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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 14:13 GMT
History repeats itself for Heseltine
Mr Heseltine came to Liverpool after the Toxteth riots
Mr Heseltine came to Liverpool after the 1981 Toxteth riots
Michael Heseltine has returned to Liverpool to launch a Tory policy group on the inner cities - 25 years after he highlighted urban deprivation following the Toxteth riots.

In the wake of the riots in July 1981, Mr Heseltine took three weeks off as environment secretary in Mrs Thatcher's government and moved to Liverpool.

Years later, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper, he recalled: "Alone, every night... I would stand with a glass of wine, looking out at the magnificent view over the river, and ask myself what had gone wrong for this great English city.

"The Mersey, its lifeblood, flowed as majestically as ever down from the hills.

David Cameron and Michael Heseltine with the Liver Building behind
Michael Heseltine returns to Liverpoool with David Cameron

"Its monumental Georgian and Victorian buildings, created with such pride, still dominated the skyline.

"The Liver Building itself, the epicentre of a trading system that had reached out to the four corners of the earth, stood defiant and from my perspective very alone... everything had gone wrong."

Dubbed "minister for Merseyside" and even "Mr Merseyside", Mr Heseltine aimed to persuade the private sector it was in their interests to help finance the regeneration of the inner city.

Heseltine showed you could actually do things - and he deserves credit for that
Liverpool MP Peter Kilfoyle

One of his first acts was to invite the bosses of approximately 30 significant financial institutions to take a bus ride around the area.

"It is just not possible for the trustees of the nation's savings... to ignore these problems," he said.

As an added incentive, planning requirements were relaxed and companies offered urban development grants and exemption from rates for industrial and commercial properties.

Millions of pounds poured into the area.

The Merseyside Development Corporation, established by Mr Heseltine, spent more than 200m redeveloping Albert Dock - now home to the Liverpool's Tate Gallery.

In 1984 the corporation used the International Garden Festival to bring about the regeneration of acres of derelict land.

But critics say the inner city suffered at the expense of the big prestige projects.

His efforts had only ephemeral results
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher

Between 1981 and 1991, Liverpool's population fell by 10% as 50,000 jobs, 20% of the city's total, disappeared.

And in 1988, the National Audit Office suggested winding up the Merseyside Development Corporation because it had achieved so little.

Liverpool MP Peter Kilfoyle was a vocal critic of the corporation as a Labour Party organiser in the 1980s.

But he remains full of admiration for Mr Heseltine's achievements in the city as a politician who "cut through the crap and got things done".

Backhanded compliment

He told BBC News: "Heseltine showed you could actually do things - and he deserves credit for that."

But another of Mr Heseltine's old adversaries, Mrs Thatcher, dismisses his contribution to the regeneration of the city.

After conceding he made "a great impression", she says in her memoirs: "For the most part, though, his efforts had only ephemeral results."

Although, in a somewhat backhanded compliment, the former prime minister adds: "I would not blame him for that - Liverpool has defeated better men than Michael Heseltine."




SEE ALSO:
Tories launch cities' task force
06 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
We must move faster, says Cameron
03 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
In Full: Tory aims and values
28 Feb 06 |  UK Politics


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