What a great week for libraries in Liverpool. There has been a massive campaign both inside and outside the city to keep all of libraries functioning. At the 29th October Mayoral Select committee, St Michaels Green councillor Tom Crone asked the Mayor to redirect some of the savings from LDL to saving the libraries. Minutes are not available, but the answer to the question was no at that time. Cathy Cassidy, Alan Gibbons and many others made their voices count, but most of all, it is the people of Liverpool, raising their voices together who stopped this from happening.
At Wednesday's council meeting, the Green Party opposition, Liberal (not Liberal Democrats) councillors, Liberal Democrats councillors and Jake Morrison (independent, formerly Labour) put down a common motion in the council chamber to protect Liverpool's Green spaces. As usual, the Mayor adopted his confrontational and dismissive attitude, rather than accepting that people can take a different view. He said that the opposition councillors "...were not fit to hold office." Labour councillors voted along with the Mayor to reject the motion. You can read it here and decide for yourself.
In summary, anyone following politics in our city could be forgiven for thinking the Mayor has stumbled into a Matrix-style dream world and seems seized by it. Mr Anderson needs reminding, that opposition to his decisions by members of the public, authors and opposition councillors can be legitimate and genuinely held. He needs reminding that people feel strongly about protecting green space, bus lane closures and other issues, and they can and will fight their corner against him. Finally, he needs someone within Liverpool Labour to have a quiet word and tell him that he is not Neo in the Matrix, he is not endowed with powers that make his judgements better than anyone else, and that he won't automatically become Mayor of the Liverpool Region. Here is what Jim Hancock writes about the Mayor's response to devolution in Greater Manchester:
"...on the issue of devolution he is not handling things well. He needs to work with Phil Davies, the leader of the Combined Authority, not continue to make snide comments about part time politicians meeting every four weeks. Also his ambition to be the elected metro mayor takes no account of the democratic processes of the Labour Party. If an elected mayor was on offer, Phil Davies or Jane Kennedy (the current Merseyside Police Commissioner) might at least want to offer an alternative to Joe’s coronation."
I'd go further. I think that as things currently stand in relation to how Labour councillors and activists view the Mayor around Merseyside, privately at least, there is a huge amount of concern at the way he runs the city. There would undoubtedly be a "anyone but Joe" candidate who would stand if a Merseyside Mayor came along.
This is how Liverpool Greens responded to the news. Martin Dobson, Green Party Candidate for Liverpool Riverside 2015 said:
"The Green Party supports the decentralisation of powers to local communities and this could be a great opportunity to move some power and responsibility from Westminster to the regions. But before any regional mayor and assembly is granted there needs to be consultation with the people of Merseyside."
"It is important that any Merseyside wide Mayor should be accountable to a democratically elected body - possibly a Merseyside Assembly, in the same way that the London Assembly holds the Mayor of London to account. Like in London this is an opportunity to make everyone’s vote count by adopting a proportional representation system of voting."
John Coyne, Leader of the Greens on Liverpool City Council added:
"Liverpool's city mayor was imposed by the Labour Party over the heads of the people of Liverpool without a referendum and we have seen some of the risks of having so much power in the hands of one person. Any future change for Merseyside should only go ahead if it is backed by a referendum or the people.”
Finally, Jake Morrison has announced that he will not be contesting Liverpool Wavertree as an independent. That is a shame. Jake has shown genuine commitment to the local community he represents but he has endured a torrid time from his former Labour colleagues. He's made clear that he will be campaigning for a candidate other than Luciana Berger in the General Election. He has other priorities to pursue in life and rightly so, but I think (and hope) we'll see him back in Liverpool politics in the future.