Testing Time

There is little which I can add to the reaction to the racist tweet by former Lord Mayor, Cllr Brennan. All racism is to be condemned and those responsible called to account.  Yet I did note that Cllr Brennan made reference to “my friend Mayor Joe Anderson”, going on to say that “I have decided I cannot continue (as Lord Mayor)”. He also said that “I am also referring the matter to the Labour Party”. So far, so good – having been caught out, he finally did the right thing in such circumstances. Then along comes Mayor Anderson with his own statement. “I have referred the matter to the Labour Party regionally and nationally” as, he went on, “the action I have taken needed to be taken immediately”.

Firstly, I would point out that presumably, they did not both refer the matter to the Labour Party. Secondly, this surely would anyway initially be a matter for the city council and for the Labour group on that council. I do not know what “action” it was to which Mayor Anderson was himself referring. It does indicate, however, just how he views himself and his role within city politics. It is a sign of how he sees all matters as being for him to consider and to decide. This is extremely important as we rapidly approach the scheduled election of a mayor in 2020.

For what it is worth, I would remind those interested in the mechanics of politics to measure the worth of the office itself. The Echo and the current mayor have already embarked on a campaign to ensure in the first instance, the re-selection of Mayor Anderson as the Labour candidate. Part of this is a list of claims – some real, many inflated, and some downright bogus – as evidence of the merits of the post. Naturally, there is little mention of the disasters which have beset the city and its good standing in recent years, no reference to the many failed promises made by the mayor. The first question ought to be whether or not the post is worth keeping.

You will recall that of all cities, Liverpool was the only one never given a referendum on an elected mayor. Other cities turned it down flat and have prospered (generally more than Liverpool) under more traditional models of governance. Even if the post was to be retained, there is no guarantee that a different person at the helm would be any improvement on the present incumbent. On the contrary, there is much evidence to suggest the administration of the city would be just as lacking in transparency and accountability. It is no accident that so many public posts – from American president down! – are time limited with regard to the post holder.

I believe that, under Labour Party processes, Steve Rotheram has already been confirmed as the Labour candidate for metromayor. There is yet to be a selection of the Labour candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). Merseyside’s experience of this Tory novelty has been an abject failure. The post holder since its inception has been former MP Jane Kennedy. She has been totally invisible in the role, despite a salary in excess of £80,000 pa and the backup of a bloated and expensive bureaucracy. To date, I have been contacted by two aspiring Labour candidates for the job, both of whom are Liverpool-based. I find it surprising that there has been no declared candidate from one of the other boroughs to date. I had expected Knowsley veteran, Bill Weightman, to go for it, given his experience and knowledge of police matters.

Speaking of Knowsley, I am told that two Knowsley council Health and Safety inspectors have been sacked after directing clients to a cheaper service elsewhere. This is another example of how councils are trying every way to increase income from in-house services, whilst the same service can be provided via external approved firms at a lower price. The opportunity for corrupt practice is glaringly obvious for all to see. I have certainly pointed out questionable  arrangements in Wirral in the past which suggests that the basis of such problems is systemic, rather than the odd bad apple.

Mention of Wirral brings the new Tory government to mind. The appointment of Esther McVey to the housing, communities and local government brief must be of concern in Wirral. I am told that she has never forgiven the voters of Wirral West for chucking her out as their MP. One must wonder whether she will be more or less supportive than her predecessors in, for example, helping to resolve the long standing difficulties in New Ferry since the gas explosion, or the ongoing dispute over the proposed Hoylake golfing development. Time will tell.

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