Some observers of Labour politics in Rochdale might have thought that finally disposing of the appalling Simon Danczuk as the town’s MP last year, followed by the suspension of now former Council leader Richard Farnell, might have heralded a clear out of the old order which had so shamelessly allowed Danczuk to continue as MP despite the litany of bad behaviour. But they were wrong, because very little has changed.
Richard Farnell - still not quite out the door ... and who's that in the background?
After the Skwawkbox unearthed problems with Rochdale Labour’s Local Campaign Forum (LCF) earlier this year, with many positions on the body that selects candidates filled by sitting - and usually male - councillors, some began to take notice. But clearly not enough, as the LCF continues to be abused: the body should not be stuffed with elected representatives - this is a clear conflict of interest when it comes to selection.
And the problems with the LCF are not the only Rochdale Labour problem: there is also the less than trivial embarrassment to the party of Farnell’s replacement Allen Brett. Thanks to the good work of Rochdale Online, we now know “An investigation into the conduct of the Leader of Rochdale Borough Council, Councillor Allen Brett, has found that he has ‘brought himself, his office and the Council into disrepute’”.
Disreputable duo - Allen Brett and his pal
Why so? RO published an audio clip recently of comments Brett made to a local Labour meeting, at the end of which “Councillor Brett can be heard saying: “…the [roads and footpaths] budget remains fixed at £12 million [inaudible]. I’ve been given an indicative list of where it’s likely to have [sic], but I’m not releasing it - because I’ll deny I’ve said this, and I’m very reluctant to say it even in this room - if we don’t do [sic] successful in one ward, I might not spend any money in that ward. You can work that out, but I’ll deny I’ve said it”.
Heywood and Middleton CLP duly passed a motion of no confidence in Brett, the vote rumoured to have been 32 to 1. And then came John Blundell, Rochdale Councillor and former occasional user of Simon Danczuk’s spare room at his Pimlico flat. Blundell has made it his job to shower his party with shame and embarrassment.
For starters, he declared that Manchester City Council should start fining those living on the streets, using loaded phrases like “aggressive begging”. He has advocated social cleansing, although he dislikes use of the term. He has advocated for building on the green belt. And nobody in the local party is saying a dickybird about it.
On top of all that is a case of election fraud, as the BBC has reported: “Rochdale councillor Faisal Rana, 51, said he did not realise casting separate votes for two different wards in the authority was an offence”. Didn’t he now? Well, it bloody well is an offence.
So why is all of this going on, with the local party seemingly out of control and Labour’s North West region doing very little about it? Why do complaints to the NW region apparently go missing? And is there any more nasty stuff to come? Well, in answer to the last point, yes there is. And someone needs to get a grip on the situation soon.
The problem out in the regions is not the new order at the top of the Labour Party - it is that their move to open up and democratise the rest of the movement isn’t happening quickly enough. More on the Rochdale mess later.
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