The Labour party announced this week that it was restarting the process of selecting a mayoral candidate and that the three-women shortlist had been scrapped, but gave no reason for the decision.
The Labour party has been criticised for sparking fury and confusion in Liverpool after the party revealed it intends to restart the process of selecting a mayoral candidate for the upcoming local elections.
Interim mayor Wendy Simon, former deputy mayor Ann O’Byrne, and lord mayor Anna Rothery have all been barred from standing in the race to replace Joe Anderson as the party’s candidate for mayor.
A spokesperson for the Labour party said: “After careful consideration, Labour is reopening the selection for Liverpool mayor. We are committed to ensuring members are able to choose the right candidate to stand up against the Conservatives, lead Liverpool out of the coronavirus crisis and fight for the resources that the city desperately needs.”
However, the decision sparked widespread criticism with Unite’s assistant general secretary for politics and legal, Howard Beckett, saying: “Whatever message Labour is trying to send to the people of Liverpool, they can expect to get one back.”
Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said on Twitter that the move was an “appaling abuse of party democracy”:
Anne Rothery was front runner to be Labour’s candidate for mayor of Liverpool. Faced with the possibility of a black female socialist winning, party bureaucrats have scrapped the selection process & barred Anne from standing. Appalling abuse of party democracy #AnnaRothery4Mayor pic.twitter.com/cRmjImZndN
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) February 24, 2021
Meanwhile, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “This fiasco leaves the Labour bureaucracy wide open to charges of sheer incompetence or a political stitch-up or both. If there was a problem with any candidate it should have been dealt with earlier, or is the problem the socialism of a possible winner?”
In a statement released after the announcement, lord mayor Anna Rothery labelled Labour’s handling of the election process as “chaotic”. Rothery, whose campaign was supported by the Unite union and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn added: “Instead of a positive, unifying campaign for our city, we are faced with what looks like an undemocratic failure of process.
“I hope party HQ sees the outrage its decision has caused and the harm it is doing to our city and changes course. If the decision stands, then I will be left with no choice but to challenge it legally.”
Former deputy mayor Ann O’Byrne, meanwhile, described Tuesday as a “tough day for the Labour movement in Liverpool”, but issued a rallying cry to girls and women thinking about getting involved in politics. She said: “Do not let this moment stop you,” she said. “Stand for election, put yourself forward, raise your voice and know that there are other women who will be there to take you by the hand, pull you up and stand in solidarity with you.”
Following the announcement, the Labour party said that an alternative list of mayoral candidates will be sent to party members in Liverpool on 8 March in preparation for the local elections in May.