Bristol Mayor Row – Labour Group Leader resigns over NEC decision

26th November, 2012 12:35 pm

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Last night we reported that the party had confirmed that Labour councillors would not be joining the cabinet of former Lib Dem “Independent” Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson. The NEC overruled the decision of Bristol Labour Group who had voted (by 8 councillors to 7) to join Ferguson’s cabinet. The BBC reports that “Local Labour party members had wanted to boycott the cabinet but were overruled by the party’s councillors.”

As a result of the decision, Labour Group leader Peter Hammond (who was in favour of working with Ferguson) has resigned, stating:

“I am not simply a member of the Labour Party but its principle elected spokesperson in local government in Bristol – I am expected to publicly endorse and advocate Labour Party decisions.

“In all conscience I cannot publicly support a decision that runs contrary to the advice I gave to Labour councillors which they accepted by a majority decision as they are entitled to do.”

The Deputy Leader of the group will now serve as acting leader until a new leader is elected in 2/3 weeks.

There certainly seems to be a great deal of division in Bristol Labour Party, and with so many marginal seats in the area, the party will need to be in better shape by 2015.

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  • Steve Buckingham

    I really don’t see why councillors would want to go against the wishes of the local party to support the administration of a Lib Dem who was too ashamed to actually stand as one.

    Seems to me that the decision of the NEC is a sensible one.

    • “too ashamed… ”

      But why should any right-thinking person who hopes to serve the community want to be encumbered with the baggage of a discredited political party?

      Perhaps the NEC, and others, might want to reflect on why someone who has already undertaken considerable public service* has refrained from joining Labour.

      Can’t expect too much from the increasingly otherworldly Labour Party, though.

      In Bristol they should’ve gone in for hard-ball negotiations: ‘We’ll serve in the cabinet only if the Living Wage is implemented.’ That would be win-win for Labour but, at least as far as the NEC is concerned, one gets the feeling that success is no longer a priority.

      * http://www.bristolcivicsociety.org.uk/weblog/170-congratulationsgeorge

      • aracataca

        Dave I know you’re an enthusiastic supporter of Ferguson -the Fib Dem sorry ‘independent’ Mayor of Bristol. However, the party must expose the new Fib Dem ruse of standing as ‘Independents’ rather than as Fib Dems as they know the latter is a thoroughly discredited brand. They are treating the electorate with contempt and even for the Fibs this tactic marks a new level of deceit. To serve in Ferguson’s cabinet would endorse that deceit.

        • “the new Fib Dem ruse of standing as ‘Independents’ rather than as Fib Dems”

          But there was a Lib Dem candidate:

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-19018017

          • aracataca

            Ferguson resigned from the Fibs in May- 6 months before the Mayoral election . The Fibs stood a candidate against him just for show.

            How about in the North Wales PCC election where the winning ‘independent’ candidate was a card carrying member of the Fibs?

            or check this out from Lib Dem voice:

            ‘I found the strategy he advocates is exactly the one I’d suggest – that sitting Lib Dem MPs should “run as quasi independents. They can emphasise their independence from the government, point to good local works and remind people that the choice is between them and someone even less appealing”………………………
            the results (in the PCC election) were good for the Lib Dems…… liberal-minded candidates did succeed in getting elected, but only by standing as independents.

            Wake up DS some Fibs are adopting a strategy of standing as ‘independents.’

          • aracataca

            Ferguson resigned from the Fibs in May- 6 months before the Mayoral election . The Fibs stood a candidate against him just for show.

            How about in the North Wales PCC election where the winning ‘independent’ candidate was a card carrying member of the Fibs?

            or check this out from Lib Dem voice:

            ‘I found the strategy he advocates is exactly the one I’d suggest – that sitting Lib Dem MPs should “run as quasi independents. They can emphasise their independence from the government, point to good local works and remind people that the choice is between them and someone even less appealing”………………………
            the results (in the PCC election) were good for the Lib Dems…… liberal-minded candidates did succeed in getting elected, but only by standing as independents.

            Wake up DS some Fibs are adopting a strategy of standing as ‘independents.’

          • aracataca

            Ferguson resigned from the Fibs in May- 6 months before the Mayoral election . The Fibs stood a candidate against him just for show.

