At our last Council meeting before the elections in Liverpool Councillors who have given more than 8 years’ service and will not be standing for re-election are allowed to speak for two minutes to say their good byes. This provided an explosive start to the Budget meeting of the Council which only got hotter! One of the retirees, Cllr Sharon Sullivan has been on the council for 17 years, was Lord Mayor and has represented her deprived inner-city community devotedly. She has been ousted because of the internal splits and she named her ousters as the former deputy and assistant Mayors. She and two more of the retirees spoke bitterly about how they had been ousted by the hard left and how their Party was changing.
All the retirees are authentic working-class councillors with a long record within the Labour movement. Their replacements are mostly middle-class graduates or undergraduates. One Labour commentator tweeted that we had suddenly come to like these people. That is far from the truth. I have liked and respected people like Sharon Sullivan for a long time and I believe that respect is reciprocated. The fact that we are from different roots and are in different Parties does not and should not prevent respect for people. I think Sharon and Irene and others do a good job and are as passionate about the people of this City and its future as I am. It’s just that sometimes we disagree. That’s what democracy is all about – honourable disagreement.
And boy do these new entrants love what Cllr Sullivan described as flag waving. In the week that local MP Luciana Berger left Labour because of anti-Semitism, sexism and bullying they beetled off to the City Centre to defend the corrupt regime of Venezuela where they were joined by people waving very large Communist Flags. They’re off to a demo at the drop of a flag! Within Wavertree CLP it is known that a Councillor has raised very serious matters of sexism about another Labour Councillor both within the Party and within the Ward yet one year after these complaints have been made the Labour Whips and Party refuse to deal with the matter properly.
This is happening all over the Liverpool City Region. In Wirral three Councillors have left Labour and formed an Independent Group, presumably prior to formally joining whatever the Independent Group nationally becomes. The Leader of the Council has given in because he would have been ousted and the deputy Leader has now been ousted. Other experienced councillors, like Ron Abbey, have also gone.
In Liverpool Cllr Kay Davies tired of bullying and bad behaviour and is now happily ensconced in our Party where she actually likes coming to meeting! (not that we have anything like as many as Labour!)
In the short term this means difficult circumstances for councils that are facing difficult times and where more than ever experience is needed over inexperience and pragmatism is needed more than flag waving. At the moment we have no idea what our budget will be in any council from 1st April 2020 because the Government which was supposed to give us its way forward last Autumn, is making major changes to local government funding which will probably mean even worse problems for the Councils within the City Region. It will take cool heads not hot heads to try and resolve the problems created. It will also need cross-Party cooperation which is unlikely to happen with these unrealistic and untried new boys and girls.
In the 1980s we saw the terrible problems caused to our City by Militant which took 2 decades to eradicate from our debts and our reputation. Some of those ‘Millos’ are now the bus pass generation of Momentum. If the past is any guide Momentum will pass quickly into history. The Momentum kids will mostly grow up, get jobs and families but their legacy will live on. Already the good name has been trashed in the national media by the way that Lucians Berger has been treated and the way Momentum is behaving. For 3 decades Lib Dem and Labour Councillors have worked to eradicate the vision of Liverpool that was created and promote a new reality about what Liverpool both is and could be. All that good work is now being undone. That will reduce investment and will reduce jobs.
Labour Group and Constituency Party meetings throughout Liverpool and indeed the UK are dreadful events. This is no secret you only need to listen to experienced Labour councillors or follow the tweet streams which seem more consisting of red on red fire than red on blue or even better anything positive to say about our future.
I believe that councils like Liverpool and Wirral will see madcap spending and delivery programmes proposed, accepted and then found to be capable of implementation. There will be two or three years of chaos and then Lib Dems who are the main opposition Parties in hard left areas will once again have to sort out the legacy of those years. In the meantime, it isn’t the hard left who will suffer but the people who most need the services that pragmatic councils should be and are focusing on.