In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Liverpool’s NightmareFrank Field
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Liverpool on the Brink: One City’s Struggle against Government Cuts 
by Michael Parkinson.
Policy Journals, 184 pp., £9.50, November 1985, 0 946967 06 7
Show More
Unemployment in Liverpool. Vol. I: Unemployment Changes 1982-1985 
by Michael Hayes.
Liverpool City Council, 16 pp., £2, November 1985
Show More
Liverpool’s Economy. Vol. I: Employment and Unemployment: Changes and Trends 1978-1991 
by Michael Hayes.
Liverpool City Council, 39 pp., £2.50, June 1985
Show More
Show More

Whether the country likes Derek Hatton or not – and thankfully most people don’t – he has a point. Liverpool’s two-year budget campaign, brought to a climax after the recent vote to balance the books, has had a deadly serious side to it. Militant’s primary aim has of course been to use the City’s financial crisis as a massive recruiting drive for the Tendency. But this macabre political jamboree could not have lasted this long had there not been behind it the deeply-felt grievances of tens of thousands of people conscious of the near-collapse of Merseyside’s economy. And what the good old British public may not have realised as they viewed the nightly twistings, turnings and rantings of leading Militants on the TV news was that they were being given a chilling glimpse of their own future. For what has been happening to Liverpool may yet prove to be a mere dress-rehearsal of the fate awaiting most British cities. Part of Liverpool’s importance, then, is that it provides a microcosm of what has been happening to the British economy. The difference is that Liverpool’s decline is occurring at a grotesquely faster rate. The city – and the surrounding area, as in my own constituency of Birkenhead – have been hit by unemployment as if by some kind of Black Death.

Since the advent of this Tory government in 1979, 65,000 of the city’s jobs, one in five, have vanished. In manufacturing alone the total loss of jobs has been 40,000, with the result that Liverpool’s manufacturing industry has been almost halved in the past six years – a rate of decline which is double that suffered by the nation as a whole. Massive redundancies have been enforced in Liverpool’s traditional job markets: sugar refining (which has disappeared completely from the scene), soap-making, ship-repairing, marine engineering, and rope and twine manufacturing. Less predictably, the much-vaunted new in dustries of rubber and synthetic fibre manufacture have already disappeared into the history books. The regular announcement on Friday evenings of impending plant closures has seemed to sound the region’s death knell.

Despite the outward migration of the mobile population – largely the young and the employed – the numbers of unemployed have risen to match this catastrophic decline in manufacturing industry. The official data show that one in every four of the city’s able-bodied residents is now standing in the dole queues: if there is an area where it is impossible to accuse the Government of inaction, it has been in its attempts to present the unemployment figures in the most favourable light – but this is what the official data show. The staggeringly high rate of unemployment is un-evenly spread both throughout the city and across different social groups. Those without work are most likely to live in the inner-city area, or on the outer-city council estates; and, increasingly, the unemployed possess a young face. Over 80 per cent of the 16-18-year-olds not in school are either on a youth-training scheme or are registered as unemployed.

As the dole queues have lengthened so too has the period of time Liverpool citizens spend unemployed. Currently, over 53 per cent of the unemployed have been waiting for a job for over a year. Not only, therefore, has an increased number of citizens been conscripted into unemployment to wage Mrs Thatcher’s war against inflation, but the period of conscription is lengthening. Long-term mass unemployment generates a secondary, equally important decline in the immediate neighbourhoods in which the long-term unemployed live.

The loss of jobs and the duration of unemployment determine both how much families lose in income and how long their poverty lasts. Over half of the city qualifies for housing benefit and the numbers rise to three-quarters for council tenants. More than six out of ten citizens live in areas which are designated by the Council as ‘poor’, compared with only 17 per cent in those designated as owner-occupied and higher-income areas. Significantly, even though the income level for eligibility has fallen in real terms in recent years, the number of children receiving a free midday meal has escalated from 28 per cent in 1981 to over 50 per cent four years later. Between these extremes is an ever-widening gap in living standards. Unemployment is growing fastest in the poorest areas.

