Monday, April 21, 2008

 

Labour hopes to Revive Liverpool's Relative Decline

Opportunely, Michael White writes a piece in today's Guardian on Liverpool's upcoming local election. A few days ago, I attended a bloggers' interview('we thought we'd try a less confrontational way of communicating than the usual media') with Joe Anderson, leader of the Labour group for the past six years, to discuss the issues and his chances of becoming leader of the council on 2nd May. Joe, former merchant seaman and publican, has been around a bit before becoming a local politician. He self effacingly describes his face as 'one only a mother could love' though I'm fairly sure he's never suffered the bulimia associated with another Labour ex merchant seaman. White's article gives an overview but I'd like to pick out three or four elements from our extended chat(see picture) with Joe to give a flavour of the contest from his side of the fence.

Regeneration
Joe agrees Manchester has effectively shown the way regarding regeneration, even allowing for the 1994 bomb which provided such an unwelcome imperative to rebuild; clearly Liverpool watches its neighbour at the other end of the M62 very carefully. Manchester has a 'can do' attitude, he says, and works with agencies and partners more effectively than the Lib Dem regime has been able to manage: many 'missed opportunities' he concludes. He elaborates enthusiastically how a Private-Public Partnership could transform the city.

Officers
Anderson reckons the quality of senior officers in Liverpool has not been good and that this helps explain why the city has ben so badly mismanaged with a current debt of over £60m and a recent adverse Audit report to its discredit: 'a one star financial basket case' as White puts it. Joe reckons he could take advantage of available government assistance-ignored by the Lib Dems- to solve the financial crisis.

Image of Labour nationwide
Anderson reckons Gordon Brown's poor ratings have little relevance to Liverpool. His experience oin the doorstep is that its local issues- dogshit on the pavements, not the war in Iraq- which move local communities. As evidence he cites the regular inroads made by Labour in Liverpool- against the national trend into the Lib Dem lead at successive recent elections.

Vision for the City
Joe's passion for his city seems genuine and not the ersatz version so common amongst politicians. He wants to bwe a fulltime leader and to lead Liverpool out of the darkness(see Labour's manifesto here). He rages against the splits in the Lib Dems and their dirty tricks, vowing to be a fulltime leader if the elections go Labour's way.

The Election
Labour has been whittling down the ruling group's lead for ther past few elections and Joe is confident this will continue on May 1st. They have 48 to Labour's 36: 'a big ask' admits Anderson, but one he genuinely thinks he has a chance of pulling off. As White points out, the balance of power might eventually be held by the four strong Liberal group, they of the anti-merger in 1987- persuasion, and recently stengthened by a defection from the Lib Dem group. Joe is convinced there will be no overall control after the election and is hopeful he might do much better.

Nationally, Labour expect to face losses, possibly even greater than four years ago, but Liverpool has always been a kind of island, separate, maybe proudly so, from the rest of the country. Having exorcised the ruinous Miltant extremism of the last two decades, Labour in Liverpool may well be poised to make a return to the driving seat in City Hall. This is a contest to look out for as the results come in. The survey of local byelections shows Labour in third place with a national equivalent of 25%, three points lower than in 2004 at the same time before the poll.

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