Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Biggest lies of the 2019 general election campaign

Plaid Cymru have proposed a law to make politicians lying a capital offence. (OK, I lied by inserting one word there, but I'm not a politician). Their draft refers to an elected representative (watch out Democracy Man, parish councils weren't excluded) or an agent acting on their behalf making or publishing "a statement they know to be misleading, false or deceptive in a material particular". Crikey, they wouldn't have much left to say, would they? What a load of spoilsports, besides being totally impractical. And, if I've understood that properly, someone standing for re-election (hence an elected representative) would commit an offence by telling a lie, whereas an opponent on the ballot paper wouldn't. D'oh!

I've written before about the spectrum of porkies, from selective use of statistics and use of stats and quotes out of context, through to dissembling, obfuscation and downright lies. But what about exaggeration or using forecasts that you don't actually believe or are bordering on impractical? Like JFK proposing to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s or Boris getting a changed deal with the EU by the end of October, for example. When these things were said most people thought they were barmy, but they proved to be ambitious targets that were achieved.

So what constitutes a lie? And how do you prove the culprit knew it was? It's as subjective as deliberate handball. So it's impossible. But it's also important - many remainers claimed lies undermined the EU membership referendum to the point where it wasn't valid. Which is a statement I've always found disingenuous in itself. But what about the recent general election?

When I listened to the campaign and inspected the leaflets and broadcasts with this in mind I began to feel there were dodgy statements all over the place of so many types. Indeed, I stopped trying to keep track of fibs and contentious assertions in the TV debate between Johnson and Corbyn.  Some of the statements were subsequently fact checked by the BBC and others. While many were found to be dodgy, none were outrageous, generally having an element of substance, as a good fib must.

Living in a marginal constituency we were bombarded with literature. We got 10 addressed to Mrs H, 2 for me. (Is that sexism? Or because her initial is earlier in the alphabet?)  Some came from the parties but tried to look a bit different to draw you in. This Tory one was probably the best done of it's kind.

If you don't live in a marginal you may not have got leaflets like this, very different as it was from the traditional political flyer/window poster. Made from one thick piece of A3 it opened out to 3 more pages like the one above and one huge fold out page on the other side. You can see it was labelled from the Conservatives in print almost too small to read in the bottom corner of the front page. It used lots of text, photographs and lurid colours in blasting out about 8 key messages besides the "Let's get Brexit Done" mantra, a warning on the perils of voting SNP or LibDem and a reminder of how small a swing the Tories needed for a majority. Whatever your political persuasion it was clever and well thought out. It made all the other leaflets look old fashioned, monochrome and, ironically, focussed on a narrow range of policies. It was full of promises that might get broken but I couldn't see anything contentious, let alone a lie.

I inspected all the election communications closely to see who they actually came from as I've read about arms length organisations set up well before an election that then sends out messages that don't count towards their party's spending limit: dodgy practice but hard to legislate against. I don't think we got any of those, but we got this from the National Education Union, the largest teachers' union.

Full of contentious stuff on (relative) poverty rather than outright lies it didn't say who to vote for but to vote "for education". The message wasn't clear - otherwise it would have counted as a Labour leaflet - but somehow I don't think they wanted you to vote for the Tories.

But with so much dissembling, misrepresentation and plain lying which were the biggest porkies? Where to start?

Was it a lie for Johnson to promise a trade deal by December 2020? It seems unlikely but I don't doubt he means it and he did deliver a deal with the EU by the end of October which most folk thought was impossible. I thought it was ridiculous when people accused him of lying and invited him to go to his ditch when he'd done everything he possibly could to achieve his goal. But I did feel queasy about his insistence that there would be no border controls or inspections between the mainland and Northern Ireland under his exit deal, as that's not what most commentators think the agreement implies. This one smelt very fishy to me. We'll see.

Do practical obstacles mean a statement is a lie? David Smith pointed out that Labour couldn't possibly spend money on infrastructure at the rate they were promising. Is that a lie? Or just pie in the sky?

