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Heseltine continued Liverpool's decline
Former Liverpool councillor and then-District Labour Party president Tony Mulhearn shows how it was a Labour council, led by supporters of Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party), that saved the city from Tory decay.
Government documents released under the 30-year secrecy rule revealed that the then Tory chancellor Geoffrey Howe favoured a 'managed decline' of Liverpool following the Toxteth riots. In a breathtaking example of Tory mendacity, former Minister for Merseyside Michael Heseltine has claimed he rescued Liverpool from the fate proposed by Howe.
The blunt fact is that the decline continued. Before the 49 Labour councillors (reduced to 47 by the death of Bill Lafferty and Peter Lloyd) were elected in May 1983, in the two years after the riots, not a single house for rent had been built by the Liberal/Tory alliance which controlled the council.
Council rents were the highest in the UK outside London. 5,000 council jobs had vanished. Some £30 million had been slashed from Liverpool's rate support grant by Heseltine's Tory government. Youth unemployment in some areas of the city was in excess of 50%.
The defeated Liberal/Tory alliance had left behind a financial gap of £10 million of unallocated cuts. This was the nightmare inherited by the newly elected council in which Militant supporters played a prominent role.
That scenario was not used as an excuse for doing nothing, but as a reason for carrying out the 47's election promises by launching a programme of action: building houses, creating jobs, expanding services and freezing rents.
This was backed up by a mass campaign involving the public and private sector trade unions, community organisations, youth organisations, party constituencies and party branches, led by the Liverpool District Labour Party and the 47 councillors.
The objective of this campaign was to resist any further cuts and to claw back the funds that had been slashed, with the full support of Heseltine, from the city's budget by Thatcher.
The 47 recognised that there was no guarantee of victory when you fight, but if you do not fight defeat is assured.
A lesson which is completely lost on the current Liverpool Labour leadership who express outrage at Howe's proposal, yet continue to bleat that they have no choice but to cut public services that provide some support in dire circumstances like, for instance, providing care for disabled youngsters, and Sure Start facilities for young children.
'Can't fight, won't fight'
In response to the demand to fight the cuts, council leader Joe Anderson argues he does not want to bring the city into disrepute by challenging the Con-Dems. He cries that if he does not make the cuts the government will send in commissioners who will make worse cuts than him.
But if the council made a stand against the cuts and appealed to the trade union and labour movement and community groups for support and developed a mass movement, sending in commissioners would be very risky for the government. Who would cooperate with them? The council officers presumably; the same council officers who advise Joe Anderson what cuts he should make.
Instead of advising Anderson the same officers would be advising the commissioners. So Anderson and his cohorts in effect play the role of the commissioners while being paid some £60,000 a year by Liverpool's council tax payers.
30 years ago, Liverpool's Labour movement - before it was emasculated by Kinnock's lieutenant Peter Kilfoyle - knew that collaboration with the Tory government, which was advocated by both these gentlemen, would lead to disaster.
And disaster followed in spades. No more council housing, privatisation and job loss, a local trade union leadership ready to comply with every reactionary demand of the council.
This headlong retreat was exemplified by the fact that when the 47 were undemocratically removed from office by Thatcher's district auditor 30,000 workers were employed by the Liverpool city council. Today there are less than 10,000. Yet Liverpool council in 2010 was faced with a budget deficit of £120 million, even before the current round of Con-Dem cuts.
Decline, managed or otherwise, will continue under the Con-Dems unless the fighting spirit of the 47 and the Poplar councillors before them is emulated.
Liverpool - A city that Dared to Fight
Liverpool A City that Dared to Fight By Peter Taaffe and Tony Mulhearn
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In The Socialist 11 January 2012:
Socialist Party Interview
Them and Us
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party features
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party women
Socialist Party news
Socialist Party reviews and comments