“This is not what I expect from the Labour Party I joined”

27th April, 2012 1:22 pm

It’s fair to say that the mayoral referenda being held in ten English cities next Thursday are splitting opinion within the Labour Party. There are those who are strongly in favour – people like Gisela Stuart, Liam Byrne and Bob Ainsworth who have already announced their intention to seek the Labour nomination if their respective cities vote yes – and there are those who are strongly opposed – many councillors, for example.

In all of the debate and discussion that has been had so far, while I may not agree with everything that is being said and while I may challenge some of the assertions, people have generally played with a straight bat.

However, this week, something was brought to my attention that made me ashamed of the Party membership card in my wallet. A leaflet, complete with a Nottingham Labour imprint, is being distributed in that city, alleging that the BNP and the English Defence League want a mayor. This leaflet is being distributed outside mosques and at local Asian broadcasters’.

This is not what I expect from the Labour Party I joined.

I could talk about the breach of election law which demands that materials should feature an imprint by a named person. I could talk about the total distortion of the facts, that in 2011 the BNP received 760 votes compared to the Labour Party’s 112,325.

For me, though, it is the impression this sends to the people of Nottingham – and beyond – of the Labour Party, of the depths to which some of our number will sink.

This is not what I expect from the Labour Party I joined.

Honesty, fairness, a desire to win an argument on its merits.

That is what I expect from the Labour Party I joined.

Jo Tanner is the Director of the Campaign for Directly Elected Mayors

[Editor’s note: You can see the leaflets below. We are happy to publish a response from Nottingham Labour Party.]

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  • I’d just like to say, on behalf of anti-fascists all over the country, that this sort of opportunistic and dishonest behaviour from the Labour party does us no favours whatsoever.

    • Redshift

      As a fellow long-standing anti-fascist I’ll tell you now that actually the warnings in the leaflet are totally correct. The far-right has far more chance of getting into power in one bizarre election, than consistently winning wards across a whole town or city. It is not dishonest at all. 

      • Shock horror: more elections mean more opportunities for the electorate to come up with the wrong answer!

        Best we get rid of all elections then, just to be sure, eh?

        • Ryszard

          Absolutely – I deplored the election of the English Democrat mayor in Donny, but he has been hoist by his own petard – completely ineffectual and a prime candidate for a vaguely competent Labour campaign to unseat him.

          • treborc1

             Petard, bet that hurts, it brought tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

  • Rob Brown

    Not sure I see what is wrong with the leaflet, other than the lack of an imprint. The Far Right parties do support elected mayors, often because it is their only chance at winning, the fact that this chance is very slim only represents the right mindedness of the people in Nottingham.

    • Tipsilon

      What’s wrong with the leaflet is that it identifies a potential undesirable outcome that is highly unlikely to occur and uses it as the basis for opposition. There are legitimate reasons to oppose a transfer of council powers to directly-elected mayors – that people might vote for who we consider the wrong person is not one of them.

      It’s similar to the trick the No campaign pulled on the AV referendum, suggesting that a yes vote would mean we’d have to spend a fortune on voting machines despite there being no evidence that it would happen, and credible evidence from the Treasury and Electoral Commission that it wouldn’t.  

      This kind of behaviour is why people don’t trust politicians.

      • Rob Brown

        Maybe. I agree with your last sentence.

    • ER

      Because it is completely disingenuous.  There are no far-right mayors in the country at all, the EDL doesn’t even have politicians.  This is an absolute disgrace from Labour and completely sums up the dictatorial nature of the Labour council.  I was on the fence re. elected mayors before, but this has wholeheartedly pushed me on the Yes side. 

      • Ben

        I can think of at least two hard right populist mayors in the UK – Peter Davies in Doncaster and Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets. Concentrating executive authority in the hands of one person does make it more likely for extremist candidates to be able to get their hands on budgets, patronage and authority.

        • Brumanuensis

          Lutfur Rahman is right-wing? This is news. And by news, I mean ‘nonsense’.

