Joe is seeing more launches these days than Cammell Laird’s slipway but it is appropriate that the next official launch of his bid to be Labour nominee for metro-mayor should be at the Hugh Baird Port Academy. After all, he was a seafarer before his career change into pub management. He has also prided himself on his attempts to boost Liverpool’s maritime links whilst he has been in office.
It was, I think, nostalgia for his merchant marine days which helped persuade him into the folly of using the city’s hard pressed reserves to buy the Cunard Building as a cruise terminal. Of course, it was not to be. Instead, we are paying for a new cruise terminal on land owned by his good friends at Peel (major sponsors of the mayor’s launch venue, the as yet unopened Port Academy – a posh name for a training school).
It may be apt at the launch to raise some questions about the aforementioned cruise terminal. I have traced at least six contracts which the mayor has made in connection to it. Nowhere is landlord Peel mentioned other than as a recipient of “Duchy Turnover “ money – possibly some arcane dues from yesteryear. Are Peel to be paid rental on their land? One would imagine so. More interesting are two contracts awarded to Southampton Cargo Handling. Remember how Southampton fought tooth and nail to stop Liverpool’s cruise terminal? Now they are given “stevedore services” and “rope handling “ contracts. Are these not skills upon which Liverpool docks built its name?
The launch might also be an opportunity for the mayor to explain why Liverpool’s municipal borrowing is at its upper limit. Is it the case that he hopes if he becomes metro-mayor in the future to spread the cost of his extravagant borrowing across Merseyside? Liverpool’s borrowing has exceeded that of Sefton, Knowsley and Sefton put together, and runs at double that of Wirral. These are important indicators of the kind of financial regime which might eventuate across the six boroughs under an Anderson metro-mayoralty. It could have dire consequences for the city-region.
Of course, launches – at least, official ones – are generally seen as an opportunity to set out a candidate’s values and principles which underpin his/her approach to an elected position. Issues like inclusivity and transparency, accountability and consultation are vital to the selection of the right candidate to be the Labour flag-bearer in 2017. Hopefully, there will be some clues forthcoming at Joe’s launch based on facts rather than flannel.