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Nightmare on Politics Street

By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

It has been another tumultuous week in global, national and regional politics.

On the world stage, a fascist was elected as the President of Brazil; German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she was stepping down as the leader of her party, which in turn will lead to her stepping down as the head of the country within the next two years; Donald Trump reacted to the murder of 11 Americans in a synagogue by saying that the place of worship should have had armed guards. It reinforces the opinion I expressed last week that Nationalism and the far-right are in the ascendency – and who replaces Merkel will be crucial to the stability, or otherwise, of Europe.

Nationally, politics was dominated by the budget. For SMEs there was, at last, something to cheer, with concessions on business rates for retailers, and some tax cuts that will be welcomed by most entrepreneurs and business owners. Nonetheless, the spectrum of Brexit haunted the Chancellor’s statement, and he knows that all his plans will come crashing down should the UK crash out of the EU with a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Elsewhere in his budget, Phillip Hammond failed to convince me that “austerity was over.” Local authorities face further cuts, despite the rhetoric, and the continued support for the implementation of Universal Credit is a time-bomb that will come back to bite the government very hard indeed. It is an abomination of a policy that ought to have, by now, been quietly killed off.

For all its positive trailing, and largely favourable reviews, I’m not sure this budget will stand the test of time, and if it is a pre-cursor to a snap election, then the Tories may find they have little more to sell than the last time out as a result of Fiscal Phil’s latest offerings.

In the Downtown regions, the politics has been lively too. Leeds is celebrating its Channel 4 win. Manchester and Birmingham were thought to be favourites to get the new HQ for the media giant, but credit to the Yorkshire city for putting together an impressive bid and overcoming tough competition. It may be the catalyst for a more confident Leeds in the future.

Down the road in Liverpool, there is a battle royal going on within the local Labour Party. Depending on who you talk to, the split, which has seen five sitting councillors de-selected so far, is between a new wave of Corbyn-friendly members and the old guard. Others suggest that the arguments are based more on personality than politics. I’m guessing it is a mixture of the two.

To be sure, what we do know is that the city mayor Joe Anderson will face a challenge to retain his job in 2020 – and the selection process for that post will begin next year.

For business this is a tad concerning. Liverpool’s politics have never been what you can describe as ‘stable’. However, Anderson has brought a degree of stability, and a business-friendly approach, to much of what the council has delivered since his election, initially as Labour leader, back in 2010.

His ability to navigate Liverpool through a tortuous cuts programme, whist maintaining economic growth, has been no mean feat – and although his opponents won’t like to admit this – his pragmatic approach towards the relationship with national government has been essential too.

With uncertainty around Brexit already weighing heavy on the shoulders of business leaders, the last thing Liverpool businesses needed was uncertainty about the local leadership. Unfortunately, that is what they have got, and may have, up until the Labour mayoral selection process is concluded sometime in 2019.

Happy Halloween everyone!

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