There was no small amount of rejoicing earlier this week when Rochdale Council’s then leader Richard Farnell finally resigned his position, to the great relief of people across the area who wished it had happened rather earlier. As the Manchester Evening News reported, “Rochdale council leader Richard Farnell quits weeks after telling child abuse inquiry he knew nothing about Knowl View scandal”.
Allen Brett - and disgraced friend
This, though, was, to no surprise at all, not his fault. “Rochdale council’s leader Richard Farnell has abruptly quit just weeks after he gave explosive evidence to the national child abuse inquiry … In a letter to councillors, he blamed a ‘small minority’ of Labour members for ‘undermining’ his leadership ever since the hearing”. That “small minority” was four Labour branches which had passed no confidence motions in him.
This was total crap. As the MEN pointed out, “In a painful grilling, he repeatedly denied ever having known about abuse in Knowl View boys’ school when he was last leader during the early 1990s - and placed the blame firmly on senior officers … Legal summing-up at the end of the session concluded it was ‘inconceivable’ that Coun Farnell had been unaware of the scandal”. He was toast as soon as his testimony was completed.
So who is now in charge? “His resignation is effective immediately and his work is to be taken on by the council’s two deputy leaders, Alan Brett and Donna Martin, until a replacement is chosen”. Those who look in regularly on Zelo Street will recognise the name of Allen Brett. That is because he used to be the agent for disgraced ex-MP Simon Danczuk. He and Farnell were Danczuk loyalists.
Moreover, as I posted during the run-up to the Greater Manchester Mayoral contest, Brett tried to harass eventual winner Andy Burnham at the Co-Op hustings. Danczuk dislikes Burnham, who had some difficulty speaking to Rochdale members, but ultimately Danczuk could not stop him as he was suspended and therefore barred from the Labour Club.
The problem that Labour now have in Rochdale is that Allen Brett angling for the Council leadership vacated by Farnell’s departure. The photo above shows him with the former MP, and was taken a matter of days before Danczuk bowed to the inevitable, cut up his Labour membership card, and stormed out of the party.
It gets worse: unable to grasp the contempt in which Farnell is now held by Labour members across Rochdale, Brett is rumoured to want to make him his deputy, should be prevail in the selection contest. That would restore the Danczuk-supporting old guard, almost as if nothing had happened. The crucial vote, I’m told, comes next Monday.
Exactly what neighbouring MPs and Mayor Burnham make of this exhibition of political tone deafness is not known. Labour’s General Secretary had been urged to suspend Farnell recently, which is how bad things have become. The secretary of Rochdale CLP resigned over this. And now Farnell’s comeback is being plotted.
Richard Farnell needs to take the hint. And Allen Brett should desist from pursuing any ambition likely to damage his party in Rochdale. That is all.