Thursday, 30 December 2010


When Liverpool lost to Wolverhampton here last evening at Anfield, the Liverpool Manager Roy Hodgson was quite right to point out that to say that the players' performance was unacceptable was quite out of order. It is, at the day's end, a game of football.

I love football, but when fans allow themselves to become so subjective in their assessment of a team's performance then they themselves are at fault, not the players.

There is far too much these days given to so called unacceptable performance (as opposed to unacceptable behaviour).

I cannot remember a time until now, that managers and coaches are sacked within months or even weeks of appointment. And this is endemic throughout our society. It smacks of intolerance. A teacher's response is unacceptable, the police response is unacceptable, the supermarket manager's dealing with a matter is unacceptable, the solicitor's handling of the file is unacceptable, and so it goes on right across every facet of local and national life.

When the Prime Minister pointed out that the students' behaviour at the Parliament Square Riot was unacceptable, Mr Cameron was using the term correctly and as a damning indictment on our young people who had allowed themselves to spiral into crime and disorder.

The term 'unacceptable' is a powerful term in diplomacy and used sparingly.

If the term is applied willy nilly to every poor sports result then that truly reflects the intolerance that has beset the British People.

Get things in perspective. You're asking your team to kick a ball around a pitch and into the net. Just that and nothing more. It's called sport. You're not fighting a battle or waging a war. If you think you are then you've lost the plot. Get real!

Ian Bradley Marshall

Friday, 24 December 2010

Lightness of Foot?

With reality TV increasingly making demands on public figures, it is inevitable that participation is going to sometimes backfire. I guess these shows can be fun for the participants as well as the viewers, but there is always a price to be paid.

In my article 'Parliament Square' I was genuinely pleased to refer to strong government and referral to the business secretary as being one of the four key strengths. They say a week is a long time in politics and this must surely be true for Mr Cable. Lightness of foot on the dance floor is one thing. Clodhopping through Westminster is quite another and I have never been keen when a person feels that they are perhaps indispensible.

I suspect that Mr Cable's view of himself as holding a nuclear option must have been minor in comparison to that delivered to him by the Deputy Prime Minister, not to mention the Prime Minister and of course his cabinet and party or coalition partners. I had genuinely believed that Mr Cable was a man to be trusted. That trust was misplaced and I would even go so far as to say that when the reshuffle comes about, then perhaps then is the time to return Mr Cable to the back benches.

Regardless of what the Opposition says, we do have good government for the first time in several years. And it takes guts and tenacity to carry through the policies that are being advocated and implemented by the PM, DPM and Chancellor and, until last week, the Business Secretary. This good governance is seen in the speed within which Downing Street has reacted to Mr Cable's stupidity, some would say arrogance, others would say impudence. Overnight a huge part of his department has been transferred to the Secretary of State for Culture - the reality and seriousness of this can be seen in that it requires the movement of some 70 civil servants!

Many years ago, I was faced with a member of staff who felt he was indispensible. He played his card and threatened resignation. I accepted his arguments and said that I agreed. He sat back in the armchair opposite my desk. I thanked him for his work and explained that in accepting his arguments for change, much of which was already being implemented, I accepted of course his resignation.

There was some spluttering and exclaiming that 'you cannot do that!'

"On the contrary Mr {} I can, I will and I have done." And my own commanding officer accepted my decision without hesitation, gave me his unconditional support, and thanked me for keeping my nerve.

It was a salutary lesson to all. Let none of us think that we cannot be replaced.

That is what I believe the British People will do by and large now. They do see the strong and effective leadership from both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and will endorse the decisions made.

But I make no bones about the fact that I have not enjoyed writing this piece this evening, for Mr Cable has earned my respect over the last 18 months and then thrown it back. Like many others in this Country, I am not impressed by public figures becoming figures of entertainment when they are in the job of governing the country. They can do that when they retire.

On a separate matter, it is unfortunate that the Chancellor made that comment in the House. I do not however accept that it was a deliberate homophobic remark. So to those who insist on arguing otherwise I say, shut up, get on with your job; stop making a mountain out of a mole hill.

The Government must not, however, be complacent. It is very worrying to see that in their haste to sell off Royal Mail they have left a loophole that could see a foreign owner in due course remove the Queen's Profile from our postage stamps; and to read too that BAA is owned by a Spanish family based company, and that E-ON too is foreign owned and also the former P&O Line.

