Politicians should play the ball not the player

Tackles

Those that know me are probably surprised to see me using a football analogy.  It is true that I am not a lover of the game. As I understand it the analogy means working with and kicking the ball and not the player from the controlling Party who possesses it or seeks too.

I have been thinking a lot about how we as politicians conduct ourselves since I started talking to Cllr Davies few weeks ago about the bullying problems she encountered in the Labour Party. As has been made public she endured for most of her time as a councillor foul and misogynistic language. She is not alone in Liverpool and she is not alone in the Country. I have got involved in a Labour dispute in Liverpool where horrible stuff about a woman Labour councillor that I respect as an individual was sent to me by someone who could only be from a Labour member. I didn’t use it but gave it to her.

My Twitter Feed has been full of red on red complaints over the last few weeks and there were two big chunks on it yesterday regarding the continuing row over anti-Semitism which will not go away and the way that sexual harassment complaints have not been taken seriously at a national level.

The Tories have problems with Islamophobia. Vicious comments have been made by several people which have not been checked. Zac Goldsmith’s campaign for the Mayoralty of London was dominated by what many took to be a racist campaign against a Moslem candidate.

You might expect me to say that the Lib Dems have no such problems we are all such nice people! But I won’t because that would not be true.

We spent 2 hours of our Conference on Saturday changing our own disciplinary procedures in order that we have a system which is speedy, inclusive and which respects but the complainant and those complained against.

Calling some a b***h or a lazy c**t are serious matters and need speedy resolution but the way we conduct ourselves on a day to day basis is surely even more important than that. Everyone in public life, in the media, in the papers has a responsibility to conduct ourselves better. People look at us and set their own standards by our standards. We therefore need to aim higher with our own standards to improve those of society as a whole.

When Cllr Davies joined us from Labour last week she rightly pointed out that 95% of the time Lib Dems and Labour vote together. Of course, we don’t believe 95% of the same things but vote together in the context of what a council can and cannot do given the legal position we are in and the legislation and finances which flow from central government.

Outside the Council we probably do believe in 75% of the same things. Social justice; decent housing for all; respect for the ageing; support for the NHS; support for a good education service etc etc. Our policies to achieve those aims are however different. Lib Dems believe in recasting decision making from the bottom up. Labour would still do things from the government down.

So why can we not respect each other’s honourable intent and then debate and debate properly those policy differences and try to establish where we can work together?

In fact, my biggest problem with the Labour Party in Liverpool is not their council policies but the way that the Council provides poor leadership to the City and in the way that it presents our City to the World.

If I can give two examples.

In Calderstones Park it is absolutely clear that the figures do not add up. My current estimate is that we will lose at least £2 million by selling the land to Redrow. I think that the Mayor honestly thought he could make a profit on this deal that would benefit the city. Why is his stubbornness driving forward a clearly failed and failing idea? We all make mistakes and there is no shame in admitting them when we get things wrong.

There can be no doubt that the support of the Council allowed a lot of people in Hong Kong and China to be ripped off by developers using the fractional investment model. Our Mayor supported George Osborne in attracting this type of investment. Our Deputy Mayor has clearly been seen helping flog these investments. I accept that in both cases this might be unwitting support but it is a position that we need to reflect on and do something about.

Perhaps tomorrow we can start again. We have one of our 6 full Council meetings and they are usually pretty dreadful affairs. I am not trying to lay blame but 90% of the speakers are Labour speakers with the Mayor getting three big chunks of time on at least one of which he can say what he likes without challenge.

My Lib Dem colleagues and will moderate our behaviour and language tomorrow but will of course have to respond if slurs and attacks are made on us and particularly on Cllr Davies.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all honourably disagree tomorrow and then go to the pub together as we have realised we are not just Team Labour or Team Lib Dem but Team Liverpool.

 

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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