Business leader Frank McKenna says he considered a bid to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Liverpool but was repelled by what he says is the chaotic state of the local party. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool business leader Frank McKenna has said he will not seek the Labour nomination for the election of a new mayor in May.
It is believed some figures in the party were keen for Mr McKenna, chief executive of lobby group Downtown in Business and a long-time party member, to throw his hat into the ring for the role.
Labour’s selection process to choose a candidate to replace Joe anderson was thrown into chaos this week when the party scrapped its original shortlist which comprised three city councillors – current Acting Mayor Wendy Simon, former Deputy Mayor Ann O’Byrne and current Lord Mayor Anna Rothery.
It is now seeking a new candidate with the deadline for applications closing early on Thursday. It was believed former Merseyside MEP Theresa Griffin would be on the shortlist but she has now ruled herself out. And Mr McKenna has said that, after deliberating this week, he has decided not to apply.
He cited his other commitments as one reason but added his horror at the way the process had been handled and how some party members and councillors were behaving had a significant bearing on his final decision.
“Over the last 48 hours, I have thought long and hard about returning to politics by putting myself forward to be Labour’s candidate for Liverpool mayor. Labour politics is in my blood so it is something I have thought seriously about since being approached by colleagues. However, I decided not to enter the race.
“Downtown in Business is becoming an increasingly influential voice for the private sector across the country and requires my full- time attention. I am also committed to contributing to the work of the city’s Race Equality Taskforce as a commissioner.
“But there was another factor in my decision. The chaotic scenes we’ve seen in the Labour Party in recent weeks surrounding the mayoral selection is enough to put anyone off. It has been a circus which has put Liverpool in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
“Quite frankly, the process has been a fiasco. The Labour Party should have done its due diligence before allowing three people to put themselves forward for selection, only to then later call them for reinterview before barring them and starting the process again. I’ve never seen anything like it in my 40 years as a Labour Party member.”
Mr McKenna said he didn’t understand why some in the Liverpool Labour Group were trying to scrap the mayoral model after only voting to keep it a few weeks ago. He added: “Given the challenges we face in the post-pandemic world, it is beyond disgraceful that some in the Liverpool Labour Party are focussing on internal machinations rather than getting on with delivering a recovery plan for our great city.
“It was also baffling to most of us to see that many Labour Party activists appear to be more interested in seeking a prospective Liverpool Mayor’s views on Palestine rather than on the Pier Head.
“The shenanigans I have witnessed in recent times very much reminds me of the carry on we evidenced at the Town Hall during the fag end of the Liberal Democrats control of the council in the early 2000’s.
“This is a big moment. Labour in Liverpool need to get its act together or could spend a decade in opposition like it did in the 1990s. For the business community, we want to see the many positive things that are happening in the city hit the headlines.
“I hope that the political dramas can sort themselves out quickly, so that we can get on with focussing on delivering this ambitious agenda for our great city.”