The end is nigh for Mayor Joe
I felt sorry for the journalist from Society Guardian who rang me today. She rang me to ask me my opinion about what will happen with the Metro Mayor and how the Mayoralty of Liverpool City had gone. Aafter 10 minutes I asked her where she was and she replied Crewe Station. “You’re not on your way to see Joe Anderson are you?” I asked, “Yes”, she replied. Oh dear not the best day for that.
For surely today was the day that Joe Anderson realised that his dream of becoming the Boris of Greater Liverpool had come to an end. The first blow came last week when Steve Rotherham announced his nomination and Luciana Berger announced her possible candidacy. What, without a doubt, sealed his fate was the announcement that the Leader of the Council in St Helens had decided not to stand and would support Steve was the nail in the coffin. It had already become clear that Joe had little support outside Liverpool. I was expecting a strong challenge to come from one of the 5 other Boroughs. But in fact the Brutus of the piece came internally in the shape of Steve Rotherham. One of Joe’s own protégés brought to stardom from obscurity by Joe as a very young Lord Mayor.
Forget Luciana she is a light weight with little support from Scouse Labour members. Steve Rotherham though is a different matter for three reasons.
- He is popular inside Liverpool
- He is popular outside Liverpool
- He has the support of Momentum, Labour’s new kingmakers, as the PPS to Jeremy Corbyn.
From what I see on Twitter and in a number of other fora it is game set and match for Rotherham. My concern is that for all his good points, and he is a good and honest man, Steve Rotherham has little experience of running things. He was never a leading councillor and never even a shadow minister in Parliament. That however is a matter initially for the Labour Party to decide and secondly and more importantly for the electorate to decide next year.
So what then will become of Mayor Anderson? Well the original plan was to get him safely installed as the candidate for the City Region and then abolish the position of elected Mayor in Liverpool City. Because Liverpool dodged the electorate and decided to go for a Mayor on a vote within the council only they can dodge the electorate again. From the middle of February next year they will be able to abolish the Mayoralty.
I will support that. You might say that I should be consistent and ask for a referendum on the matter. We could do that but I won’t be making that request. Over the past 6 months Lib Dems have called at more than 15,000 doors in Liverpool. I cannot recall anyone asking to keep the mayoralty.
It’s confusing enough to have an Elected Mayor of Liverpool and a Lord Mayor of Liverpool. Adding on an elected mayor of Liverpool City Region would simply be unnecessary and confusing. Getting rid of the mayoral position would immediately save about £250,000. More importantly than that it would introduce better governance inside Liverpool. When I opposed the idea of the mayoralty I said it would fail to achieve its three main objectives. These were getting more people voting; getting more money into the city and getting more power. There has clearly been a total failure in all these with a miserly 30% turnout in Liverpool showing how much the creation of the position had failed to capture the imagination of the public.
Decision making will become much better in the city. There will be much more discussion in council and less capricious decision making. Too many bad decisions have been made on the whim of one person with the cronies and coterie publicly going along with the decision. I think of things like the bus lane fiasco where instead of having a proper review which would have been supported by all in the Council there was eventually a vote to get rid of 6 bus lanes despite our officers telling us it would make journeys slower for both cars and buses. I also think of the purchase of the Cunard Building where the council has moved to poor internal accommodation simply because one man had a dream of the Building becoming the ticketing and reception office for the cruise liners. This was despite already having been told that this was not possible for a whole range of reasons.
I sometimes feel sorry for politicians down on their luck and clearly on the way down but not in this case. The way that Anderson has treated political opponents and members of the public in Liverpool has been a disgrace. He treats everyone who is not 100% behind him as someone who is 100% against him. He alone ensured that we had a mayoralty and pushed it through on specious grounds. He deserves to leave the council next year in other than the circumstances that he was hoping for.
Lib Dems will be choosing their candidate for the regional mayoralty in September or October time. Everyone assumes that it must be a Labour mayor. I can tell you that Lib Dems have a spring in our step now after May 5th. Back on Knowsley Council, trebling our vote in Liverpool and our best ever results in Southport do not by themselves token immediate success. But another year of Corbyn and Anderson in Liverpool with clear angst in the Labour Party and who really knows what the result might be!