The Tory government looked set to launch a takeover of Labour‑controlled Liverpool City Council on Wednesday of this week.
The move would mean Liverpool council, controlled solidly by Labour for many years, would effectively be run by unelected bureaucrats on behalf of the Tory government.
It would be a cynical use of accusations of corruption against former Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson.
Anderson stood down as mayor after he was arrested in December last year on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation.
The arrest was part of a police investigation into financial irregularities and the awarding of building contracts in Liverpool.
He was later bailed and denies any wrongdoing.
Tory minister Robert Jenrick launched a government investigation into Liverpool council following Anderson’s arrest.
Jenrick has also been accused of corruption. He was embroiled in a major scandal last year after he overruled a Labour council in east London to grant planning permission to a property developer.
One “source” told the Conservative Home website that the investigation was “a once in a generation opportunity to fix Liverpool’s broken political culture”.
Jenrick asked the investigation to look into whether Liverpool City Council was complying with its “Best Value Duty”. These legal requirements enforce privatisation and austerity.
The person in charge of the investigation—Max Caller—could recommend that he or other bureaucrats be put in charge of Liverpool if he deems it has failed.Caller was in charge of the Tories’ investigation into Northamptonshire County Council in 2018.
He was sent in when the council declared itself insolvent after decades of government-imposed austerity. His report demanded that the council cut £124 million from its budgets until 2020—and that it then be broken up.
Caller was also put in charge of Tower Hamlets council in east London after producing a report that allowed the Tories to overthrow mayor Lutfur Rahman.
The Tories used accusations—based on flimsy and contested evidence, and laced with Islamophobia—to get rid of him.
Liverpool council is set to hold an election for mayor on Thursday 6 May. Labour has not yet chosen its candidate after the party blocked all three people on a shortlist drawn up by local party members in February.
But if Jenrick pushes ahead with the takeover, the mayor and the council would be powerless. Labour and trade unionists should resist the takeover with protests and strikes.
Hartlepool stitch up
Left wing Labour members were in uproar after party officials imposed a right wing former MP as its only choice of candidate in a coming by-election in Hartlepool.
Labour chose Paul Williams as the only person on its “longlist” of potential candidates just two days after the sitting MP Mike Hill resigned.
Left wing party members said the move denied many other party members the opportunity to be Labour’s candidate.
The Tories hope they can take Hartlepool as the latest so-called “red wall” constituency in the north and Midlands lost by Labour.
Labour leader Keir Starmer is convinced that right wing politics is the way to win back support. But the Labour right is already preparing its excuses.
Alex Cunningham, MP for neighbouring Stockton North, said, “Keir was elected leader just over a year ago in very, very difficult circumstances, so I don’t think we can judge Keir’s leadership on what happens in Hartlepool.”