This man is supposed to be the Mayor of Liverpool. He behaves much more like the Clown Prince!
There comes a time in most political cycles when you can feel the change coming. It’s a bit like a storm. It might not be raining and thundering but you can sense a change in the air which is beginning to get more blustery and you batten down the hatches!
That is very definitely the feeling I get in Liverpool at the moment and I sense it for three main reasons.
Firstly, when a Leader is doing badly at home they tend to go abroad a lot. There they can relax from home pressures, factions and decisions and bask in the glory of a host who has to lay out the red carpet. That is clearly what is happening in Liverpool at present. After a week at MIPIM in Cannes, where he was the spare mayor, Joe Anderson popped in for some fresh undies and was off to Indonesia with his ever-present sidekick Air miles Millar.
I have been asking the Council to tell me who initiated the visit; who authorised the visit; what were the objectives of the visit and what were the costs of the visit. As per usual with Liverpool Council getting a reply from them when asking questions about the Mayor is always very difficult and the truth needs to be dragged our excruciatingly slowly. But as with MIPIM what is our spare Mayor doing there anyway? The responsibility for these types of activity and especially inward investment is the clear responsibility of the Liverpool City Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram.
Secondly, people who have been too afraid to speak to the controlling group’s opponents lose their reticence. Over the past few weeks I have met a number of people who I have wanted to talk to for some time. Now they are choosing to come to talk to me about how they perceive the council to be failing and the problems that they have had in their own interactions with the council. They are in turn suggesting that I meet yet more people and tongues are definitely becoming loser. At some stage, after the election, I will be dealing with these issues in a number of fora. In the meantime, keep the information coming in.
Thirdly, and clearly the most obvious in Liverpool is the public infighting and statements from people who can no longer put up with it. There are 28 Labour seats up for re-election this coming May. 9 of them feature Labour councillors who are not seeking re-election. There is always a turnover at election time but having a third of your number standing down is, in my 44 years as a Liverpool politician, absolutely unprecedented. To pretend that all is normal when one of the Councillors who had been re selected stood up in council and told us basically that it was the Militant era all over again is like trying to keep the light out by hiding your head under the blankets. Dave Hanratty explained clearly that Liverpool and the Labour Party were suffering again from the factional infighting caused then by Militant and now by Momentum in the 80s which led to two decades of no growth for our City.
In some ways the even more incredible sight at the last council meeting was Cllr Frank Prendergast a former Labour Leader of the Council and Lord Mayor telling us why he has left over his concerns about financial impropriety and an inability to get the truth from the Council.
The Labour Party is splitting into factions and that is before a new Momentum/Militant faction of 4 or 5 councillors arrives on the scene post elections. Labour are now facing a determined united and expanding Lib Dem Party. We have no hesitation in reminding electors of the day to day disasters they are suffering under the rule of the Mayor of Liverpool and his yes-men.
We can also feel this very clearly on the door step. In the wards where we are canvassing regularly we have a technique to move people into the Lib Dem camp. It’s very simple really. We just ask, “What do you think of Joe Anderson then?” If I were to put all the new expletives I have heard at the mention of Joe’s name down here I would probably get arrested and the blog would be stopped by almost every server. I have never in all my years known a local politician who is so unpopular.
Perhaps I should feel sorry for Mayor Anderson but I don’t. He has brought it on himself in three ways.
- He introduced the mayoral system which means that every decision is actually his decision. He appoints the Cabinet and all the other Labour positions. Every problem can be laid directly at his door which is probably why most Labour Council Leaders campaigned against the introduction of a mayoral system.
- The way he treats people. I and my colleagues are not too bothered about the incessant, personal and vicious attacks he makes on us in the Council. But he makes them on just about everyone. His tweets are a disgrace; he harangues members of the public who present petitions which are not in accordance with his views. Tellingly, he contacts the media when they do stories which he does not like and can be on the phone for 20 minutes telling them why they either got the story wrong or why they should not have sued the story at all. Something that I have never done.
- He thinks he is more important than he is. What was all that nonsense about referring a player transfer to the Police. They chucked it out in about two days. He regularly rings up Radio Merseyside as the Mayor of Liverpool to comment on football stories. Everyone is entitled to a hobby but their hobby is a personal thing and totally unrelated to any political position that we might hold.
So, I think Joe is on the way out. He has two hurdles to face:
- Getting re-selected as the Labour candidate for the mayoralty in 2020. This will be done in the summer of next year and I cannot see him winning a secret ballot given all the factions. Mind you I cannot see anyone credible coming out of the swamp that is Liverpool Labour Group at present.
- If he does get through round one he will have to face the electors against our Party which is massively stronger than we were at either of the two elections that have previously been contested. This is a voting system where the top candidate has to get more than 50% of the vote to get through first time round. In 2016 Andersen got 52% of the vote and he has become far more unpopular since then. If he fails in the first round then he will get no transfers from anyone else as the weakest candidate’s votes are re-allocated.
The Lib Dem position is quite clear. We don’t believe in the mayoral system and will try through the two democratic processes that are available to us to abolish the position and return to a Leader system of governance. Failing that we will fight hard to ensure that a Mayor is elected who will be approachable, presentable and has a clear vision for our city. If you share our ambitions for our City come and join us at www.libdems.org.uk.