Signs of growing poverty are also apparent in housing conditions. The sale of council houses – a policy I welcome – has not been matched by the necessary equivalent increase in the housing budget. Part of the reason for this is the Tory Government’s refusal to allow local authorities to spend freely the capital gained from the sales programme. That these funds would be freely available to add to the housing programme was always one of the twin attractions of a sales policy. (The other attraction was that a policy of this kind helps spread wealth, and the freedom that comes with it, to a widening group of people.) The decline in the house-building programme has also been caused by the Council’s bigoted attitude to housing associations. It is easy to understand why the Council feels so sensitive. The voluntary sector has a truly impressive record of attractive building and rehabilitation programmes throughout the whole region.

It was the attempt to produce homes in which families would want to live which was at the heart of Liverpool City’s current housing programme: I say ‘was’ because the interest payments on the new Swiss debt may take up half of the housing account from next year. The original housing programme has been more successful than any other local authority’s, although not as successful as the Militant propaganda machine maintains. The housing programme has also provided some badly-needed jobs. But however welcome the new homes have been, and the jobs thereby created, the housing programme is not a strategy for reversing Liverpool’s economic decline. At best, it allows for a sizable number of families to be better housed while the process of decline continues.

The Government’s answer to the collapse of part of Liverpool’s economy was formulated in the wake of the Toxteth riots. Michael Heseltine assumed a kind of viceroy role – not inappropriate, given the similarities between part of the local economy and that of the Third World. A task force of civil servants was established, headed, at first, by Eric Sorensen, one of the brightest members of the DOE. But it is a sign of the region’s broken nerve that efforts to secure Sorensen’s secondment to run a local authority or a major business concern in the area – which would have dealt both with local corruption and intellectual paralysis – came to nothing.

Not surprisingly, this laissez-faire government invited the business community to view the area and make suggestions on what it might do. So, as with Booth’s excursions into ‘Darkest England’ in the 1880s, the heads of businesses and of financial institutions were bussed around to view the contrast between the luxury which puts parts of NW3 in the shade and the squalor which blights all too much of our area. Heseltine’s businessmen’s bus helped to establish the Financial Institutions Group, which, before it was disbanded, gave birth to Inner City Enterprises. Unfortunately, this infant seems still-born. The ICE has yet to produce a single project which has managed to attract private-sector finance. The one noticeable success for Heseltine on the employment front was to keep open the Cammell Laird Shipyard in Birkenhead, which draws 60 per cent of its labour from across the river in Liverpool. Local Militants, together with the remnants of a once powerful local Communist Party, hit on the brilliant strategy of attracting new work by closing the Yard. The closure lasted 14 weeks, after which the work-force, bravely taking their future into their own hands, walked back to work through a picket line made up of some of the choicest political riff-raff of the area. The strikers’ policy of physically assaulting those deemed to be blacklegs was put into rapid reverse when they found that the fists of those back at work were of the same size as their own. In a Cabinet meeting that followed this violent resumption of work Heseltine threatened resignation if one of the post-Falkland frigate orders was not awarded to Lairds. On this, he was backed by the Prime Minister.

But one frigate order – no matter how important – does not by itself herald an economic recovery, and it is against the background of continuous economic decline that Liverpool City’s confrontation with the Government must be judged. Michael Parkinson is to be congratulated on the speed and timeliness of his book: but it suffers from two major weaknesses. First, it is far too benevolent towards the Militant Tendency. Second, the review of the city’s economic decline is all too brief and is only partially integrated with the political reporting which follows. Had it not been for the decline described in this review Liverpool’s confrontation with the Government could never have been sustained, nor could it have won the widespread popular support it once commanded in the city.

