What sort of City do we want to live in?

Recently I was challenged by someone on Facebook that I was only jumping on a band wagon and interested in sound bites over my stance on St Luke’s Church

If so then it is a very long standing bandwagon! In 1975 in one of my first votes in the Council I was one of just 5 councillors to vote to stop the Lyceum (the World’s first lending library) being demolished. We lost that vote but fortunately the then Government refused to allow the delisting.

  • Since then I have consistently fought for good architecture (new and old)
  • The preservation of open spaces
  • Support for small businesses and retailers (and particularly against Tesco PLC)

I do that because I have a consistent set of principles to guide me through the decision making process. I want a Liverpool that is:

  • Environmentally sustainable
  • Socially sustainable
  • Economically sustainable

All those in some parts might be shared by most people. But I then want to go one stage further. I want to see a city which is not a clone city replication of some or indeed every other city. I want my Liverpool to be Scouse to its very roots. Proud of its past and its industrial and economic heritage but confident enough to build on those differences to create a city with an enduring heritage that is unique.

That is why I support campaigns as seemingly different as the St Luke’s campaign; the save the Futurist façade campaign; the Save the Meadowlands campaign and a new one to prevent building on Calderstones Park. That is why I do not believe that our World Heritage status is just a plaque on a wall commemorating our past but a very real ticket to a glorious future. That is why I support the stall holders in Greaty Market and Broadway Market whose continuation is far more important to our city than yet another supermarket.

I don’t hanker for a great past because some of the past is eminently forgettable. I don’t want it to be “Six in a bed at the old Pier Head and its Liverpool Town for me!” but some of our past is worth fighting for and much of our past will provide a strong base for a successful economic future.

So what should the role of people like me be in such debates, discussions and campaigns? Well we should not lead them. If we want to develop a strong inclusive city then the biggest turn off for community activism is a politician trying to chair or lead what should be a grass roots campaign. Take the St Luke’s Church campaign. Within hours thousands of people had signed a petition against its sale. I commented on the proposed sale and raised questions within the council. I have put down a resolution to the next meeting of the council for debate. I will do everything within the system because that is what I have been elected to do.

I neither know nor care how the people who signed that petition vote because when you vote you do so for a wide variety of reasons. But on the St Luke’s issue, if no other, we are fellow travellers and fellow campaigners. If I or colleagues were to take a leading role it would party politicise the debate. Some people would be turned. For others in the system it would be the great excuse, “Oh they’re all Lib Dem’ – it’s just politics”.

The role of a politician then must be to support grass roots campaigns where they agree with them. If they do not support objectives because of their own principles then they should be strong enough to say that they will not support them. Even then as part of a democratic system I will tell people what remedies and mechanisms are available to them because that must be my job.

I do believe that increasingly many people are also coming to the ‘Scouse City’ view of things. I see lots of people who are campaigning both on the St Luke’s and the Sefton Park Meadowlands. I think that everyone who is on the same side of the debate should join he debate. I am not going to ask you to join or support the Lib Dems (although you would be very welcome!) but I am going to ask you to help take forward what should be the great debate but a debate which is rarely voiced. The debate on what sort of Liverpool do we want to live in. Whatever your views on these issues make them know. Talk about them in the pub and the workplace. Set up face book accounts or hold public meetings where people can meet each other physically rather than in an ethereal e-form.

I think there may well be a majority for such views in the city. In so many ways that majority should challenge the Barbarians who are not at the gates of the Town Hall but at present are firmly ensconced within them.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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2 Responses to What sort of City do we want to live in?

  1. Adam Manley says:

    It was me who questioned your motives, i’m sorry Richard, I just don’t trust Politicians or their motives, regardless of their political party affiliations.
    But you do raise some valid points above, which I do agree with to some degree, so i’ll withdraw my reservations on the understanding that I am in no way supporting any political party.
    I get involved with issues that I feel passionate about, regardless of the political parties involved.
    St Luke’s happens to be one of those issues, it’s just sad that some of the group supposedly fighting for the Church, keep raising political ideals; which really does wind me up.
    I’m fed up of having people’s political opinions rammed down my throat on a group that is supposed to be fighting for one of our most beautiful buildings, and I think to entertain these debates on the group wall will only servr to alienate supporters as not everybody had the same political opinions.

    I look forward to speaking to you

  2. Richard I believe you to be a fair and honest man…Please come along and join our group as we also are fair and honest https://www.facebook.com/groups/friendsofstlukes/ and only want what’s best for S’t Luke’s….we would appreciate some information on Wednesday 16th council meeeting re your motion…I have messaged you on Facebook….Thank you. Alan.

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