I do not know if a sneaking admiration is due to either the mayor of Liverpool, or to his spin doctors. Either way, it is quite remarkable how positive a message is promoted from the Cunard Building regardless of a generally negative series of events and news. Take these past few weeks, normally a quiet time in politics.
The much-vaunted bid to host the Commonwealth Games fell flat on its face, but, of course, the show must go on and the mayor was suitably upbeat. He announced that the promised swimming pool on the river might still go ahead. No firm commitment, just a vague suggestion of what might happen. That is the key for spin, of course – a non-stop stream of possibilities, very few of which ever come to fruition. Most of these schemes disappear into thin air.
This record of failed promises has become a major headache for the city administration. The story is one of repeated failure and missed opportunities. This dire reality is underscored by the failure to attract sufficient investment necessary to deliver the expanding local economy promised to the city – and, by extension, to the wider city-region. Prosperity has not been enhanced by the increased scepticism of investors towards the city. They witness officers being arrested and charged, whilst the administration’s competence is repeatedly questioned as allegations of corruption increase.
So the latest batch of “developers” to be arraigned before the courts was of no surprise to astute observers (and there are many!). The people concerned, their associates, accommodation addresses, and records of malfeasance, are well known to the police and other authorities. There is a widespread belief that the city-council and its officers have, at the very least, chosen to close their eyes to these people and their nefarious activities.
It is not as if there has simply been a failure to regulate who is operating in Liverpool and on what basis – I can think of half a dozen torching of development sites from which “developers” were to make huge gains. It is also the way in which core services are being managed. Thus, we now find ourselves nationally in the bottom failing five of 151 local education authorities for the quality of secondary education. The dissatisfaction, and even anger, amongst a large portion of the electorate is palpable. It will ultimately express itself against local Labour.
It is why I believe that there ought to be radical change at Liverpool City Council. The mayor should prepare to step aside and say so. Councillors ought to be urgently looking for ways to exercise their responsibilities to overhaul an outdated and self-serving organisation which is more preoccupied with its own interests rather than those of the city and its citizens. Perhaps one or more should have the courage to provide an alternative vision for the council and the city. I note the current mayor has said he favours a second referendum on Brexit. Many of us would like a first referendum on an elected city mayor.