Liverpool City Region Mayoral candidates offer their vision for our Mersey revolution

Fri 31st, Mar

Getting specifics out of a politician, particularly during an election campaign, can be tricky and hustings events can quickly descend into soundbite bingo.

This week Liverpool & Sefton Chambers, in partnership with think tank Centre for Cities, hosted just such an event as part of the Liverpool City Region Metro Mayoral election campaign.

The five candidates, in alphabetical order - Tony Caldeira (Conservative), Carl Cashman (Lib Dem), Tom Crone (Green Party), Tabitha Morton (Women’s Equality), and Steve Rotheram (Labour) - all took part in a lively discussion at the chamber here in the city centre.

Genuine passion

There’s an old saying that politicians ‘campaign in poetry and govern in prose’ and, as you would expect, there was no shortage of abstract concepts and snappy soundbites.

However, to give credit to the candidates, there was plenty of meat in there, too. I think they all spoke from the heart and all are standing with a genuine commitment to public service. I saw no political careerists on the panel.

I spoke at the beginning of the session and I talked about how this election means we have the makings of a revolution here in the Liverpool city region.

Connectivity is key

And I was heartened to see that the discussion was at its liveliest when the panel addressed what I think is one of the single most important issues for our city region - connectivity.

We want inward investment, we want a well-educated, highly-skilled workforce doing high-value, good paying jobs, we want our port to be a world leader in global shipping once again.

But we cannot achieve those things if people cannot get from one part of our region to another quickly and with the minimum of fuss or we cannot move goods from the port swiftly to other parts of the country.

Carl Cashman told how a friend travelled from Southport to Prescot to help him with his campaign.

“It took him longer to make that journey than it would have done for him to fly from Liverpool to Spain,” he said.

Yes, it really can be that bad.

Tony Caldeira talked about his efforts in lobbying Government to put the infrastructure in place to allow both HS2 and HS3, or Northern Powerhouse Rail, to go ahead.

Steve Rotheram painted a stark picture of how for every £1 spent on rail infrastructure in the North, London and the South East receives £6.

“London has Crossrail and what we need is Crossrail for the North,” he added.

Tom Crone said the money spent on HS2 and HS3 would be better utilised on making lots of smaller improvements to the local transport network.

And Tabitha Morton pointed out, quite correctly, that it was more often women performing the lower-skilled, lower-paid jobs in our region who were more dependent on public transport than any other group.

This fed into her wider point that too many of the big decisions were being made by “groups of white men behind closed doors”.

A clear message

There is a good deal of confusion among the business community and the wider city region population about what the City Region Mayor will be and how he or she will work with the existing local authority leaders.

Our event went some way to offering clarity on this. The candidates need to work harder between now and election day in May to outline to people how the role will directly affect their lives.

This, as one of the candidates pointed out, could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our region. We must make the most of it.

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