David (Brass) Versus Goliath

This first appeared in NORTHERN LIFE magazine

April 2015 ISSUE


 We don’t normally do politics here at Northern Life as you know. But this story is right up our street!

We are living in very strange times. Our politicians are ignored and laughed at, and our comedians are taken seriously and applauded. Surely it is supposed to be the other way around? Britain’s politicians have never been so out-of-favour and unpopular. The endless scandals of the last few decades have seriously eroded the public’s trust, and, let’s be honest, any interest in them. People just can’t be bothered taking any notice anymore – the most common complaints are that “they’re only in it for themselves,” and that “they’re on another planet.” This might explain why only 30 per cent of folk bother to go out and vote nowadays.

Well, one man has had enough. In the Ribble Valley, a local businessman has decided that he is so fed up with the local MP – he is going to stand against him in the upcoming general election. But, what place does an ordinary, hard working family man have amongst the privileged, spoilt MP’s from down in Westminster? I popped along to meet David Brass, owner of the most colourful shop in Clitheroe town centre, to find out the full story of his campaign to swap his career in his successful town centre business to become the next Ribble Valley MP.


How long have you lived and worked in the Ribble Valley for?

I’m proud to say that I’m born and bred in this lovely part of Lancashire. I was born at Bramley Mead maternity hospital in Whalley and have lived in Clitheroe all my life. My first work was as a paperboy for Bob Ainsworth, a local independent councillor and newsagent. I started work in this very shop after leaving school at 15, when it was called Dawson’s fish mongers.

You’ve been heavily involved in a lot of community events during that time, such as personally funding a half price ticket initiative in support of Clitheroe FC when they were facing a financial crisis. Please tell us a few more examples of your support for the town through the years.

My wife Mary and I have done all sorts of things down the years. We were enthusiastic members of Rotaract in the town and were significantly involved with the community bonfire and torchlight processions. I also had my head shaved raising several hundreds of pounds. We’ve done loads of quizzes, treasure hunts, raffles and sweepstakes and all manner of fundraising things for local groups and events. My wife and daughter Su have raised hundreds for the poppy appeal by making crocheted poppies.

What is the key message that you are saying to the Ribble Valley people on your election campaign, and what can people expect from you if you were elected as Ribble Valley MP on May 7th?

Hundreds of our customers have expressed their dismay at the negative images associated with our area due to the M.P’s involvement in his recent court case, and they are amazed by his re-selection. In the event of my being elected, I won’t be making promises that I can’t deliver. I will simply do my best.

You are a normal working class family man from the north. There are not too many people like that representing the public in Westminster nowadays. Why do you think that is?

I think it is certainly difficult for individuals to reach Westminster as opposed to career politicians within a party structure. But there are still a fair number of what you could call ordinary folk with their own wealth of life experiences doing a good job in Parliament.

You run one of the best known shops in Clitheroe, and deal with thousands of local people and tourists face to face all day, every day, seven days a week – so it is fair to say that you are in touch with ordinary people – which many people argue is the problem with our politicians nowadays. What are the main things that you hear people saying that they are unhappy about?

Certainly one of the main gripes that people have is the feeling that as individuals, we are becoming less important. Politicians, banks, utility companies all seem to do as they please, with little regard for the consumer. People are annoyed about lots of things, such as waiting times to see their doctor, unsolicited phone calls and the state of the roads and pavements. These are the topics that come up every day when I’m talking to folk.

You will of course be facing several other people in this contest, but the most high profile candidate will be the previous Conservative MP for the Ribble Valley constituency, Nigel Evans who has been the MP for over twenty years. Your campaign slogan is “Back Brass – No More Nigel.” Do you think that people have had enough of Mr Evans now?

It’s been pretty obvious that the majority of people were appalled at the behaviour and other elements of Nigel’s character that were widely reported from the trial. But on top of this, there is a strong feeling that his record as an MP is no great shakes and lots of people that I’m in conversation with on a daily basis think that it’s time for a change now.

It must be a very exciting time for you, knowing that there is a very real possibility that you will swap your job selling newspapers and magazines, to walking the floors of Westminster Palace in just a few months time. Are you not nervous about this?

I’ve not really given it too much thought at this stage! If it happens then I’ll deal with it to the best of my ability. In the meantime, my wife and I will continue doing what we always do, which is running the family business and enjoying family life.

