I awoke this morning to two sad, sad stories about that once great Party, the Labour Party.
Most important for me is the one about Liverpool City Region. The redoubtable BBC NW political correspondent, Arif Ansari has learned that the Liverpool City Region bid will not be included in the round one announcements. Regrettably I was not able to take to the airwaves about this as I am on a long train journey to a Conference but I did issue a press release which said that it was hardly surprising as the bid was absolutely dreadful. A 24 page whinge with no vision, targets or strategy. It simply reiterated that the City Region was hard done by, was suffering badly because of cuts and needed help. All true of course but perhaps not the best message to relay to the people making the cuts.
The document was cobbled together after the 6 Labour Leaders agreed after 3 years of squabbling to submit a bid just 2 weeks before the closing date. The meeting to agree the bid was held two days before the deadline. It wasn’t discussed beforehand by the 6 councils, the Combined Authority’s own scrutiny activity or the businesses and people of the City Region.
I predicted at the time that this was likely to be rejected and that the only reason it might go ahead was that the Tories were desperate to shift responsibility to new Mayors on a sub regional basis. It appears now that they are not that desperate!
This is important to us all because it is the only game in town. Joe Anderson and I agreed at the July Council meeting that in the face of continued cuts to all budgets the only way to improve or defend services was to get control of the budget to a local level. If we were to get control of the same revenue spending that is now being devolved to Manchester we would control more than £4.5 billion of extra activity. If we could only improve the use of that by 1% that would be the equivalent of £45 million of new cash. We should be able to do much better than that.
If the decision reported by the BBC is confirmed we will fall increasingly behind the Manchester City Region who already get more grants per head than us and will increasingly be able to link up housing, health, transport , policing and economic issues in a much better way than as now where the big decisions about Liverpool City Region will still be taken by Whitehall warriors.
So that’s ‘J’ for Joe sorted what about ‘J’ for Jeremy?
In Westminster they have been tricked by Osborne into a major internal debate about a proposal which effectively has no substance. The Government is moving a Bill in Parliament which would set a deadline for moving the national revenue account into a surplus. No Government can promise that although all Governments should aspire to it. Major external forces such as another financial crash would blow any government’s spending or borrowing plans off course.
The former Shadow Cabinet agreed to support this piece of nonsense. The new Shadow Chancellor agreed to support this piece of nonsense just two weeks ago. However on Monday he told Labour MPs by e-mail that he had changed his mind and they would be whipped to vote against the Bill. No wonder one Labour MP told the BBC that the meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party was “a f*****g shambles”.
We can’t do much about the national Labour Party as they embark on a civil war which will keep them occupied for years. But we cansomething about the Labour Party in the Liverpool City Region. Next year there will be elections for one third of the council seats on the 6 councils with the big prize being the Mayoralty of Liverpool.
The newly re-energised Liberal Democrats are planning bigger election teams that we have been able to muster for 4/5 years. This will be our biggest opportunity for 5 years to create teams within the councils to hold the Labour Party leadership to account. We’ll be doing our bit. Will you be doing yours?