“We are all Liverpolitans now”: Dave’s letter from Liverpool

Steve Rotheram, the new mayor of the Liverpool City Region, along with his party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Image: Getty.

Well, the Liverpool City Region Mayoral election is over, and the overwhelming favourite won. What a surprise. So what next? Mayor wars? Does our new metro mayor have any qualifications in cat herding? (I bet that wasn't on the application form).

Anyway, congratulations to Steve Rotheram on his victory. Let's hope he proves to be as successful as all of us locals require. 

I have watched every single minute of every Liverpool City Region Combined Authority monthly public meeting since it was formally established on 1 April 2014. (My, don't things take a long time in the UK.) Now obviously I deserve a medal for this because, as you would expect, these meetings are mostly boring, and some of the members are mumblers, which can be difficult. However, it has to be said that they are always positive and collaborative in tone, and they are mostly played out in public. The fact that the political members of the Combined Authority are all Labour obviously helps in this regard (a lesson for the Parliamentary Labour Party perhaps). So it is hoped that it will be relatively easy for Labour mayor Rotheram to slot into the new role.

But first, all present must work out how not to step on each other’s toes. The Liverpool Echo once published a picture of the elected leaders of the six constituent Councils of Liverpool City Region, each of which have equal power within the Combined Authority. They are, in alphabetical order:

  • City of Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson;
  • Wirral council leader Phil Davies;
  • St Helens council leader Barrie Grunewald;
  • Sefton council leader Ian Maher;
  • Knowsley council leader Andy Moorhead; and
  • Halton council leader Rob Polhill.

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram will work with these six men to take forward his strategic plan. He will have powers over a £900m 30 year investment fund, education and skills, housing, planning, and transport, and will work on a plan to integrate health and social care.

These seven men will have enormous responsibility and power to affect the lives of everyone in Liverpool City Region. They can help to make this area massively successful again – if they work together selflessly, a new golden age beckons.

We have all the fantastic attributes required for that – that is why such a large conurbation evolved here in the first place – and nothing has changed as far as the natural elements are concerned. There is evidence for the extent of our human capabilities, too. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, reminded us in his Roscoe Lecture at Liverpool John Moores University on 5 December 2016 that: 

"[In] the middle of the 19th century, Liverpool was in the midst of a golden age; its Custom House was the national Exchequer’s biggest source of revenue."

The stars are aligning for us again, with the likes of the recent expansion of the Panama Canal, and the corresponding £400m expansion of the Port of Liverpool, at Liverpool2, to cater for world's largest mega container ships. There are many other big projects already going on here, too.

Post Brexit and Trump, politicians can no longer glibly declare that Liverpool is on the wrong side of the country, when in fact we have always been physically located in the centre of the UK. Liverpool already handles 45 per cent of all transatlantic cargo. It was also the home of one of the first American Consulates on foreign soil, established in 1790. Here’s a recent picture of the building:

Image: John S. Turner/Wikimedia Commons.

We just have to hope that our magnificent seven do not start acting like cowboys but instead concentrate on successfully working together for the mutual benefit of us all. We are all Liverpolitans now.

Incidentally, people around here are predicting that it is likely, come June, that the most politically influential “one of us”, to quote Mayor Rotheram's election slogan, won’t be the mayor of the Liverpool City Region at all. Rather, it’ll be a Liverpool-born Conservative Cabinet Minister. More on this next month.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric's new Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region every month in “E-mail from Liverpool City Region”.


 

 
 
 
 

Where actually is South London?

TFW Stephen Bush tells you that Chelsea is a South London team. Image: Getty.

To the casual observer, this may not seem like a particularly contentious question: isn’t it just everything ‘under’ the Thames when you look at the map? But despite this, some people will insist that places like Fulham, clearly north of the river, are in South London. Why?

Here are nine ways of defining South London.

