Liam Robinson is in charge of Liverpool. Don’t expect fireworks
Plus: Rob Bremner's photos of Liverpool in ‘87
Dear readers — welcome to this final member’s edition of the year. It’s a mini two-parter, just to tie you over into the new year. We’re looking back with Rob Bremner, with a selection of his photos of working class life in Liverpool from 1987, for those of you who think Christmas is a time for reflection and happy memories. And we’re looking forward with Liam Robinson, the likely new leader of Liverpool City Council once the mayoralty is scrapped, for those of you who think Christmas is a time for fretting about the state of local government. Something for everyone.
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North Liverpool, by Rob Bremner
Three grannies in fantastic coats, an Italian resistance fighter, a mother/daughter pair in brightly coloured headscarfs and an incredibly beautiful dog. Rob Bremner’s photos of working class life in Liverpool over the past four decades are some of the richest and most evocative around. Here’s a mini-selection from 1987.
Rob started documenting life on the streets and in the bars and cafes of the city as part of a project he worked on as a student at Wallasey School of Art in the 80s. He later became a commercial and press photographer. He can now be found on Instagram where 62,500 people follow him for his shots of Liverpool (and occasional shots of the tiny village of Wick in Scotland, where he grew up). A word of warning: minutes can easily give way to hours when you start flicking through.
Clare Docherty with her sisters Rose and Carrie Norris, who all shared a house in Athol Street. Everton, 1987.
Lara Losh nee Poanini, an Italian resistance fighter during World War II. She helped save three British prisoners of war, one of whom came from Liverpool. They later married. Everton, 1987.
Margaret Flemington and her mother Peggy showing off their headscarfs. Wosley Street in Kirkdale, 1987.
Billy Cadman and a friend. Vauxhall, 1987.
A new main man on the council
If you’re looking for thrills, Liam Robinson, the new leader of the Labour Group on Liverpool City Council, might not be your man. We’re only on the phone for 20 minutes, but he manages to preface three separate comments with “I know this might sound trite.” Away from the council, he likes “spending time with [his] family” as well as “maybe cooking tea or going on the odd trip out”. And when I ask what he really enjoys in life he says: “What gets me excited is delivering for the people”.
After Joanne Anderson steps down as mayor in May, Robinson will be the main man on the council. He’s 40 and hails from Macclesfield (he’s a United fan) and worked at Network Rail before moving to Merseytravel, which he chaired, 10 years ago. He took a pay cut to do so. “I know this might sound trite,” he says. “But that’s what motivates me — public service”. Before adding: “It might sound like a cliche, but for me politics is a calling and not a career”.
Perhaps this might sound trite too, but many would argue that Liverpool’s politics has had its fill of ‘characters’ in recent times. A little like Sir Keir Starmer’s growing poll success over the last year, which has perhaps been aided by his apparent beige normality by comparison to cartoonish opponents, Robinson’s rise after 14 years on the council is a triumph of the friendly dad approach. Merseytravel is what he’s best known for, but he’s also been interim cabinet member for neighbourhoods since August this year.
Anyone who's had the pleasure of sitting in meetings at Town Hall over the past year or so will recognise the atmosphere as something like a food fight in a Viking mead hall. Robinson, on the other hand, seems like the sort of man you’d imagine reaching for the vacuum cleaner on a Saturday night. So does he have the strength and charisma to quell the baying mob and impose himself on an organisation that is required wholesale reform?