IF there's one phrase that sends me straight for a sobering, non-alcoholic lager it's the words "think-tank."

These Orwellian sounding groups have been around for centuries but famously flourished during World War II.

Now they are much-in-demand toiling behind the Brexit battle scenes.

The intellectual, economic get-togethers conjure up scenes of pin-striped suited men and women sitting around big oval table scattered with designer bottles of mineral water and flip-charts taking place in stuffy, high-rise glass menageries or dusty basements.

The Centre for Social Justice is the latest Tory tank to hit the headlines seemingly run by an artificial intelligence team led by its robotic creator Iain Duncan Smith (aged 65).

The former Work and Pensions Secretary once claimed £39 for a pre-meeting breakfast.

IDS, as he is affectionately known, was also the architect of Universal Credit - that's what I call irony considering some people now only have £53 a week to live on.

Do the nation's think-tankers ever consult anyone else apart from their own inner circle and the volumes of statistical research ledgers at their disposal?

What happened to consulting the public who eventually have to put up with their findings?

The latest gathering storm of grey matter came up with a report called "Ageing Confidently – Supporting an Ageing Workforce."

The jaw-dropping proposal is that we should all work until we are 70 starting in seven years' time.

That would then be increased to 75 by 2035.

It adds a new slant to the adage: "Oh, get a life."

This controversial fast-tracking change in our State Pension Age will bring in £182 billion extra cash boost.

By the time we reach 75 (and still without a free TV licence) surely we deserve to enjoy what free time we have left?

The fact that we are living longer doesn’t mean we should lose out on life in our Autumn years at the expense of ambitious government spending budgets.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if a royal think tank is recommending that The Queen puts a halt on her 100th birthday telegrams in favour of waiting for citizens to reach 105.


"LET the train take the strain" was an inspired slogan from 2007.

If only.

I accept that we will always have the dreaded bus replacement service in times of rail upgrades, maintenance work and strikes.

But what now increases my daily personal commuter stress-o-meter is the very sight of the flickering destination boards that say: "Three carriages."

When the super-duper fleet finally get the green light some time in 2020, the current three cars will be replaced by four and the six by eight.

I just keep my fingers crossed we see more "sixers" at peak times having recently endured another sardine journey to South Liverpool in stifling heat.

The announcement over the tannoy urging us all to "move down"

the already crammed train resulted in a chorus of exasperated sighs from disgruntled travellers.

Roll on the new rolling stock – we are crying out for an era of 'no strain' trains.


SSH! It's what you might call an adventure mystery and suspense thriller rolled into one.

A blind date with a cinematic difference.

FACT cinema in Liverpool asked me in a curious email if I could keep a secret?

And then invited me to buy a ticket for a special showing of a forthcoming new release without telling me what it was.

With child-like glee and with all the swashbuckling zest of Zorro, I signed up and didn't know what I had let myself in for until the opening credits rolled on the night and the Bruce Springsteen feel-good movie Blinded by the Light came on.

Secret screenings – exciting fun at the flicks ... it could seriously catch on.


HAIL the Pyramids in Birkenhead, which are 30 years old today and long may the shopping complex continue to be a positive part of the town's legacy - and you can't say pharaoh than that.

Sadly, it cannot be said the same of our local high street where "sphinx ain't what they used to be."

One man who is rejuvenating his home town’s Victoria Quarter is Rockpoint Leisure's Danny Davies, who this week underwrote the hugely-successful New Brighton Pirate Fest.

And one gem of an idea that emerged from this triumph was a "pirate passport" where visitors went to various retail outlets and eateries where their document was stamped leading to a reward goody bag.

Ahoy there!

Shopping passports – now that's something a consumer think tank could develop further.


UK emergency call centres do a fantastic job and yet are under so much frustratingly avoidable pressure.

Channel Four's eye-opening Monday night Call the Cops illustrated the demands they cope with.

The police could well do without ignorant callers who can dangerously delay time spent on genuine emergencies.

The most bizarre phone call to one police station left the operator speechless: a bird-brained idiot rang to complain that a seagull had stolen his chips.

The flying squad should have paid him a visit?

Peter Grant