The Corbyn wars redux: is de-selection looming for Ian Byrne?
Old grievances bubble back up in Liverpool - and The Post hits an important milestone
Dear readers — welcome to your weekly briefing after a weekend of celebrations! First of all, the most exciting news: we hit 500 paying subscribers. To have achieved this already in our young life feels quite special, so spirits are high at Post HQ. In a similarly impressive feat last night, England women’s football team — the beloved Lionesses — were crowned European champions, beating Germany 2-1. Liverpudlian duo Nikita Parris and Alex Greenwood came off the bench to help see the game out.
In today’s briefing we’re looking at Labour MP Ian Byrne, who faces possible de-selection as the candidate for West Derby at the next election. Byrne is very popular among the left for his work battling against food poverty, but the process gives Labour’s moderate leadership a chance to flex their muscles. Ahead of next month’s Labour conference in Liverpool, we look at how this selection fight is surfacing old emnities.
On Saturday, we published another brilliantly witty long-read from one of the best writers on Merseyside, David Lloyd. The piece looks at Liverpool’s cruising industry and the value it does – or doesn’t – add to the city.
Last week we sent paying Post members a great piece by Mollie about pioneering women’s football team Leasowe Pacific, who won the women’s FA Cup in 1989 against the odds. One reader commented: “What a wonderful article and story. This should be made into a film, you know?”. Then on Friday we published a piece by Jack about the unsung heroes keeping Liverpool’s Croxteth Park in tip-top shape. “For all the eyesores inflicted upon us we should be thankful for the beautiful parks & cemeteries available to us,” said a reader.
If you know someone who might enjoy The Post and want to support us in bringing about a renaissance of high-quality local journalism in this region, please consider forwarding this email on. For now, the long march to 1000 begins!
The big story: The Corbyn wars redux: is de-selection looming for Ian Byrne?
Top line: Old wounds in the Labour Party are being sliced open again as West Derby MP Ian Byrne faces possible de-selection.
Triggered: Labour Party rules state that MPs can face a “trigger ballot” procedure where each branch of the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and each affiliate branch get to vote on whether they wish their sitting MP to automatically stand again in the next general election. If 50% or more (of the party and affiliate) vote for a full selection, the MP will face a vote of all party members.
Byrne out? According to reports, last week Byrne lost votes in all four branches of the CLP. Now he moves on to the affiliates and the likelihood is he will be triggered. This could mean the central Labour Party under Sir Keir Starmer moves to flex their muscles and replace Byrne with an MP closer to the political centre.
Gerrymandering: In a statement, Byrne said he “share[d] the serious concerns raised by members about the procedures followed and the many members who were unable to cast their votes”. He also told the Echo he feared the process was being “gerrymandered” against him. Gerrymandering refers to altering constituency boundaries to swing election results, which Byrne is likely not suggesting as there is no boundary to manipulate in this case.
Dr David Jeffery — a lecturer in British Politics at the University of Liverpool and chair of the Liverpool Conservatives — believes Bryne either misunderstands the phrase, or is using it in an abstract sense to suggest foul play, as the ballot is secret.
“If that’s the case it’s quite Trumpian really,” Jeffery tells The Post. “It’s important for elected officials to not cast doubts on internal party mechanics.”
Who is Ian Byrne? He replaced Stephen Twigg as the MP for Liverpool West Derby at the last election in 2019, gaining 78% of the vote. He is seen as a member of the party’s socialist wing and an opponent of Starmer’s decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn. In 2020 he tweeted: “For avoidance of doubt: Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension is wrong. He should be reinstated.”
He co-founded Fans Supporting Foodbanks and was recently awarded MP of the Year by the Patchwork Foundation for his campaigning work against food poverty, battling to have the right to food enshrined in law.
Familiar foes: The Byrne situation, combined with the widely shared video of left-wing activist Audrey White laying into Starmer on a recent visit to Liverpool (White has since been expelled from the party), has set the city up as a battleground of sorts for the left vs right wars that dogged Labour in the Corbyn years. Indeed, the ex-leader himself showed support for Byrne on Twitter, saying: “I am with Ian and the people of Liverpool.”
Context: Next month the party heads to Liverpool for its annual conference. Starmer’s decision to write an article for The Sun newspaper in October of last year has already angered many in Liverpool. The party won’t want embarrassing incidents like the Andrey White video to undermine its pitch to the country or to come across as a party at war.
Bottom line: Ian Byrne may well still end up as Labour’s MP for West Derby at the next general election. But the very fact he has publicly cast aspersions on the process suggests he is at least a little worried. Jeffery sees the sense in the move. “If Starmer wants to flex his muscles then Liverpool is a good place to do so,” he says. “Whoever they put up will win anyway.”
Your Post briefing
💰 Liverpool City Council lead commissioner Mike Cunningham has defended his team against accusations of being overpaid as they drew criticism over a £400 daily wage increase. Cunningham said he understood concerns as “people are living through tough times,” but that the public will find it more “digestible” when they correct a situation in which vast swathes of public money is being misspent. Liberal Democrat leader Richard Kemp called the rise “unmitigated greed”. The commissioners — who have overseen the council’s planning, regeneration and highways departments since the Caller report in 2021 — were initially paid a rate of £700 and £800 a day, but that went up to £1200 and £1100 in December.
🏳️🌈 The city was rainbow-flavoured this weekend as Liverpool Pride returned after a three-year pandemic-induced hiatus. Ten thousand people marched, danced and reached for the face paints over the weekend-long festival, headlined by Irish pop star Samantha Mumba. The chosen theme was “Come Together”: simultaneously representing the LGBT+ community and the return of in-person events. Click here for ITV’s video report which includes some fantastically colourful footage.
