The Lib Dems had a motion to Gateshead Council yesterday welcoming the rise in the national minimum wage and the raising of the personal tax allowance to £10,000 (it was written before this week's budget). The motion went on to call on the borough's MPs to support moves to raise the allowance to £12,500, the equivalent of full time pay on the national minimum wage.
Labour could not vote for something from the Lib Dems, even if they agreed with it. They said as much today when their deputy leader “Comrade” Martin Gannon announced they supported the key sentiments of the motion. We are, of course, used to Labour doing this. We put in a motion, they say they agree with it and then kick it out. Yesterday was no different.
However, Labour's amendment, which threw out the call to raise the personal tax allowance to £12,500, also contained a claim that the coalition has introduced 256 tax rises since May 2010. Earlier this week Labour nationally were claiming that there had been only 24 tax rises under the coalition. We were all curious to know how Cllr Gannon, who moved Labour's amendment, had managed to come up with a figure over 10 times bigger. And then came the answer. Cllr Gannon admitted he got the figure from the Taxpayers' Alliance's website! None of us really want to know what sordid sites Cllr Gannon visits when he's left alone with only his ipad for company, but his confession generated a large amount of laughter on our side and a modest degree of embarrassment from his own.
Meanwhile, the clapometer was in use on the Lib Dem side to measure the standing of various members of the Labour group. You have to remember that loud applause does not necessarily equate to good speaking skills or content where Labour are concerned. It seems John Eagle, who opened his speech by talking about bad smells and stepping in dog muck, is a rising star in the Labour group (which probably says a great deal about Labour councillors.) Sitting to our left in the council chamber, a group of Labour councillors, mainly from eastern Gateshead, applauded loudly and vociferously after Cllr Eagle resumed his seat. Alas, Cllr Henry, Leader of the Council, and Cllr Gannon, registered much more muted applause.
Whether or not Cllr Gannon's Taxpayers' Alliance admission will damage his chanced of keeping his position after the May elections is the big unknown. An internal coup in the Labour group is being promised. If the clapometer is anything to go by, both Cllr Gannon and Cllr Henry may be seeking new roles after polling day.