Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Library debate - hints of sense

Andy Burnham has kicked off a debate on public libraries which has been characterised by lunacy. Of all the issues, it is that of silence and whether people can eat and drink as they read that has caused people to take sides.

And of course, they're all missing the point. My comment on this has produced a small response (i.e. one) but out there in the real world, there are at least the shoots of recovery.

As the blogocracy and literary commentators rail against a presumed end to Carnegie's vision, a Guardian editorial finally strikes a balanced tone.

Maybe we can have a sensible conversation after all?

Friday, 10 October 2008

Boris, Blair and the rest of Britain

I was awoken this morning by the sound of the blond buffoon pontificating on the Today Programme. He was upset at being questioned on the issue of his role in the resignation of Ian Blair, rather than having the chance to talk about falling crime rates on London's buses.

The question of the mayor's influence over the removal of the holder of a post with national responsibilities for terrorism is a legitimate matter for the BBC to pursue. Boris's failure to consult the members of the MPA raise serious questions about the accountability of his direct power and indirect influence.

His unfortunate behaviour also highlights one of the the many loose ends that need tying up in the Greater London Authority Act. Who should the Commissioner of the Met be responsible to? The nation or the city, or both? And if both, how do we make it work? Because in the face of someone as arrogant and partisan as Boris the potential for it all to come unstuck is painfully obvious.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Library review

Andy Burnham has announced a review of England's public libraries.

Already, a sensible conversation has become impossible. Debate has centred around the red herrings of whether libraries should be places of silence or chatter, with claims that the government has "proposed" that they should be places for coffee drinking and video watching (no such proposal has been actually been made).

Meanwhile, the blogocracy is buzzing with the usual smattering of writers (producer interest) and elitists bemoaning the dumbing down of a once great institution.

Singer Rosie Bell buys the media's line that these are proposals, not a review and tells us, "Every time a cultural minister opens his or her gob, I reach for my gun"

"The Wife" admits to being, "an intellectual snob".

JuliaM sees it as "cultural vandalism".

The media and the bloggers have already defined this debate as the clash of the defenders of our cultural inheritance and the dumbers down and levellers. Only Belinda Webb appears to realise the essential futility of this debate, but even she sees the two sides as essentially opposed. Never has so much air been expended by those who know so little.

A false dichotomy has been set up, and sensible debate becomes impossible - it is this that will be the fundamental cause of the death of the public library.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Poor season start

Bristol's tally for the first weeks of the season is played five, lost five.

This has been accompanied by ongoing complaints from the club that they cannot afford to match the spending power of other teams in the division.

Of course, the collapse of the redevelopment of the Memorial Ground punctured Bristol's financial and on-field planning, but the noises emerging from the club are that Bristol are in some way elementally and fundamentally ill-equipped to compete with the current elite.

A rhetoric very different from 2003 when the current regime took over.

Bristol is, and remains, a huge rugby area with unmatched potential and a heritage in the game that is second to none. It still astounds me that you have to explain to people why teams such as Wasps are comparative minnows if you cast your eyes over the last century or more.

So, the questions need answering. Why is it that Bristol can't attract the finance? And, are we doomed to being a second rate side?

Bristol, as a city and a rugby community, should expect the best, and certainly deserves better.