in Liverpool, the traumatic memory of the Thatcher years

“Don’t talk to me about those Tories! says Helena, in her sixties, who has lived in the Granby district of Liverpool since 1976. They look like two arrogant children. How can they make such decisions? » It is an understatement to say that Prime Minister Liz Truss and her finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng’s first steps in this popular district are being viewed with more than suspicion.

Finally canceled on Monday, October 3, after a rebellious move within the Conservative Party, the decision to cut taxes for the wealthiest and to end the cap on bankers’ bonuses has revived painful memories in Liverpool, those of the years when Margaret Thatcher implemented a neoliberal . policy in the United Kingdom to the detriment of the less well off. Moreover, at the moment when the poorest and the middle class are hit hard by 10% inflation and a doubling in one year of electricity and gas prices.

The impoverishment of the 1980s

Formerly a major port in the United Kingdom, the city of Liverpool is now famous for being the birthplace of the Beatles and for one of its two football clubs, Liverpool FC (“the Reds”). It is also one of the strongholds of the Labor Party that holds together in England. Kim Johnson, Member of Parliament for the Harbor area constituency, was thus elected in 2019 with 78% of the vote, and her colleagues from neighboring constituencies with comparable or even higher scores.

Here we resisted the Boris Johnson wave. Three years ago, in the post-Brexit elections, from Manchester in the west to Hull in the east, a number of previously Labor constituencies fell one by one to the Conservatives, seduced by the Prime Minister’s promises to launch a huge economic recovery program in the northern half of the kingdom.

Liverpool could have followed the same path. Hard hit by deindustrialization in the 1970s and 80s, the port lost momentum and became visibly impoverished. The city would eventually sink with the acquiescence of Margaret Thatcher’s government. In July 1981, the population confronted the police in Granby for nine days after the arrest of a young black man. “When we were black, we were constantly arrested, for nothing, says Joe, 67, a former youth worker. And when we ended up getting mad after the seventh arrest, we got arrested and ended up in jail. One day the neighborhood inevitably exploded. »

Even Labor arouses distrust

Margaret Thatcher and her chief financial officer Geoffrey Howe, hurt by this violence, let go of the city. Helping him would be like “pump up water”, writes the then finance minister privately. The two managers choose the option “managed decline”. The city will only come out of this after several waves of stimulus measures taken in the mid-2000s, including a billion investment in the establishment of an open-air shopping center in the heart of the city. . But on Granby Street, the hundred or so shops that once animated the neighborhood have disappeared body and soul.

“Tories here? No way, all of Liverpool has been Labor for ages, and thank God!”, Joe assures. Which nevertheless remains suspicious of Keir Starmer, the leader of Labour. “He does not dare to support the strikers, he does not speak out in favor of anyone for fear of alienating the voters. It is a disgrace for a leader of the Labor Party who comes from the trade union movement,” launches the pensioner. But he firmly believes in the imminent fall of the conservatives, who have been at the head of the country for twelve years. The latest opinion polls give the Labor leader up to 33 points. Seen from Liverpool, the path to 10 Downing Street seems wide open.


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