So, the die is cast, and we will shortly have a new metromayor, limited although their powers may be. As I write, the tellers are busy counting the votes used, as we ponder on the mindset of those who chose to sit on their hands. Turnout can be a depressing figure, when one considers the effort put into a campaign, and the long history of struggle which has enabled people to vote in the first place.
The successful candidate faces three years of hard work simply to establish themselves in the new job (the next election for the job is set down for 2020), and to validate its worth in the eyes of the electorate. People are, after all, generally cynical about politicians, and even more so about what they perceive as an extra and unnecessary layer of political glad-handing. Thus, there is an immediate imperative of demonstrating the role as both necessary and constructive.
It will require the full support of the members of the Combined Authority (CA). Any hint of obstructive behaviour on their part will simply convince many in their prejudice against the notion of a metromayor. We know who will be leading for four of the six local authorities on the CA; but we do not know who will be leading for Liverpool if Mayor Anderson succeeds in his quest for a third Merseyside political role. Nor do we know who will win the four-way battle within St Helens Labour Group for leadership of that council. Whoever leads on the CA for these authorities must also recognise their responsibility towards the new metromayor.
Of course, all of this will soon be overwhelmed by the general election. Locally, focus will be fixed on marginal seats like Wirral West, but in the immediate future, all eyes are on the Labour nomination for Liverpool Walton, where it is uncertain who will be the Labour candidate.
Sitting Member of Parliament, Steve Rotheram, has indicated that he will be standing again. He could do nothing else. Failure to do so might suggest that he was taking the metromayoral election for granted, and that would have upset many voters. However, if he succeeds today, he is faced with two choices: he can either immediately withdraw as a parliamentary candidate; or he can fight the seat, win it, and resign at a future date.
The latter would mean a by-election, but it would give Walton CLP members time to choose their own successor to Steve. The downside is that it would be portrayed as cynical political manoeuvring by the Labour Party, and expensive manoeuvring at that. On the other hand, if Steve was to immediately withdraw after a win tonight (he is odds on favourite), it would mean that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Labour Party would choose Labour’s candidate for June 8th. Because of the constraints of the legal timetable for the general election, they would have no choice but to do so.
In this situation, regardless of the choice which they make, there are going to be very unhappy aspiring candidates, and a lot more unhappy party members. The fact is that, in this impossible bind, the NEC just cannot win.