Yes of course Momentum is tightening its grip but on Merseyside, as it’s doing across the Labour Party, but they are known as Militant to Scousers. But let’s look beyond the headlines, the questions being are Momentum becoming more Militant or are Militant gaining Momentum?
It seems as though some on Merseyside are now looking back at the 1980’s with very rose tinted spectacles on. It was not a good time for Liverpool but Militant made it worse with their political posturing and false hope. Yes it was some 30 years ago so many who want to celebrate the return of the far left will not have had any experience of that era. Indeed, their knowledge of it will have come from those who do remember it or those who were a part of it.
Well it seems things are starting to repeat themselves as more moderate Labour councillors start to walk away, defect or suffer deselection in Liverpool. Here’s a recent Liverpool Echo story on the matter:-
I also understand that some Labour MP’s on Merseyside may not be all that comfortable, especially those with longer memories. By the way don’t get too carried away with Frank Field MP resigning the Labour Whip. His case is more of a unique nature because of his support for Brexit, which seems to go beyond that of even the Labour Leadership in Westminster and that takes some doing.
A good starting point for anyone wishing to get their heads around Liverpool City Council or the Labour Party on Merseyside is to visit the blog site of former Labour MP for Walton Constituency Peter Kilfoyle. If you remember he was Neil Kinnock’s man in Liverpool when Militant were being driven out of the Labour Party.
The Lib Dem Group Leader on Liverpool City Council, Cllr. Richard Kemp, is another blogger on the local political scene who lived through the Militant era, in his case as a Liverpool City Councillor. Both of these men have the scars and knowledge of how Liverpool, from the management of public services perspective, simply fell apart at the seams under Militant. Neither have rose tinted spectacles I might add.
So is Liverpool really slipping back towards the political mismanagement of the 1980’s? At face value it seems to be doing just that. Labour in the City is already riven with splits of both a political and personal nature. That you will oft hear of a Labour faction calling another Labour faction ‘a gang of Tories’ or words that effect says it all does it not?
From a wider perspective my feeling is that Liverpool has always been a tough place to govern and that everyone who has tried to do it has eventually ended up with burnt fingers. Maybe this is not unusual for a large city council? In my years as Leader of neighbouring Sefton Council (and these coincided with good years for the City of Liverpool) you often got the impression that the City Council was pretty much on the edge and that power struggles within it were always about to erupt. But despite this underlying instability within the City Council it still wanted to be the boss on Merseyside and it got very frustrated with the surrounding Borough’s that were often less than keen on whatever its latest initiative was.
That Merseyside politics has traditionally been seen as dysfunctional by governments of all colours over the past 30 to 40 years is a given but to me the City Council and its inability to be at peace with itself, let alone with it’s family of local government neighbours in the now called ‘City Region’ is at the heart of these difficulties.
My guess is that Liverpool City will always be a political melting pot which attracts those with both radical (I use that word in its widest terms not just in the Liberal sense) and off the usual scale views. It will also pull in those who want power because they feel that their vision for the City is the right one whether it sends the City to hell in a hand cart or not and it’s the Labour Party that they usually subscribe to.
Should Liverpool end up is some politically dark places again under Labour then the reality is that few will be surprised. Oh and one last point, on becoming leader of Sefton Council I was asked by a senior officer, somewhat tongue in cheek obviously, ‘what’s your most important task as leader of the council?’ I thought about it but before I could answer I was advised it was to keep Sefton out of the Rotten Boroughs column of Private Eye. As a reader of Private Eye I wonder whether the leading lights on Liverpool City Council have in recent times been advised the very opposite to me?