How do you think that the general election will go over all?

Hopefully the Conservatives will win an overall majority, or at least form the majority of the government in a coalition. UKIP will make a few gains and the Liberal Democrats will have a few losses. I think the Scottish Nationalists will have a bigger influence on English matters than they should have! Hopefully, there will be at least one Independent MP elected to the house.

UKIP seem to be swallowing up the dissatisfied voters around Britain who are sick to death of mainstream political parties and the scandals that MP’s are being caught up in, as well as capitalising on the fears people have around immigration. How do you think that UKIP will fare in the Ribble Valley?

If there was nobody standing as an alternative for Conservative voters, then I don’t think many people would vote at all. UKIP doesn’t have a lot to offer in this area. Some folk will vote UKIP, as it’s too much of a stretch to contemplate voting for Labour with their abysmal record on the economy.

If you were elected, would you buy a breakfast for £39 and then claim it on your MP expenses like the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Ian Duncan Smith did? 

I’d expect breakfast for a week at that price! But no, I wouldn’t expect the tax payer to pay for my food. But it must be said that expenses should be claimed for where they are justified. It’s only fair.

What about some new socks?

I suppose if you had worn out your socks by pussy-footing and tip-toeing around the issues of the day, then maybe. But even then, you’d have to be pretty tight to put in a claim for a new pair of socks!

Joking aside, it’s very easy to see why politics is such a turn off for people with the stories we are constantly reading. Do you think that it is possible for somebody like yourself from the real world to stay “down to earth” if you became part of the Westminster bubble?

You’d like to think so. Some MP’s come across as being down-to-earth types and some appear to be in love with themselves. I’d just carry on being myself.

Who is your favourite politician of all time?

Margaret Thatcher. She was the best peace-time leader we’ve had, and she gave Great Britain a presence at the top table of international politics. She achieved this by being strong and purposeful.

And who has been your least favourite?

Chris Patten. In the Ribble Valley by-election campaign of 1991, when Nigel Evans lost, all the great and good of politics were in the area, trying to win votes. You could stand and talk with the MP’s of all the main parties. I tried to talk to Chris Patten and he just turned his back on me. That is a serious lack of manners in my book, so he is my least favourite politician for that reason.

You have a very distinctive suit that you are wearing for the election. What’s the story behind this?

Oh, yes, my “Humbug” suit. I’m wearing this to reflect the nature of politics. It seems to me that if you are in politics, you are able to get away with outrageous behaviour both inside and outside of Parliament, such as the cash for access, sexual misdeeds, expenses scandals, and the list goes on and on. The suit is of course also a nod to Martin Bell’s successful Independent MP campaign in Tatton and his trademark white suit!

What would you like to say to our readers across the north of England who might be one of the 70% of people who don’t bother going to vote?

People have died for the right to vote, both in this country and overseas. I think that it should be a public duty to vote, certainly in General Elections, so as to give a better mandate. It is particularly heartening to me that dozens of people who never vote have said that they will vote this time, and they will vote for me because I am someone who they know and who is approachable, rather than a remote politician.

Good luck with your campaign David and thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to tell us all about it. This is a real David and Goliath fight, and I’m sure that all of the Northern Life readers will be watching the results very closely on the morning of May the 8th.







BBC Introducing Lancashire – Sean McGinty

sean mcginty in northern life magazine steven suttie

This first appeared in NORTHERN LIFE magazine


I have long been a lover of local radio. In fact, from being a very small boy in the 1980’s I’ve taken a massive interest in it. But as computer-run stations and nationally syndicated services have slowly and surely eroded the magic that local radio once created, I am becoming more and more bored by the same old thing, just like many hundreds of thousands of radio listeners who are deserting local radio and re-tuning to Radio 2 instead.

But then, just as I’m about to give up completely – I discover a radio show that completely recharges my enthusiasm and gets me fully, properly excited again. I’m talking about BBC Introducing, a national network of 40 local radio programmes that champion local music in their area. In particular, I’m talking about BBC Radio Lancashire’s “Introducing” show on Saturday evenings, which is on air between 8pm and 10pm. radio lancs

If you want to be completely bowled over by an eclectic showcase of the amazing musical talent that there is here in Lancashire – I can guarantee that you will be surprised by just how much emerging talent there is in the Red Rose county, and then, I suspect that you will feel ever so proud of the whole concept.

