Saturday, July 14, 2007

Corrected Link

The link I gave for the story about Liverpool's economic & business prospects was incomplete. Here it is: .

Playing Catch Up

Away from all the hype & bullshit surrounding 2008, the cold, dispassionate view of the city & the region remains distinctly unimpressed.
The week began with a report by the Centre for Cities thinktank, noting that Liverpool remained in the slipstream of other UK cities ( ).
Nothing surprising in the list of leaders, the usual spots in the south of England (Reading leading the way, with Bristol, Southampton & Cambridge also up there). York, however, seems to get in the leading pack, largely, I suspect due to its tourist appeal; Liverpool can draw in the Americans & Japanese through the Beatles, but York's Viking heritage gives it the edge in this regard.
The director of the think tank, Dermot Finch, is quoted in the report as commenting that "lagging cities like Sunderland & Liverpool are struggling to catch up & will need to focus on expanding their business & employment base".
Yet the reality is that this base is being overlooked by civic & commerce figures, as 2008 is increasingly revealed to be little more than a glorified orgy of parochialism, & that the scale & organisation of the events will correspond to that limited outlook.
A long overlooked aspect of the city's development as a port is its cosmopolitan character; Liverpool had an internationalist outlook & mindset primarily through the maritime trade which the Mersey afforded. Of course, a large part of this was due to the slave trade (which effectively made the port), but there were also many who willingly sailed into Liverpool for their own reasons.
Predictably, the response from the city fathers, to give them a wholly unwarranted appellation, was to pour scorn on the report. Quoting selective figures about unemployment & economic growth, as well as making bullish noises about general prospects, city council leader Warren Brdley trumpeted, "Today Liverpool's outlook has never been brighter"
A relatively quick online search documents the city's decline in population:
1900: 685,000. 1937: 867,000. 1961: 745,000. 1971: 610,000. 1981: 510,000. 1991:476,000. 2001: 439,000.
Allowing for the impact of the Second World War on the city's population & the post-war growth of so-called New Towns (Kirkby, Skelmersdale, etc.), as well as the posible unreliability of the earlier census figures, the statistics still present a stark picture. If extrapolated on to a graph, it would resemble a steepling, perhaps even vertiginous, descent worthy of a Tour de France course.
Yes, there has been a major increase in the number of people living in the city centre over the last decade. However, that may not be sufficient to halt a further decline for the city as a whole when the 2011 census is taken.
Today's Guardian contains news of Tony Blair's culture shock at normal life (,,2125661,00.html ) .
Two separate paragraphs from the article are pure gold. Firstly, we are informed:
"Stopping at red traffic lights, it seems, is taking some getting used to. So is using a mobile phone, which Mr Blair confessed he had no idea how to use until leaving office last month."
Secondly, the article relates:
"Mr Blair said he was still confused every time his driver [his driver?!] stopped at a red traffic light-because as PM he had been used to going straight through them."
No doubt he employed the same approach with his own cabinet, particularly with regard to following the US into Iraq. It does, however, raise a thought. If Blair is a hapless returnee to the real world after so many years, how will Bush cope?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Cursing Over Cornflakes

I don't normally listen to BBC Radio Merseyside. Much of its output warrants the euphemism, cheap and cheerful, or downmarket, if I'm being truly candid. Its daytime presenters, Roger Phillips notwithstanding, depressingly live down to Scouse stereotypes.
However, last week's outburst by Simon O'Brien, broadcast during the station's breakfast show ("Fuck the government, fuck the planners!") provided some entertainment.
The affair is highlighted on the Liverpool Confidential website: Strictly Confidential That Simon OBrien tape and more .
A recording of the comments by O'Brien is available at
It raises an interesting point, however, regarding the regeneration, if you can call it that, of the city's Edge Lane area (the topic being discussed by O'Brien and Phillips in their exchange), as the residents in the area are being offered £66,000 each for the demolition of their properties. With house prices in the city rising exponentially because of 2008, etc., such a sum of money probably won't be sufficient for other properties in the same area, let alone any other part of Liverpool.
It is in this context that O'Brien's colourful observation is, perhaps, understandable.

On the same webpage there is sad news of the demise of the Liverpool Subculture blog. I had been denied access to the blog (by Blogger, thanks, guys ) over the last couple of weeks, so the news didn't come as a complete shock.
According to Liverpool Confidential, "Tony Parrish", the blog author, "tells Confidential, by alias email, that the experience of running the often scurrilous and controversial blogs, authored anonymously, 'made me care even more about the city because I have seen the best from people. It has also been pretty amazing to have witnessed such a fantastic spirit from complete strangers in the blogosphere'."

Today's news is, of course, dominated by the attempted attacks in London on Friday & yesterday's attack at Glasgow Airport. There have also been police raids in the south end of Liverpool, one in Toxteth, as yet unspecified, & one in the Penny Lane area. I know the latter quite well. Its population has a preponderence of students, making it a transitory sort of place, ideal, come to think of it, for anyone with something to hide to do whatever without attracting too much neighbourly suspicion.