Labour in Gateshead occupies a strange little world. If it's not proposed by them, they will vote against it, no matter how good an idea. It's petty, it's silly, it's completely unnecessary. But it's Labour to the core in Gateshead.
An interesting example of this can be found in the machinations of Thursday's council meeting. Labour's Paul Foy moved a motion calling for restrictions on payday loan companies. It heaped praise on Ed Miliband for his call for a levy on such lenders to support credit unions and poured venom on the Coalition for failing to tackle the issue. The motion called for a block on adverttising by payday lenders on council property and the chief exec to write to a few people about what Gateshead has done.
None of this was particularly objectionable. I class myself as an economic liberal but I don't believe that living beyond your means is something that fits that ideology. So I am quite happy to back calls for restrictions on the activities of any lender that engages in irresponsible and unsustainable lending. After all, the failure to apply restrictions over the past few decades led to the banking collapse and those who lived within their means and put money aside have been amongst the hardest hit by the measures to restore the economy. That's not particularly liberal and but has been rather uneconomic for the people who did the right thing.
Yet Labour's motion lacked something. Firstly it tried simply to blame the Coalition for doing nothing to restrict payday lending (somewhat unfairly as regulation has been tightened) and ignored completely the failure of the last Labour Government to tackle unsustanable lending for consumption. Indeed, there was a proliferation of such lending under Blair and Brown and they ignored all the warning signals. And secondly, it made no call on the government to do anything that would seriously tackle the problem.
So, my amendment added just a couple of words to the section attacking the Coalition by extending the attack to the previous government as well. And at the end, I added a paragraph calling for the restrictions placed on advertising tobacco and sponsorship by tobacco companies to be applied to payday lenders.
I usefully discovered a set of Early Day Motions from the 2005-10 Parliament which criticise the then Labour governments for failing to cap interest rates. All of them had been signed by Blaydon Labour MP David Anderson. And I also found a Parliamentary Question from Mr Anderson in 2009 asking when the then Labour government would cap interest rates. The answer was that this was a commercial matter for the lender - in other words, Labour in government were not going to intervene. The fact these EMDs and questions existed proved that the last Labour government did nothing. The problem was as real then as it is now.
And so to Labour's response to this. Cllr Foy - who just happens to work for Mr Anderson - announced he liked the call regarding advertising and sponsorship. He liked it so much that he was going to vote against it! Why? Because we were being "party political" by attacking the former Labour government. We were "trying to deflect attention" from the failure of the Coalition to tackle this issue, presumably by pointing to the failure of his own beloved New Labour government to do anything. This is all the more odd because our amendment took the party politics out of the motion by being equally critical of the Coalition and Labour. But the Brothers and Sisiters of the Order of Sanctimonious Socialism were having none of this. Every one of them voted against my proposal, even though their spokesman had said it was a good idea he wanted take forward.
The small-minded world of Labour in Gateshead. Petty, purile and silly. Opposition for opposition sake. Perhaps I should move a motion at the next full council meeting praising Miliband for adopting the Lib Dem mansion tax. That would really stump them in Gateshead!