Whatever happens within the city of Liverpool reverberates across the whole city-region. This is undeniable. As the city of Manchester is the driver within its own city-region, so is Liverpool within ours. Therefore, it follows that events within Liverpool’s controlling Labour group have consequences for us all. It has not always been this way – that is, a dominant and numerically overwhelming Labour council – nor will it remain so. Anyone who has spent any time in politics knows that the political tide does inevitably turn – sometimes in a small way, sometimes in a spectacular fashion.
Thus, recent developments within Liverpool’s Labour group, and within the city-wide Labour Party, are of significance to us all. At first glance, it may be considered as solid a political edifice as one of the Three Graces; but appearances, as always, can be deceptive. The mayor, for example, has become increasingly as isolated as he has become regularly agitated. The recent loss of three leading members of his cabinet has left him with three formidable potential political enemies on the council’s back benches. It appears that he now recognises just how unpopular he is with both Labour Party members and the general public. Perhaps that is why he avoids both of these sets of the disenchanted whenever he can. Never the most industrious of politicians – he would be pushed to put in a two and a half day week – he has no political nous and no political strategy.
Changes in Liverpool’s constituency Labour parties are already preparing the ground for his demise. A recent notable sign of this has been the city-wide demand that he face a meeting of Labour Party members to explain his madcap scheme to borrow hundreds of millions of pounds to then lend to Everton Football Club. Next year, nominations will be called for the mayoral candidacy. That already seems to be a weighted contest against Mayor Anderson’s re- selection. Constituencies, branches, and affiliated organisations are lining up to see him off. I believe that there will be a parallel move to rid the city of the discredited post of elected city mayor. The old leader and council model of governance is viewed as far preferable to an all-powerful and unaccountable mayor.
Yet it is not just Mayor Anderson who faces political oblivion. My understanding is that rank-and-file Labour Party members, led by Momentum devotees, are seeking to cull during the re-selection process, those councillors whom they view as political deadwood. It remains to be seen how extensive this purge will be, and, more, importantly, whether or not it will help to effect change in the council’s prevailing but ailing culture.
Of course, before then, we can anticipate major court cases involving leading council personalities, both officers and elected politicians. Who knows where they will ultimately lead the city and the city-region. There is so much to spill out into the public domain, including the financial arrangements at the top of the ill-fated Liverpool Direct Limited. There is also the disgraceful – and continuing – scandal of the failed and fraudulent building projects, wherein both investors and contractors were ripped off, and council fees left uncollected. We may even see how much the council has spent on legal fees on behalf of departed chief executive Ged Fitzgerald, and the lawyers’ largesse disbursed on behalf of Mayor Anderson.
I know that this is not the most positive picture to paint of the city. A bright summer to date has lightened the gloom somewhat, as changes to the city’s skyline give an impression of progress. However, that is not the take of many on the current state of play. For example, how does one explain a recent gem whereby the council, in borrowing £200 million to repair potholes, incurs an extra £10 million of cuts (that is, additional to cuts already ordained) whilst that loan still has to be repaid with interest ? Is it any wonder that there is a popular perception that the current city council is a hotbed of ineptitude and corruption, unable or unwilling to provide the services which are its core business? Many may feel that that is an unfair characterisation, but, as my old mother used to say, the truth often hurts.