Conservative walk-outs stop debate

Storming out of a town hall or Assembly chamber in protest is not something I would generally recommend – although in extreme cases there is a case for doing so as I found out earlier this year.

However walking out and knowing that you will stop all business is a very different matter, yet this is what is now taking place at City Hall on a very regular basis. In the last year there have been several occasions when the whole Conservative Group has just got up and left halfway through meetings of the London Assembly, when they don’t agree with a motion or two!  Whatever happened to good old fashioned political debate?

Why does this matter you might think?

Due to our constitution that we operate under at City Hall the Conservative Assembly Members know that by leaving the chamber they can normally make meetings of the London Assembly inquorate and therefore bring debate to a halt.

In the past the London Assembly was prevented from debating whether it should support the 10:10 campaign. Earlier this week their actions meant that debates on asylum seekers and ticket office closures at London Underground stations did not take place. An elected body representing the whole of London was prevented once again from carrying out one of its most basic functions – that of raising issues relevant to Londoners.

Incredibly the Conservatives were even planning to propose an emergency motion about the threat to people living in housing by the Crown Estate but their puerile actions meant that this controversial issue couldn’t be debated as well.

Yet, does this really matter outside of City Hall, or certainly London?

Yes it does. The walk out this week was not just a bad day for democracy in London, but for anyone who actually believes power should be devolved downwards. The Conservative Assembly Members are doing exactly what some Labour councils did in the 1980s by bringing local government into disrepute.

It is time the 11 Conservative London Assembly Members stopped giving local democracy a bad name.

Caroline Pidgeon is leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group in City Hall

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This entry was posted in Local government and London.
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9 Comments

  • I totally agree that they are bringing City Hall into disrepute.

    I hope someone is keeping a record of how many sessions they disrupt. This will be useful information for the next election, when each of the assembly members will have to justify their jobs. Less Tory assembly members will mean they are no longer able to disrupt so effectively!

  • Andrew Boff 10th Sep '10 - 1:06pm

    What gives democracy a bad name is when three parties conspire to prevent the largest from its fair share of committee chairs, chairs who are tasked with speaking on behalf of the whole Assembly.
    If the other parties want to stop the walk-outs it’s entirely in their power and Caroline knows it.

  • I remember this was a norm in student politics. Some people don’t grow up do they?

    Can the conservatives alone make the meeting inquorate or is it due to others not turning up?

  • Cllr Boff of Hillingdon hung council fame
    that would be
    and clause 28 debate

  • Andrew Boff’s comments need to be challenged.

    Firstly, instead of engaging with the actual issue of Caroline Pidgeon’s article he simply raises a totally separate issue. As a Conservative London Assembly Member he is obviously unable to defend his actions (and that of his colleagues). His argument is a classic tactic of someone who knows they are in the wrong.

    Secondly, in relation to the issue he raises even on this point he is wrong. The committee chairs are in fact allocated across the parties – for example the Public Services Committee is chaired by James Cleverly. And while it is true the committee chairs are concentrated amongst the non Conservative Assembly members this is a long standing practice of scrutiny being largely directed by Assembly Members who are of a different political party to the Mayor. The Conservatives were more than happy with this arrangement when Ken Livingstone was Mayor.

    So stop confusing the issue and peddling inaccurate claims. Face up to the fact that to stop proceedings of the London Assembly is fundamentally undemocratic – end of story.

  • Andrew Boff 10th Sep '10 - 5:19pm

    The only reason James Cleverly became chair of Public Services Committee is that if the other parties hadn’t made that one exception to their pact then one nazi member would have ended up deciding who was chair.
    It is also the one committee that does not hold the Mayor to account.
    Of course, our other choice is to have minority reports for all scrutiny subjects which would then conform to the them and us attitude of the ‘progressive parties’. Perhaps we should do that instead.

  • So to confirm, Andrew Boff believes that if your opponents have more votes than you and want to get something passed – as a result of winning more seats than your side at the preceding election – then it’s perfectly acceptable to frustrate and block that democratic majority from getting things done simply because you’re not getting it all your own way?

    It’d be interesting to see if he shares that view if Labour peers carry through with their threat to certain pieces of filibuster Government legislation in the Lords!

    This kind of student politics – the politics of filibuster and procedural delay for little more than partisan advantage – is as childish as it is purile. But – when the Tories remain committed to an electoral system that lets most MPs win seats whilst being opposed by a majority of their constituents – should we really be suprised?

  • Andrew Suffield 10th Sep '10 - 7:26pm

    If the others have more votes in total, can they vote to reduce the quorum?

  • Is this a stupid question or do any of these assembly members ever give any thought to why they’re actually there? Or do they merely consider the Assembly as their private, rather lucrative little club?

    If they spent as much time working on making life better for Londoners as they do on biting lumps out of each other, we might just have a fighting chance.

    Shame on them.

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