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The Laz Word: Shooting the messenger

Larry Neild watches Tim Leunig apologise for upsetting people, and wonders if we should all go south after all

Published on November 4th 2008.


The Laz Word: Shooting the messenger

TIM Leunig came to Liverpool to eat a large portion of Humble Scouse Pie last Thursday. He wasn’t the first to head up from London, where the streets are paved with gold, to a city where the streets are paved with indignation.

Tim’s crime was to write an academic report suggesting we should quit Liverpool and head for the rich South East. Dick Whittington did it, but ask Dickie Lewis and it’s the crime of the century.

Bespectacled Tim came face to face with his critics in God’s Gothic conservatory, the Anglican Cathedral.

Somebody had written (anonymously, obviously) threatening to set fire to Tim should he venture into the city. Guardian angels would surely protect a man described in local media as “the barmy boffin”.

On a raised stage, in front of around 250 people, Tim apologised to those upset by his report, Cities Unlimited.

“It was never our intention to upset people very much, and, like every human being, I regret it when I upset people. I’m sorry,” he uttered in his posh Southern accent.

The apology, greeted with polite, though by no means ecstatic applause, must have been music to the panel which included Warren Bradley.

Then he put his foot in it. Tim, who described himself as a Christian economist, said Christians have a responsibility to tell the truth, whether or not it makes them popular.

What he really meant was that he stuck by his report that places like Liverpool are more or less finished.

“I wish we had found that regeneration was working, and that everywhere in Britain, including Liverpool, had a great future. But we didn’t find that and I would be lying if I said otherwise.”

So why, I politely asked Tim later, did he apologise? He explained: A mechanic will say he’s sorry your car needs a new clutch. It’s not his fault the car is faulty but even so he’s sorry.

By apologising, I suggested, people will take it he was wrong. That’s a matter for them, he responded.

The problem for Liverpool, I think, is that Tim’s conclusions are right. Towns, such as Liverpool, undergoing regeneration, have done worse than the UK as a whole, and we are way behind the most successful southern towns.

I’ve read Tim’s report, and I’ve read the reports which supplied the ammunition for his supposition. Inward developers, sadly, are not queuing to head our way. I read council planning papers every week, hoping to spot a major development project. Instead it’s people wanting to build kitchen extensions, or the odd apartment development and some wanting to chop down healthy trees (that’s another story).

Tim wants the city council to control our local regeneration budget, and there are those who may well say “God help us if that happens”. He wants jobs to be switched from the South East to the North, but thirdly – and this is the one bit that whipped up a media frenzy - he wants it to be easier for people, ie Liverpudlians, to move to the South East. If they want to.Look around the city. I’ve seen empty shops in Church Street – relocated to Liverpool One, we have expensive new Grade A offices that have attracted tenants who have moved from other offices just around the corner – leaving empty space that will need renovation before, or, rather, if it can be re-let.

Times have changed; the world has changed. In the 1960s when the Ford Motor Company decided it wanted to build a car plant in the UK, Prime Minister Harold Hobson offered them one choice. Merseyside - build there or whistle for state lolly. Thanks Harold, Halewood it was.

By “apologising”, Tim has allowed the messenger to be shot, and at the same time – because we have a lousy aim – allowed us to shoot ourselves in the foot. Tim’s report – based mainly on official figures – paints a grim picture. We will continue to ignore it.

As it says, most major employers want to be near the capital. So should we get on a one-way Virgin ticket and go to where the jobs are?

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Rusty SpikeOctober 20th 2008.

