‘Hurrah’ they chanted, ‘Find me a BBC researcher who wants a talking head for the early morning news’, and the BBC duly responded, seeking out Delroy Burroughs. ‘Delroy who’, you ask?
Delroy Burroughs, Community Leader of this parish (Toxteth) and possibly the Community Leader with the lowest conceivable profile. Not one mention of him on Google. Not one. Not that this bothered the BBC. They had a nice little clip of our Delboy, expert on all matters Toxteth, saying that ‘this report exonerated his community’. Exonerated them from what? Apparently exonerated them from any culpability in the 1981 riots – ‘it proved that they had no choice’.
If you were watching the early morning North-West edition of the BBC this morning, that could have been the end of the matter for you. Delroy had spoken, your very own Community Leader, and it was all Margaret Thatchers fault.
The BBC didn’t care to point out that ‘abandoning Liverpool’ was the advice given to Margaret Thatcher – not her wish or opinion. Nor did they want you to pay attention to the fact that she didn’t take that advice, instead she put £15 million of taxpayers money into rebuilding the community, indeed it was the only community that was given money at the time – but who’s bothered about the finer details? The entire ‘community’ in Liverpool is apparently cheerfully convinced that everything is Margaret Thatcher’s fault – or The Sun’s – ‘This is the Self-Victimisation Society’ sung to the tune of the Italian Job is their anthem.
I do get angry about this portrayal of Liverpool. It was a fine city – and generations of Liverpudlians have displayed initiative and ingenuity in their desire to make their mark on the world. Liverpool was an early example of Marxist ideology come to roost; it was portrayed with great marketing as a city comprised of nothing but dockers. Dockers who had been put out of work by Margaret Thatcher and the containerisation of the ports.
Sure, there were 20,000 of them once upon a time. They would do well to remember the post war wrangles over the future of the Albert Docks. Political infighting resulted in no money being available to compensate the ‘Private owners’ of the Albert Docks. Money was only to go to the ‘poor’ of the city. Hence war time damage to the docks was never repaired. I’m sure I remember a scheme being mooted to fill the Docks in as landfill! Eventually the Albert silted up and the large ships could no longer get into port.
Meanwhile the dockers were portrayed as preyed upon by unscrupulous employers, forced to beg for work – not surprising really when there was no longer work for 20,000 men. It apparently didn’t occur to the 20,000 to turn their hand to something else – as had many others amongst the half million Scousers who were gainfully employed. The Docks went into decline with the advent of containerisation which started in the early 1970s – Thatcher didn’t come to power until ’79!
The Ford Motor Company built the Hunts Cross works in the 1960s – by the time Tata took it over, automation had dwindled the work force from 8,000 people to 2,000. Add these to the dockers and you have 26,000 voices, all militant, all happy to blame Margaret Thatcher. It has become embedded in mythology.
Now Thatcher is to be blamed for the Toxteth riots – copycat riots which occurred a full three months after the original Brixton riots, on the grounds that (she failed) to take advice to leave them to it, and chose instead to rebuild Toxteth after the lemons had torched every facility they had. Allegedly because 20 years beforehand dockers had been forced to find something else to do with their idle bodies. Can the women do nothing right?
The BBC is perpetuating a myth that is seriously derogatory to the people of Liverpool. Liverpool University churns out Doctors and Engineers by the hundred every year – a quarter of them elect to stay in Liverpool and make or find employment for themselves. John Lennon Airport is the fastest growing airport in the world, handing a serious tonnage of goods arriving from the far east. The Albert Docks have been rebuilt and are a major tourist attraction.There are many, many people in Liverpool with every reason to feel proud of their city and their lives – it’s about time the BBC recognised that Toxteth is but one part of the city, and its inhabitants – and the Dockers – are just a very small part of a great place.