It’s always a great feeling to stumble across a genuinely inspirational, amusing and enjoyable radio show that isn’t all about the DJ, but about what the DJ can do for others. I went down to the BBC Lancashire studios to meet the programme’s creator and presenter Sean McGinty, a man so full of energy, enthusiasm and passion for his work that it is easy to see how it all translates so well into such a bloody good radio show.

As he ate a sandwich, eaves-dropped on a band recording a session next door, while trying to discover who blocked the radio-car in with a silver peugeot, I had a good old natter with Sean about his work.

BBC radio lancashire studios in Blackburn town centre

You can tell from listening to the BBC Lancashire Introducing show that you clearly love it. What has been your highlight of doing this show so far? It’s not really on air that I get the real highlight. That comes when I listen through the one hundred and fifty songs I receive a week and hear something that’s just amazing. For example, we play a lot of music from Aquilo. When I first heard their song I was like “wow!” It just hits you and it’s amazing. And now, eighteen months later, they are doing really well, one of their songs is going to be in a film, and being a BBC Introducing presenter, you get a great “wow-factor” when you hear someone with some real talent and a great song.

Another group who are doing great things are Bondax from Lancaster, who are regularly played on BBC Radio 1. They started out on your show. Yes, through us, Radio 1 have picked up on them. Don’t get me wrong, these guys work hard on their own, and they’ve got good people representing them and they’ve done very well without the BBC involvement. Having said that, it’s always good to say “We’ve been on BBC Introducing and we’ve done a Maida Vale session.” They’ve done all that stuff, and they were at Bestival this year, and now they’re travelling the world. It’s a great result for us, but it’s down to the artist. They do all the work, they put all the time in. Just because I play a track by Aquilo, or Bondax, or Rae Morris and say I love it, that isn’t necessarily the route to how they become successful.

The show is now ten years old in Lancashire. Is it getting harder to find exciting new bands and artists to showcase, or does it get easier? I think as technology and social media has developed we are seeing more music sent to us now. We can get any where between one hundred and two hundred tracks sent in each week via the BBC Introducing Uploader on the website, as well as links to songs on Soundcloud and Youtube as well as CD’s in the post. So it is a lot of music that’s coming in to us, and almost all of it is from Lancashire.

What advice do you have for local bands who have the talent, and want to get played, but can’t necessarily afford the studio time to get a professional sounding demo together? Well, Rae Morris is a great example of that. Rae is now signed to Atlantic Records, her new single is being played on Radio 1 and her album is out in January. There’s some really good stuff happening with her right now, but the music that she sent me at first just wasn’t recorded well enough to play on the radio. It was an absolutely beautiful song, and I loved it, but I couldn’t play it. But there are other things we can do, and we invited Rae in and let her do a live session. So assuming they can do that, there’s always different options.

The Extra Third Photography

You came to radio quite late in life after a career in banking and telecoms. What made you give up secure employment and a good salary for a career in a notoriously difficult to enter industry, that probably pays a lot less? I’ve just always loved radio, and I love the job I’m doing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is a very different earning potential as you pointed out, but as I’m approaching my fiftieth birthday, I’m really enjoying this, and all the other projects that I’m involved with and that really matters to me.

You must have to spend a lot of time listening to the music that is sent in by hopeful bands, plus you do other slots on the BBC Radio Lancashire schedule. You are also embarking on the difficult task of launching Blackpool’s Radio Victoria as a full time community radio station. How do you get the time to fit all this in? I don’t do anything that’s remotely sociable anymore! That’s it really. I’m very much into social enterprise and not for profit businesses. I was working with the hospital trust in Blackpool and suggested that they go after a community radio license, and they said go for it. So now we have the license, and just need to find about twenty five grand for the mast and various bits and pieces. I really think community radio could be fantastic for the Fylde. So yes, I’m kept very busy but I love it, and you’re a long time dead aren’t you?