The Thames

Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

It’s a curvy river, the Thames. Hampton Court Palace, which is on the north bank of the river, is miles south of the London Eye, on the south bank. If the river forms a hard border between North and South Londons, then logically sometimes North London is going to be south of South London, which is, to be fair, confusing. But how else could we do it?

Latitude

You could just draw a horizontal line across a central point (say, Charing Cross, where the road distances are measured from). While this solves the London Eye/Hampton Court problem, this puts Thamesmead in North London, and Shepherd’s Bush in South London, which doesn’t seem right either.

Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

And if you tried to use longitude to define West and East London on top of this, nothing would ever make sense ever again.

The Post Office

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Some people give the Post Office the deciding vote, arguing that North and South London are defined by their postcodes. This does have some advantages, such as removing many contentious areas from the debate because they’re either in the West, East or Central postcode divisions, or ignoring Croydon.

But six of the SW postcodes are north of the river Thames, so we’re back to saying places like Fulham and Chelsea are in south London. Which is apparently fine with some people, but are we also going to concede that Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are South London landmarks?

Taken to the extreme this argument denies that South London exists at all. The South postcode region was abolished in 1868, to be merged into the SE and SW regions. The S postcode area is now Sheffield. So is Sheffield in South London, postcode truthers? Is that what you want?

Transport for London

Image: TfL.

At first glance TfL might not appear to have anything to add to the debate. The transport zones are about distance from the centre rather than compass point. And the Northern Line runs all the way through both North and South London, so maybe they’re just confused about the entire concept of directions.

 

Image: TfL.

But their website does provide bus maps that divide the city into 5 regions: North East, South East, South West, North West and the Centre. Although this unusual approach is roughly speaking achieved by drawing lines across and down the middle, then a box around the central London, there are some inconsistencies. Parts of Fulham are called for the South West region, yet the whole of the Isle of Dogs is now in North East London? Sick. It’s sick.

The Boundary Commission

One group of people who ought to know a thing or two about boundaries is the Boundary Commission for England. When coming up with proposals for reforming parliamentary constituencies in 2011, it first had to define ‘sub-regions’ for London.

Initially it suggested three – South, North East, and a combined North, West and Central region, which included Richmond (controversial!) – before merging the latter two into ‘North’ and shifting Richmond back to the South.

In the most recent proposal the regions have reverted to North Thames and South Thames (splitting Richmond), landing us right back where we started. Thanks a bunch, boundary commission.

The London Plan

Image: Greater London Authority.

What does the Mayor of London have to say? His office issues a London Plan, which divides London into five parts. Currently ‘South’ includes only Bromley, Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Sutton, and Wandsworth, while the ‘North’ consists of just Barnet, Enfield, and Haringey. Everywhere else is divvied into East, South or Central.

While this minimalist approach does have the appeal of satisfying no-one, given the scheme has been completely revised twice since 2004 it does carry the risk of seismic upheaval. What if Sadiq gets drunk on power and declares that Islington is in East London? What then?

Wikipedia

 

Image: Wikimedia Commons/CityMetric.

The coordinates listed on the South London article lead to Brockwell Park near Herne Hill, while the coordinates on the North London article lead to a garden centre near Redbridge. I don’t know what this means, so I tried to ring the garden centre to see if they had any advice on the matter. It was closed.

Pevsner Guides

Image: Wikimedia Commons/CityMetric.

Art historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner might seem an unlikely source of help at this juncture, but we’ve tried everything else. And the series of architectural guides that he edited, The Buildings of England, originally included 2 volumes for London: “The Cities of London and Westminster”, and “everything else”. Which is useless.

But as his successors have revised his work, London has expanded to fill 6 volumes: North, North West, East, The City, Westminster, and South. South, quite sensibly, includes every borough south of the Thames, and any borough that is partly south of the Thames (i.e. Richmond). And as a bonus: West London no longer exists.

McDonald’s

I rang a McDonald’s in Fulham and asked if they were in South London. They said no.

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