Some clowns masquerading as journalists, have described recent Liverpool city council manoeuvrings as political drama. I must say that to the long suffering local public, it has looked more like political farce, and typical of the council under the stewardship of Mayor Anderson. Other boroughs within the city-region have had their difficulties and their reshuffles – a regular occurrence at this time of the year after local government elections. So it is also the case with other cities around the land; but nowhere seems to get it as spectacularly and embarrassingly wrong as Liverpool.
The recent mess actually began with the repeated attempts of senior councillor, Frank Prendergast, to get answers as to where exactly hundreds of thousands of pounds raised through car parks associated with the two football clubs, went. So frustrated was he by the dogged refusal of those responsible – including cabinet members and the Beautiful Ideas Community Interest Company – to give him a clear account, that he resigned from the council’s Labour group in disgust. This issue brought the simmering tensions in the Cunard Building to a head.
Then came Cllr Barry Kushner’s abortive attempt to take the position of Labour group deputy leader from Cllr O’Byrne. Along with Cllr Hanson, Cllr Ros Gladden and Cllr Roy Gladden, he is part of the self-described “Team Joe”. Not the most illustrious collection of councillors, you might recall that Anderson did in Hanson for reported comments about the Gladdens. This speaks volumes about the current isolation of the mayor in Labour circles when this is the best support which he can rally. The mayor is not a politically astute individual, and the failure of his newest acolyte, Cllr Kushner, to supplant Cllr O’Byrne has only served to exacerbate the internal political problems he faces in the Labour group and the council.
The mayor had hoped for the defeat of Cllr O’Byrne so that he could ease her out as deputy mayor (and putative rival) on the back of that defeat, only for that particular Plan A to be thwarted when she narrowly hung on as deputy group leader. Not to be discouraged, our foolhardy mayor ploughed on with the dismissal from his cabinet of Cllr Small (another perceived rival), having blamed him for what the mayor saw as a Labour failure in the recent local elections. This sacking, in turn, saw Cllrs Munby and O’Byrne storming out of the cabinet, with stinging, if belated, criticism of Anderson’s ruling style. At least, that is what they said; or did they jump – like the proverbial rats – before they were pushed? Either way, it matters little. The fact of the matter is that the ruling Liverpool Labour group is split right down the middle, with few obvious signs of even the possibility of reconciliation.
Perhaps of greater long term significance than the opportunistic games of political has-beens was the withdrawal of Cllr Lana Orr from other than her ward duties. Bright, well-educated and young, she and those like her represent the best hope for Labour’s political future health. It is surely now obvious to a younger generation (and to Momentum) that what purports to be a progressive, Labour-run council is nothing of the sort. It is simply a throw-back to the worst days of boss politics, saddled with a “my gang versus your gang” mentality. Currently, it is also a council in which its members and its officers are faced with a multitude of allegations of malfeasance.
One way or another, it will all end in tears. So out of touch are the mayor and his cronies that they now appear to believe their own fake news. Yet the deep well of dissatisfaction with the way the city is being run is now close to overflowing. At the very least, when nominations are sought in 2019 for a Labour candidate for city mayor, we can expect a serious challenge to the current incumbent. That is, if the government, the national Labour Party or the police have not intervened by then.