Willie John McBride, Finlay Calder and Martin Johnson in leading winning Lions sides.

So who else should play? Well, on the basis of performances in this year's Six Nations alone, you might select a starting XV along these lines.

15 Delon Armitage (England)
14 Tommy Bowe (Ireland)
13 Brian O'Driscoll, Capt (Ireland)
12 Riki Flutey (England)
11 Shane Williams (Wales)
10 Ronan O' Gara (Ireland)
9 Mike Phillips (Wales)
8 Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)
7 David Wallace (Ireland)
6 Tom Croft (England)
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
4 Paul O'Connell (Ireland)
3 John Hayes (Ireland)
2 Jerry Flannery (Ireland)
1 Gareth Jenkins (Wales)

But based on the maxim that while form is temporary, class is permanent, my Lions starting line-up would be:

15 Chris Paterson (Scotland)
14 Tommy Bowe
13 Brian O'Driscoll, Capt
12 Gavin Henson (Wales)
11 Shane Williams
10 Stephen Jones (Wales)
9 Mike Phillips
8 Ryan Jones (Wales)
7 David Wallace
6 Tom Croft
5 Alun Wyn Jones
4 Paul O'Connell
3 Euan Murray (Scotland)
2 Jerry Flannery
1 Gareth Jenkins

In addition to the above names James Hook, Tom Shanklin, Dwayne Peel and Martyn Williams (all Wales) Andrew Sheridan, Matthew Tait and Ugo Monye (England), Mike Blair and Ross Ford (Scotland) and Donncha O'Callaghan (Ireland) would all make my squad.

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I leave this party withour wancour

The story of Dennis Skinner's heckling of Roy Jenkins during his parting speech to the PLP before leaving for Brussels in 1977 never loses anything in the telling, so I naturally jumped at the opportunity to tell it again in my latest "Where Are They Now?" piece for Total Politics magazine which is now online. The subject of the piece - and the victim of Skinner's wicked humour - is Jenkins' close political ally David Marquand, a man whose career encapsulates much of the shifting history of the British centre-left over the past four decades.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Labour's silver lining

Is David Cameron ready to govern? Not until he can fill the policy vacuum at the heart of his party's programme. Here's today's Journal column.



Amidst all the doom and gloom that has come to characterise Gordon Brown’s troubled premiership over the past 20 months, there has been one small consistent chink of light for Labour.

While opinion polls continue to show it on course for a catastrophic election defeat next year, there is one regular poll finding that has continued to give the stricken party hope.

It is that, despite a lead stretching to around 20 percentage points, there remains a prevailing public consensus that the Tories and their leader David Cameron are not quite ready for government.

To his credit, Mr Cameron is perfectly well aware of this - which is what made his comments ahead of a big speech on public spending on Thursday so potentially significant.

“The election is far from won and I still hold to the belief that governments don’t just lose elections, oppositions must deserve to win them with a positive mandate for change,” he wrote in a magazine article.

He said that the Tories must not simply “sit back and let the government unravel,” but advocate a “radical and ambitious” new approach.

It is a moot point as to whether Mr Cameron is actually historically right about this. Very few oppositions actually “win” elections and when power changes hands in the UK, it is usually because the government has made a mess of things.

But taking his cue from Tony Blair in 1997, Mr Cameron is surely right to recognise the dangers of complacency, even when all the signs are that you are heading for a landslide.

So why is it that the public has so far proved resistant to Mr Cameron’s undoubted charms? Why is it that even though the polls show Labour as wildly unpopular, they also show the public are unconvinced by the Tories?

Well, part of it is probably down to the fact that Mr Cameron appears at times to be far too slick for his own good.

He prides himself on being the “Heir to Blair” and in many respects he is, but the public isn’t necessarily ready to see another smooth-talking, snake oil salesman in Number 10 just yet.

The Old Etonian thing doesn’t really help either. While Mr Cameron and his shadow chancellor George Osborne have worked hard to project a modern image, their privileged background rightly or wrongly conjures up folk memories of the bad old Tories who thought they were born to rule.

