JMU Radio's Adam Phillips reports
News that the Conservatives will consider
holding a future party conference in Liverpool
has angered some locals.
"The Tories didn't care about this city when they were in government. Now they need the votes they suddenly give a damn. It's the usual politics," said John Dean when JMU Journalism asked the people of Liverpool what they thought of the idea.
It has emerged that Chris Grayling, the Shadow Minister for Merseyside, has visited the city’s Echo Arena venue and will be recommending to his party that a future conference be held there, following this year's Conservative gathering in Manchester.
However, one member of the public, Heather Curley from Belle Vale, said: "Nobody round here would want them. This is a Labour city or Lib Dem at the minute."
"There hasn't been a Tory here for years and there's a reason for that," said John Webster from Kirkby. "I think the majority of Liverpool people wouldn't approve."
There has been no Tory councillor in Liverpool since 1996 and you have to go back to the 1960s to find the last time there was an outright Conservative council in the city.
Much of the animosity towards the current opposition partly stems from the aftermath of the Toxteth riots in 1981 and a perceived lack of care for the city's economic decline in the 80s under the policies of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Despite the city's anger towards the government during that decade, then Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine attempted to turn the tide of Tory unpopularity. His Urban Development Corporations, though unpopular at the time, would help the eventual regeneration of Liverpool, culminating in its 2008 Capital of Culture status.
But by and large Conservatives have not been received well in Liverpool since that era.
In 2004, now London Mayor Boris Johnson, then a Conservative MP, outraged Liverpudlians with comments about the Hillsborough disaster. He accused Liverpool fans of being drunk and that they “mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground” on the day of the tragedy.
In an article for The Spectator, Johnson said Liverpool's citizens "wallow" in their "victim status", saying it is part of the "deeply unattractive psyche" of many in the city. Johnson was forced to visit Liverpool by the Conservative leader at that time, Michael Howard, to apologise for the offence caused by his comments.
Despite the ill-feeling by many in the city, Tony Caldeira, Chairman of Liverpool Conservatives, said attitudes are beginning to change and that some are now considering voting for his party.
He told JMU Journalism: “Many people have moved on since the 1980s, including the Conservative party.
“Even students, including those from John Moores University, are getting involved with the Conservatives and this new generation of voters in Liverpool will give us a second thought."
Already the Labour party will be holding their conference in Liverpool in September 2011, with the Liberal Democrats in the city a year later.
Labour’s arrival is expected to benefit the city by £20m. As many as 20,000 people are expected to attend the four-day conference, the largest the city has ever hosted.
Council Leader Warren Bradley, a Liberal Democrat, has backed the idea of the Tories coming to Liverpool.
While Caldeira added: “The people of Liverpool will recognise all the advantages such an event will bring to the city and get over political preferences.”
By Hugh O'Connell & Abigail McSherry
Tory leader David Cameron (Christian Payne, Flickr); The Echo Arena would likely host the conference