Your Introducing slot is on air at 8pm on Saturdays, but it’s available all week long on the iPlayer. Are you finding that this new “on demand” technology is helping you to build a bigger audience? I don’t really look at the numbers. We used to be on Thursday evenings and we had the most radio listeners in the county on that slot, beating Radio 1, Radio 2 and everybody else. When the senior BBC management decided that all of the Introducing shows across the national network were being moved to Saturdays, we lost a lot of listeners. Mainly because most of our listeners were out playing, or listening to bands on that night. It’s possibly the worst night to have a new music show on the radio to be honest. I do get e-mails during the week from people who are listening to the I-player, but I have no idea how many there are.

introducing logo on cassette

What advice would you have for anybody who would like to follow in your footsteps and get a job in radio?Well, don’t wait until you are 38 before you even think about doing it. Do it in your 20’s! What I did was I went to the University of Central Lancashire and started a broadcast journalism course, and then I camped on the doorstep here at BBC Radio Lancashire until they let me in. When they did let me in, I just worked really hard and really long and made sure that what I did was good and eventually I got some regular paid work here.

Your wife must be very supportive of you? Yes, we both changed careers at the same time. I went into this and she went into teaching. She was very supportive of me in the early years, and now I’m supportive of her in what she does. It’s a partnership.

What ambitions are left for the BBC Lancashire Introducing show? Loads! I mean we’ve started doing BBC Introducing Live gigs at the Ferret in Preston which is a fine local venue, and a great place to play. It’s a great night for people who want to support local music and it’s free. That’s on the second Saturday of every month, and I want to build on that and get more gigs in more towns. And of course to continue showcasing the very best of Lancashire’s new music on the BBC Introducing show.

BBC Introducing programmes are on air on your local BBC station on Saturday evenings from 8 until 10pm, and available anytime on BBC Radio I-player.

More about what Sean is doing.

The Clitheroe Prime Minister

The Clitheroe Prime Minister Book Cover

Clitheroe resident Steven Suttie has published his first novel at the website Amazon.co.uk, and the fun and entertaining tale is receiving 5 star customer reviews.

The story is the first modern day novel to be set in the historic rural market town, and it celebrates Clitheroe’s people, its places and the “straight speaking” attitude of the locals.

The Clitheroe Prime Minister is the fun and exciting story of a fictional Clitheroe resident called Jim Arkwright, who is shocked to find that his straight-from-the-hip political views have spread across the internet – and that the British public have overwhelming support for his no nonsense ideas. Within days, the national media have besieged the town in a bid to find Jim and get him to stand as the Prime Minister. The novel is set in the present day, at a time when Britain faces serious challenges with its economy, crime and disorder, youth unemployment and many other social problems.

Steven said “I started writing this last year. It seemed that everybody I spoke to thought that they had better ideas of how to run the country than the government did, and I just started from there. I did lots of research and looked at the issues that are causing so many problems. From there I began creating the lovable, no-nonsense character Jim Arkwright. I wanted to set the story in the Ribble Valley constituency because it really is one of Britain’s finest places, with low high crime, high employment and its a place with tremendous community spirit – all major aspects of the story.”

Steve Suttie Castle Park The Clitheroe Prime Minister

The Clitheroe Prime Minister is a fast paced, exciting novel with lots of laughs along the way. The interesting part is the fact that it isn’t too difficult to believe that such a situation come actually happen. The story could quite easily come true, thanks to the internet age and the manner in which stories, videos and clips get shared around on the web – coupled with the British public’s general apathy for traditional MP’s and politicians. Politics has never been so widely ignored, as election counts average turn-outs under 40% in most constituencies. It was these two facts combined that inspired Steve to write The Clitheroe Prime Minister.

“Although Jim Arkwright is a fictional character, he is very believable because we all know somebody just like him. There is a Jim Arkwright on every street in Britain, in every pub and at every bus stop and these people know the solutions to society’s failures because they are living in amongst the problems, seeing the fall-out from the mad laws and hair-brained policies day to day. Jim Arkwright’s main point is that the government and the Ministers who make decisions on behalf of the British people don’t have a clue what they are doing. Ordinary, working class people would be in a far stronger position to govern than these pampered, sheltered millionaires who enter politics purely for career and ego reasons, according to Jim Arkwright!”

Clitheroe Library

This photograph of Clitheroe Library formed the basis of the books cover, which is supposed to resemble a cartoon vision of Clitheroe town centre with Big Ben included. The author wanted a cover that would capture the imagination of the locals, and tourists too.

