Tonight I am going to a small event to celebrate the work of Cllr Sharon Sullivan who, in three weeks time, will cease to be Lord Mayor of Liverpool.
I have now served under 30 Lord Mayors and there has never been a bad one. My first was a gentle giant of a former docker called Owen Doyle. We have had a rich blend of characters in the years that have brought us to Sharon. Some stick out more than others – the one that seemed to have a different Lady Mayoress every month – the one that got Lord Mayoritis at the end of their term – the one that told jokes that were at least mildly inappropriate. But all of them have given their all for the city and have risen above the political flows and eddies for their period of office.
It is absolutely clear to me that the People of Liverpool love having a Lord Mayor. Embodying the best of Liverpool for one year that person can personify the city, can represent the city and be there as a voice of calm whatever circumstances that get thrown at our city and its people.
As Leader of the Opposition it has been a real pleasure to support Cllr Sullivan in her civic work this year. It must be said that Sharon does not have a 100% grip on the Standing Orders of the Council but she led us through some difficult meetings employing the most important virtue of all – a sense of humour! She reminded the Elected Mayor that “I’m the Mammy Here’ when he challenged her ruling but I am not sure that the stress ball that she provided him with worked! I’m just glad it wasn’t me she was telling off!
At all the meetings and functions that I have seen her preside over she has done the statutory bit – read out the appropriate words. But always her thoughts and comments found their way into the little presentation that she made.
I was particularly struck by her relationship with other strong working class women in the city. This was made clear to me at a ‘Freedom Ceremony’ for two women who established a breast cancer centre in Liverpool. Three very formidable women indeed. But she also seems to known the Catholic Hierarchy in the City well. She seems to have gone to school with half the Bishops and priests in Liverpool!
She has done all this in a very matter of fact and down to earth way whilst looking after her sick mother with her twin sister. Her Consort has been her son – so thanks too to Harry and her thoughts have so often been with her Jack – her late husband – with whom she clearly had happy times.
I am certain that she will not have Lord Mayoritis but will carry on being the down to earth champion for North Liverpool which is the real role that she relishes.
So thanks Sharon – good luck for the future and you can be content that you have set future Lord Mayors a real challenge in living up to the strong way that you have performed in your year in office.
Tomorrow I will be doing a piece about the first year of the Elected Mayor – you will have to wait and see if I am as nice to him!