The biggest lie for me, because it was on an important issue and was repeated so many times, was Labour's shibboleth about the NHS being for sale. It's frequent repetition began to get me worried in case it had an effect but fortunately the electorate saw it for what it was - blatant, groundless scaremongering. The only tangible point Labour made, based on the leaked document about preliminary trade talks with the US, was that the US might want to talk about the length of patent protection for drugs which could increase prices. The fact that when you're buying things you aren't selling anything was obvious to nearly everyone. I'm not sure if it was obvious to Jezza as he would put on that pained face which seemed to say "I don't really understand what you, I, or anyone else is talking about but they are Tories so they must be evil". It still makes it a lie, Jeremy. Or is it just a slur? Well, there is no evidence in anything the Tories have actually done in over 75 years, or anything they've said in recent elections that they do not totally support the basic principle of a standard, universal health service free at the point of use, controlled and predominantly provided by the state. Indeed, their comitment has been absolute. But you could say almost anything about what you claim someone intends to do in the future  - and then when they don't do it say you obviously made them change their mind. Which shows how problematic it would be to legislate in this area. Nevertheless for me this was as clear a lie as you'll find in political debate.

Since proving that what you say someone else intends to do is a lie is difficult,  let's switch to the funniest lies. For me, they were Corbyn pretending that he watches the Queen's broadcast live on  Christmas Day morning and Rebecca Wrong Daily's claims in her election leaflet about how her outlook as a politician was shaped  by her experiences,  like watching her father Jimmy worry about losing his job on Salford Docks. "I grew up watching him worrying when round after round of redundancies were inflicted on the docks". But the docks closed for good when Becky was two years old. Is that a a lie, a false memory or just poetic licence to make a point, a bit like a script writer sexing up a story line to make it work better? More worrying for me is the thought that Ms Long-Bailey, who either can't decide or doesn't care whether there's a hyphen in her surname, is the sort of politician who wants to prop up failing enterprises indefinitely. Which worries me more than the exaggeration (or lies if you prefer) in her pre-politics CV, that she'd spent 10 years in the legal profession fighting for the NHS, when she was actually in private practice for less than 7 years including a small element of work on NHS contracts. When will folk realise that tweaking your CV always gets found out? Calling her Wrong Daily is proving to be a very apposite jibe.

I watched out for the lie that would have won my prize for the most awful porkie hands down had I seen it repeated during the campaign (though I suspect it must have been). This was the LibDems truly appalling statement made by Jo Swinson at the start of her speech against the EU Withdrawal Bill on 27 October (Parliament voted for the general election the next day). Swinson said "The government's own assessment..... of a free trade agreement .... would mean that our economy would shrink by more than 6% - greater than the amount that the economy shrank during the financial crash". (My italics and I promise the editing here doesn't change the meaning one iota). The claim was repeated by Chucky (aka the not much lamented Chuka Umunna) and Caroline Voaden, a LibDem representative on Question Time around the same time.

Why is that so egregious? Well, it's a classic misrepresentation of statistic that doesn't say anything like Swinson was claiming. The Treasury assessment actually said the British economy would be about 6% smaller in 15 years time than if we remained in the EU. But far from shrinking, it is expected to be 18% bigger instead of 24%.

Why is this so important? Firstly, if you size the economy at 100 now there's a lot of difference between it being at 118 in 15 years time instead of 124 and it immediately shrinking to 94. The latter would be pretty disastrous in terms of impact and evident to everybody as a result. The former? No-one other than economists would realise, since you don't miss what you haven't had and might never have had. So it's pretty shabby scaremongering as well as wrong. But secondly, it is pretty well exactly the type of misrepresentation the LibDems and other Remainers accused Johnson and Vote Leave of with the £350 million a week stat on the infamous bus and that's what really riled me, especially since the LibDems have plenty of their own form on this type of falsehood over the years.

