It should be the decision of the people
So Liverpool's Labour Party has suddenly decided that they want an elected Mayor.
I've spent a few days thinking about this issue. Much to the horror of some of my fellow Liberal Democrats I have always been somewhat open to the idea of elected Mayors. I think the arguments are finely balanced and worth thinking about and considering carefully.
Labour in Liverpool don't believe in thought and deliberation though. Sooner than wait for a referendum in May so that the people of Liverpool could have their say they have jumped the gun and put the choice into the hands of just 90 councillors. None of those councillors were elected on the basis of a manifesto pledge to introduce an elected Mayor. This is entirely a backroom deal. This is the sort of thing that gets politicians a bad name.
There are good arguments for an elected Mayor. Arguments around accountability, around having a strong vision and implementing it. Also there are arguments about Mayoral election campaigns leading to great debates between candidates laying out different visions, travelling to different parts of the city and trying to win people over.
The reasons for such a dramatic change to the governance of the City could have been discussed with Liverpudlians, those opposed could have brought up the experience of Doncaster where the right wing English Democrats managed to win election and those in support could bring up London where the Mayoralty has brought extra prestige to the capital. Both sides could have brought up Hartlepool where the town elected a football mascot (which made them look silly) but he turned out to be an excellent Mayor (he has been re-elected twice).
All of those arguments have been thrown away by Liverpool's Labour Party who have instead decided to spring a snap election on people, with no debate, no chance for discussion and no opportunity for Liverpool's 300,000 voters to make the final decision. Instead the decision on how our shared City will be run will be made by 90 councillors, subject to party whips in a debate confined to the council chamber.
They can't even claim a massive groundswell of support for an elected Mayor of the city. There are certain inalienable truths of Liverpool politics. The Council chamber will always be a bearpit, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party will be at each others throats and Liam Fogarty will always be "a matter of months" away from handing in a completed Mayoral petition. I'm fairly sure that the A Mayor for Liverpool organisation was set up by Victorian philanthropists and it has never managed to persuade the people of Liverpool.
So this isn't about pent up demand from citizens and it isn't about a vision that was put before the city. It is instead the political equivalent of a smash and grab where an unsuspecting public has little chance to realise what Labour are up to and where everything is done for Labour's advantage rather than that of the City. Labour have been in control of the City for lss than two years after their time in the wilderness and already they think the City is their own toy and that none can stand before them.
They may well have won the argument. They might have persuaded people to vote yes in a referendum. But they don't want Liverpool to have a say. They think they know what's best and they don't trust the voters to agree with them so they take the decision out of the electorates hands. In May there will clearly be an election for an elected Mayor. There will also be an election for councillors. Labour councillors took the power out of the voters hands and if the voters don't like it they can take the power out of theirs.