000001 Clitheroe CLITHEROE

Steven has set the majority of the story in Clitheroe, with most scenes taking place in well known locations all around the town. “That was the really fun part –I wanted to draw on all the positives of Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley. I’ve  done my best to describe what a very special place this is. Readers from outside the area will certainly be attracted to the town for a visit after reading all about this fantastic part of Lancashire.”

During the day, Steven works for the RSPCA as the East Lancashire Branch Administrator. In order to get the story written, he dedicated two hours per night to his writing. After setting himself a target of writing one chapter per week, the first draft of his book was finished in six months. There then followed several months of editing, rewriting and tweaking the manuscript. The novel has now been launched on Amazon for download onto Kindle readers, tablet computers and even smart-phones. Readers can sample the first three and a half chapters for free.

The book is also available in paperback.

“Although it’s only supposed to be a light hearted “David and Goliath” story about a working class man getting one over on the great and powerful, there are many aspects of the story that are hugely relevant. It won’t be popular with politicians because they get lots of criticism, but I’m very confident that the average, hard-pressed, frustrated person will identify with Jim Arkwright and many of the points that he raises,” added Steven.


On April 2nd 2015 the book reached number 1 in it’s Amazon category of “Political Humour.

This is the books blurb:

“Brilliant fun”


“What a hoot!”


A funny and politically incorrect satire novel that straight talking folk just can’t get enough of.


This is a laugh-out-loud adventure about an ordinary egg & chips eating kind of man, who finds himself accidentally becoming the most famous bloke in Britain.

Jim Arkwright is having a really weird week. After learning that a video of him messing about and talking politics in the pub has gone viral, he finds himself on the radio, wiping the floor with the experts and politicians live on the air. The British public, sick to death of the sleazy, money grabbing, out of touch political figureheads are instantly endeared by the straight-speaking Lancashire man. They love his ideas and his friendly, warm nature.

Jim hears the things that ordinary folk say, on buses, in cafes and down the launderette. Big Jim is a man who is in touch with the public, unlike the nation’s politicians.

The following morning’s newspapers start a campaign demanding that Big Jim should become Prime Minister. But Jim has got a really big job on at work. He doesn’t have any time for all this nonsense.

Can Big Jim be tempted to join the Government? The people of Clitheroe hope so, as the picturesque little Lancashire town has become over-run with media gangs, press trucks, television channels and happy go lucky tourists.

This is a fun, cheeky, exciting and endearing satire novel that readers can’t put down. Britain really has found a new kind of Leader. A working class welder from up north.


WARNING: CONTAINS EFFING and JEFFING! Aye, excuse the french.



The Clitheroe Prime Minister is available now. It can be bought locally at Banana News and Clitheroe books, priced £7.50

You can keep up to date with the latest news and information about the book at the facebook page.

Click here for the Northern Life magazine article about The Clitheroe Prime Minister “Arkwrights Revolution.”

A Video-Promo for the novel is here.

The Lost Boys and Girls

In Great Britain, we have more than one million 16-24 year olds unemployed. Ouch. Over 1,000,000 young people with no jobs or even the prospect of finding training in our country today. More than a million fresh minds and strong, able bodies just lay about in their beds, dossing on street corners and falling into the dangerous mental state of feeling worthless – at risk of following the inevitable path to depression, petty crime and susbstance misuse.

Remember the audience at Live Aid? Well imagine that, and another 13 Wembley stadiums crammed with people who just want a chance at starting their first job. That’s what we’re faced with in this country.

But theres nothing the government can do about it, because the last Labour Government were irresponsibly spending blah blah yawn. Are you sick of hearing these politicians explaining, justifying and excusing the problems instead of just getting on with sorting stuff out?

Look around your community now and have a think for 2 minutes about the things that need fixing, tidying up or replacing. How many vulnerable members of your community would benefit from having somebody come round and take them shopping, or redecorate their front room or cut their grass? How many charities need extra workers but can’t afford them? How many small struggling local businesses could be saved from going under if they had an extra member of staff or two helping in the battle?

Think of the insanity of having 1,000,000 young, fit and capable people who are desperate to work being forced into idleness – doing nothing of any value – at the same time as being paid government funds for their humiliation and desperation via the jobseekers allowance, when there is plenty of stuff that needs doing out there in our local communities.

