I'M THE KING OF BUGANDA
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Back in 1997 - 24 long years ago - I switched from a political career to a corporate one. My signing off was the landslide General Election victory for Tony Blair to herald in a decade long administration which achieved many wonderful things - peace in Northern Ireland, a minimum wage for workers, free education for our very youngest citizens - and, coincidentally perhaps, launched Cool Britannia and Brit-Pop to put the UK back at the top of the culture charts.
Working to win elections in the UK's Northwest meant articulating the right policies to not only recapture the support of those who had stopped voting Labour nearly two decades earlier, but also reflecting the aspirations and hopes of those who, in diminishing numbers, had stuck with us through the years of election defeats and endless opposition.
1997 was a turning point in British politics. It made many voters question their party political alignment, it put practical policies and powerful personalities to the fore and, maybe more importantly, broke down the decades long 'class vote' which was seemingly locking the Conservatives in power forever.
Seven years earlier I had been in Italy for the 1990 World Cup. The one where England had the greatest team for a generation, Gazza cried and we lost to Germany on penalties in the semi final.
Italia 90 was a violent affair. We cowered in bars and railway stations to avoid the running battles with police, rival teams' hooligans, local Italian gangs and even the fighting between different factions of England fans - especially the organised Far Right and those whose club loyalties trumped all else.
This was before football was rebranded and sanitized for a global audience. It was only five years after Heysel and a matter of months since the Hillsborough tragedy, and it also revealed the warped role the tabloid media and their encouragement and enablement played in shaping all that was seen in the papers and on TV in this pre-internet age.
Unbeknown to me at the time, Pete Davies, a Yorkshireman, was documenting all this for what I still regard as the greatest football book of all time - All Played Out. Buy it now.
I'd read the first edition of the book in the early 90's and warmed to it. So when in 1997 I got a call from the author saying he wanted to write the political equivalent tracking the Blair ascendency, I was keen to help. We spoke a few times during the campaign but met during the Wirral South by-election, the last time electors had their say before the looming General Election.
In his book, This England, Davies recounted our meeting. Against the backdrop of a by-election in a staunchly Conservative constituency - exactly the kind of battleground Blair would have to triumph in to win a General Election - we spoke about what was needed to be successful; how we had to connect with the nation's values and aspirations, present a credible Government-in-waiting and offer answers to the real world challenges people faced.
Back then the Tories and their supporters still referred to Labour as 'The Socialists' - a term Davies called 'an historical tic' and heavily-laden with negative overtones. Recounting our conversation Davies wrote: "But if Martin Liptrot, in his media-modern campaign base, was any kind of socialist, then I'm the King of Buganda." For a long time I wasn't sure if I should take this as an insult, a question about my political compass, or a recognition that the political terminology of the past had expired.
But now, I embrace it for whatever it meant. Politics has moved on. Football has evolved beyond all recognition and the global media, business and economic landscape has undergone tectonic change.
Life has changed for me too. I am no longer tethered to the corporate world - if I ever truly was. I'm also just a rank and file Labour Party member rather than a paid party official, though perhaps still more active than most. And, as a long-time U.S. resident, I now consume my sports of choice via the internet or TV instead of the jostling and heaving bearpit that live sporting venues offer.
So, why am I sharing all this? Having written for a variety of websites, publications, newsletters and digital feeds over the past years, I am going to dispense with being edited or trimmed to fit and start writing for myself instead.
While this is principally for my own edification, I am going to share my brief ramblings via my digital and social footprints. I am going to embrace the King Of Buganda moniker - adopting it as my blog title - so if you are vaguely interested in my weekly observations on politics both in the UK and USA, reflections on sport especially the business of football, and my attempt to understand the latest technology shaping our media, follow this blog and the social media pages it links to.
This may be self indulgent, for which I apologise, or it may provoke outrage, disagreement and reaction, for which I am grateful. Anyhow - I am going to give it a go and welcome your encouragement, comments or abuse.