Community ‘Fair Deal Campaign’ pits Maghull Labour v Sefton Labour

Having been involved in politics here on Merseyside since 1980, one of the many things I’ve learned is that whilst the Labour Party fight like ferrets in a sack internally they always, always try to put forward a united front in public.

But hey, things may be changing as Maghull Labour are rightly trying to turn the screw on big brother Sefton Labour. You’d expect it to end in tears for Maghull Labour but let’s give them credit for standing up to Sefton Labour. I have a feeling that the Maghull Town Council/Sefton Borough Council relationship may be getting a little fractious.

So what’s the conflict all about? Well, a community ‘Fair Deal campaign’, with Labour-run Maghull Town Council taking the lead, has been launched because, well to put it bluntly, Sefton Council (also Labour controlled) has in my view been diddling the communities of Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village* for a few years now

And by the way, for the benefit of any doubt, I’m very much supportive of the campaign. My recent blog posting regarding ‘Double Rating’ makes the point and here’s a link to it:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2022/02/14/double-rating-maghull-lydiate-aintree-a-history-of-ups-and-downs/

I also had a letter published in the North Liverpool Champion newspaper on 16th March on the same subject.

Here are some scans of the campaign leaflet that’s presently being delivered around Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village (you’ll need to click on each scan to enlarge for reading):-

As I pointed out in both my blog posting (linked above) and in my letter to the Champion Newspaper, whilst austerity was the reason given for the ‘Double Rating’ being withdrawn in reality the formula for it simply needed adjusting to take into account Sefton Borough Council’s reduced expenditure on its own parks and gardens. The total withdrawal of DR was simply wrong and I opposed Labour’s move to do that when I was a Sefton Councillor because it meant Maghull, Lydiate & Aintree Village council taxpayers were being disadvantaged. Here’s the relevant part of the submission made by Lydiate Parish Council explaining that very fact:-

a) To continue to make the payments but at a lower level commensurate with the reduced standards of grounds maintenance that the Borough has already budgeted for and may well budget for in the future. This option would mean that all of Sefton’s communities would be treated the same by the Borough Council no matter whether the parks and gardens are run by Borough or Parish Council.

Looking at the party politics is interesting because the area of Sefton Borough covered by this campaign is known as the East Parishes and it has 3 Borough Council wards – Park, Sudell and Molyneux. Until recently these 3 wards had 3 Labour members in each (total of 9) but 2 of the councillors (1 in Park, 1 in Molyneux) have parted company with Labour, sitting now as Independents. I suppose the question is what will the 7 East Parishes wards Labour members of Sefton Council do if the issue comes to a vote on the Borough Council? This question assumes, of course, that Labour-run Sefton Council doesn’t capitulate and pay up, which I hope they will.

Anyway, back to the campaign. You’ll have noticed the reference to the ‘New Homes Bonus’, ‘Section 106’ and the 1700 new homes to be built in Maghull from the scanned leaflet. The issue for me here is that as a former Maghull Town Councillor myself, I ran the successful campaign to stop the very same ‘Land East of Maghull’ being developed back in 1998**. I didn’t see Labour-run Maghull Town Council opposing/campaigning against Sefton Council’s most recent and successful bid to build on the land, which they (Sefton) won, almost without a shot being fired! In other words, there’s a certain amount of shutting stable doors after the horse has bolted going on here.

So there you have it, the party political tectonic plates are shifting in Labour-run Sefton and in ways that would have seemed inconceivable not so long ago. My feeling is that all may not be well with Keir Starmer’s seeming bid to take the Labour Party to a centre-right position in UK politics and this may be causing some of the local Labour Party unrest. If all this unrest resolves a great injustice for the East Parishes council taxpayers of Sefton Borough then some good will have come from it.

* I note Melling Parish Council is seemingly not involved in this campaign and wonder why. I say this as at one time Melling PC did get some Double Rating money for the wild-flower meadow they maintained on Melling Rock. Maybe they no longer have responsibility for it?

