So now it’s official. For years I have been able to pretend to myself that I was the important Cllr Kemp! I was content that I was allowed to give that impression as I sat on this body and that committee and jetted off to my important meetings. All the time Erica has kept my secret – which is that she is not just the NICE Cllr Kemp but the Senior Cllr Kemp (but not in age I hasten to add!)
All that happened yesterday when Erica became deputy Lord Mayor of Liverpool (which means that she will become Lord Mayor in 2014/15) is that her superiority has been put in print and confirmed by the council!
It is entirely right that Mayoralties and Lord Mayoralties are given to councillors like Erica who have made a massive effort to do things within their wards and within their councils but who, unlike some of us, do it in a very quiet and restrained way. I see this when I am out in the Ward with her. She proceeds through the Ward like the Queen bestowing her favours on all and sundry. Poor Cllr Morrison and I follow in her wake trying to get some of the reflected glory from her eminence!
There are very few people who she has not met or helped in the 9 years she has represented the Church Ward of Liverpool. Of course Tom and I are well known as well but nowhere to the level of Erica.
In fact when people think of Councillors they tend to assume that it is all about people like Tom and I. Tom is an ace campaigner, I am a politician. All three of us love our ward and do a lot of work within it. Which is why, even in these hard times, we have a decent majority. Erica, however, has developed her ward work into an art form with her diligence, compassion and understanding.
She was never a great grandstander in the council chamber or committee. In fact she was never really comfortable with political leadership. But her chairing of the Education Select Committee and Overview and Scrutiny Committee were exemplary. She actually read the agenda (a novelty for some); worked with officers and committed members to create a meaningful work programme which looked at essential points. Scrutiny became an addition to the council and not the meaningless devourer of PowerPoint’s that it has become in our city.
Why am I sharing all this with you? Well, of course, partly because I am very proud of her. But partly because people like Erica, much more than people like me, are heroes of local government. Very few outside the political or civic sphere know the commitment that it takes to be a good councillor. Hours listening to people, talking, working, campaigning, urging and much of it actually quite boring and always tiring. Doing it day after day night after night with very few thanks or recognition takes real effort. But they keep on, keeping on. So my thanks, if no-one else’s, to Erica and the thousands of people like her who contribute to the civic life of our towns and cities.
Now off to another training session. Erica has decided that she needs to equip me for my life as a public minion and bag carrier. I have just had my first lesson. I had always seen a big white machine with a glass door in the kitchen but never knew what it did. Apparently it is called a ‘washing machine’. It is associated with a ‘line in the yard’ and then a scary device called an ‘iron’. Apparently I am going to get well acquainted with these pieces of apparatus over the next two years!
I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to it!
PS. If I find that anyone dobs me to Erica about saying nice things about her in public you’re dead! I do have my reputation as a hard hitting councillor to keep up you know!