The daftest statement? That prize goes to my local Lib Dem candidate. This was one of his many leaflets and it gave his party's five "national priorities":

Four of them the LibDems could deliver if in government, but "end climate change"? There was a deafening silence about how such a huge "priority" could be achieved. I can only presume that Jo Swinson, in addition to being sure she could be PM, had great confidence she could steamroller Trump to sign up to the international agreements, Xi Jinping into stopping burning coal and Brazilian president Bolsonaro into preserving the Amazon rainforest. In that case, we might have missed out on one of the greatest leaders the country has ever seen......

My conclusion is that it would be very boring if politicians didn't dare to push the boundaries a bit, what Alan Clark called being "economical with the actualite" in his statements on the Matrix Churchill affair in the 1990s and Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong, using the long standing phrase attributed amongst others to Burke and Mark Twain, called being economical with the truth in the Spycatcher trial in 1986.

Far better to leave the electorate to judge. There's plenty of evidence that they can tell when they're being spun a yarn, promised the earth, patronised or fibbed to. Politicians will always try to pull cotton wool over our eyes. They haven't figured out yet that most of us don't have it between our ears.

P.S. Was the Boris bus statement really a lie? I thought it was. Indeed, I called Boris a bare faced liar in my post David Cameron is reckless but Boris Johnson is a liar on 19 June 2016. But, leaving aside the fact that Johnson was acquitted of misrepresentation in a public office for standing in front of the bus (which doesn't mean it wasn't a lie, it was because the judge found false statements relating to publicly available statistics wasn't in the scope of the relevant law) there are those who argue it was essentially true in the context of the referendum. The £350 million figure was the gross figure we pay in before the Thatcher rebate. But Tim Condon argues* that the rebate is resented across the EU and seen as a relic, it had never been built in to the arcane treaty formulae which determine contributions and, had we voted to remain, it would have been for the chop. The net figure of around half the £350 million is also after "public sector receipts", money the EU spends in the UK. But that's the point, they control what it's spent on not us. Hardly any of it is spent in England (only Cornwall and the Scilly Isles qualify) and most of the spend in agricultural areas is on things that don't produce anything - after all the EU wouldn't want to give us any competitive edge against continental farmers when they can give us a bung to set aside and not produce. Congdon argues that the £350 million was arguably a naughty exaggeration, not an untruth which could easily have come true in the not too distant future. Indeed, when the £350 million was briefly referred to in his BBC debate with Corbyn, Johnson implied in an aside it would soon have been true:  "they'd need a bigger bus" he muttered, almost under his breath and without further explanation. I assume he'd been warned to steer clear of this potential rabbit hole but couldn't resist that much bite back.

* Congdon's article was in the centre-right publication Standpoint on 26 June 2019:

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Cats isn't a turkey

I don't normally write film reviews on this blog but here goes. Cats had some of the worst launch reviews of any big budget movie ever. Wow, was it panned. But then so was Bohemian Rhapsody which went on to delight movie fans, break all sorts of box office records and win four Oscars. I was intrigued to see Cats as I loved the stage musical, which converted me to musical theatre. I'd always found film musicals artificial. Characters bursting into song seemingly at random spoiled any flow or plot for me (not that they ever had much plot). It didn't help that the music was generally not to my taste. When I was taken, under some duress, to see a traditional stage musical (I think it was 42nd Street) I found the experience fairly excruciating.

Fortunately we had already booked to see Cats, or that might have been it for me and live musicals. Cats was very different. For a start, why have a limited plot when you can have almost no plot at all? No wonder it proved difficult to raise the finance to launch the show. Producer Cameron Mackintosh failed to get the £450k necessary and major investors declined to back it. Andrew Lloyd Webber personally underwrote the musical, taking out a second mortgage on his house. Together with small investments from 220 people obtained through newspaper advertisements they cobbled the money together. Had Cats been a failure Lloyd Webber has said he would have been ruined financially. Instead the global phenomenon the musical became made a return of over 3500% for its investors.

