Peter Elson speaks to STEVE ROTHERAM, MP for Liverpool Walton
Far from being a party apparatchik or policy wonk (if they have those in Walton), Steve had run his own business, after leaving school at 16.
“I wasn’t well qualified and university was never on the radar. I knew I had to earn money for the family.”
In 1983 he worked in the Falkland Islands for eight months, rebuilding war- torn infrastructure.
“What a God-forsaken place. You couldn’t phone home and I couldn’t wait to get out.
“But I was also disillusioned by what I saw back on UK building sites and the exploitation of employees.
“I was so determined not to work for anyone else again that I set up my own company when I was 22.
“We settled on the name Rotheram Builders after calling in marketing consultants,” he jokes.
“We did everything, I was always willing to learn skills and somehow came through two recessions.”
He wound the company up in 1989 and attended FE college, progressing to a Contemporary Urban Renaissance masters degree at Hope University.
Simultaneously, he was employed as a business manager by the Learning and Skills Council.
On the evidence so far there’s probably only a single likely outcome. One day, inevitably Steve’s “Mam”, sorry, I mean Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will be warmly welcomed to the Upper House by Lord Rotheram of Fazakerley.
Is HM the Queen Steve Rotheram’s role model?
AS Liverpool’s new Lord Mayor, Steve Rotheram never had any doubt about how he would treat the Queen when welcoming her to St George’s Hall during Capital of Culture year, 2008.
To him she was just like a “regular” pensioner. “By that, I mean I treated her with total respect,” he quickly adds, “as I was taught to do. I’m not stupid, I know she’s the Queen!”
He was only two days into his year as Lord Mayor and this was the big one; he was the human face of Liverpool.
But over lunch, what started as a staid conversation rapidly took another turn.
“I was accused of giving her a bit of stick, but she talked in a way not many would recognise. There’s a bit of feistiness there.
“She actually asked, ‘Do you come here often?’ and I replied ‘In Liverpool, that’s a chat-up line if you’re at the Grafton night club,’ which tickled her greatly.”
The day before he’d had a lesson in Royal protocol and instructed to address the monarch firstly as Her Majesty, then afterwards as Ma’am (to rhyme with jam).
“I said it was no problem to remember as I always called my mother ‘Mam’. And she said, ‘Why do you call your mother Ma’am?’
The conversation moved on and the Queen asked how long he’d been Lord Mayor.
“I replied I was a councillor for seven years and started as the Lord Mayor two days earlier.
“She immediately quipped, ‘Oh, so you’re young and inexperienced?’
“I said, ‘How old were you when you became Queen, 26? And you’ve not done so badly for yourself’.”
There was a tumble-weed moment as the fellow great and good diners waited for his removal to the Tower.
“She burst out laughing and giggled, ‘Oh, Lord Mayor!’, opened her handbag and got out a monogrammed hanky to dab her eyes.
“She enjoyed herself and ate everything, I made sure she was topped up with gin and Dubonnets. I looked in her bag and she does carry money and lippy, which she applied at the table. Later people criticised my audacity – but she started it.”
Date of Birth: November 4, 1961
Education: Ruffwood Comprehensive, Kirkby
Family: Wife Sandra, a psychiatric nurse; children Steven, Haylie and Samantha
Favourite music: The Jam (fanatical fan)Favourite book: The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, by Robert Tressell
Favourite film: Quadrophenia
Personal Motto: “Treat others as you hope they’d treat you”