You couldn’t make it up, it’s a disgrace and it is madness but it is real. It is actually happening right now. This pathetic, desperate scenario is probably what the word “ineptitude” was invented for. And hark at this – there isn’t even a plan in place to deal with the problem of youth unemployment, so that startling number of 1,000,000 is going to get even bigger.

If you’re in your mid to late 20s or any age older than that, try to remember when you left school and had options and opportunities. When your head was full of ambitions and fuzzy ideals of where your life was headed. Try and compare that optimism you enjoyed against the closed door society that todays youth are facing. The anger, frustration and resentment is growing by the day amongst them. Last years UK riots will look like a Morris Dance when this particular boil comes to a head.

Back to your community for a minute then. Could you not do with those pot holes filling in? What about the area of town that’s daubed in graffiti, used as a tip, could we not tidy it up and give it a lick of paint? Could we not open a community orchard, a community allotment, a community meals on wheels, a community driving school, a community recycling academy? Yes, actually, very easily we could. We could put these youngsters to work in a heartbeat – if anybody within government was actually looking at the problem.

But, most alarmingly the governments attitude to this is to ignore it and press ahead with their unpopular and far less urgent policies on NHS reform, Lords reform and “cutting the deficit.”

These young folk need to be given something to do with their days whilst the economists get on with fixing the deficit. They need to know what clocking in, being part of a team, doing something worthwhile, getting a bollocking, getting rewarded and accomplishing something feels like. Otherwise they will never work. They will become unmanageable after ten years of never working. They will become depressed, addicted to something and a drain on society – possibly bringing up a family in their own image. Ignoring this issue is just not an option.

So how hard can it be to set up a group of team leaders in each community and get the young people to come along in a morning and start fixing the place up? Surely it can’t be that hard to do. The problem is – we are being tricked by the media and the government – we are being told that there are lazy, useless, unpleasant people who don’t want to work who are scrounging all our taxes for their benefits. There is an element of society who are like that, we know because we’ve seen them shopping in their pyjamas. But for this shambolic government it is extremely convenient to have us believe that our 1,000,000 unemployed youths fall into this category too.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The 1 million are made up of people who have given school their best shot, most have gone through college and now find themselves with nowhere else to take their energy, their positivity and their physical power. It’s criminal.

How many local charities and community groups could do with some free labour? How many schools and nurseries are desperate for a pair of extra hands? Local governments, local swimming baths, canals and river wardens, libraries, parks and gardens all need a few extra bodies to help them. There is no excuse for these 1,000,000 people to be doing nothing. It’s a clear case of a lack of imagination that is keeping these youngsters out of work and training.

I hear the government talking about our need to become a manufacturing nation once again. Well no offence dickheads, but you have 3,000,000 unemployed and every single one of them is getting paid to do nothing – and most of them want to work, they can’t stand being stuck in the house, isolated from the outside world day in day out.

So lets manufacture stuff, build the factories and invest in Britains future with a ready made labour force of 3 million people. Lets do that. Lets stop talking about the problems and get busy fixing them. We could make Britain “Great” again, but not if we carry on allowing this kind of stupidity to be considered “the norm.”

“How are we going to pay for it?” asks the inevitable doubting Thomas who’d rather see us stay in this balls up. Well, lets think about that one for a second. Tory Chancellor George Osborne pulled another £10,000,000,000 (Ten Billion) from out under a rock to help bail the Euro out again a few weeks ago. It now looks as though the Euro is going bust, along with the hundreds of billions we’ve already put in to aid its recovery. So come off it. Enough of the “we can’t afford *________” (*fill in crucial government cost as appropriate) excuse.

We’re already paying over 1,000,000 unemployed lads and lasses a “wage” to do absolutely nothing. It just needs a bit of leadership, imagination, passion and investment and this country could utilise its unemployed to become one of the worlds leading workforces, as we once were under Queen Victoria.

Money is sat in the Bank of England that could get these young folk doing some work and in return – getting the economy shifting. Lets use it effectively on this most urgent purpose instead of constantly, miraculously “finding” billions upon billions of pounds to bail out banks and far away countries. Lets help the kids, here, and now. There is no alternative.