Pandemic, Presidency and Party

Over the years, I have always tried to focus this blog on the many trials facing the Liverpool City Region. Goodness knows, there has been much to warrant a critical voice, from local government ineptitude all the way to downright corruption. That remains the case with what seems to be a sclerotic criminal justice system and an emasculated local media. Nevertheless, although all politics are essentially local, issues do arise which transcend the local but which have a direct effect on our city-region.

Three have come together in time which simply cannot be ignored – the pandemic; the American Presidential election; and the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn by the Labour Party. These might seem odd bedfellows, but each in its different way has the capacity to cause ever more difficulty for our city-region. Indeed, they already have. Let us begin with the pandemic.

We will all have followed the war of words between local leaders and central government. Like most people, I must confess that I am not very sure as to what has eventuated from these exchanges. I do recognise that Johnson and his government are inept, but I am none too sure what extra local government can bring to the battle against the spread of this dreadful virus. Like Boris Johnson, our local leaders seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place – that is, between a total lockdown and maintaining some semblance of viable economic activity.

Naturally, as a member of the highest risk group, I am acutely aware of my personal peril if exposed to the virus. I am also aware of the plight of my grandson who found himself in isolation from his first day as a Liverpool University fresher. Consider the many who have suffered wage cuts or who have been laid off, or the many small businesses which have gone to the wall. Of course, there are those who have contracted Covid-19, many of whom have sadly died. It is an extremely problematic situation for us all.

So is the American Presidential election. Its outcome could seriously affect our well-being across the city-region. A Trump success could embolden the Great Grifter to push his trade and environment agendas at a massive cost to us all. Imagine a trade deal with our present government which could lead to the import of chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef. We can say goodbye to what remains of our health and safety protections. Meanwhile, Big Pharma would be rubbing its hands with glee at the thought of carving up our already fragmented National Health Service. The stakes are huge even before we take a no-deal Brexit into account.

Last, but by no means least, the suspension of Corbyn can have shattering effects locally if Labour Party members are so minded. All six boroughs within the city-region are dominated by the Labour Party. Offices like Metromayor, Liverpool mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner are held by Labour nominees. Other than Southport and a little bit of Halton, the whole area is represented in Parliament by Labour MPs. A Labour Party civil war could have dire consequences for the city-region.

Yet I find myself appalled by the action of Labour’s national leadership. I have never voted for or nominated Jeremy Corbyn for anything; but I know that he is no racist. Much of his politics are very different from my own. However, he has always been an honourable man in my eyes, unlike many of his detractors. Not for him the personal abuse tossed about so freely by those who have vilified him. His apparent crime meriting suspension was to publicly disagree with parts of the report on anti-semitism in the Labour Party, published by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Having read the report, I too disagree with much of it. I most certainly reject those who have been quick to gloat at Corbyn’s suspension.

A political, healthcare and economic meltdown across our region would be disastrous, far worse than anything in my lifetime. That is why I truly hope that local and national government can get their respective acts together on the pandemic; that Trump is soundly beaten in the Presidential election; and that the Labour Party leadership sees sense, and fully restores Jeremy Corbyn to his rightful place in the party. The stakes are too high for anything else.

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