Edwina Currie vows Liverpool’s broken heart will heal again after Olivia Pratt-Korbel shooting


Liverpool, the city of my birth is – and has always been – an extraordinary place. A clash of contradictions, layers and ironies. Rich and vibrant. Proud and distinctive. Even our accent, that idiosyncratic, Scouse sound, like a foghorn across the Mersey on a winter’s day, owes so much to the melting pot from which we were all forged, of travellers, migrants, runaways and entrepreneurs, drifting in and out the port, each leaving their own footprint on the water’s edge.

I’m a proud Liverpudlian and, like everyone from the city, am heartbroken by the headlines of this week. Olivia Pratt-Korbel, a nine-year-old little girl, killed by a suspected gangster’s bullet in her own home. Days earlier Ashley Dale, a 28-year-old council worker, was gunned down in her back garden in what police believe is a case of mistaken identity.

In the past week alone there have been three shootings and a stabbing, shining a spotlight on one of the greatest cities in the world for all the wrong reasons.

Edwina Currie: Olivia Pratt-Korbel (pictured), a nine-year-old little girl, killed by a suspected gangster¿s bullet in her own home. Days earlier Ashley Dale, a 28-year-old council worker, was gunned down in her back garden in what police believe is a case of mistaken identity

Edwina Currie: Olivia Pratt-Korbel (pictured), a nine-year-old little girl, killed by a suspected gangster’s bullet in her own home. Days earlier Ashley Dale, a 28-year-old council worker, was gunned down in her back garden in what police believe is a case of mistaken identity

Then the ‘no grassing’ or ‘honour among thieves’ culture of old reared its head – which dictates it’s better to let a child killer run free than squeal to the police, leading to the controversial local newspaper headline this week ‘Whose Side Are You On?’ appealing for witnesses to come forward.

I know these headlines do not tell the whole story of Liverpool. It has its problems, and its criminal underbelly: the lack of jobs, hope, and expectation over the years have led to what’s been called a kind of ‘deviant entrepreneurship’ – if you wanted to make money there was only one way to do it, and it wasn’t working hard and going to college, as I did. But Liverpool is a great, lovely place with many wonderful people.

That’s the reputation it deserves, and it will work hard to restore.

As an elderly relative of mine commented this week, one of the few still resident in the city: ‘There are and always will be a segment of society which damages the reputation of the rest. It is still a great place to live.’

That’s how I remember it. I grew up in Wavertree, not far from the home of Ashley Dale, and a few miles from Knotty Ash, where Olivia lived. Back then it was a badly traumatised place too, but for different reasons.

Hitler’s Luftwaffe had made a good job of flattening large parts of it, leaving bomb sites everywhere. My grandfather died in the Liverpool blitz of May 1941 along with thousands of other civilians.

In this scarred landscape, our offbeat sense of humour was spawned. Knotty Ash was associated with Ken Dodd, ‘Doddy’, with his tickling stick and sly patter: ‘I’ve seen a topless lady ventriloquist. Nobody has ever seen her lips move,’ and, ‘Do I believe in safe sex? Of course I do. I have a handrail…’

We had a woman MP, the redoubtable Bessie Braddock. We had poverty, but didn’t everybody? Nobody we knew was a snob.

It was a progressive place, very diverse as seamen from the Caribbean and China had been beaching up in the port for centuries. It was said that you couldn’t be prejudiced in Liverpool as you never knew who your granny had met up a dark alley on a Saturday night.

At 15 I started working Saturdays in a dress shop near Lime Street. The money was good, the clients liked expensive sequiny dresses and tipped well – once I got a whole £5.

One evening Mum and Dad took my brother and me to the Empire Theatre. Nearby I spotted one of my customers who waved gaily. Dad was shocked and angry – he clearly saw how those ladies earned their living, even if I, so innocent, didn’t.

Of course, we had to be careful. Sectarian dissent spilled over from Northern Ireland, a short boat ride away. We knew to stay away from town on March 17, St Patrick’s Day, and on July 12 when it was the Orange Lodges’ turn. Better to leave them to it.

Yet we thought nothing of me travelling alone, aged 11, on the bus for an hour into my school, Blackburne House, near the Anglican cathedral. I never felt at risk.

One memorable afternoon smog blanketed the city and all buses were stopped – you couldn’t see across the road – so I walked the three miles home.

'In the past week alone there have been three shootings and a stabbing, shining a spotlight on one of the greatest cities in the world for all the wrong reasons' says Edwina Currie

‘In the past week alone there have been three shootings and a stabbing, shining a spotlight on one of the greatest cities in the world for all the wrong reasons’ says Edwina Currie

I made it OK, with blackened face and every garment filthy and soot-ridden. My only worry was that I might get lost, not that I might get abducted or shot.

