Month: August 2008

…and up 8 places at number 37 is Anders Hanson’s blog

Before anyone says anything, yes I know the list of the top 50 Lib Dem blogs doesn’t mean anything and that we are massaging Iain Dale’s ego by writing about them.  But I am sure the majority of people who say they don’t care about it are still intrigued to see where they come in the list.  I don’t write this website for the praise or the compliments, (just as well really as I don’t tend to get them), but it is still a nice feeling that some people do enjoy reading it.

So thanks to Iain Dale for doing the list and for my number 37 place in the top 50, although I know he doesn’t decide the rankings.  Not exactly stunning, but it’s an improvement on last year’s 45 but still below the 21 I got the first year.

Unfortunately though my praise last year for friends of mine who also have blogs seems to have backfired.  This year only James Graham and Alex Wilcock seem to be in the list, although there are plenty of other Lib Dems in the list I know as well as one or two new ones that have started up recently, but I won’t mention them for fear of jinxing them in the future.

Good on you Bill

It was the endorsement that the Barack Obama campaign seemed to be desperate for, and finally they have it.  Not only did Bill Clinton formally endorse Barack Obama but it was an endorsement and then some.  A brilliant speech that reminds you of Bill Clinton at his best and it seemed to press all the right buttons.  It acknowledged why some people might want to back John McCain, but then reminded Democrats why he didn’t share their values.  After all the controversy about some of the things that Bill Clinton said about Barack Obama during Hillary’s campaign for the presidential nomination, this will have made up for all of that.

If you aren’t in to American politics what it does show is how a brilliant speech can really enthuse people and make them want to go out and campaign for something they believe in.  Barack Obama has been criticised as being a good orator and nothing else, but being able to articulate what you believe in and being able to draw people together around your vision is to me a key part of being a good leader.  I am fortunate to hear many good speeches, but it is a lot rarer to hear a brilliant one, and this is one of those.

The real point of Liberal Democrat Conference

With Liberal Democrat Voice starting a poll on the point of Lib Dem Conference I thought I would run through a few of the ones that Stephen & Alix have clearly overlooked:

  1. It gives Lembit an opportunity to practice his harmonica skills by “entertaining” people late at night in the conference hotel bar.
  2. It keeps Liberal Democrat activists in free pens from the various commercial stands, meaning that we never have to buy any for the rest of the year.
  3. To give the opportunity for Liberal Democrat members to practice their skills at “acting normally” when they realise that they are in the background as a well-known Liberal Democrat or journalist is being interviewed on television.  “Acting normally” usually involves trying not to look as though they keeping looking round at the TV camera even when they are, as well as pretending that they aren’t excited at being in the background as Andrew Neil, John Pienaar, Paddy Ashdown etc are being interviewed, as well as laughing animatedly at the jokes of the person they are with even if they aren’t funny just so it looks normal.
  4. To give the hotel cleaners of the Highcliffe Hotel Bournemouth / Grand Hotel Brighton / Crowne Plaza Liverpool (etc etc) the opportunity to hone their skills in hoovering around drunk asleep LDYS members early in the morning.
  5. To give parliamentary researchers the chance to meet real party activists and thereby make them determined that they will never try to do it again and that they must keep these people as far away from the “real politics” of Westminster as they can.  Meanwhile, the party activists moan that these besuited self-important chinless wonders never do any work and don’t understand what “real politics” is.
  6. It gives Jenny Tonge an opportunity to say something controversial about Palestine in a fringe meeting knowing that the media will go along hoping that that is exactly what she will do.  This then gives the party the chance to spend the rest of the year apologising for what she has said with the poor excuse “well that’s Jenny for you”.
  7. To keep alive the competition within the Liberator Collective of who can walk around for the longest with their arm in the air waving the Glee Club song book at people who never have any intention of buying one.  Clearly after the 40 plus years they have been selling them they haven’t realised that anyone who wants to buy one will know where to get one from anyway, and the reason people are in the bar when Glee Club is on is because they hate glee club and want to get away from it and are not going to be tempted to by a songbook just because some idiot is waving one around in in the air.

I am sure there are many more, which I will add as I remember them.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Tinsley Cooling Towers have gone (well almost)

Tinsley Cooling Towers half an hour before demolition

Tinsley Cooling Towers half an hour before demolition

So that’s it. Tinsley Cooling Towers were blown up tonight at 3am, and I went along to watch, along with what felt like most of the rest of South Yorkshire. We had a brilliant vantage point on Tyler Street and you can see the car park at Meadowhall was packed and there were also people on all the surrounding hills. There must have been thousands of people who went to watch. The cooling towers were lit up for the occasion and the lighting gave them a slightly ethereal quality. Sorry for the poor photo quality but these were taken on a phone camera, but there will undoubtedly be many more elsewhere on the internet, and I’m sure a YouTube video.

We arrived at about 2am and the place was already packed, and the detonation happened on schedule at 3am. The ‘south tower’ first followed by the ‘north tower’. It was the north tower though that was the strangest experience. As it came down it looked as though it was falling towards Tinsley Viaduct on the M1, but then as the dust cleared you could still see part of the structure. Many people thought it was a part that had fallen on to the viaduct and then you realised the truth. It hadn’t all collapsed and a huge chunk of it still sticks up above the viaduct. Whoever was responsible for the detonation must have been cursing. As things stand at the moment it seems as though the M1 will be shut for some time, whilst they work out what to do with the remaining part of the cooling tower and ensure that Tinsley Viaduct is safe.

