Committee capers in London’s City Hall weaken Labour influence

The AGM of the London Assembly took place on Friday. Conservative Andrew Boff was elected as assembly chairman, with fellow Conservative Keith Price as his deputy. Previously, Labour’s Navin Shah and Tory Tony Arbour held the posts.

If Sadiq Khan was not happy about the Tories taking over the assembly leadership, he will surely be even less happy that the Labour group on the assembly no longer chair any of the influential scrutiny committees. Media reports suggest that Labour AMs went into a strop during arguments over chairing the transport committee and walked out.

Prior to the election, Alison Moore from Labour chaired the Transport Committee with Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon as deputy. Labour and Sadiq Khan, who despite his professed environmental goals, are strong backers of the Silvertown Tunnel. This has met strong opposition from Lib Dem, Greens and the affected communities.

Reports suggest that the Greens wanted to chair the all-important transport committee to back the road but in the decision of AMs was in favour of Caroline as chair and Keith Price as deputy.

Commenting on the events of Friday, Green Leader Caroline Russell AM said:

“City Hall Greens are strong believers in proportional representation and have worked hard to achieve a fair, and proportional, arrangement for our cross-party scrutiny work on behalf of Londoners. We hope Labour will come back to the table and fully participate in Assembly work to serve the interests of Londoners.”

Liberal Democrat Leader Caroline Pidgeon AM said:

“It is with sadness and regret that a four-party agreement has not been reached on the allocation of Chairs of Committees based on Assembly seats. Up to the eleventh hour every effort was made to reach such an agreement. I am only sorry that Labour have chosen not to join us.”

Len Duvall, Labour’s leader on the Assembly was not pleased, even though he triggered the debacle for his party by walking out :

“What we essentially have here is a new coalition. It’s disappointing to see the Lib Dems and Greens backing the Tories this way – they had a choice and they’ve decided to go with those who want to weaken our public services.”

The Conservatives now chair six committees, the Greens three and the Lib Dems two (Oversight and Transport). Labour none.

Sadiq Kahn saw his lead eroded in the last stages of the mayoral election campaign to his Tory rival. That reflected the national Tory surge and Labour’s lacklustre campaigning in London and beyond. The Tories, Greens and Lib Dems have not formed a coalition in the capital. But Kahn’s team now only has a two seat majority over the Conservatives, down from its four seat majority in 2017. His influence would have been greater if Labour chaired the five committees it might have expected to be awarded on proportionaility.

It looks like a hissy fit by Kahn’s Labour colleagues is an own goal and has weakened his position.

Assembly composition: Labour 11 seats; Conservatives 9; Greens 3; and Liberal Democrats 2.

More on this on Mayorwatch, Caroline Russell, the Standard and Inside Croydon.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Friday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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9 Comments

  • It seems The Labour “Left” are still more interested in Pseudo-Revolutionary posturing than actually taking part; that is not a good sign for any future “Non-Agression Pact ” between The “Progressive” Parties.
    We should be getting on with trying to make Deals with The Greens (outwith Scotland) & maybe Plaid.

  • Stephen Harte 16th May '21 - 1:15pm

    As deal with Plaid must be for the Lib Dem Welsh Party alone to decide. To me Plaid seem to be trying to mimic the toxic nationalism of the SNP but, as I said, I’d defer to my Welsh fellow Lib Dems on that issue.

  • nigel hunter 16th May '21 - 1:22pm

    Are the conservatives also taking over by stealth?. After all they also want to bring back First past the post for mayoral elections.

  • The most depressing thing about thing about Labour’s decision to spin this as they’ve done is that it seems pre-meditated. It would have been bad enough if they’d thrown their toys out of the cot then tried to rewrite what happened once they realised they’d messed up. But based on social media of those involved, it looks as if they had this planned in advance of talks breaking down. Then after the event a string of higher profile Labour people tweeting what seems to be an agreed attack line that has little resemblance to the truth.

    It would be great if we could get the Tories on the London Assembly to recognise they have benefited from a proportional allocation of committee chairs and that this is good governance which should be embraced across the whole country. But we’ll wait and see. I know there is a decent campaign to get Labour to adopt PR, but there are still too many regular members and vocal activists who refuse to accept plurality, and who don’t realise that it’s them and their attitudes that are holding Labour back.

  • Denis Mollison 16th May '21 - 10:32pm

    @Stephen – there are `toxic’ members and attitutdes in all the parties, including our own. The SNP need to be treated as potential allies on electoral reform: it s to their credit that they are still in favour of it despite benefitting so spectacularly from FPTP for Westminster elections.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 17th May '21 - 9:24am

    Is there a simple statement from the Lib Dems as to our position on this, that we can all use?

  • I sometimes wonder if Labour has signed a suicide note and not told anyone.

  • Gwyn Williams 17th May '21 - 12:33pm

    Since the 1980s, when Labour fails to gain an overall majority in a Council, they have often chosen to go into opposition rather than enter a coalition with any other Party. They then accuse the other Parties of forming a coalition against them. I had hoped that the example of the Welsh Labour Party which has clung to power in the Senedd for 22 years without ever winning an overall majority would have persuaded them of the need for a more progressive approach.
    Londoners are lucky to have such a capable and experienced representative as Caroline Pidgeon to deftly guide them through the ensuing chaos.
    Isn’t the Mayor’s surname spelt “Khan”.

  • Graham Evans 18th May '21 - 7:20am

    With regard to the Silvertown tunnel, it depends on how you define local communities in claiming they are against them. Anyone who uses the Blackwall tunnel will know that hugh queues of traffic build up here every weekday morning and evening. The continual stopping and starting of engines makes the pollution caused by vehicles even worse. There are 17 bridges which west Londoners can use to cross the Thames yet only three crossings available to East Londoners. If restricting the availability of crossing the river is regarded as so environmentally friendly why don’t we close most of the west London bridges and abandon the idea of reopening the Hammersmith bridge?

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