The first time I saw Cats (yes, of course, I've seen it several times) I was intrigued by the round stage. Effectively there are no stage wings, so the cats enter from all directions, mainly out of the audience. Sitting near the front you can suddenly realise there is a cat - well an actor dressed in a very catlike costume with a tail -  right next to you. Not just standing there, but in character all the time, making small cat-like movements and gestures. The set features everyday objects scaled to the size of the cats, ignoring the fact that they are actually human sized. The show is essentially song and dance, with quite a lot of ballet emphasising feline gracefulness together with modern dance and a bit of tap. And the problem of bursting out into song is solved by the musical being "sung through", i.e. there isn't any non-sung dialogue, as is my other all time favourite musical, Les Miserables. From the first bars of the music starting I was entranced. I must have sat so still that, at the interval Mrs H wondered if I'd fallen asleep. "Are you hating this?" she said nervously and was taken aback when I said "it's fantastic". The first time I saw Cats remains one of the most striking and memorable experiences of live entertainment I've ever experienced. I'm including seeing my first football match at Goodison Park and gigs like Pink Floyd, The Nice, Led Zeppelin and The Clash in that comparison.

I'm not a film buff. I quite like watching films but one a month is enough for me. This limited appetite may be because no film has ever induced a reaction in me like watching the best live entertainment. So I briefly wondered if I should accompany Mrs H to watch Cats at the cinema given the reviews but then set such thoughts aside. I decided I was keen to see it. That isn't always a good thing as comparisons with expectation often colour how you feel about an experience. (Yes, that probably was a factor in my enjoyment of Cats at first sight. But I've enjoyed it just as much every time I've seen it on stage).

As we left the cinema Mrs H again asked nervously "what did you think?" Although she had enjoyed it, she was again somewhat taken aback when I replied on the lines of "fantastic, awesome, brilliant". She has since said that it was the most positive reaction I have ever given to seeing a film at the cinema. My normal mode is to nitpick. It wasn't at the cinema but my favourite such nitpick was after watching the closing sequence of Die Hard 2 where the literally incredible plot line ends with John McLane, played by Bruce Willis, lying on a snow covered runway and igniting the kerosene aviation fuel spilling from the escaping jumbo jet with his lighter. The flame catches up with the plane which explodes just after taking off. Mrs H asked why I was so quiet and I replied that I was converting my guess for the take-off speed of a jumbo jet from mph to metres per second as, sadly, I remembered the flame speed for hydrocarbons in air from my days working in risk assessment. I soon concluded that this scenario didn't just require suspension of belief but defied the laws of physics by around two orders of magnitude, even without allowing for the difficulty of lighting kerosene in cold air. (I guess you might manage it with something to use as a wick at warmer temperatures but below zero I doubt). For the nerds among you I have just checked the take off speed for a jumbo: it is 184 mph which converts to over 80 metres a second. The flame speed of a hydrocarbon in air is generally less than one metre per second, so the mental arithmetic wasn't difficult. No nitpicks with Cats for me. Yes they are people dressed as Cats, that's the point. I just loved it.

It is, of course, different watching a film from a stage show. Clever stage directors can catch your peripheral vision in a theatre and steer you to what they want to see, whereas a camera just zooms in. However there are opportunities with film (and CGI) which the director of Cats chose to take. Some reviewers took issue with his choices. One review I read had also hated Tom Hooper's film of Les Miserables referring to the director's "frequent misuse of fundamental film-making techniques, like close ups and camera angles" Eh? Such folk presumably think that to make a film of a stage show you just film it, which seems daft to me as, until we have true virtual reality, watching a film will never be like watching a stage show. Overall I had no problem with what Hooper decided to do. For example, I rather liked the computer generated cockroaches that are an addition to the Gumby cat song. After all the stageshow uses short actors for the mice.