          Peter Davies on the other hand…

          • Ben

            Peter Davies and Lutfur Rahman both play dog whistle ethnic politics, one with “the English”, one with Bengalis. Surely that is one of the founding definitional points that separates the “normal” right from its more ugly underbelly? I don’t think this is controversial. Why do we think of the Hinu nationalist BJP in India as right-wing, and the pan-Indian Congress Party as left-wing? Part of the answer lies in their treatment of ethnicity. If you are too lazy to think logically about these categories and what makes a politics right as opposed to left then that isn’t my problem.

            They are both outside the norm in this country, thankfully.

            I do honestly think that executive power concentrated in the hands of one person provides greater opportunity for these types to gain real sway as opposed to having to run a slate of candidates and win a council. And the evidence I think bears that out.

            Which is not to say that the leaflet in question is not questionable, because I think it is. But the idea behind it is not entirely inaccurate.

          • Brumanuensis

            Could you supply evidence for those assertions about Lutfur Rahman? Regardless, in what sense is Lutfur Rahman ‘right-wing’? The fact he is left-wing doesn’t preclude him from engaging in dog-whistle politics – although I doubt he does. The rest of his positions are a pretty standard set of left-wing views.

        • ER

          Firstly, I would dispute strongly that either of those are “far-right”.  Peter Davies is a populist, right-wing moron but he is not at all comparable to the like of the BNP, EDL or National Front.  Secondly, that is the nature of democracy; if you’re against people getting what they vote for then I suggest you go and live in Russia.  This is all irrelevant to the fact that there is absolutely no evidence that the BNP or EDL are set to gain from Mayoral elections.  The BNP got 5% of the vote at the last London Mayoral election.

  • I’m not quite sure I can see the distortion of facts you claim are here… Maybe you are just upset that they have a point and it doesn’t chime with your position as a leader of the “Yes” campaign?

    • Jo Tanner

      I’m very happy to discuss and debates the merits or otherwise of a mayoral system, including the potential for minority parties and independents to get a footing. However, this shows a cynicism that I find abhorrent, particularly in terms of where and how it is being distributed. Surely the Labour Party is better than this?

      • UKAzeri

        Sir with all due respect for the last 15 years we have been told that we need to abandon socialism for neoliberal ideals in order to win elections.
        Surely the Labour Party is better than this?
        We are told that winning elections comes before our values and ideals and here is the result. These leaflets are the modern Labour party through and through!!!!

      • ianrobo

         it is a factually correct leaflet, you may not like it but it is true what it says.

        I sense fro mthe Yes campaigns I have read a sense of desperation over possible results. I know in Birmingham capaigners of all colours have found a massive apathy for the idea and likely to vote NO.

        • It’s not factually correct though, mayors won’t cost an extra £1m – that figure is total nonsense! 

          • treborc1

            I think your right, not until these mayor get their feet under the table and then become the political animals they are.

  • Jammyhorse

    That is a really terrible leaflet and they should be ashamed. 

    Whoever chose that type style, colour and layout should be taken out &  thrown to the pleb-nd (I rearranged the letters) – at least scrolling down to page 3 you get to play the health lottery. 

    Nottingham would be much better with a Sheriff anyway, surely?…

  • Pingback: Is this Nottingham Labour leaflet racist?()

  • Redshift

    These mayors are a horrific idea, and the leaflet though sensationalist is perfectly correct. 

    Elected mayors do make it easier for nutjobs to get into power, that’s why people like the BNP support them. They do also cost a lot of money, in order to have a system where power is more concentrated.

    • ianrobo

       totally correct I find it astonishing Labour people support a concept that removes local democratic control in favour of one person who has no real need to consult.

      We have seen the failure of the mayor outside of London and the total waste of money. I am so glad mmy town of Walsall under a Tory admin until now has never had such a stupid idea to go dow this route.

      • Mike Homfray

        Agree completely Ian. It is a problem with the personality- driven approach of much contemporary politics and needs strangling at birth

  • Ultra_Fox

    At least voters in Nottingham are given a choice on the matter – unlike their counterparts in Leicester last year.

    Having an elected Mayor DOES help the far-right, as the experiences in Doncaster and Stoke have shown. Nottingham Labour are quite right in drawing the community’s attention to this.

    • Jo Tanner

      As I recall, the BNP didn’t even put up a candidate for the mayoral election in Leicester.

