Maria Toolan: Why I quit Labour
Allegations of cronyism, in-fighting councillors and sexual harassment complaints unresolved
Dear members — last week, Central ward councillor Maria Toolan resigned from the Labour Party. Her resignation post on Twitter was shared hundreds of times and viewed by well over 200,000 people, extraordinary numbers for local politics. In it, she said she had “experienced and witnessed the lowest and most dishonest that politics has to offer and called her time in the Labour Group “traumatic”, with spurious complaints allegedly launched against her by her colleagues in an attempt to force her out and a sexual harassment case against a fellow councillor as yet unresolved. When we sat down with her this week, she told The Post: We’ve wasted so much money and all they do is just blame the Tories.”
Editor’s note: Huge news for our well-wishers, ill tidings for our enemies. The Post is now within tantalising proximity of 1000 members (75 to go!). This is the huge milestone we’ve been pushing towards in the past few months, the milestone I’ve kept in mind every time I’ve had a 7am start to get the jump on a story or worked into the early hours distilling a council report. This edition is paywalled part way down, which means in order to read the lot you’ll have to sign up today. We think our paying members are helping to make Liverpool a better place. By funding our work, they’re helping to contribute to the revitalisation of high-quality journalism and scrutiny across the city region. Please consider signing up to support us. And of course, a huge thank you to those of you who do pay to read us — it means a lot.
Your Post briefing
Three arrests have been made in relation to the Christmas Eve murder of Elle Edwards in Wallasey. 22-year-old Connor Chapman has already been charged with the murder, which took place at the Lighthouse pub, and is due to go on trial on 7 June. Now a man from Heswall and a woman from Tranmere, have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder and released on bail. Edwards was 26, and was shot in the head while celebrating with friends.
Everton FC have opened a mental health hub at The People's Place on Spellow Lane near Goodison Park. According to manager Jon Jones, speaking to the BBC, the "non-clinical" setting and link to football will help “build trust and reduce stigma”. In Merseyside, mental health-related incidents police have to deal with have increased from 7,629 in 2017 to 28,039 last year (a 313% rise) according to a BBC Freedom of Information request. Greater Manchester metro mayor (and Everton fan) Andy Burnham opened the hub saying it was in “the heart of a community that needs it most”. The People’s Place is part of Everton’s Everton in the Community charity, which runs dozens of programmes and has invested — alongside partners — over £13m into regeneration over the last 10 years.
Mae Muller will represent the UK at Eurovision in May. After Sam Ryder’s second-place finish last year, only losing out to Ukraine, 25-year-old Muller will step up to the plate. She will perform her track ‘I Wrote A Song’, described by the BBC’s music correspondent Mark Savage as a “spiky break up song”. He wrote: “Described by one colleague as "a Bulgarian nightclub banger’ and by my 13-year-old as ‘too good for Eurovision’, it's certainly the most contemporary, credible song we've sent to the contest in a long time.” Most of the 37 competing countries have now announced their entry, with the deadline 13 March for the handful who have not.
🎶 Liverpool’s finest female DJs will gather for an International Women’s Day party at Melodic on tonight. House, garage and techno are all on the menu and all are welcome.
🎸 Garage Rock group The Stairs, often credited with inspiring a catalogue of spin-off Scouse outfits, will be performing a two-event exclusively residency at Future Yard. Their “bluesy growl and cosmic r’n’b swagger” made them a hit in the early 90s, and you can roll back the years on Saturday night. Tickets are selling fast.
📸 And finally, a cultural fix without having to brave the blizzards. Open Eye’s exhibition of Ukrainian photography, developed by and is run by Ukrainian curators and creatives, can be viewed online, showcasing “the resilience and visibility of Ukrainian art”. It’s here.
By Jack Walton
Leaving the Labour Party is best compared to “a divorce,” Maria Toolan tells me. If that’s true, hers has been a messy one. A member of the party for much of her life and a city councillor for Central ward since 2019, she resigned last week with a statement posted on Twitter that ended up being viewed by over 200,000 people. “The last four years as a member of the Liverpool Labour Group has served as a wake up call,” she wrote. “I experienced and witnessed the lowest and most dishonest that politics has to offer.”
Perhaps the reach of that post, surely deserving the viral moniker at least by local politics standards, was surprising. But then its content was too. In it she described her experience in the Labour Group as “traumatic” and criticised the local party’s “astounding incompetence”. She said her Labour colleagues had made a “series of baseless complaints” against her and that her own “allegations of sexual harassment against another councillor” had not been resolved.
That last line was, understandably, one of the ones that stood out. And while we cannot name the alleged perpetrator, we do know that the incident is said to have occurred in 2019, not long after Toolan became a councillor. Toolan confided in a friend about it at the time but ultimately decided against pursuing it back then, partly — she says — out of fear, partly because she didn’t want the reputation of “that person who made that complaint,” and partly because she doubted anything would be done about it. On reflection, she says it “wasn’t the right decision”.