O'Really?

July 5, 2019

Are Liverpool and Manchester still in Lancashire?

Red_Rose_Badge_of_Lancaster.svg

The Red Rose of Lancaster is the county flower of Lancashire. 🌹Image by Sodacan, created with Inkscape. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons.

Once upon a time, there were two football teams, a Northern one (Liverpool F.C.) and a one, (Tottenham Hotspur F.C.). They were due to meet each other in a historic and lucrative match: the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final in Madrid. The biggest prize in European club football would be awarded to whichever team triumphed on the 1st June 2019. As with all zero-sum games, only one team could be crowned champions of Europe.

This particular match posed a cruel dilemma for football supporters across the North of England. Which team to support? The local Northern team or the Southern London one, on the other side of the North-South divide?

Scousers or Cockneys?

For football supporters in Manchester, this dilemma had an added dimension. Both of the Mancunian teams: United and City had been knocked out shortly beforehand. A woeful United were humiliated by superior spaniards from FC Barcelona (4-0) while City lost to Spurs during a dramatic game. The video assistant referee (VAR) judged that Raheem Sterling hadn’t scored the winning goal in the dying minutes of the game because he was offside. Ouch. With both Mancunian teams out of the running, the Champions League final was simply a question of which team you hated less, the scousers from Liverpool or the cockneys from London? A difficult choice, especially for Mancunians.

Mancs and Scousers: Sibling rivalry

Now Manchester and Liverpool have a long rivalry, not just in sport, arts and science but in commerce too. For example, when Mancunian traders got fed up with paying the duties charged by Liverpool for using their docks to export goods, they decided to bypass them by building the Manchester Ship Canal. This transformed Manchester into a port – even though it is more than 30 miles from the sea. The new ship canal gave the Port of Liverpool the finger: sibling rivalry on an industrial scale. You want to rip us off? We’ll just route around you bro!

Liverpool, Lancashire: Manchester, Mancashire

Like many siblings, the twin cities of Manchester and Liverpool have much in common. They are both joined by the River Mersey and share a common commercial and cultural rival: the megacity of London. As well as being on the same river, both Manchester and Liverpool are in the same county too; Lancashire. Symbolised since the Wars of the Roses by the Red Rose of Lancaster.🌹 Historically, there’s a strong argument for Mancunian supporters to back Liverpool over London. We are brothers in arms, sisters in arms, siblings from the House of Lancaster, two red roses from the very same rootstock.🌹

Lancashire_1610_Speed_Hondius_-_Restoration

John Speed’s map of the County Palatine of Lancaster (Lancashire) in 1610. The River Mersey joins Manchester to Liverpool along the bottom of the map and separates Lancashire in the North from Cheshire in the South. The Pennines separate Lancashire in the West from Yorkshire in the East. Picture by Jodocus Hondius, engraved by John Speed, and restored by Adam Cuerden. This is a retouched picture, digitally altered from its original version. Public domain picture from Wikimedia Commons.

An organisation called the Friends of Real Lancashire (FORL) @FORLancashire puts it another way on their website forl.co.uk (emphasis mine):

“Friends of Real Lancashire are concerned to promote the true identity of our county which has been extremely confused in the minds of some people, especially those working in the broadcasting and newspaper industries, since the local government reorganisation of 1974.

The Government at that time stated that the “new counties” were administrative areas only, and that the boundaries of traditional counties such as Lancashire had not been changed. Unfortunately, the media refer to these administrative areas all too frequently and ignore the fact that places such as Barrow-in-Furness, Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington, etc. are still in Lancashire.

If administrative areas had not been called counties much of this confusion would have been avoided. The Royal Mail has at last dropped the use of administrative county names in postal addresses, and names such as Cumbria and Merseyside do not appear in the current Royal Mail Postal Address Book.”

Lucifer over Lancashire

As a follower of Manchester United, I backed our Lancastrian siblings from Liverpool. As someone with Lancashire roots, it is red roses all the way, any day and I was happy when Liverpool got the victory they deserved. Like Andy Burnham, we’re not anti-London, just pro-North. Come on Lancashire, ‘AVE IT!

My fellow United supporters didn’t see it that way. They looked at me like I was the devil incarnate, or Lucifer over Lancashire, as Mark E. Smith used to sing. How could I support Liverpool, a scouse football team? They called me a traitor, a scally and lots of other names that can’t be repeated here. Such is the sibling rivalry between LFC and MUFC. When Alex Ferguson arrived as a new manager of United in 1986 he said:

 “My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f****ng perch. And you can print that.

