The announcement in the media was brief. There would be no new stadium for EFC on Walton Hall Park. This was no surprise to the club who had formerly been led to believe that there was a deal on offer from the city to provide the Blues with a new home. However, to their dismay, the club had been told some time ago that the offer was off. To say that the current “economic climate” was the decisive factor was misleading. A major factor was purely political.
There has been very vocal local opposition to plans to build on yet another city park. This background noise to an impending metro-mayoral election would have been disconcerting, to put it mildly. After the very negative electoral reaction in the south of the city to the degradation of green space, it was obvious that a cavalier approach to parks was naive at best. Walton was saved!
Perhaps the more intriguing announcement in the same media was speculation that two local Members of Parliament were considering seeking the Labour nomination for metro-mayor. Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has already stated his intention to go for the post. Now, if the media have it right, we might also see Luciana Berger and/or Steve Rotheram going for the job.
Steve is well known to many, especially in Liverpool. Formerly on the city council, he was raised in Knowsley where his father had also been a councillor. His year as Lord Mayor of Liverpool coincided with the city’s highly successful Capital of Culture year. Perhaps for many outside of Liverpool, he is best known as a leading supporter of the Hillsborough families.
Luciana, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer locally. She was the surprise successor to Jane Kennedy as Wavertree MP in 2010. She is difficult to appraise as a potential metro-mayoral candidate as she has not yet had much opportunity to demonstrate her worth. To my knowledge, she has no local government experience, although this may be seen in some quarters as an advantage. Similarly, in these days of emphasis on gender balance, some may regard her as doubly advantaged.
Of course, we do not yet know whether the media reports will be followed by actual nominations. It might be an exercise in kite-flying. Nor do we know if other Labour figures are preparing to throw their hats into the ring. What does seem certain is that we will have a real contest to select the best possible Labour candidate for this new role of metro-mayor.
That will be so important for this new role. It will be a function requiring a very different skill-set in the successful candidate. That candidate must offer a new approach across all of the city-region. That new approach must be fully inclusive; fully transparent; wholly accountable; broadly consultative. Bluster and spin will not wash, if we are to make up ground on the other city-regions, and bring prosperity to all of our communities.