The Creation of the Scottish Labour Branch
1997 Glasgow: Council Leader Bob Gould failed to get his own way over a package of cuts and shared his frustrations with a few friendly media hacks who duly went to print exposing allegations of fully funded holidays abroad, for Councillors, disguised as fact finding trips in return for horse trading deals ensuring controversial packages and other business would be assured of a safe passage through council.
The Scottish press, with the exception of a couple of, “leftish” rags attacked Labour Party Councils in the West of Scotland exposing and alleging a litany of scandals covering: nepotism, drugs, organised crime, sectarianism, vote rigging and bribery and harassment.
The public, still outraged by revelations exposed at the time of the demise of John Major and the Tory party were not at all pleased and demanded that a full enquiry should be fast track investigated and reported on without delay together with long outstanding investigations of allegations of a similar nature lodged against Paisley North and Monklands District Councils.
Donald Dewar, the Scottish Secretary of State was desperate to ensure there would be minimal disruption to Scottish politics at the time he was negotiating devolution, scheduled for 1999. He intervened in Monklands and ordered the immediate suspension and 2 year debarment from party office of the entire team of local Councillors. In Paisley a number of local constituency offices were closed on his instructions and a significant number of “active” party members were barred and or suspended. In Westminster the parliamentary whip was withdrawn from, Mohammed Sarwar, (Govan vote rigging allegations) and West Renfrewshire’s Tommy Graham, (suicide of Paisley South, MP Gordon McMaster).
Confident in his leadership of the Labour party and seizing the initiative provided by Donald Dewar Tony Blair decided to do to Glasgow what Kinnock had done to Derek Hatton and Liverpool. He ordered a full investigation into the activities of Councillors.
The inquiry was completed in 6 months. A total of 37 Councillors were interviewed at length by party officials from London, assisted by a number of Scottish Blairite supporting Party officials. The report recommended that disciplinary action should be taken against around a dozen senior Councillors, including where applicable suspension and or debarment from party office. These included, Lord provost Pat Lally, Deputy Provost Alex Mosson, “Whistle-blower”, Council Leader Bob Gould, Deputy Leader James Mutter and Head of Parks and Recreation Gordon McDairmid. Their fate would be decided by London.
Not content with the outcome of the inquiry the Scottish General Secretary of the Party, Jack McConnell, actively assisted by National Officers from London continued with their work intent upon exposing and dealing with anything that might reflect badly on the Party. Over a number of weeks many allegations and counter claims covering the full spectrum of excesses were made by an against Councillors and employees, usually through press leaks. Bob Gould eventually stood down from office.
The exposure of internal Council, “turf Wars” rife throughout the West of Scotland brought about the demise of many of the traditional left leaning party members being replaced with Blairites middle class opportunists. The oft quoted story about selection for office in the Labour party; “someone who wanted to be a candidate, was asked to outline his convictions. He thought they meant his criminal record and asked how far back they wanted him to go.”
The on-going activities of, “New labour” supporters created tension within the Party old guard in Scotland and claims of, “McCarthyism”. But relentless pressure and change created opportunity to place “New Labour” people in office bringing about the changes instructed by Blair & Brown in London. Control of Scotland was transferred to London.
But only the faces changed. Over the next 15 years Councils drifted back to their old ways of doing things. The time for remedial action presents itself again in 2015 & 2016. This time voters throughout the West of Scotland should say “enough is enough” and elect to office candidates of any party other than Labour.
Tony Blair’s “New Labour” promised to sweep away the old ideology of a political party. In Labour’s Scottish heartlands and birthplace, traditional socialists were dealt with severely, as Brian Deer’s investigation revealed. This is the best in depth report on the sickness that was and still is the Labour run councils in the West of Scotland. 15 years after a clean-up, corruption and scandal are bye-words again. http://briandeer.com/glasgow-labour.htm