Book Review: The 1989 Hillsborough disaster runs like a spine through this book

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche says: “The problem with stereotypes is not that they aren’t true, but they are incomplete.” As usual, she wasn’t wrong.
Head North by Andy Burnham and Steve RotheramHead North by Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram
Head North by Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram

Stereotypes abound around ‘northerners’ in England – salt of the earth, honest, funny, but maybe also uneducated, skint, and angry.

Perhaps there’s a grain of truth to this, but it’s far from the whole story – and Head North, the ‘half-memoir, half-manifesto’ from the Mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region, goes a long way to fill in the gaps.

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If we’re angry, maybe that’s rational because we have been dealt an inequitable hand for generations.

Anna CaigAnna Caig
Anna Caig

And if we’re skint compared to our London-based friends, maybe that’s because the Green Book and the Barnett Formula – systems that shape public spending – keep us that way.

The 1989 Hillsborough disaster runs like a spine through this book. Steve Rotheram was there, and Andy Burnham was at the other FA Cup semi-final on the same day.

Both their politics are shaped by working with the Hillsborough families in their fight for justice. These sections are genuinely moving, as is the account of what happened in Manchester in the aftermath of the Arena bombing.

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Initially, I wasn’t sure if the memoir and manifesto combination would work – but it’s powerful.

This is humanity and politics brought together. We are the sum of our experiences, and it’s refreshing to see their ‘plan to reimagine our country’ put in the context of the lives that shaped it.

And the result is no pie in the sky wishlist. The 10 points are practical ideas based on understanding the inner workings of Britain’s establishment. But they are audacious, and they are radical.

If you’re so inclined, I’m sure they’re easy to dismiss as impractical – two blokes from Liverpool suggesting an overhaul of government structures that have remained remarkably unchanged since feudal England.

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But they provide something in short supply at the moment, hope.

Large sections of Head North are rage-inducing, there’s no doubt about that. But closing the final page, I felt more optimistic about the possibility of real change in Britain than I have for a long time.