Well what a day it was in Liverpool yesterday for the Labour Party. All seemed normal (for Liverpool Labour that is!) when the Council meeting started at 5 p.m.
The first thing that was instantly noticeable was that more than one third of Labour Councillors simply were not present. Why they absented themselves I do not know. All Lib Dems and Greens were there and two out of the three Liberal members. There are always some members missing. I will miss the next meeting because of LGA duties but to have more than one third of the Group missing which means almost one third of the Council is both unprecedented and unacceptable.
Then the Liverpool Echo found out first that both Cllr Kushner had not made it on to the West Derby shortlist and then some time later that Cllr Parsons had not made it on to the Wavertree short list. Their faces were grim for the remainder of the meeting. It has rapidly become clear that if you want to progress in the Labour Party in Liverpool you must not be a supporter of Mayor Anderson.
Now it’s seems likely that the candidates in both seats which are now dominated by Momentum will be extreme left MPs who believe in the Unicorn of a Brexit for Jobs. In fact, one seems to believe in Brexit full stop with an attack on the EU as a capitalist conspiracy!
Then I was attacked by Cllr George Knibb for laughing at the suggestion that he made about how life will be better when Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister. As part of the Corbyn cult he just cannot recognise that Corbyn is the most unpopular opposition leader on record. Corbyn is loathed by a majority of his own MPs and Peers and is not popular now with the majority of his own Party. At that point in the evening Corbyn already had 11 MPs less than he did in 2017.
Not many people know much about Cllr Knibb’s background. George was the Leader of the ‘Ward Labour’ Party in Liverpool. This was a small group of councillors who were the remnants of the Militant Tendency in the 1980s. They clung on with a few seats until they were finally disposed off in the all-up elections of 2004 when there were boundary changes. Cllr Knibb and his ilk used to loathe the Labour Party under Tony Blair but have happily returned to it under Corbyn.
But the big bombshell came right at the end of the Council meetings as news began to filter through that Louise Ellman had left the Labour Party after 55 years for 45 of which she had been an elected representative in either Lancashire or Liverpool. She became the 12th MP to decamp from the Corbyn tent.
What anguish must have gripped her as she came to that decision. I did briefly consider leaving our Party in the early coalition years so I know the sorts of things that she must have been thinking. I have known Louise for many years not only as a Liverpool MP but also as the Leader of Lancashire County Council as she was before she came to Liverpool. I have always respected her and over the last 3 years have shared a platform with her on many occasions as we have both fought the Remain corner as we know how bad it will be for the people of Liverpool.
She has been driven out because of the takeover of what was once a broad church democratic socialist Party which has become a closed cult extreme left Party. She has three things which are unacceptable to many in the Cult. She is Jewish, she is a woman and she is intelligent. Any of those would rule her out in the Liverpool Labour Party – all three and there is no room for her.
Funnily enough those are exactly the same points which caused so much animosity for Luciana Berger and which drove her out of the Labour Party earlier this year. Luciana completed her journey to the Lib Dems whilst Louise is leaving politics. Politics in Liverpool will be much weaker without their championship of our City. It looks as though Luciana will continue to be elected in her new London constituency but Louise will be a permanent loss.
So that leaves the Liberal Democrats as the only credible opposition to the Momentum Party in Liverpool. Momentum have swept all before them in the Labour Party and now expect to do the same at local and General Elections.
Lib Dems will do our utmost to prevent this from happening. In a Remain city where our relationship with Europe is the key issue no matter what happens on Saturday, we will continue to battle for Europe against the prejudices of the far left and the far right.
We are in discussions with the national Party about the enhanced support we may now get because of the state of the Labour Party in the City. We are in discussions within the City with a range of organisations who cannot stomach the thought of leaving our City to be represented by a confrontational cult-like body. It took us 20 years to recover the last time that happened in the City with ‘Militant’ councillors like George Knibb and Militant MPs like Terry Harrison.
I am our Parliamentary Candidate for Wavertree and Rob McAlister-Bell is the Parliamentary Candidate for Riverside. We and our colleagues in the other three Constituencies will give Labour one hell of a fight up to, during and after the General Election whenever it might be but we could do with some help. Come and join us and work with us for a better Liverpool and a better UK. You can join us at www.libdems.org.uk/join-local. Like many before you over the past 3 years you will find a new family and new friendships and a comradely bunch of people who have no personal ambition but a passionate desire to fight for liberal democracy in our City.