On Monday, Labour’s regional office emailed a notice referencing today’s hustings for the three Labour hopefuls for the nomination as candidate for Liverpool mayor. The notice says that there is a maximum of 1000 members who can participate in this on-line event. There has already been one set of hustings, I am told, which managed to attract about 100 participants. Think about these figures for a minute, in the context of about 5000 Labour members in the city.
It seems as if the bulk of Labour members in the city will have no opportunity to hear the candidates live, or to put questions to them. If you have not been invited, you simply cannot do so. Admittedly, this is hardly surprising, given the limitations on the hustings, and the shortness of the timetable. Granted also that, given the impact of the pandemic, it is difficult to see how else there might be some semblance of a selection process. Nevertheless, it does raise questions about the internal democracy of the Labour Party.
For example, who exactly has been made aware of these hustings? Presumably it was only those members who can be contacted on-line. Even then, doubts are raised. I am on-line, and I regularly am notified of my branch and constituency meetings but I have no recollection of anything concerning hustings from the regional office. What of those members who are not on-line? There are such members out there, believe it or not. Surely they have a right to be fully involved in such an important selection.
Mind you, one must wonder whether improved communication necessarily leads to increased participation. The poor on-line turn out at the first hustings might suggest that, once again, apathy rules the day, even amongst those honoured with an invitation. Perhaps they had heard that the person invited to chair the event was the council’s in-house apologist at “The Echo” – its laughingly designated “political” editor, Liam Thorpe.
All else aside, these are serious issues. Ballots will be issued on February 17th, closing on March 5th. My fear is that once again, ballots will be cast in ignorance by a minority of Labour Party members in the city. In my view, the national and regional executives of the Labour Party have once again exhibited remarkable ignorance and disregard for the Liverpool Labour party, and for the city itself. After all, we are in the middle of intensive police and government inquiries into how the council has been mismanaged and corrupted in recent years. Yet we have a choice from between three candidates who have sat by like the fabled three wise monkeys, at the very least oblivious to the malfeasance occurring whilst they were senior councillors. Now we are told to select one of them. Is it to be the one said to be left wing, the one said to be right wing, or the one said to be chasing “ching-ching”? Frankly, I see no clear politics between the three of them.
I emphasise, too, the importance of this to the other boroughs within the city-region. It is not just that Liverpool is the major driver borough within that collective; it has also been a very awkward partner at times to other members of the Combined Authority. There needs to be a responsible and constructive spokesperson for Liverpool on the Combined Authority. Remember, too, that there have been bilateral spill-overs of Liverpool’s corruption, affecting chunks of the city-region. We all have a stake in getting a workable solution to Liverpool Council’s ills, starting with the mayoralty if we must continue the post.