Billy The Leak

Liverpool City Council seems to have a problem with leaks. Scarcely a day seems to go by without David Bartlett, the Daily Post’s political correspondent, releasing another fascinating snippet about the machinations of Liverpool politics.

Quite who is responsible for this leaking is anyone’s guess, but the smart money appears to be that it’s someone on the Labour benches. The council’s Lib Dem leader, Richard Kemp, thinks it is too and has said as much of late.

This (amongst several other things) has annoyed Mayor Joe Anderson, who blasted Kemp in an email exchange that has seen a cross-party Budget Working Group (BWG) collapse in acrimony and hysterical name-calling.

Ironically, and even more absurdly, this latest exchange of emails – explicitly about who leaked what – has been leaked. As if things couldn’t get any more ridiculous, Anderson then goes on to suggest that he can see through Kemp, in a quite extraordinary turn of phrase that will surely come back to haunt Liverpool’s Mayor.

“You forget in trying to kid me that you are trying to kid the kid that kidded Billy the Kid,” says Joe. Phew, you’re not kidding.

He adds that Kemp could “crawl under a snake’s belly with a top hat on” and closes the email by cancelling the BWG that has seen Labour, Liberal Democrat and Liberal councillors working together to decide how and where to impose necessary budget cuts.

There is history between the two, as there is between the city’s Liberal Democrat and Labour benches – and this long-standing antipathy often spills over in debate and the media. Indeed, Anderson seems barely able to disguise his contempt towards anyone he regards as an enemy during council meetings, including those beyond the council benches.

Meanwhile, just two months Kemp branded Anderson “cynical, scare-mongering and ignorant” over the latter’s letter to David Cameron to complain about the effect of the cuts on Liverpool.

That local politics can be bruising should come as little surprise, but the tone of the emails is startling in how lacerating Anderson’s insults are. Kemp plays a fairly straight bat in the emails but the exchange does not reflect on anyone well, especially at a time when people in the city are looking to leadership for unity and strength in the face of budget cuts that will hit Liverpool harder than most councils.

Quite who is leaking – and to what end – is another question. Possibly it is someone who intends to wreck these cross-party associations, or someone simply making mischief. Either way that person (or people) would seem, on some level, to be responsible for breaking a cross-party co-operation on how to implement budget cuts; that can surely only be to the detriment of Liverpool.

Hot on the heels of a rally between UK city leaders of varying stripes, it’s a big letdown to see the council’s leaders declaring war along party-political lines over who said what to whom. A cursory look at the Echo’s reader comment section shows no desire for a return to the bad old days of Liverpool politicians slinging insults at one another.

Against a backdrop of cuts that will see libraries, golf courses, sheltered accommodation, truancy services, youth services, nurseries and homeless support badly hit, the squabbling reflects particularly badly on Kemp and Anderson.

Liam Fogarty certainly seemed to think so. On the day that Richard III was found buried under a car-park in Leicester, and after a day of tortured invective, the former Mayoral candidate recalled a quote from the eponymous Shakespeare: “So full of ugly sights, of ghastly dreams”.

  • Snakes Belly

    I understand the Lib Dems were delivering leaflets with confidential budget information before the leak came to light… So I’d actually say the smart money is that it came from their benches.

  • http://www.robinbrown.co.uk/ Robin Brown

    The accounts of both sides blame the other here – and there’s a long-running ‘who’s leaking’ saga been ongoing for some time. My limited inquiries suggested someone on the Labour benches, tough no-one claimed to know who exactly. I’m quite open to the possibility that it’s either, both or neither. I don’t think that’s the point though – the petty finger-pointing is the crux of this for me – and what’s so dismaying about it all.

  • Take your pick

    If you look at the exchange on David Bartlett’s blog, you can see that it was copied in to every single councillor from every political party on the benches. So, take your pick from any of the 90. Or, more likely, several of them from different parties.