Labour have swept virtually all before them in elections in the Sefton Central Constituency since 2010 yet they seem vulnerable, unhappy with each other and riven with internal disputes.
At an MP Council Leader level, despite the odd smiling photo in the press, it is seemingly common knowledge that MP Bill Esterson and Sefton Borough Council Leader Peter Dowd simply don’t get on. And a question on many lips is who actually controls Labour Parish, Town and Borough Councillors? Some Labour sources say the MP’s office pulls all (too many) of the strings whilst others say that Bootle Labour Party holds all the power. Whatever the case there certainly seems to be a big internal battle going on.
In Formby Labour’s councillors seem to be in a continually fractious relationship with a vocal community group called Fragoff who are trying to save Green Belt land from development.
In Maghull, where do you start; it seems to be one internal problem after another with 7 Labour councillors resigning from Maghull Town Council in just 2 years and that same Council having 4 Labour Leaders in the same 2 year period. Indeed, when Labour gained control of Maghull Council in 2011 they won 13 of the 16 seats but to date 6 of the original 13 have resigned and 1 who was co-opted to replace the first to resign has also packed in.
Across the Constituency the MP talks about Labour opposing developments in the Green Belt but Labour councillors are clearly on a different agenda as they consistently vote to build on Green Belt.
Labour’s Green Belt woes started in Lydiate when some Labour councillors voted to allow a canal marina to be built on Green Belt land. Then, however, Labour had yet to gain a majority on Sefton Council and they were out voted by a combination of Lib Dem and Tory councillors who blocked the planning application. It did not and has not stopped Labour trying to give the impression that they didn’t vote to build on the Green Belt when of course they did.
Returning to Maghull, Labour backed residents who were opposing the development on a significant piece of open green space in the heart of the Town only for Labour Councillors to vote to give the development planning permission.
Also in Maghull there is the strange question of why the Labour run Town Council decided not to make a submission to Sefton Borough Council in defence of the Green Belt during the 2011 Local Plan consultations. Who or what spooked them and made them decide not to make a submission when one had been written up by a Labour councillor? Bearing in mind that the biggest of all the Borough’s Green Belt housing and industrial developments is planned by Labour run Sefton Council to be in Maghull it makes that lack of a submission from Maghull Town Council look all the more devastating.
In Blundellsands and Aintree Labour run Sefton Council proposed closing 2 libraries and has since confirmed the closures. The Labour MP opposed his own councillor’s closure proposals so Labour had a foot in both camps again.
Now across Sefton Labour are planning to charge residents for having green waste recycling bins and this proposal is proving to be about as popular as snow at harvest.
So how are they getting themselves in such a mess? It is probably their brand of band wagon popularism as they seem willing to back anyone who knocks at their door even when they surely must realise they will end up letting some of them down. They seem to think that because of austerity folks will vote Labour no matter what they do; a we can get away with anything sort of approach?
Now, however, Miliband and Balls have effectively pulled the rug from under their feet by saying that Labour will to a large extent follow the financial austerity policies put in place by the Coalition.
Labour craved power in Sefton and eventually got it on the back of saying that austerity was not necessary, that the Coalition was evil in pursuing it and that under Labour such savings and cuts would not happen. Now the very foundation of their band wagon popularist approach has been undermined, by their own Party leaders.
Will there be more internal Labour troubles in Sefton Central, I suspect you can almost bet on it.