Ronnie comes from a Labour tradition in Northumberland of bluster, inconsistency and shambolic posturing. His Labour colleagues on the county illustrated that tradition yesterday.
Northumberland had been run by Labour for decades until 2008 when they crashed to third party status in the elections. The Lib Dems leapfrogged everyone to become the first party but without a majority. No vote in council can therefore be taken for granted and the story of the past couple of years has been one of Labour and Tory grandstanding and, especially with the Tories, blocking a proposed policy at a council meeting and then abstaining on it when it is brought back in exactly the same form the following month. An abstention in effect counts as a vote to let it through.
This year's budget process has followed the same path. On 10th February, Tories and Labour joined forces in an unholy alliance to vote out the budget despite having no alternative of their own tabled at the meeting. Yesterday the same budget came back with only one very minor change. The Tories announced they were going to abstain. Then someone got up from the Labour group and announced that they had originally planned to abstain but on seeing the Tories were doing just that, they would now vote against!
An interesting uturn performed in the middle of a meeting.
I attended the Northumberland council meeting on 10th February (I missed the one yesterday as I am filming in London this week but I was told what happened as soon as the meeting was over.) What I witnessed earlier this month was the most unbelievably shambolic shower that has ever passed itself off as a Labour group. Some Labour contributions must have made any sensible Labour member cringe with embarrassment. They were so bad they were funny.
With people like that dominating Labour in Northumberland, a speedy recovery for Gordon Brown's party in the county is looking less and less likely.
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