I have long considered that one of the most amusing lines in British films were those uttered by Kenneth Williams in ‘Carry On Caesar’. Running down a corridor in the eponymous role with his toga billowing behind him he says, “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!”
It’s sad to see such paranoia at the heart of Liverpool City Council. I reproduce below a blog from the Labour blog site in Liverpool written, apparently, by the Mayor. This is a complete copy of the blog with nothing added in and nothing taken out.
I will not dignify this twaddle with a detailed reply but would say two things:
Firstly, although I have been told by a number of people who should know that this blog is actionable I will not be taking legal action against either Mr Anderson or the Labour Party. In my 40+ years as a politician and 30+ years as a councillor I have never used legal action to resolve political issues. I think it a form of moral cowardice. Many hurtful things have been said about me in the national and local press over those years which have left me hurt and wounded. I did not always think they were fair and sometimes thought they were partisan but if you court the press you have to accept that sometimes you will be in its sights.
Secondly, I believe that the Post and Echo and other media are doing their job which is to hold those in power to account. Coincidentally that is my job as well which is why often the press and opposition, both locally and nationally, are thought to be in collusion. I do not demand things of the local media and they do not demand things of me. Clearly as the Leader of the biggest opposition party in Liverpool I am the one that they will come to first with a story. That is what they used to do with Mr Anderson when he was the Leader of the Opposition. I cannot remember any complaints from him about unfairness then.
So here is Mr Anderson’s Blog piece. Judge for yourself whether you think this a reasoned argument from a reasonable politician!
> The Liverpool Echo and The Post have long been a strong voice, campaigning on issues of importance to the city, holding those with authority, power and influence to account. I have been, and always will be, a supporter of accountability and scrutiny of decision-making by anyone, including the press and other media forms. It is what makes for a healthy debate and what makes politics and public life so interesting.
> However when media organisations go too far and attempt to become the political opposition, I think we have a real problem. The Liverpool Echo and The Post have a duty to the people of Liverpool, but when the pendulum swings too far to one side – without any opportunity for redress – they move away from defending the people of the city and instead are in danger of representing their own narrow opinions, often made through ignorance, being ill-informed or simply being fed a line.
> They are at liberty to publish smears and innuendo without debate or recourse to set the record straight. At times, reputational damage is done to individuals and the City, something which they seem to care little about. When challenged, senior management absolve themselves of responsibility and say it is a matter of editorial freedom. Is it ok for a columnist to call you a hog? Or for another to suggest you acted inappropriately for personal gain – without evidence or even suspicion? The answer, “we don’t interfere in their opinions”, is always the response you get if you dare complain.
> I strongly hold the view, evidenced by what is said by journalists in their columns and on social media, that there is a clear malice towards me and my administration.
> I do not want nor have ever asked for favours or anything other than fairness and balance from the Echo or the Post. However, it is clear that not only do their columnists have a clear bias towards challenging my work, but on many occasions also spout real venom and false comments towards me and the Labour Party.
> You don’t have to believe me, just read what Makin, Riley and Waddington write in their columns for clear evidence this is the case. I refer you to the Brocklebank columns in the Daily Post – supposedly a satirical view on life in the municipal world – which has been nothing but a concerted personal attack on me for the past three weeks.
> Their reporting leaves a lot to be desired in terms of accuracy, balance and fairness and to me that is the most important issue at stake here. There are many examples, just recently, of this.
> They wrongly reported that the new Head of Comms at the Council was being paid £90,000 and were forced to print an apology only after their error was pointed out to them. Similarly, the Council was accused of not paying full value for the cost of houses being acquired in the Anfield regeneration area, leaving residents out of pocket, patently untrue and without any foundation.
> Two further examples of this can be seen from the last 24 hours. The Echo broke a story about Allerton Golf Course, using sensitive and commercial information with regards to negotiations over the future of the course, which Richard Kemp gave them. As with all sensitive information, it was expected that he would respect his privileged position.
> No agreement has been reached with the negotiations, so there is a real possibility that his actions could have scuppered the deal. All, so that Kemp could see his name in print – alongside that of Ms Mirna Juarez, a former Liberal Democrat Councillor and future candidate in Allerton. We can only surmise their profile was part of Kemp’s demands for leaking the details to Marc Waddington of the Echo.
> The misleading and damaging headline in the Echo also told a story: “Golf Course Houses Plan is Scrapped”. There was no plan to build houses on the golf course – instead my officers and Cabinet Member have been working hard for 10 months to secure this contract. No credit was given to them. Even in the leader comment we are lectured and patronised over our actions, and told the Golf Course was under threat – despite us making every possible effort to ensure its future. The piece on the Echo website dutifully did the deed in promoting both Kemp and Juarez for saving the golf course.
> Secondly, in Rex Makin’s Column he complains of lack of scrutiny of the Mayor. I am the only Mayor in England (except Boris) who has a Scrutiny Committee. The Committee is chaired by someone from the opposition and Labour councillors are outnumbered by those from the other parties. Makin complains about the cancellation of meetings on 3 occasions last year – yet those three meetings were cancelled because opposition councillors couldn’t think of anything to ask me. I am doing my job as Mayor of the City. If the opposition cannot do their job, it is not my fault.
> Last week, Cllr Kemp was disciplined by the Complaints Committee for the misuse of Council resources – and therefore Council Tax Payers money. Like the Echo journalist Waddington, Makin complains about the treatment of Cllr Kemp in this process.
> But let’s be clear, Cllr Kemp has been warned on two previous occasions about his flagrant misuse of City Council resources. This misuse has cost you, the Council taxpayers, in excess of £800, and that is just for his indiscretions that we know about. In addition, his overtly political letters which used the City Council mailing system, at cost to the taxpayer, had to be corrected, again at cost to you, because they were inaccurate and people were being misled. Political commentary, like this blogpost, should be made in leaflets, not in letters at the expense of council tax payers’ money.
> The Echo, the Post and Rex Makin, a man whose personal and professional integrity is built on being a representative of the legal profession, may think this is of no consequence. Yet, I expect myself and everyone else in elected office in Liverpool to be held to a higher standard. The people of the city expect this as well, especially as it is their money we are spending. I do not see how persistent and flagrant abuse of the trust people of the city put in us as their elected representatives is a small or trivial matter.
> When I have spoken in the past to the Editors of both papers about the actions of their columnists, they tell me that they are afforded certain freedoms. This translates into them clearly having no regard for either the facts or journalistic integrity. Gossip is substituted for evidence, smears instead of statistics, and long forgotten-principles abandoned for cheap toy-town headlines.
> I am proud to be the Mayor of this City. I spend every day promoting our businesses and our people, and trying to protect them against many things, not least the actions of this Government. All I have ever asked of our media organisations is that they print fair, accurate and balanced reports on what I, and everyone else working in the council, are doing. The people of Liverpool are perfectly capable of – if not famous for – making up their own minds. Let’s give them the honest facts to do so.
PS While Mr Anderson has been promoting this blog I have been promoting Liverpool at a major conference in Prague. I think that I have persuaded a large number of people to come to Liverpool next year as part of the International Festival of Business. Isn’t that what the Mayor should be doing?