Council coalitions: Progressive dream or recipe for Daily Mail attacks?

Tom Belger
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Good morning. Parliamentary recess continues, so we thought we’d turn our attention to an under-reported story following the local elections – the “unprecedented” number of Labour groups seeking party sign-off for council coalitions. That’s according to National Executive Commitee member Ann Black, with the subject a hot topic at last week’s meeting of Labour’s governing body.

It’s perhaps no surprise given the rise in councils in no overall control in recent years, and last month’s Tory collapse. LabourList has spotted alliances being discussed or formed in Harborough, West Norfolk, South Gloucestershire, Warwick, Brentwood, Pendle, West Oxfordshire, Monmouthshire, Lancaster and Lewes in recent weeks. But more intriguing are claims made in a Byline Times report yesterday that a string of Labour groups have seen such requests rejected by party chiefs, sparking anger.

Such deals are said to be considered case-by-case. NEC member Luke Akehurst reports the party fears “unnecessarily broad and unstable” coalitions, deals with ex-Labour councillors or “Tories in disguise” independents that “undermine” the party. Some councillors apparently suspect the party’s other concern is such deals exacerbating “coalition of chaos” attacks on Labour at the general election, however. Neal Lawson of campaign group Compass told LabourList signs of a “cooperative spirit” locally were encouraging, but a “more consistent policy” was needed to oust the Tories.

Elsewhere, it’ll be interesting to see how much “cooperative spirit” survives two hustings events this weekend in Birkenhead and Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon, with boundary changes leaving two local MPs battling for one seat in each region. If you’re attending, let us know at [email protected].

Ex-union official Mick Whitley told LabourList he’ll set out how he’ll use his negotiating skills to secure “jobs, homes and decent pay” in Birkenhead, and highlighted endorsements from Unison, Unite, CWU, ASLEF, TSSA and Mick Lynch. Rival Alison McGovern said she’ll highlight how she’ll fight for the “whole constituency”, expanded to include part of her current seat, and campaign against “poverty and inequality”. Endorsements include the GMB, Usdaw, Community and ex-prime minister Gordon Brown.

Meanwhile selections have opened now in Lanark and Hamilton East, Gillingham and Rainham, Harlow, Plymouth Moor View and South Ribble. And congrats to Labour’s Tommy Gale after a north London by-election hold yesterday – though there was reportedly a 13% swing to the Lib Dems.

In other news, it’s been reported a formal complaint’s now been filed with Labour over Geraint Davies following yesterday’s allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour – which he said he does not “recognise”. Labour had already suspended Davies, but was not immediately available to comment further today. Fellow MP Charlotte Nichols also told Times Radio she was given a “long list” of male MPs to avoid on arriving in Westminster.

And lastly, policy news hasn’t dried up despite recess. Labour is pledging to cut monthly student loan repayments, but not tax or borrow more to reform tuition fees. It’s sparked criticism from the National Labour Students Vice-Chair and Momentum for not going further, but clearly party chiefs are trying to dampen claims they can’t afford their spending plans.

Apparently senior Labour figures are pushing Starmer too to make Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan a bit less…green. Two Labour MSPs are reportedly pushing back at the proposed ban on new North Sea oil and gas developments. Another MSP, Mercedes Villalba, is promising an eye-catching private members’ bill today to limit “how much land the super rich can own”.

And also in Scotland yesterday, Brown joined Anas Sarwar, Mark Drakeford, Andy Burnham and Tracy Brabin to launch an “Alliance for Radical Democratic Change”, demanding further devolution. Have a good weekend.

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