This holiday weekend has seen local politicians throughout the city-region, reflecting on the results of last Thursday’s elections. The immediate reaction of those who lost out was to blame Brexit; in all honesty, there is some truth in that. However, there was also a linkage across the city-region suggesting an increased salience of environmental issues in the minds of voters. It would be as well for councillors to think long and hard as to why this was the case.
In my mind, the biggest winners across the city-region on the night were the Green Party – not just because of the number of seats which they won, but also because of the number of votes which they amassed. In ward after ward – many of which had not had a Green candidate before – Green nominees polled a surprisingly high vote, given their previously low (or non-existent) base. It is too simple to just write this off as a result of a protest vote. Perhaps it is a sign of increasing public awareness of the criminal damage being done to our environment locally, nationally, and internationally.
Nationally, the Lib Dems were without doubt the biggest winners in terms of seats won, as the Tories were demonstrably the biggest losers in terms of seats lost. Hereabouts, the Tories actually gained a seat on the Wirral, whilst gains for the Lib Dems, the Greens and independents were dotted across the city-region. It would be glib to point out that Labour were generally losers; but they were coming from a very high base in all six of our local councils. Other than in Wirral, Labour retain a strong control of our local authorities. Nevertheless, only time will tell if lessons have been learnt from some quite remarkable reverses for Labour.
Ironically, the biggest “news” on election night in Liverpool was not the continued dilution of Labour support at the ballot box, but another huge fissure within the council ranks. Cllr O’Byrne announced as the ballot closed her intention to move the abolition of the post of city mayor at the council’s annual meeting later in May. As it happens , whilst I am certainly no supporter of Cllr O’Byrne, I have often written that the role is superfluous. Moreover, under the stewardship of Mayor Anderson, the role has shown itself to be anti-democratic, wasteful and inefficient. It is also profoundly politically corrupt. Unlike Manchester, for example, which has prospered without a city mayor, Liverpool has been subject to the whimsical leadership of Anderson, a man not noted for either interpersonal or entrepreneurial skills. Furthermore, it is my belief that simply replacing Anderson is not enough. Sadly, most local politicians, given the apparently unbridled powers within the city which Anderson seems to have, would fall prey to the same kind of ego trip which has characterized Anderson’s tenure of office.
I was interested to hear that Anderson attended a recent community awards event, organized by Cllr Woodhouse. Other guests included former Unite head honcho, Tony Woodley, and the union’s current boss, Len McCluskey. The latter spoke in fulsome support of Anderson as mayor, pledging help from Unite in maintaining his personal grip on power. One wonders what the quid pro quo might be for the two trade unionists, one of whom lives in Wirral and the other in London. Sup with a long spoon would be my advice. Unite members might not share their leader’s enthusiasm for a mayor who is so heartily disliked and distrusted, both within the Liverpool Labour Party and within the wider city.
Of course, if Anderson was to put himself up for mayor again, it has been suggested that he would face strong opposition for the Labour nomination in the city. One of those tipped to oppose him was Cllr O’Byrne, who is now seeking to abolish the post altogether, reverting to a more traditional council leader. Politics can be a strange land. Any leadership post she sought would surely first demand an explanation of her run-in with the police which led to her dramatic departure from her role as deputy Police Commissioner (another of Jane Kennedy’s disastrous misjudgements).
The other “hot tip” for the nomination as city mayor was one-time buddy of Anderson, “developer” Lawrence Kenwright. Again, we must wait and see what the future holds for Mr Kenwright. He has just put up for sale his two busiest (he says) hotels in Liverpool at the same time that it has leaked out that “hundreds” of investors in his speculative projects are clamouring for the overdue monies owed to them by Mr Kenwright’s company, Signature Living. I have long been advised that the rates of return which he has been in the habit of promising were wholly unrealistic, only repayable if he could keep attracting new investors to pay off the old.
Perhaps chickens are coming home to roost for Mr Kenwright. He has, of course, been down this road before, ending up in bankruptcy. It seems as if he and Mayor Anderson (remember his Munro collapse?) have still one thing in common – personal business failure.