At the end of a sad week in Liverpool politics and an even sadder week for the Liverpool Labour Party Liverpool’s Labour comrades shot themselves in the foot when their attempted coup against themselves failed last night.
For those not paying 100% attention to the twists and turns of the past week the sequence of events was:
- The three Labour short-listed candidates told by email that a new short list would now be prepared and that they wouldn’t be on it! The suggestion is that they didn’t want to run the risk of choosing a candidate who might be subject to legal action as the Police and Government inspections continue.
- At least one of the Labour candidates began to threaten legal action against her own Party although the potential grounds for this have not been made clear.
- The Labour Party in the City decided that they didn’t want to have a Leader from outside the Existing Labour Group. And decided they could stop this happening by dropping the mayoral Model and restore it to a Cabinet and Leader model where they would make the choice and not the electorate.
- The Officers of the Council who have a statutory duty to prevent illegal actions sought outside legal advice to confirm what would be legal in these circumstances.
- The Liberal Democrats publicly put in a requisition for a Council meeting and a draft motion which included two options. Scrapping the mayoralty or beginning a consultation process.
- The Labour Group met last night and apparently agreed that given the response to my draft motion and the legal advice that they had already received there was no way that they could have moved a motion which would have been above legal challenge.
The biggest problem was that the Labour Party would basically have to move a motion similar to the one that I moved on 20 January and which they had defeated largely on the grounds that two months wasn’t long enough for a meaningful consultation with the people of Liverpool. How could they then argue that they could do it in two weeks?
For the Council’s Officers to declare that a motion was legal in terms of the 1999 Local Government Act Labour would have had to prove that such a wide scale consultation on a complex issue was possible in that time. I wouldn’t know how to do that and clearly neither does the Labour Party! There has been a lot of nonsense talked about judicial reviews and surcharges on councillors. Surcharges no longer exist and our officer team had and were clearly going to exercise powers which would have prevented any chance of the Council making an illegal decision.
So, now the national Labour Party will grind on with its selection process for a mayoral replacement candidate. How many Labour members will vote for this and even more importantly, how many will campaign for that candidate remains a question that only time will answer. But things don’t look good for Labour. I would expect that the Labour Party’s imposed candidate will be left with little support from the Party and will not feature on their literature and other campaign materials.
History tells us that electors don’t like divided Parties. Even more they don’t like a Party that is embroiled in a range of legal and organisational difficulties. My guess is that the Government Inspection Team currently ensconced in the Cunard and devouring box load after box load of documents is looking askance at what is happening.
It is not the job of the Inspectors to say who should run Liverpool or to say how elections should take place. BUT they can have a big say in how Liverpool is run. They can specify a different form of election. In the short term they can make recommendations as to whether or not Commissioners should be put in either to run the City or to oversee the political process. I can only assume that the events of the last week make such intervention more likely.
Once again, the Liverpool Labour Party have made a fool of themselves and our City. Having defeated our motion on January 20th to begin consultation on the options for replacing the mayoral system on the grounds that there wasn’t long enough to do it properly before April, they then considered changing the system without any consultation at all. This U-turn was not to help the City through its problems but to help Labour through theirs.
We have a bitterly divided Labour Party who will be reluctant to campaign for a candidate who is basically being imposed on them by the National Party. Meanwhile I will lead a united, competent and thoughtful Liverpool Liberal Democrats into battle on May 6th. We are becoming increasingly confident about the levels our vote will reach given the crassly stupid behaviour from our main opponents. Given the two-vote system for the mayoralty who knows who will become the next political leader of the Council?”