A bit like the director of the Quadrophenia film who decided he just had to inject a bit of plot into the Who's rock opera, the Cats film has more plot, some of it built in with the addition of a few spoken lines. When it's a cat pausing from singing to speak this seemed to bother me less than in a conventional musical, especially as the balance is at least 95% to singing (or should that be miaowing?) The Victoria character, which is a non-speaking/singing role in the stage show, is developed to bridge the reordered songs and create some storyline, which hangs together ok for me. There was some controversy about Victoria because mixed race Francesca Hayward of the Royal Ballet played a white cat. She dismissed claims that she had been "whitewashed" saying "it doesn't matter what colour you are when you're playing a cat". Good on her. Cats has always been balletic and it's probably part of the reason I like it. I enjoy ballet and don't enjoy traditional American style song and dance musicals, OK? Hayward dances beautifully in the film of course.

Criticism that people made up as Cats is weird seems to me, well weird. What bit of it being about cats don't they get? There was also criticism of the skin tight costumes. Well, hello, that's what the stage play has been like since it opened in 1981. I remember my late and sadly missed father in law watching the siamese cat that always features in the dance troupe very closely. Well, siamese cats are slim and they always seem to cast a very slim but shapely dancer in that role. But as Mrs H pointed out, despite the tight costumes they weren't at all revealing: there wasn't a hint of budgie smuggling about the male cats. Nothing to scare the kids there.

The director apparantly ran out of time finishing all the effects and, after the intial critical panning, made some tweaks. For me this didn't show but as we saw the revised version that's not so surprising.

What didn't I like? Mrs H thought Munkustrap, usually a strong presence, was a bit feeble and we'd both have preferred a traditional bulky baritone male as Old Deuteronomy (Brian Blessed performed the role the first time we saw the show) but it was a nice touch casting Judi Dench who was due to play Grizabella in the original stage show but had to pull out with a torn achilles tendon late in rehearsals. I must admit I always thought it was tantamount to nepotism that Elaine Page was cast in the role, her partner at the time being Lloyd Webber's buddy Tim Rice. But they needed someone in a hurry and Page had sung in Lloyd Webber's Evita. Memory from Cats was a huge hit for her and became her signature tune. And I suspect she sang it better much than Dench could have done.

My only other quibble was the way the Rum Tum Tugger was played. I accept that to ensure the U certificate the Tugger's lascivious character had to be toned down. To be fair, T. S. Elliot's original Tugger is a tamer beast: a "curious cat" who' d rather be in than out, out when in, eat fish when offered meat etc. (Sounds like every cat we've ever had, actually). The stage show has the female cats swooning at the Tugger's swishing tail and gawping at his crotch. Fair enough to step back from that but the film Tugger has been completely neutered: to exclude even the characteristic shoulder shimmies seemed barmy. After all Strictly Come Dancing goes out before the watershed hour. However, while the Tugger was toned down to the point of marginalisation, James Corden's Bustopher Jones was a hoot and Skimbleshanks the railway cat was also superbly done.

Would I have liked it so much if I hadn't loved the stage show? Who knows. Is it the best film I've seen? No, that requires something to make me think a bit more. The Shawshank Redemption or One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest for example. But was it the most enjoyable? Certainly one of them, yes.

What do punters think? On Google the reviews are split mainly between people who love it (5  out of 5) and people who hate it (1 out of 5).  The mean score is around 3 but that's the least common score given. So the film is polarising.   If you don't like singing and sancing I really wouldn't bother with the it but if you ever get the chance to see the stage show it would be worth a try as it really isn't like anything else I've ever seen. If you have an open mind I'd say ignore the reviews and go and see the film. I expect you'll see plenty of people, especially families, enjoying themselves. And as the musical has been enjoyed by millions I expect the film, while probably not winning awards or breaking box office records will do quite well.

We saw only one positive review of the film. Brian Viner of the Daily Mail said "Cats is really demented - but it works!". I agree.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

How will we know whether we are better or worse off out of the EU? We won't!

