Labour – Liverpool’s Zombie Party


I’m not sure whether the Liverpool Echo took this picture before or after the recent Central Ward Selection meeting!!

In the week that we have ‘celebrated’ both Mischief Night and Halloween it seems an appropriate time to examine the state of the “Walking Dead Party” or Labour as they used to be known.

On 14th. November at Full Council we will be sitting opposite a Party that is going through tremendous change, most of it entirely caused by internal dissension. At least 5 and possibly 6 councillors have been deselected (we await Cressington Ward where one the potential candidates misused details of the ward membership. The hot tip here from inside Labour straight to my inbox is for a new Momentum face). So what loyalty will they show to the Labour Party or to Joe Anderson whose grip on the Party is so weakened that he urged them out of the trenches and into the withering fire of Momentum.

There have already been major changes with the Lib Dems taking 5 seats from Labour and, of course, being joined recently by Cllr Kay Davies who had enough of the misogyny and other shenanigans inside the Party. There were changes at the last election where no less than 5 Labour Cllrs did not stand for re-election. One of these was Dave Hanratty who had already been re-selected to stand last May when he shocked the council with a resignation speech which basically said that the Momentum takeover of Labour in this decade was the same as the Militant takeover of the 80’s.

To cap it all Derek Hatton who effectively led Labour as it dragged the City down to 2 decades of none investment and high levels of debt is back in and throwing his weight about. The most outrageous thing I’ve seen this week is that Signature Living are offering a three-course meal to anyone who joins Labour! We are a bit old-fashioned about things like that. We prefer to have people join us because they support our principles and policies!

Political Parties have the right to remove people from councils and Parliament for a number of reasons. We have a similar two stage approach to the Labour Party. This applies to absolutely everyone including me! Firstly, we are vetted by a central panel who decide whether what we say is in line with local and national Lib Dem policy and whether or not we are of good character, can legally stand etc. Then we apply for a ward and are voted on by our Liverpool Executive and members in the relevant ward. At this stage we are checked for the amount of work and campaigning that we have been doing if already a councillor or promise to do as a candidate.

Amazingly I got through both phases intact and have been selected again to be the candidate for Church Ward next May. So, no deselection threats here. I’m the only one defending a seat next May so I am the only one who could have been de-selected. But my Party like the other major Parties does have the right to remove me if I do not perform politically or as an effective councillor. I understand that in the Green Party in Liverpool you just to be a relative of John Coyne and the Tories send people up from London to try and find candidates!

What is fundamentally different to Labour and ourselves is that we have very little dispute about the principles and policies of our Party. One question we always ask is, “what Lib Dem policies do you not support and what would you do about it in a vote in the Council?” At most we get nuances of difference but nothing that affects our core values as contained in our Constitution.

Inside the Labour Party there are clearly major differences in terms of policy and style. Though even there the differences are not always clear. If you follow Liverpool Echo reports it would appear that in Central Ward Cllr Nick Small who is a Progress supporter (a rightish looking group inside the Party) has been supporting a Momentum supporter who is from the left of the Party).

So perhaps there are worse features at play here than principle or policy disagreements. The people that have been removed are largely long-serving, traditional working-class Labour people who are Anderson supporters. We are clearly seeing a power play inside the Labour Party but as an outsider it is difficult to see who by. The Deputy Leader, Ann O’Byrne, must be the only Deputy Leader of any Party anywhere who not only does not sit next to the Leader but actually sits on the back benches. Is it now Ann versus Joe and if so what are new Momentum people going to do? At the moment here are only 5 of them but by the end of the elections in May there will be 15. This will be much more influential as the Labour Group will be smaller as we also make inroads with seat gains.

Will Momentum really support the woman who was Joe’s fixer for years and took a leading part in events relating to failed building developments in Chnina Town and elsewhere? Will Joe get their support for the Mayoral election? Will there even be a Mayoral Election as we will argue once again for the abolition of the ‘Spare Mayor’.

You might argue that none of this is my business. But be reasonable we are entitled to have at least a small laugh at Labour’s expense! I do think that it is our business though and is certainly the business of the people of Liverpool when they come to vote next year. People have a right too know what the Labour Party will be standing for and what they will do if elected. For the last two years there has been no Labour manifesto produced as they rely on the 2015 mayoral election manifesto. Will there be a new manifesto? Will everyone sign up to it once elected?

These issues are important. I already know of two investments that will not take place in Liverpool because of political uncertainty. That is precisely what happened from 1984 onwards. Political uncertainty leads to a loss of confidence and reduced public and private sector investment. It creates a vacuum at the heart of decision making which prevents our officers from proposing and implementing long term decisions. It prevents effective partnerships being formed as potential partners wait to see which way the wind is blowing.

I challenge Labour to say clearly, now that the selections are almost over, what that means in terms of policy and direction. To come clean on the key issues so that we all know which way the wind is blowing and can cast an informed vote next May


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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2 Responses to Labour – Liverpool’s Zombie Party

  1. John Hodkinson says:

    It’s easy to have very little dispute about the principles and policies of your party when you’re never likely to have to enact them and so be judged by them

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