The novelty of a senior Tory delivering a speech in Liverpool will be realised tomorrow evening when Chris Grayling, the party's spokesman for Merseyside [does David Cameron have a keen sense of irony?], addresses the local business group, Downtown Liverpool (www.downtownliverpool.com/ ).
Extracts from Grayling's speech were leaked in advance to today's Liverpool Daily Post (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2008/07/28/rich-and-poor-more-divided-than-ever-say-tories-64375-21415974/ ):
"Just look around the city centre. One of the country's biggest shopping centres.
"The new arena. New hotels. The cruise ship terminal. Plans to transform the docks into a new skyscraper city.
"But if you walk out of here with me, and head a mile off into Toxteth, I can show you streets where no one works, street corners where drug dealing is the main business, children being brought up in squalor, a caged up pub with pitbulls as bouncers --gangs, knives and guns in abundance.
"For the gang strife of Norris Green today, read the fascinating saga of Victorian gang crime in Liverpool by Michael Macilwee. Similar worlds, an era apart."
Aside from an almost Blairite aversion to verbs & a belated recognition of Macilwee's work, to which I drew attention a couple of months back, what's striking is the grudgingly acknowledged duality of life in the city today. Grayling's comments about inner city deprivation remind me of Heseltine's address to the Tory conference weeks after the 1981 Toxteth Riots (the reception which greeted the speech could have frozen the Mersey).
Grayling's paean to supposed civic renaissance blithely ignores the likely effects of the credit crunch; Liverpool One & the new hotels will feel the chill winds of it before this year is over. As for the enthusings about the waterfront forming a skyscraper city, the phrase House Of Cards comes to mind.
It would be interesting if one of Grayling's audience tomorrow reminds him of Geoffrey Howe's infamous comment in the early 80s that the policy for Merseyside should be one of "managed decline".