By a Newsnet reporter
Glasgow Council’s ruling Labour group is in meltdown tonight after resignations and defections left the City’s budget on a knife edge with ruling Labour group leader Gordon Matheson fighting for his political career.
The resignation of three more councillors within the past 24 hours threatened to bring the ruling Labour group down, and it was only an eleventh hour plea from Mr Matheson that saw the party’s £2 billion budget plans scrape through by 40 votes to 38.
According to media reports a relieved Mr Matheson issued a defiant “bring it on” message, in reference to May’s local authority elections. However opposition groups have now called upon the beleaguered leader, who replaced disgraced former council leader Stephen Purcell, to step down.
The dramatic day began with another Labour councillor announcing his resignation from the party. Labour’s Tommy Morrison became the third party member to resign in 24 hours.
Announcing his resignation from the party Mr Morrison told STV news that Glasgow Labour was in its “death throes”. Mr Morrison said that he would be attending the crucial budget meeting, and added:
“I’m going to be going into the meeting as a member of the Labour Party but I won’t be coming out as one. And eight other people will be the same. From 2pm I will not be a member of the Labour Party.”
Mr Morrison joined councillor Anne Marie Millar, who resigned yesterday, claiming that she felt excluded from the inner group who have taken control of the party.
Ms Millar has been a councillor for Southside Central for many years and was regarded as a Labour stalwart. She complained of being “treated as a second-class councillor” by the party leadership in the council and claimed she had support from constituents to stand as an independent after being deselected.
Ms Millar’s resignation was followed soon after by councillor Stephen Dornan. Mr Dornan has represented Govan for the past 17 years, but today sent a letter to his party colleagues saying he felt unable to remain a part of the city’s Labour group or the Labour party and would also be resigning.
In his resignation letter Mr Dornan complained of “the influence of party officials from London” in candidate selection and wrote: “I know that many of you share my concerns that the national Labour Party has distanced itself from its socialist principles at a time when these are needed more than ever.”
Another councillor, Andy Muir representing Baillieston, announced his resignation last weekend. Yesterday details emerged of Mr Muir’s resignation letter to council leader Gordon Matheson, in which Mr Muir complained of the “control freakery and bullying culture” in Glasgow Labour and says that he too plans to stand as an independent.
A fifth councillor, Irfan Rabbani of Pollokshields, resigned from the party recently and announced his defection to the SNP. Mr Rabbani does not intend to stand for re-election in May.
Uncomfirmed reports suggest that the son of a Labour rebel has been threatened with the sack by the ruling Labour group, the mother of the individual claimed she felt she was being “threatened” in order to ensure she voted for Mr Matheson’s budget.
The SNP’s James Dornan MSP (no relation to councillor Stephen Dornan) said that the on-going disintegration of Glasgow Council Labour group on the day of the council budget marks the beginning of the end of their control of Scotland’s biggest city.
Speaking after the narrow vote Mr Dornan, himself also a Glasgow councillor, called on Mr Matheson to resign.
Mr Dornan, MSP for Cathcart, said:
“Gordon Matheson has lost control of the Labour group and the last remaining shreds of his credibility as a leader. There is no confidence in his leadership and he must now resign.
“The opposition parties in the City Chambers, led by the SNP, worked together constructively for the good of Glasgow and were supported by former Labour councillors who could no longer stomach the bullying behaviour of their leader and their group. Labour only managed to scrape their budget through after some very unpleasant bullying tactics against members of their own group.
“This is actually a historic day for Glasgow – this is the beginning of the end of Labour’s years of mismanagement of our city. Labour have taken Glasgow for granted for too long.
“In May, the people of Glasgow will have a chance to sweep Labour away and elect an open and transparent SNP administration which will put the city and its people first.
“Until then, Glaswegians deserve better than a leader who has lost the confidence of the entire City Chambers, including his own group. For the good of the city, Gordon Matheson should resign now.”