Election Counts and the people you meet at them – A guest Posting From Jen Robertson

By now last week’s elections have been analysed, over-analysed, and then analysed a bit more for good measure. There seems to be certain sense of shock at the outcome and a sense, certainly amongst those I’ve spoke to, of trepidation. Last week was not a good experience for any Liberal Democrat; but strangely at both the counts I attended I found myself talking to people who gave me a rather better feeling about these elections in general, if by no means making me happy with the results.

On Thursday night (or should I say the early hours of Friday morning, the count did drag on until nearly 6am in Sefton Central) I met a young lady attending on her own; Lindsey Melia, the local Green candidate, was her own agent and was introduced to us by a group of local non-party political campaigners for whom environmental issues were a key concern. She told me she’d stood because in the last election she’d wanted to vote Green and found there was no candidate in the area and so had determined to change that. I cannot think of a better response to that situation. No matter what you think of party politics here was a young woman who saw a situation she didn’t like and set her mind, and indeed her time and effort, into doing something about it. She will have known she wasn’t going to come close to winning, it’s a safe Labour seat (and indeed sadly neither the Greens nor the Lib Dems even managed to garner enough votes to reclaim our deposits) but what she did do was offer people a choice. A choice that the 1,184 people who voted for her would not have had otherwise. She also stood in Linacre Ward for Sefton Council (another safe Labour seat) and there offered the only alternative to Labour and The Socialist Labour Party and came away with a pretty respectable 12% of the vote. I suspect Lindsey will be back, she came across as quiet but determined, and personally, though we may be standing in different political camps, I hope to see her name on the ballot paper again and I hope more people have a similar reaction to her if they find themselves having trouble finding a candidate they can support.

That was Thursday, I managed to go to work on Friday and finally get some sleep. Then I was back on Saturday for the parish council counts. The unexpected holding of three out of four seats the Lib Dems fought on Lydiate was fantastic. While there though I again found myself talking to people outside of my own party, the same non-party political group that introduced Lindsey to me to begin with. Known locally as ‘Frag-off’ and standing for election under the title Community Action Not Party Politics this group of local activists are fighting, just like the local Lib Dems, to save the local greenbelt that contains some of Britain’s top agricultural land. They had a fantastic victory and took control of Formby Parish Council, winning nine out of the ten seats they contested. These people again seemed dedicated to fighting what they saw as wrong. To them this wasn’t an issue of party politics, one lady told me they came from a variety of backgrounds and said she personally liked the idea of political coalition. We agreed that debating sensibly with those who disagree with you, being forced to defend and see the flaws in your own ideas and beliefs, is good both for us as individuals and for the things we stand for. I suspect Formby has found itself under the governance of a group who will work very hard for them and, despite being involved in party politics myself, I think their decision to support this group that chooses to work outside the party system was a good one.

At both of these events I met people dedicated to making their corner of the world a better place. I met the kind of people who when seeing things they disliked have made concerted efforts to do something about it. No matter what the election results, there are people out there quietly working away to improve their communities and I’m willing to believe that this holds true across the country. Lose your faith in politicians if you will, but cynicism would be hard pressed to stand against the kind of people I met at the local counts. It’s one election, personally I don’t think it’s a good result, but it’s not the end. Saying it is the end is letting them win, so, like these local activists and those who get involved because they want to see a different point of view represented, don’t stop fighting, don’t stop voting, and don’t lose hope.

Elected Mayors – Centralising power in one persons hands is bad but if it is being forced on Merseyside the crunch will be finding/electing someone of a stature respected by many


I have long opposed an elected Metro Mayor/City Regional Mayor/Merseyside Mayor call it what you will and without going over too much ground this is why:-

* Merseyside is too small to be a successful competitive City Region with areas such as Ellesmere Port and West Lancashire being excluded from it.
* A Borough like Sefton which has a majority border with Lancashire could end up being even more disconnected with its neighbouring communities. I am thinking of Southport, Lydiate and Formby here especially.
* What’s so cleaver about centralising power in one person’s hands? Surely this is an illiberal idea that goes against the long held view in the UK about how local governance should be set up. Indeed, it is an American idea imported to the UK.
* Electing a candidate whom people can genuinely respect would be crucial if the idea is taken forward on Merseyside against all my other significant reservations/objections above. A Party hack from one particular political tribe who wants to lord it over Merseyside will be no good for anyone.

But despite my reservations is it going to happen? Well it seems it may well just do so if you take on board what is said in the Liverpool Echo article – see link above.

Of course Liverpool already has an elected City Mayor but the role was in reality imposed on the City without a referendum by Labour-run Liverpool City Council. On that basis clearly he electoral legitimacy test of whether the City wanted a elected mayor at all was dodged. The only say Liverpool folk got was who was going to get the job.