Ian Bradley Marshall
22 December 2010

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Within Seconds of Drawing Weapons

So reads the lead article in the Saturday Edition of 'The Times' of London. How fast have events moved in the last 24 hours as the evidence is gathered, footage obtained, and the stark report by Sean O'Neill and Valentine Low on page 10:

Armed police were moments from drawing their guns when a protester jabbed a stick through the open window of a royal limousine and attacked the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Duchess was visibly shaken when she was prodded in the ribs as she tried to close the window of the Rolls-Royce in which she and the Prince of Wales were travelling on Thursday.

The royal couple's car was pelted with paintballs and other missiles, had a window cracked and was repeatedly kicked by demonstrators in Regent Street shouting "Off with their heads" and "Scum".

As I watched the day's events live on Thursday I would not have even comprehended this scene and would have said to anyone suggesting that it could happen, that they were being fanciful. As the Editor writes in today's Times, in other less liberal regimes those thugs would have been shot.

It came home to me this afternoon when meeting for a coffee in the Walker Art Gallery, a friend commented, 'You know, if the police had shot someone or more in that particular incident it would have been entirely justified and it would be no good the parents complaining of over the top responses from the police. This is after all the future Head of State.'

Can one imagine what would have happened in the USA if the President's Motorcade was similarly attacked? It does not bare thinking about.

For my part, I will say this to all those who wish to argue about the savagery of the tuition fees, and particularly to the students. You have lost ground and you have brought upon yourselves the very considerable anger of the British People. All of us recognise that many protesters pleaded with the thugs to stop their violence. But what hits home today is the refusal of the leaders of the Students, despite vigorous questioning on BBC News, even offering an apology for the appalling behaviour.

So I stand four square with the Editor of The Times in stating that in the future violent demonstrations that we know we are going to face, that 'the police must be far more ruthless and efficient'.

It will be a long time before I am prepared to listen to students. We have five universities here in Liverpool and an enormous student population. I suggest that this group of discredited young people get themselves back onside with the British People, stop belly-aching and prove that you are at University to learn and to enrich this Nation, something which, sadly, many students throughout this country do not do.

Let us hope that with the Government's policy will come the weeding out of stupid and meaningless degrees; that students, when they decide to embark upon a university education, will think seriously about the task.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister has set the tone clearly and decisively; that no stone will be left unturned in bringing those thugs and anarchists who undermined the very purpose of the genuine protesters, to justice.

I am rightly very angry, for the young people whose cause I have always championed, have let me down personally.

Ian Bradley Marshall

11 December 2010

Friday, 10 December 2010

Parliament Square - What Price the Rule of Law!

Yesterday I spent the day watching with an increasing sense of anxiety the events in Parliament Square. I did not like what I watched either side of the lines.

Obviously, part of me will always stand with my colleagues in the enforcement of the rule of law about which I feel passionately; it is the heartbeat of the British People, of our parliamentary democracy, of our whole way of life.

Watching in real time the first incursion of mounted officers, I was frustrated, shocked even, that the BBC commentator did not notice that one horse was riderless, that clearly there must be a rider on the ground; the helicopter camera caught it all, and yet the BBC commentator rabbited on oblivious to what was actually happening on the ground.

I can only put this down to the fact that having been a policeman on the lines during the bread riots, and having undertaken riot training as a 19 year old constable with mounted officers, I was watching with a very different perspective. As a horseman I know too just how serious it is when horse and rider become detached, and in Parliament Square yesterday the matter was very serious.

It took some 12 minutes for the BBC commentators to refer to the incident.

Much of the protest was of course peaceful, and the police have openly reported that. But they came under increasing pressure, attack even, from a persistent group of people that acted with only one intention - violence and anarchy.

That last word seemed strong yesterday even as the afternoon deteriorated to the formal mounted police charge. 3 hours later, when HRH The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall found themselves caught up in the continuing lawlessness, I admit that my stomach turned. What if that paint had been a bomb? What if the paint thrower had been a suicide bomber? What if any of the people kicking the car and smashing the windows had been snipers?

WHAT if it had not been the Prince of Wales, but rather The Queen?

I was relieved at the very strong, no nonsense announcement by the Prime Minister. We will have no truck with thugs who are hell bent on violence and disorder. They will face the full weight of the law. They will be brought to justice, and some will go to prison.

As regards parliamentary democracy, I can well understand the countless liberal democrat voters feeling betrayed; but to keep pronouncing that they will never again vote for their MP is quite bluntly stupid and naive.

Get real.

If the Government was a one party government, then of course you hold the MPs to their Manifesto promises. But with a Coalition Government, the People themselves have moved the goal posts and instructed Parliament through the ballot box to form a Coalition. That means that there will be concessions and compromises. And quite plainly, if narrow minded voters cannot grasp this fundamental democratic principle, then I would say that the Liberal Democrats are most definitely better off without them.

