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What now for the Lib Dems?

As Liverpool swings to Labour, the party cast out by voters may be facing years in the wilderness, says Larry Neild

Published on May 19th 2010.

What now for the Lib Dems?

AS LABOUR’S Joe Anderson basks in the glory of taking control of Liverpool City Council, the defeated Lib Dems could well end up deflated, depleted and demoralised.

Some may well think that because the leadership was hyping up the Manhattan-style transformation of the city centre, the inner-city areas and big council estates were continuing to fester like a boil that urgently needed to be lanced

As the votes were being counted on Friday morning at Wavertree tennis centre, a former Lib Dem Lord Mayor told me: “If we lose the council this year we will be out of control for 10 or 12 years.”

So we could be looking at 2020 or beyond before the Lib Dems get a look in.

Look at the council chamber line-up over the past 20 years and it’s easy to see why the grim writing is on the wall for Warren’s beaten army.

In 1990, Labour had 67 of the then 99 seats, but their numbers gradually dwindled over the next few years and in 1998 Mike Storey and the Lib Dems swept to power.

They ended up that year with 52 seats, compared to Labour’s 39, with an overall majority of five. Today Anderson’s Labour Group has an overall majority of six.

After that unexpected landslide for the Lib Dems in 1998, Labour went into a freefall that took their number down to just 20 seats in 2002, with the Lib Dems holding a mouth-watering 70 seats in the chamber – their highest ever tally.

That year seemed to have been something of a watershed for Labour – they regrouped, and eventually chose Joe Anderson as the man to lead the fightback.

They started picking up seats each year, at the expense of the Lib Dems. What seems incredible is the Lib Dems’ grip on power was losing ground as the city was enjoying the time of its life – Capital of Culture, Liverpool One, World Heritage Status, the Cruise Terminal, the Arena – something like £5bn worth of investment and infrastructure.

Some may well think that because the leadership was hyping up the Manhattan-style transformation of the city centre, the inner-city areas and big council estates were continuing to fester like a boil that urgently needed to be lanced.

In 2008, Labour came to within a whisker of regaining control, albeit by the narrowest of margins. Even today the official records at the Press Association declare 2008 Liverpool City Council as NOC – No Overall Control.

But in what must rank of one of the most dramatic moves in election history, Warren Bradley arrived at the conclusion of the count to unveil Nadia Stewart as a new recruit to the Lib Dems. Nadia, granddaughter of the late Liverpool Labour politician Ken Stewart, had fallen out with Labour and had been sitting as an independent. By joining the Lib Dem benches, she effectively saved the day for Warren. She stood down this year.

Back in 1998, Mike Storey had expected to make significant gains, but not necessarily enough to win control. Indeed a number of “paper candidates’” who had stood as a favour found themselves elected as councillors.

This year Joe Anderson knew he would make gains – but nine was beyond his wildest dreams.

If history repeats itself, Labour can expect to make even more gains in 2011 that will leave a number of Lib Dems vulnerable.

No doubt wondering what the future holds are Jimmy Kendrick (Anfield), Karen Afford (County), Phil Moffatt (Croxteth), Paul Twigger (Knotty Ash), Berni Turner (Old Swan), Ian Jobling (Picton) and Norman Mills (West Derby).

Labour is also coming up fast in Allerton and Hunts Cross (John Clucas is up next year for the Lib Dems), Childwall (LD Pam Clein up next year), Greenbank (LD Paul Clein up next time), Woolton (LD Barbara Mace up next time) – all those wards have seen a major increase in Labour support this year.

What though, could be the ultimate scalp for Labour would be winning Wavertree – the spiritual mecca for the Lib Dems. Next year Mike Storey is up for re-election.

In 2008 Warren Bradley romped home with a majority of 1,715. This year Rosie Jolly stood for the Lib Dems in place of firefighter Steve Hurst, convicted during the year of an election offence. The Lib Dem majority was slashed to 664.

Next year it’s the turn of the Lib Dems' biggest star, Mike Storey to face the electorate – and perhaps the music. Within a few years the number of Lib Dem councillors could well be counted in the teens.

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

FrankMay 10th 2010.

Pick me! Pick me!