It was great to go and see it. There is something exciting about seeing a structure being blown up even though it all happens incredibly quickly. What was odd though was seeing it start to come down before you heard an explosion.

Tinsley Cooling Towers are (almost) gone

Tinsley Cooling Towers are (almost) gone

It took ages to leave afterwards as the roads were packed – about an hour by car from Meadowhall to the city centre – and we passed the time listening to Radio Sheffield. That was perhaps the more surreal experience. Apart from everyone drawing (at times slightly tasteless) parallels with the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, everyone had an opinion. This combined with the number of people saying that the failed collapse of the ‘north tower’ just showed how they didn’t want to be demolished and shouldn’t have been, did make you wonder how everyone in South Yorkshire had suddenly become a demolition expert. In fact there was one moment when Radio Sheffield became a complete parody of BBC local radio when the person in the studio asked the person at Tinsley what was happening and his answer was “I have no idea. I have tried chasing someone from E.ON and someone from the Highways Agency across the car park to find out, but they won’t tell me anything.” The programme just turned in to people who knew nothing interviewing more people who knew nothing, and then cutting to people on the phone who… knew nothing but had lots of theories. Mind you, given the amount of cider that was being consumed near where I was stood to watch the demolition and the number of people who had clearly come there straight from a night out in town, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that not everyone had rational thought (including those stood near me who blamed the council for the failed demolition, even though they had nothing to do with it). Mind you, someone at Radio Sheffield does have a sense of humour with them leading in to the demolition with the song “Final Countdown” and then following it up with “Without You”. Alas we didn’t get any Ms Dynamite. When the failed demolition of one tower became apparent we were then treated to “I’m Still Standing”.

A good night that was worth going to see. I’m sad the cooling towers have gone, but we will soon get used to it. For the time being though there does seem to be a huge gap now by the Tinsley Viaduct that should have been filled (that’s if you ignore the bit of cooling tower that’s still there).

UPDATE: The rest of the cooling tower collapsed a few hours later.  There is also a brilliant film of it on the BBC website.

See, 10 Downing Street does have a sense of humour

Although 10 Downing Street has been criticised for its video response to the petition to make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister, I have to admit to enjoying it.  I had wondered how they would decide to respond to the petition, given that they are expected to respond to people on them, but other than a turgid response about democracy and how people need to stand for election etc etc I couldn’t see how they would do it.

I don’t know whether something like this was really put together by a member of staff in a “spare half an hour” but it was appropriate to do it.  If 10 Downing Street spent all its time doing jokey videos then I might question the use of their time and money, but as a response to a petition that wasn’t serious in the first place it was pretty good.  The Tories who criticised it need to gain a sense of humour.

Wicker Riverside (or should that be 3 North Bank) – an update

I wrote a couple of posts here and here about the trials and tribulations of moving in to my new flat.  Well, as I know some of you were following it, here is the latest.

Firstly, I should explain the title of this post.  When I moved in I was given my address as being Wicker Riverside, Willey Street, Sheffield.  Well it now seems as though they have created a new road called North Bank.  My building is 3 North Bank.  I have to say I do like the name, but of course no one knows where it is.  That includes Royal Mail.  Who, despite having written to me two weeks ago to confirm my address and despite me having received post intermittently since, have now stopped delivering to me at all.  This seems to be because they both don’t know where the building is and because they don’t have a key fob to gain access.  I would have assumed that they would make sure they did before writing to me (a letter which as it was from Royal Mail I did of course receive), and before they agreed to deliver a recorded letter to be, which still hasn’t arrived three weeks later.  They also seem to be confused as to the postcode as I am in S3, the nearest street to the building entrance (Blonk Street) is S1, the next nearest street (Furnival Road) is S4 and Victoria Quays which is just over the river is S2.

However despite that setback, everything else is now steadily getting resolved.  Largely due to my very helpful landlord who has stepped in and personally sorted things out.  I now have properly functioning lights, floor, lift, door handles, pavement and many other things.  The building is still clearly not finished, as they haven’t sorted out the shutters on the parking area, but it is looking more like a proper home.  In fact they have even got the ‘water feature’ working in the garden area, and it’s pretty good too.

I have now also finally met a neighbour (still one of only about four in the building) and we get on well (the offer of vodka and coke probably helped).  The reaction of her friends seems to be the same as mine, which was along the lines of “I can’t believe how great your flat is.”

Tinsley Cooling Towers to be demolished at August Bank Holiday

It’s not new news anymore, but Tinsley Cooling Towers are finally coming down.  Despite many campaigns to save them, their demise has now been confirmed by E.ON who have said they will be demolished at 3am on Sunday 24th August.  Meadowhall are apparently providing a viewing platform in their car park, and the M1 will need to be closed when they come down.  I expect I will be there on the day.

I’ve written about Tinsley Cooling Towers before and how I think they should have been retained.  OK, so there are lots of cooling towers around, but it is the position of these and their reminder of Sheffield’s industry that I think are important.  As I’ve said before, I also like them because of their appearance from the hills on the west of the city where I grew up, as they show where the city ends and where Rotherham starts.

The debate now is about what will replace them.  There is one plan for a biomass power plant, but some people have also suggested building an iconic sculpture in their place.  I hope we don’t do the latter.  Every city now wants its iconic sculpture like The Angel of the North, but I think they are better when they come naturally rather than us planning for one.  I don’t want a monument on this site, it is Tinsley Cooling Towers that I want.  As they are going, lets just do something different with the site and keep the icon of Sheffield that was the cooling towers as part of our memories.