Posts Tagged ‘liverpool’

Firefighters are our unsung heroes. We need to stand with them against cuts

09/09/2018, 11:30:40 PM

by Joe Anderson 

Twice in the past year, the people of Liverpool have found themselves grateful for the professionalism and bravery of our Fire and Rescue Service.

As nine crews battled through last Sunday night to save the iconic Littlewoods Building from a savage blaze, my mind went back to the devastating fire at our exhibition centre car park fire on New Year’s Eve. Both these events underline the importance of having enough firefighters nearby when needed.

However, just like local authorities, the fire and rescue service has undergone savage cuts over the past decade. Between 2010 and 2015, budgets were slashed by 30 per cent. During this parliament, they will be cut by an additional 20 per cent.

As a group of workers, there are few higher in the affections of the British people. But this has not stopped successive Conservative ministers from making arbitrary and ill thought out reductions to the fire service’s budget.

The cold wind of austerity has blown in the faces of even these brave public servants. As a result, 11,000 frontline firefighter jobs have gone since 2010 – one in six. Stations, appliances and equipment have also been cut.

I cannot think of a clearer case when it comes to the sheer folly of austerity. Not least because the increasing demands on the service sees our firefighters provide a range of emergency responses to floods, road traffic collisions, chemical spillages, industrial disasters and terrorist attacks as well as fires.

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Wirral councillor quits party blaming hard left ‘parasites’

28/08/2018, 06:57:28 PM

A Wirral Labour councillor has dramatically quite the party claiming his local branch has been ‘over-run by a narrow, ideological cult where bullying and intimidation of the many by the few is now the norm.’

Coun Michael Sullivan, who represents the Pensby and Thngwall ward, will continue as an independent, ‘without the harassment and pressure of the small number who have taken control of our party structures.’

In a strongly-worded resignation letter to Wirral Council Leader, Phil Davies, Sullivan said: ‘I will not be cowed and threatened by those who have campaigned against us in the recent past and are now seeking to drive their personal and political ambitions forward under the cover of the Labour Party.’

Hitting out at newer left-wing members, Sullivan wrote: ‘They are too meek to stand for election themselves and make their real views public.’

He added: ‘They have tried in the past to win support for their extremist views and failed and it is a travesty that like parasites they have infiltrated and now wormed themselves into positions of power in our party.’

‘I regret this has come to pass,’ his letter concludes, ‘but I hope you and my Group colleagues understand the extreme circumstances we are now facing in Wirral.’

His resignation follows revelations by former senior Labour official, Sheila Murphy, earlier this week on Uncut of widespread bullying from far left activists.

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Screaming, bullying, laziness and voting for the opposition: Welcome to Wirral Labour party

27/08/2018, 10:32:25 AM

Uncut interviews veteran Labour official and northern legend, Sheila Murphy

“I’m holding onto my membership by my fingertips,” says an exasperated Sheila Murphy as we sit having coffee pondering the state of the party. It’s a sobering comment from Labour’s former top official in the north of England. However, she wants to voice her frustrations in public for the first time.

“I accept the left has have taken over. We’re a democratic party and I accept all that. I just think our electoral chances, both locally and nationally are at risk because of their behaviour,” she says.

What she means, it turns out, is a combination of bullying, extreme levels of micro-control and indolence from the hard left in her local party on the Wirral where she now lives, after retiring as the party’s former ‘super’ director covering the three northern regions.

“Forty-nine years a member and I’ve campaigned for every leader since Harold Wilson. I worked as hard for Michael Foot as I did for Tony Blair.”

For Sheila Murphy, campaigning for Labour is just second nature – but not to the thousands of new members that have flocked to the party under Jeremy Corbyn. Campaigning duties are still mainly carried out by the old hands who turn out to knock on doors, deliver leaflets or staff the phone banks, week in week out, all-year round.

Annoying though that is, she wants to speak out after facing bullying herself by some of the new members. “We have a new hard core whose behaviour is nasty, vicious, and controlling,” she says. “It’s a return to the factionalism of the 1980s. And we all know how that worked out.”

One recent incident saw a local male councillor scream in Murphy’s face demanding to know who had “given her permission” to be out door knocking. One of the women activists Murphy was with was so distraught she had to be driven home.

She reports this kind of aggravation and centralising control is now commonplace, but her major gripe concerns the behaviour of the hard left during the last local elections. Murphy was asked by the leader of the council and the local candidate to lead the campaign in a target ward as they tried to oust a Green councillor.

