Council on Thursday night witnessed the latest nonsense from an increasingly desperate Labour Group. Sent out to savage the opposition parties, the Labour Group’s Rottweiler, Cllr Bill Dixon, shouted across the Chamber at Conservative Councillor Ian Galletley, “It’s our town, it’s our tradition and I’d thank you for leaving it alone!”
What prompted this xenophobic outburst? Well, Cllr Galletley, seconded by myself, had moved a motion that would require future ceremonial mayors to resign from other positions of paid responsibility during their year in office. Prompted by overtly political interventions by the current mayor, we were attempting to bring the role of Mayor into line with that practised in other local authorities, thereby to protect the position of mayor from accusations of political bias.
Unable to muster an intellectual argument between them (the best attempt being, “It ain’t fixed, so why change it?”) Labour councillors fell back on the standard response of those hemmed into a corner, using their hatred of “outsiders” to attack the rights of others to propose change. All communities, to a greater or lesser extent, can display elements of xenophobia at times of stress: I didn’t expect to see it quite so baldly on display in the Council Chamber. The true nature of Labourism in Darlington was there for all to see: if you’re not “one of us”, your views don’t count.
Another worrying comment from the Labour side came when I used my experiences in North Road ward, the ward I represent, to illustrate my concerns about the Labour Party’s abolition of our uniformed warden service: one of those front-line services, you’ll remember, which weren’t going to be affected by their swingeing budget cuts (yeh, right!).
The comment was made that, “We don’t usually discuss ward issues to this extent in Council. Surely there is somewhere better you could raise those issues.”
What absolute bollocks! I was using the experiences of the residents I represent to criticise a Labour policy. Without such concrete examples, any criticism, which is my right and duty as an opposition councillor, would be less effective. Furthermore, it is the Labour Government which wants to turn non-executive councillors into champions of the local communities in the wards they represent. That is exactly what I was doing. The attempt by Labour to denigrate the use of ward issues to illustrate a wider point shows the reality of their centrist, undemocratic nature.