There is a little humble about Liverpool. As cities progress, it’s a glorified show – one building after another that invites you to catch a glimpse.
Which makes it so sad then, quite unnatural, to walk along the gorgeous waterfront – mid afternoon, late last week – and barely meet spirits to enjoy the view. Walk the river for the Liverpudlian walkFor the engaging and fascinating fervor of city life. Instead, it was only skiers who had come out – Covid-19 with its ability to empty our city streets was a boon to them, if not anyone else.
And if increased lockdown is to be our collective fate in the coming weeks and months, Liverpool is already living our future – the city and metropolitan area were the first to move to Level 3 of the new lockdown system in England.
It’s a familiar role, like Liverpool is out of control. The early headlines that responded to the Level 3 decision made Leverbudley feel exceptional. It was “the eighties of the last century again,” and so the story went – a time of severe economic decline, a confrontation, as it is now, between a conservative government and a workers’ local authority, then dominated by the extreme leftist current.
Or if you were there – you were a student in the militant Walton stronghold – the memories converge into one absolute truth that we fell into: the world, most embodied in the “sinister conservative government,” was against us. There was a measure of truth in that position – in 1981, then-Chancellor Geoffrey Howe distributed a note to his cabinet colleagues indicating that Liverpool were up to the fate of “orderly decline”; More trouble than it’s worth – it didn’t always help.
Living in the city had to climb every day on some roadblock or other, and the constant opposition to militancy, and in many cases gestures, had its effect. In the 1980s, a few soccer fans and journalists looking for a political battle attended. The city was defiant, “we are against them,” and she felt closed and seemed to love it that way.
The “new Liverpool” that has emerged in the past two decades has a different style: “Come see us, let’s have fun.” Its business model thrives on being open – tourism, conferences, and the pursuit of fun (and education) – only when Covid-19 made opening up the hardest thing. So, while the similarities with the 1980s make sense in terms of the economic challenge, the city it faces is different. There is now a clear sense of the future – you get a happy idea of it talking to politicians and business leaders and schoolchildren – but that future now feels vulnerable and fragile.
“Think of the Liverpool area as an emerging economy,” says Alison McGovern, Labor MP for Wirral South, who is a “stakeholder” in the Liverpool city area. “ Coming out of the 1970s and 1980s was like coming out of shock. [Liverpool lost no fewer than 80,000 jobs between 1972 and 1982] There are huge benefits to being a “buddy”. Growth rates are higher, there is a lot of land, relatively cheap. Lots of people want to live here. But companies are young and are unlikely to have capital reserves; They need support. “
The differences with the 1980s also have something to say about the changing relationship between the national government and an important regional city like Liverpool. “In the future, we could look at this as the moment when we realized we could do things differently,” says McGovern. “A moment when English cities and regions are starting to gain more control – over the economy, healthcare and more.”
An optimistic reading, along those lines, might indicate that if the 1980s were the end of something – say the latest boost to an old industrial economy – there is potential for misery. the beginning For something new. If you feel romantic, you can describe it as A new nation state He did last week, in the name of “The Northern Revolution”, with Liverpool this time and joined Manchester and others. Talk to Steve Rotherham, mayor of Liverpool City, and you will be frustrated by the incompetence of the center. But, in the spirit of change the city has experienced, he has had little time to talk about the hubbub of the 1980s: “Honestly, it felt like an emergency. Our hospitals might be overcrowded, and I just wanted to focus on securing economic support so we’re in a decent position to get out.” from him “.
McGovern credits it to Liverpool’s growing sense of self, which is the structure that comes with metro mayors. “In my early years as an MP, I felt crying for not having a platform to discuss locally relevant ideas. Now we have that – structures, civil servants, our chief economist.”
In such a calculation, the way you build a city’s economy is intertwined with the resources needed to do so. Liverpool’s confidence has enjoyed a steady series of build-ups – its classification as a European Capital of Culture in 2008 was central – but without the political and institutional structures, the momentum could be lost. The old “they are against us” has turned into an issue of trust. “Delegating is a big word to asking who you want to take care of things,” says Rotherham. “Someone in London, or people you know?” This question becomes even more urgent when health and livelihoods play.
A local businessman conspires: “Listen, let’s not conspire too much, but if you’re in London, and you’re making decisions, it’s easier to let things fail. Up here. It’s not just a Liverpool thing – look at how parts of Manchester were left to erode for weeks. “
However, whatever levels of local control, in “cultural” post-industrial economies – Liverpool considered the model – the future remains precarious. Liverpool remains a place of extreme poverty, with many people working jobs where they need to be Active – They cannot, as many of us can, work remotely.
A waitress at my hotel told me that she had only worked eight hours in the past two weeks. The feeling that I had as I walked the streets, with the city being closed off, has real implications for her. But she is confident that “the slowdown will not stop completely … We have something going on here in Liverpool.” Which, unlike the old days, seems like the right kind of challenge.