Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Greater British Public

It never ceases to amaze me how, in democracies, people decide to exercise their democratic freedoms at the most inopportune time and to the greater detriment of a community of people or even a nation.

It beggars belief that as we enter into the second winter of recession, that the cabin crews of British Airways should, in effect, hold the country to ransom. People do not take to kindly to this. My generation remembers only too well the crippling effect of endless strikes that marred this nation in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s until, that is, Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street. For all the things that Mrs Thatcher misjudged, we can safely say to Baroness Thatcher today that overall she was the right person, the right leader for that time, for that hour.

I hope that the British Public will let its feelings be known to cabin crews, that whilst we may well sympathise with them, to act in the rather selfish way as we see today, means that we will, if we are not careful, watch the decline of BA as valuable flights and customers are lost to rival airlines.

I do not take kindly to trade union opportunism, the bully boy tactics of the old TUC rearing its ugly head again, and a small group of people causing misery to an entire island.

On the radio this morning, one respondent put it thus: 'cabin crews should remember that they have jobs and be thankful for that; many more are still unemployed and would give anything to swap places.' [sic]

Yes. That hits the nail on the head. For I am mindful of that curious dictum that always pervades. People threaten to walk out, to hold a pistol to one's head unless demands are met, and so on. My own view as a manager over the years has been - 'okay, go on. Walk out. There will be at least half a dozen people waiting to fill your place.'

And do you know? Every time I've ended up with even better people.

So the cabin crews and their up market colleagues in the banking industry should remember this. When I listen to or read the pages of doom and gloom, that if banks are not permitted to pay tax free bonuses to their big earners etc then the earners will leave these shores and will never be able to replace them, then that Churchillian line comes to mind: "Do your worst, and we will do our best!"

The Music Industry is another area that worries me, namely, the loss to which countless musicians, artists, lyricists, performers all over the world are losing income because of pirate recording and illegal downloading.

I guess I feel this on two counts. One because of my friend in New Zealand, a highly accomplished artist and performer who writes incredibly moving music and has a voice that reaches to the soul, and because of my own experience over here of seeing so many authors finding that their work is admired but somehow obtained for free, leaving them out of pocket or even at a loss.

So I earnestly hope that the international community will be able to do something to overcome this problem. If you want to listen to music or read a book and you cannot afford to purchase it, be humble, and join the library near you. Don't just find another way to hack in or pinch ideas from others. Students reading this especially should be aware of how serious the matter is, for in Universities and Colleges the world over, the most grevious act is that of plagiarism. We as a people are doing just the same when we try to download for free, unless of course the owner is inviting us to do so.

It is a great shame that people pinch the ideas of others, or ride roughshod over copyright or even dare to claim that one's work is their own or that some intellectual property owned by A is in fact the property of themselves, B!

Let us remember with solemnity the war we are fighting in Afghanistan. Earlier this week the one hundredth British soldier was killed. Earlier this evening (Tuesday 15 December)two more soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber.

This is a deadly war but one that we can not walk away from.

It saddens me that President Obama saw fit to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. It is not yet deserving of a President so recently in office and yet to prove himself.

Let us move forward together and for those of us who are in employment to count our blessings; to work hard, doubly or even trebly hard to enable this great nation, ie the British People, to overcome the deficit we are in, see an end to the recession and to look confidently to the future.

On last evening's BBC Sports Personality of the Year we watched a pretty amazing programme. Ryan Giggs deserves his Award. Marvel too at just what we have achieved in all sports this year. And what a grand sight the Women's England Cricket Team made in their outfits. Quite something.

Kenneth T Webb
Liverpool CityLife

15 December 2009

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Austerity Britain

The Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week is slowly demonstrating its preparation for Government and it will be an interesting period between now and the General Election in May 2010, or sooner if the Prime Minister decided to on an earlier call to the hustings.

The Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, is now beginning to prove himself to be shaking off the 'boy wonder' image and to be a politician that TUC leaders are suddenly and reluctantly awakening to the fact that they may be negotiating with him for several years to come.

And his message to all of us is bleak and direct. Austerity. Prosperity has gone, at least for the time being, and many sacrifices are required of us all.

