I sat in the council chamber on Thursday and observed a united and committed Labour Group Councillors going about their business.
There were inspired contributions by Debra Gratton, Joy Garner, Paul Shotton, Tom Reynolds, Mark Davis, Adrian Knapper and leader Mohammed Pervez.
I am heartened to hear that Labour will also table an alternative budget to the official council version early next year.
The Labour Group seem as if they are getting it together and many will think ‘about time too’.
The hard work and endeavours of the Labour Group is being drastically undermined by the regional office agenda.
These ‘outsiders’ are actively imposing candidates upon the local electorate. Their interference in the constituency of Stoke Central may have widespread ramifications.
I have commented on this blog before that if the officers of the Labour Party in the West Midlands have identified a better calibre of candidate than is available in the wards of Stoke Central then that is fine. If the candidates that have been selected have more of a chance of engaging the electorate then so be it.
But what has actually happened here is that there has been a massive display of arrogance by officers of the Regional Office.
They appear to have marched into Stoke Central with a pre-determined agenda. In an act of true cowardice they have tossed a political grenade into the selection melting pot. They have then retreated and hid behind a barrier of silence. The problem is they are still hiding and are still yet to speak out about their decision and their choices that will come before us, the electorate.
Barry Stockley, Mick Williams and Gary Elsby have had their reasons for not making the candidate’s list communicated to them. But regional office stand accused of double standards and using all woman shortlists to rid the party of the candidates that are seen as trouble makers.
No grass roots member of the Labour Party believe that this is about anything else other than the stand off between Mick Williams and the officers of the regional office over the Co-Op delegate to the City party.
Most members believe that there is no question that Mick Williams should be allowed to take his place in the City Party. Regional office just won’t budge on the issue.
Stockley, Elsby and Crowe are victims of friendly fire according to sources. Terry Crowe of course won his appeal, Barry Stockley is angry and is weighing up his options.
There is a groundswell of support and a possible legal challenge over the decision to exclude Gary Elsby, a man described by the NEC officers overseeing the selection progress as having no political judgement and has no understanding of the aims and values of the party. This, despite the fact that he has been accepted on the MPs’ list. He admitted to swearing on a local blog in a private capacity and although he apologised it has been used against him. Yet a senior local party figure swore at another member at a Labour Party meeting and apologised through the party’s NEC which was accepted. Double standards? – You decide.
Barry Stockley & Mick Williams have had a long history in the politics of this city and to not be selected is not the end of the world. But Gary Elsby is just 49 years old and some one has decided his political carrer is over before it has really started.
As we come to the end of the year and look forward to the elections in 2010, the Labour party is still in turmoil in the Centre of the City. Unless the regional office or someone with the required amount of backbone comes out and makes a statement of the controversial decisions taken and sets out the party’s direction of travel, the only winner is likely to be the BNP.
If the paid regional officials are questioning my interest in this matter, perhaps if they lived in the City they might just realise that in this city the elections both local and general is seen as a two horse race, Labour v The BNP.
If the Labour party spend the early part of 2010 fighting legal actions and the possibility of another party emerging from their ranks, major ground will be lost to their opponents.
If that were to happen the Labour Party could well be finished in this city. Yes I think that it is that serious.
While the Labour Group of councillors are showing unity the grass roots members are showing disdain at the selection process. Many ward selection meeting are being boycotted.
I urge the regional officers and those members of the NEC to come out and communicate with the electorate and if you believe that you have made the right choices then justify them the very people who’s votes you are trying to win.