  • UKAzeri


  • The only way direct elections could help the likes of the BNP in Nottingham is if the local Labour Party mess up big time. If they can’t turn 60.4% of the vote share at the local elections last  May (against just 0.4% for the BNP) into an elected mayor in November (if the city votes ‘yes’) when we are even further ahead in the national polls – then more serious questions about the Nottingham Labour Party will need to be answered.

    • Agree with Ben’s point – where the local LP is strong and organised we can win elected mayors.

      Nevertheless where the main parties are disorganised there is a chance of smaller parties getting in on the protest vote (à la Doncaster) – unfortunately the council’s vote share doesn’t always translate into the vote share for the Mayor. That is a real possibility; it is the reason extremists are rubbing their hands at the thought of elected Mayoral contests; and no-one should be condemned for saying so.

      I think the response to this shouldn’t be to call outrage – this flyer isn’t really viler than a lot  of other dodgy arguments used in political campaigning (like a lot of the arguments used in both Yes and No to AV) – but we should argue against it with logical arguments like Ben’s here.

  • Tipsilon

    The leaflet is an embarrassment. If some Labour members in Nottingham are opposed to directly-elected mayors they should explain why they’re opposed, not point out who supports the idea as if that in itself somehow makes the idea a bad one.

    Nottingham Labour Group’s Chief Whip (https://twitter.com/#!/cllrtobyneal) has said on Twitter that it was funded by individual Labour members, and not the Labour Party – so why does it have a Labour imprint if it wasn’t sanctioned by the party?

    If I were a member of Nottingham Labour Party I would be very angry to be associated with this.

  • Widely Red

    Off topic, I know, but it’s come up earlier in the thread, so I’ll say that I’m continually amused by the Yes to AV lot’s self-comforting pretence that they lost because of the mahoosive amounts of money that the No campaign had and the tangential (and spurious) points it made about voting machines, etc.

    No, you lost because the electorate saw through the LibDems’ attempt at a partisan fraud and found preferential voting repulsive. No amount of sobbing is going to change that.

    • Tipsilon

      For the avoidance of doubt, I was not suggesting that people rejected AV because 
       of the misleading statements of the No campaign. I think they rejected it because 
      they thought the referendum was a distraction from our dire economic situation and was a weak politicians’ fix aimed at restoring people’s confidence in politicians when the electoral system wasn’t the problem in the first place. 

      Dishonest campaigning is no less dishonest for not being the determining factor in the outcome of the campaign.

  • Kevin

    This is gutter politics and a disgraceful slur on those of us who seek to uphold Labour’s manifesto commitment to support big city mayors. What is the Leader of the Group saying? Whoever is responsible for this leaflet should resign.

  • Bob Piper

    The leaflets are dishonest and rely on the same fearmongering techniques that the BNP use themselves.

    Having said that, it is a bit rich for Yes campaigners (or those similar holy-rollers in the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign) to cry about dishonest campaigning. All their claims of extra powers or investment as a result of City Mayors, with no evidence that they will attract a single extra power, nor penny piece of investment, and all espoused in that sanctimonious self-righteousness make me want to vomit.

    By all means argue your case on its merits, not false claims.

    • Jo Tanner

      We haven’t made any false claims about the powers available to mayors. It has been made clear that city deals – like the one that Liverpool received – will be available only to those cities which show strong leadership, with particular favour given to those with elected mayors. Cities have also been encouraged to come to the table with a shopping list of powers that they want for their mayor – from housing to transport to education, again like Liverpool – rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

      • Ryszard

        Liverpool didn’t even bother with a referendum, if I recall correctly.

      • Well that is a false claim because I think you’ll find that it would be illegal to discriminate against a city on the basis of whether they have a mayor. Also as a Labour Party member you might talk to the compliance unit about imprints cos that is not the guidance they give on the law. So I think you should correct your assertion in the piece that the imprint is illegal.

      • Mike Homfray

        You mean the bribe offered to Liverpool to enforce an unnecessary form of boss politics?
        As long as this ridiculous idea is stopes in it’s tracks I have better things to worry about and I hope yor campaign fails in Nottingham and elsewhere. Labour’s local government reforms and the cabinet system are one of the many New Labour mistakes we should be apologising for. This initiative makes the problem worse still.

