I returned from Greece last Thursday, having seen the havoc wrought on the Greek people by austerity. I did not anticipate the political havoc being wrought on Merseyside, in the name of unrequited ambition.
Firstly, there was the attempted coup within St Helens Labour Group. Apparently, some saw the opportunity to remove leader Barry Grunwald, still recovering from a heart attack suffered whilst on holiday. As matters eventuated, Barry saw off the challenge – and, with it, half of his former cabinet. Politics can be a rough trade, and the internal politics of the Labour Party are no exception.
Yet the major rumpus revolved around the vacancy for a Labour candidate in Liverpool Walton. This was bound to be controversial, as I had forewarned in a previous blog. The timing of the metromayoral election, followed by the timing of the snap general election, made the respective positions of sitting MP and now metromayor, Steve Rotheram, and of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), extremely difficult. Steve was right to forego his parliamentary seat – he has an enormous challenge in establishing the metromayoralty.
The NEC was hamstrung by both the rules of the Labour Party, and by the legally binding timetable for the general election. It was impossible for Walton Constituency Labour Party to organise an OMOV (one member, one vote) selection of a candidate within the legal electoral timeframe. Labour Party rules cover such a predicament, mandating the NEC to select a candidate on behalf of the Walton CLP. Three candidates who had expressed an interest in standing in Walton – Joe Anderson, Theresa Griffin, and Dan Carden – were shortlisted. Anderson and Carden are Liverpool born and bred. Griffin is from Coventry although she had a stint on Liverpool Council back in the 90s. There was no candidate on the shortlist from within the ranks of Walton CLP itself. Thus, the NEC had to choose one of these three.
We will never know how each of the three performed at their interviews – only the selection panel can judge; and they did. They chose Dan Carden as Labour’s Walton candidate in June. I know all three candidates and I believe that the NEC made the right decision in the circumstances. Dan is young, well-educated, energetic and articulate, with real parliamentary experience. Over time, he will make an excellent MP.
However, there is no show without Punch, and Joe Anderson has bobbed up with outrageous, untrue, disloyal, and hypocritical charges, against the Labour Party, Len McCluskey, and most disgracefully, Labour’s candidate, Dan Carden. Anderson has the gall to speak in an email to Liverpool councillors, of bullying, corruption and patronage. This is the man who colluded with the Tories to introduce a mayoralty in Liverpool without the referendum afforded to other cities. His own behaviour is characterised as bullying – aggressive, and abusive to all who oppose him. A man who is the embodiment of a belief in his entitlement to any role he fancies. Rejected by Labour members as their candidate for metromayor, and now rejected by the NEC as a parliamentary candidate, he simply doesn’t get the message.
Oliver Cromwell’s words to the Rump Parliament should be addressed to Anderson:
“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
These are difficult days for the Labour Party, but we have fought back before. Now is perhaps the time for Labour in Liverpool to show that the worst kind of “boss” politics, epitomised by Mayor Anderson, belong in the dustbin of history. Then, we can look forward to a new kind of politics one which resonates with people, rather than grates with them.