But undoubtedly the biggest reason why Mr Cameron has failed the capture the public’s enthusiasm in the same way Mr Blair did prior to 1997 has been the huge vacuum at the heart of his party’s policy programme.

This has been demonstrated most graphically in the context of the recession, with Mr Brown successfully characterising the Tories as the “do nothing” party.

Okay, so it’s a bit rich coming from an ex-chancellor who did precisely nothing while City fat cats paid themselves obscene bonuses while the economy steadily went to hell in a handcart, but no matter.

It’s a charge that has by and large hit home, leaving Mr Cameron stuck with the label of a “laissez-faire” free market Tory at a time when the political consensus has moved decisively towards greater government regulation.

But it’s not just economic policy on which the Tory leader has been found wanting. Much of what he says about a whole host of issues is simply too vague to be taken seriously.

One of the big themes of Thursday’s speech was decentralisation – or “giving folks power over their lives” as Mr Cameron put it in a rather Dubya-esque way.

Yet there is no evidence that the Tory leader has any idea as to how he is going to do this, how he is going to resist the pressure to centralise and control that affects all governments to a greater or lesser degree.

On the contrary, the way in which he runs his own party suggests he is just as cabalistic in his approach to politics as Messrs Blair and Brown.

An illustration of the vacuity at the heart of the Tories’ “new localism” was provided by the launch of their new local government policy paper a month ago.

The centrepiece of this was a plan to give 12 big cities including Newcastle the right to bring in city mayors with the same kind of powers as London’s Boris Johnson.

The trouble with this idea is that it is neither new nor particularly local. Labour went down this road a decade ago, and most of the cities listed in the Tories’ policy paper were not interested.

The comparison with Mr Johnson is, in any case, absurd. London is a city of 8m people with 32 different boroughs. Creating a similarly powerful figure in the North-East could only be done by re-opening the regional governance debate.

Will any of this matter at the end of the day? Won’t Mr Cameron, despite what he himself says, be able to win the election simply on the back of Labour’s unpopularity?

Well, probably. The nearest comparison here is with 1979, when Margaret Thatcher won comfortably without having a fully-developed policy agenda largely because Labour was seen as incompetent.

But it will matter greatly in terms of the kind of government Mr Cameron will lead if he wins – and whether it too will culminate in failure and disillusionment.

The polls say the Tories are ready to win. Whether they are ready to govern, though, is an entirely different matter.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Gordon gets a rocket


A warm welcome back to Slob....

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Cheers, Sir Liam

Gordon Brown, in his infitite wisdom, has given a lukewarm response to Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson's proposals for a minimum price per unit of alcohol. I think he is missing a trick.

We can argue about the exact price, and whether Sir Liam has pitched it quite right at 50p a unit, but the Government should have welcomed the general principle

It's not that I want to penalise "moderate" drinkers as Mr Brown calls them. I just want to stop supermarkets selling booze at knockdown prices and putting more and more pubs out of business as a result.

One of the things that makes this country really unique is its pub culture, by which I really mean Northern pub culture as opposed to London bar culture. It is something well worth saving.

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Lion hunt

It's a perennial source of debate among rugby fans after each round of Six Nations matches as to where they leave us in terms of potential selection for the next Lions' tour. I blogged on this a few weeks' back when it looked like every place in the starting XV would be taken by an Irishman or a Welshman. Since then England have enjoyed a bit of a resurgence and even one or two Scots have made the case for inclusion, so here's my current line-up (with last month's selections in brackets).