This grass-roots support for a council which seemed to be standing up to a Tory government has never been fully understood by Labour’s leadership in London. From a Liverpool perspective, recent attacks on Militant have appeared as blanket condemnations of the stand the whole Labour Group was trying to make against the Government. Instead of driving a wedge between the traditional Left and Militant, the Labour Party leadership’s assaults have had the effect of silencing public criticism of the latter. Parkinson describes how the District Labour Party acts as the power base for Militant in the Council, but fails to grasp the importance of Militant’s Leninist-Trotskyite beliefs. The disbanding of the District Party by itself will do little; the Tendency will merely operate from another political base in the City. It is against the ever-present reality of economic decay that Militant has been able to put into effect a policy of democratic centralism backed up by a campaign of political terror against its opponents.

Labour must act decisively against the Tendency by expelling its leading activists. Action of this kind is crucial for at least two reasons. First, Neil Kinnock has to address himself to a national audience. Without a move which ordinary voters will understand, all too many of our would-be supporters will believe that a Labour vote will be a vote for a Hatton-type extremism. The inquiry alone will convince few that Labour is measuring up to the task. The Militant Tendency needs to be warmly shaken by the throat by the national party. Nothing less will do. Second, any action must also be viewed with at least one eye to the local scene. It is a measure of the viciousness of the local campaign that, with a few brave exceptions, no one of any political standing in Liverpool has yet had the courage to stand up to Militant, and the party is in no shape to fight next year’s local elections. Without expulsions a regrouping of the Left simply will not occur; it certainly won’t be engineered by press releases from the national party.

Labour desperately needs to present a credible alternative to the Liverpool Liberal Party, which has caused more than its fair share of Liverpool’s underlying problems, and the city itself needs the chance to turn its back on the political thuggery of the past decade or so. The Government’s own responsibility must be highlighted here. Not only has the city suffered a massive cut in its grant income (about half the level the Militant Tendency claims), but the failure of Mrs Thatcher’s economic policy is nowhere more evident than on Merseyside.

An expulsion of prominent Militants – along with Tony Byrne, who has masterminded much of the ‘city-into-chaos’ strategy – would allow the local politicians to begin presenting Liverpool’s case to the electorate and to central government. It would also allow the whole Labour Party to draw the appropriate lessons from this sorry saga. Two of these lessons stand out. First, a government committed to employment, rather than exclusively concerned with controlling inflation, would help to enliven Merseyside’s economy but would not on its own make a major impact on its unemployment rate. Attempts to bribe private enterprise to move have worked in the past, but many of these moves were of a transitory nature. A government nerved to combat regional inequalities would embark again on a major programme of Civil Service dispersal. This would not necessarily lead immediately to many new vacancies in government employment, but a major influx of government jobs would begin to transform the local economy, the amount spent, the attractiveness of the shops, and the range of services provided. This policy might in itself begin to attract private-sector companies, and would be more effective than direct grants. There is also an urgent need to reform local-government finance to reverse the transfer of resources from the inner city to the shire counties which has occurred since 1979.

The second conclusion to draw from Liverpool’s recent nightmare relates to the behaviour of Labour Party activists. It is easy enough now for the soft Left in general to climb on the bandwagon of the attack on Militant, but precious few of them were prepared to admit they were in the vicinity, let alone put their heads above the parapet, when Labour Party loyalists were fighting, for example, to prevent Militant destroying the party in Birkenhead. But ‘I told you so’ festivities must not get in the way of one central fact. The campaign which led Militant cynically to sack its 31,000 work-force could never have got under way if the majority of Labour councillors, who actually opposed this move, had spoken out and voted accordingly. The non-Militant majority closed their eyes, sealed their mouths and sat tightly on their hands during those council debates and votes, as Militant set out its strategy for plunging the city into chaos. At a time when they needed to defy the District Labour Party’s instructions on how to vote, these councillors put party loyalty as defined by the District Party above what they knew to be the right course of action in the interests of the people they represent.

Political parties, and other organisations too, are liable to suffer what would be defined in human beings as sustained fits of madness. Such derangements are assisted by the Labour Party’s whipping system and strident appeals to loyalty, which can only be challenged by the willingness of individuals to buck the system and refuse to vote against what than own sense of decency and democracy dictate This is as easy to say as it is difficult to do. But it is a lesson which needs to be grasped well beyond Liverpool. In particular, the national Labour Party must now learn it.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.