Hmmm...well Laz old son, that's popping the head over the parapet , and no mistake. But so true and so brave. No matter Mr 'Tim's' apologies - as Laz says, he didn't mean it - so let's get a grip here people. A few shards of shiny glass, a new shopping centre (ha, I still can't believe the joyous weeping that has greeted the abstract, anonymous concrete jungle that has the impertinence to call itself Liverpool One), bundles of polished bricks and fancy firework displays for sooted, frocked, booted and snooty outsiders do not make a cohesive, all encompassing or fair society. Just look at the sprawl of poverty that rings the outside of the 'regenerated' city centre of Liverpool - and we are talking here from Anfield through Everton and Vauxhall to all of Edge Lane and Kensington, and on to Granby and Toxteth, or the outlying estates in Croxteth or Speke or Kirby - and see the deprivations, the abject misery, the dereliction of once proud areas like Sleepers Hill, the abandoned communities where no fine words will work wonders while the money is lashed out on giant spiders and other nonsense so that we can spout about how wonderful the Capital of Cobblers year has been. It is desperate and heart-rending to even suggest as such, but it is almost worse now than when Thatcher and her marauding mobs of capitalist thugs tried to lay waste to Liverpool and Merseyside in the 1980s. In effect we lost then and claiming that ten millions tourists visited the city last year (ten million!! - Jaysus that's more than the feckin' Vatican) doesn't do it. So, as the balloons are deflated and the decorations put back in the box, its time for a slice of reality cake. Here's an observation that will get the ranters in a tizz: many, many people on the far side of the world regard Liverpool - even if they know of it outside of the tiresome football fraternity - as a remote former grand maritime city on the far reaches of western Europe. And forget the bloody Beatles, please. So, London it is then. Spotted hankies and sticks at dawn...see ya there with yer moggie

DigOctober 20th 2008.

There's an easy joke to be had about holes, cats etc but I won't do it. I let myself down with the panini one. Why are you interested in Pilgrim Woman and me Watching with interest? If my anonimity was to disappear down Wookie Hole should I be worried?

watching with interestOctober 20th 2008.

hey proff, have you noticed digs obsession with mookie holes.do you think we should inform woman with pinny or do you think the eminence grise of LC should have a quiet word?

Mathew StreetOctober 20th 2008.

That Gerry Marsden lived in Berkshire for forty years too! What brought him back?

DigOctober 20th 2008.

it was probably the lack of wit that brought him back. Shall we reintegrate him or banish him to the land of Ringo, Cilla and Tarby?

EleanorRigsbyOctober 20th 2008.

Well the Beatles mo ved to London and they never looked back, well once maybe. And what about Cilla. She had an advance copy of Dr Timothy's report and thought this has come as no Surprise Surprise to me, I'm outta here. And off she popped, turning up no doubt in a Dick Wittington panto.Yea yea yea, lets all hold hands and head south. Thats where the jobs and the money are.

ken the feral moggieOctober 20th 2008.

i wish to protest, i have not gone soft just because the nice lady with dreads gave me a box to live in!does this mean that i have gone soft?they still insist on starving me one day a week just to keep me keen.something they saw on tv,lions at longleat or something. as for ian the rubish rogerer he keeps trying to move into my new des res every time it's raining thats how i got me head stuck in that log legging the bugger up hill and down dale.jealous ba****d.I HAVE NOT GONE SOFT just last week a young hoodie wondered through the remembrance garden at springwood crem swigging a blue wicked with a very provocative swagger.cometh the hour cometh cat.suffice to say he was dispatched with multiple single puncture wounds and a shredding that would do the beast of balsover proud.so next wednesday mr professor even mr clacks special recipe fruit of the sea butties wont save yer.you wanner dance with the devil in the pale moonlight,you feeling lucky,bring it on.ps cousin lionel was asking for it,all that he loves me for who i am rubbish.duh....

DigOctober 20th 2008.

If you're going to that London place I would rather not go thank you. I had enough of that claustrophobic poo hole years ago when my work took me down there regularly. Even a jolly up with the lads a few years ago to watch a Genesis tribute band was an ordeal and not just because of the music.

Belle MontroadOctober 20th 2008.

The Wooky Hollow closed yonks ago lad!

ken the feral moggieOctober 20th 2008.

professor if you go to that london place can i come with you.i know i have gout but since you gave me the lap top with special cat friendly keys i have been perusing wheels for cats.these smashing little contraptions replace gimpy legs and can even be fitted with a boot to keep my laptop and emergency supply of scampi fries in.or you can just carry me.spotted dicks and wankies at dawn all sounds very jolly do you think dig will be interested?

Professor ChucklebuttyOctober 20th 2008.

I have had a note from Ken, who is more concerned that Dig may not be able to spell and he mean Moggie Holes.

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