Last night’s council meeting was an absolute disgrace. This was not because of the way that the Lord Mayor conducted the meeting (would I dare to criticise her?!) but the way that the Elected Mayor of Liverpool conducted himself!
As people left the meeting and conducted a debate on what had transpired afterwards three words were used about the Mayor. No doubt he imagines himself being described with words like great statesman; marvellous leader, wily politician. The words being used most frequently were bully, cheat and disgrace.
Let’s take where the concerns of the people started – the very first item!
In what is broadly described as Mayoral Announcements the Mayor made not one single announcement. Instead for 20 minutes he lambasted his opponents and in that time launched no less than 7 attacks on me. These attacks do not personally bother me because they were a mix of half-truths, evasions and total fantasy. All of them could have been answered to the satisfaction of any neutral observer. The only trouble was that no-one but the Mayor can speak on this item. He confirmed publicly that he would not even answer questions from me. You must decide for yorself whether those actions can be construed as proper leadership or as people said, “the actions of a bully and a coward”. Joe Anderson loves to dish out the attacks but is incredibly thin skinned when it comes to accepting criticism.
The Mayor could have been making an announcement on all sorts of things that should have been raised in the Council Chamber. We would have liked to hear about why he was unable to get his fellow Labour Leaders to back the idea of a City-Region Mayor last Saturday and what he intends to do next. He could have told us why the Santa Dash and other major sporting/charitable events in the city are under threat. He could have told us why spending got totally out of hand in the refurbishment of the Cunard Building with purchases that would have made the Shah of Iran envious! He chose to tell councillors nothing – he chose to tell the people of Liverpool nothing about these issues. He chose to resort instead to cheap and unanswerable political sneering and posturing.
Joe does not like to admit this but I support 90% of what he is doing in Liverpool. He knows that money would have been incredibly tight even if Labour had been re-elected to Government and to his credit admitted it last night. BUT the biggest difference between us is our style of politics. I don’t think that Liverpool needs an Emperor but a Leader. I don’t believe that the Leader of the City should spend much of his time mocking its citizens but should work with them. I don’t believe that places like Allerton Golf Course should be privatised but leased to their users on a none-profit making basis. I believe in creating partnerships not creating tensions. I believe in working together with all the people of Liverpool and not driving wedges between communities and the council and each other. I believe in openness and transparency and a system where councillors and the public do not need to resort to FOI requests for information from the council to which they are entitled.
And that’s is what people dislike about the Mayor. Not so much what he does but how he behaves. Nationally he is loved by the Tories because he dances to their game. (Incidentally I am proud to say that there are very few national Tories who like me or I like!) Locally he is despised by much of the Labour Party which is why our City Region is proceeding so slowly. On the BBC television programme last week about devolution his most significant intervention was an attack on a Labour MP!
On the main issue that we discussed there was little agreement between us. Yet again he put decsion making off into a Commission when the council could have both legally and practically said that they would not sell off Sefton Park Meadowlands; The Harthill Estate of Caldersones Park; Walton Hall Park etc. On these vital issues of concern Labour tried to throw sand in the eyes of the people of Liverpool by mis-stating the role of the Liverpool Plan and their powers as a land owner and planning authority. They could have voted to keep our parks safe for our grandchildren but chose not to. Let me warn Labour that the clamour will not die down. The fight will go on until the Parks are safe.
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that we need to have a referendum on whether we should have an elected mayor. Remember that the people of Liverpool were denied a vote on the issue and that all but one of the Cities that held a referendum rejected the Mayoral model. I had thought until recently that a referendum would be a distraction but so damaging is Mayor Anderson to Liverpool that perhaps we all need to think again and collect the 16,000+ votes needed for a referendum.
Let me close by repeating the challenge that I made in Council last night. I will debate any issue which is affecting the people of Liverpool on the Pete Price show; on Radio Merseyside or in any public debate with a neutral chair to which the people of Liverpool were admitted and could join the debate and ask questions.
I just don’t think that Joe Anderson is man enough to accept the challenge to a debate where the rules aren’t rigged to make him the victor. We shall see!