✡️ Liverpool’s Jewish community has shrunk by roughly 20% over the past decade, according to the findings of the first local Jewish census since 2011. Philip Sapiro — who ran the survey on behalf of Merseyside Jewish Representative Council — pointed at two key factors causing a fall of 500 people in a “relatively ageing community”: the deaths of older people and the departure of younger people after completing their studies. People aged 25 or older born into Merseyside Jewish households are now just as likely to be living in London or the Hertfordshire suburbs as they are to have remained in their home county. Want to talk to us about this story? Email email@example.com.
👮 Merseyside Police have apologised for deterring a woman from pursuing a sexual assault complaint. In a letter, a detective sergeant told the complainant that “there will be no realistic prospect of a prosecution,” due to a lack of witnesses or CCTV evidence. It was sent before any interviews had been carried out by detectives. The dismissiveness of the response has since been criticised by rape and sexual assault charities. Apologising, assistant Chief Constable Chris Green said: “Sadly, I can say that the victim did not receive the high level of service that the force expects and she deserved.” As The Guardian report, only 1.6% of rapes recorded by police in England and Wales in 2020 resulted in a charge or a summons.
⛅️ This week’s weather
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from the Met Office and it’s for Liverpool.
Home of the week
A four bedroom house in Wavertree Garden Suburb, a leafy conservation area with a manicured green space used for community events, is on the market for £400,000. It has built in bookcases, a wood burning stove and parquet flooring.
🎨 Calderstones Mansion is presenting a new exhibition from Parkinson’s Art, an organisation that enhances the lives of people living with Parkinson’s disease through creativity and poetry. The exhibition features art and poetry.
⚽️ The domestic women’s football season begins on 9th September, so you can book now to watch the Lionesses in club action. You can watch Everton play against Leicester City at Walton Hall Park on the opening weekend on Sunday 11th September. Tickets are £8. On Sunday 25th September, there will be a Merseyside derby as Liverpool play Everton at Prenton Park. Ticket sales will start soon.
🥙 Granby Street Market in Toxteth is back this Saturday, a colourful community event with over 60 traders selling food and gifts to the sound of drum beats. Jack recommends trying the falafel. Info here.
🌅 A mindful sunset walk through Thurstaston Common in Wirral on Thursday evening aims to take you away from the working week and encourage quiet contemplation of nature and group sharing, if you feel comfortable to do so. Tickets are £5.
🗣 The South Liverpool Debating Society is meeting at Keith’s Food and Wine Bar this Thursday to discuss whether coronavirus lockdowns did more harm than good. The society aims to have a range of views expressed by people from different backgrounds and experiences and respectful, thoughtful debate is encouraged. Reserve a place here.
🌺 It’s Knowsley Flower Show and Feel Good Festival at Court Hey Park in Huyton this weekend, which has floral displays, Tai Chi, storytelling, live music and Djembe drumming. Info here.
🎞 There’s a free screening of Paris is Burning, a 1990 film documenting the real lives of drag queens and balls in New York, in the Bloom Building in Birkenhead tomorrow evening as part of a new programme of events for LGBT+ people.
Photo of the week
England Women’s forward Nikita Parris and centre back Alex Greenwood celebrate winning the UEFA Women’s Euros 2022. Nikita was born in Toxteth and was recruited for Everton when she was 10. Alex went to school in Bootle and joined Everton aged 8.
Our favourite reads
For this report, The Guardian spent two weeks with Micah Liverpool, the city’s biggest independent food bank who say demand for emergency provisions has doubled since the pandemic.. “Millions of Britain’s most deprived families rely on top-up prepayment meters for their gas and electricity, at rates often hundreds of pounds a year more expensive than monthly tariffs. They also tend to live in so-called ‘food deserts’ — areas without easy access to a supermarket — so generally pay more for less nutritious food often from corner shops.”
We enjoyed this Vice feature about Liverpool’s match day traditions, which features some beautiful photos and a profile of George Sephton, the man tasked with singing You’ll Never Walk Alone. “As a port city with historic trade links to Shanghai and Hong Kong, Liverpool is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe and, on match day, those cultural ties are captured in miniature in the spring rolls nestled snugly on polystyrene trays amid giant portions of chips.”
An interesting essay in The White Pube by local writer and curator Gabriella De La Puente, who writes that “level one identity art” (a term she coined for art that is primarily concerned with identity politics) is limiting, and asks whether identity can ever be ignored in art. “I feel forensic listing the characters with these details. The white girl, the asian girl, the black girl. The lesbian, the bisexual. The sexual assault victim, the other sexual assault victim too. I don’t talk about my friends like that. But level one identity art does — it handles people in terms of their signifiers, it presents people quickly and briefly in terms of what they are without talking much about who they are.”
Anthony Ellis writes about the connections between literature and place in this essay for The Double Negative, after noticing several street signs and cafes in Liverpool were named after literary greats. “Along Smithdown Road, on the south side of the city, another eatery references a literary big gun, 1959′s Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs). The novel’s loose story revolves around the main character, William Lee, as he makes his way through a hazed urban landscape on a multitude of mind altering drugs.”
Letters from readers
What a beautiful piece full of empathy, by a writer with a keen eye for not only what he sees around him, but the context of the story past and present. Thanks so much for this, and for putting a spotlight on the admirable work of the Croxteth Park Volunteer Group ‘The lungs of the city’, Kaz
Thanks for a great article David. I think you are right to raise the issue of the huge environmental impact of cruises and the whole kitch awfulness of the experience for the passengers. Another David, David Foster Wallace, wrote a brilliant article on the cruise experience — "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again". Probably one of the greatest essays I've ever read ‘If cruising is the answer for Liverpool, what was the question?’, Ming-Ko