Liverpool could see the job of its city mayor scrapped amid Labour infighting over who would be the party’s candidate, HuffPost UK has learned.
Councillors are discussing a resolution which would shift the Liverpool City Council back to being run by a leader and cabinet team, and remove the mayoralty altogether.
Sources revealed the plan as the party faced claims of a “stitch up” and the threat of a legal challenge over its internal race to replace Joe Anderson.
Figures on the left say party officials are trying to stop lord mayor Anna Rothery, who has been endorsed by former leader Jeremy Corbyn, from standing.
The party dramatically suspended the race on Tuesday and reopened selection applications just before ballots were due to go out to members.
Rothery and the two other shortlisted candidates, acting mayor Wendy Simon and deputy mayor Ann O’Byrne, were all banned from the contest, the Liverpool Echo reported.
It has been reported Rothery is to seek an injunction if the decision was not reversed and she tweeted she would be “left with no choice” but to launch a legal challenge.
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell was among those angry about the move, tweeting that the “fiasco leaves the Labour bureaucracy wide open to charges of sheer incompetence or a political stitch-up or both”.
He added: “If there was a problem with any candidate it should have been dealt with earlier or is the problem the socialism of a possible winner?”
But members of the authority could torpedo the whole process with a town hall vote to scrap the position altogether.
The source said the move would see councillors on the Labour-controlled authority take the matter out of the hands of party officials.
“It would kill any legal challenge and would mean Liverpool group [of Labour councillors] would be in control of the process again,” said one Labour source, who added that councillors were in discussions over the plan.
Anderson, 63, who was the directly elected mayor of the city, was arrested on December 4 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation as part of the probe into building and development contracts in Liverpool.
He had already been selected as Labour’s candidate to run for a third term as mayor at the elections in May, but was administratively suspended by the party pending the ongoing investigation.
The directly-elected city council mayor is separate to that of Liverpool city region mayor, currently held by Steve Rotheram.
The lord mayor is also separate, but is a purely ceremonial role with no additional powers.
A Labour spokesperson has said: “After careful consideration, Labour is re-opening the selection for Liverpool mayor.
“We are committed to ensuring members are able to choose the right candidate to stand up against the Conservatives, lead Liverpool out of the coronavirus crisis and fight for the resources that the city desperately needs.”
The row puts Liverpool at the centre of Labour’s factional wars once again.
In the 1980s, Labour leader Neil Kinnock confronted the Trotskyist group Militant, which gained control of the authority and refused to set a budget.