For the litany of misbehaviour practised by those in and around Labour’s presence in the town of Rochdale, the moment of reckoning was never far away. And that moment came at the Party’s North-West Conference, held this weekend in Blackpool. The attendees included Party Chairman Ian Lavery, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, shadow chancellor John McDonnell, and union supremo Len McClusky.
Liam O'Rourke with ... well, look who it is again
But what should have been an enjoyable weekend for the Rochdale area contingent was marred by what happened at the Merit Award Dinner, held on Friday evening at the Blackpool Hilton Hotel with guest speakers Barry Gardiner, Lavery, and Rebecca Long Bailey. The winners of the Regional Merit Award Competition would be announced.
The problem was that one of those awards went to Liam O’Rourke, a Councillor who represents Heywood North. Why should that be? Ah well. My sources tell me “All nominees have to be nominated by their own CLP, and it has to come through their CLP Secretary. He was never nominated by his CLP, nor or did it come from his Secretary”.
As a result, “The Heywood and Middleton delegates at the Conference are going f***ing mental, as are the members at home”. There was more. Emails were going to the North West Regional Office from Heywood and Middleton party members, and Executive Officers asking for an investigation into O’Rourke and the North West Office over the award.
I am told “This typifies how the Rochdale Labour Group and its members are out of control and being aided by the North West Office”. The Heywood and Middleton CLP secretary Peter Joinson, who had blown the whistle on the former Knowl View children’s home, warning that former Council leader Richard Farnell had not told the Statutory Inquiry the truth, was not at all happy. Tempers began to run high.
At one point it was rumoured that local delegates to the conference were going to make a complaint on the floor and ask for O’Rourke’s award to be withheld. Nobody would tell Joinson who nominated O’Rourke. The brouhaha was - unofficially, you understand - the talk of the conference. That it was the inaugural awards, and O’Rourke’s application was apparently fraudulent, was winding members up - the wrong way.
Why does this matter? Well, as I’ve been told, O'Rourke is not popular with the members. He has hardly been to a CLP meeting in the last twelve months, with the only one many can remember him attending being the Heywood and Middleton CLP AGM. There, he apparently had to withdraw himself from an election to become an officer for the CLP, because he knew he would be heavily defeated. That’s why.
The rather significant difference this time is that the whole sorry mess is playing out at Labour’s North West Conference, in front of senior Party figures. O’Rourke’s Twitter feed, which might have been expected to celebrate his award, has fallen silent. As one source put it to me, “Fraudulent application and Rochdale councillors … Always the same”.
Someone has to get a grip on Labour’s Rochdale problems. And sooner rather than later.
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