Labour unveils new selection shortlist of two for Liverpool mayoral contest

Sienna Rodgers
© Jeanette Teare/Shutterstock.com

The Labour Party has unveiled two new potential candidates for the Liverpool mayoral contest taking place in May, after the internal race was last week reopened with those previously shortlisted not invited to join.

Liverpool councillors Anthony Lavelle, who represents Croxteth ward, and Joanne Anderson, who represents Princes Park ward and is not related to previous mayor Joe Anderson, have been picked by a panel after interviews.

A Labour spokesperson said: “In Joanne and Anthony, Labour members in Liverpool have the choice between two excellent candidates who are both rooted in their communities and have outstanding campaigning and organisational skills.

“They offer the city a new leadership, which is proud of its strong values and diverse communities. They are both fully committed to moving Liverpool forward out of the coronavirus crisis and fighting for the resources that the city desperately needs.”

Party sources have said Anderson is being welcomed by many in the Black community and on the left in Liverpool. Kim Johnson, MP for Liverpool Riverside, commented that her being shortlisted was “great news”.

The MP added: “She’s worked closely with me as a councillor and activist to stand up for this community and tackle the problems people here face. Her contribution as councillor for Prince’s Park has been fantastic in the few short years years since she’s been elected.

“She has spent her working life supporting others and challenging all forms of discrimination, and I know she will be a worthy candidate who would represent the city with dignity and integrity. I’m now looking forward to hearing both the potential candidates’ ideas for this great city and showing what a Labour mayor can do.”

Labour had previously shortlisted three women: Wendy Simon, Ann O’Byrne and Anna Rothery, all current Liverpool city councillors. But in mid-February the process was suddenly suspended without the party giving any official reason.

After the three were reinterviewed, it was decided that none would be invited to apply for Labour’s reopened selection contest. A party spokesperson the decision was made “after careful consideration”.

A number of Labour MPs including Liverpool’s Dan Carden and Ian Byrne, trade union figures, councillors and others have now signed a letter warning that the new shortlist will be seen as a “stitch-up” without more transparency.

It criticises the party for not clarifying why the previous shortlist was scrapped and notes legal action being taken by former selection candidate Anna Rothery, who has said she will pursue action on the grounds of racial discrimination.

The Liverpool Echo has reported that Kensington councillor Liam Robinson was interviewed but not shortlisted, and community centre chief executive Anne Lundon was also interviewed but later withdrew.

Joanne Anderson has worked at the Crown Prosecution Service, had a career in community engagement for the civil service, and set up an organisation centred on diversity in businesses. She was first elected in 2019.

Anthony Lavelle, a former youth worker from Croxteth, was first elected in 2016. He campaigned at 14 against the Lib Dem closure of his local comprehensive and represents one of the poorest areas of the city.

Ballot papers will be distributed to Labour members who will choose between the two selection candidates from March 8th, and the votes must be returned by 12pm on March 29th, five weeks before the election.

Joe 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.

Currently on unpaid leave, Anderson had been reselected as Labour’s candidate but confirmed on December 31st that he would not be seeking re-election as mayor. Merseyside Police rebailed him until February.

Anderson said he was “disappointed’ by the police decision. He has pledged to “continue to fight to demonstrate that I am innocent of any wrongdoing” and “protect my legacy as mayor of this city of which I am proud”.

Below is the full text of the open letter to the party leadership.

Dear Sir Keir Starmer, General Secretary, NEC Chair/Secretary

We are writing to express our serious concerns about the way in which the Liverpool Mayoral Selection process has been handled, and to express our alarm at what looks like an attempt to railroad through a new candidate before we have answers about why the previous shortlist was scrapped.

Reopening the selection on the eve of ballots arriving with members, and preventing all 3 shortlisted candidates – Wendy Simon, Ann O’Byrne and Anna Rothery – from reapplying, is unprecedented.

Thorough fair scrutiny of prospective candidates, especially in consideration of the unique context in which this election is taking place, is welcome. That should not mean carte blanche to remove all transparency, fairness and accountability from the process.

The party must immediately provide clarity and transparency about why this has happened and why each of the 3 originally approved shortlisted candidates has been blocked, and those decisions must be open to scrutiny and challenge.

The previous shortlist included Councillor Anna Rothery who never held a Cabinet or executive role under the previous leadership and, if elected, would have become the first black woman mayor of a UK city. We are aware of reports that she is pursuing a legal challenge to the party’s decision to exclude her. Justice must be allowed to take its course before any replacement shortlist of candidates is imposed and, if Anna’s legal case proves that she was treated unfairly, she must be reinstated to her rightful place on the ballot. The party’s actions would otherwise appear discriminatory and further damage the party’s reputation and it’s standing with BAME communities.

As you will know, the Liverpool Labour Group and a number of Merseyside CLPs have carried motions criticising the way the process has been handled and calling for immediate transparency and accountability. This fiasco has caused extreme consternation in Liverpool, demotivating our members ahead of a crucial election.

Any decision taken on Labour’s candidate, while previously shortlisted candidates remain excluded without due process afforded to challenge those decisions, will be wide open to charges of a political stitch-up and therefore will not have the confidence of the Labour membership or the wider Liverpool public.

We fear that this would cause irreparable harm to Labour’s standing in the city and have a severe detrimental impact in the local and mayoral elections. We are therefore asking the party to change course as a matter of urgency and restore unfairly treated candidates to the ballot sheet for distribution on 8 March.

We look forward to your early response in advance of any further steps being taken in the selection process.

Yours sincerely,

Dan Carden MP
Ian Byrne MP
Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
Clive Lewis MP
Zarah Sultana MP
Apsana Begum MP
Ian Lavery MP
Richard Burgon MP
Claudia Webbe MP

Patrick Philip Vernon OBE
Lord Simon Wooley, Operation Black Vote
Jacqueline McKenzie, human rights lawyer

Jennie Formby, former general secretary of the Labour Party
Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary, Unite
Sarah Wooley, general secretary, BFAWU
Ian Hodson, national president, BFAWU

Jane Stewart, Unite National Women’s Committee
Sohayalla Wilson, vice-chair, Unite North West BAME committee
Pete Pascal, CWU North West BAME lead and equalities officer for Mersey Branch
CWU Greater Mersey branch
CWU Warrington mail centre

Zita Holbourne, national chair, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK
Sunny Lambe, Black Labour Movement UK
Merseyside BLM Alliance
BLM Leeds
BLM Stoke
BLM Enfield
BLM Taunton
Calderdale Against Racism
Merseyside Caribbean Centre
Labour Party LGBT+ Network

Cllr Sarah Morton
Cllr Alison Clarke
Cllr Tim Jeeves
Cllr Lena Simic
Cllr Gerard Woodhouse

Cllr Ahmed Ali
Cllr Majid Dar
Cllr Azra Ali
Cllr Nasrin Ali
Cllr Amna Abdullatif
Cllr Amanda Pinnock

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