Jim on covering north west politics

My brief, and it was something that I felt very strongly about, was to report politics in the north west, and that particularly meant local government, as well as what the MPs were doing, but also go to Westminster. I had operated briefly in the BBC under a system where they had a Westminster reporter for the north west, who never came to the north west, and then they have somebody in the north west reporting on north west politics. And I certainly advocated and was supported in trying to do the job. So obviously it involved a lot of travelling around, but in a sense I had three bases. I was formally based in Liverpool, obviously worked out of Manchester to some extent, but then I started to go to Westminster for a couple of days a week to report those as well.

So I did the full round-robin to cover politics at the national and local level. The local government thing was really important to me, I felt that sometimes local government, and I still think that’s the case now, particularly we’re talking in 2020 during this dreadful virus pandemic, and local government is actually going to be absolutely vital in getting us out of this, but you wouldn’t know it from the coverage that they get. MPs don’t ever become councillors, they go straight to parliament. And I always think that MPs sort of generally look down on local councils, even from their own party. If you look at the track record of people, who’ve led major cities – Joe Dean in Leeds, Graham Stringer in Manchester – even when they get to Westminster their careers don’t generally prosper. They certainly don’t become senior officers in the country, or become prime minister. But in fact, they’ve had far more experience with dealing with services and wrestling with problems than members of parliament very often. And I felt that covering what they did was particularly important. And of course, as soon as I got to Granada the major issue was the poll tax, which eventually brought Mrs Thatcher down. So there was huge tension and it revolved around local government and needed to be reported.

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