Friday lunch time was spent listening to Roger Phillips’ phone-in on Radio Merseyside. I made a point of it as I knew that Mayor Anderson was his guest. There was the usual range of questions, familiar to anyone elected as a political representative – dog-fouling, run-down areas, alley gates – the everyday issues which grab the attention of voters.
Then came a question from Roger to the mayor, on the role of metro-mayors. I was quite taken with the mayor’s response, that he would be working hard for the successful election of Steve Rotheram as metro-mayor when the election is held in May. Indeed, he sounded enthusiastic about the prospect. This surprised me, given the email which the mayor has sent to members of Liverpool Labour Group, and an open letter which he has written to the Liverpool Echo. These centred on an article in the Liverpool Echo.
In his email to councillors, the mayor admits to “openly criticising Steve”, calling Steve’s comments “truly ignorant”. The mayor’s basic complaint is that Steve had made “an implicit attack on the work of (Liverpool) council” in the Echo, quoting a headline as “unforgiveable and suggests no interest in your election as a councillor”.
When I read this, I was truly flabbergasted. Firstly, anyone who knows anything about the media knows that journalists write headlines, not interviewees (By the way, the offending headline said, according to the mayor – “I will build homes for the city’s homeless”. The actual headline online was “New homes for rough sleepers pledge from metro-mayor candidate”). I have carefully read the article in question, and could see nothing to which ANYONE could take exception. In it Steve praised the “excellent” work of the six local authorities. There was NO reference at all to Liverpool specifically.
In fact, what Steve was saying was entirely in line with the national Labour Party policy and campaign set out by parliamentary spokesman, John Healey. It was also entirely consistent with the responsibilities and competences of an incoming metro-mayor, with a remit across all six local authorities in the city-region, not simply Liverpool.
Having misled Liverpool councillors in his email that they were somehow being maligned by Steve, the letter to the Echo takes the mayor’s imagined grievances to a wider audience. He wrongly accuses Steve of “ignorance”, lacking “understanding”, and being plain “wrong”. He goes on to charge Steve with “gesture” politics, prescribing “an overly simple solution”. All this because Steve echoed national policy whilst praising all of our local authorities for their excellent work!!
I am sorry to say that the mayor’s reaction to a perfectly reasonable interview – in which Liverpool was not even mentioned – is, at best, knee-jerk in nature, rebutting charges which have not been made; and claiming insults neither uttered nor implied. His final slander, suggesting that Steve was a man to “jump on bandwagons that criticise the city’s hard work”, was a fabrication too far.
The only conclusion to be drawn is that the mayor – well known for his vindictiveness and his ego – is still unable to come to terms with the fact that Labour Party members overwhelmingly preferred Steve to him as Labour’s metro-mayoral nominee. The mayor has done his best to date to tie in the future metro-mayor to an agenda constructed within the city-region’s Combined Authority by the mayor and his confederates. It seems as if he now wishes to set Labour councillors and the wider public against the selected Labour candidate in the run-up to the election.