Tough Times

The past week has shown what difficult political waters we are now in. For most people on Merseyside, the fact that the diminishing number of people who subscribe to the Conservative Party should foist Boris Johnson on us as their leader and our Prime Minister was a blow, if a predictable one. Remember that this is the man who set out –“with malice aforethought” – to insult all of the people of Liverpool with a callous article related to Hillsborough and the city’s reaction to that miscarriage of justice. So tendentious was his article that he was compelled by his then party leader to come up to Liverpool to apologise in person.

Making for an even gloomier prospect for local government across the city region was the appointment of Esther McVey to his front bench in charge of housing, communities and local government. Normally, the appointment of a local person in such a key role would be welcomed. Unfortunately, Ms McVey is generally reviled across the city-region because of her record. Her attacks on those in receipt of benefits are well known, as are her views on food banks. Her support for the deeply disliked “bedroom tax” was followed by comments which offended the LGBT community. Our local government representatives will not feel confident of a sympathetic hearing from her.

One who might feel differently, however, is Mayor Anderson. The Liverpool mayor is fond of projecting himself as the friend and defender of all sections of the Liverpool populace, including the aforementioned LGBT community. However, he obviously saw it as a greater priority to go scurrying to Manchester this weekend to curry favour with Boris Johnson rather than show up at Liverpool Pride. We should not be too surprised by this. After all, was it not Mayor Anderson who made much play of his support for Prime Minister Cameron and his failed “Big Society” initiative?  Was it not Mayor Anderson who became great pals with discredited chancellor, George Osborne, the champion of austerity?

As Labour Party members receive a flurry of missives from the Labour Party, all promoting Anderson personally, they will surely see these for what they are – the early shots in his campaign to be reselected for the role from which he tried so hard to escape! They will be scrutinising the claims being made with extra care and noting the systematic exaggeration of many, and the downright misrepresentation of others. The Liverpool Labour Party has been down this road of fake news before, with bloated or invented figures; but as they choose – if they get that far – a candidate for the post of mayor in the 2020 elections, one has to hope that they will be far more circumspect than they were in the past.

As an example of the nonsense we were fed in the last few years, one needs look no further than the proposed new stadium for Everton FC. I seem to recall being told that it would (a) cost about £300 million, and (b) be financed through the city acquiring a loan from the Public Works Loan Board. Now the club is clarifying matters. The real cost is to be £500 million (and upwards?), financed through normal business channels, according to the club’s recent presentation. That, of course, is a matter for the club. It is most certainly NOT a matter for the city’s council tax payers.

Meanwhile, the city-region’s other councils appear to be getting on with their core business – not without difficulty, as all councils still face the burdens of austerity. Regardless of what the new prime minister may, or may not, say, austerity will continue. Like the proverbial super tanker, it takes a long time to turn things around (on the assumption that there is any genuine intention to do so). However, there are some items which might well come to pass as they seem to have a degree of cross-party support.

The first is the notion of a Mersey Barrage revived by metromayor, Steve Rotheram, and publicly agreed last week with current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Incidentally, I note that mayor Anderson again attempted to claim credit for the whole idea of a Mersey Barrage. However, I first recall this being tabled back in the 1980s, by David Alton, when Mayor Anderson was a junior deckhand. The other major project important to us all is the Johnson commitment (for what it is worth!) to a high-speed trans-Pennine rail route. My reservation is the statement that its first stage is the Manchester-Leeds permanent way. Too often, that has indicated that we on Merseyside will be left behind. Let us hope not. The only acceptable link is all the way from Liverpool to Hull.

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