Communism is inflexible and rigid. Democracy is flexible and goes with the flow. When I visited Bosnia in 1998 as a guest of the UN, my host, the British Police Commander of the small town of Bcko explained to me the problem of dealing with this inbred inflexibility with the local police force which had formerly been part of the former Soviet Union.

He explained in candid terms how the officers were unable to use their initiative in dealing with a road side accident because the incident did not fit perfectly one of the examples in the manual; therefore they must obtain prior approval of the commissar some eighty or so kilometres away. It would have been amusing had it not been for the fact that the incident involved very seriously injured members of the public.

To return to Parliament Square. The Police are absolutely right to use the tactic of 'kettling'. In the 1970s we did similarly. We would form a spearhead and the spear would move forward into the crowd, then break to the left and right, encircling the demonstrators left and right, thus enabling us to break up the demonstration, arrest those breaking the law and allowing the peaceful protesters to do just that, to protest peacefully and out of danger. And to assist this, we were flanked by police horses.

Undoubtedly, some police officers will have over-reacted and I would hope that where this proves to be the case beyond all reasonable doubt, not, as some would want, on the lesser proof of the balance of probabilities, then the correct action will be taken and future training will emphasise still more the need to keep control regardless of how one is baited and antagonised by demonstrators.

In defence of the police I will say this. They were working under extreme provocation yesterday. As the BBC Reporter Ben Brown repeatedly reminded us and showed us, it is no flippant matter when blocks of concrete are being broken up and then hurled into police lines. Likewise, the wooden and metal shafts and poles thrown like spears at the mounted officers.

At the day's end, the rule of law prevailed. We have a very strong prime minister and deputy prime minister, the business secretary and the home secretary. We have good government.

And perhaps the greatest example of all is the young man's 'on the street' observation to the BBC as he reported the royal car incident; that at one point the Duchess of Cornwall was smiling and talking to the protesters, and which we saw demonstrated minutes later when they arrived at the Theatre for the Royal Variety Performance.

Their Royal Highnesses kept their cool and that was a tremendous demonstration of leadership and example to the people, the exact same cool demonstrated by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth throughout the War.

Lessons must be learned from this. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has made this clear. So too the Home Secretary. Now let us get on with the country's good governance, a matter which, despite the siren voices here at home, is being reported by the international media.

This is London. This is the mother of parliaments. We will show all how we deal with the events of yesterday and not in the manner of less tolerant regimes.

Ian Bradley Marshall

9 December 2010

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Corruption and Prejudice

Last week I remember watching with pleasure the interviews with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, HRH Prince William and Mr David Beckham, and the obvious work being done to secure the nomination by FIFA to England to host the 2018 World Cup.

With the selection of Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup respectively, I can only surmise that the Panorama Programme hit the nail on the head in exposing the corrupt nature of this long recognised group of people.

I commend the decision of the acting FA Chairman Roger Burden to withdraw his application for the permanent post over England's 2018 World Cup. It is discomforting and salutary to read that his work as FA chairman would have required him to also play an important role in liaising with FIFA, the governing body, but more disturbingly his broadcast comment that "I am not prepared to deal with people with whom I cannot trust and I have withdrawn my candidacy."

It pleases me that there is considerable disquiet across the country, and that FIFA members must now be comprehending perhaps for the first time, the contempt with which they are held by the general public.

To use the jargon of the back street, the two bids were a total stitch up and I am glad that the Prime Minister made plain and visible his anger. I do not like people (and I have experienced this personally this year) who look one direct in the eye with an absolute assurance and guarantee that they will decide in one's favour, only to discover that even as they were giving this assurance, they were already decided on the opposite course of action.

Let us now work towards achieving the greatest success in 2018 and 2022 and at the same time deal with this discredited body of people, FIFA. They have brought shame upon themselves and upon the Game. They have chosen two countries whose record on human rights leaves them being weighed in the balances and found wanting.

For England I would say this. Let the righteous anger we felt this week now transpose into an absolute determination to win both the 2018 and the 2022 World Cups.

We have the ability and the funds and the technical expertise to do it. We also have outstanding leadership at the top.

We have something else too. Put a great cause before the people, whether it be Britain as a whole, or in this case, England, and something curious happens. The people rally forth and refuse to be beaten but strive only for one thing - total victory and being able to prove that we were right to object so strongly to this week's decision.

Ian Bradley Marshall