A Kirkdale resident describes the importance of local community organising, and the thirst for a political alternative in the wake of what they feel has been years of mistreatment from a Labour Party who has taken them for granted…
“All change at Kirkdale, all change!”
Kirkdale. North Liverpool. Last frontier before Sefton, birthplace to European Cup Winning footballers, Champion boxers, worldwide best-selling authors, entrepreneurs, and chart-topping Musicians. Some would even say centre of the known universe.
Growing up in Kirkdale was brilliant. Out in the street all day playing footy, evenings in a youth club or boxing gym, weekends exploring what mischief could be made in the towns and villages which the trains on Merseyrail’s Northern Line had to offer, starting from Kirkdale station.
It was also tough. What do you expect when we’ve got the number of boxing champions from here that a Soviet state-sponsored sports programme would be proud of – and that’s just from one house on the Easby estate.
I don’t just mean fighting tough though, I mean in general, although you’d have never realised it while living in blissful ignorance. We had nothing, while at the same time were oblivious to it because we had absolutely everything we ever asked or wanted for from our parents, not realising the multiple jobs being worked to provide.
As a kid the only worries we had were about planning raids into Bootle for bommy wood, while at the same time stopping “The Easby” from robbing ours. There’s something about northenders and Bommys. You often hear people slag “kids nowadays” and mention bringing back National Service, but a good 8 week “bommy wood collecting programme” would sort most things out.
What we didn’t know was how much the odds were stacked against us and how little regard anyone in a position of power or authority had for the area. Kirkdale has the lowest life expectancy of all 30 of the wards in Liverpool at just 72.25 year, meaning that someone living on Westminster Road is likely to die 12.5 years earlier than someone in Westminster London (84.9 years). Kirkdale also has the second highest rate of deaths from Cancer, beaten to top spot by neighbouring Everton.
The mishandling of every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic will tell you everything you need to know about the Tory’s disregard for the health of the people of this country. But just in case you do need it spelling out for you, this week Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an interview in which he said, “never mind life expectancy, never mind cancer outcomes, look at wage growth.” Must be music to the ears of people living in Kirkdale, with the lowest life expectancy and second highest cancer mortality rate in the whole of Liverpool.
Let’s have a look at the wages then, given that the Prime Minister is singing about it. Kirkdale has almost double the number of unemployed claimants as the national average and more than double the number of Children living in absolute low-income households. There will also be 2,504 people in Kirkdale in receipt of Universal Credit who have £20 taken out of that benefit following Tory benefit changes this week.
This isn’t a piece about “F*ck the Tories” though (but yeah, F*ck the Tories). Living in Kirkdale and Liverpool in general, you are programmed for that which is no bad thing at all. But this can mean the deep-rooted hatred of all things Tory, hundreds of miles away in Westminster, blinds people from what’s in front of them, closer to home.
For over a decade now Liverpool Council has been controlled by the Labour Party. If you are reading this, I reckon you are probably already aware of the arrest of former Mayor Joe Anderson along with a host of other council employees and contacts for conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation. I am all for innocent until proven guilty and no formal charges have yet been brought, but it has cast a shadow of absolute shame on the reputation of the City.
Not only have the council failed to keep the wolf from the door, sailing through Tory cuts with no hint of opposition or alternative, they have made such a mess of the house that the wolf has been welcomed and the red carpet rolled out. Tory Commissioners now running the city, with elected local representatives made to sign confidentiality and non-disclosure documents to keep us all in the dark about what’s going on.
The Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer responded by welcoming the report’s findings. The Labour NEC then decided, for reasons that are still unknown and unpublished, that the three all-female panel of potential replacement mayoral candidates was not up to their requirement and barred all from standing. Why does the Labour NEC get to decided who does or doesn’t run Liverpool Council?
This is the same Keir Starmer who last Sunday wrote an op-ed piece in The S*n newspaper. All week we have seen Local Labour members and representatives either condemn his actions and share their disgust at what he’s done, or totally leave their morals and principles aside by making apologies for his reasons for doing it. There are also a few who have remained totally silent (we see you!). How can anyone from Labour in Liverpool knock on doors asking for votes which would potentially lead to a “S*n journalist” becoming Prime Minister. What could they possibly say in response to questions on the doorstep about this?
That rag has a circulation of 1.2 million readers of their daily paper. In June last year it posted a pre-tax loss of £202m, with 80% of that being attributed to phone hacking compensation payments. It was overtaken by the Mail last year as the “biggest selling daily paper” and 90% of readers also use other forms of media to consume their news. He didn’t need this platform to get a message out.
During a husting in January 2020, he also stood on stage and said he wouldn’t speak to that newspaper. He knew the reasons why.
