What is an Opposition Leader for?!

This may seem a funny question to ask and particularly to do so on a day when we have a full council. I am sure that Labour colleagues will wish to express an opinion on this and will do so ironically, sarcastically or comically, but it is a serious question.

I am asking this for two reasons. Firstly because today the Council will formally approve a Job Description for Leaders of Opposition Parties. Secondly in almost all the work I am doing this week I am not doing any opposing at all. In fact even at the Council I have been trying to ensure that there is political unity around the Mayor’s motion on the bedroom tax and my motion on Banking. With luck we can get away without a vote on two key issues which affect our city.

So what have I done this week?

Firstly, I brought to Liverpool to meet our Chief Executive the person who did all the technical stuff relating to the establishment of the Metro Bank – the first new bank in the Country. We agreed a way forward in which a concept paper will be provided to look in greater detail at what could be done to establish a Liverpool Bank and what the next steps would be.

Secondly, I met twice with Liverpool Vision and representatives of UCLG, the World LGA, to discuss the event that I have brought to Liverpool, our Executive Bureau next June. This will bring out 100 Mayors and Leaders of major cities from across the globe. This will be undertaken in connection with the Mayor’s Summit which Joe Anderson wants to host as part of our Festival for Business.

Thirdly, I have taken up an issue for the Mayor with Government Ministers using my own contacts. This may or may not lead to joint action between him and me.

Fourthly, I have just left the Town Hall where I joined the Lord Mayor and Mayor in paying tribute to the retiring Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool Patrick Kelly and the retiring Anglican Lord Bishop of Liverpool James Jones. It was a privilege as Leader of the largest opposition party to contribute to this activity.

So does this mean I have gone soft on Labour in Liverpool? Not at all. I believe that they are doing some things wrong and I am more than happy to talk about those issues. I genuinely believe that Lib Dems would run this city better in current, indeed in any, circumstances and that many of the things that the council is doing now are only possible because of the 12 successful years that when shook this City up and led it forward.

But how much should I oppose and how much should I support?

I have three priorities as a Councillor and I accept them in this order:

1, to represent my Ward

2. to represent my City; and

3. to represent my Party.

To my mind this is the right order. As a Liberal Democrat I think that doing 3 appropriately helps me with doing 1 and 2.

I would hope that this is the order that most councillors would share. Unfortunately too many of us want to ape the House of Commons where the job of a Leader of the Opposition is to oppose. How many times have we seen opposition leaders of all Parties saying things and opposing things because they come from another Party?

I am particularly contemptuous of Labour in parliament at the moment because they will not spell out what they would have done to deal with the financial conditions which they caused by over spending and poor regulation of the Banks. But to be honest I don’t think that the Tory or even the Lib Dem Parties would have been much more honest in opposition in these dreadful economic circumstances.

That is why people are increasingly contemptuous of politics. They see people voting against things they believe and for things they don’t believe. Leaving aside the circumstances of a coalition where there must be an agreement on a way forward that would not have been put forward if either of the coalition parties had been in sole government this double thinking and double standards is not good enough.

I hope, with fingers and toes crossed, that today’s council meeting will be better, more moral and fairer than the Commons or Lords. Tune in to my tweets tomorrow to see whether my hopes were fulfilled!

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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