Now that we know we are going to be leaving the EU how are things going to pan out over the next decade or so? I've said previously that the only way I could see the country being brought back together again would be if we exited the EU. Had we stayed a large proportion of the population would have felt bitterness and resentment over the failure to implement the outcome of the referendum. We would have had Brexit Party successes in elections and the prospect of Farage making permanent mischief at the European Parliament. Brexit would be like a wrecking ball at elections, drowning out debate as it has for so long already. It would have been a running sore. Of course, as we leave, Remain supporters will feel sadness and regret and many of us will have concerns about how things will pan out. But it already feels as if a boil has been lanced. The topic of conversation has moved on and maybe now the nation, or at least most of it, will also.

Remainers are wont to point out that most economists say we'll be worse off outside the EU than we would have been in it. Well, most economists say that but they are forecasts which are often for the birds or at least often incorrect. And I've pointed out before that what they are actually saying is that we'll be better off than now but not by as much as we might have been. Moreover, the difference will be small and so it will be difficult to discern. Indeed, if we're better off than now we'll feel better off and we probably won't miss what we have never had.

I've now seen figures which say exactly that and more. The Centre for Economics and Business Research is an independent London-based economics consultancy known for its commentaries on the UK and global economies. They earn their corn producing reports for businesses, other economic consultancies and organisations such as the Bank of England, HM Treasury and the European Commission. So it is far from a pro-Brexit think tank. The CEBR publishes an annual World Economic League Table covering 192 countries and looking ahead more than a decade. I recently read a summary of the CEBR's latest long range forecasts which indicate their expectation that the UK's trend growth is likely to be about the same as Germany's, somewhat higher than France's and a large amount higher than Italy's. They expect the UK economy to be about 25% bigger by 2034 than it is now.

To obtain the full report you have to shell out £200. But you can download a free executive summary from their website, which I did. I couldn't verify the numbers quoted above but I don't doubt they are quoted correctly (as opposed to correct). However, it is very interesting that the CEBR should be so bearish about the EU's major economies. The exec summary does comment on the UK and Brexit saying the impact "will be less than feared". Specifically they had forecast that the UK would lag behind France for 5 years whereas they now expect the UK to overtake France again as soon as this year "driven by the UK's particular blend of the tech sector and the creative sector which the CEBR has called The Flat White Economy and by the probability of a fairly soft Brexit".

These comments will have preceded the recent general election which I would expect to have made their view more positive.

Of course there will be some recalcitrants who will blame everything that happens that they don't happen to like on the fact that we've left the EU. But what the experts are saying is clear: we'll be worse off than we might have been if we'd stayed in the EU but we'll still grow as much as Germany and more than France. If that turns out to be true we won't feel worse off (because we won't be) and none of the stats would make it look like we've taken the wrong decision. There'll just be a diminishing legion of remainers claiming we'd have been even better off if we'd have stayed with no tangible evidence to point to other than forecasts from a decade or more previously. Everyone will soon lose interest listening to that.

And so it will come to pass that the nation will move on and our membership of the EU will become a history lesson rather than an active political debate. Time will tell, but I have some optimism.

P.S. The CEBR report has lots of other interesting stuff. For example, India, having overtaken the UK and France to become the world's fifth largest economy is expected to become the third largest by 2034. That's not much of a surprise, but what I hadn't realised was that the Indian economy was larger than the UK's until 1906 and the French economy was smaller than India's until 1951.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

A gloomy start to 2020

I had intended that my first post of 2020 should be optimistic. That one's on hold while, like all Everton fans, I ponder our team's feeble second half performance in Sunday's F A Cup derby as what wasn't far off Liverpool's youth team made Bill Shankly's jibe from over 50 years ago, that the two best teams on Merseyside are Liverpool and Liverpool reserves, come palpably true, probably for the first time.