In 2013, following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report, Keir Starmer, in his role as Director of Public Prosecutions, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service, met with families of the victims of Hillsborough, along with survivors and campaigners. This was due to him opening a new inquiry into the actions of the CPS following the Hillsborough disaster. Nine months after the disaster in 1990, during a meeting to decide what if any criminal charges would be brought and who was responsible, the CPS decided to only review 11% of witness statements. Rather than read all of the evidence presented to the team, they allowed the police to choose the evidence on which prosecutors based their decision. He knew the real truth of the HIP report along with the pain caused by years of injustice.
With regard to Starmer and the rag the Fire Brigade Union – Merseyside sum it up best:
“This is the desperate act of a feckless politician seeking to realign himself with a publication with a proven record of bigotry and lies. The Brigade Committee believes that Starmer’s position as Leader of the Labour Party is now untenable and demands a personal and public apology for his actions and for him to step down from his leadership role to try and save what little credibility he has left as a human being”
But similarly to Boris Johnson, nobody in Kirkdale would ever get close to laying a glove on Starmer (metaphorically speaking!), he wouldn’t even be seen come voting time, our votes are taken that much for granted in these parts.
Closer to home than Westminster, the ward boundaries for Kirkdale were changed for the 2004 Municipal elections and since then has been made up of Kirkdale and most of the former Vauxhall and Melrose wards and a small part of Everton ward. Since the boundary changes in 2004, 13 elections have taken place and have retuned 6 individual councillors, all Labour, with Malcolm Kennedy and Joe Hanson both being in place since the boundary change in 2004.
Until Malcolm Kennedy stepped down this week.
For the last 18 months Malcolm Kennedy has resided in Madrid, Spain often blaming the pandemic for his inability to return to Kirkdale, the ward he represented. While at the same time telling the Scottie Press he plans to retire at the end of his current term in 2022, with no plans to return to Kirkdale as a Councillor. From the report in this week’s Liverpool Echo, he seems to have resigned because he would have needed to attend a face to face meeting this month, otherwise he may have happily stayed in Spain, drawing down Councillor Allowances of over £10,000 a year for representing Kirkdale.
We deserve better than this. The Labour NEC have this week announced the timeline for their candidates for the Kirkdale by-election to replace Kennedy. Also, instructions of how they will then select who can stand to represent Kirkdale. Once again assuming they can select whoever they like as the vote will be Red whatever happens.
While Malcolm Kennedy was in Madrid, back in Kirkdale the pandemic has been tough for everyone. In these toughest of times, like decades before, the communities in Kirkdale haven’t relied on Tories, Labour or missing “Zoom meeting” councillors. They’ve done what they have always done; come together and looked after each other. The same boxing clubs, youth clubs and community centres I mentioned growing up in have stepped up and supported the young, the elderly, the vulnerable and everyone in between.
The Inclusive Hub, based out of the Gordon (Kirkdale Community Centre) have delivered sports and engagement classes for some of the most vulnerable or isolated kids in the city. This past summer has also seen them refurbish and re-open the old play scheme on Kirkdale Recreation Ground. Offering free activities, coaching, interactive sessions from guests and daily meals to hundreds of kids through the summer holidays. This has since evolved into an afternoon pensioners club and After-School club for kids.
Kirkdale ABC take pride in being more than just a boxing club and over the last 18 months and even before that, have fed and supported thousands of local people with daily meal deliveries, food hamper deliveries, care packages and Christmas gifts for local families, even opening up a breakfast club during half term school holidays for kids to eat.
Anyone who follows these groups on social media platforms regularly will see them kitted out in gear provided by locally founded clothing brand Transalpino (Twitter @TransalpinoO or https://transalpino.co.uk/), who supports a wide range of community groups in Kirkdale and across Merseyside to raise funds, while at the same time having their own campaign against Knife Crime and sponsoring local kids footy teams. (Half the kids in Kirkdale have played for Custy’s).
There is a massive community effort going into ensuring people are fed, organisations we’ve mentioned along with a host of others are mobilising to support people and bring up the next generations in a safe environment. But what about our political voice and our input into what the future of the area looks like? Where are the community forums and governance in place to hold our elected representative to account?
The people of Kirkdale deserve better than being despised by the Tories, while being neglected and treated with contempt by what has previously come from Labour.
As the Labour party goes through another internal war, it is absolutely right they should define what is and is not acceptable behaviour for members of that party. But then, it is absolutely for the rest of us to decide what is and is not acceptable for the area we live in and the behaviour towards us from the Labour Party.
With the triggering of the upcoming by-election, Kirkdale has the opportunity to move beyond decades of this type of treatment, an opportunity to revitalise the governance and political voice of the community.
It is not for Tory commissioners or the Tory government, nor Keir Starmer and the Labour Party to decide what comes next. This is a job for the people of Kirkdale to decide what they really want.
“All change at Kirkdale, all change….”