Anorak | Margaret Thatcher loved Liverpool because the official records say she did

Margaret Thatcher loved Liverpool because the official records say she did

by | 30th, December 2011

MARGARET Thatchers’s Cabinet contemplated allowing the post Toxteth riots Liverpool to fester and die. She rejected it. Indeed, Mrs Thatcher detailed Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine to Liverpool as Minister for Merseyside. He would head a drive to pump money into the city.

Delroy Burroughs, a “Community Leader” in Toxteth tells the BBC that the report exonerated his community” .

It doesn’t. The papers revealed under the 30 Year Rule just tell us what discussions were worthy of note.

What’s also revealed it that Thatcher and her Cabinet talked about the Riot Act. The then Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir David McNee, offered the Riot Act as an option when Thatcher visited Scotland Yard and Brixton police station after the Toxteth riots that had followed the riots in Brixton and Bristol.

The Times notes:

He argued that the best way to keep control was by introducing the power to arrest anyone who was on the streets after a state of riot had been declared by a magistrate. The Riot Act, introduced in 1714, fell into abeyance in the 20th century and was repealed in 1967… Warning of a state of riot could be announced by loud hailer, and arrangements could be made to ensure that a magistrate was always on call,”

It’s the kind of idiocy you expects from the Met, who fail to listen. When people who want to smash things riot, the police’s big idea is to give them a real grievance and be the willing cudgel for the draconian state that see freedoms as luxuries to remove at will.

The Guardian notes:

Thatcher went to Liverpool and told community leaders she had come to listen. Her memoirs show that she did indeed listen to the views of some young people in the town hall but was so appalled by their bitter hostility to the police that she quickly starting begging them not to riot again.

They had complained that the cause of the riot lay in the police tactics of the Merseyside chief constable, Kenneth Oxford: “He believed in slapping people down and keeping them down,” says the official record of the meeting. “The police had attacked the very community leaders who had tried to bring the riot to an end. They said the Liverpool police regarded anyone who was black as a criminal and acted accordingly.”

The papers also tell us:

“Mr Heseltine considered the behaviour of the police in Liverpool 8 to be quite horrifying. They were not acting in a racialist fashion. They treated all suspects in a brutal and arrogant manner.”

Mr Heseltine also said there were too many young recruits in the area and the local commander had a fortress mentality “.

So much for the nasty party, then?

Back to the quote about Liverpool being allowed to fall into managed decline “. Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe did tell Thatcher not to overcommit scarce resources to Liverpoo l”. He said the term managed decline” is not a term for use, even privately… It is much too negative.”

Howe tells BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

“I don’t recall how that argument got into the discussion at all. It certainly doesn’t sound very considerate. But certainly I think the Chancellor is so often arguing against spending money as being the only answer. As I say, Michael Heseltine and I together introduced enterprise zones in Merseyside as well as in many other places which was a better way if you like of making help available as quickly as possible. Certainly, as a former Merseyside Member of Parliament, I am surprised to find myself ever having argued quite as I am quoted to have done on Liverpool.”

Lord Heseltine insisted also goes on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

“It never really got any traction for the simplest reason that the cabinet minister responsible for so much of the policy that affected the city was me. I simply wouldn’t countenance that you could say that one of England’s great cities, a world city, was going into managed decline here. That would simply be unthinkable to the approach that I believed to be necessary to a very important part of our history.”

So. Liverpool dying was never an serious option. Although the Guardian reads the same paper same reports:

Margaret Thatcher’s closest ministers came close to writing off Liverpool in the aftermath of the 1981 inner-city riots and even raised the prospect of its partial evacuation, according to secret cabinet papers released on Friday.

How close? Howe and Heseltine say not close at all. Although we do get to hear what Howe said in full:

“Isn’t this pumping water uphill? Should we go rather for ‘managed decline’? This is not a term for use, even privately. It is much too negative, when it must imply a sustained effort to absorb Liverpool manpower elsewhere – for example in nearby towns of which some are developing quite promisingly.”

Frugal with Liverpool and frugal with her staff:

Her sense of household economy, typical of the postwar generation, caused problems for the Welsh secretary, Nicholas Edwards, when he proposed spending £26,000 on a ministerial “flatlet” in Cardiff later in 1981.

“It is a good idea,” she noted in blue ink on the letter, “but not at that price. I just don’t believe that a one-room and bathroom flat [conversion] can cost £26,000. Get some other estimates.”

The cost was eventually slashed to £12,000 and her private office wrote to the Department of the Environment that “the prime minister was pleased to learn of the more economical arrangements which have been devised.”


Thatcher was no hero to millions, but to say that these reports exonerate the Liverpool “community” from any blame in

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Posted: 30th, December 2011 | In: Politicians Comments (4) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink