commonwealth pool Liverpool

Chutzpah: the double-edged sword of civic boosterism

Merrion’s MD, Dougal Paver, has been a cheerleader for his home city of Liverpool for longer than he cares to admit and has seen how confidence and ballsiness breed success.  But chutzpah can also shield a city from the harsh realities of how others view it, as a recent incident demonstrated. We’ve all experienced it: a reality check from a loved one […]

How cannabis tourism works

Roll-up, roll-up! Seattle tokes its way to a cannabis tourism industry

As Amsterdam squeezes one last drag out of its coffee shop industry, Seattle in America’s north west has taken to cannabis tourism as its latest wheeze to boost its thriving visitor economy.  Merrion MD Dougal Paver breaths in the controversy. There’s a lot of rain and a lot of water in both Seattle and Amsterdam, and until recently there the […]

Has Birmingham been knocked off its perch as the UK's second city?

Has Birmingham been knocked off its perch as the UK’s second city?

A much-publicised suggestion by The Economist magazine that the government should move to Manchester whilst the Houses of Parliament are refurbished has given Birmingham’s cheerleaders a fit of the vapours.  Is it no longer the UK’s second city?  Merrion MD Dougal Paver investigates. In Britain’s Victorian hey-day at least four cities could make a credible claim to be the nation’s […]

Barcelona is full, but is 'banning' tourists smart?

Barcelona is full, but is ‘banning’ tourists smart?

For many cities, wading through tourist dollars would be a lovely problem to have.  But not in Barcelona, it seems, whose mayor is seeking to control the numbers ‘let in’, as Dougal Paver discovers. Thirty two million.  Divide that by 365 to find the average number of tourists per day pouring in to central Barcelona.  87,671 to be precise.  Except, of […]


Wealth, the Seattle way

Staggering wealth accrues to the few as tech entrepreneurs follow the money

Just a handful of the world’s cities account for half of global venture capital investment in tech innovation.  No surprises: London is the UK’s only representative in this stellar league table.  Merrion MD Dougal Paver ponders what this means for Britain’s provincial cities scrambling to build and sustain their own tech sectors. Get this: the conurbations of San Francisco, Washington […]

How's that pound in your pocket?

How’s that pound in your pocket?

The good folk of Manchester, Liverpool and Wirral have enjoyed steady wage growth over the last five years – but don’t ask Merrion’s managing director why.  He’d only be guessing. Numeracy isn’t my thing, but as the son of a geography teacher maps, charts and graphs most certainly are.  Whilst pootling around my on-line reading list I came across the graph […]

If a city can rise and fall, then it can rise again

If a city can rise and fall, then it can rise again

The doctrine of ‘managed decline’ still holds in some American cities, but was given short shrift in the UK by Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine.  Good job, too, suggests Merrion Strategy MD Dougal Paver. ‘Right-sizing’ – the sort of euphemism for which Bullshit Bingo was invented.  And when players in Detroit shout ‘house!’ the irony is painful, for right-sizing is the city’s […]

More proof that high taxes are counter-productive

More proof that high taxes are counter-productive

A while back this blog cited the boom in UK brewing as proof of how low taxes stimulate enterprise.  Now the government has gone and proven the opposite with its stamp duty reforms, as latest figures reveal. Let me recommend a corkingly good read for you – The Panama Papers, which reveals the staggering story behind the leak of millions […]


Competitive socialising: regeneration's new Golden Goose

Competitive socialising: regeneration’s new Golden Goose

When he was a student Merrion Strategy’s MD Dougal Paver well remembers the odd competitive drinking session or two, but ‘competitive socialising’?  That requires some investigating… My first illegal pint was in a pub called the Craven Heifer in Ingleton, North Yorkshire.  Myself and a load of pals had hitch-hiked up there, aged 16, for a week’s camping and fishing on […]

Bank of Liverpool portico

How to fire up the Northern Powerhouse

Want to fire up the Northern Powerhouse, Chancellor?  Bung £25m into a kitty and task Merseyside’s private sector with matching it, then re-launch the Bank of Liverpool.  Shareholders will make a fortune, says Dougal Paver. Since the onset of the industrial age, 95% of the world’s trade by volume has been conducted by sea.  In my grandfather’s lifetime, Liverpool owned one […]

One of UK brewing's finest

Boom in UK brewing proof that high taxes kill enterprise

Liverpool’s shipping industry migrated off-shore to escape high taxes, taking a huge wealth creator with it. Its brewing industry is being re-born thanks to a reduction in government duties.  See the connection? The UK brewing industry is entering a golden age, with 10% growth in the number of breweries in each of the last three years.  We now have more […]

Entrepreneurship largely eludes the french

Entrepreneurship? The French don’t even have a word for that

George W Bush’s famous quip about the root cause of France’s sluggish economy may have made him sound a bit foolish, but did he have a point?  Merrion Strategy founder Dougal Paver investigates. Over in France’s sixth largest city a workforce of 400,000 highly qualified Frenchmen run a vast array of enterprises, building one of the world’s great commercial entrepôts as they go.  Tell them that […]


New York from Jersey City

The ambition pill: has your local authority taken it?

