Thursday, 12 May 2016

Should others be butting into the Brent Labour leadership contest?

The contest for the leadership of the Labour Group on Brent Council spilled over into the Planning Committee last night as tensions boiled over ahead of Saturday's decision.

Current indications are that the vote will be close.  I have been unable to substantiate suggestions that a third candidate has thrown her/his hat into the ring but discount a commenter's suggestion that Neil Hamilton is just the person to bring integrity back into Brent Council.

Michael Pavey has come in for criticism over his failure to support parents campaigning againsg the forced acadmeisation of Gladstone Primary and Copland High schools while there has been claim and counter-claim over the nature of his politics in reaction to his 'manifesto letter'. (See comments HERE)

Muhammed Butt has been criticised for his actions over pushing for the double Planning Committee this week and blamed for the resulting chaos, as well as ongoing criticism for his over-controlling behaviour in general.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have lobbed in a few bricks of their own with John Warren writing to the CEO and Paul Lorber to Jeremy Corbyn calling for action against Butt over the Facebook issue.

Former councillor Alison Hopkins has revealed that Cllr Butt made several attempts to join the the Liberal Democrats but Paul Lorber has not responded to a request to confirm the allegation.

These interventions could well cause some councillors to close ranks around Butt who has yet to issue his own manifesto for his continued leadership - or if he has, perhaps someone could pass it on.

Some have wanted this contest to be kept strictly an internal Labour Group affair and dislike public discussion such as has happened on this blog. This does raise an interesting question about the extent to which the public should have a view, or even a say, in who leads their Council. Afer all they will be at the receiving end of any change in policy as a result of the contest.


  1. Bobby Thomas apparently poised to throw his hat in.

  2. As a long standing resident bystander who despairs at what I see going on I feel that what is required as leader of the council is a person of honesty, integrity, intelligence and someone who is prepared to stand up for what existing residents want and ignore their own egos or interests.

  3. I would agree that outsiders should not have a "say" in who Brent's Labour Group choose as their Leader, but as the leadership of Brent Council does affect us as residents and Council taxpayers, I believe that there is nothing wrong with us openly discussing our views in public.

    In a comment on an earlier blog about the Leadership vote, I suggested that any resident who had a view about who should be Leader was entitled to let their local Labour councillors know what they thought. As with any such communication, it should be polite and respect the right of our elected representatives to make their own decision, just as we have the right to let them know our views on matters which affect us.

    This is the text of an email I sent earlier this week to my local councillors:-

    'Dear Fryent Ward Councillors,

    I am aware that Brent's Labour Group will be considering who should be its Leader, and thereby Leader of Brent Council, on Saturday. I am not a member or supporter of the Labour Party (or of any other party), but as a local resident I am writing to share my views with you. I respect your right to disregard them if you feel that those views have no merit.

    You will be aware from past communications that I have raised a number of issues with Brent Council over the past couple of years, many arising from the Rosemarie Clarke Employment Tribunal case. If you have had the time to read some of the things I have written, you will know that in 2015 I made a formal complaint, alleging multiple breaches of the Members' Code of Conduct by Cllr. Muhammed Butt, particularly over his covering up of the misconduct of Cara Davani, Brent's former HR Director.

    Brent's Monitoring Officer chose (unreasonably) not to refer my complaint to Standards Committee, so that your colleagues on that committee were unable to consider whether the allegations should be investigated. I have no doubt that, if they had been properly investigated, some or all of them would have been upheld. Although the current Leader's allies in high places at the Civic Centre, and Brent's PR machine, have prevented the wider public from seeing what has been going on, I am sure that you as councillors are not blind to it!

    Standards have been allowed to slip at Brent Council over the past four years, and I hope that you will agree with me that there needs to be a change. You are not answerable to me on this, and need not reply to this email, but please take the views I have expressed into consideration when you vote in the secret ballot on Saturday. Thank you.'


  4. Yes there are arguments that the public should choose, that method is known as 'Directly Elected Mayors'. They have that in Tower Hamlets and Newham - so good luck with that option.

    The AGM takes place every year and in boroughs all across the country. It is a matter for the party who the Leader is. Yes it effects us, but that is not the system we have in Brent.

    This is the first time I have seen a candidate who is contesting the Leader go to the paper and post articles about an internal party election.

    It shows Pavey is not ready for Leadership, that he is out to boost his own profile and quite frankly lacks class.

    I too have heard about Bobby Thomas from my wife who knows his family. The good thing about Bobby Thomas is, he has kept it a private matter.

    If I were voting it would be 1. Cllr Butt and 2. Cllr Thomas. I would not vote for Pavey at all.

    1. Alison Hopkins12 May 2016 at 23:56

      Ah. I think that nicely identifies 18:00 then.

  5. I'm no supporter of Butt. But he probably 'shared' the Facebook thing without looking closely at it, in the way that social media seems to encourage the automatic passing on of often thoughtless and vapid trivia. That was careless. The Facebook thing itself was probably hyperbolic and, itself, carelessly expressed but it expresses an opinion about the domestic policies of a foreign country and that's no crime. There is nothing, from what I can see, that is anti-Semitic about it. That isn't to say that the person who circulated it is not anti-Semitic, I wouldn't know as I don't know him/her. As far as I know, criticising, or drawing attention to, the behaviour of the Israeli state towards its citizens and the citizens of the areas it occupies or has expanded into, has always been and continues to be perfectly legal and legitimate and even, if intended to improve the situation there, desirable.
    What reason, then, was there for Butt to resign from Equalities? Brent now has a sizeable East European population. Some East European governments have some rather nasty right-wing nationalist elements. Would Butt have been expected to resign if he'd criticised them?
    Comparisons of Israel government policy with IS are stupid. But comparisons of Israeli government policy with other oppressive regimes is perfectly legitimate.
    Don't let the media-constructed 'Labour anti-Semitism problem' shut down debate about the behaviour of the nasty right-wing nationalist government of Israel and its policies.

    1. This seems a sensible position to me. I tweeted soon after the media storm that I thought there were far better reasons to oppose Cllr Butt than reaction to the facebook posting stirred up as part of the orchestrated Tory/media anti-Corbyn offensive timed to coincide with the elelctions last week. There have been very useful statements on this from various organisations such as the PSC. Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Jewish Socialist group and individuals such as David Rosenberg.

  6. Its not just that many Councillors don't think residents should have a view - most of them think that even (non-Councillor) members of their own Party should not be expressing a view.

  7. Butt should certainly not be forced out because of the Facebook comment, not least because I'm not convinced it was anti-Semitic. To use this against him around the issue of who should lead brent Council would be pure opportunism - any stick to beat him with. He should go, but because of his appalling leadership of Brent Council, not because of some other invented crime.

  8. Possible solution? [I've got a moggie I could nominate]