            How about in the North Wales PCC election where the winning ‘independent’ candidate was a card carrying member of the Fibs?

            or check this out from Lib Dem voice:

            ‘I found the strategy he advocates is exactly the one I’d suggest – that sitting Lib Dem MPs should “run as quasi independents. They can emphasise their independence from the government, point to good local works and remind people that the choice is between them and someone even less appealing”………………………
            the results (in the PCC election) were good for the Lib Dems…… liberal-minded candidates did succeed in getting elected, but only by standing as independents.

            Wake up DS some Fibs are adopting a strategy of standing as ‘independents.’

          • aracataca
          • AlanGiles

            This is not entirely without precident. I would just remind everybody that in 2000, Ken Livingstone stood as an Independent in the first London Mayoral election, even though he was clearly really Labour.

            I know he did this because he was left off the ballot paper at the behest of the then Prime MInister and his pals, but let us not get carried away with the idea that Bristol is unique.

          • AlanGiles

            This is not entirely without precident. I would just remind everybody that in 2000, Ken Livingstone stood as an Independent in the first London Mayoral election, even though he was clearly really Labour.

            I know he did this because he was left off the ballot paper at the behest of the then Prime MInister and his pals, but let us not get carried away with the idea that Bristol is unique.

          • aracataca

            No incorrect. Livingstone was expelled from the Labour Party, In North Wales the ‘Independent’ PCC candidate was a Lib Dem party member..

          • AlanGiles

            Ken Livingstone was expelled from the Labour party, having decided to stand as an Independent because the Mayoral election was stitched up by Blair et al, and of course 4 years later the Dear Leader had to eat humble pie, but during the years 2000-2004 KL was, if you will, an “Independent Labour” mayor

          • aracataca

            He was an ‘independent’ not ‘independent Labour’ as you put it. In order for the two situations to be interchangeable the ‘Independent’ PCC for North Wales should be expelled by the Fibs but this isn’t going to happen.
            Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that some Fibs are adopting the strategy of standing as ‘independents’ when they are in fact Fibs. This is quite clearly duplicitous.

          • AlanGiles
          • aracataca

            I’m such a Blairite AG that even I think it was mad of the party leadership at the time to stitch up the vote and to throw Ken out. Contrary to Blair’s prediction at the time he turned out to be rather a good Mayor of London.

          • AlanGiles

            The one person I felt sorry for in that brouhaha 12 years ago was Frank Dobson. Again though, it was because Blair wanted to relieve Frank of the health brief. His arm was twisted and frankly had I been him I would have told them where to get off. Certainly KL was proven right in the PPP nonsense for London Underground, demanded by Brown.

          • AlanGiles

            The one person I felt sorry for in that brouhaha 12 years ago was Frank Dobson. Again though, it was because Blair wanted to relieve Frank of the health brief. His arm was twisted and frankly had I been him I would have told them where to get off. Certainly KL was proven right in the PPP nonsense for London Underground, demanded by Brown.

      • aracataca

        Of course Ferguson didn’t leave the Fibs over any kind of principle, such as the tuition fees lie/rise, nor the privatisation of the NHS, nor the reduction in the top rate of tax, nor the pasty tax, nor the cuts, nor the caravan tax, nor the the welfare ‘reforms’. He resigned simply and purely because he realised he couldn’t become Mayor standing as a Fib Dem.

      • aracataca

        Of course Ferguson didn’t leave the Fibs over any kind of principle, such as the tuition fees lie/rise, nor the privatisation of the NHS, nor the reduction in the top rate of tax, nor the pasty tax, nor the cuts, nor the caravan tax, nor the the welfare ‘reforms’. He resigned simply and purely because he realised he couldn’t become Mayor standing as a Fib Dem.

  • AlanGiles

    Perhaps this should be a warning to the NEC that they should leave local parties to attend to their own affairs and stop meddling. It is rather otiose to talk about democracy when you implement these decisions, and impose short short-lists on constituencies.

    • agreed. nothing to add to this.

    • I’d agree with you if the council group and the local party had been united. But they weren’t, and neither has clear priority – the councillors actually have to carry out the agreed decision, but the members ought not to have their say overruled. You have to have some form of tiebreaker, and I don’t see any alternative but the NEC.

    • aracataca

      However, there is a division within the local party between the members and the party’s elected councillors. Which section of the local party should it support?

