They say that the show is not over until the fat lady (or gent!) sings. Well, that is certainly the case with current local politics. To listen to many people in the local media, the Labour Party, and the general public, is to hear too often a view that Steve Rotheram is now metromayor, Joe Anderson has been dethroned, and that once more, all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds (aka Liverpool).
Of course, all of this is utter nonsense. All that has happened is that Steve Rotheram has been selected as Labour candidate for next year’s metromayoral election. Joe Anderson remains executive mayor of Liverpool, and the city still faces bankruptcy over the next two years. The challenges facing the city, and the wider city-region, remain enormous. To coin a phrase, what is to be done?
The first thing is to unite as a region around Steve, as the leaders of St Helens, Halton, Wirral and Knowsley have now done. Labour Party members must recognise that Steve will need to maximise support in the run-up to next year’s election, and –God willing – in doing the job afterwards. There can be no room for complacency or indifference about that election. Steve is not metromayor yet, and, as Harold Wilson once famously remarked:”A week is a long time in politics”. There are about eight months before Steve faces the ballot box.
There is also the not insignificant point of Liverpool’s office of elected mayor. As things stand, the city will have three mayors post 2017. Do we need them? Most people, I believe, do not think so. Moreover, Joe declared that after he was adopted as metromayoral candidate (of course, he did not win the nomination), the council would abolish the role of executive mayor, and revert to a “leader“ model. Is that still his view? Will he keep to his word? After all, highly paid council offices are not meant to be job creation projects. We have a traditional Lord Mayor to represent the city on ceremonial occasions, and will soon have a Metromayor to speak for and represent the Liverpool City Region, including Liverpool. The current role of executive mayor is surely superfluous, especially since it never had demonstrable public support?
The politics of the city may, initially, carry on much as before, but there is a train coming down the tracks. There is no effective scrutiny, little accountability, and limited transparency. These failings will cost Labour dearly in future elections. Internally, the nature and the size of the local party is changing. A new approach will be demanded on both levels. Seats put at risk by a failure to meet new circumstances will be matched by challenges for those seats where current councillors fail to raise their game. If existing councillors are wise, they will recognise the changing times and act accordingly.