Derek Hatton, the former Trotskyist deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, has also been arrested by Merseyside Police investigating alleged fraudulent property deals, it was claimed today.
Mr Hatton, 72, has allegedly been held on suspicion of witness intimidation.
He is said to be one of five people arrested as part of a 15-month long investigation by Merseyside Police, known as Operation Aloft. It was set up in August 2019 to investigate how certain deals between the council and property developers had been handled.
It came as Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson is defying Labour colleagues calling for him to stand down after his arrest.
Two other men, aged 33 and 46, were arrested for the same offences, while another, aged 25, was held on suspicion of witness intimidation alone. All the men are from Merseyside – none have been charged.
Mr Hatton, who was named as one of the suspects by The Times and The Sun, was the ringleader of the Trotskyist Militant tendency in the 1980s which set an illegal budget in Liverpool – causing ‘grotesque chaos’ in the city – and brought about bitter divisions in the party.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, 62, can be seen looking out of a window at his home in Liverpool yesterday, after he was released on bail after following his arrest in connection with bribery offences and witness intimidation
Who is Derek Hatton and what was the Marxist Militant tendency deemed too extreme for Labour?
Derek Hatton was perhaps the most famous left-wing firebrand and socialist in the 1980s.
He was a member of the Militant tendency – a communist group which called for revolution and had penetrated the Labour Party at the time.
He was so left-wing he was eventually expelled.
He was deputy leader of Liverpool City Council in the mid 1980s, when the struggle between the hard-left and moderates were battling for the soul of the Labour Party.
The Militant-controlled council set an illegal budget in protest at local government spending cuts by Margaret Thatcher’s government.
One tactic employed by the council was to send redundancy notices to council workers in the city by taxi .
The move was described as ‘grotesque chaos’ by then Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who denounced it from the main stage as he gave his party speech in Bournemouth in 1985.
Mr Hatton and other members of Militant and similar hard-left groups were expelled by Mr Kinnock as part of a purge of the hard-left.
But some floated back towards the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. He was readmitted in in February 2019 before he was suspended again and withdrew his application a month later.
Hatton has a property development company and also runs a bike to work scheme.
Known by the nickname ‘Degsy’, he and his colleagues infamously hired taxis to deliver more than 30,000 redundancy notices to workers in the city after refusing to implement local government spending cuts.
For the past 18 years he has been owner of Derek Hatton Associates – a business involved in property development both in the UK and abroad.
He was readmitted to Labour in February 2019 when Jeremy Corbyn was leader. But amid a huge backlash he was suspended just a day after his readmission was confirmed. A month later he withdrew his application.
Police held Joe Anderson for questioning on Friday on suspicion of bribery and intimidating witnesses. After being bailed the 62-year-old insisted he would continue to lead the city’s fight against the pandemic.
His stance was greeted with incredulity by both political opponents and voices from within the party, from which he is suspended.
‘Joe cannot continue as mayor while being investigated by the police,’ former Liverpool Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle said. ‘He can’t carry on.’
Two other men, aged 33 and 46, were arrested in the probe into deals between the city council and developers.
However, the 62-year-old – who has not been charged – has yet to give any indication that he will bow to the pressure.
In the statement, published by the Liverpool Echo yesterday, Mayor Anderson said: ‘I was arrested as part of Operation Aloft on Friday 4th December, and interviewed for 6 hours.
‘I co-operated fully with Merseyside Police and will continue to be co-operative in their continuing enquiries.
‘I will be talking to my cabinet colleagues over the weekend to ensure the challenges our city faces with the Covid pandemic continue to receive the focus they deserve.
‘I also support the Labour Party’s decision to apply an administrative suspension while this investigation continues.
‘I have been bailed to return in one month’s time. Given the investigation is continuing, and there are bail conditions, I will not be making any further comments.’
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Anderson (pictured in 2018) said he will continue to co-operate fully with police
Who is Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson?
