The national media are fixed upon the incredible contortions over Brexit being performed by the political parties at Westminster. Until recent months, the political elite within the United Kingdom could console themselves with a rather patronising view of the antics of the oddball sitting across the pond in the White House. However, surely the truly objective observer would look on both parties with equal exasperation. In both cases, the leading politicians appear to be completely detached from the priorities of the mass of people, allowing ego to supersede service.
Yet there is a similar situation occurring here in Liverpool. Nearly two-thirds of Labour Party members in the city want to be rid of the post of elected mayor, reverting to a leader and cabinet model. By a series of procedural manoeuvres, it appears that the Liverpool labour Party has kicked a decision into the long grass, with a possible delay of up to three years before a decision is made on the local party’s final decision.
Four of five local constituency Labour parties wanted the post abolished. The fifth – Garston and Halewood – was against change (one wonders if Halewood members had a say, given that they do not live in Liverpool but in Knowsley). Then the members of West Derby CLP were told their vote was invalid, as the “indicative” meeting to decide upon their view, was inquorate.
One should not be too surprised given the massive – and expensive – campaign to keep the post, featuring the present incumbent (Joe Anderson), the regional Labour Party office, and a couple of trade union regional secretaries. Most important was the support of the Liverpool Echo, which appears to be more concerned with keeping Joe Anderson in position, rather than with the continued existence of the post itself.
This does not mean that the post will continue, or that, if it does, Joe Anderson will fill it. Firstly, there are local people trying to organise a people’s petition to rid the city of the post. Such a petition requires the signatures of just over 16100 registered electors in the city, for there to be a referendum on the question. Thus, as the wider Labour Party in Liverpool resolves its collective view – important given its domination of city politics – it could well be left at the starting gate if the proposed petition gets off the ground. Many electors are still fuming that, unlike in other cities, Liverpool electors were not given a vote on whether or not they would have an elected mayor.
Even if the post is retained, Mayor Anderson is not the shoo-in suggested, either as the Labour candidate or in the ballot for mayor itself. Despite the barrage of false news about the city under his stewardship, there is widespread distaste for the current mayor, and a belief that he has done little to commend himself to voters. Of course, his friends in the Echo and in the business community will do all that they can to support him, in return for the slavish way in which he has met their demands.
Speaking of the Echo, I noted that its parent paper – the Mirror – published a survey on deprivation this week, based on official government figures. According to the Mirror, none of the six boroughs in our city-region made it into the top forty of deprived boroughs. Hull, Manchester, Salford, Bolton, Leicester and Newcastle were all up there, but the highest ranking in the LCR was Liverpool at forty-two! I have always thought the Mirror to be sympathetic to our area, so make of their survey what you will.
One final point needs to be made. Halton has always been a generally sensible borough, so I was mystified by a decision it made last week. It gave up twenty-one hectares of green belt for a Runway End Safety Area abutting Speke Airport. Now, I am no expert but this appears to be an extraordinarily large amount of land for this purpose, especially given that the airport remains in difficulties. I am told there is no need for this extension, but, if there is, a much smaller area would suffice.