They lost, narrowly, by 72 votes. “We managed to speak to 4,000 people during the campaign and it was clear that some of our new members were actually voting Green,” she says. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

“We were knocking on these people’s doors and they were openly telling us they were voting Green instead of Labour and even had Green posters in their window.  I reported them to the Local Campaign Forum and was told: ‘It’s their choice’.” For good measure, the local branch even posted on their Facebook page that the Greens were not the problem – their Labour council was.

Banned from attending the branch by officers to offer a de-brief on the campaign, she had her efforts dismissed as “crap” by the local chair. Undaunted, she organised a “thank you” letter to voters. This act of defiance saw the chair post another message on Facebook, warning local people that the group out campaigning, which included the leader of the council (in his own ward), were not representing the Labour party.

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We need a Budget for jobs, housing and stability

22/11/2017, 07:00:00 AM

by Joe Anderson

This is the eighth winter of Tory austerity and it must be the last.

The legacy of a decade’s worth of Tory public service cuts and rampant economic inequality is right there on our high streets for all to see.

Food banks, credit unions and pawn shops.

The poor have been abandoned in the clamour to clear up the mess left behind by the bankers and George Osborne’s ideological obsession with cuts.

His successor, Philip Hammond, didn’t even know the unemployment figures when he was asked on television on Sunday morning.

All of us dealing with the fallout of his disastrous austerity policies know only too well that we have 1.4 million people unemployed and as many again working in the ‘gig economy’ of insecure, part-time and short-term work.

Against such a backdrop, it’s no wonder that young people cannot get a foothold on the housing ladder.

Councils like mine are doing everything possible as a council to work with housing associations and developers to build homes that are so desperately needed, but we are doing so in the face of sheer indifference from ministers about the scale of the crisis.

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Gauke is tone deaf to the plight of UC claimants. He should resign

19/10/2017, 05:09:40 PM

by Joe Anderson

David Gauke had the opportunity to show that he recognised the problems with the roll-out of Universal Credit, specifically the appalling wait of six weeks – or often longer – than claimants face for payments.

But he fluffed it.

The Secretary of State’s ‘concession’ over the 55p a minute helpline at the DWP committee is small beer in the grand scheme of things. Frankly, the line should have always been free to use.

After all, the phone lines of the CAB, debt advice charities and the Samaritans will be ringing off the hook if this policy now proceeds unchecked.

Only millionaire ministers and salaried civil servants could be so tone deaf to the situation that poor and vulnerable people find themselves in, robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is no exaggeration to say that Christmas will be a misery for millions of families as a result of the botched implementation of Universal Credit.

Meanwhile Neil Couling, the DWP’s senior official dealing with the roll-out, added insult to injury when he told the DWP Committee that he wanted to make the appointments booking process for those struggling with their benefits akin to ‘when we book a holiday and reserve our seat’.

What part of this don’t they understand?

Leaving families and vulnerable people without money for weeks on end – all because Tory ministers regard them as the ‘undeserving poor’ – will lead to misery, debt and eviction in all too many cases.

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

25/01/2017, 06:57:14 PM

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.

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Labour’s metro mayors will have to be the next best thing to governing

06/08/2016, 10:21:52 PM

As the Labour leadership race gathers pace, another party selection process enters its final week.

Labour members in Merseyside, Greater Manchester and a big chunk of the West Midlands are choosing candidates to fight next May’s first-ever ‘metro mayor’ elections.

These powerful new roles will create a cadre of directly-elected civic leaders, with direct personal mandates, who will take charge of economic development, strategic planning and transport in their areas. The Greater Manchester package also includes the £6 billon health and social care budget for the city-region.

Given the three conurbations are each strongly Labour, the party’s selection process will, in all likelihood, choose who becomes the eventual mayor in each area.

In Merseyside, the contest is a race between Liverpool’s directly-elected city mayor, Joe Anderson, and Liverpool Walton MP (and Jeremy Corbyn’s parliamentary private secretary) Steve Rotheram. Anderson, a powerhouse local government veteran who is well-regarded in Whitehall, is pitching himself as the candidate with a clear plan and a record of delivery and job creation.

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If we jump off the ledge on Thursday, we will fall hard

21/06/2016, 11:23:51 AM

by Joe Anderson

In 48 hours’ time we will take the biggest decision about our country’s future since we declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939.

Forget 1975. Back then the choice of staying in the (then) European Economic Community was a no-brainer, given we had barely been a member for three years.

This referendum on whether we stay in the EU or not is much more important and the impacts will be felt much more broadly.

