Former Gorsey Bank Council Estate by Alan Lowndes
The Hillsborough report has confirmed a conspiracy theory that I thought might only ever see the light of day in 100 years time, or more. Like the Battle of Orgreave, the 1980s riots and James Anderton’s tactical aid squads, Hillsborough was one of the few occasions where it was possible to witness thousands of ordinary working class people meeting with a police force apparently primed by Thatcher and Murdoch to treat people like dogs. That’s official. That’s why I think I just saw a flying pig in the shape of David Cameron, a Tory Prime Minister, apologising … profusely … for everything. Everything?
Throughout the 80s, 1000s of people each week weren’t just rendered unemployed by Thatcher, they were destroyed. There was no work. Coinciding with Tebbit’s double-edged “on your bike” message to the masses, an entire skilled workforce in steel, mining, road-building, housing, textiles, shipbuilding, docks, was lost, dispersed onto some A-road south perhaps. Look at the scale of it. Look at Trafford Park, or the Don Valley, or Gateshead now. In 18 years, Thatcher invested in just one improvement project, the M25. It doesn’t add up. My father, a salesman in steel, was badly affected. He got by selling sofa covers.
So where did 1000 Frank Gallaghers go each week? They didn’t all just sign on, grumble, get pissed and head to the bookies with the giro. Thirty years ago, where did the 13 million go? Did they just curl up and die?
Living in Stockport throughout the years of mass unemployment, random violence, protest and Tory landslide victories, I began to believe that Thatcher, like Pinochet, was somehow secretly rounding people up and doing away with them. Seriously. I did. Britain is small geographically, with millions of people crammed into insular estates. I reckoned it would be easy. Last year, official papers released revealed that Thatcher and Howe talked of “cutting Liverpool (Britain’s fourth largest city) adrift. What did they mean? What was the “tough nut to crack”? Did they, in the words of Irvine Welsh, really plan apartheid (forced confinement) here? How far did they go with their police state? Will we ever know what happened to the 13 million? In 100 years time maybe?
Of course, I don’t think anything like ethnic cleansing on that scale could go unnoticed in a modern western democracy, and after my northern years struggling in the declining world of Engineering and feeling “the 21st century breathing down my neck”, as Morrissey said, I’m much better now thank you. But look at it this way. What about the things we can still see? The lost estates, the abandonment of whole rows of houses in the north? Where did they all go, Dave? Any apologies forthcoming?