Ambition, focus and a credible plan can excite developers and investors and get them in step behind a local authority to deliver on its economic growth agenda.  But relatively few authorities are in the right place culturally, suggests Merrion MD Dougal Paver. The backdrop fitted the aspiration as councillor Phil Davies, leader of Wirral Council, stood up yesterday morning to address […]

MIPIM review: who can fathom those crazy French?

MIPIM review: who can fathom those crazy French?

Tens of thousands of high-spending property folk descended on Cannes this week for the MIPIM real estate shin-dig and Merrion managing director Dougal Paver braved the warm Mediterranean sunshine and endless champagne and canapes to bring readers the inside track.  His conclusion?  The French are bonkers. Convention cities the world over would give their eye teeth to host a conference like […]

Ditching diesel cars: where does your city stand?

Ditching diesel cars: where does your city stand?

Diesel cars look like becoming the new pantomime villains, but controlling or even banning them from cities poses logistical as well as political challenges.  Merrion managing director Dougal Paver casts his eye over the issue. At the biggest private sector employer in Liverpool a shiny new car rolls off the production line every 80 seconds – and the vast majority are diesel. Liverpool council, […]

Ten Streets Liverpool

You can’t beat a dose of benign autocracy

In an age of sophistry and double-speak, the public craves plain talking politicians.  Liverpool’s Mayor Anderson showed ’em how its done the other day, explains Merrion Strategy MD Dougal Paver. Liverpool’s Ten Streets regeneration programme is another step forward in the city’s relentless regeneration, the gist of which is to take ten parallel streets running at right angles from the dock […]


The competitor to the Liveprool Commonwealth Games bid

Is Boston’s Olympics knock-back a lesson for the Liverpool Commonwealth Games bid?

Boston secured America’s Olympics nomination for the 2024 games in January 2015.  By the summer the city had pulled out in the face of a quiet public revolt.  What lessons does it hold for Liverpool and Birmingham as they bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games?  Merrion MD Dougal Paver explores the issue. Boston: wealthy, sophisticated, beautiful and smart.  A […]

Porto: proof not everywhere plays the regeneration game

Porto: proof not everywhere plays the regeneration game

Porto is Portugal’s second city and was long held up as its industrial and commercial powerhouse.  But the figures – and the evidence of his own eyes – don’t convince Merrion MD Dougal Paver. For one of life’s great puzzles head to Porto in northern Portugal, the city that gave it’s name to  your Aunty Pat’s favourite Christmas tipple. Wander […]

MIPIM 2017 beckons. But what's the key to making millions?

MIPIM 2017 beckons. But what’s the key to making millions?

MIPIM 2017 is hoving rapidly in to view and the smarter folk are gearing up for the opportunities it offers.  After sixteen years in Cannes’ famous Bunker,  Merrion MD Dougal Paver reckons he’s found the key to success in the south of France. To the formal launch of Liverpool’s MIPIM 2017 programme this morning at the Shankly Hotel to hear more […]

Isn't all regeneration good?  That depends how you view it

Isn’t all regeneration good? That depends how you view it

Take a poor, semi-derelict and crime-ridden neighbourhood, apply money, skilled workers and vision and hey-presto! You have a ‘good thing’, surely?  Only if the beneficiaries come from a tightly proscribed group, according to one commentator. There’s a thoughtful fellow called John Harris who has written a series of absorbing articles about the regeneration of British cities for the Guardian newspaper.  One in […]

Rural Economy

Cornwall's economy: to infinity and beyond

Cornwall’s economy: to infinity and beyond

The Cornish economy remains overly reliant on agriculture, tourism and food production.  That could soon change, with plans to put it at the centre of the world’s next space race, as Merrion MD Dougal Paver discovered. It’s come a long way, has RAF St Mawgan, although progress is relative in England’s sleepy south west.  Or rather, its poorest county. Cornwall’s […]

Rural regeneration has a problem. The government's heart doesn't seem to be in it

Rural regeneration has a problem. The government’s heart doesn’t seem to be in it

The poorest place in England isn’t in the rustbelts of the north, but in the beautiful south west.  Some of the UK’s rural areas need regenerating too, as Merrion MD Dougal Paver explains. Rural regeneration sounds like a contradiction in terms.  After all, what is there to regenerate amidst the rolling green fields and babbling brooks?  Plant a few more […]

Gather up your bailing twine - it's time for the National Ploughing Championships

Gather up your bailing twine – it’s time for the National Ploughing Championships

It’s the largest exporter per head of population in the world and one of the ten most innovative nations on earth, but what was the most read story on its business pages this morning?  Why, the National Ploughing Championships.  Ireland, dear reader, is still a rural country at heart. One of the advantages for a townie like me of heading for […]

George Osborne

4G or not 4G: that is the question

It would be to overstate the significance of this blog somewhat  *coughs*  to suggest that George Osborne’s article in yesterday’s Telegraph was a direct rebuttal of my own piece about how ‘the digital deficit’ was a factor in rural economies’ relative underperformance.  Always good to see that more than a few minds are debating the issue, however. Now, before you read […]