Professor Leonard Collinson DL
I feel an arm’s-length founder of Downtown in Business and am sure Frank McKenna pinched the name from a project I had opened and finished in the mid-‘90s. It was titled Northwest in Business.
We got to know each other when he was a young, talkative, ambitious and influential councillor on Lancashire County Council. He was then appointed Leader of the North West Regional Assembly. I led the Private Sector Partners and the non-local authority group on the Assembly. Since that time, I have envied always his ability to look good in a business suit.
I am certain he only had one in the late ‘90s. Hardened politicians reckoned he was a certainty for selection as Labour candidate in a safe seat. Things went wrong. Frank had been agent in 1997 for Labour in the West Lancashire constituency and was accused of electoral irregularities, not personal gain. The issue was not brought to court in Chester for three years. The judge dismissed the case in less than a day.
In my view, the Labour Party treated Frank badly and removed him from every formal connection. This meant he had no income. His friends and family retained their trust in him. He had to earn a living and spotted the increased interest of national and local government in smaller firms as suppliers and a political force. Frank became a lobbyist and established Downtown in Liverpool and widened its base to events and representation all over the place – radio, TV, conferences and so on.