The ballot papers will soon be out in the Liverpool Local Elections
With some amusement I turned today to the Liverpool Echo opinion poll for the Mayoral election in Liverpool. There were four horses heavily loaded with candidates (in one case very heavily loaded) representing the 4 runners in the race. In fact until 4 pm on April 7 we do not know how many runners there will be but in practice the article and the poll served up some interesting facts.
Firstly, just 9 days out from nomination day the Tories are still choosing their candidate. Yes I know it doesn’t make that much difference but it does serve as a reminder that the Tories are a none-force in Liverpool. It is now 21 years since they last elected a councillor (and he has since defected!) Every vote that goes in their direction in any ward of the City will only serve to help Labour.
Secondly, Steve Radford will not be standing. I often do not agree with what he says and more often do not agree with the way he says it but you can only admire his tenacity and the determination he has to do things for his ward. This is, however, a recognition that the Liberal Party is really only the Steve Radford Party and he needs to concentrate on his own Tuebrook ward to keep his Party’s flag flying as without him there it will cease to exist.
Thirdly, Liam Fogarty does not appear to be standing. Liam was a long-time promoter of the idea of a Mayoralty and came second largely because of this and because he was known for his work for the BBC. His none-candidature is not a surprise. Most of his votes at the last election clearly came from Lib Dems in the southern suburbs who could not support us in the coalition days. Those people are clearly returning home in large numbers.
Fourthly, the poll itself was amusing but probably not over accurate. When I looked at it earlier today after being up for more than 48 hours it showed me in the lead on 38% and Anderson and the Greens tying for joint 2nd place with 23% each. No-one else was really a runner. If only it was that simple!! Apparently I have been a front runner since the first few minutes the poll was put up. This does not show that I am bound to win. It does show, however, that there is a lot more support for the Lib Dem campaign in Liverpool than there has been since 2010.
Fifthly let’s look at the Greens. It is possible that they will have a candidate in every ward but they will only be really fighting in 3 of them. Since the General Election their national opinion poll ratings have gone down and have consistently been in the 3% range. In council by-elections since May they have tanked and many of their existing members disappeared off to the Labour Party. After all if you really believe in a bonkers economic policy you might as well support Corbyn and McDonnell!
Lastly amongst the existing Parties what about UKIP? I haven’t a clue. They too have heavily lost in council by-elections losing both seats and vote share. Their membership has plummeted and they are already talking of forming a new Party when they lose the referendum in June. In Liverpool they were never much of a Party but I noticed a couple of days ago that their Liverpool website had not been updated for 12 months. They like their Tory mates are an irrelevance.
All of which brings me neatly back to the headline and the reality of politics in Liverpool. Since 1973 there have only been two Parties in Liverpool Labour and the Lib Dems. That position temporarily disappeared in coalition years but is clearly emerging again. We have done more canvassing this year than at any time since 2010. That canvassing is very positive. Some people are returning to us because we are longer in the coalition; some are coming back to us because they like what we are doing and saying; but a very large number seem to be lending us their votes this time to ensure that Joe Anderson’s Labour Party will lose.
In fact both the J’s are doing well for us. Some don’t like Joe and some don’t like Jeremy and in both cases are looking for a change to a party with a proven track record in this city. Twice already we have rescued this City. In 1973 the council was newly formed and obsessed with grandiose plans to build inner ring roads and demolish all the terraced housing in Liverpool by 1995. We stopped that. In 1998 the Council was the third worst deliverer of services with a council tax 20% higher than the next council. We changed all that and brought up educational standards, brought £1 billion in to improve social housing and launched the Capital of Culture campaign the success of which continues to resonate to this day.
Our need today is just as great. Educational standards are declining, our parks and green spaces are under threat and our City seems to be given over as a plaything of wealthy companies and individuals many of whom appear to have connections to the Labour Party.
We published our manifesto early (you can get it at www.richardkemp.org.uk) because we need to debate these issues. However it doesn’t look at this stage as if there will be much debating. The Mayor has consistently refused to debate issues with me across the city. Only Radio Merseyside has indicated that there will be any media public debate (although the Echo has been doing some good stuff). So can I ask you if you will organise a debate? Within reason I am prepared to turn up in any part of the City with the other candidates to debate the issues in front of you so you can judge all the candidates and their policies.
Lastly, I would invite you to reflect on the voting system that will be used for this and the Police Commissioner election on the same date. They will be conducted by the Alternative vote system which means that if no candidate reaches 50% then the two with the largest number of votes are left in the ballot and the second votes of those who voted for eliminated candidates will be added to the votes. There will be few voters who will not be giving us their second preference votes this time.
On this and all the issues it is now up to you. My Lib Dem colleagues I will continue to set out our stall for the election in social media, in publications and on the door step.
On May 5 it will you who will decide whether or not Mr Anderson retains the mayoralty of Liverpool or I take over from him. No other result is possible. I am not a betting man but the odds look good enough for me to suggest a flutter may well be worthwhile!!