Who runs Liverpool, anyway?
Three mayors, the centre versus the periphery and the labyrinth of politics in this city
Dear members –– Liverpool politics can sometimes feel madder than a bag of cats, and about as difficult to translate into English. That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of town hall whisperer Jonny Ball, the New Statesman’s hotshot special projects writer, to guide us through our Byzantine political scene.
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Your Post briefing
Never a dull moment at town hall. Last night, the new chief executive was appointed: Andrew Lewis, who held the same role in Cheshire West and Chester Council. He replaces Theresa Grant, the interim exec who stood in after Tony Reeves resigned last July amid the energy bill fiasco. Lewis says the city is “at an important staging post in its journey of improvement”, and he was confident in its future. Also last night: the council budget for the upcoming year was voted on and passed. The top line: council tax will rise by nearly 5%. The discussion beforehand was a typically gracious and polite affair, with Roy Gladden, the Lord Mayor, shouting at councillor Nick Small: “Ay, shut up and sit down!”
Maria Toolan, councillor for Central ward, has resigned from the Labour Party, giving her former colleagues both barrels. In a parting statement on Twitter, she accused Labour of cronyism, incompetence and shirking responsibility. “Life within Liverpool Labour has most definitely damaged my health and left my faith and trust in the party, both as a member and as a woman, in tatters,” she wrote. Toolan, who came to her seat in 2019, is up for election this May and will stand as an independent –– and a source suggests the Liverpool Community Independents might have their eye on her. Toolan also accused her former colleagues of “threats and bullying”, cryptically adding: “Allegations of sexual harassment against another Labour councillor have not been resolved.” If you have any more information, please get in touch by replying to this email.
And finally: victory for Ron’s Place, the Sistine Chapel of Birkenhead. Before he died in 2019, Ron Gittens spent three decades painting the walls of his home with underwater scenes and ancient Egyptian murals. One room is dominated by a giant sculpture of the Minotaur. A crowdfunding campaign to save this singular house has succeeded after an anonymous donor put up £335,000 to purchase the property and turn it into a museum. “Miracles DO happen!” wrote the ecstatic campaigners of Ron’s Place, which has to be seen to be believed.
🕺Groove on over to Sefton Park on Friday for an evening of disco in the stunning glass Palm House. Expect a night of classic disco tunes in an incredible Victorian relic, 8pm till 1am. Early bird tickets have sold out, the final releases cost £33.75. Book here.
🧟The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde opens at the Hope Street theatre on Saturday. A faithful adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenon’s classic tale, it’s a blissfully short 70 minutes. Tickets from £11.50.
💰Explore the city and solve clues with Treasure Hunt Liverpool, an immersive quest that takes in the cathedrals, the docks, and the finest pubs in the city. It’s around half a day long on Saturday and costs £9.99. Buy here.
By Jonny Ball
When he was President Nixon’s US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger was rumoured to have asked, “Who do I call when I want to speak to Europe?” Retrospectively, the question might signal the continent’s disjointed approach to foreign affairs — it is often used to justify ever closer union between the hodgepodge collection of nation states.
But the semi-mythical remark, whether uttered or not, could easily be asked of a number of English metropolitan areas in our era of piecemeal, ad hoc, George Osborne-inspired devolution. Who do Rishi Sunak, Jeremy Hunt, or the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove call when they want to speak to Liverpool? And what do we now mean when we speak of Liverpool as a political entity?