It’s certainly been a week of political turmoil, and one that’s rocked the regime to its very foundations. No I’m not referring to the events in Egypt, but in Stockport, Greater Manchester.
Long lauded as a ‘flagship’ Liberal Democrat council by the national party leadership, Stockport has now joined the growing list of other authorities to suffer defections from amongst their ranks.
Now, as someone who spent 12 years in local government, I realise that councillor defections happen all the time, and for many and varied reasons; but the events in Stockport tap into a much deeper malaise running through the local government ranks of the Liberal Democrats across the nation.
For it is Liberal Democrat councillors who are not only having to defend the actions of their Tory-led coalition government, but actually implement many of those deeply unpopular cuts at the very local level. As one Lib Dem councillor put it to me recently, and with important local elections on 5th May firmly in their sights, “We are on the front line of the firing line”.
So back to Stockport: For some time a number of Liberal Democrat councillors have been privately making their displeasure known to both the local Labour Party and, if rumours are to be belived, the Conservatives too. Indeed, they have been leaking to Labour like a sieve. Emails and internal documents have been passed over as well as general tittle-tattle. Much of this information – though by no means all – is now in the public domain, via Twitter (posted under the #StockiLeaks hashtag), and the senior Liberal Democrats in the borough are less than pleased that their dirty linen has been aired in the open, I can tell you.
At the same time, a number of the Lib Dem councillors have been discussing leaving their party. Already this week two of the Liberal Democrat councillors for the Davenport and Cale Green Ward – Roy Driver and David White – have resigned from the ruling group. And today, they were followed by the Reddish North Lib Dem councillor, Anne Graham.
For the time being, all three will sit on the council as independent members, whilst taking the Labour whip. At the same time, they have formally applied to join the Labour Party and their applications will be considered by a special meeting of the Denton and Reddish CLP in consultation with Stockport Labour Group and Stockport Local Government Committee in due course.
Where will this all lead? Who knows! Will there be further defections? Watch this space. Certainly three other Stockport Lib Dem councillors are seriously considering their own future. But whatever the outcome of further discussions, one thing is for sure, the #StockiLeaks revelations and the subsequent defections, have certainly livened up politics in Stockport.
What we know from #StockiLeaks:
– New Day, new Stockport defection: Reddish Cllr Anne Graham leaves the LibDem Group & applies to re-join the Labour Party. #StockiLeaks
– Cllrs Roy Driver and David White say they can no-longer support the policies being pursued by their party in a Tory-led govt. #StockiLeaks
– Two Stockport Councillors have resigned from the LibDem Group and applied to join the Labour Party today. #StockiLeaks
– There’s a LibDem A3 leaflet for Hazel Grove, Cheadle & ‘key’ Stockport wards being done. I’ve got the email requesting stories #StockiLeaks
– Leaflet ideas: Community: localism bill to increase community involvement < no mention of snub to Friends of Reddish Baths ? #StockiLeaks
– Leaflet ideas: Budget cuts: photo of cllr at a library with a big “PROTECTED” across it
– Leaflet ideas: Safer Stockport: crime down, wld like specific story (e.g. a cllr on patrol)
– Leaflet idea: Fostering: photo of cute children
– Leaflet ideas: Recycling success: the good news on how well we’re doing for the environment < no mention of recent bin fiasco? #StockiLeaks
– We have a copy of what appears to be their entire local election strategy. Lib Dems haemorrhaging #stockileaks
– Would LibDems go negative? Stockport LD campaign mtg on Monday. Item 3 (a) discussion on tone of campaign(positive/negative) #StockiLeaks
– LibDem Cllrs threatened with expulsion too if leaker found! #StockiLeaks
– LibDem leader of Stockport Council is refusing to show the whole budget to his Executive members. Frightened of leaks I hear! #StockiLeaks
– Which Cheadle LibDem councillor is organising to challenge for the leadership after 5th May? #StockiLeaks
– Which TWO LibDem Councillors say they won’t be delivering any of Mark Hunter MP’s literature in future? #StockiLeaks
– Which senior LibDem Cllr is point blank refusing to deliver Andrew Stunell’s leaflets? #StockiLeaks
(Hat-tip: Political Scrapbook for their brilliant Stockileaks image used at the top of this post)