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What’s wrong with “managed decline”…

…the phrase that Geoffrey Howe used when discussing the best policy for Liverpool in the 1980s?

Yes, that’s right: the word “managed”. It is not for the state to decide where people should live or where they should do business and certainly not for the state to use violence to force them to do so.

5 comments to What’s wrong with “managed decline”…

  • Paul Marks

    Agreed Patrick.

    Although with union laws and other regulations being the same all over the country (unlike the United States) and local business taxes being decided centrally (which is what Mrs Thatcher’s government EVENTUALLY did – copying Japan) there is no reason for a business not to be in Liverpool – not really.

    In the end Liverpool was saved by the destuction of “local democracy” (i.e. the local council was not allowed to tax and regulate all business out of the city – which, left to themselves, they would have done and had been doing).

    As there is no tax or regulation advantage to leaving the place and going anywhere else in Britain – although there is if one goes over the sea to the land of the tailess cats.

    However, the Isle of Man lacks the population of Liverpool (and nearby Greater Manchester) and so business enterprises benifit by that.

    But, yes, your basic point is correct.

    After all Liverpool did not go into decline under Mrs T. – it was in decline for many decades.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Liverpool was put into decline by:

    Changing patterns of trade (especially with the arrival of containers for shipping on the east coast at the expense of the northwest coast ports);
    Unions and restrictive practices;
    Decline of heavy industry in the area;
    Welfarism, high taxes.

    None of these were really the fault of the Thatcher administration, although it is a legitimate criticism that her government did not do enough to deal with some of these issues.

    I always felt that we missed a big trick when, at the time of the Hong Kong handover, the government did not encourage Hong Kong people to take up UK passports so they could settle in such places and revitalise them.

    Liverpool used to be one of the richest cities in the world; its architecture from the 19th Century is breathtaking and well worth a visit.

    And its football clubs are still pretty good. Not sure if this is a sort of inverse indicator. Do rich countries have crap soccer teams and vice versa?

  • Sam Duncan

    “Changing patterns of trade (especially with the arrival of containers for shipping on the east coast at the expense of the northwest coast ports);”

    The decline of both Liverpool and my home city of Glasgow accelerated after we turned away from Commonwealth and Atlantic trade towards Europe. It’s no mystery. They’re both port cities, built on that trade, and are now surplus to requirements.

  • Sam: Well, yes and no. We are now in a world of enormous ships, huge hub and spoke shipping patterns rather than smaller ships sailing point to point, and inter-modality – ie a container can be taken off a ship and put on a train or a truck without much difficulty. The backbone route that goes through this part of the world starts in the Baltic, goes through the English channel, through the Straits of Gibraltar and Suez Canal and on to the Straits of Malacca and to East Asia. Some trans-Pacific routes are nearly as important, but Trans-Atlantic is not what it was, and if you do sail trans-Atlantic, there is no obvious reason to sail as far north as Britain. (Unload at Lisbon. Transfer the container to a big ship heading north to Felixstowe. Then the container can go by road to Manchester, or wherever).

    I think these changes in shipping patterns are a result of much more significant long term trends than anything much to do with Britain joining the EU or any other political decisions in the UK, in truth. Felixstowe is at B on a major route from A to C. Liverpool isn’t. That’s about it. (The most important port in Spain is now Algeceiras. Similar reasons).

  • Bruce

    Decline is a political policy choice not an inevitability.