What’s more quite a few cities/communities that have held referendums on whether they wanted an elected mayor have said no they don’t. Where elected mayors have been successful will have been where, probably more by chance than anything else, a person of widely respected stature has been elected. In other words it is a game of chance; get a good elected mayor and it may possibly work out get a bad one and it could be an utter nightmare. Such is the result when power is not shared by a group of elected people.

I still think it is a bad way forward and will be campaigning against this Americanisation of UK local government.

Elections – My second rabbit in the headlight moment and another close encounter with Cllr. Tim Hale

I first won a seat on Sefton Borough Council in 1999 in Molyneux ward (which was then made up of Aintree Village, Melling, Thornton, Ince Blundell and Sefton Parishes) by taking it from Labour.

The Labour candidate and sitting councillor back then was a friend of mine and fellow trade union officer! I genuinely felt bad about beating him. His name? Tim Hale.

16 years later and the boot was almost on the other foot as I was in the process of losing my Park Ward (Lydiate, Sefton & Lunt Villages and western Maghull) Sefton Council seat to a Labour candidate whilst Tim was in the process of winning a seat for the Labour Party in Formby’s Ravenmeols ward.

I think it fair to say that Tim expected to lose to Formby’s new environmental movement party FRAGOFF but he just scrapped in some 16 years after I took his Sefton Council seat off him!

We had a long chat about the old days as trade union officers in the Civil Service and of course how bad we both felt on a personal level about me taking his Sefton Council seat all those years ago.

But there was another a parallel with the 1999 election count for me. My mates in the Lib Dems have always ribbed me about the look on my face when I won in 1999 – they call it my rabbit in the headlight moment as I and indeed they were shocked that we had won a seat we did not expect to pick up until the following round of local elections. Of course I was also pondering how I was going to be able to look my old friend Tim in the face again!

Well it happened again in last week’s Parish Council’s election count – another rabbit in the headlight moment for me. What was it? My winning a seat on Lydiate Parish Council again. Winning was just not a possibility in my mind; Labour were going to sweep the board and that was that. Imagine my complete shock when I was told I had been re-elected to Lydiate Parish Council, I was utterly speechless for a few moments and did my second rabbit in the headlight moment at an election count.

My best wishes to Tim. On a political level I obviously did not want him to win as I have worked closely with Fragoff with whom I share many environmental concerns. On a personal level I am happy for Tim who has been out of office for 16 years all because of me! I also realise that Tim has been dealing with the illness of a close family member in recent times and hope his long awaited return to Sefton Council is just the thing to lift his family’s spirits.

Sefton Council – New Leader but same old Bootle Bucks dominance


So Sefton has a new Leader (Cllr. Ian Maher) and surprise, surprise it’s another Labour Councillor from Bootle and his Deputy will be, yes you have guessed it, another Labour Councillor from Bootle (Cllr. John Fairclough).

The Bootle Labour Party has dominated Sefton politics for some years now with Bill Esterson’s Sefton Central Labour tribe being kept firmly away from power even though they are the voting fodder that enables the Bootle Labour Bucks to dominate us all in the Borough.

Peter Dowd was a Leader of some ability and I say that as someone who opposed him over many things in my time on Sefton Council. Peter was was a quick thinker on his feet and his speeches were usually of high quality whether you agreed with him or not. What I can’t see here is a Labour and indeed Council leadership that can match Peter Dowd’s skills. Is that why Peter is staying on as a councillor despite having just been elected MP for Bootle?

Merseyside County Council – Gone but certainly not missed

The County of Merseyside and its County Council were created as a consequence of the Conservative’s hugely controversial local government reorganisation of 1974. It took many communities out of Lancashire and into this newly invented beast and it has probably been the most unpopular act associated with local governance of living memory.

Unloved and often hated from the start (I mean the County of Merseyside but you can read into this sentence another connotation!) Margaret Thatcher then killed off or put down Merseyside County Council in the 1980’s.

But on an isolated lane in Melling on the border with West Lancashire, Cunscough Lane to be precise, there sits to this very day a symbol of that once short-lived County Council together with its crest or coat of arms:-

What was once - A short lived County Council

What was once – A short lived County Council

The photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

Mauretania – Not coming home to Liverpool

Sadly, I have just received this message via e-mail having given a small donation to try to assist Merseyside Maritime Museum in their bid to acquire a shipbuilder’s model of this famous Liverpool Liner at auction.


Mauretania Auction update

Many thanks once again for your recent gift towards our appeal to bring the Mauretania home to Liverpool.

Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our bid.

Here is a quote from Janet Dugdale, Director of Merseyside Maritime Museum:

“We are hugely disappointed with today’s outcome. Our intention was to bring the Mauretania home to Liverpool, at a critical time in the city’s maritime history. It is sad that we cannot do this. However, I would like to thank every single person who contributed. The donations raised were fantastic and will be used to improve the Merseyside Maritime Museum and its collections”.