  • Not
    sure about Mayors but I like that fact the leaflets says it like it is that the
    BNP and EDL are racists and that’s a message that does need to go out.
    Sometimes the only time to alert people to the reality of the people they may
    vote for is to be blunt. The BNP and EDL are totally racists but they get away
    with things by dressing it up that there fighting for Britain. They are vile parties
    and need to be challenged wherever they are. I can’t say I alarmed at this
    Labour leaflet, but I would be disgusted if a BNP or EDL Mayor was elected as
    that would be a far bigger concern in my book.

  • GuyM

    Another example of the hypocrisy of the left.

    The question about whether there should be a mayor should be one based upon whether the office itself is a good idea, not whether someone might win it who you don’t like.

    If a legal political party has the temerity to (shock) seek office and you fundamentally disagree with them, then have the decency to beat them in whatever democratic election comes up, not seek to rig the type of democracy a city has simply to make life easier for you and your views.

    I truly am shocked that so many of you will play fast and loose with democratic principles in order to pursue as much gagging of another party (although a pretty horrible one I’d admit) as you can manage.

    It goes to the core of why I hate socialists, I think a lot of you are only a short step from communists in terms of believing undermining democratic principles is ok as you know what is best for the electoral sheep.

    • It is perfectly reasonable to say that a system which requires a party to gain support across the city over an extended period of time is more democratic than one which might only need 30% of the vote at one particular instant. The demonstration of the potential negative effects of the latter system is the potential for extremist parties with small but organised support to gain executive office.

      Everything else about ‘socialists’ and ‘communists’ is bluster.

      • I tend to be in favour of elected mayors, on balance (I feel they engage people and create accountability in local government, whereas many people may not know much about their local councillors as it stands), but your counter-argument does have some merit, Samuel. Doncaster is perhaps an example: the English Dems winning the Doncaster mayorality on a low tally, with no corresponding EDP council wins and finally with chaotic results for the city.

        However, this leaflet does not convey that legitimate line of argument, it simply says “racists *may* want a mayor = bad”. The haggling over whether the BNP would want AV (especially what I felt were false claims from the No side, when BNP party policy was for a No vote) cheapened the tone of that debate somewhat, and this is even worse.

        That said, I’d also be cautious at blaming the whole Nottingham party for this. Sounds like a few troublemakers, to me.

        • Specifically whoever signed off the cheque for the printing run.

    • Peter123254

      Hypocrisy is what the left is all about, ignore the failure of the past, soldier on until you get rich on the trappings of power and keep the prols voting for you by telling them that those you have come to ape are rich toffs.

  • Whether or not the leaflets are factually accurate, they are a the result of an ineffectual, amateurish and morally and intellectually vacuous election strategy.

    These leaflets, the bottom one in particular, essentially say ‘if you want a directly elected Mayor you must be a racist’.  This is student politics at its very worst.

    • Rob Brown

      It doesn’t say that at all. It points out that voting for a directly elected mayor may help racists. I don’t necessarily agree (I know nothing of Nottingham)

      • erm  ‘racists want a mayor’.

        •  Racists want a mayor, I want a mayor, therefore I am racist does not logically follow.

          • Also some racists may not want a mayor.

            The leaflet fails in all logical and moral aspects.

          • of course it doesn’t logically follow – which is why Nottingham Labour’s campaign strategy is so ridiculous. There is a subliminal message being sent to decent ordinary voters ‘don’t side with the racists’ – that is the strategy, and it is morally redundant.

    • I think it’s offensive to characterise this election leaflet as student politics, even if its at its worst, and does a disservice to the thousands of students who get involved in their University community and/or wider society.  

  • Amber Star

    My objection is, it looks like an advert FOR the BNP & EDL! I’d prefer these very nasty parties were denied the ‘oxygen of publicity’.

  • Amber Star

    I think having elected mayors is a stupid idea. I do support Ken trying to win in London but I’d rather he was heading up the London Assembly & campaigning against elected mayors (with a view to making the LA into an organization with the clout & political reach which the GLC had when Ken was its leader). 

