When political parties all go wrong at the wrong/same time

The more I think about the 2019 General Election the more I realise what a terrible choice the British public had on offer in terms of potential Prime Ministers. On that basis is it any wonder they picked (with the more than significant help from our warped electoral system) the politician to lead them who is probably best summed up as a populist entertainer.

If Corbyn had been really credible he would have won in 2017. That he didn’t and went down hill from there makes you wonder what on earth the Labour Party was doing keeping him on as they must have known they were on the road to nowhere with him. And so it proved with a shocking electoral performance in December 2019 – Labour losing many seats to a Tory Party under the leadership of someone that no one trusted.

The Tories had been in a right old mess ever since David Cameron found himself calling the EU Referendum having surprisingly gained a majority in 2015; a majority which privately he must have very much hoped not to have for it forced his hand to go where he did not want to go with the EU.

The Lib Dems recovered some ground in terms of vote share in 2019 but bizarrely ended the election with one seat less than they won in 2017. Our wonderful NOT electoral system at work of course. But their leader Jo Swinson proved not to be an asset to the Party as on balance she wasn’t liked by voters and yes I do realise there will sadly have been some misogynist views at play in her downfall.

And then within a couple months a huge crisis envelopes the world, one that the UK reacted to far too slowly and which because of our obsession with austerity we have been incapable of addressing well. Here we are 6 weeks after lockdown with only a few brave Tories willing to wave the flag for Boris Johnson; the rest of the population wondering how on earth we ended up where we are with a shockingly poor government at the very time we need a strong one.

Oh for an Obama, a Blair, a Merkel or a that wonderful young lady from New Zealand whom we all struggle to say the name of (Jacinda Ardern) in our hour of need, but true leaders in UK politics are hard to find anywhere. The blood letting in both the Tories (over Brexit) and Labour (over Brexit, antisemitism and Corbynism) has led to the loss of many credible politicians and the Lib Dems have failed to come up with a leader the public really can take to since the demise of Charles Kennedy. That someone as credible as Dominic Grieve has found himself unwelcome in the Tory Party or that Louise Ellman walked away from Labour tells us that our politics is far from healthy and that dogmatically driven sects are far too powerful in our two major political parties.

That Labour has finally sobered up is a given in that they’ve now elected a reasonably credible leader in Keir Starmer although the jury is clearly still out. He’s no charismatic leader and worryingly seems still wedded to too many of the faults within Corbynism such as Brexit (he opposes the transition period being extended). He needs to become a true progressive as Blair clearly was in his early years, before he fouled up big style over Iraq. Yes it’s hard as Labour’s core working class supporters can easily swing to the right into regressive politics (as they did to deliver Brexit) but if Blair could be progressive and keep them on side Starmer has to as well. It will be no good appeasing them by throwing in a few ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ policies Keir.

As for the Lib Dems, who for reasons no one can quite get their heads around have contrived not to have an elected leader in place since the December 2019 GE, there is hope that someone like Layla Moran can come through to be a truly progressive Social Liberal Leader. I hope so as I want my Party to be placed not between the Tories and Labour but to the left of Labour on many social issues/policies as we were in Charles Kennedy’s day.

What will become of the Tory Party is a very big question indeed. You can’t see Johnson surviving or indeed wanting to survive as PM in the long term. His popularist entertainer position which he’s carved out over many years is clearly unsuited to a country in crisis as is his legendary personality fault-line of not doing detail.

Politically the UK is in a mess, England probably more so than the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations. There’s room for some optimism but it will be a long road before our main 3 political parties become fit for purpose again.

Liverpool’s Labour politics – What’s going on?

If I spoke to some of those I know in the Labour Party who follow the Corbyn/Momentum creed I guess they would say that Louise Ellman, Luciana Burger and Jane Kennedy are bloody Tories who they are well rid of, or words to similar effect.

But Liverpool has now had 2 of it’s Labour MP’s resign from the party plus the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner and all in the last few months. Are we just seeing the further realignment of Labour into it becoming a pure socialist party and in the process shedding it’s social democrats and other more moderate factions/sects or is there something else going on too? Sadly, there can be little doubt that antisemitism is at play in this heady brew but people holding anti-Semitic views should surely not be a part of any political faction which looks upon itself as being progressive. Yet both the resigning Labour MP’s have clearly pointed to antisemitism as a big reason for their break with Labour.

I’ve spent the last 39 years involved in progressive politics and the trade union movement on Merseyside and in all that time I have never failed to wonder how Labour held itself together with so many widely divergent views within one tent. That it can no longer hold itself together is on one level no surprise yet all the same one of the big underlying issues for this schism are allegations of racism and not just another round of left V right push me – pull you.

Actually, it gives me little pleasure to see Labour struggling with issues which should really be entangling the right of politics not the left, but thereby hangs the dilemma. Very early in my political life I came across a young man, via my trade union, who as a Labour activist openly told me there were more racists in the Labour Party than in the Tory Party. I’ll never forget that view but then over time I slowly began to understand why. Labour has some supporters/voters who are tribal, they are almost literally born into the Party. The Tories are their enemy, as is anyone who is not Labour, yet some of them are far from being progressives and they can hold strikingly right wing views. It led me to coin the phrase – many Labour members/supporters are too right wing for me.

Wherever Labour is going politically they need to see off their racists and those who make excuses for them.

Oh and another thing that stands out; all 3 of the high profile Merseyside resigners are female. That’s also a huge concern, indeed it begs the question about how welcome women feel about being active in a major political party.

All political parties can attract people who are joining them for the wrong reasons; the trick is to remove them when they start to display inappropriate behaviours. Sadly, the problems can often be ignored rather than them being challenged. I fear Labour is now paying the price for ignoring inappropriate behaviour and that has the effect of normalising such behaviour.

Liverpool Airport – So why is it so poorly connected to the rail network?

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/commons-watchdog-led-mersey-mp-10952180

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

Now hang on a minute the reason Liverpool Airport is so badly connected to the rail network is far closer to home than any failings of any recent Government of any colour.

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Region has to show for its big tram ideas.

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Region has to show for its big tram ideas.

You see starting when Blair was our supremo he, in effect, set up transport planning so that it came from a local authority level upwards. Each local authority had a plan (LTP) and so did Merseytravel the public transport authority for Merseyside.

It was via such planning that Liverpool and Merseyside got into that terrible transport muddle called Merseytram. I won’t go into all the in’s and out’s of it but one part (a big part) of the Merseytravel plan was to start up a network of trams such as operate in many cities these days. As we all know it went horribly wrong and the last Labour Government pulled the plug on the project in terms of them paying for it.

My point here is not simply to bash what the Government did, even though it was of a colour that I oppose. My point is that the Merseytravel Plan went wrong because the first tram line was not to Liverpool Airport, where most folk would expected it to go. No, it was directed towards Kirkby which already had (and still has) a heavy rail 15 minute frequency Merseyrail service.

Whatever the reasons, good or bad, were for selecting Kirkby as the first destination it was a sadly decisive moment. In hind sight it was that early but fatal mistake that killed off Merseytram because there was no unanimity of purpose across Merseyside.

So what I am trying to say is Liverpool Airport not being connected by train or tram is effectively a fault that Merseytravel has to hold its hand up for. It’s poor planning gave the Government an excuse to back out of Merseytram because it realised that Merseyside was bickering (again).

The first Merseytram line should have been to Liverpool Airport, if it had been I believe Merseytram would have a reality.