Posted by alangdundee on 30th March 2009
Following the Maryfield by election the make-up of Dundee City Council changed. Made up of 29 councillors, the SNP now had 14, one short of a majority and with an even stronger democratic mandate to take power. One independent councillor, Depute Lord Provost Ian Borthwick had previously stated that it was undemocratic for Labour (now 9) the Lib Dems (2) and Tories (3) to exclude the SNP from the convenership roles and being in charge.
The rumour mill was in full force and all eyes were on Borthwick to see if he would walk the walk having talked the talk. Distracted Dundonians didn’t expect the resignation of Lord Provost John Letford from the Labour councillors group and the party. This reduced the Labour group of councillors to 8 causing their spokesmen to go into a mud slinging rage.
According to Jim McGovern, Letford has overnight lost all his principles. Ironically he mocks him for previously stating what was at his core –
Labour and the Trade Union Movement. He falsely concludes that because he left Labour this can no longer be true. It may be no longer true, but it is also possible that if he still has this at his core that’s the very reason he can no longer stay in the Labour Party. Twenty Four hours later his vitriolic attack had changed into the
Labour losing an argument position of
Draw the line under it and move on
Kevin Keenan, leader of the Labour group of councillors flip flopped all week long. From publicly requesting Letfords return to the Labour group (now unprincipled or not) to in desperation trying to hold an olive branch to the SNP by pledging to support one of their councillors to be made Lord Provost. Whether both these plans could be carried out at the same time was irrelevant, they were pure spin from the Labour group.
Other local Labour members from former councillors Jill Shimi, Chic Farquhar and former rent a quote MP Ernie Ross were wheeled out to sling mud too.
What’s interesting about those slinging the mud is only one of them is a Labour councillor. The other seven councillors have been strangely silent on the proposed change in administration.
The last twist in the saga before the council meeting to redraw up power was some claims about an OBE. Letford insists Kevin Keenan had urged him to stand down and he would arrange for him to have an OBE. A series of denials from those involved make it unclear what actually happened, but this would have been a large carrot to someone Keenan described as
the biggest unionist I know. That Letford sees his best chance to be the Queens representative in the city has more chance by supporting the SNP than it does Labour says something about both of those parties. For Labour it is the final signpost in their demise in the city. For the SNP it shows how their politics lie on both independence and republicanism if they are making deals with the biggest unionist known to the leader of the Labour Party in order to keep the chains of office.
Ernie Ross had also made the bizarre claim that Labour are a
democratic socialist party. Wrong on both counts Mr Ross! Why are the Labour Party fighting over the chains of office rather than trying to break them when in power if either of these propositions were true?
The two independents, Borthwick and Letford were expected to vote with the SNP, keeping their Depute/Lord Provost roles.
At the council meeting Ian Borthwick proposed to delay the meeting to try and have a majority administration of everyone. Apparently the recession means this is necessary. The issue that flagged up this change was not the economy going in to recession but the Lord Provost resigning from his former party. Seconded by the Tories it was lost to the votes of the SNP and John Letford.
The SNP had put forward this idea in 2003 and 2007, as had John Letford in private. Now it looked like the SNP would be in power, the undemocratic coalition who had kept them out of power and looked like losing it suddenly warmed to the idea.
The SNP then proposed John Letford and Ian Borthwick for Lord Provost and Depute as expected. Labour countered with a proposal for one of their councillors to be Lord Provost. Their third preference for the position in a week.
The SNP proposal won through with the support on John Letford with The Tories and Ian Borthwick abstaining.
Immediately all the Labour councillors raised their dissent at the decision. They subsequently opposed the decision to label committees as
X Opposition instead of Labour, Lib Democrat etc. It should be pointed out that 20 minutes previously they had demanded the council choose from across the board for the best people for positions but were having trouble with doing that amongst the opposition – showing how unworkable their proposal was in the first place.
What does this mean for the people of Dundee. Well we have finally removed Labour from office, although at what cost? Look next door to Angus to see the actions of the SNP in power. They were one of the longest to hold out to the Nursery Nurses and gave one of the worst offers.
More recently they are attempting to claw back half a days wages from teachers. These teachers left school on an in service day due to the heavy snow. Buses were stopping and schools were closing across Dundee and the surrounding area. People were being advised left and right to get home safely whilst they could. The Council were holding a meeting in Forfar and decided to abandon it and go home as it was too dangerous for them to stay in the town. The teachers in Forfar apparently were in no danger of being stranded and should not have. (see comment below)
Or in other words, as happened in transition nationally between Tories and Labour in 1997, expect no noticeable positive difference.