15 Lee Byrne (Wales)
14 Mark Cueto (England) (Leigh Halfpenny, Wales))
13 Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland) (Jamie Roberts, Wales)
12 Riki Flutey (England) (Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland)
11 Shane Williams (Wales)
10 Stephen Jones(Wales)
9 Mike Phillips (Wales)
8 Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)
7 Joe Worsley (England) (David Wallace, Ireland)
6 Tom Croft (England) (Ryan Jones, Wales)
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
4 Paul O'Connell (Ireland, Captain)
3 John Hayes (Ireland)
2 Ross Ford (Scotland) (Jerry Flannery, Ireland)
1 Garin Jenkins (Wales)

In addition to these names I would say that Martyn Williams (Wales), Donncha O'Callagahn (Ireland), Andrew Sheridan (England) and James Hook (Wales) can probably be fairly certain of a place in the squad.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's obvious who should succeed Gordon - and it's not Harriet Harman

Could Harriet Harman really become Prime Minister if Gordon Brown fell? Not if Labour wants to maximise its chances at the next election. Here's today's Journal column.



One of the enduring truisms of British politics is that when it comes to choosing party leaders, Labour invariably chooses the obvious candidate while the Tories often opt for the unexpected.

By and large, it holds true. In each of the last four Labour leadership elections, the party has chosen the initial front-runner – successively Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

By contrast, the status of early front-runner in a Tory leadership election is usually the kiss of death – as Michael Heseltine in 1990, Ken Clarke in 1997, Michael Portillo in 2001 and David Davis in 2005 all found to their cost.

It is tempting to think it has something to do with political worldview. While Tories are ruthlessly unsentimental by nature, Labour people seem more inclined to award the leadership on the basis of what used to be known as “Buggins’ Turn.”

But in the summer of 2007, the party did something mildly unpredictable. Not, of course, choosing Mr Brown as leader – that was as Buggins-ish a Labour appointment as they come.

No, their slightly leftfield choice – in more ways than one – was to select Harriet Harman as deputy leader over a field of candidates which included several nominally more senior figures.

If there was an “obvious” candidate in that election, it was probably Alan Johnson, at that time the education secretary and a man who had been seriously talked about as a potential alternative to Mr Brown for the top job.

That the Labour Party instead chose Ms Harman has subsequently led many observers to suggest that she would be the person to beat in any contest to succeed the Prime Minister.

It is not hard to fathom at least one of the reasons why Ms Harman had such substantial support among the party’s grassroots – her gender.

The party has a proud record of campaigning for greater gender equality and to give her her due, Ms Harman has been right in the forefront of that campaign for most of her political career.

Another reason for Ms Harman’s success was the fact that she managed to position herself in exactly the right place to win the election to be Mr Brown’s deputy – that is, very slightly to the left of the incoming PM.

This careful positioning ensured that she scooped up the second preference votes of the left-wing candidate, Jon Cruddas, enabling her to defeat Mr Johnson in the final run-off.

But there was one other very significant element of Ms Harman’s support in that 2007 contest which is less easily explained – the backing she received from key members of Mr Brown’s own inner circle.

Labour MPs who gave her their votes included Douglas Alexander, Yvette Cooper, Nigel Griffiths, Ed Miliband, Geoffrey Robinson, Michael Wills and two North-East MPs, Nick Brown and Kevan Jones.

Of course, it is quite possible that each of this eminent group of Brownites arrived independently at the judgement that Ms Harman was the best qualified of the candidates.

But that is not, historically, how Gordon’s gang have operated. They tend to hunt as a pack, taking their lead from the top and always acting in what they see as their man’s best interests.

So for me, the enduring mystery of the Harman election – especially in the light of all the subsequent rumours about her plotting to take over – is why the Brown camp wanted her as No 2?

The suspicion persists that it was primarily down to a desire to keep out candidates who would have been more of a threat – such as Mr Johnson or Peter Hain – along with those espousing a “Blairite” agenda, such as Hazel Blears.

It has been said by some that having encouraged his inner circle to back Ms Harman, Mr Brown then regretted it immediately.

If so, this would seem to be borne out by his decision to appoint her not as Deputy Prime Minister but instead to the relatively humdrum positions of party chair and Leader of the Commons.

Ever since then, Mr Brown has kept the post of deputy premier open, giving him the option of using it either to strengthen his Cabinet line-up or neutralise a potential rival.

