Liverpool's Labour left threatens to break away
'All they want to do is be theatrically socialist, speak at rallies and wave placards'
Dear readers — in today’s briefing we have some intriguing news about a possible break-away at Liverpool City Council. A handful of Labour councillors have announced their plans to vote against the budget this week — but is there a wider move under way? Scroll down for that and join us as a paying member to get our special report on Wednesday night.
In case you missed it, last week we published:
The story of what’s behind staff anger and strike action at Liverpool universities, and inside sources tell us why won’t mourn the loss of two outgoing vice-chancellors.
An investigation into why the Labour Party is suspending party members in Sefton and how local disputes are becoming increasingly bitter.
A long-read about a Ukrainian family watching the invasion of their homeland from their living room in Huyton. “We are feeling emptiness,” Roma says and her eyes fill with tears. “We can’t help our families because we are so many miles from them. But even if we were there we couldn’t do anything.”
⛅️ This week’s weather
The big story: Could Liverpool Labour split apart?
The top line: A string of Labour councillors in Liverpool plan to break the party whip this week. They could all face expulsion from Labour and there are now rumours flying around of a breakaway party being formed.
What’s happening? On Wednesday, the city council will vote on its upcoming budget. Some councillors from Labour’s left wing plan to break with their party by voting against it. This could set off disciplinary proceedings that end with them being booted from the party — although that would require their colleagues to vote for their removal.
Who are the plotters? Joanne Calvert, Alison Clarke, Alfie Hincks, Alan Gibbons, Rona Heron and Lindsay Melia have gone public, arguing that the budget will unfairly raise council tax, slash social care and transport services and introduce charges to green recycling bins.
In a statement, first reported by the Echo, the dissenters say:
The budget does not have the strong elements of investment the people of Liverpool deserve and amounts to a conventional cost-cutting exercise and a significant council tax rise at a time when there is a cost-of-living crisis and people are increasingly dependent on vital services. At the same time, the commissioners receive a backdated pay rise of 50% and expenses. This is so wrong.
The context: One of the six is Alan Gibbons, a councillor for Warbreck. He says he could not agree to budget cuts given his 40 years spent in socialist activism. Gibbons, who is a children’s author and retired teacher, joined Labour after he was inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Things turned sour when Keir Starmer took over.
Now, many left wingers feel like they are being purged or sidelined by the party — a trend we wrote about on Friday in relation to Sefton.
“It’s a painful time to be on the left,” says Gibbons, although he says he is “a big boy” and is ready to be expelled.
The dissenters’ ranks may grow. The Post has spoken to a seventh Labour councillor who wishes to remain anonymous for now. He says he is planning to join the breakaway group after a party meeting tonight. How big could this get? “At the very, very most there are 15 people who would be ideologically sympathetic to some breakaway group but I'd take that with a pinch of salt,” one source on the party’s moderate wing told The Post. “Some of them will chicken out, some will get peeled off for one reason or another.”
Here’s where it gets interesting. There are whispers reaching our ears that the dissenting councillors and other independents might found their own breakaway party — “they will be known as Liverpool Community Party,” says one source.
Alan Gibbons denies that any plans for a community party are in the works. But a source told us that if the dissenters can combine into a group of more than 12 councillors, they would eclipse the Lib Dems as the official opposition and fundamentally shift the dynamic of the council.
The opposition are entitled to greater power and privileged access to information and meetings.
On Wednesday evening, at the council meeting to approve the budget, we’ll see how many Labour councillors vote against. Our report on that meeting and the fallout will land in Post members’ inboxes soon after, so join up if you want to get that.
Things might get ugly. Liverpool is a fiercely pro-Labour city, and city councillors have spoken of their dismay that their colleagues would quit the party. A senior Labour councillor tells us: “There are half a dozen people or so in the Labour group who just don't get the context. All they want to do is be theatrically socialist, speak at rallies and wave placards and to be honest, we're better off without them.”
Who would lead the plotters into the promised land? Readers might remember Anna Rothery, the former Lord Mayor who quit Labour to become an independent councillor late last year after the fiasco over Labour’s shortlist for the mayoralty. “Alan Gibbons and Anna Rothery will be going toe-to-toe about who's going to be the leader,” says the senior councillor we spoke to. “It all becomes about egos rather than socialism.”
