2 May 2012
The Campaign Summary
I'm tired. It's not just the one year old child that likes to stay awake for three hours during the night, or the fact that I have to work one or two evenings a week in my paid employment. It's the election... We've put in an incredible effort for a smaller party during this campaign. Tomorrow we'll finish the delivery of 30,000 mayoral leaflets across 10 wards in the city. That is the biggest campaign effort we've ever managed, even greater than in 2009 when we gained 12% of the city vote in the Euro Elections. Right now we are trying to enjoy the last days of the campaign. We've put out some "tongue in cheek" online material poking some fun at the odds-on favourite Joe Anderson, but nothing more than a gentle prod in a campaign that has been fairly predictable. Labour deserve credit for executing their city wide gameplan. They did pretty well at avoiding banana skins, although the printing of the Labour leaflets in Manchester was a clear own goal, as was picturing Joe travelling first class on the train, rather than in standard like most of us travel. However, we do have one serious disappointment about this campaign, and that is the failure of the other leading candidates to match John Coyne's release of his tax return. As you'll remember, this followed on from the London Mayoral campaign, where the excellent Jenny Jones, Green candidate for Mayor down there, challenged Boris Johnston, Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddock (as his own Lib Dem leaflets have unfortunately described him!) to publish. They all did. It demonstrated transparency and respect for voters in London. Here in Liverpool, there wasn't exactly a warm response to our proposal. In the Guardian Northerner blog, the two other main contenders did make comments. Richard Kemp was quoted as saying: "This is tokenistic nonsense. The public have an absolute right to know what I earn from the public sector and what I do for it. That information is readily available and should be. I also have to declare any financial interests on a copy kept by the council and to declare pecuniary interests in debates. That is sufficient to ensure total probity." That would have been reasonable except for the fact that on Twitter the previous weekend, he had endorsed Nick Clegg's view that: "...Politicians, as servants of the public, should make our own arrangements transparent." Which meant that he was contradicting not only his leader, but his own previous support for his leader's position. However, what turns out to be really odd is that Richard actually provided information to the Express newspaper about last year's tax return, but didn't seem to think that Liverpool voters should get to see this year's. Richard's quote in the Express says: “I have in front of me our tax returns for last year. In total, I earned £61,400 before tax..." Really, would it have been that difficult to do the same for Liverpool voters? We were more bamboozled that Joe Anderson didn't publish a clear statement to match John Coyne either. Here is a Labour Party spokesperson in the Guardian Northerner blog: "Councillor Anderson does not make an individual tax return. Like the vast majority of Liverpool people, he pays tax through PAYE which is deducted at source. As Leader of the City Council his income is a matter of public record." So why not match John Coyne's gesture? Whoever is elected on Friday morning they will be the first person to hold the highest political office in Liverpool. That person becomes an ambassador for the city. His reputation will reflect on our city. His record will have an impact when people are making investment decisions about whether or not to do business here. That means we need someone who doesn't have hidden income, that is fully transparent about tax, including any savings and investments that provide an income. It is therefore vital that Joe Anderson is not just a good campaigner, or council leader, but that he is a political figure that reflects the good character of our city. By doing so he will be able to make the case for more (sustainable) business to come here. I therefore hope that Joe's campaign choice, not to match John's pledge, was done so after bad tactical advice, rather than because there is something, no matter how minor, that he was seeking to keep away from our eyes. Voters will be choosing their Mayor and leader directly. Political activists on all sides have worked themselves into the ground for their candidate(s) and deserve a full response. Both voters and those doing the campaigning deserve the best person for the job and this campaign should have served as scrutiny for the leading candidates' suitability - it has not. So Richard and Joe, with less than 24 hours left, how about it? Will you give Liverpool's voters the same respect as the London Mayor candidates have given to their voters? Or will we start life with a new Mayor, but the same old story of Liverpool failing to get the same accountability and credibility as London.