Bread and Circuses

Reflecting the current preoccupation with Brexit and its explosive aftermath, a group of Liverpool Labour councillors have written to Jeremy Corbyn, telling him to resign. Given the gravity of Labour’s political crisis, this focus on national issues is unsurprising. However, I do wonder whether these Liverpool councillors and their colleagues ever consider what is happening to the Labour Party in Liverpool?

It is easy to lose oneself in the politics of the Town Hall, or, indeed, of Westminster. Yet the real politics- those which really matter – are those of the street and the workplace. The evidence of Brexit was that many members of the political classes were out of touch with those politics, and the current political vacuum has partly resulted from that.

For Labour, there is an extra dimension. A battle is going on within the party for its soul. On the right is the Blairite faction, led by “Progress”. A resurgent Broad Left is championed by “Momentum”. I know that there are many members inclined to neither, but they tend to go tribally with the ascendant faction of the day.

In Liverpool, it is difficult to generalise. Both factions have their supporters; but, then, Liverpool has always been different, and it is now. To the objective observer, Liverpool has a bizarre take on what it means to be Labour. Firstly, unlike other Labour cities, we had a mayoralty foisted on us without a referendum (they did, and rejected elected mayors). Secondly, we now accept a weird personality cult on behalf of a man who even his best friend would not call charismatic. Thirdly, a Labour council sits idly by whilst a cosy group of developers clean up at our expense. Fourthly, many in the same council embrace a culture of secrecy and non-accountability – the “smoke filled rooms” syndrome without the cigarettes!!

Certainly, if the Labour Party stands for anything, it must be inclusivity and equity, transparency and accountability. At present, these are most definitely NOT the hallmarks of Liverpool Labour politics. What DOES characterise them is an approach known as “bread and circuses” – keeping the rank-and-file happy with inconsequentials.

The city-region and the metromayoralty must be of a different hue, no longer disconnected from the area’s real needs. Now that minister Lord O’Neill is telling us not to count on Euro funding, and Mayor Anderson’s political partner George Osborne is political toast, the future of the city-region looks very different from Joe’s uncosted and impractical promises.

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