Local news in brief
High street sales in Liverpool were 8% higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to analysis by the FT. Liverpool was the most resilient urban area and outperformed Manchester and Edinburgh in local sales. More here.
Poorer urban areas are less likely to have local green spaces, new analysis finds. Small parks can be protected from development by applying to the council to protect them as local green spaces, and since designation began in 2012, 6,500 small parks have been saved. Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool are among the cities with no protected local green spaces. More here.
Runcorn’s Brindley Theatre will undergo a £6.6m revamp as part of the government’s Town Deal Fund, with a large restaurant and a cultural space to attract more high-profile performers. More here.
The Covid-19 case rate for LCR is 238.2, down 32.4% from the previous week. England’s case rate is 313.2, down 29.9%. Cases are rising very slightly in Knowsley, at 353.6, up 2%, but are falling by around 20% in every other borough.
Home of the week
A two-bedroom Georgian Townhouse on Egerton Street was recently reduced in price. It is Grade II listed and retains an original feature fireplace. It’s on the market for £375,000.
We are looking to hear from readers ahead of our upcoming piece on the Walker Art Gallery’s recent efforts to re-assess the collection in light of conversations around racial equality and Black Lives Matter. Thanks for all your responses so far. If you have views on this or you have some information about how museums and galleries are “decolonising” their collections, please do hit reply to this newsletter.
🍲 Mustard & Co in Crosby — who serve à-la-carte and tasting menus — were recently awarded two AA Rosettes for culinary excellence. More here.
🚶♀️ Liverpool Ramblers, a Sunday walking group, have a great selection of upcoming hikes in Dolgellau, Baslow and Coniston. Book here.
🌺 Richard and Polly, the people behind Scouse Flowerhouse, who we recently profiled in our story about community spirit in the Dingle, will be talking about their wildflower work in Sefton and Liverpool at Open Eye Gallery on Saturday. Register here.
🎤 You can join a choir aimed at promoting confidence and wellbeing, who rehearse every Tuesday at the Atkinson in Southport. They also perform for residents in local care homes. It’s £3 per session.
🎧 Metrocola in the Georgian Quarter have an evening of DJs playing rare soul vinyls on Saturday. More here.
🍕 The live music venue and craft beer and pizza restaurant Outpost in L1 have a new menu which is worth a try. More here.
🎙 An interesting online talk by the University of Liverpool politics lecturer (and Post reader) Dr David Jeffery, who explains the causes of the decline of Conservative Party voting in Liverpool. Watch here.
Book of the week
Our book of the week is Sea State by Tabitha Lasley, who grew up in the Wirral. In this book, half-reportage and half-memoir, she speaks to 100 men who work in the masculine world of offshore oil rigs. “I wanted to know what men were like without women around,” she writes. Buy here.
Our favourite reads
A moving feature in The Atlantic about Senegal’s production line of brilliant footballers, including Liverpool’s Sadio Mané. Clint Smith writes: “I had played the game since the age of 5 and had fallen in love with the feeling of the ball at my feet. But on the beaches of Senegal, I learned to love the possibilities of the game in a new way — I reveled in the country’s collective passion for the sport, the levity with which the game was approached, and the way that these pickup games on the beach served as the catalyst for community.”
We liked this photo essay in The Guardian about the programme to replace decaying and outdated railway stations between London and Liverpool when the West Coast Main Line was introduced. It resulted in an architectural vision which emphasised glassy and rectangular structures and became “the ultimate expression of an idealised urban future”.
In this piece in Wallpaper Magazine, Tony Chambers, a creative director and “Barbican fanboy” who learned his craft at art school in Liverpool, discusses modernity and his love for the brutalist complex. “In 40 years, the Barbican Centre has proved itself to be not only a building complex, but a cultural microcosm where getting lost and losing yourself are both inevitable.”
Letters from readers
The gallery is the right place, provided not displayed any more prominently than other historical figures (‘What should we do with Gildart?’). And with background information giving what that person did and the context in which they were operating, particularly that (in this case) this particular MP was one of many people involved in many different ways in the slave trade, Colin Watts
Thank you for this report (‘It’s hard to stop’: A family watches the invasion of their homeland’) It is so important to have these personal details, allowing us to experience the necessary empathy. I had been wondering how you might relate this barbaric tragedy to your Liverpool audience, Stuart Richman