I have just seen the candidates aiming to be Liverpool mayor. At the outset, I must declare an interest. I did not vote for the unchallenged Labour nominee, Joe Anderson. However, regardless of my view, he is Labour’s candidate which raises another question in my mind.
Next year sees the election of a city-region mayor, a much bigger job; and Joe Anderson has made clear his intention of standing for it, determined as he is to be boss of the city-region. Therefore, Liverpool Labour has nominated him for the 2016 city mayor post in the full knowledge that he hopes to resign inside twelve months.
This strikes me as extraordinary. The Liverpool mayoral post is being treated as a twelve-month job creation scheme for the benefit of one man (assuming that (a) he is re-elected in May; (b) he wins the Labour nomination for the city-region post in 2017). Not only does this show a lack of political foresight, but it also begs the question: what does happen if the mayor packs up next year?
Rumour has it that Mayor Anderson has promised Ann O’Byrne the succession when/if he goes. However, regardless of his ego, it is not within his gift. Others in the Liverpool Labour Group believe that the council will revert to a council Leader model. In these important matters, there is the small matter of national legislation to consider. Of course, this is all speculation, presupposing that if Joe Anderson became Labour nominee next year for mayor of the city-region, he would win. I am not sure of either supposition.
It is no secret that I am no admirer of the Mayor and his brand of politics. His devious introduction of the mayoralty without wide debate and consultation, and without a referendum, was enough for me. His Tory friends may have been happy but it dismayed large numbers of people in Liverpool, denied what was on offer everywhere else. I am even more convinced of his unsuitability to lead the wider region. I recall how he stamped and sulked, threatening to take his ball home, when his fellow council leaders chose not to make him chairman of the combined authority.
His performance to date too often betrays Labour principles. He is opposed to transparency and accountability. Initially, he talked the talk, but has failed subsequently to walk the walk. There are few opposition councillors, and he cannot be blamed for that. Yet he ordered the scrapping of the mayoral scrutiny committee; refuses to answer questions; and his regime is ignoring Freedom of Information legislation.
Secondly, he is preoccupied with developers. Before he closed down access to his diary, the little that was in it consisted of meetings with developers. Perhaps if he was to meet with critical constituents, he just might soften his harsh image.
Thirdly, Mayor Anderson ought to have learnt by now that crude, abusive and bullying behaviour and language (as reported by former Labour councillors) might sit well with some but alienates most people. Far too many people find him an embarrassment to this fine city, despite his office’s attempts to spin his image.
Finally, his expenditure of £89,000 of council taxpayers’ money on his personal legal costs for his employment tribunal is a scandal. It suggests a money-grubbing approach to public life which does a disservice to all of those councillors committed to working on behalf of their fellow citizens rather than themselves. Tagged onto his new-found fondness for freebie trips to Monaco and America, a new level of cynicism is promoted in the public’s mind towards politics and politicians.