AnonymousMay 10th 2010.


SO pleased Fib Dims are goneMay 10th 2010.

Sooooooooooooo chooofin pleased the Dims are gone - hope we are not getting militant and nut job socialism back though

Fireman SamMay 10th 2010.

Warren Bradley seemed to care more about Everton F.C.'s millionaire footballers than for the city or the people living in it.

AnonymousMay 10th 2010.

Larry I think you are overlooking the fact that Labour were boosted by a general election which greatly increased turnout which was always going to benefit Labour. It was widely predicted that Joe Anderson would take control, although I accept that a couple of the seats were a surprise. The real problem for the Lib Dems is the lack of talent they have left. The likes of Mike Storey, Flo Clucas, Ron Gould, Paul Clein and co are all past their peak and have not been replaced in equal numbers in recent years by new blood. Bradley resorted to putting some real turkeys in his cabinet such as the now-departed-but-likely-to-be-little-missed Keith Turner simply because he knew they'd be loyal to him. Bradley had some really good attributes as leader. He was passionate, exceptionally hard working and cared deeply about the city. But he wouldn't take advice and scored a lot of own goals (usually by opening his mouth before engaging his brain). And he had the additional pressure of succeeding Mike Storey as leader. It was always going to be a tall order, and so it proved to be. The most amazing thing is that he clung to the leadership for so long. Many people wrote him off after Mathew Street. And after the Standards Board. And after the elections in 2008. That he lasted so long is the most remarkable thing of all.

troopermanMay 10th 2010.

Having read the various comments in the site one thing is missing. Control of any City Council in the UK is a poison chalice at the moment with the Labour governments financial review from earler in the year likely to be falling on Councils throughout the land. That review will savage local Government,and in Liverpool you are talking serious cuts,that the new Labour Council will have to implement the financial allocation a LABOUR government has handed out. It is likely to bring about the Closurer of Care facilities,anf homes,massive cuts in street cleansing and a reduction in the weekly bin collection service. It will be interesting how Bover Boy Jo will deal with this regime of cuts,the like we have never seen before. Labour . Bover boy Jo has never produced a Town Hall budget yet,not even in opposition. He has though produced a sjopping list of things he will wish to do that has not been costed and is not likely to see the light of day. I will give Labour 2-3 years in power then they wiill be out on their arse for having to implement Labours financial review from earlier in the year. Maybe Bover Boy jo will increase the Leader of the Councils allowance to £50,000 per year to bring him on par with the Labour Chair of the Passenger Transport Authority.

Memo2JoeMay 10th 2010.

Joe, you are going to appoint a business leader to sit in your Cabinet. Great Idea. But please, please, please take some thought about who he, or she, will be. There is so much driftwood circling around this city. We need somebody untainted by the usual suspects. Good luck Joe, and choose very carefully.

Alan JonesMay 10th 2010.

I was so pleased to see Labour win back this great city of ours.My wife has worked for Liverpool City Council for almost 20 years and the waste of council tax money on airy fairy political correct ideas under the Liberals has been a disgrace.I hope now in my local area that we can have Croxteth Hall Lane resurfacedbefore there is a major accident on that road.So come on Joe,lets make our whole city great again not just the City Centre.Alan Jones.West Derby.

TomMay 10th 2010.

"Jo"? Who's she?

AnonymousMay 10th 2010.

OK Frank, Manchester can have you

Mr Dom EstosMay 10th 2010.

Mike Storey set about changing the top table management team when he took over, bringing in Henshaw, Hilton, etc. Will Joe Anderson set about bringing in a new team in Dale Street? In 1998 the much respected Mr Peter Bounds was the highest paid civic official, as chief executive. He earned less than £70,000 a year, I think around £63,000 actually. The current chief executive is on over £200k. The over executive directors are all on six-figure salaries.The idea in 1998 was to have a streamlined, smaller executive team that would save money because the number of directorates would be reduced. Over the years the number of Assistant Executive Officers (all paid more than the salary Peter Bounds earned) has grown year by year. The cry seemed to go out, if you like gravy with your Scouse head to Liverpool.Talking of scoff, some very interesting food for thought from Laz for the remaining Lib Dems.

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