Momentum’s Mersey woes: purge fails to materialise as local politics takes precedence

Local power grabs have trumped political divisions in wave of Liverpool councillor deselections.

Labour moderates in Liverpool had been braced for extinction after the far-left captured every constituency party earlier this year and heralded the symbolic return of Militant councillor Derek Hatton. But the deselections that have followed have proved to be local power grabs rather than the political purge that Momentum was rumoured to be seeking.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Dan Carden’s Walton constituency, where former deputy mayor Ann O’Byrne is said to be working with moderate councillor Nick Small to replace supporters of Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson with candidates who will back O’Byrne’s planned run for mayor. It may have something to do with the fact that Small was sacked by Anderson earlier this year, prompting O’Byrne to resign in protest.

Small and O’Byrne have already been linked to the deselection of Sharon Sullivan, who ended her fifteen years as a councillor with a scathing attack on the duo, and of Irene Rainey who was replaced with Sarah Morton, an ally of O’Byrne. But the putsch ran ashore when far-left councillor Joann Kushner resisted deselection, and used her victory speech to rail against a perceived plot “involving Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, Ann O’Byrne in a sickly alliance with those close to [moderate West Darby MP] Stephen Twigg”.

Liverpool Momentum had promised deselections that would “not only benefit, but empower, entire communities in Liverpool”, but their plans for revolution soon collided with the realities of local politics. In Picton ward Momentum faced accusations of trying to deselect Liverpool’s only Muslim councillor Abdul Basit Qadir . The move attracted criticism from local members and Operation Black Vote, eventually prompting Momentum high command to issue a strenuous denial that Qadir was under threat. He was eventually reselected.

Meanwhile in Louise Ellman’s Riverside constituency, Momentum is said to have replaced only young mum Michelle Corrigan and former chief whip Alan Dean. Unusually, Dean was not given the chance to defend his seat in an open selection. Despite securing the nominations to be shortlisted alongside two other candidates, he was immediately knocked out in an impromptu “elimination ballot” vote, a mechanism normally only used to decide between tied candidates in a full selection. The move ended Dean’s 31 years’ service as a councillor.

But Momentum had better luck in Wavertree’s Church Ward where second year politics student Nat Griffin was selected to face the leader of the Liverpool Lib Dems. He rapidly proved himself to be a team player by telling his local paper that Liverpool’s Labour Mayor Joe Anderson was “done”.

While Momentum can point to minor victories, they have fallen far short of expectations they would sweep away the city’s moderates wholesale. Meanwhile power politics over the Mayor of Liverpool job may claim more moderate casualties than Momentum ever could.

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