The Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has said that he refuses to inflict yet more government cuts on the people of his city, putting Liverpool on a direct collision course with the government.
Hit harder than any other city in the UK, Liverpool’s finances are in a dire state, with £436m wiped out of the coffers since the Tories came to power in 2010. The policies of austerity having left tragic marks across the city and with more cuts now planned, Anderson says that enough is enough.
Having managed to make a further £30m of savings, the vindictive Tory government is now demanding £27m more of its blood money, demanding that Liverpool cut its budget every year from 2021 onward.
So much for “the northern powerhouse”.
“I will refuse to make any further cuts to our budget because we are now at the stage where doing so will mean closing down vital services that people rely on… We have worked hard under enormous pressure to keep our libraries and children’s centres open because they affect the life chances of people in Liverpool, these new cuts would mean losing those services and I’m just not going to do it.”Joe Anderson, speaking with the Liverpool Echo
Pledging that not one library or children’s centre will be closed, Anderson has refused to set a budget that includes cuts any vital services.
Anderson’s comments and intentions are likely to make him public enemy number one at Downing Street, the Tories having long memories of Liverpool’s famous defiance against the Thatcher regime in the 1980s.
“I realise this will put us on a collision course with government but we will have no choice – we will not shut down the services that this city needs. If the government want to impose this they will have to come here and try and do it themselves – but they will have a hell of a fight on their hands.”Joe Anderson, speaking with the Liverpool Echo
Liverpool, a proud city built on immigration, many from Ireland, has a long history of rebel-rousing and proud defiance against Conservative governments, being of uniquely independent political character in the UK. Whether from the constant flow of people and ideas from the famous Liverpool docks or the Irish rebel spirit running through immigrant communities, Liverpool has always been red (even the Everton side).
This unique political identity is coupled with an immediately identifiable social character of the city and its inhabitants, famed for their humour and creativity, particularly in music, Scousers are known nationwide for their friendliness and charity, perhaps born of this socialist spirit that runs through the city. Such has been Liverpudlians devotion to the socialist cause that the city became known as the “People’s Republic of Liverpool” during the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher.
It was under Thatcher that Liverpool became a centre of resistance against Thatcherism as the ‘managed decline’ of the city led to astronomical levels of unemployment and poverty, the people of Liverpool feeling abandoned and attacked by the government. This vendetta against Liverpool has continued right up until the present day where Liverpool has been hit harder than any other city by Tory cuts. The belief that the city is being punished for its history and beliefs is easy to understand.
Joe Anderson’s comments will immediately raise memories amongst older readers of the 1985 rate capping rebellion when Liverpool joined with other left-wing councils across Britain to force Margaret Thatcher to withdraw powers that restricted the spending of councils. The idea of the plan was that councils suffering a restricted budget would refuse to set any budget at all for 1985–86, a move that would require the government to intervene directly in local services, or to concede to the rebel demands.
Any possibility of reconciliation with the right-wing was destroyed forever in 1989, however, when 96 Liverpool fans were tragically killed during the Hillsborough disaster. The vile campaign and comments of The Sun newspaper were coupled with a cover-up that stretched right to the top of the Conservative government, with innocent Liverpool fans blamed for the disaster and vilified by right-wingers in government, the press and even amongst the public. The Sun is still rightfully banned on Merseyside to this day.
About 1/3 satire and 2/3 serious endeavour, the “People’s Republic of Liverpool” has attracted over 14,000 supporters in a change.org petition, the plea stating that “Liverpool would like independence from the disgusting, abhorrent Conservative Britain that is responsible for over 120,000 deaths with cruel austerity policies that have impacted Liverpool more than any other UK city.”
The city-wide commitment to opposing the Tories was seen yet again earlier this year when another 8,000 Scousers joined a Facebook group again calling for the People’s Republic of Liverpool after the 2019 General Election, the city having successfully returned five Labour MPs with huge majorities.
“The purpose of the group is to provide an online hub for both responses and grassroots solutions, to the hostility and further austerity that we will undoubtedly continue to face in the Liverpool city region under a Tory government for the next five years… The common objective is to show solidarity with our collective socialist values and to share the grassroots action and activity that is happening daily within our communities, with a view to strengthening those connections and continuing to support our most vulnerable Sisters & Brothers.”Organisers of the People’s Republic of Liverpool Facebook group
The solidarity of the people of Liverpool is an example to many cities across the UK, particularly certain others in the north who seem to have forgotten the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and the misery inflicted on the country by successive Conservative governments. The people of Liverpool have long memories. The brave stance of Joe Anderson is to be applauded and no doubt the city and Mayor are headed into a future of confrontation and strife at the hands of Boris Johnson. Socialists across the country stand in solidarity over the harsh years to come and should look to Liverpool for their example. For when the socialist revolution comes, it will undoubtedly start in the People’s Republic of Liverpool!