Now that we are approaching the end of the political party conference season with the Tories bickering in Birmingham, we should all be able to look for policies on offer which we can either accept or reject in the months to come. Of course, all sensible debate has been overwhelmed by the shadow of Brexit in both Labour and Conservative parties. Like most people, I have no idea what the eventual outcome on Brexit will be. I do know, however, what I fear.
Already there are increasing concerns within our city-region. There could well be for example, a severe knock-on for specific industries like car manufacturing. More generalised and widespread effects due to diminished access to European markets could include transport chaos and increased unemployment. One thing is certain – there will be very serious consequences for the people of the Liverpool City Region whether there is a deal or not. I find it extraordinary that any nation should take such a gamble with its economic well being, particularly one so economically entwined as we are with the European Union.
Meanwhile, the largest of the LCR’s six boroughs – Liverpool – is yet again plunged into controversy. An independent peer group review by the Local Government Association has condemned the way in which the council conducts its business. Without naming names, it referred specifically to the conduct of council meetings and fraught relationships between council officers and elected members. Amongst the latter, the report concluded that many had no real involvement in either the running of the council or in its decision making.
None of this is surprising to many of us who have repeatedly pointed out that Mayor Anderson in particular conducts himself as if he is in a bar room argument rather than in the Town Hall. You might recall also how early in his mayoralty, he closed down the scrutiny panel in the council, lessening the chances of transparency of his actions as mayor. Thus, it was entirely predictable that former cabinet member, Cllr Munby, should call for an alternative to Anderson as mayoral candidate when the selection is made in 2019. He joins another former cabinet member, Cllr Small, in advocating change. I presume that these voices were not raised out of grievance or narrow self interest, but because they had witnessed first hand the way in which Anderson operates as mayor and find it wanting.
This stirring of the local political pot comes at a time when local comic – the Liverpool Echo – affords a two-page splash on the return of its columnist, Derek Hatton, to the Labour fold. Before the Echo congratulates itself prematurely on its scoop, it should be aware that under Labour Party rules, Hatton’s re-admission is subject to the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee. Their decision on the re-admittance or otherwise of Hatton, will speak volumes on where as a body, the NEC stands. It is not as if he will be taking over the local party if they allow him back in. He will not – his time has been and gone.
Nevertheless, his re-appearance as a Labour member in Liverpool would, I believe, send out a very negative message to many voters across Merseyside, especially those who remember the chaos wrought by him and his erstwhile Militant comrades, people who have a hearty detestation of Hatton. What is clear is that he is a vote loser, most emphatically not a vote winner. Interestingly, the Echo’s paean of praise included extended references to Mayor Anderson. I do recall Hatton as a guest at Anderson’s reception for Ed Milliband when the latter came as Labour leader to Liverpool. As Hatton was quoted “I’ve known Joe for a long, long time, and I’ve got a lot of time for him”. I bet he has!!
It really is a sad piece of self indulgence for the Echo to give such a platform on what it would deem to be political coverage, to a has-been considered by many to be a wide boy, albeit an ageing one. Perhaps if they gave complete and detailed coverage to the corrupt developers and known criminals besmirching the name of the city (and by extension the LCR), they might begin to reclaim some of the lost respect which has resulted from their highly partial and cavalier approach to council malfeasance.