The city is not a hotbed of republicanism
Much has been made of Liverpool FC fans and their booing of the national anthem at the FA Cup final on Saturday, with many commentators arguing that Liverpool fans speak for Scousers or the people of Liverpool as a whole. But is this the case?
The reality is more complicated. Let’s start with the explicit point of supporting the monarchy. It is true that Liverpool contains the most anti-royalist constituency in Great Britain — Liverpool Riverside — and all of Liverpool’s five constituencies are in the bottom quarter for pro-monarchy sentiment.
However, only the Riverside constituency has, according to UnHerd data, a net negative level of support for the monarchy, at -3 (32 agree vs 35 disagreeing with the question). Other Liverpudlian constituencies are more monarchist, giving an average net level of support of +15.
To be slightly more anti-establishment than the rest of the country, but not as much as is made out in the public conversation, sums up Liverpudilian exceptionalism perfectly: take a grain of truth and then blow it out of all proportion. We see this in other areas too: Liverpool is a Labour stronghold, yet it is less Labour than Manchester. So while Scouse is generally a Left-wing and populist identity, the expectation that it would be a hotbed of republicanism over-eggs the pudding somewhat.
Another area where it’s wise not to conflate the Kop and Scouse identity as a whole is regarding the ‘Scouse not English’ banners seen at matches. Now, this isn’t to deny that some people certainly do feel ‘Scouse not English’, but this is nowhere near a majority and does not represent the people of Liverpool. My own research has found that just 18% of Liverpudlians feel ‘only Scouse’, compared to 13% who feel ‘only English’. The rest of the people feel some mixture of Scouse and English.
Now, this isn’t to say that local sporting identities do not feed into broader local identities. But herein lies another difficulty: Liverpool aren’t the only big football club in town. Everton is also a key player in the city’s sporting landscape and so is also a site of identity formation. To that end it is interesting that Everton fans are seemingly much more pro-Brexit than Liverpool fans, and see their club as more family-like and regionally-rooted than Liverpool fans. While Everton fans don’t boo the national anthem, they do turn their backs and put two fingers up to Liverpool fans singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. So how much of this is expressive of a meaningful personal identity and how much of it is just part and parcel of team rivalries at derbies?
If we want to know what to make of the Scouse identity, we need to avoid the easy route of projecting what we see at the Kop onto the whole of the city. Nowadays Liverpool might be less exceptional than it claims to be, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting on its own merits.