Which sums it up. Forget Lancashire, forget The North, forget George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse. United and City fans should support Spurs, the Southern Powerhouse team, because they’re not Liverpool. Support anyone you like, absolutely anyone, apart from Liverpool. Or so they told me…

Conclusion

So are Manchester and Liverpool still in Lancashire? It depends who you ask:

  • If you consult a map, the answer you’ll get will depend on who made the map and when it was made.
  • If you type a Mancunian or Scouse postcode into the Royal Mail postcode & address finder it won’t mention Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside or even Cheshire so you’ll be none the wiser.
  • If you ask a football fan, they will probably be too blinded by bitter sporting rivalry to give you a sensible answer.
  • If you ask the government, they are preoccupied at the moment, and have more important international borders to think about.
  • If you ask the Friends of Real Lancashire they’ll tell you absolutely YES without question, Manchester and Liverpool are still in Lancashire, because they never left. Our county is called LANCASHIRE, not “Cumbria”, “Greater Manchester”, “Merseyside” or “part of Cheshire”. I’m inclined to agree with them. 🌹

 References

NOTE: Here’s a good related pub quiz question which will sort the wheat from the chaff: Which football team plays closest the River Mersey? (Google it.)

July 1, 2016

Dear Europeans, do you know who your MEP is and what they do?

banksy-does-brexitAlong with 16 million other people on the 23rd June 2016 I voted to remain in the European Union (EU). I believe the benefits of EU membership exceed the costs. Free trade and free movement have been beneficial to me personally, many of those around me, as well as the wider UK economy [1]. I even married an EU migrant too, so I love Europe in more ways that one. Life outside the EU is very difficult to imagine, professionally, financially, culturally and personally.

So when I woke up to Brexit EuroDoom last Friday, to find I was in a minority outnumbered by 17 million leavers who disagreed, I felt sick. After a gloomy week of miserable soul searching, I realised I didn’t have the foggiest notion who my Member of European Parliament (MEP) was or how they got elected. Although not a student of (or expert in) politics or economics, I don’t believe I am apathetic or unaware. I follow the news, vote in general elections and write letters to my MP. I try to understand what is going on in politics and bend my head around the dismal science of economics. But until this week, I had little or no idea how the European Parliament (EP), let alone the European Commission (EC) or lots of other acronyms starting with E, actually work in practice.

Now if you are also a participant in the failing (?) European project, do YOU know who your MEP is? Any idea what they actually do? The chances are you don’t because Euroignorance is widespread [2]. Fortunately, Professor Google can help us. In Manchester, the MEPs for the North West Region of the UK comprising Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire are:

Unfortunately, I’d only heard of two of those MEPs beforehand, and neither of them because of their activity during the EU referendum. Nuttall I’d heard of because the comedian Stewart Lee performed a brilliant satirical piece mocking Nuttall’s views on immigration [3]. Woolfe I’d heard of because his campaign leaflet came through my letterbox during the 2015 general election. How did they get elected as MEPs because I can’t remember seeing their names on a ballot paper?

MEPs are elected using the D’Hondt method [4], a form of proportional representation (PR) used in the European elections in 2014 and elsewhere. As of 2016, the three largest UK parties in the European Parliament are: UKIP (24 MEPs), Labour (20 MEPs) and The Conservatives (19 MEPs). Isn’t it remarkable that so many of these MEPS were neither seen or heard during the almost entirely fact-free® debate [1] preceding the UK EU referendum?

So what is the nature of an MEPs power? Back in 1998, a politician by the name of Tony Benn proposed five democratic questions to understand the powerful:

“If one meets a powerful person–Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler–one can ask five questions:

  1. what power do you have?
  2. where did you get it?
  3. in whose interests do you exercise it?
  4. to whom are you accountable?
  5. how can we get rid of you?”

According to Benn, anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system. [5] Personally, I’d like to get rid of UKIP from the European parliament. How can I do this? While I can’t vote for individuals, I can vote for political parties. However, turnout in european elections is often embarrassingly low, in the UK a pathetic 35.6% showed up in 2014. Which means two thirds of UK voters were unaware or didn’t care who their MEP was, including me. My bad. You could call this democratic deficit, not one where people can’t vote but one where people are unaware or don’t bother.

