Katie Burgess is the Conservative candidate for Liverpool City Mayor
I am so proud to have been selected to stand as the Conservative candidate for City Mayor in my home town of Liverpool.
In recent weeks the role has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons and it’s been devastating, if sadly not surprising, to watch as central government has revealed the results of their report into the current administration.
In a city that has perhaps the strongest bricks in the so-called Red Wall, it’s not hard to see why the incumbent representatives at the City Council feel they can rest on their laurels and never improve or progress. Elections are more like coronations and the turnout numbers are painful to read, indicative of an electorate that feels ineffective. They say a fool and their money are soon parted; well the Liverpool City taxpayer has been taken for a fool long enough. They give their money and they give their vote. The return on both are long overdue.
A Liverpolitan born and bred, I began life in the centre of the city, in the colloquially known and warmly remembered “Oxford Street Hospital”, in the shadow of my beloved Cathedral, back when leg warmers, rara skirts, and dungarees were advisable fashion choices.
I was raised and still reside, just seven miles from the city centre. My grandmothers were the archetypal northern matriarchs: raising their families were their careers – and seeing them thrive and progress their reward.
My maternal grandfather was a Liverpool docker, raising his family on hard toil and honest work. My paternal grandfather the same, working on public transport and in local schools. Both God-fearing, admirable men of integrity, their shared ambition, along with their wives, was for their respective children and grandchildren to reach and exceed their potential, to have and seize those opportunities that they didn’t have.
For me to do anything less would have been inconceivable. In my lifetime I have witnessed the mixed fortunes of my respective families across various governments, including my grandparents realise the once unachievable dream of home ownership through the 1980’s Right to Buy scheme. This against a backdrop of lower national taxes for working people and increasing possibilities after years of national stagnation. What Liverpool family doesn’t relate to this? Indeed, it was my largely Labour-voting family who made me a Conservative and for all the right reasons.
I was born to an electrical engineer and that most demanding of all professions, a domestic engineer. The second of three and only female of their children, blessed with my own mind and encouraged to use it.
I knew from a young age the value of money, hard work, strong beliefs, independence and ambition. I began in business, in the catering sector, aged almost 18, having worked at three jobs to raise the capital to do so. I’ve come a long way since then, but my entrepreneurial journey has never strayed outside of the L postcode. I’ve created business in Liverpool’s tourism, hospitality, and leisure sectors, as well as property. I believe in this city and its future and have invested in it personally through business and development, for the whole 18 years of my working life. I have a personal and professional pull to it; I can confidently strive for improvement, affluence, and success for everybody. Failure is never an option.
The last election this country saw was in December 2019. On that cold and wet night, I watched the result of the exit poll arrive, sitting with a group of fellow Conservatives, clasped hand in hand with a then-candidate, now dear friend, in a restaurant in the south of the city. Seeing those numbers arrive was like watching a cup-winning goal in the final minutes of extra time. Results came in one by one and as predicted, the Red Wall fell brick by brick. The results in Liverpool were a certainty though, before a vote was counted or even cast and no matter how amazing our blue victory had been nationally. The country moved forward, but once again in the grip of the left, Liverpool was left behind.
Liverpool has so much to offer and even more to rejoice in. Our beautiful theatres and culture, shopping and retail, our stunning waterfront (which just happens to be the best view on earth), world-class sports and teams, and the potential to once again be a world leader in trade with our docks and Freeport. But prosperity is not born out of pride but persistence and productivity. Liverpool should be a behemoth. The city that the rest of the UK not only looks up to, but looks at with envy. Right now it’s looking with bemusement – and who can blame it? I have faith in the people of Liverpool though and so do my Party. In the last 12 months they have chosen our city to pilot some of the essential schemes to lead the entire country to its recovery. The open Covid testing scheme, forging ahead locally with the vaccine program – and now the city will host the test events that will guide us back to large scale events and gatherings nationally. “The Tories don’t care about Liverpool” is something I hear a lot. I’d say the Tories revere it.
The idea of voting Conservative is anathema to some Scousers but despite that, between 3,000 and 5,000 of those who vote in Liverpool typically do. There are signs of change though and it’s long overdue.
I received a telephone call from a delightful older gentleman this week, wishing me well in my campaign. “Well” he said “Labour have got big problems in Liverpool haven’t they?”
My reply was simple “Almost” I said, “Liverpool has got big problems in Labour”. He laughed and finished off with “Well, you’ve got my vote girl – and I’m a socialist!”
People like him are why I find it impossible not to love the bones of this city and not just because he so was so generous as to gallantly gift me the youthful title of “girl” (God bless him!). I can’t wait for the day when, politically at least, I can like it too.
So we know the problems – but what are the solutions? A slate clean of corruption is imperative. I believe that the key to sustainable success lies in creating the right foundations and I believe that this can be achieved with creating secure jobs with skilled workers, high quality housing, and lower taxes. In the wake of the Covid pandemic, we have an opportunity to cure our city of its chronic neglect and under-achieving, to kick-start the local economy, encourage outside investment, business and industry while preserving our green spaces, culture and history.
Tough action is needed on reducing crime, tackling rough sleeping and homelessness which has plagued our city centre for decades – and encouraging independence through education and employment. We don’t help people when we do it for them, but by assisting them in helping themselves. You can throw the bird into flight but for it to progress and flourish it must flap its own wings. Liver birds should soar the highest of them all.
So this is not the time to dwell on the past and its failures but to gratefully accept the gift of the future and the potential success that we have to look forward to. As a city surrounded by beautiful beaches, parkland, recreation, and residential areas, Liverpool can and should be the shining jewel in the crown of the UK. I can’t wait to watch it gleam.