  • Ryszard

    Bizarre that Labour in some parts of the country are campaigning for a Mayor (Sheffield) but apparently Nottingham is a no-go area. How does that work ?

    For the record, I think Mayor’s are a complete waste of time and money, but we won’t win the argument by pandering to the racist right.  Some Labour members in Tower Hamlets were campaigning against the Mayor there because they said there was evidence – never produced – that IFE wanted a Mayor so they could introduce Sh’aria in the borough.

  • ovaljason

    The comments to this article have exposed the true readership of LabourList : at least 50% far-left extremists who support Nottingham Labour issuing these leaflets.

    • How do you know those supporting the leaflet are “at least 50% far-left extremists”?

    • markfergusonuk

      I’m not sure you can work oiut the views of thousands of readers based on a few dozen comments…

      • Winston_from_the_Ministry

         I agree, but it certainly explodes the theory of Mike etc that it’s 90% Tory posters here.

        Interesting that this article brought so many into the blt section for the first time.

        • Mike Homfray

          Winston: don’t you recognise an organised Progress campaign when you see one?

  • John P Reid

    It’s nothing new, I recall teh 001 election sending out literature to all asains saying vote Labour or the Racsit (factually incorrect)UKIP would get in, or in 2005 sending out leaflets saying recall Enoch Powell and the Tories labours done more for black people,or that the tories like the status quo and that balck epopel are better off with labour ,I have to say that Ken saying he has the Asain vote or Diane Abbott saying that if we don’t say the BLACK vote ,white people will conquer and divive us, is just as bad though

  • Brooklyner

    This article needs some context with regards to the political situation in Nottingham. I’m not an expert, but as I grew up there, I think I can help a bit. Basically, Nottingham has a quite powerful and long established Labour city council. The fact they are pretty much guaranteed to be reelected each cycle has allowed them to behave in some slightly dubious ways but also to push through major infrastructure projects such as the tram, the National Ice Stadium, the redevelopment of the square etc etc. The latest project – the tram extension and railway station redevelopment – is being part funded by a work place parking levy, a – I think its fair to say – controversial scheme that will likely be wonderful for the city in the long-term, but very unpopular in the short-term. An elected mayor would dilute the city council’s stranglehold on Nottingham politics, and the referendum comes at a time when the council is under fire. That might explain the take-no-prisoners approach to campaigning against it…

  • Pingback: Labour’s Anti-Mayoral Campaign Sinks New Depths « Cllr Iain Lindley's Diary()

  • Boo hoo, someone’s written a leaflet you don’t like. How awful for you.

    What a fanciful idea that you could have a majority Labour council yet all the power residing with a far right mayor? Pure scaremongering. Except in Doncaster where this is exactly what happened.
    What I find more troubling is Labour Party members aiding and abetting David Cameron in getting his elected mayors. Hasn’t anyone noticed that none of the cities that are being forced to have a referendum have a Tory administration? I haven’t seen any effective case for a mayor that goes further than trite slogans. Apparently a mayor will help a city ‘punch above its weight’. What does that even mean?We have  promises of extra money if cities adopt a mayor (or a bribe as I  prefer to call it) with no idea as to how much or indeed where this largesse is coming from.  In return we are telling councillors many of whom have dedicated years of service to their community that they are to have the majority of their decision making power taken from them, making them little more than caseworkers. Another nonsense is that mayors will solve  ‘the problem’ of people not knowing who the leader of their council is.  Not that I have ever heard that this is a pressing concern of any voter on the doorstep. Here in Bristol anyone with half a brain knows who the leader of the council is, particularly if they listen to Radio Bristol or read The Post. It is not a secret, besides there is no correlation between knowing who someone is and their accountability.It wouldn’t surprise me if  the Yes to Mayors  campaign is populated by the same people who pushed AV last year , the sanctimony and self righteousness is all too familiar.

    • Your arguments are pretty strong (certainly, I agree with your points), and yet I strongly disagree with the leaflet shown above being published.

      This issue is not binary, and the ends certainly do not justify the means.

    • Jo Tanner

      Elected mayors are a Labour policy and were also a manifesto commitment in 2010, albeit it not with these referenda.

      • Brumanuensis

        And that answers Gary’s points how exactly? I don’t care if it’s Party policy, that doesn’t in itself mean it’s correct.