Right now, it is really hard to see how any good can come of what is unfolding in Great Britain and Europe. Brexit leaves the sector I work in, and many others, facing huge uncertainty [6,7,8]. Let’s hope one thing will happen, a reformed EU where those in power are more engaged and accountable to the people they claim to represent. Personally, I am not in a position to judge if the European Union has a democratic deficit or not [9,10]. Neither can I judge if the European Union is as anti-democratic as some eurosceptics have suggested [11, 12,13]. But I do know something has gone badly wrong with the EU if many europeans have no idea of who their parliamentary representatives are and how they can exercise their democratic rights to get rid of them using the ballot box.

If you are staying in the European Union you have a duty to find out who your MEP is and ask them the five democratic questions above. You better do it quickly before risking a Frexit, Czechout, Swexit, Departugal, Grexit, Bygium, Italeave or bidding Austria La Vista.

References

  1. Zanny Minton Beddoes (2016) The Brexit Briefs: The 17 things you need to know before Britain’s #EUref—in one handy guide, The Economist
  2. Oana Lungescu (2001) EU Poll reveals huge ignorance, BBC News
  3. Stewart Lee (2014) Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, Series 2: England
  4. Jeremy Vine (2009) D’Hondt Explainer, BBC News
  5. Anon (1998)  House of Commons Debates, Hansard, parliament.uk
  6. Anon (2016) Brexit vote sparks huge uncertainty for UK universities, Times Higher Education
  7. Alison Abbott, Daniel Cressey, Richard Van Noorden (2016) UK scientists in limbo after Brexit shock: Researchers organize to lobby for science as country prepares for life outside the EU Nature, Vol. 534, No. 7609., pp. 597-598, DOI:10.1038/534597a
  8. Anon (2016) Brexit vote highlights lack of leaving plan: Scientists — just like everybody else — have little idea what will happen now that the United Kingdom has voted to exit the European Union. Nature, Vol. 534, No. 7609., pp. 589-589, DOI:10.1038/534589a
  9. Andrew Moravcsik (2008) The Myth of Europe’s “Democratic Deficit” Intereconomics, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 316–340 DOI:10.1007/s10272-008-0266-7
  10. Michael Dougan (2016) The UK’s position following vote to leave the EU, University of Liverpool, School of Law and Social Justice
  11. Tony Benn (2013) Tony Benn speaks at the Oxford Union on Euroscepticism, The Oxford Union.
  12. Martin Durkin (2016) Brexit: The Movie (warning: contains Nigel Farage and dubious opinions europhiles will find offensive, factual content is highly questionable in places)
  13. Tony Benn (1975) Letter from Tony Benn to his constituents about the UK European referendum of 1975, The Spectator, Coffee House

* Disclaimer, like I’ve already said, my grasp of politics and economics is pretty basic. I have made every reasonable effort to get the facts right but correct any mistakes I might have made below. These are personal views, which do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

September 13, 2013

The extraordinary residents of Twitter Lane

Twitter Lane, Waddington, Lancashire

Tweeting down Twitter Lane, Waddington, Lancashire

While passing through the beautiful Forest of Bowland the other day, I chanced upon a remarkable place known as Twitter Lane in the village of Waddington, Lancashire. Twitter Lane is an interesting place because of the people you find there and they way they behave [1]. For example, the residents of Twitter Lane are characterised by:

  • Open-ness: residents share all sorts of information without anyone who will listen, from the banal to the profound, from the libellous to the incriminating, from the funny to the informative. All humanity is there, the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Serfdom: most of the residents on twitter lane are serfs who rent their property much like tenant farmers or sharecroppers. The rent they pay to their landlords is not a financial one, but an informational one. Residents volunteer numerous personal details: IP addresses, mobile phone numbers and address books in return for a place to stay. Some people are calling it digital serfdom.
  • Short attention-span: although a friendly and open bunch, the residents of Twitter Lane have very short … where was I … ah yes, short attention spans and communicate in even shorter messages. Residents are typically obsessed with news, celebrities and sport. They are well supplied with the very latest real-time information on all of these things and more. However, sometimes the cacophony on Twitter Lane means it feels like everyone is talking, but few are listening.

So, Twitter Lane is an extraordinary place, with a large and a burgeoning population. Two important questions currently hang over it, how much is it worth and how many more people are going to want to live there on a long-term basis?

References

  1. Rappa M., Jones P., Freire J., Chakrabarti S., Kwak H., Lee C., Park H. & Moon S. (2010). What is Twitter, a social network or a news media?, WWW ’10 Proceedings of the 19th international conference on World Wide Web conference, 591-600. DOI:

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