Joe – a Joke?

To read yet again of Mayor Anderson’s attempts at a blatant vote grab (a new Mersey ferry) is depressing enough; to receive a double dose via Roger Phillips on Radio Merseyside is bordering on the cruel and vindictive.

Why there are those in the Labour Party (and beyond) who are happy to buy into this monstrous ego eludes me completely. His combination of arrogance, bombast and downright ignorance must surely render him unfit to be metro mayor.

So, on top of his 50 pence bus tickets for children (uncosted), he is now adding a further potential charge (on the tunnels?) by another uncosted election gimmick of a new ferry. How will he pay for it – or, rather, who will pay for it? How will this virtuoso of the market place bypass a tendering process to give a building contract to Cammell Laird? Where does value for money come into the equation?

Clearly, this latest clownish performance is all about winning votes in the race to be Labour’s candidate for metro mayor. Yet as even Roger Phillips pointed out, he is using Labour Party machinery – and funds – to advantage himself over two other Labour candidates. It is outrageous, and suggests that the whole process is in danger of becoming a joke.

City-Region Finances

We must always be wary of grandiose claims, particularly when they are made by candidates seeking selection or election .Too often, a wish is translated as a commitment, only to be found wanting when subjected to scrutiny. Such was the case of the recent “offer” of Mayor Anderson to introduce 50 pence bus tickets for our youngsters. A laudable aim, but is it practical?

Seasoned councillors with deep experience of the MPTA were quick to question Joe’s hasty selection goody. From where will it be financed, they asked? As it has not been costed, will it mean increased tunnel tolls or higher fares for other groups? Joe’s answer is to waffle on about competitive tendering, a subject about which he appears to know little.

He has form on bright but uncosted ideas. Let us not forget his vanity project of the Cunard Building as a cruise terminal. This impractical and expensive folly has yet to be justified. We cannot even get a formal valuation of it from the council. We are, I am afraid, being led down a costly financial road. When Cllr. Brant was the council’s finance guru, I had some faith in what was being done in our name. He was, after all, a commercial barrister with an understanding of the council’s finances. The mayor has as little financial acumen as he does tact.

It is also worth noting the mishandling of the “Futurist” demolition. This is most curious as the delay in reopening Lime Street gets longer and longer. On the 6th of January last, the council awarded a contract to a firm worth £170,000, for “urgent and essential” work on the site. The same firm was given a second contract worth £140,000 in March, for “hoarding and scaffolding”. Then on April 21st, the same firm was given a third contract worth £124,300 for “making safe” the site. It seems that the site is an opportunity to print money at the council tax payer’s expense.

This is not the form required of a successful candidate to be metromayor. We need someone who looks before they leap – someone who thinks ideas through, and costs them, before opening their mouth.

Rebuttal

I was asked by a Liverpool councillor yesterday if my criticism of Joe Anderson was personal. I said no, – it was purely political. I am opposed in principle to what he stands for, and how he represents (or misrepresents) Labour.

For me, there are core principles in Labour politics which are non-negotiable. They include transparency and accountability, consultation and civility. I prize honesty in politicians, and distrust spin. “Teamjoe”, as Mayor Anderson’s support entitles itself, is adept at disinformation which reflects a great deal on the team leader. Let me give two small examples.

In the “Echo”, words attributed to Phil Redmond praise Joe’s work on the Capital of Culture. As Redmond was appointed to head the Culture Company, Joe resigned in high dudgeon from the large committee running the culture company, permanently whinging on the sidelines when he could not get his way.

The second sign of mendacity was in an interview in the “Guardian”. Once again, there was a gratuitous attack on Andy Burnham alongside a spurious suggestion that Joe had a university degree. One day, a working class hero, the next an accomplished autodidact.

No – my criticism is not personal, just my way of seeking the truth. I will not buy into this re-creation of the mayor which is based on pretence and artifice. I will always prefer substance to spin.

Forrest Chump

Have I been unfair, I wondered, in sizing up the Labour field seeking nomination for the position of metromayor? I resolved to soothe my troubled mind on the issue by some diligent research and going to source – getting information from the horse’s mouth, as it were. Thus, I began by checking out the “TeamJoe” website.

It appears to have cost a few quid to put it together so I was expectant of good content to go with the presentation (always a mistake in politics, I hear you say). I turned to the section entitled “About Joe”. If I could not get a fresh perspective for my jaded tastes there, I thought, I will get it nowhere. However, I began to smile involuntarily upon reading the author’s by-line – “Award winning journalist/writer”. I was expecting John Pilger or Robert Fisk. Instead, I read on and got Larry Neild, local freelance hack, late (some years now) of the Daily Post.

I have to say that the unfolding tale related by Larry did Joe few favours. It struck me as a farrago of scenes from “Her Benny”, “Forrest Gump”, and Monty Python’s “Four Yorkshire Policemen”. It was highly amusing; Larry could not have come up with a more hilarious pastiche if he tried (perhaps he did!). It was if he was trying to conjure up a personality cult which Enver Hoxha would have applauded, but without the personality central to it.

One can only hope that such comic cuts will not be the hallmark of the nomination process. I remain hopeful that the wider Labour membership on Merseyside will look beyond this nonsense when making their choice. I trust, too, that they will see through the manoeuvring of cliques and individuals concerned only with their narrow self interest. It is too important a decision to be decided by spin and shady deals.