16th February 2019 could be the most the most significant date in Birkenhead’s political history in the last 40 years. Birkenhead Constituency Labour Party (CLP) have started the process of finding a replacement for Frank Field – the man who has been the town’s MP since 1979 – and this Saturday will see a special meeting take place where a Selection Committee will vote on who will be the parliamentary candidate at the next General Election.
Whilst we understand that Frank Field is a non-runner following his withdrawal of the Labour whip and can no longer be considered a candidate we just hope that someone has checked the rule book when it comes to running for selection- just in case there’s a Steward’s Enquiry when the result is announced. We say this as a journalist at New Statesman recently wrote this :
Therefore assuming that Field is out of the race who are jockeying for position to be riding high as the Labour candidate in one of the safest seats in the UK ?
Well first off in stall 1 and running in the ‘Maomentum ‘ colours is Tony ‘Tight Fit’ Norbury, local councillor for Prenton and scion of the so-called Wirral ‘hard left’. He has a favourite’s chance due to his ‘comrade’ John Maher and that latter’s control of the Birkenhead CLP and consequently the make up of the Selection Committee. Under these circumstances Norbury would appear to be the front runner…
However in stall 2 running Norbury close will be Mick Whitley in the Unite colours . We recently introduced you to him here and reported
Mr Whitley, formerly a long-standing convener at the Vauxhall car plant in nearby Ellesmere Port, was born in the area and is the former north-west regional secretary of the Unite union.
He has gained the support of Momentum, which holds a powerful presence in north-west England, while left-wing MPs such as John McDonnell, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Dan Carden have voiced their support.
The local branches of Unite, FBU, RMT, BFAWU and Aslef have also formally endorsed Mr Whitley’s candidacy.
Thus far ,despite living in Wirral (but not in Birkenhead?), Whitley has, up until now, not had a local political (or media) profile. However now that Unite’s Regional Political Officer,Alison Spencer Scragg, is running his campaign (and pulling the reins) Whitley has taken a sudden interest in turning up at food banks,demos and picket lines and making sure he’s seen to be doing so on his Twitter account which was only set up in November 2018…
Finally, in stall 3 we have the token filly in the race. Theresa ‘I’m not Tony or Mick’ Griffin is running in the colours of the EU flag/Unison/GMB. The clock is ticking on MEP Griffin as she looks like being out of a job by the end of next month unless Brexit is halted or delayed. Fresh from her defeat in the selection in Walton in 2017 we predict Theresa will again aim to be the token woman on the shortlist and hope that following her defeat she may make it third time lucky and actually win in Liverpool Riverside when their trigger ballot happens and current Labour incumbent Louise Ellman is ousted. Consequently Griffin’s half-hearted attempt to become the next MP for Birkenhead has thus far amounted to nothing more than taking a sudden interest in Birkenhead’s flyovers :
Thus a Labour insider sums up the current selection process situation for us as follows :
There will also be several local also rans who will no doubt throw their caps into the ring but in truth the members of Birkenhead CLP will have a choice between Tony Norbury or Mick Whitley, which will be akin to them being asked if they would like to be stabbed or burned to death. Ah thank God for a new and kinder politics……
The mainstream local press are keeping a very low profile on this week’s local ongoing strike action at Cammell Laird . More significantly the ‘Independent’ Labour MP in who’s constituency the shipyard has been a significant source of employment has been conspicuous by his silence.
As we reported in our The ‘Casualisation’ of Cammell Laird story which followed a leak from Wirral South Constituency Labour Party (CLP) meeting which was asked to support the now striking workers “Turning the Tide on Casualisation ” campaign :
You’d think that the “Turning the tide on Casualisation” campaign would be right up neighbouring MP Frank Field’s street wouldn’t you? And indeed as part of Field’s relentless media presence he has obviously made sure that Cammell Laird gets a mention. A recent press release can be found on his blog here
However whilst securing shipbuilding orders are indeed one way of securing jobs at Cammell Laird you will note that the main thrust of the Unions campaign is the possible use of non-Unionised(?), cheaper labour accessed via an agency thereby undermining local workers rights ,pay and conditions and the potential cause of future redundancies. Once again you would think this would be meat and potatoes for Field. We’d certainly expect him to be raising questions about who’s behind this mysterious agency – we certainly have and the information we’ve has opened up some interesting lines of enquiry.
Perhaps it could be both impolitic and impolite for Field to mention such matters when Cammell Laird is a major contributor (along with Wirral Council taxpayers) to Frank Field’s pet project ‘Feeding Birkenhead’ ?
Subsequently it was left to Dan Carden , MP for Liverpool Walton to raise the matter in the House of Commons
Meanwhile on the same day the MP for Birkenhead was raising this important matter :
Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many
applications he has received from local authorities for funding to
implement their Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan; and how
many of those applications were (a) successful and received the funding
in full and (b) unsuccessful.
No wonder Labour List reports :
The solidarity and support from local Labour Party members has been exemplary. It was particularly moving to watch the enormous support from local activists and Labour members as the workers walked out for the first time on Friday. Delegates to Labour’s North West Regional conference raised £250 towards the fighting fund, and Unite members at BAE donated £3,000. The latter sends a significant message of worker solidarity to the two employers, since it is BAE that has a teaming agreement to build the aforementioned Royal Navy ships with Cammell Laird.
The workers have received support from many Labour MPs, with Justin Madders and Dan Carden raising the issue in the chamber and visiting the picket line. As for the local MP for Birkenhead, Frank Field – he is nowhere to be seen. Long thought to have been in cahoots with Cammell Laird management in opposition to workers taking action at the site, Field has come under fire from local supporters for ‘regurgitating’ the company line.
Whilst we all gaze adoringly at our favourite brickie gazing into the middle distance below are the details of Metro Mayor Steve ‘the Brickie’ Rotheram’s tour of the Liverpool City Region as it reaches Wirral’s shores.
He was a brickie by the way, just in case you missed that in his lowest common denominator electioneering. “I’m a brickie. I’m one of you” No, you’re not you’re a career politician , and a particularly phoney one at that.
Needless to say anyone residing at Leaky Towers will be screened out during the application but if one of us was there one question we’d like to ask him is about the ongoing Merseyrail dispute.
The rather wonderful Confidentials website has an excellent analysis of the situation which you can read here : Mayors to blame
Whilst Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden highlighted the issue in the House of Commons last week and blamed the government decision to cut the city region’s train’s budget by millions of pounds the Rail Minister Paul Maynard pointed a finger of blame at the city region’s Labour decision makers.
He told Carden: “As Labour members will know, they have a multiplicity of local Labour politicians to discuss this matter with, including the chair of Merseytravel (Cllr Liam Robinson), the elected city Mayor in Liverpool (Joe Anderson) and the elected city region Mayor (Carden’s predecessor Steve Rotherham), all of whom have stood behind this decision. If we truly believe in devolving transport powers, we have to respect the decisions that are taken.”
It emerged during the debate that the Dutch state-owned co-operator of Merseyrail, Abellio, puts guards on its trains in Holland, but proposes to run a service without them on its Mersey franchise.
Those local Labour politicians from Wirral who influence decision making on this matter include Cllr Jerry Williams , Cllr Ron Abbey and ( God help us) Cllr Steve Foulkes – so let’s face it we’re doomed . Therefore we implore the people of Wirral – if you care about employment rights and your personal safety sign those petitions demanding that guards remain on Merseyrail trains . If that doesn’t work – remember there are local elections on Wirral next year ,and putting party politics aside, it would be good to remember exactly who trashed over local rail travellers.