Joe the Blow was a nickname once ascribed to Cllr Joe Hanson, but which might equally be applicable to former Liverpool mayor, Joe Anderson. His rambling and windy attempt on his new website, of a rebuttal of the Caller Report, underlines just how far from political reality he is. In the opening shots of his new campaign seeking exoneration, the former mayor at no point admits to anything other than the unbridled success of the city under his leadership. Thus, there is no apology for the many instances of mismanagement or misconduct which proliferated during his watch.
Rather, he is falling back on a tried and tested (and failed) strategy of litigation. Who can forget that the city forked out over £100,000 to pay for his legal action against his former employers, Chesterfield High School in Sefton? Now he believes that the city should once again subsidise his legal fantasies, a claim for legal largesse which city Labour group leader, Cllr Rasmussen, described as “outrageous”. The former mayor has declared his intention to sue both Merseyside Police and Her Majesty’s Government. Our intrepid “victim” is now said to be looking to crowd funding to finance his legal assault on his detractors. Perhaps there is a friendly trade union ready to feed his dreams. Has the man learnt nothing? Does he not realise the contempt in which he is held across the city?
Nevertheless, it remains the case that the police inquiry into council dealings – Operation Aloft – has yet to lead to any formal prosecutions of those arrested in the early stages of that police operation, including the former mayor. One can only hope that Merseyside Police are keen to avoid the mistakes of Operation Cheetah in the 1980s. This included two failed attempts to convict former deputy council leader, Derek Hatton. Coincidentally, Mr Hatton is now one of those, alongside the former mayor, who was arrested in connection with charges including intimidation, conspiracy and bribery, in the initial phase of Operation Aloft.
Mind you, amidst all of Mr Anderson’s nonsensical attempts at self-justification, he does touch on one issue which, although centred on Lancashire County Council, leads right back into the heart of Liverpool City Council and Mr Anderson’s role in the failed Liverpool Direct arrangement with BT. That issue is a Lancashire Police investigation into corruption at County Hall, Preston, and known as Operation Sheridan. This has been underway for over four years, and it is my understanding that the Lancashire Police have presented their findings to the Crown Prosecution Service. The latter must decide if, and with what, to charge the defendants (all of whom, with one exception, had strong links with the very top of Liverpool City Council).The lesson is that we should not hold our collective breath waiting for the courts to pass judgement on Messrs. Anderson, Hatton, et al.
Meanwhile, as the other five boroughs within the city-region react to the outcomes of the recent local elections, refreshing their respective cabinets, Liverpool Council seems to march to a different tune. Many members seem to be in denial about what might be learned from the election results, including opposition parties who have missed out on a glorious opportunity to radically advance their fortunes. However, the new mayor has made a radical change at the top. Liverpool’s new cabinet has, as its only experienced member, Cllr Corbett. The rest are literally unknown quantities, yet to show their mettle. Yet was not Cllr Corbett a shining light in ex-mayor Anderson’s firmament? Was it not she who sat on the publication of the report into the Fox Street scam? Has she ever questioned the connections between Cllr Knibb and the sale of land for the new Merseyside Police headquarters in her own ward? Does she not bear some responsibility (if only by her silence) for the transgressions and lack of transparency during the Joe Anderson years?
There is such a long way to go that I can only repeat what is becoming my mantra. Until there are prosecutions and convictions in Liverpool, nothing will change. My fear is that the reality of recent years will become yet another “inconvenient truth” and will be quietly air brushed out of the record. It has happened before and it can happen again unless people maintain pressure on the relevant bodies to act.