Joanne Marie Anderson is the first woman of color to win election as mayor of a major city the United Kingdom and the first Black and first female woman mayor of Liverpool, England. Born in January 1971 in Liverpool, she acknowledges she is biracial and has repeatedly proclaimed she is a “proud Black, working-class scouser” (scouser being a colloquial term for a resident of Liverpool). She also has told of growing up feeling deprived, depressed, and hopeless in an era of austerity for which she mostly blamed the eleven-year rule of conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from 1979 to 1990. Nonetheless, Anderson was ambitious and resourceful and earned a bachelor’s degree in business studies in 1999 at Liverpool’s John Moores University.
Anderson launched her own consulting firm, Innervision, that advised community and charity groups such as Emmaus Merseyside, which focused on housing and the homeless, Merseyside Probation Service, Blackburne House, FRC Group, Merseyside Equality and Employment Law. She then assisted the Crown Prosecution Service. More recent, she became Business Manager for The Florrie, a city community center, charged with establishing a vocational training program leading to employment for individuals ages 16 to 30. A longtime Labour Party adherent, she was a shop steward and participant in the Transport and General Workers Union prior to her affiliation with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Race Relations Committee.
Anderson’s early success in politics began in October 2019 when she easily defeated her opponent to represent the Princess Park Ward on Liverpool’s City Council. Described as a “reluctant politician,” she had not intended to extend her term as a Council member but when the city’s mayor Joe Anderson (no relation) was arrested on corruption charges and forced to step down, friends persuaded her to run for mayor. With the deselection of the acting mayor, lord mayor, and deputy mayor the way was cleared for her to stand for Labour in the upcoming 2021 mayoral election.
Emphasizing her record of community work, social activism, diversity and employment training, and work in the Women’s Leadership Group (WLG) advocating strategic increase of female leaders in government, Anderson, a single mother of teenage son, handily defeated the independent candidate and won the election for mayor on May 10, 2021, in a landslide victory, 46,493 votes to 32,079 votes. Upon being assuming office as only the second Labour mayor of Liverpool, Anderson apologized for the poor performance of previous administrations and recent scandals and promised its citizens transparency and accountability.
Liverpool, a city of 500,000 residents, suffered another blow to its pride, which Anderson had to address, when UNESCO members voted to remove it from its World Heritage Site list because of plans to redevelop the area encompassing the port city’s historic docks.