By my teenage years, the picture was deteriorating fast. Liverpool had ignored the modern world; the docks, where ‘wastage’ and ‘cabbage’ (theft) was normal, were being left behind by the new efficient container ports.

Even my Dad, whose tailor’s shop was in the centre of town, had a cupboard full of whisky marked ‘Export Only’. Nobody thought anything of it.

My late husband, John, started life as a Birkenhead bobby. He claimed to have arrested Cilla Black’s dad for theft off the docks (Cilla never knew).

The Ford Motor Factory was plagued with strikes and operated at a loss. Businesses moved elsewhere. Even as the Beatles became world famous, we knew they’d hit the trail to London as soon as possible, and would not return. They didn’t.

By the 1971 census the population was down to 450,000 and we were losing folk as fast as Belfast in the Troubles – at the rate of 1,000 a week.

I joined them. Aged 18, I won a scholarship to Oxford, and never really lived in Liverpool again, though my parents didn’t budge.

At a school reunion years later, we discovered that our entire sixth form had done likewise and were scattered from Majorca to Melbourne.

Sadly, back home for many, crime and violence were becoming a way of life.

After Dad died Mum moved to a lovely flat, but was burgled by some yob who let himself in through an open window as she sat watching TV.

He stole hardly anything – she didn’t have much – but took her engagement ring, which had cost Dad £40, a fortune, in 1945.

Flowers and cuddly toys are laid in memory of Olivia Pratt-Kobel in Liverpool after she was killed when a gunman opened fire in her home

Flowers and cuddly toys are laid in memory of Olivia Pratt-Kobel in Liverpool after she was killed when a gunman opened fire in her home 

‘Probably for drugs’ was all the police could say. I couldn’t bear to think of what might have happened had she disturbed him.

But over the last two decades, I’ve been encouraged by the shoots of recovery. Today, with its bustling waterfront, nightlife, fabulous hotels, football, shopping, the Cavern, museums and art galleries, it draws visitors from all over the world.

By a horrible irony, just before Ashley’s murder Merseyside Police seemed to be getting on top of things. They’d been rated ‘outstanding’ by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary at disrupting serious organised crime.

The police watchdog also praised officers’ success in keeping people safe and reducing crime.

And that’s true – 15 years ago when 11-year-old Rhys Jones was shot in a playground, a rate of 29 firearm offences per 100,000 people was recorded in the region.

By 2016 that had fallen to 11. Nobody knows what the rate is now, but police efforts to persuade locals that child murder is worse than ‘grassing’ is clearly having some effect.

I just hope – like my generation did with our bomb sites and battered landscape of the Fifties – we’ll make Liverpool proud again.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

How Miles Teller Totally Broke Royal Protocol Meeting Prince William and Kate Middleton Mila Kunis Reveals Why She and Ashton Kutcher Don’t Close Bathroom Doors at Home With Kids Khloe Kardashian and Tristan Thompson Were Engaged for 9 Months Before Paternity Lawsuit Selena Gomez Speaks Out About Kindness After Hailey Bieber’s Tell All Interview Shane Warne’s child, Jackson, shares recordings of ‘harmful ladies despising’ powerhouse Andrew Tate: ‘I really do concur with a couple of the things he says’ Kate and William to greet Americans ‘sleeping on the streets’ amid US visit ‘He said “take your bra off”… I was 15’: Supermodel Kate Moss reveals in unflinching detail how she fled a photoshoot in tears after being targeted by fashion industry predator as a teenager How to get early access to the MultiVersus open beta – usnewspress Gunman kills 3 people in Indiana mall shooting, police say Top 10 sizzling sex secrets to Spice Up Your Sex Life Stellantis Announces Termination of Jeep Venture With China’s GAC Memphis police thwart potential mass shooting at arena: Officials 4 dead after argument between 2 groups leads to shooting at north Harris County apartment complex, sheriff says US soprano, offended by blackface, pulls out of Italy opera 10 Top Romantic Getaways in New Jersey Ricky Martin’s Attorney Says Allegations of a Sexual Relationship with His Nephew Are ‘Untrue’ 8 Best Semiconductor Stocks To Buy Amid a Global Chip Shortage : USA Le’Veon Bell Reflects on Lost Season With Steelers in Retirement Post Updates on Tiger Woods from Round 1 of The Open PETE ALONSOI’M DEALING W/ ‘PRETTY BAD PTSD’… Over March Car Crash