** That was during the development of what was then called the Sefton’s Unitary Development Plan. The new plan, which this time has approved the building on this vast piece of high-grade agricultural land, is called the Sefton Local Plan. I opposed the Local Plan as a Sefton Councillor (and after I’d been invited to leave the council by the electorate) as this piece of land is high-grade agricultural land that grows the food we eat.

UK politics is presently all about the right wing, white working class vote

Well, it is for the Labour and Conservative parties anyway as they desperately try to respectively regain or cling onto this particular section of voters who are, by a majority, backing the Tories in recent years.

For Labour, this is a conundrum to which they seem to have few if any answers and it may well be why Starmer and Labour tend to be keeping their heads down when it comes to acting like an opposition. My feeling is that they fear alienating the white working-class vote even more so until it starts to slip from the Tory’s grip best to keep Mum. Of course, this is a wait and see strategy but if this section of voters stays with the Tories it could be a very long wait indeed.

The messaging from our Tory government and Offical Labour opposition is therefore nearly always aimed at this section of the electorate or has their views significantly in mind as they are the power behind Johnson’s throne, whilst they are also helping to keep Starmer out of power. For Labour, which aspires to be a left of centre progressive party, chasing the right wing voters who used to be in their camp is both problematic and crucial to Labour’s future. If Starmer takes Labour too far right in an attempt to bring the white working-class voters back to his party then he stands to lose his progressives to the Lib Dems and Greens. However, if he doesn’t bring the white working-class voters back he will fail to get anywhere near a majority at the next general election. Remember Labour have virtually no seats left in Scotland, as the SNP has all but destroyed Labour north of the border, and there seems little if any prospect of Starmer reversing those losses. So the reality is that forming any kind of majority is probably well beyond Labour’s capabilities even if they claw back their lost right-wingers. Starmer and Labour are facing a grim electoral scenario whichever way they turn.

And what about that Batley & Spen by-election which bizarrely prominent Labour right-winger Rachel Reeves has been trying to pass off as a victory for Kier Starmer! Oh come on, get real, Labour all but lost it except for the fact that they had a very local candidate with a direct connection to murdered MP Jo Cox. Kim Leadbeater presented herself, at least in style, like a Liberal community politics campaigner/candidate and significantly as one of an independent mind who was not going to be a slave to her party. It’s highly likely that this was why Labour just about clung on to a seat they would otherwise have lost. Trouble is having an independently minded MP in Labour’s ranks who has in effect pledged to put her community first is hardly what a significantly authoritarian Labour Party really wants. If she carries through with her independence then Labour has to prepare for her becoming a thorn in their side. My every experience with the Labour Party has been one of them stifling independent thought in their ranks and demanding loyalty to the party at every turn. If Kim Leadbetter can’t stomach such control where will it end? No, Batley and Spen was a close squeak win for progressive politics but it was the connection with Jo Cox and a community/independent-minded candidate which actually won it. Sadly, this by-election actually confirmed that otherwise the white, working-class right-wing is still the only section of the electorate both Tories and Labour are actually interested in.

Note – I took against Rachel Reeves back in 2013 when the Guardian newspaper said this of her – ‘Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing the benefits bill, Rachel Reeves, the new shadow work and pensions secretary, has insisted in her first interview since winning promotion in Ed Miliband’s frontbench reshuffle.’ To me, her position was very far from being one of a progressive and I’ve not changed my mind.

Sturgeon V Burnham

Or is that Jimmy Krankie V Andy Capp?

Sturgeon, who comes across as a tough Glasgow political street fighter, takes on Greater Manchester’s Scouse Mayor who tries to portray himself as the fighter for the common northern man and woman. Well, there’s only going to one winner in that spat and it’s not Andy Capp. Frankly, Burham’s not in the same league as Sturgeon; he’s more a shouter from the sidelines in my view.

Yes I know, I’ve never rated Burnham as readers of this blog site will know. He’s always struck me as a populist follower rather than a leader of progressives. And wasn’t he close to NHS privatisation during the Blair years?

