Manchester Labour don’t like Leech up them

Manchester’s Labour councillors are not used to opposition. They have had none (that’s no opposition councillors at all) for two years. All that changed on 5 May when former Liberal Democrat MP John Leech was elected for the Didsbury West ward.

At the first full Council meeting last week, John dared to ask a whole 8 questions of the Labour administration, and its leader was deeply unimpressed.

From the Manchester Gazette:

However, council leader Richard Leese, was quick to quieten down the opposition interrupting Councillor Leech’s supplementary question.

Leese sniped: “There is a right to ask a questions. Then there is a right to ask a supplementary question, not what appears to be half a dozen supplementary questions.”

Lease’s comment followed a series of questions from John Leech regarding services for recovering alcoholics. The Brian Hore Unit which supported people who had difficulties with alcohol, was recently closed.

Councillor Andrews – to whom Councillor Leech’s question was directed – could not answer, but he has promised to investigate and report back to the council when he knows more.

I have a funny feeling that John will not be put off in the slightest and will do all he can to hold Labour to account. Let’s hope that enough people like what he does enough to elect some more opposition to help him, so that the Lib Dems can form a group and get committee places.

You can watch it all here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Stevan Rose 22nd May '16 - 9:50pm

    That was hilarious and not in a good way. They’re not as polished as the Commons are they. I wouldn’t have the patience to sit through all that but random movement of the video play bar got me the election of the Leader at 1:04 ish where all those in favour of Cllr Leese say aye, aye, declared elected. What about no’s? Then a bit further on you get John’s multi part question and the rebuke. Apparently they had collectively agreed 10 mins earlier that this was against the rules. Whose rules? The Labour group’s rules.

    At least Andrews said they were important questions. You have to feel for this sorry lot of amateurs. They are not used to being accountable and boy does it show.

  • Matt (Bristol) 23rd May '16 - 10:58am

    Just as a thought experiment, if a local LibDem party found itself in the same position as Labour in Manchester (ie with a disproportionate control of seats that shut out other parties) what would it do to promote the party’s values of proportionality and scrutiny, since we are opposed as a party to the system that creates these monopolies?

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd May '16 - 11:18am

    Interesting question, Matt. Is there any evidence from Eastleigh, where the Lib Dems have been in control for over 20 years and for the last ten of those have held 85–90% of the seats?

  • Matt

    The right and democratic thing to do of course is to ensure that all voices are heard. I doubt it happens in practice though.

    I suspect what actually happens is that you become your own opposition, in that differences of opinion within the party dominate over differences between parties. You just need to keep the internal debate healthy and constructive, rather than letting it become abusive and destructive.

  • Tony Greaves 23rd May '16 - 12:44pm

    I think you will find that Eastleigh is run democratically. Also they have strong area committees on which all the Councillors in those areas sit. Often in the past when Liberals/LDs have taken control of a Council it has been the catalyst for introducing and extending democratic procedures. It is one of the things we believe in.

    Tony Greaves

  • Matt (Bristol) 23rd May '16 - 1:19pm

    Tony Greaves, that is heartening and really what I would expect form our party.

    But a more democratic FPTP system whereby only LD councillors (say) or a disproportionate majority of LD councillors get to be involved in the decision-making, is still manifestation of the unfair system that we want to reform.

    What I was wondering, I guess, was if there is a council anywhere where there has been an experiment with area committees – or what we in Bristol call Neighbourhood partnerships – (for non-parished areas) having a proportional element added to them to offset the unproportional system on the council itself?

    Does the legislation allow a council to operate/experiment in such a fashion?

    Self-denial is always difficult, I know.

  • Nick’s right about how the power balances within the dominant party become important. Manchester has had a few overhauls in who runs the council down the past four decades, all without the Labour majority ever being interrupted.

    It remains a narrower range of voices than would be heard if entirely new groups came into power and influence, though.

  • Andrew Steed 25th May '16 - 6:24pm

    Re: Matt, I thought the local area committees in Tower Hamlets worked on that basis? I know that is a very long time ago but there must be someone round who remember?

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