Labour suspends Liverpool mayor candidate selection race

Sienna Rodgers

Labour has suspended the candidate selection process that will determine who stands for Labour to be the next directly-elected mayor of Liverpool in May until the contenders are reinterviewed on Friday.

Ballots were supposed to start being sent to local Labour members today to decide who will replace Joe Anderson, who stood down in December last year, but this did not happen and the party has now confirmed that the election has been delayed.

LabourList has been told that all of the three candidates on the all-women shortlist in the selection process, Wendy Simon, Ann O’Byrne and Anna Rothery, are due to be reinterviewed on Friday.

A Labour spokesperson said: “The ballot has been paused for a short period to allow time for the candidates to be reinterviewed. Ballot papers will then be issued.”

Labour sources have told LabourList that the delay in the process has nothing to do with the candidates’ views on former leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was suspended and readmitted to the party last year and is now sitting as an independent MP.

A one-member-one-vote ballot was scheduled to open today and close at noon on March 5th, allowing local Labour activists to have their say on who should replace Anderson after the incumbent was suspended from the party.

Anderson announced on December 10th that he was stepping aside as Liverpool mayor, following his arrest earlier that month along with four other men on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

The directly-elected mayor, who first took office in 2012 after serving as council leader, was administratively suspended from the Labour Party on the same day of his arrest pending the outcome of the case.

The incumbent, currently on unpaid leave, had been reselected as Labour’s candidate but confirmed on December 31st that he would not be seeking re-election.

Wendy Simon is currently acting mayor, Ann O’Byrne is a former deputy mayor, and Anna Rothery is the current Lord mayor. All three women are Liverpool councillors. The city is likely to have its first female leader in May.

Simon was first elected to the council in 2007 and was a senior social worker until resigning from the job in December. She told the Liverpool Echo: “I’m quite proud to be a safe pair of hands and what we need right now is stability.”

O’Byrne quit as deputy mayor in 2018, accusing Anderson of failing to listen to others after her ally Nick Small was sacked as assistant mayor. She has tried in the past to scrap the mayor role and backs a return to the leader/cabinet model.

Rothery was first elected to the council in 2006, and in 2019 became the first black Lord Mayor of Liverpool. When reappointed for a second term last year, she spoke out against racism amid the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Labour group on Liverpool Council has confirmed that it plans to hold a referendum in 2023 on whether to keep the directly-elected city mayor post, which was held by Anderson since its creation in 2012.

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