Crisis in Liverpool deepens following failed bid to scrap mayor

In years to come, the mishandling of the process to select a Labour candidate for the Liverpool mayoral election in May will enter party folklore.

A quick recap.

In December, Joe Anderson, the bombastic but often highly-effective executive mayor of the city since 2012, was arrested and bailed in connection to an ongoing police investigation – ‘Operation Aloft’ – focusing on corruption in the city, particularly in relation to planning matters.

Liverpool City Council is in a deep mess with government inspector, Max Caller, currently compiling a report for Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, about planning, land sales and governance controls at the council, following the arrests of several developers and senior council officials.

His report is due by the end of March and might result in commissioners being brought in to run the council.

But there are other issues in the background, not least ‘Operation Sheridan’ – a separate police investigation concerning Liverpool City Council and Lancashire County Council and the shared service company they co-owned with BT.

All in all, a bit of a mess.

Anderson’s administrative suspension made him ineligible to be the party’s candidate in May, cutting short his tenure in the role.

So, a process began to choose his successor. A three-woman shortlist was drawn up, including the current interim mayor, Wendy Simons, Anderson’s estranged deputy, Ann O’Byrne, and Anna Rothery the current Lord Mayor of the city.

A week last Friday, the three candidates were reinterviewed by an NEC panel. All were subsequently rejected and nominations were reopened. No explanation has been forthcoming from the party.

Uncut understands that Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, fought to keep the original shortlist but was overruled.

Locally, there is anger that by rejecting the three women, the party has blighted their reputations, with rumours suggesting their involvement in Anderson’s administration had party bosses fearful they may become embroiled in the ongoing investigation.

However Rothery – who has never even held an executive role under Anderson – is instead threatening the party with a claim for racial discrimination.

The smart money was on the popular Ann O’Byrne to win. She resigned three years ago, citing Anderson’s management style, and was said by insiders to be leading the field by a country mile.

Nominations reopened last week, but no-one else put themselves forward – as far as anyone knows – given the party has refused to make any official statement.

Potential candidates, such as former MEP, Theresa Griffin, and Liverpool business guru, Frank McKenna (a former leader of Lancashire County Council), both ruled themselves out.

Many in the Labour group made it clear they wanted to scrap the mayoralty and return to a cabinet and leader model, thus depriving any mayor of a full term.

However legal advice from the City Council has warned councillors that any speedy changes to the governance arrangements would invite a judicial review, which the council might then lose.

As a result, a vote to scrap the role was defeated at a meeting of the Labour group yesterday evening.

So, a mayoral election will now go ahead – with no Labour candidate in place. How long that mayor will serve – with Labour councillors still committed to scrapping the role in the longer term – is moot.

There is widespread anger among local members – from Blairites to Corbynites – over the shambolic handling of the process, with many now fearful the party will lose control of the city – even if Labour maintains a clear majority in the council chamber.

Tomorrow, party chiefs will have to decide whether to open nominations for a third time.

The question now is whether they will relent and allow the original three candidates to go forward (essentially writing off this last disastrous week), or whether the NEC will simply impose someone.

Needless to say, the optics of all this are dreadful.

The summary dismissal of three, highly experienced women candidates (one of whom is BAME), combined with crass fixing and centralised control.

Neil Kinnock, slayer of the Militant Tendency, famously made his reputation by his firm handing of Liverpool Labour politics.

Is Keir Starmer now about to lose his on the same battlefield?

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8 Responses to “Crisis in Liverpool deepens following failed bid to scrap mayor”

  1. I wonder why nobody signed this article. Is the fear of executive action from the leadership even permeating down to Labour Uncut?

    Surely the party is now ready for a rule change giving power to the local branches to decide long and short lists. Giving some ‘straight out of uni future spad’ the power to override CLP decisions, or even worse allowing regional mafia like officials to pick their favourites has no place in a 21st Century Labour Party. Devolve the power, make the CLPs the final arbiters of who stands in party elections.

  2. Anne says:

    It all seems a bit of a shambles – better to let the candidates stand than have no one standing.

