In recent elections, Liverpool has been taken for granted, and rightly so with all of its constituencies firmly on the list of Labour’s safest seats in the country. With sky-high majorities that show no real sign of shifting any time soon, you might be inclined to say that they’ll be some of the least interesting results of the night. You couldn’t be more wrong.
If you’re looking for a yardstick for the state of British politics in 2019, and the future of the Labour Party in Britain, the usually electorally boring city of Liverpool is surprisingly your best bet. Liverpool is in a state of political and cultural flux not seen for decades. With three new candidates across three of the most interesting constituencies in Liverpool, the seats may be safe, but the results will be telling.
Liverpool Wavertree’s new candidate is Paula Barker. Paula replaces former MP Luciana Berger who left the Labour party citing antisemitism and abuse and is now standing in Finchley and Golders Green, where she is on track to pull off a historic win for the Liberal Democrats.
The day that Luciana stepped down was altogether not the best day for the Liverpool Labour party, as they also managed to readmit controversial former militant frontman Derek Hatton to the constituency where he lead the council to instigate an illegal budget in the rate capping rebellion of the 1980s. He was suspended again a mere two days later after the party uncovered an antisemitic tweet. They presumably didn’t notice the column he wrote for the Liverpool Echo the year before where he argued that women who “cry rape” should lose their right to anonymity if the accused is found not guilty.
Paula may be sitting in a very safe seat but politically she couldn’t be in murkier waters. The chair of the Liverpool Wavertree CLP, Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, was in the news earlier this year after it was uncovered that he promoted Rothschild conspiracy theories on a show broadcast by David Icke. Paula will be facing a frostier reception than most of us on the doorstep in this winter General Election as a Brexit supporter in an overwhelmingly remain supporting city.
In Liverpool Riverside, the city’s only other Jewish MP, Louise Ellman, who faced well documented antisemitic abuse from members of her own party, stepped aside with a scathing resignation letter claiming she could “no longer advocate voting Labour when it risks Corbyn becoming PM”. She will be replaced by well-liked local activist Kim Johnson.
Kim beat Jo Bird to the position, who was previously suspended from the Labour Party after the Jewish Chronicle exposed a series of inflammatory speeches she had made which included claims there was a “privileging of racism against Jews” over other forms of discrimination.
Liverpool West Derby also has a new candidate, Ian Byrne, who won a hotly contested and highly controversial selection process. That almost didn’t last, as historic social media comments making light of domestic abuse were uncovered soon after. Luckily for him, the Labour Party are letting him stand anyway.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Liverpool Labour Party without a good internal row, and this seat offers them in spades. The city’s mayor, Joe Anderson, who is best known for his firey twitter rants and love affair with Everton Football club has helpfully backed Ian, defending his Everton themed domestic violence joke - calling it a football banter promoted as a smear by the Tory press.
The Labour left is the big winner at the end of the day, with Corbynite Momentum backed candidates winning all of these coveted Labour safe seats.
The city’s opposition parties, notably the Liberal Democrats who previously controlled the council and have the second largest number of councillors in the city, rest a little bit easier in this election knowing that the heat is on the Labour Party’s back.
With all the attention focused on Liverpool Labour nobody in the city can be quite sure what goes on behind closed doors. If the city’s political notoriety is anything to go by then the answer is surely ‘nothing good’. If the tides and the press’s attention continues to turn towards opposition forces, the city’s next elections could see some interesting stories wash up behind them.
Liverpool is, at its heart, a city of constant innovation and reinvention. A hub for social enterprise and creativity, the future is truly being written on the banks of the River Mersey. Politically however the city hasn’t moved on much beyond its days at the heart of the rate capping rebellion of the 1980s. Still facing crushing government cuts, and waves of corruption and controversy, the city’s politics, much like its former frontman Derek Hatton, doesn’t appear to have aged a day or kicked its age-old bad habits.
In a country facing a choice between two past lives (represented by the Conservative Party’s plans to turn back the clock on Britain’s membership of the EU and a Labour Party wedded to nationalisation plans), this city haunted by its ghosts might just be the one to watch.