Sorry folks but they are at it again. Did you see the Echo earlier this week? Well it had Joe Anderson (Liverpool Labour) in the heavyweight corner having ago at Phil Davies (Labour Wirral) in the light weight corner. By the way this is not a reference to their political weight!!
What are they having a go about? Well effectively they are squabbling about who should be the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region should this Government or any government decide to promote a City Region body with an elected Mayor. This is prompted by Anderson coming out of the stocks as soon as the Scottish referendum clearly opened up the devolution in England debate and announcing that he wanted to be Mayor of the City Region.
You might be surprised when I say this because I am on record as saying that there should be an elected body for the Liverpool City Region. I still am but not with a Mayor. I believe that there should be a Merseyside Assembly with a Leader coming from the biggest Party. I believe that the body should have strategic responsibility and have outlined in an earlier blog what those responsibilities should be.
Two years ago I wrote to Joe Anderson suggesting that there needed to be a constitutional convention which would look at how power could be devolved and what it should be devolved to. That was not good enough for Joe who said “No”. I wrote to him about two weeks ago on the same lines and have yet to receive a reply. Put simply I believe that constitutional matters are too important to be left only to politicians whose self-interest seems to weigh more heavily with many politicians than the needs of the communities they serve. If ever there was an argument that these matters should not be left just to us politicos then just look at the Davies/Anderson squabbling.
This is not a minor matter but a matter of great importance to the people of the Liverpool City Region. If my idea had been followed two years ago we would by now have a proposal to take to the Government which would have been properly debated; have wide public support and could be implemented quickly. Instead we have a far from perfect Combined Authority (which is better than nothing) with a strange name and no public mandate.
It is quite clear that there must be devolution to City Regions. We have the potential to be the powerhouse of growth in the UK just as we were 200+ years ago. But would any central government in their right mind devolve more responsibility to the lash up that is the Liverpool City Region as controlled by the Labour Party?
Given that devolution is now supported by all three Parties we all need to put our shoulder to the wheel and develop strong, positive and workable ideas. There will be one hell of a fight to get devolution because it is bitterly opposed by the strongest Party in the UK, the “Civil Servants Party”. In UKTI alone more than 1000 civil service jobs would be lost to London with the expansion of regional and sub-regional activity. Multiply that by the rest of BIS and then every other Ministry and there would be a massive transfer of employment and power from Whitehall to the regions. The buggers will NOT give in gracefully. They will exploit every chink in the armour of devolutionists to slow down or totally deny the changes required.
Here in the Liverpool CR we should be supremely optimistic about he future. Our employment stats are looking good, we have affordable housing; we have a great cultural offer; we have great countryside at our doorstep; we have 3 great Universities and a commercial and business sector which is developing well along key strategic lines for the future. We should be confidently expressing our vision for our future and our faith in a mechanism to deliver it. Instead we are left with squabbling cockfighting. Pathetic isn’t it!?