This is set against the backdrop of an increasing number of people who look to make money by criminal activity but deluding themselves into believing that playing the system is perfectly legitimate and correct.

Kenneth T Webb
The Editor
Liverpool CityLife

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Do Not Dishearten

When I read the newspapers I am intrigued by the fact that, if I take into account the dire warnings of all the journalists and column writers, whether in the tabloids or the main stream newspapers, then I might as well pack up my bags. Everything is doom and gloom. We are a society falling apart and patriotism is a concept that is quite wrong to advocate today.

So I decide to take a look at the BBC iPlayer recording of that great British institution - the Last Night of the Proms. And frankly, my doubts and uncertainties are removed, and I see that we do after all have the cement in the bricks.

This is not a collection of older generations trying to hang on to yesteryear. This is a people, truly international as evidenced by the mass of national flags so proudly flying,and making it abundantly clear that they are not about to see our institutions crumble or be brought under threat.

And this is an international movement. An international stirring of the public consciousness that says, 'enough and no more. We have had enough. Now we will sort these matters out and we will bring to account those who have, and those who are attempting to bring our lives into misery'.

We have all been through a terrible 'rucking' and many of us have lost everything, but we haven't lost our self-respect nor the will and the determination to fight back, to rebuild, to reconstruct and to create a better life for our families, our loved ones, and to maintain our principles of freedom and justice.

When President FD Roosevelt was first elected to the office of the President of the United States, he gave a most incredible speech that lifted America out of its black wet blanket of defeatism that had become the hallmark of President Hoover's administration as it attempted to cope with the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. Many attributed to FDR an almost messianic status. But within 100 days the President found himself opposed on almost every level as he attempted to introduce swingeing reforms.

So I am not at all surrpised to read that President Obama is now going through a similar phase. It reminds me of my own work. Initial meetings are great. Promises are made and people have their expectations bolstered. But the moment a delay comes that prevents them from receiving a legacy, or in the case of communities, a delay in introducing the promised reforms and financial packages, human nature swings the pendulum again.

That's life and we have to accept that.

We are now into a third generation that has seen discipline at home, family standards and the like, decline. So it is for parents to seize back the initiative and to make sure that children are not spoilt; that they don't receive every single item they crave. It is a problem that is endemic in the UK. It is serious too, for we have the situation now where teachers and even parents are bullied and chastised by children. But if I read the newspapers I would think it was everyone. Not so.

The vociferous minority will always appear to be the silent majority. And that's where the journalists don't always do us a good service. But then again, journalists need their salaries too; and sometimes, in their desire to be sure they have the editor's support and therefore guaranteed income, they will write stark warnings of near catastrophe.

History is one of the most important subjects in any person's development. But we are finding history dropped by age 13 and in many of our state schools, given scant regard. The findings of a report this week are embarrassing. A nation that forgets its history will be a nation that will abuse its freedom and in time turn upon sections of its community.

So to all parents, I would say, fill the gaps that the teachers are bringing about. Never before has there been such an interest in matters of history as we see today throughout the world unless you are the Taliban. The Taliban cannot read or write in large measure and are intimidated by history. Hence their book burning and refusal to allow women to learn to even read or write. But that is another issue.

Here, be proud to teach your children about your Nation, about your family history, about your forebears. I've always loved history and was recently given John, Duke of Marlborough. It is an incredible study for it takes me deeply into the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries with the result that so many unanswered questions are now being resolved.

Whether we be in Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, the Americas, north and south, or the European and Asian Continents, seek out all that you can find and teach these to your children. In so doing, you'll bring a richness to the family, to the community and to your Nation.

There are many excellent history teachers but labouring under the stench of political correctness. There are also many other history teachers who still subscribe to teaching dates and places. Don't bother, if you're one of those.

Bring the subject alive. Take your children to the museums and galleries, and ensure that they understand their roots and are proud of those roots.

I leave you with this thought. If you can, try and watch both parts of the Last Night of the Proms on BBC iplayer. Listen to Handel. I tell you what, if there's any taliban supporter who thinks they've got the answers, I ask you to remember that these are the people who've said that all music is satanic, and offence to Allah.