Joseph Anderson was born in 1958 in Liverpool to a cleaner and a Merchant Navy officer.
He joined the Merchant Navy after leaving school and then went onto work for P&O Ferries
He went to Liverpool John Moores University and got a post-grad diploma in social work. He went onto be a social worker in Crosby.
He became a councillor in 1998 and, in 2003, became the Leader of the Labour Group on Liverpool City Council.
He became council leader in 2010 and then was elected Mayor in 2012.
Mr Anderson stood to become the Labour candidate for metro mayor of the wider Liverpool City Region in 2016 but was beaten by the then Walton MP Steve Rotheram, who currently holds the post.
Last year he secured the Labour Party selection to run to be Mayor of the city for a third term at May’s delayed elections.
Mr Kilfoyle told MailOnline that Mr Anderson could not continue to ‘operate in the way he thinks he can’.
‘I think he should stand down from that position while this whole mess is sorted out and cleared up,’ he said.
‘I don’t think he can operate in the way he thinks he can.’
Councillor Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool, has suggested Mr Anderson should stand down from official duties.
‘Firstly, mayor Anderson must follow precedent and immediately stand down from all official duties until cleared or convicted,’ he said.
‘We all have deputies capable of carrying out our work.
‘Secondly, we must allow the police to carry out their enquiries.
‘They have been working for 18 months now on a series of allegations relating to problems within the regeneration directorate in relation to the awarding of contracts and property disposals.
‘This is a complex matter and takes time.
‘Justice is best served by not speculating on any potential issues as these might compromise subsequent trials.’
Mr Anderson shot to prominence in October after slamming the Government’s old tiered lockdown system for offering little financial support to Northern businesses facing collapse under the harshest restrictions.
Police have not confirmed the Mayor’s identity or that of the other suspects, but said a 62-year-old was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.
Merseyside Police said in a statement: ‘We can confirm that five people arrested in connection with offences of bribery and witness intimidation as part of an investigation into building and development contracts in Liverpool have been released on conditional bail pending further inquiries.’
It is understood that the veteran Labour politician was held at his home address in the Old Swan district on Friday.
Mr Anderson hit the headlines in October with his vocal criticism of the Government’s tiered lockdown system, which he branded a ‘shambles’.
Liverpool was the first English region to be put into the top Tier Three – prior to the country’s second national lockdown – as cases surged in the city.
He accused the Government of railroading through its Tier Three measures for the city without local leaders agreeing to anything back in October.
His pushback came alongside criticism from Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who also blasted the rules – with affected vast swathes of the North.
The arrests come as part of Merseyside police’s Operation Aloft – a 15-month operation looking into agreements between property developers and the council. Pictured: Liverpool’s Liver building
Alongside the 62-year-old, four others were also arrested.
A 72-year-old and a 25-year-old were arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.
Two other men – aged 46 and 33 – were accused of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.
The arrests come as part of Merseyside police’s Operation Aloft – a 15-month operation looking into agreements between property developers and the council.
A spokesman for Merseyside Police said: ‘Five people have been arrested by detectives in connection with offences of bribery and witness intimidation as part of an investigation into building and development contracts in Liverpool.
‘The arrests are part of an ongoing investigation.’
Mr Anderson was elected mayor of Liverpool in 2012, having been on the council since 1998.
The father-of-four was in the Merchant Navy and worked as a social worker before taking up the role.
He stood to become the Labour nomination for metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region in 2016 but was beaten by the then Walton MP Steve Rotheram, who currently holds the post.
A Liverpool City Council spokesperson said: ‘Liverpool City Council is co-operating with Merseyside Police in relation to its ongoing investigation. We do not comment on matters relating to individuals.’
In October, Mr Anderson revealed that his eldest brother Bill died after being admitted to intensive care with coronavirus aged 70.
Bill Anderson was a former chairman of the Merseyside Merchant Navy Association,.