Sure, Everton made several good chances in the first half and Curtis Jones's strike for the winner, reminiscent of Wayne Rooney's announcement on the scene against Arsenal all those years ago, was a screamer. But it was hardly against the run of play as Liverpool had 57% possession and bossed the midfield. I'm not sure which was the more galling feature - that Liverpool should have been so comfortable in the closing stages with a teenage centre back and debutant right back or that Adam Lallana and two players with barely a handful of first team appearances between them should dominate Everton's midfield so easily. I've been quite critical of Gylfi Sigurdsson and very critical of Morgan Schneiderlin in their time wearing a blue shirt. But they were made to look ponderous and slow-witted yesterday, and an extremely poor return for around £70 million in transfer fees.

Liverpool, of course, had almost literally nothing to lose but this was still an awful defeat for the blues. The gap between the clubs now feels permanently unbridgeable, which is very hard to swallow for someone old enough to remember Everton being considered, by common consent, very much the bigger club. I wouldn't bet much on Moshiri's financial backing and the new stadium project  gradually rebalancing the situation the way the game is set up now.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the players for whom it mattered most gave the best performances. Evidently they were mainly wearing Liverpool shirts as their youngsters had plenty to prove. They weren't all teenagers: Pedro Chrivella and Nat Phillips are 22. Spaniard Chrivella has been at Liverpool for 6 years, Phillips was signed from Bolton 3 years ago. But in the blue ranks it was predictably Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert Lewin who at least looked as if they wanted to win. Sigurdsson and Schneiderlin looked as if they didn't care while Walcott looked, as usual, like he didn't have a clue: Liverpool had teenagers in their team, we had a 30 year old who still plays like one.

An equally worrying aspect was Carlo Ancelotti's tactics and failure to address the obvious issues on the pitch during the match. His team selection and tactical shape was too aggressive and ceded control to Liverpool. Why not play, or at least bring on, Tom Davies, who would be guaranteed to care and to try hard?

Indeed, given that Liverpool were always going to play some fringe players, why not play one or two of our U23s? At least they've had the experience of beating Liverpool teams containing some of the players Liverpool fielded on Sunday. In the second half  Everton looked as psychologically cowed by Liverpool as ever even though the occupants of the red shirts were unfamiliar and lacking in experience.

Team talks can be over-rated in terms of impact, but also I wonder what the two managers said to their teams at half time. Klopp's talk would have been easier to give. Maybe something on the lines of "They've thrown everything they've got at you and you're still level. They're never going to score today. Now it's your turn to play. Show them what you've got and they'll fold".

For Ancelotti it would have been tempting to say "you're playing well, just keep going as you are and you'll score" which is very much the modern philosophy in football. But such words always, in my experience, lead to complacency. The best manager I ever played for wouldn't have said anything like that. Brian Scott was a construction labourer who had never played organised football before some of his work mates brought him to training. He was already a bit old for the team, but was keen and enjoyed getting fit. We had no-one to run our reserve team at the time and Brian was persuaded to give it a go. He was a revelation, a natural man manager and very observant about what was happening in front of him, despite his lack of playing experience. I lost count of the times he'd say to me "why are you (or aren't you) doing such and such today? That's not like you" about something I hadn't realised for myself. Brian would have recognised how dangerous it always is when you've made several good chances but not scored. In his characteristic sharp style he would have warned the whole team that we'd now made life hard for ourselves as the opposition would have gained encouragement from our failures and would almost certainly come out and play much better in the second half. Basically, he'd have given us a well aimed rocket, telling us we'd have to try much harder and play much smarter if we wanted to win.

Brian was perceptive and tough. I still remember the rocket he gave the back four after we'd won 14-2 for losing concentration and letting such weak opposition score twice! He accused us of all wanting to get on the score sheet, which was probably correct. The good habits he instilled turned us into a very effective team. Although he'd never played at the (modest) standard we competed in he improved us as individual players and as a team. He was our Mourinho.

I wish Brian could have given the half time talk to Everton on Sunday. He wouldn't have been happy at that stage, let alone by the end. I suspect half the team would have tried to escape the ground without going back into the changing room.

At the moment I'd be quite happy for some of them to stay away permanently.

My new year message saying why the 2020s could be a good decade will have to wait until the steam dissipates.