That wily tactician John Major successfully achieved both when he elevated Mr Heseltine to the position in 1995.

The most likely beneficiary of such a manoeuvre in these circumstances would be Mr Johnson – but that would run the risk of triggering a full-scale revolt by Ms Harman’s supporters.

Ms Harman has already been cleverly positioning herself to the left of the collective government position on issues on which Mr Brown is vulnerable in his own party, such as bankers’ bonuses and the Royal Mail sell-off.

So could she really become leader and Prime Minister? Well, for what it’s worth, I don’t think so.

Okay, so she won the only contested leadership or deputy leadership election Labour has held in the past 15 years and, on the strength of that alone, it is impossible to write her off.

But if Mr Brown did fall, the party would in my view be focused on one thing and one thing alone – choosing the person most likely to give David Cameron a run for his money at the next election.

That person is not Ms Harman, but the “obvious candidate” she so narrowly beat: Alan Johnson.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Should Gordon say sorry?

Probably not if he still wants to win the next election. But there is another option for Labour. Here's today's Journal column.



Chancellor Alistair Darling says the government should show a bit of "humility" and accept "collective responsibility" for the economic crisis. Childrens’ secretary Ed Balls says it underestimated the risks of not having stronger financial regulation of the City.

Is New Labour edging towards something resembling an apology for the economic downturn? Not if Prime Minister Gordon Brown has anything to do with it.

To be fair, he’s had other things on his mind this week – that much-sought-after first meeting with President Barack Obama, and his big speech to the US Congress in which he set out his rescue plan for the global economy.

But the UK national media had only one thing on its mind – whether or not Mr Brown was going to utter the magic word: “Sorry.”

You almost had to feel sorry for the guy. There he is in the Oval Office enjoying his long-awaited moment of glory with Obama and all the BBC’s Nick Robinson wants to ask him about is the “S-word.”

A Sky News analysis of his speech to Congress concentrated less on Mr Brown’s ongoing attempts to save the world from financial meltdown and more on the fact that the number of times he had used the word sorry was zero.

Back home, meanwhile, the Conservatives redoubled their attempts to get the Prime Minister to take the blame for the recession, even in the absence of leader David Cameron.

It launched a new satirical website entitled www.sorryfromgordon.com in which users are invited to draft an apology on the Prime Minister’s behalf.

So should he or shouldn’t he? Well, the answer to that question really depends on whether you are looking at it from the point of view of political morality, or from the point of view of pure political advantage.

From the moral standpoint, the case for a Prime Ministerial apology is fairly clear-cut. This was after all the man who claimed to have abolished boom and bust, who insisted Britain was best-placed to weather the downturn, and above all who invented the system of financial regulation which has so palpably failed.

Since Mr Brown got all of these things wrong, some sort of “I screwed up” –style gesture is probably long overdue.

But whenlooked at from the point of view of whether it would be in Mr Brown’s or the Labour Party’s best interests for him to say sorry, the picture becomes much more confused.

There are good arguments on both sides, and they are arguments that have been playing out at the most senior levels of Mr Brown’s own Cabinet over the course of recent weeks.

Those urging Mr Brown to make some sort of apologetic gesture contend that it would enable the government to achieve “closure” on the issue of who caused the recession, thus enabling the public to focus more on the issue of who has the best remedies for it.

But those urging caution take the view that the whole apology saga is no more than a Tory trap that has been set by the opposition and its cronies in the national press.

Once Mr Cameron has secured an admission of guilt, they argue, he will throw it back in the Prime Minister’s face every day between now and the next General Election.

The public’s own view of the dilemma is not necessarily as straightforward as the Tories would like to think.

On the one hand, the Tory attacks seem to chime with the public’s general view of the Prime Minister as someone who is happy to take the credit when things go well but seeks to avoid any responsibility when they go wrong.

On the other, there is some evidence that the voters see the Tory attacks as petty point-scoring and the “apology” row as a distraction from the main issue of how to tackle the crisis.