When I asked one such supporter this week ,'What would He say?' he was mortified that I should ask that question. 'Ken, it is not right that you try to give a character and personality to Allah, his name be praised. He is above that.'

Oh for goodness sake, go and ride your bike!!

Kenneth T Webb
Liverpool CityLife
16 September 2009

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Negotiate with the Taliban. Are We Mad?!

Last month the Foreign Secretary, so the media reported, suggested that the way forward was to negotiate with the more moderate elements of the Taliban. At the time I found that hard to swallow, especially given the rise in fatalities of those killed in action.

The deaths continue and today's newspapers report a growing desire by the people of Britain to withdraw from Afghanistan, or as the tabloids prefer to report so as to pull on the heart strings and thereby harness popular opinion, "bring our troops home".

I fully understand the desire to do so, and part of me wants to shout from the highest rooftops that we must do this immediately.

But we cannot and should not.

Consider the following extract from Asne Seierstrad's excellent work, 'The Bookseller of Kabul':

I also wore the burka to discover for myself what it is like to be an Afghan woman; what it feels like to squash into the chock-a-block back rows reserved for women, when the rest of the bus is half empty, what it feels like to squeeze into the boot of a taxi because a man is occupying the back seat, what it feels like to be stared at as a tall and attractive burka and receive your first burka-compliment from a man in the street.
How in time I started to hate it. How it pinches the head and causes headaches, how difficult it is to see anything through the grille. How enclosed it is, how little air gets in, how quickly you start to perspire, how all the time you have to be aware of where you are walking because you cannot see your feet, what a lot of dirt it picks up, how dirty it is, how much in the way. How liberated you feel when you get home and take it off.

And consider further:

Any books portraying living things, be they human or animal, were torn from the shelves and tossed on the fire. Yellow pages, innocent postcards, and dried-out covers from old reference books were sacrificed to the flames. Amidst the children round the bonfire stood the foot soldiers of the religious police, carrying whips, long sticks and Khalashnikovs. These men considered anyone who loved pictures or books, sculptures or music, dance, film or free thought enemies of society...The Taliban regarded debate as heresy and doubt as sin. Anything other than Koran-swotting was unnecessary, even dangerous. When the Taliban came to power in Kabul in the autumn of 1996 the ministries were emptied of professionals and replaced by mullahs. From the central bank to the universities - the mullahs controlled everything. Their goal was to re-create a society like the one the Prophet Muhammad had lived in on the Arab peninsula in the seventh century. Even when the Taliban negotiated with foreign oil companies, ignorant mullahs sat around the negotiating table, lacking any technical expertise...They shunned scientific debate, whether conducted in the West or in the Muslim world. Their manifesto was above all a few pathetic arguments about how people should dress or cover themselves, how men should respect the hour of prayer, and women be separated from the rest of society. They were not conversant with the history of Islam or of Afghanistan, and had no interest in either.

In this first decade of the 21st Century, it is frightening to find that religion still brings untold misery to millions of people; death and destruction.

I am proud, immensely proud, of my many Muslim friends, my friends from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India respectively. We have great debates and some of the more strident advocates of strict religious codes seem to overlook the fact that such debate is forbidden in some Islamic regimes, whereas here in the UK, we have a freedom of speech that, as I have said many times before, is an unachievable dream for millions.

We should not take this for granted though.

I am angry and distressed that our troops are losing their lives; but we cannot withdraw. Neither can we negotiate with these benighted people. We have to, and will, defeat them as surely as day follows night.

We at home MUST do all we can to back our troops, and the BBC reports this week are at last concentrating on prime time television in alerting and educating the public.

Seventy years ago we were forced to declare war on an equally evil regime and the price was the loss of 56 million lives over the following six years. But we had to stand and fight and refuse to surrender. Just because the front line is thousands of miles away does not mean that it is less important, vital or crucial to this Nation's survival. The world is a small place. And we must do all we can to safeguard our liberty and thereby give hope to those who can only dream of such liberty.

