Welcome to the political circus

The race for Labour’s Liverpool Mayoral candidacy was thrown into chaos yesterday as the national Labour Party stepped in to reopen nominations and effectively block previously shortlisted candidates from standing.

Labour members in Liverpool were about to receive ballots to choose candidates from an all-women shortlist of Councillor Wendy Simon, the current interim mayor, Councillor Ann O’Byrne, a former deputy mayor, and Councillor Anna Rothery, the current Lord Mayor, to succeed Joe Anderson after his arrest late last year.

However, instead of sending out the ballots, the national Labour Party dramatically suspended the process and stated that Simon, Rothery and O’Byrne were “not invited to apply.”

So what on earth is going on?

Our sources have suggested that the national party had concerns that two of the three candidates, Councillor Wendy Simon, and Councillor Ann O’Byrne, were too close to Joe Anderson’s administration, and this has been judged to be unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the campaign behind Councillor Anna Rothery was busy gaining ‘Momentum’ and attracting support from across the far-left, which was deemed too risky for a Party that was desperately trying to shed itself of the Corbyn era.

As a result, the national Labour Party appears to have decided that it could not countenance a Rothery victory, as alluded to in its statement justifying the decision to restart the nomination process: “We are committed to ensuring members are able to choose the right candidate to stand up against the Conservatives, lead Liverpool out of the coronavirus crisis and fight for the resources that the city desperately needs.”

Make of that what you will…

What next?

The rumour mill is certainly flowing. There is talk of a number of candidates coming forward from Labour’s centrist past. These names include Theresa Griffin, a member of the NEC and former MEP for the North West, and Dame Louise Ellman, the former long-standing MP for Liverpool Riverside, who became synonymous with Labour’s internal power-struggle following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Perhaps even former Police and Crime Commissioner, Jane Kennedy could be tempted to come back to the fold, after all, she was a key player in removing Hatton’s Militant Tendancy from Liverpool back in the 1980’s…

Whoever does takes over is likely to be viewed by the national Labour Party as a safe pair of hands that can steer the ship until the upcoming referendum in 2023, which will decide whether Liverpool continues with a mayoral system or reverts back to a leader-and-cabinet model.

Another name is the mix is Councillor Paul Brant. However, it is our view that he is unlikely to run for the mayoralty and is instead a safer bet as a future council leader if, and when, the Liverpool City Elected Mayoral position is replaced.

For now, the talk, particularly across the left of the Party, is that Councillor Anna Rothery should stand as an Independent in the upcoming elections. However, it remains to be seen whether her support would extend beyond the local Labour Party and out into the wider electorate.

Whilst a lot remains up in the air, it is clear that Liverpool’s Labour Party will continue to be in factional disarray for some time.

If you need help understanding the local political landscape or would like to discuss this topic further, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with Bob Ward.

This article first appeared on Place North West’s website. You can view it here.