But whilst the spat is ostensibly about whether Manchester/Salford folk can travel to Scotland during the present Covid 19 situation the reality seems to be that Burnham, you might say cleverly, is using the issue to promote what looks like his ongoing plan/campaign to run for Labour Leader leader (again). This on the basis that, as many within the Labour Party seem to think, Starmer is forced to call it a day or is told to call it a day. But let’s not forget that Burnham has stood for leader previously and if memory serves his performance hardly won many hearts and minds. The reality is, of course, that Starmer will probably limp on until the next general election so Burnham has a while yet to find a safe seat. If he does stand then it will be to try to pick up the leaders job.

So would Labour do any better with a populist (with a conscience) as their leader especially one who is clearly a northerner? That’s a question no one presently has an answer to but you can bet it’s exercising many a Labour strategist mind presently. Of course, as I’ve already indicated Burnham will have to find a safe Labour seat to become an MP once again as his old seat (Leigh) is now represented by a Tory! And that very situation kind of sums up how left of centre politics has been unable to find answers to populist right-wing politics (with little or no conscience).

With credit to Private Eye re. Andy Capp

Starmer shown red card and has early Bath

It seems as though Keir Starmer can add unlucky to his present list of troubles following his unfortunate encounter in Bath with a Brexiteer.

Your first thought is how on earth did his minders get him into such an encounter; the very kind of publicity he’d not have wanted.

But then on further reflection, what on earth was he doing campaigning in Bath which is already represented by a radical and progressive MP. You’d have thought his efforts would have been better aimed at a Tory seat rather than helping the Tories to unseat an MP of the centre-left who is far more radical and progressive than the vast majority of Labour MP’s. Having said that maybe it’s as simple as he’s on the same track as Jez Corbyn i.e. get rid of all other radical left of centre MP’s who are not Labour; the Tories can wait until we’ve achieved that. Trouble is that the tribal approach simply does not work and it lets the Tories have a free run.

Whilst Starmer is clearly more electable than Corbyn he’s no progressive leader at all and he seems to spend much of his time making progressives both inside and outside of the Labour Party cringe. He also seems to be on a very different course to Tony Blair who gathered progressives around him, made friends with the then Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown and made himself look like a progressive who could and would win. Starmer’s approach seems to be one of hiding behind his party political sofa saying as little as possible and certainly not reaching out to other progressives in the Greens, Lib Dems etc. So the ‘one more heave’ policy of Labour under Corbyn is still thought to be alive despite it being pronounced very much dead in the December 2019 General Election.

The trouble with Labour is that they are a wide collection of political sects from the right, through social democrats and off into the many sects of socialism. This means working-class right-wingers, who have bought into Johnson, are in the same overall tent as Momentum! No wonder Labour spends so much of its time fighting itself and trying to heal internal divisions. They call it a ‘broad church’ but it’s so broad that its internal sects often hate each other more than they do the Tories.

So no one on the progressive left really has any idea where Starmer is heading as he clearly didn’t in Bath.

Having read this far you may think I want Starmer to fail but actually, the opposite is true. We desperately need a centre-left, progressive and yes radical alternative to our UKIP-type Tory Party. A Progressive Alliance of Labour, Lib Dems & Greens is required but for that to happen Labour has to stop attacking fellow progressives and Starmer has to start to look like a real leader of women and men. Sadly, the way things are going there’s not much room for hope and the Tories march on without a credible opposition.

Brexiteers created the problems, now their leaders seem to want to make them worse

Health warning – Brexiteers shouldn’t read this posting without having extra blood pressure tablets within reach

Jim Hancock has the posting on his blog site – see link below:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Jim has this about right as a piece of level-headed commentary but the matter is far from being level-headed of course because Brexit is very much an emotional as opposed to a logical issue.

Well that’s probably got my Brexiteer readers jumping up and down but however you cut it this Northern Ireland issue is a direct consequence of Brexit. The way forward according to our government seems to be to break an international agreement which we signed up to only a couple of months ago. It’s as though those who voted for Johnson’s Brexit Deal, which includes all but one of Labour’s MP’s, didn’t know what they were doing or the consequences of their vote! Blindly voting for a last minute Brexit Deal as Labour and Tory MP’s did was always going to end in tears and so it has come to pass.

