Friday 23 May 2014

Christine Gilbert bans Labour activist from election count

Brent Labour Party activist and member of the anti-cuts umbrella group Brent Fightback, Michael Calderbank, has been banned from tonight's election count at Brent Civic Centre. Calderbank is a co-editor of Red Pepper magazine.

This is the letter sent to Calderbank by Fiona Ledden:

Dear Mr Calderbank

Christine Gilbert, Brent Council’s Returning Officer, has asked me to respond to you on her behalf following your request to attend tonight’s local election count.

As you will understand, it is important for us to ensure the integrity and security of the count and to make sure that there is no potential for disruption.

The Returning Officer needs to take into account any factors which could compromise the Count when agreeing attendance, including the previous behaviour of potential guests at Civic events.

Following the late request from yourself to attend tonight’s Count, and the behaviour you displayed within the Council chamber previously, disrupting a meeting of Brent’s Full Council, the Returning Officer has determined you are not permitted to enter Brent’s Civic Centre this evening.

Yours sincerely

Fiona Ledden 
Director of Legal and Procurement


Anonymous said...


Sounds like Labour are worried a split is coming between Butt camp and traditional Labour camp

Surprise Surprise Gilbert sides with Butt camp.

Anonymous said...

Comedy act of Gilbert and Ledden get to decide.

How charming.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Ms Gilbert hasn't written to Michael Calderbank herself. Was this ban really her idea, I wonder?

Nan Tewari said...

You might (with very good reason) heckle councillors and officers at council meetings.

I don't know who Michael Calderbank is but unfortunately I do have the measure of Ledden and Returning Officer Gilbert and I know who I would rather take my chances with.

Anyway, who would you heckle at a count?

Anonymous said...

Gilbert and Ledden obviously thought they needed to make a few more enemies.

LongformDaniel said...

This person who is supposedly likely to disrupt the count is a parliamentary passholder. Any passholder has a considerable ability to cause disruption to one or both houses. If he was thought by wiser and better informed heads to be likely to cause disruption, his pass would have been revoked.

Meg Howarth said...

Different context but similar anti-democratic stance reared its head in Islington last week-end as the 'town hall' banned the local press from FA Cup party

As it seems Brent and Islington - and 7 other boroughs - might share legal expertise in the near future, it's particularly important to keep track of such autocratic practices in both our boroughs.

Meg Howarth said...

PS Did Christine Gilbert have the legal right to ban Michael Calderbank from Brent's election count, or was asking Fiona Ledden to write to him rather than doing her so herself an attempt to cloak an illegitimate request in a mask of legality? Was the entire shenanigans an attempt to prevent the cameras being turned on the event? Any disruption, however minor or justified, could have reminded politically well-versed commentators of the MPs' expenses scandals, an issue which could have proved an embarrassment for the returning-officer.

I wonder what Muhammed Butt has to say about the affair? Whatever the reasons for the ban, such heavy-handedness doesn't augur well for democracy, grassroots' or representative.

Dan Filson said...

A more logical explanation was tha borough's Acting chief executive had better ways of spending her itme than penning the requisite letter in detail and asked Fiona to say no, citing behaviour at a recent council meeting. Whether it was good use of Fiona's time either is moot, but I imagine it was to ensure the action was not in contravention of law. Frankly the count was immensely tedious, and prolonged, and made bearable only by the election of 56 Labour councillors and the defeat of all but one of the Liberal Democrats.

Martin Francis said...

Cllr Dan, you were clearly asleep when the Make Willesden Green troupe performed the cancan in celebration of their fantastic vote. Brent Labour immediately set up a trou-de-loup.

Still waiting to hear if Muhammed Butt instigated or approved the banning order.

Anonymous said...

Hope you are not now quickly turning against thé electorate and siding with thé devil ?

Anonymous said...

You better listen up to Barry Gardiner !

Or else your card will be marked!

A day into the job and Dan comes out with this ?

Really, thought you were not like them!

Unknown said...

I asked Cllr Butt at the count why he had banned Michael Calderbank and his response was "it's nothing to do with me". All those hoping he might start to make a stand against officers shouldn't hold their breath.

Anonymous said...

I understand Butt haa said he completely backs 'his officers' decision.
As for some of the new labour councillors who have been voted in we'll never hear a peep from them for the next three years, 11 months and two weeks

Anonymous said...

Sadly the electorate may wake up and see those from the top are creaming the money, once the asset selling starts, now there is no opposition to planning applications etc.

Might just see Labour taking the same hit, Lib Dems have just taken, but the year will be 2018.

We might just see people coming out to vote in 2018, as these low turnouts can easily tip the balance.

Meg Howarth said...

Is newly elected member Dan Filson - comment above, 24 May 18.03 - aware of recent blogs querying the probity of senior officers -

Anonymous said...

Of course he's aware. He just chosen very carefully what to comment on so as to preserve his new position.