Metro mayor candidate Steve Rotheram takes Thatcher’s “one of us” phrase for campaign strapline

by Liam Murphy

Walton MP Steve Rotheram formally launched his campaign to become Liverpool city region’s metro mayor this week.

On Monday (January 23) he returned to his home town of Kirkby – one of Merseyside’s least well-off areas where his father had been a councillor and which is still a Labour stronghold – to lay out the policies which he hopes will ensure he is elected next May.

With six Labour controlled councils within the Liverpool city region Steve Rotheram is unquestionably the front-runner come the vote on May 4, but that is only his first hurdle. He will then chair a “cabinet” of local council leaders, controlling the combined authority and will need to secure their support for much of what he wants to do.

At the campaign launch Rotheram, who has been Jeremy Corbyn’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, was accompanied by many local (Labour) MPs and introduced his campaign slogan “One Of Us”.

Some might recall this was the title of the Hugo Young biography of Margaret Thatcher. The title phrase was said to epitomise that 70s/80s era. According to Young, Mrs T would ask “Is he one of us” (it was almost always a “he”) and through that query sought to seek assurance that potential recruits were ideologically sound and of the Thatcherite mindset before they could be accepted into the Iron Lady’s inner circle.

Now it seems Steve Rotheram is aiming to reverse this ideology test. Despite the Walton MP’s scepticism about the former Chancellor George Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse” plan he has spotted that the devolution project maybe one way of bypassing the concentration of power in Whitehall.

Turning the use of this phrase upside down, he recently highlighted how the privileged Trump and Farage have been able to “plug into a rich vein of anti-politics and anti-establishment cynicism”. And while he agrees with them on the need to tackle what had seemed an almost unstoppable centralisation of power to the capital and into the hands of the political “elites”, the Liverpool MP makes it clear that the former UKIP leader and the Republican president are the least likely to really achieve that for the benefit of “ordinary people”.

When Labour Uncut sought clarification of his slogan we were told the aim is to bring out Rotheram’s back story and the fact that ordinary people can relate to him, emphasising that the former bricklayer is “not your typical politician”.

In words which might be seen to echo the populism which the right-wingers have recently thought they owned, following his campaign launch he tweeted that it is now time for “a step change from the old way of doing politics” and saying it’s a “new start” for the Liverpool city region he added that “It’s time for a city region that wrestles back control from Whitehall”.

Rotheram was selected by Labour last August over rivals Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson – who had been one of those pressing for devolution for many years – and Wavertree MP Luciana Berger for the Liverpool city region metro mayor job in a hard fought contest.

Like his Manchester-based colleague, Andy Burnham, Rotheram is making homelessness one of his key issues – not a huge surprise given that many of his powers will centre on housing and strategic planning strategies, and he is also promising significant improvements in skills and training, an issue he pushed during his initial pitch to become the Labour candidate and which is also a key element of the Government’s industrial strategy launched on Monday.

And because the Liverpool city region combined authority oversees the region’s transport network via the body Merseytravel, Rotheram is pushing on with his popular nomination campaign pledge to cut the cost of Mersey tunnel tolls as well as promising to make it easier to pay using a “contactless” card system.

Liam Murphy is a journalist and was formerly political editor of the Liverpool Echo

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One Response to “Metro mayor candidate Steve Rotheram takes Thatcher’s “one of us” phrase for campaign strapline”

  1. Adam says:

    Interesting to hear thanks. Can’t imagine it will be the easiest election for the Tories! Talking of which I really recommend this funny piece on Foreign Office officials trying to explain to Boris that the Empire no longer exists

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