The trouble with Brexit is it meant many different things to many different Brexiteers but probably the biggest issue was that those who promoted it actually did not understand the far-reaching consequences of what they were campaigning for, let alone be able to explain those consequences to the electorate. Johnson’s ‘oven ready deal’ ended up no more than half-baked and Keir Starmer led his troops into backing it. Of course Brexiteers, blame the EU, the French, the Irish, the Germans; indeed it’s everyone else’s fault but their own. And have you seen the January trade figures with the EU!

Brexit was always a hugely complex matter but it was sold as everything the electorate could wish for, no down sides, huge benefits and Britannia would again rule the waves. Of course none of that was even remotely true but it sounded akin to Trump’s ‘make America great again’ and look where that got the US!

We are in danger of becoming a failed state, indeed we are already well down that road I fear……

Is Starmer another John Smith?

Now I’m a Liberal who had some time for John Smith as Labour Leader; I thought he had something about him even though I had little time for his party. That someone should compare him to Keir Starmer struck me as more than a little odd as to me Starmer as Labour leader has been quite a big disappointment. I’d thought that when he was seemingly reluctantly running along with Corbyn that there was far more about him than has subsequently been shown since he became Labour’s leader.

So what about the article that got me thinking about how on earth Starmer could possibly be another Smith? Here’s a substantial extract from it

When talking about Keir Starmer, think of John Smith – by Mark Pack

The parallels between former Labour Party leader John Smith and current leader Keir Starmer are striking.

Both took up post after four Labour general election defeats in a row (1979-1992 and then 2010-19). Both succeeded a Labour leader whose personal ratings had a positive burst but had fallen into persistent negative territory by the end (Kinnock, then Corbyn). Both themselves had not only been a leading member of the Shadow Cabinet prior to the last Labour defeat, they had even held the post central to the key issue seen at the heart of that defeat. Brexit for Starmer, the economy for Smith. On becoming leader, both addressed a major internal issue that had been seen as costing Labour votes (anti-Semitism with Starmer, the union block vote and move to OMOV for Smith). But beyond that, both also were modest in the extent to which they set out to change their party or its policies. Both looked to have an approach to winning the next general election of, ‘Let the government mess up while I’ll show that I’m not my predecessor’. One more heave rather than one big revolution.

Whether this would have worked for John Smith, tragically we will never know. The plaudits given to him after his early death from a heart attack in 1994 were of the sort any of us should be honoured to receive. If you or I receive even an echo of such fulsome words, we will have led a good life. For all Smith’s many positives, the one thing left hanging unresolved is whether or not he was a good leader of the Labour Party. Had he set the course for victory or was he going to turn out to be too timid to win? We’ll never know.

With Starmer, we will. For there are two competing stories waiting for historians to pick between them. One is of Starmer the triumphant, who wisely realised that oppositions don’t win elections but governments lose them. So he made clear he was not his highly unpopular predecessor and other than that mostly kept out of the way, doing little radical and letting the government destroy itself. The other is of Starmer the timidly defeated, who turned out to have nothing much to do or say beyond, ‘I’m not Corbyn and I’m opposed to anti-Semitism’, and who then went down to defeat as the Conservative Party pulled itself together when the general election neared.

Either could yet be true.’

Well yes I get the parallels but Starmer’s too right wing for me. Yes I know, he’s desperate to get his white working class right wing supporters back who voted Tory in December 2019 and virtually everything he does is a dance to their tune but that’s certainly putting off progressives in spades too. He’s not willing to embrace electoral reform/fair votes, he opposes Universal Basic Income (UBI) which is the only real way to seriously tackle poverty and he led his party to support Johnson’s appalling Brexit Deal. As I say there’s nothing to warm the heart of a progressive there what so ever!

So for me Starmer is no John Smith

Progressive politics in the UK is desperately short of leaders and that’s important because for the Conservative’s majority to be overturned* it’s going to take a huge joint effort by Labour, Lib Dems and Greens in some way working together rather than in opposition to each other. For that to happen credible leaders need to be found whom progressives can coalesce around. The alternative is more years of populist right wing government and if that’s not enough to sober up anti-Conservatives I don’t know what is.

* Labour’s usual route to a majority, via Scotland, went west when they were all but wiped out by the SNP.