Liverpool is not as exceptional as it thinks
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.
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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.
I was more bothered that they booed Abide With Me.
Not mentioned is the large Irish Catholic population of Liverpool, who drank in republicanism with their mothers’ milk and who may not (even after several generations over here) think of themselves as English.
Strange that the sectarian barbarism that blighted Belfast for thirty years never erupted in Liverpool.
Perhaps its all powerful Masonic Lodge, that used to meet in the Adelphi Hotel kept things in order? Or was it ‘guilt’ about those happy slave trading days, led by Gladstone & Co?
“Strange that the sectarian barbarism that blighted Belfast for thirty years never erupted in Liverpool.”
Not according to my mother. who lived and worked there in the mid to late 1930s.
What were the casualties if I may ask.
We’ve been agreeing for several days now … truce over now !
Gladstone was not a slave trader. Are you referring to his father ? Are we responsible for the sins of our fathers ?
By the standards of the day, Gladstone was a champion of human rights. It tells you all you need to know about how far we’ve lost touch with reality these days that Gladstone is not remembered in any positive way in Liverpool, where we has born.
Off course I was referring to Gladstone’s illustrious father and no criticism is implied. I seem to recall he ran a most successful plantation business in what was British Guyana, and invested his completely justified compensation *in the embryonic Railways.
As to his brilliant son I concur, a veritable champion of human rights in his day. If ‘we’ had listened to him we would now be well rid of that pestilential hell-hole, otherwise known as Ireland.
By the way what is your opinion on his intriguing Diaries, complete with the hint of self-flagellation?
(* Paid for the manumission of his substantial slave holding, some 2,500 as I recall.)
Thanks – I haven’t read the Gladstone diaries. Must put it on the reading list.
The sectarianism was very extreme in west coast Scotland where I was brought up on the divide – but the worst was merely smuggling arms small scale and raising funds for same; and in terms of actual violence, it just happened when you got some drunks and at Celtic vs Rangers matches.
I wanted the bigots of both sides to fail, and used to provoke them too for fun, even my relatives. They were all bluster.
How very unfortunate.
I’m just praying they don’t complete their historic quadruple. We’ll never hear the end of it.
Anything that further diminishes the eulogising about the ManU “class of 92” and Ferguson would be welcome.
Fortunately it’s only really pensioners that can remember that successful period.
Even when they’re booing the national anthem they even try to paint themselves as the victims, attempting to imply it’s a protest against the nations treatment of scousers. They say they should be allowed to boo as it’s an example of free speech, which I agree they shouldn’t be punished for doing so. However woe betide anybody criticise those fans behaviour at Hillsborough or Heysel, when they want free speech shut down instantly.
A city of hypocrisy
Am I correct in thinking that they ‘sowed’ at Heysel and ‘reaped’ at Hillsborough?
No you aren’t. The over crowding at hillsborough wasn’t the fault of the Liverpool supporters.
It was partly. It wasn’t the police trying to force their way through the turnstiles
Thank you. Therefore I must be under a grave misapprehension that Liverpool supporters are notorious for their indiscipline and generally feral behaviour.
I am sorry he is correct.
According to Liverpool fans they have no responsibility for either Heysel or Hillsborough. They were both someone else’s fault.
I use to go to the odd match at Hillsborough in the 1980s and not being from Sheffield I always ended up in the Leppings Lane end with the away supporters.
On one occasion I was in there with Liverpool supporters and they were vile. They were drunk, aggressive, threatening and spoiling for a fight. Far and away the worst supporters I encountered.
A large proportion of them arrived without tickets and, in what I gather was standard practice, they would rush the turnstile knowing that fearing a crush the stadium staff would open the turnstiles and they would get in for free.
The 1989 FA Cup semi-final was no different
That the supporters were able to secure they did is a testament to to the power of the mob, the willingness of the establishment to throw a few of its own (and any vestige of principle) to the wolves, after decent delay and the emergence of a culture in which giving offence to the families of anyone who can be classed as a victim must be avoided at all costs. It is also to the eternal discredit of our legal system that it allowed it to happen.
True the police made mistakes that day, but in the same circumstances in the same day any ordinary person would have made the same decisions. As with Heysel, the Liverpool supporter were primrily at fault for the Hillsborough disaster
Thank you. You have provided the first hand experience that I lack.
They’re like Austrians about supporting Nazis in the war when it comes to Heysel.
“Nothing to do with us mate!”
At the risk of going “off piste” yes the Austrians were/are appalling when it comes to the subject of Adolph & Co. Likewise the Bavarians, but I had better leave it there.
Multiple tangents taken here, and in the article.
I watched the match as a fan of good football. It may well have been a minority of Liverpool fans who booed, however whatever the excuse they were also representing thier city and those who did boo were a disgrace to that city.
No such thing as ‘scousers, not English’
I posted a comnent 15mins sgo and it’s disappeared? Funny old world.
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