Friday 30 May 2008

Falling out

Something of a spat in Labour ranks in Pembrokeshire as a result of three of their candidates ‘jumping ship’ just before the county council elections, and fighting as ‘Independents’ instead. The three Labour candidates made their decision very late in the day, too late for Labour to select alternative candidates; and their decision was part of the reason for the fall in the number of Labour members of the county council.

After their election, the three promptly signed up as members of the ‘Independent Political Group’ (IPG), and the alleged ringleader, Cllr Ken Rowlands was rewarded for his disloyalty to his own party with a cabinet seat, along with the appropriate Special Responsibility Allowance. Suspicions that this offer was in fact made in advance of the election have been strenuously denied by Cllr Rowlands, who says the offer came out of the blue. 'Blue' in more senses than one, perhaps, given the political leanings of the leader of the IPG?

The fact that he has card-carrying members of the Labour Party in his IPG was something that the group leader used to claim that the IPG is not just a Tory front - although this is likely to be a short-lived state of affairs, as the three inevitably face expulsion from their former party.

According to the report in the Western Telegraph, Cllr Rowlands felt that the note sent to him by Labour's county leader, Sue Perkins, was “vitriolic”, and has led to Cllr Rowlands seeking legal advice about a possible action against her. (The note has inevitably ended up in the public domain). Cllr Rowlands claims that his local Labour branch understood what he was doing, and supported him. This one may run a while yet.

I cannot, in all honesty, say that I feel a huge amount of dismay at the disarray of the Labour Party in Pembrokeshire. As a candidate for another party, I doubt that anyone would expect me to. But I do have some sympathy with the statement by Cllr Perkins that the action of the three people concerned deprived voters of the choice of voting for a Labour candidate. (I could add, of course, given the overall election results, that it equally deprived voters of the chance to vote against Labour!).

PS: These are not the only Labour Party members on Pembrokeshire County Council facing possible action against them by their party. Danny Fellows, the staunch trades unionist who was for many years the agent to local MPs and candidates has also jumped ship and joined the IPG. After apparently failing to persuade the Labour candidate in his ward to stand down in his favour, he stood as an ‘Independent’ anyway and won. Another seat lost to Labour through the actions of their own members.

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