A poll published on Thursday found that 60pc of voters would like to see the media and the Tories “give up” on the issue and move on to more pressing matters.

What are the recent historical precedents? Well, Margaret Thatcher would certainly never have dreamed of saying sorry for causing the mass unemployment of the early 1980s, for instance, or the social divisions arising from the miners’ strike that began 25 years ago this week.

For her, all this was mere collateral damage in her overriding mission to rescue the British economy from the ravages of socialism.

What about Tony Blair? He said sorry for the 75p state pension increase in 1999 – which was Mr Brown’s idea anyway – and also for initially having opposed Ken Livingstone’s bid to become Mayor of London.

But those were relatively minor mistakes. He never really apologised for the big one, the Iraq War, saying only that he would “answer to his maker” for the consequences.

Of course the key point about both Mrs Thatcher and Mr Blair is that they each won three elections in a row, suggesting that a refusal to apologise for mistakes is not necessarily an electoral liability.

My own view on the matter- and I choose my words carefully here – is that if Mr Brown is intending to fight the next General Election, he would probably be better off sticking to his guns on the apology issue.

But there is another scenario, in which Mr Brown says sorry while simultaneously announcing he will not fight that election, thus achieving closure on the issue without giving Mr Cameron a gigantic hostage to fortune.

Ultimately, it may be the only way for the Labour Party to resolve the excruciating dilemma in which it finds itself.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

"And a portion of your very excellent guacamole, please"

Those were the immortal words which were memorably not spoken by Peter Mandelson during a campaign visit to a Hartlepool fish and chip shop shortly after his adoption as the Labour candidate there in the mid-1990s. But, of course, they ought to have been. Indeed, never did an apocryphal political tale more deserve to be true than in this case.

So was it really green custard which the airport protesters threw at him today, or was it the guacomole coming back to haunt him again? Or could it, just simply, have been a punnet of mushy peas?

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Another victim of the credit crunch...

Music lovers all over the East Midlands (and beyond) will have been dismayed to hear of the forthcoming demise of Selectadisc, Nottingham. My good friend David Gladwin - who expresses these sorts of things far better than I ever could - reminisces about bygone days spent there:

"I spent huge amounts of time there. And huge amounts of money, relative to my disposable income at the time. I first went on a bus trip to Nottingham with Antony Fearn. It was on Bridlesmithgate then, in just the one shop. I remember first hearing Garlands by the Cocteau Twins in there, and having to have it right there and then.

"The same thing happened some years later, when I went to the Market Street shop one Friday afternoon as a student and they were playing Birthday by the Sugarcubes. Selecta (as the locals used to call it) would stay open late on nights when there were gigs in the centre of Nottingham (so that was every weekend and most of the week, then) and would give me somewhere else to go instead of a pub before the show. It was tricky getting through a standing show with a piece of 12 inch vinyl under your arm, mind.

"I went there less and less over the years, but only because I didn’t live in the area. If I’d stayed in Belper then I’d have gone to Selectadisc at least once a fortnight – Nottingham has always pissed all over Derby for shopping purposes. But now Nottingham will never be the same.

"So thank you and goodnight, Selectadisc. Thank you for all those glorious 12 inch singles on Factory and 4AD. For albums and singles on Cherry Red. Thank you for having a Giveaways rack where curious young music fans could pick up Tim Buckley’s Starsailor on cassette for £2. Thank you for the fantastic second hand section (a whole shop full until fairly recently) where some serious bargains and get-it-now-or-never-see-it-again opportunities were to be had. The only better second hand section I’ve ever been to is in (the thankfully extant – for now) Record Collector on Fulwood Road in Sheffield. Thank you for the Fantastic Something album for £1.99. For Still by Joy Division. For my first copy of Martin Newell’s The Greatest Living Englishman. For the amazing dance and soul sections. For being the only record shop I’ve ever known where you could just walk in and be certain that a new release – however obscure – that you heard John Peel play the night before would be there, in the racks, waiting."

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