        Also, we lost in 2010. The Conservatives didn’t let their spending pledges circa 2007 bind them, so why let this bind us?

      • Mike Homfray

        One more stupid New Labour policy which needs dumping, then.

  • JimmyCrackCorn

    Please, please, please, dear God, let Liam Byrne resign from the shadow cabinet and national politics to stand to become the first elected Mayor of Birmingham.

  • Derekjs

    Atrocious behaviour especially when there are so many logical arguments against the madness of directly elected mayors, police chiefs, et all. Complete and utter stupidity and Labour should be ashamed of supporting and promoting these additional expensive and wastful political appointments.

  • Well done for using Neo Sans anyway

  • Hermione Puckle

    I’m a Labour member in a city voting on this. I’m voting ‘yes’. Am I racist? Am I heck, and I resent the implication that my views on the failings of the current system, and my desire for change, mean I’m apparently going to vote for the BNP at the next election. Targeting the Asian community with this rubbish is beyond ridiculous, and seems to make the assumption that only ethnic minorities act as a buffer against racist, neo-Nazi scum.

  • Labour’s very weird, disturbing and creepy obsession with the “evil BNP” is the reason why so many voted for the Griffinites in 2009.

    When they aren’t banging  on about the BNP, they are telling everyone how they must make greater political appeal to ethnicity in Bradford, or how there are too many Muslims in Oldham.

    What a mess, no self-discipline at all, that’s sanctimony for you.

  • Brumanuensis

    I don’t like the idea of elected mayors. I will be voting against them in Birmingham, next Thursday.

    I do think this leaflet is fairly tawdry, even if the claims are strictly accurate. To be honest, I’m more ashamed of extraordinary rendition or that time we merrily assisted in carpet-bombing Iraq, but whatever upsets you most I suppose.

    The anti-mayor campaign in Nottingham should have just highlighted that the most recent set of opinion polls suggest people aren’t wildly enthusiastic about the idea. That would have been fair comment. This is just silly and a touch cynical.


    Here’s some interesting comment: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-17861919

  • Brumanuensis

    I have often seen Joseph Chamberlain being used an example of the joys of directly-elected mayors. This puzzles me, as Chamberlain was not directly-elected. He was a councillor who was selected to serve as mayor by his councillor colleagues. He did a very good job too. I’m not sure why this is being used an example of why we need to change the current system. Manchester has redeveloped itself nicely without needing a directly-elected mayor. So have Nottingham and Leeds. What we need is a better balance of power between local and central government. Why not just give us the powers of the London Mayor/London Assembly, without the need to fiddle with the structure of local government?

    • toptophat

      ‘Of the 139 local areas, Inner London – West had the highest GDHI per person at £32,823 while Nottingham had the lowest at £10,834.’
      That’s re-developing itself nicely is?

  • Dan Filson

    There are a number of separate issues here: (a) directly-elected Mayors , (b) using the BNP or EDL support of them as an argument against them, and (c) the unwisdom or otherwise of imprint-free leaflets.

    Personally I cannot understand the New Labour obsession with directly-elected mayors. They turn local government into personality politics instead of issue-based and/or values-based campaigning. They assume the public can better discern the strengths or flaws in a candidate for executive office than a group of colleagues in a Labour group that has worked with the prospective leader of a Labour group. They sweep away the concept of collective decision-making in favour the fuhrer concept of the charismatic leader. They risk bringing down party control of a city/town tires of an incumbent who manages to survive re-selection.

  • Anthony T

    More flimsy pro-Mayor propaganda from Labourlist. Yawn.

  • Mary Bloomfield

    Disgusting i think Collins and Chapman are worried they will lose their POWER

  • Richard Mackinnon

    Well said. “I do think this leaflet is fairly tawdry, even if the claims are strictly accurate. To be honest, I’m more ashamed of extraordinary rendition or that time we merrily assisted in carpet-bombing Iraq, but whatever upsets you most I suppose”.Labour activists get morally indignant when it comes to the idea BNP/EDL ganing any kind of influence and at the same time  have total amnesia when it comes to illegal wars and torture.  Hypocrisy pure stinks man.

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