The battle of Birkenhead: Is Labour's establishment trying to oust a socialist MP?
Mick Whitley's surprise challenger has received high-profile endorsements from the likes of Gordon Brown. But her attempt to unseat a member of the party’s left is causing fury among activists
Dear members — while Jack is off sunning himself in Naples, you’ve got me, Abi, here to deliver your Thursday edition. How exciting!
Fortunately, Jack hasn’t left me empty-handed — before he caught his flight, he filed an intriguing report about a heated political fight taking place in Birkenhead. Sitting Labour MP Mick Whitley — a 71-year-old socialist and former trade unionist — is being challenged by 42-year-old Alison McGovern, a very well-connected shadow minister, whose own nearby seat is being eliminated by boundary changes. McGovern has been called a “right wing shill” and a “sellout” for taking on Whitley. We’ve spoken to both of them. Well, we tried to…
We are just one member away from hitting 1,100 members here at The Post! If you’re not a member yet, will you be the historic figure who tips us over the line? A subscription (only £1.25 a week!) gives you access to today’s great story, as well as 16 editions of The Post every month. Go on…
Your Post briefing
The Echo has come under fire for sharing a graphic video of a child being seriously injured at Victoria Park. In what is being described as a “freak accident”, an inflatable zorb ball was blown 20ft into the air during Southport Food and Drink Festival this week— with a nine-year-old boy trapped inside. Ian Maher, leader of Sefton Council, criticised the publication of the image, writing: "I want to put on record my condemnation of Reach PLC and the Liverpool Echo for taking the editorial decision to share this footage.” The Echo has since deleted the video.
Around 500 SEN school places are being created as part of a £20 million investment into Liverpool’s special educational needs provision. The scheme will see a total of 115 places created at Palmerston School in Woolton, with a further 60 places at Bank View South, Princes Primary School and a satellite school for Millstead Primary. Councillor Lila Bennett said the move was a “very significant achievement”, adding: “It’s not just a Liverpool problem and we will continue to work hard to create the right places for children.”
A hotel in Liverpool has been given a top tourism award at a ceremony this week. The Titanic Hotel on Regent Road claimed the prize for “Large Hotel of the Year” at Visit England’s Awards for Excellence, triumphing over other shortlisted candidates including Wiltshire’s Bowood Hotel and Rockcliffe Hall in County Durham.
Inside the Battle of Birkenhead
By Jack Walton
Last Friday, former prime minister Gordon Brown stood in MP Alison McGovern’s garden. He was full of praise, asking Labour members to back her to be the party’s new candidate for Birkenhead, not only because she’s already “a great MP”, “a great cabinet minister” and “a great leader”, but because “she carries our hopes for the future”. But not every reaction to McGovern's candidacy has been so effusive. Widely respected though she is within the party, the announcement came as a shock to some.
Why? Because Birkenhead already has an MP: the socialist Mick Whitley.
To McGovern’s detractors, her emergence as a rival to Whitley is yet another example of the greasy fingers of the party executive reaching down and rearranging the pieces as they please. Across the country, allies of Sir Keir Starmer have purged Corbynite elements within the party, interfering in local party selections to the benefit of more centrist candidates. In the past week, McGovern has been described as a “traitor”, a “right wing shill” and a “sellout” (all on Twitter, of course).
McGovern’s defence — as members of her camp point out — is that changes to seat boundaries mean her current Wirral South constituency will no longer exist next year. They’re adamant that this is not a “challenge” to Whitley at all, it’s simply two candidates competing for a seat, a case of healthy democracy. It gets slightly confusing though, because in the days after her announcement, another local MP, Wirral West’s Margaret Greenwood, announced she was stepping down and creating a vacancy (and thus no need for a Whitley/McGovern showdown). McGovern’s camp say she had no idea Greenwood intended to do so, and regardless, this is the seat that makes most sense for her. After all, she lives here. “It’s as simple as that,” she said when we chatted on Tuesday.