Liverpool University Professor, Michael Parkinson, has spent much of his academic life studying the way regeneration, business and politics interact in the city.
Next week he is giving a sold-out lecture with the title Liverpool Beyond the Brink, The Remaking of a Post Imperial City. The title is a reminder of a book Michael wrote about the Militant Years, Liverpool on The Brink. That tome was a fascinating account of how the Trots created an image of a city in chaos and hostile to capitalism. It has taken decades to repair the damage and Professor Parkinson wants to be optimistic about the future. “Beyond The Brink” suggests the bad old days are in the rear-view mirror.
However, the academic is no fool. He will reflect on the leaps and bounds in regeneration the city has taken in this century. He will look to the future where the city has great strengths in tourism, the knowledge quarter, the Everton Stadium project, the opportunities for green jobs around projects like the Mersey Barrier/Lagoon. He will point out that the world class health expertise that has long existed in the School of Tropical Medicine will have massively increased significance in a world thirsting for knowledge after the pandemic.
However, is the city really beyond the brink? Commissioners are running large sections of the council’s activities after a damning report exposed malpractice and political intimidation. The elected mayor Joe Anderson stood down, protesting his innocence. The very post of elected mayor is likely to be swept away in a referendum in 2023. The Labour Party in the city is subject to the most stringent controls from London I have ever known.
A report for the National Executive by a former Minister, David Hanson and the highly respected former Leeds leader Judith Blake has demanded that by next Tuesday a wholesale shake up of how Labour councillors operate should be in place. The measures include a register of interests, a code of conduct covering how elected members interface with officers, a formal complaints procedure and training on relations with external partners, a key concern of the Max Caller report a year ago.
So, there we have it, a city transformed in this century in terms of regeneration but while all that was going on the Labour Party in the city apparently learnt nothing from the Militant years and were reverting to type. Not all by the way, I know some fine Labour councillors (and some who walked away) who want to do their best.
So, the question is will this political turmoil affect business investment in the city? The signs are generally that firms are continuing to invest, ignoring the political noise. The City Region under Steve Rotheram is playing a useful role in looking after the wider picture. The recent investment by Ford at Halewood is an optimistic sign.
Professor Parkinson will weigh everything in the balance next week. His conclusion will be interesting.