Michael Williams: Readers' editor

The poetry, the music... that's not the media's Liverpool
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The Independent Online

"I'm really disappointed in you," writes Richard Elton, of Mossley Hill in Liverpool. "You're as bad as the rest of them," emails "Scousepie11" from Wavertree. You can probably guess what they're on about. More dissing of Liverpool, I'm afraid. And this time in the IoS, which should know better. Last week we ran a news story headed "Liverpool year of culture gets off to a violent start". Shootings in what is already known as the roughest suburb of Liverpool have got absolutely nothing to do with the City of Culture," Scousepie goes on. "Back in the Sixties, when Allen Ginsburg called the city the 'cosmic centre of the universe' and the world was in love with Liverpool, The Beatles and all the baloney that went with it, you were just as likely to get a smack in the teeth in Lime Street. And when the Liverpool poets were selling millions of copies of their poems about Toxteth, the place was as violent... as it ever was. You southerners loved us then. But you've never been able to resist putting us down since."

He's right. But Liverpool's image problem has also been a problem for us in the media. Liverpudlians haven't been able to forgive Kelvin MacKenzie and 'The Sun', which might not have suffered the psychological blow of falling below a circulation of three million last week if it hadn't been for all those Merseyside readers who still regard it as an object of hate following the paper's remarks in the wake of Hillsborough. So is the metropolitan media biased against Liverpool? As a journalist who spent his early career as a reporter there, I think we must put our hands up. Probably no British city has a worse image. The reasons are complicated. Fewer of us go there, compared with, say, Manchester, because Liverpool is not on the road to anywhere else (next stop, Isle of Man). And although Manchester probably has even more street violence, it has recently showcased its "cool" side to the London chattering classes by hosting the Labour Party conference.

So should we apply some "positive discrimination" to Liverpool? Certainly not. But how about at least giving the City of Culture a clean slate? Every time reporters are inclined to press the repeat key on the tired old "Scouse git" image, it's worth remembering that two other Scousers in the news – Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy and Sir Simon Rattle, world leaders in their fields of business and music respectively– are as much a product of Liverpool culture as Jim "My arse" Royle.

Corrections and clarifications

In last week's lead story about the tagging of offenders by implanting microchips under the skin, it was suggested that ministers at the Ministry of Justice were planning to introduce such a scheme. In fact, it was ministers at the Home Office – while it had responsibility for criminal justice – and then officials, rather than politicians, at the Ministry of Justice who have considered the idea. Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice, has made his department's position clear to The Independent on Sunday: "No plans of this sort have been put to any minister in the Ministry of Justice, and, if they had, the proposals would have been immediately rejected."

Message Board: Should we opt into or out of organ donation?

There is a critical shortage of organs for transplant as Britons lag behind other nationalities in pledging donation upon death. Bloggers gave everything they'd got on the topic...

Neil McGowan

Britain wants the right to eat, drink and be merry... and then buy a new kidney from a refugee made homeless by our own bombing efforts in Iraq. Or, next, Iran. The NHS should not help gut-bellies who ignore medical advice.

Ali Hamilton

I suffer from an inherited kidney disease and am currently awaiting a transplant. My issue with the current system isn't whether it should be opt-in or opt-out; it's the fact that relatives can overrule the wishes of the deceased donor.


Aah Britain, land of compulsion where your existence is to service the state. Puts a whole new twist on death duties. I carry a donor card, but if the state 'presumes' I will revoke that.


It's called socialism, and the UK fell for it. Now you reap.


What right has the Government to authorise the harvesting of organs without consent? None.

This is the biggest breach of civil liberties, and in complete contrast with Britain's Christian culture. It is disgusting in every way.


I am on the donor register and happy to donate anything still useful when I die. But I would not be happy to receive a donated organ, knowing nothing of the age and health of donor. We must promote facilities and habits that lead to health.


I recently had a kidney transplant, having been born with only one small, hardly functioning one. Alcohol has nothing to do with kidneys, and most liver failures are not alcohol-related.

Yolande Watson

Many people from minority ethnic communities do not realise the urgent need for donors. For many, talking about death is taboo. Getting such families to understand is very important.

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