      • AlanGiles

        The vote was 8 for 7 against. Therefore there was a majority – a very small one, but a majority nonetheless. Figures don’t really matter – after all, a clear majority of Labour members were against the Iraq war, but that didn’t deter the 2003 government. If a party wishes to promote “localism” they should keep out of local matters IMO

      • AlanGiles

        The vote was 8 for 7 against. Therefore there was a majority – a very small one, but a majority nonetheless. Figures don’t really matter – after all, a clear majority of Labour members were against the Iraq war, but that didn’t deter the 2003 government. If a party wishes to promote “localism” they should keep out of local matters IMO

      • AlanGiles

        The vote was 8 for 7 against. Therefore there was a majority – a very small one, but a majority nonetheless. Figures don’t really matter – after all, a clear majority of Labour members were against the Iraq war, but that didn’t deter the 2003 government. If a party wishes to promote “localism” they should keep out of local matters IMO

      • AlanGiles

        The vote was 8 for 7 against. Therefore there was a majority – a very small one, but a majority nonetheless. Figures don’t really matter – after all, a clear majority of Labour members were against the Iraq war, but that didn’t deter the 2003 government. If a party wishes to promote “localism” they should keep out of local matters IMO

      • AlanGiles

        The vote was 8 for 7 against. Therefore there was a majority – a very small one, but a majority nonetheless. Figures don’t really matter – after all, a clear majority of Labour members were against the Iraq war, but that didn’t deter the 2003 government. If a party wishes to promote “localism” they should keep out of local matters IMO

        • aracataca

          That vote was among the councillors. The party members took a different view and the NEC have supported the members on this occasion.

        • aracataca

          It seems you’re just using what is clearly a complex situation to attack the party.

    • John Ruddy

      But what about when the majority of local members wanted nothing to do with the Mayor? Maybe the NEC was standing up for local democracy, when a few councillors with (as you might say) only a view to the fat salaries and perks they could get as part of the cabinet over-ride the views of the local members….
      You cant have it both ways….

      • AlanGiles

        John. I take your point, but there are many Labour politicians who do fancy the ideas of Mayors (Byrne for example who’d love to be one).

        The point I was making is that the NEC are far too ready to interfere. There are times when Labour remind me of one side of an abusive partnership. We have seen it with the antagonising of unions, and labour’s natural supporters.

        And interferring in local matters. They are always going to change, it’s always going to be different, and they are always sorry – till the next time.

        This leads to situations where in 2010 Stallybridge and Hythe and Stoke Central had candidates imposed on them, and in 2012 it has been the turn of Norfolk and Rotherham to have London approved candidates foist on to them.

        This from the party that witters on about democracy and localism. As the vote went 8/7 there was no need to interfere, whether or not the decision was right or wrong, let them make their own decisions, and, if it proves to be, their own mistakes.

        This meddling sort of ties in with that ridiculous jejune article from Tom Harris the other day going on about “corporate identity” and having a new logo in Scotland because the Tories have a new one. It yet again gives the impression that some senior politicians regards politics as a game. Harris appears to think that the Scottish Labour Party is a supermarket and that the people who vote for and support it, ought to be treated like the punters in the supermarket.

        I mentioned earlier the case of Ken Livingstone in London where he was ostensibly an Independent (Mayor) from 2000-2004, but made no secret of the fact that he wished to be regarded in reality as Labour, and indeed had been readmitted to the fold prior to the 2004 election. But according to my usual critic, that was different. How?.

        The fact is it is ridiculous for any party to claim the moral high ground when more than ever we see and know every politician has his price.

  • Funny… the NEC isn’t meeting until tomorrow. You’d think this would merit actual discussion, not just some officia’s diktat.

  • Funny… the NEC isn’t meeting until tomorrow. You’d think this would merit actual discussion, not just some official’s diktat.

    It would be interesting to know how the local party took its decision and how representative this was. Was t at a Local Campaign Forum meeting? How many members does it have & were present? And did they consult the CLPs? And was it a narrow decision?

  • markfergusonuk

    Good questions all of them. I would image it was a CLP officer’s decision…

  • Dave Postles

    I’d endorse the decision not to serve. Is the Mayor’s cabinet anything more than a kitchen-sink affair, a CABAL? Labour councillors are all elected members to serve on a Council. The most that they ought to offer is a confidence and supply position.

  • aracataca

    You are of course quite correct. AG isn’t interested in this complicated division unfortunately he just sees it as an opportunity to attack the party.

  • This is a very bad decision , you only have to look at the reactions and comments in the local press to see that Labour will lose a number of seats in next year’s local elections because of this dictact .

  • This is what you get when you support silly ideas like elected mayors. Abolish the lot

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