Liverpool Labour Party Conference 2011
Ticket to Ride
I have a soft spot for Liverpool. It has been central to the wealth of the
nation for over 150 years but since WW2 the City, despite the swinging sixties
and the Beatles and the stunning success of Liverpool FC et al, it partly lost
its way. Today, some of the old swagger is back especially around the Albert
Dock which has been transformed.
I first encountered it one dark, dank, cold February morning in 1958 as we
docked in its famous port. My family was arriving back from a three year sojourn
in Hong Kong on the troopship Oxfordshire. We'd been having the most wonderful
four weeks stopping off en route in Singapore, Columbo, Bombay, Aden, Port Said,
Larnaka and Gibraltar.
Somehow we made it to Liverpool Lime Street Station, to board a steam train to
Euston. It seemed to take an age to reach our temporary home at the Union Jack
hotel (whilst my Dad waited for another posting) but I remember seeing frozen
washing on a line for the first time and then in London I couldn't make out what
all those Jolyon's were but my Dad, laughing at me, said they were actually Joe
We couldn't afford the Union Jack hotel for long and so we travelled to Bures in
Suffolk to live with my grandparents. It can't have been much fun for them.
There were five of us and two of them packed into a three bedroomed terraced
house with one bathroom, no fridge, no central heating and no television. Allen,
my older brother shared a bedroom with our grandfather, Joyce my sister slept in
a make shift bed with our parents whilst my grandmother slept downstairs;
somehow I was given the single bedroom!!
I next came to Liverpool, well to Halewood, in 1979 with my sixth form economic
history set. We saw the Ford Escort being made and afterwards talked to
management. To do this we had to walk through one of the workers' canteens where
there was a strike by the cleaning staff so there was a week's paper bags,
rotting food and pretty unpleasant smells. Of course, the management suite had a
separate cleaning contract and was spotless; on other days we went to Port
Sunlight, the Metropolitan Cathedral, its grotesque Anglican counterpart and
Manchester; one of my students was Mark Seddon who went on to edit Tribune.
Occasionally I played rugby against Waterloo at Blundellsands (we lost a
cracking quarter final in the JP Cup in 1977 having been up 19-11!), Lancashire
(we won a semi final in the county championship in 1975) and Liverpool
St.Helens. I came up to see Mark Warham who was working for 3i in 1984 (we'd
been at Oxford together) and spent a couple of days in Liverpool but he seemed
to be spending all his time closing companies which can't have been much fun.
Much of the vibrancy of the city has returned. The Cultural Capital City of
Europe must have helped in 2008 for there are new buildings aplenty and much
else in the works.