  3. John P Reid says:

    Neil Kinnock fought to get hold of the labour party by persuading union leaders on the scale of the 83 defeat that it had to change(yes Kinnock partly was to blame for that defeat but had seen the mood swing of 1979 in the country and unilateralism or leaving the EEC were irrelevant compared to right to buy lower taxes union militancy)

    thing is its not a case for starmer to fight to control the party (although he’ll have trouble persuading the student politics the open labour the love socialism hate Brexit lot that they’re out of touch with normal people a he as part of their ousting of the working class when they had the 2nd referendum for remain)

    fact is although Kinnock did well defeating militant, he needed to get hold of the party, where as starmer isn’t trying to do that there’s Madnlesons lot in the house of lords who are running the party and they’re just as out of touch with electorate as the student politics or LLoyd Russell Moyle or alex sobel

    labour doesn’t get the scale of the 2019 defeat

  4. Tafia says:


    General Election
    There were a total of 18 national opinion polls carried out during February by all the major pollsters. They were all remarkably consistent, with the tories ranging 39-43 and Labour ranging 33-38. This is important because it means at no stage at all during February did Labour ever overlap the Tories. In addition, Johnson is now viewed as the best leader buy7 the electorate compared to Starmer.

    The Monthly average was:-

    Con: 41.5%
    Lab: 36.8%
    LDem: 7.2%
    Grn: 5.0%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 9.5%

    (GE2019: Con 43.6%, Lab 32.2%, LDem 11.6%, Grn 2.7%, Oth 9.9%)

    It appears Labour is now losing support back to the Lib Dems and the to the Greens

    There was one poll carried out in Scotland during February
    Yes: 52%, No: 48% (y:48 , n:44, dk:7 )

    Holyrood Only, Const/List
    SNP: 52/47%, SCon: 23/22%, SLab: 15/14%, SLDem: 5/6%, SGrn: 3/8%, Oth: 2/3%
    seat proj: SNP 70, Con 27, Lab 18, Grn 8, LDem 6. (SNP gain overall majority)
    (Comment: Over 22% of Labour voters say they may actually change their mind and vote for someone else)
    (Holyrood 2016
    SNP: 46.5/41.7, SCon: 22.0/22.9, SLab: 22.6/19.1, SLDem: 7.8/5.2, SGrn: 0.6/6.6, Oth: 0.5/4.5


    There were no polls during February for Wales, NI or London.

  5. john P reid says:

    the working class didn’t want a second referendum to remain were told, f@ck off join the Tories and holding them in contempt the fact they think could talk down to people “you should know your place” Alex Sobel ,Lloyd Russell moyles by saying telling to them we know better what’s your life should be like we should tell you have to live your life with your rules you listen to us we don’t listen to you you’ve got nowhere else to go, this is why they feel the Labour Party now belongs to them by getting a second referendum even though Jeremy was a believer in accepting leave, the same sort of people don’t realise that it’s now Peter Mandelson is back running the party from the House of Lords and the working-class won’t come back and make them lot were some music out for Like in areas outside of London and Liverpool ,and of all of the top people holding the working class in contempt I don’t want to see labour lose ,but I Repeat stop holding the working class in contempt

  6. Tafia says:

    And just as I said there were no polls in Wales in February, 2 were published today for St David’s Day/Dydd Gŵyl Dewi

    ICM, 28 Jan-21 Feb, Wales Only
    Lab: 34%, Con: 28%, Plaid: 22%, Reform: 4%, LDem: 4%, Grn: 4%, Oth: 4%
    Senedd, Const/List
    Lab: 39/37%, Con: 24/22%, Plaid: 24/22%, LDem: 4/4%, RP: 5/4%, Grn: 6/5%, Oth: 4/8%
    Senedd Seat Pred: Lab 30, Con 13, PC 15, LDem 1, Reform 1

    YouGov, 19-22 Feb, Wales Only
    Senedd, Const/List
    Lab: 33/29%, Con: 28/24%, Plaid: 22/24%, LDem: 4/2%, Reform: 4/3%, Grn: 4/5%, Oth: 5/15%
    Senedd Seat Pred: Lab 27, Con 15, PC 15, LDem 1, Reform 1, Grn: 1

  7. Tafia says:


    Wales last time out.

    WALES GE2019
    Lab 40.9%, Con 36.1%, PC 9.9%, LDem 6.0% Oth 7.1%

    Senedd, Const/List
    Lab 34.7/31.5%, Con 21.1/18.8%, Plaid 20.5/20.8%, LDem 7.7/6.5%, UKIP 12.1/13.0, Grn: 2.5/3.0%, Oth: 1.4/6.4%
    Lab 29, Plaid 12, Con 11, UKIP 7, Ldem 1

  8. Dave Roberts says:

    They should just go ahead and have a referendum on scrapping the Mayoral system. Down here in East London the system has been a disaster in both Hackney and Tower Hamlets with the mayor having dictatorial powers and the power to sack any cabinet member who tries to challenge what is done so no checks there.

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