December meeting of Copeland Borough Council

I must be a glutton for punishment: having spent a large chunk of today attending an online meeting of one council body of which I am myself a member - the Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee -  I then watched and listened to an online meeting of an authority of which I was in the past a member but currently am not, Copeland Borough Council.

The agenda for this afternoon's Copeland Council meeting, the documents for the meeting, and a link to watch and listen to the meeting can be found on the CBC website here.

I had submitted a question under the public participation system.

I asked Councillor McVeigh (the Leader of the Labour group) the following question:


“In October the Rt. Hon. Sir Keir Starmer QC, MP, said of the Equalities and Human Rights report into Anti-Semitism in the Labour party,


“If – after all the pain, all the grief, and all the evidence in this report – there are still those who think there’s no problem with antisemitism in the Labour party, that it’s all exaggerated, or a factional attack, then, frankly, you are part of the problem too, and you should be nowhere near the Labour party either.”


In the light of recent events in Copeland, is Councillor McVeigh in a position to confirm that this statement by the Leader of the Labour party, and the action taken by the present party leadership to address Anti-Semitism, enjoys the full and unequivocal support of the Labour Group on Copeland Borough Council?”

Councillor McVeigh's reply was 

"Of course I support the leader of the Labour party and agree with his comments."

For the avoidance of doubt I welcome this response.

However, I would like to see it more evidently reflected in the way the Labour group on the council behave.

There were some interesting questions and replies put forward on the reports which the council was considering. Where the council was discussing issues on a non-partisan basis - which for some of the time it was - they worked well.

However, there was a pretty distressing display of sectarianism from the Labour majority on the council in the form of two motions from the leader of the Labour group. 

The first of these motions, on agenda item 9, overturned the principle which the council has operated for nearly twenty years, that the post of Chairman of the Council (this is the non-political job which used to be called Mayor before we had a directly-elected Mayor who is the political leader of the council) should be shared between the political groups. Instead Labour pushed through, voted, on what was clearly a party whip vote, the abolition of the rules in the council constitution to share the position of chairman.

The second motion was to replace the Conservative chairman of the Licencing committee with a Labour chairman half-way through the council year. There was no slightest pretence that this was done for anything other than party-political reasons and not a single criticism of the way the councillor who had been chairman of the committee until today was put forward. The only reason given for the motion came from a Labour councillor who said, paraphrasing only slightly,  that she was elected by Labour voters and was there to support Labour candidates. 

In my humble opinion local government works more effectively when those elected to represent different political parties make an effort to work together with political balance and the brutal honesty with which the Labour group were quite open that they were sacking a perfectly competent political opponent and putting in one of their own for party-political reasons was about the only thing which can be said in defence of their actions. 


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