Kenneth T Webb
Liverpool CityLife

12 September 2009

Monday, 17 August 2009

On To a War Footing

A chilling subject title but one that has been stated this weekend by General Lord Guthrie, former Chief of the Defence Staff who has "criticised the Government for not putting the country onto a war footing."

It is indeed a worrying factor when viewing the underlying reasons for that statement. In short, and as we have seen this weekend with yet another four soldiers killed in action, that we are most certainly at war.

For those who seek to draw a comparison with the former Northern Ireland Troubles - stop there. There is no comparison. In the Province we dealt with sectarian violence. In Afghanistan we are dealing with all out war.

Any of our troops will be only too well aware that they are engaged in a war. It is only the people back at home that seem to be unaware.

Nevertheless, there is a stirring amongst sections of the population.

On the one hand, we yearn to bring our troops back, but on the other hand, to do so would be extreme folly.

We have to defeat the Teleban. There is no negotiation with such people.

For those who seek to find a reason to negotiate, I would say this. Go ahead and negotiate all you like. But do not expect me to back a regime and religion that sees its Parliament pass a law this week permitting men to starve their wives should their wives refuse to allow them to have sex with them.

We are of course dealing with different cultures, different approaches to life and different moral standards, and none of us can claim the moral high ground, especially with this evening's BBC Radio 4 news reports of our own direct involvement in acts of rendition, the new buzz word for what my generation calls physical and mental torture.

Regardless of the circumstances, there is no justification for rendition.

I am very concerned but at least the matter is being publicly debated.

That of course is one of the great advantages of the democratic freedom that we, in the UK, take for granted.

Let us therefore persist in our determination to overcome tyranny and to quietly go about reforming Parliament but without any more witch hunts.

Kenneth T Webb
The Editor
Liverpool CityLife

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Where has Diplomacy, Tact and Respect Gone?

This weekend we have seen the Duchess of York vilified during a BBC radio Interview and to such an extent that Her Grace has, quite understandably, served notice that she will not venture to work again with British Television.

That is appalling. Entering one of the most notorious estates in Manchester was always going to bring criticism from some, but it saddens me that the general public reach for the text message or that dreaded send button to the BBC and despatch unkind words written in the heat of the moment, or use the phone in to speak a load of self-righteous bumpf that is clearly giving them an ego trip. I do not like people like that. They are false.

I for one am proud of the work that the Duchess of York undertakes, and I am ashamed of my peers.

There is far too much familiarity in society. We certainly do not want to return to the old days; but we do need respectability, diplomacy and tact. These were once taught ordinarily in our schools and through our parents. They are the cement in the bricks.

Sadly these barely exist in some sections of the population.

I was in Preston this week and found it summed up in a young overweight over-indulgant constable with his hands in his pockets chewing gum and leaning up against the wall by the Debenhams entrance. That says it all. A scruff bag and it made me feel ashamed to be a member of the National Association of Retired Police Officers.

In today's leading articles are we over-reacting to the revelation that the leader of the Conservative Party has been taking advantage of flights from prominent business people?

Are we slipping into a McCarthyite style witch-hunt?

I sincerely hope not. For we are losing sight of what we are about and we have got troops out in Afghanistan sacrificing everything for us.

Kenneth T Webb
Liverpool CityLife

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Our Armed Forces

It is indeed worrying to read today that one considered view is that we are likely to be involved in Afghanistan for at least 40 years.

I can however understand why it would be nothing short of catastrophic to world peace for the Allies to pull out now. Whether we like it or not, we are waging a war that is becoming increasingly fearsome and sophisticated.

But what troubles me more than anything is the suggestion by the Foreign Secretary that we should be prepared to see some form of negotiation with the more moderate element of the Taleban. With respect, by its very definition, the Taleban is not moderate.

It reminds me of that vociferous minority of people, including the Foreign Secretary of the time, who insisted that we could negotiate with the more moderate elements of the Nazis even though time and again in the preceding years we had been outwitted by that bunch of thugs that masqueraded as moderate democratic government.

We paid a heavy price.