We’re not declaring war on a country, but we are in danger of declaring war on the future.

If we decide to leave the European Union after 41 years as a key member, then we need to be prepared for what comes next.

It’s a grim future of neo-liberal economics, where we are buffeted about by global powers far larger and more powerful than us.

For Labour people, it means something else too. It will mean that the right wing of the Tory party has succeeded at last in its bid to get us out of Europe.

Margaret Thatcher will be jumping for joy from the afterlife at the prospect of Brexit.

Rights that have been hard-won will be easily lost. Social and environmental directives will be repealed, leaving workers, consumers and the environment at the hands of unbridled market forces.

Does anyone really think a Tory government will lift a finger to protect the working time directive when the deadbeat employers who want to sweat their workforces get into Number Ten and lobby Prime Minister Boris?

Of course they won’t.

What they call red tape, we call basic rights.

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We’re happy to dig tunnels in London, but not to properly connect our northern cities

25/02/2016, 09:54:56 AM

by Joe Anderson

On Tuesday, while her Majesty the Queen was officially naming the new Crossrail line, I was in Parliament, speaking at the launch of a major new report making the case for Liverpool’s key rail infrastructure.

A report I commissioned by the think tank ResPublica, Ticket to Ride: How high speed rail for Liverpool can realise the Northern Powerhouse, makes the case for extending the proposed HS2 line into Liverpool City Centre. Most people I speak to are amazed to learn that it isn’t already scheduled to.

But it isn’t (it stops at Crewe). Ministers, worried about the allegation of profligacy surrounding HS2 have tried to rein-in project costs, meaning that sensible, evidence-based proposals to extend the line to Liverpool, or to run it into the centre of Sheffield, have been ruled out by the timorous souls at HS2 Limited.

The contrast with Crossrail is instructive. Here we have a tale of two projects. On the one hand, the £14 billion invested in Crossrail has attracted few hostile headlines in our London-based national newspapers. (The same people, no doubt, who will make use of the line?)

Yet the case for HS2 – the single most important infrastructure project in the country – and a vital new economic artery for our Northern conurbations – has to be fought and refought with irritating frequency from ill-informed naysayers.

So much so, that we are left making what I believe is a compelling and vital case even at the eleventh hour, just months before work on the line is due to commence.

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Give me the power to ban hate march

15/08/2015, 08:00:24 AM

by Joe Anderson

As a lifelong trade unionist and anti-fascist, the right to protest is one that I hold dear. Even when those marching are doing so in a cause with which I don’t agree, I respect the principle of free speech and peaceful protest.

But like all freedoms, there are limits and I have just reached mine. Today, a so-called “White Man March” will come to the streets of Liverpool. It is being led by a rag-bag assortment of neo-Nazis spouting the usual, age-old drivel.

The group organising the march, National Action, sent a charming letter to my home claiming that if any attempt is made to impede their “chaos and mayhem” then Liverpool “will go up in flames”. It warns me that “we may even pay you a visit if things are played against us”, signing off with: “Only bullets will stop us!”

Its website claims the group holds “a monopoly on truth” and that its members are not afraid “to swing the bat at the enemy”. Of course it’s the usual Hitler-loving, race-hating garbage, but it’s no less shocking for that. Their views are so extreme and utterly noxious that they make the BNP look like Amnesty International.

The challenge for our society is to always stand firm in a spirit of solidarity against the hate-filled few whose sole interest is division and violence.

More practically, I have written to Home Secretary, Theresa May, asking that she urgently reviews the arrangements that currently stop city leaders like me from simply banning such groups from our streets. Currently, I need to appeal to her for the necessary permission. This is cumbersome and bureaucratic and often too slow.

I have asked her to consider using the current Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill to grant powers to city leaders like me to ban marches that are clearly harmful to the public good. Instead of councils and the police making appeals to the Home Office, why not make organisations like National Action appeal our locally-made decision?

This seems to fit with the current spirit of localism and allows the authorities to respond to the wishes of local people who are as sickened at the prospect of such blatant racist extremists on our streets as I am.

The time has come to stand up and change the rules to create a better balance between rights to freedom of speech and the right for people not to be abused and intimidated in their own city.  Our country has a long and progressive tradition as a place where protest and radical ideas enrich the fabric of our discussions and new ideas and opinions must always be heard.

But if the sole aim of such groups is to spread fear and intimidation then we should act and the government should give people like me the powers to do so.

Joe Anderson is Labour Mayor of Liverpool

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