Running for Liverpool
- 7 Mar 08, 12:31 PM
Today I'm in Liverpool for the so-called spring conference of the Liberal Democrats (but it is of course still winter). Although I come here regularly to watch my team play football, it's years since I have done any political stories in this city - though in the eighties I seemed to be here all the time covering the activities of militant.
Liverpool is the home of the modern Liberal revival, where in the 1970s Sir Trevor Jones developed the idea of pavement politics where council candidates dwell on voters' extremely local concerns, such as wobbly paving stones. Jones and his younger lieutenant Chris Renard (now Lord Renard) are probably the two most formidable party election campaigners of modern times in this country - and in Liverpool they managed to replace the Conservatives as the main opposition to labour. Indeed there hasn't been a conservative councillor here for a couple of decades. What happened in Liverpool has subsequently been repeated in other big northern cities, such as Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle where the Conservatives have also been almost wiped out of local government, which poses a huge obstacle to David Cameron's ambitions.
But politics in Liverpool has always been different to anywhere else, focused on big name personalities, more American boss-style than anywhere else in Britain. And Liverpool politics - like the city itself - is often extremely rough, but invariably comes with a huge dollop of wit.
My favourite political story from Liverpool - which I've never managed to stand up - involved a Liberal activist turning up at the Conservative HQ very early in the morning on a polling day and injecting the milk bottles on the door step with laxative.
Talk about running for office. Talk about pavement politics.