We must stand firm. We must back our Armed Forces and we must give them the proper equipment, manpower and resources to fight this war.

The public are beginning, just, to obtain an incline of the savagery of battle in Hellmand Province when we see the news reports from RAF Lyneham and Wootten Basset.
We must back our field hospitals and we must insist that our wounded troops, upon return to the UK, are given the best medical treatment and after care.

Parliament must put a stop to the disgraceful spectacle of attempting to cut back on compensation awarded to members of our Armed Forces.

Kenneth T Webb
Liverpool CityLife

Sunday, 14 June 2009


There is no doubt at all that the Leader of the House, Harriet Harman, has expressed the events of the last few weeks as being traumatic, and I am sure that history will show that this period is one of the most important milestones in this Country's evolution and development in the 21st Century.

I have not at all been comfortable with the apparent 'bloodletting' that some sections of the media have taken to parodying in reporting the events of Westminster whether it be to do with Expenses or the ousting of the sitting Premier.

And I am still bemused by the manner in which a Secretary of State should depart the Government on the eve of highly important elections and to do so with such self assurance, only to then be interviewed a week later and be expressing such regrets.

At the day's end we live in a parliamentary democracy and one which works well and in which the electorate are well able to exercise their wisdom and judgment when it comes to dealing with very serious problems and which threaten to undermine the life and stability of the United Kingdom.

But the cement is in the bricks.

We are repointing, and I am confident that we will, all of us, set about restoring Parliament's standing and authority and returning members that will be truly representing the interests of all constituents. Public service means public duty. It is good to know that a clear warning has gone out from the great British Public - that serving one's self will not be keeping a member in office for very long.

I recall about two years ago watching a pavement interview in which the Foreign Secretary was asked whether the withdrawal of a coin of the realm was a matter to be put to the people as the intended withdrawal was upsetting a large section of the population. I recall the reply to the effect that the government had been elected, and they cannot keep going back for endorsement by the people on every issue. The government had the mandate to govern. At the time I remember feeling uneasy. I felt as if I was being ridden roughshod - that my views would count for nothing. Multiply this by, say, many millions feeling similarly, and are we not in danger of seeing a government no longer in touch with the people that elected it? Has it drifted into those very dangerous waters of arrogance and 'we know better'?

I think perhaps as we all see a very chastened and humbled new Cabinet this week, that suddenly every Member of Parliament whether or not in office realises one very important factor is in play: public accountability.

I am pleased to see that the Prime Minister can now get on with governing the country and hopefully with people who are loyal.

I am also pleased that Lord Mandelson has been able to hold things together. I will be unpopular for saying this, but I have great respect for this man. He has done much for this country but as so often happens in politics, these are not truly understood or appreciated until many decades have passed.

Watching the President of Iran's News Conference today was interesting. A few years ago that would have been impossible to imagine. But the religious undertone throughout the session as well as religion being used to define what is acceptable and unacceptable democracy is a very clear signal to all of us that whilst religion most surely has an important role to play, we must not forget what happened to the Puritan Era in this country. Keep them apart.

As for that benighted group of people, the BNP, I think already Nick Griffin has learned that being an elected member of such an obnoxious organisation is not a pleasant position to be in after all. What he and his cronies are learning rather fast is that the People of Britain might well be dissatisfied with their politicians, the democratic process etc, but it is this same British People that stands resolute against any form of fascism. It is no good them hiding behind the banner of too liberal an immigration policy. Parliament has already got the drift of what the people think on this score. But we are a free and open society and the BNP, like all groups, can enjoy the freedom to express their views.

But that doesn't mean we agree with them.

Despite declaring war on Germany in September 1939, the Government did not move to outlaw Mosley's Blackshirts until the following summer, and only then, at the height of the Battle of Britain when they decided to march down Whitehall with their Nazi paraphenalia - and even then it took two weeks to implement it. I wonder if certain other countries would tolerate such provocation?

That is the substance of all of us in the UK.

Let us now rebuild Parliament and restore confidence in our institutions and also restore the confidence of individual MPs who, let's face it, haver taken one hell of a trucking.

Kenneth T Webb
Liverpool CityLife

14 June 2009

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Our Democracy and Freedom

It was marvellous to see the Liner Rotterdam of the Holland America Line in port last evening. And even more exciting was its departure and the many hundreds of people who came down to Pier Head to see her depart.

It is an awesome sight, to hear the great blasts of the horns and then the lower but equally powerful blasts from other ships in port, in reply. The air is charged with excitement and expectation and here, for the first time since 1966, we see the Transatlantic Crossing restored.

It is one thing to watch a liner leave port on a cruise, it is quite another, to watch a liner depart because she is destined for 'The New World'.

We are living in very fearful times and my heart goes out to India and the families in Lahore. I equally take the view that we must, through the United Nations, take an extremely firm line with North Korea.

We cannot allow terrorism to obtain the upper hand. Whether they be living in mountain ranges and wearing irregular dress or at the opposite end large armies marching that horrid goose step - the democracies must stand firm and stand up to these benighted people.

It is therefore a relief to see that on this occasion at least, The US President has, with the backing of both Russia and China, been able to warn North Korea. In diplomatic circles that is a tremendous accomplishment and serves to remind us of the very dangerous game being acted out now on the world stage.

Let us also not overlook the outrageous trial in Burma of the lawfully elected opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

I am proud of my military background, but I am even more proud of the fact that we dislike intensely any form of government that is not civilian. In our democracies we too have powerful generals, air marshals and admirals; but unlike some states, the final decision still lies with a man or woman, lawfully elected, to say yes or no to the plans they put forward. It keeps the military firmly in context and recognises the civil power.

Kenneth T Webb
Editor and Publisher
Liverpool CityLife

27 May 2009

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

May 26 2009
I'm glad the weekend is over for these bank holidays can sometimes be too long. For many businesses of course they mean a great deal of wealth being generated; for others though, they can drain the resources, with the firm's cashflow being drained and less days left in the month to make up potential shortfalls.

It is one of the problems we British people have with the long Christmas and New Year breaks, that cause whole businesses to effectively shut down production for up to 15 days in some cases (especially the printing industry).

There is work to be done and a purpose to fulfil, nonetheless, and we as a people must set about ordering our affairs and preparing for an exciting future.

The recession is causing tremendous hardship to millions of people. Like myself, many have lost their businesses, livelihoods, private wealth - everything. But that is not a reason to give in, even though I freely admit that the worse time of the day is the awakening each morning.

Families are under terrible strain. But with good leadership and a common bond we can hold together; and this is already starting when we see how the people are calling our elected representatives to account.

No one wants a witch hunt, and at times I am very fearful of that. But out of this disgraceful mismnanagement of parliamentary affairs will come a renewed Parliament that will set about repointing the bricks and mortar. One of our greatest parliamentarians, Sir Winston Churchill, was also a master bricklayer. He would have made it clear to us all that we need to rebuild our broken down wall; repoint the bricks and make safe again the precincts and corridors of power.

There is a move in the nation - and here I mean the United Kingdom - to do just that. Our Constitution is the envy of many regimes; and our parliament has long been the mother of parliaments.

It is for us all now to exercise our democratic right and duty, and use our vote. Let us not waste our vote; whether it be at local, national or European level. Make it count. Most families in this country will find that if they go back three generations, they will find that their own loved ones will have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms.

We are easily reminded of the import of such sacrifices when we look at the return of our own men and women in coffins draped with the Union Flag on a regular basis. Let us not do them an injustice by acting frivolously.

Let us also guard all communities within these islands.

Let no community or section of the community be singled out. Let there be no toleration by any of us of that ominous phrase reported this week of 'voluntary repatriation'.

Let us all work hard together for a better country for our children and grandchildren - and be proud that we are that people that has stood up for freedom and called our politicians to account. But let us do it with dignity and candour.

Surely, Thursday evening Question Time has come of age and rendered the most amazing service to people within the UK but, I suspect, far beyond our shores too. For as the British so often do and without intention, we tend to set precedents that the world then follows on.

Kenneth T Webb
Editor and Publisher
Liverpool CityLife