Frank McKenna has always been an innovator. A very practical political operator. As straight a dealer as he is a smart dresser. He was a capable and visionary leader of Lancashire County Council and his practical brand of Labour politics was the first manifestation of New Labour in action and an important part of the development of that project.
After leaving politics he embarked upon a different career – using his political brain and an urgency for change and improvement, especially in Liverpool, which led to the formation of Downtown Liverpool; a completely different kind of business organisation.
Over time, Frank has evolved the events, although the dinners have always been glamorous and lively. The private events and the breakfast debates have been very cerebral and have included a high level of political engagement. Though a New Labour Northerner, Frank has always kept a dialogue open with other parties, something that has earned him a great deal of respect around the political world.
Being the CEO of Downtown has required a widening of his range of skills. The political influencing, the listening and articulating has always been a key part of what he’s all about, but he’s also produced a formidable acreage of blog content, many hours of radio presenting and events hosting.
He has also developed a well manicured skin to match his rhino hide. When one magazine described Downtown as “the chamber with hair gel” he didn’t get the hump, but embraced it and readily agreed to requests to do male grooming articles in various magazines and websites, passing on tips on eye gel and hair wax.
He rarely passes up on an opportunity to appear on television or radio. Nor does he fail in his duty of care to present opportunities for the members of the Downtown business community.
Downtown Manchester chairman Michael Taylor said, “Over the years I’ve always enjoyed collaborating with Frank. We have had many chats that helped one another form views on policy and strategy (and football). And whatever it is we talk about, or whoever we talk about, our chats are always fun. I like his turn of phrase and empathetic style, whether that is over lunch, coffee, over the microphone on his radio programme on CityTalk FM in Liverpool, or at an event that sadly doesn’t happen any more – Everton v Blackburn Rovers games.