politics

Liverpool Labour councillors fail to abolish role of city mayor


Labour councillors in Liverpool have failed in an attempt to abolish the city mayoral role in protest against a decision by the party to scrap its all-female mayoral shortlist and bar three senior local politicians from standing.

The move means the party must scrabble around to find a plausible candidate for May’s elections, following the arrest of the incumbent, Joe Anderson.

Several frontrunners have already ruled themselves out, including the former MEP Theresa Griffin and Frank McKenna, a local business leader. Applying would be “like crossing the picket line”, said one Labour councillor, arguing it would show disrespect to the three women removed from the original shortlist: Wendy Simon, the acting mayor; Ann O’Byrne, Anderson’s former deputy; and Anna Rothery, the lord mayor.

Some in the local party fear the controversy could lead the way for an independent candidate to win in Liverpool, a Labour stronghold. At the last election in 2016, Anderson won 52.6% of votes, with the Liberal Democrats second on 21.1%. Under the mayoral model, if no candidate receives more than half of first preference votes, second preferences come into play.

Last week, Stephen Yip, the founder of the Liverpool children’s charity Kind, announced his candidature. Frances Molloy, who last year won a campaign to ban old tyres after her son was killed in a coach crash, ruled herself out as a Labour candidate but said: “The role may now be better served by an independent candidate going forward as the political fallout and in-house fighting would be a serious distraction from the role.”

At an emergency meeting of Liverpool Labour party on Saturday night, councillors voted 39 to 20 against ditching the mayoral position altogether and moving back to a leader and cabinet model. The idea was controversial for several reasons, not least because Labour had voted against the idea in January, after it was proposed by the Liberal Democrats. Instead, it voted to hold a referendum on the matter in 2023.

According to the Liverpool Echo, legal advice was circulated around the Labour group before Saturday’s meeting, which warned that while technically the group could push through a vote to remove the mayoralty, it could leave the council open to a legal challenge.

Lena Simic, a councillor who voted against the motion, said she felt it would “undermine democracy” to scrap the role of mayor without giving Liverpudlians a say. “We as elected representatives need to uphold democracy at every step, both internally in the Labour party, but also most importantly for the people of Liverpool. There are also legal issues around the motion,” she said.

She supported a second motion from the Liverpool MP Ian Bryne that demanded transparency regarding the decision to remove the three women from the ballot. “In my personal opinion applying for this position before we know what has happened and we get some answers is uncomradely and like crossing a picket line,” she said.



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