Labour in Glasgow in state of civil war

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by a Newsnet reporter

A group of Glasgow Labour councillors are threatening to form a breakaway ‘Glasgow Labour’ party following what they see as an unfair selection process where around 20 councillors have been informed they are earmarked for deselection.

In a bitter civil war over next May’s local elections, the group would choose to vote on an issue-by-issue basis with opposition parties on the council in the run-up to the 2012 election and could stand against official Labour candidates thus splitting the vote and aiding the SNP.

This Thursday sees the first meeting due to ratifty the first group of Labour candidates for the coming May council elections in 2012.

A rebel councillor said: “There’s talk of a ‘Glasgow Labour’ bloc.  Around six or seven councillors could go independent and vote with the opposition, I don’t think the Labour party have worked out what they’ve actually done.”

The SNP said Labour in Glasgow had “hit the self-destruct button”.

Glasgow Labour has been in a downwards spiral since council leader Steven Purcell resigned last year following his admitting having a serious drink problem and taking cocaine while managing Glasgow city’s £2.5 billion budget.

Alex Salmond believes the SNP can wrest control of local government from Labour in the coming 2012 May elections and has made this the SNP’s coming electoral goal.

Around a dozen councillors have lodged appeals over claims their fates were decided before they were even interviewed.  Many believe the whole process appears to have been driven by former Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy (MP for East Renfrewshire).  Murphy said the party should be ‘more autonomous, and less under London’s thumb’.  This said, the central role played by London Labour official Ken Clark has led to accusations of London Labour ruling the roost in Glasgow and bitter resentment is bubbling to the fore.

Moreover, the ‘Glasgow Labour’ bloc accuse ex-MSP Frank McAveety, former Glasgow Central MP Mohammad Sarwar and Willie Haughey (Labour donor) of promoting their own preferred candidates.  It’s alleged McAveety’s game plan is to gain the leadership of the party in Glasgow following the loss of his MSP seat.  Mr McAveety was council leader from 1997 to 1999 and he has applied to be a council candidate.

The deselected councillors point to the double standards being put into the selection process with former Culture Minister Frank McAveety who himself has a somewhat chequered history.  He is currently being interviewed by police as they launch an investigation into questionable bonus and overtime payments he claimed through his parliamentary allowances.  And last year, Mr McAveety was forced to stand down as convener of Holyrood’s petitions committee in 2011 after being recorded on microphone describing a young female member of the audience as “dark and dusky”.

One disaffected Labour councillor commented: “A lot of plotting has gone into this, and a lot of hypocrisy too.  People see this as a McAveety plot, but a Labour defeat is a dead cert.”

An SNP spokesman said: “Labour is imploding as years of resentment come to a head. ”

Glasgow Cathcart SNP MSP James Dornan said:

“Just eight months before the next local council elections it is difficult to imagine how much lower Labour’s reputation can sink in Glasgow.

“With deselections, breakaway factions, allegations of financial irregularities and police investigations, the party has hit self-destruct as years of bitter rivalry and resentment come to a head, and they must not be allowed to drag our great city down with them.

“Increasingly, the people of Glasgow are fed up of one Labour Party,  never mind two warring factions.

“Ever since Steven Purcell’s resignation, Labour have been consumed by bitter infighting across the city. Glasgow deserves so much better, and Labour must stop taking the city for granted.

“It is not being ditched by their own party that Labour councillors should be worried about – it’s being kicked out by voters at next year’s elections.

“While Labour fight amongst themselves, the SNP will fight for the priorities of people in Glasgow, delivering the jobs and investment that the city deserves.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman declined to comment.