Liverpool report: what about the membership?

By Steve Latchford

The arrest of the former Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson last December sent shockwaves across the city, and the fall-out is still being felt. Commissioners were sent into the council in the wake of Max Caller’s Best Value inspection report into its running and now a Labour Party panel has reported on the state of the Liverpool Labour Party.

The review was led by former Labour Minister David Hanson and Judith Blake, former leader of Leeds City Council. Roy Kennedy, Baron Kennedy of Southwark made up the panel. Sixty figures in the city’s Labour Party came forward for interview and the panel received 77 written submissions.

The report’s focus was to investigate “the reasons behind the Caller Report; how the Party can make a lasting change in preventing a similar situation happening again; and how to restore trust and integrity with the people of Liverpool.”

Many on the left will welcome some of the recommendations, a referendum on the future of the mayoral model, for example. This is already the policy of the City Council Labour Group and the favoured option of CLPs. The recommended register of councillors’ interests is already being implemented. Few will bridle at whistle-blowing options for councillors and most will welcome the accelerated resolution of outstanding disciplinary cases. There will also be training on antisemitism by the Jewish Labour Movement. There is opposition to MPs retaining their council seats.

Other recommendations will be treated with some suspicion. While local Labour Party members will welcome a stress on increased diversity, there will be great misgivings about the Labour Party nationally determining the panel of candidates for the 2023 local elections, removing that power from local members. After all, if the main focus of the Caller Report was on problems at the top of the council, why this action against democratic control at rank and file level? Similarly the Liverpool Local Government Committee will lose its power to determine the panel until June 2026, the power going to the NEC. Many will see this as local democracy, which should have been the check and balance on problems at Mayoral level, being downgraded. The whole process will be overseen by an officer appointed by the national Party.

The other major bone of contention in the report is that the “NEC ensures that the constituencies in Liverpool be reconstituted within six months on a ward and constituency delegate basis.” This means CLPs that have an all-member model will be required to move to a delegate-based one. Many members will see this as a move away from a member-led party. CLP members will wonder what relevance this imposition has to concerns raised in the Caller report about the running of three council departments.

The concern among many Party members across the city is that legitimate cause for concern about the actions of some in the upper echelons of the city council is being used to exert control over the local membership.

Image: Liverpool waterfront. Source: FlickrPicture postcard Liverpool. Author: Beverley Goodwin, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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