Marion Fitzgerald, the ‘Independent’ Leader of Allerdale Council until February, has joined the Conservative Party. Her reason? The wreckers in the ‘Independent’ group. She accused Independent councillors of outrageous behaviour at last week’s full Council meeting and negativity and obstructiveness that could sabotage the Council’s post-Covid-19 recovery. The behaviour of the Independents was what made her resign as Leader in the first place.
Cllr Fitzgerald had repeatedly said she believed there was no room for party politics in local government. But as with Copeland’s ‘Independent’ elected mayor Mike Starkie, who has also joined the Conservatives, Ms Fitzgerald’s beliefs and promises to the electorate hid a natural Tory allegiance.
The sorry saga of Ms Fitzgerald reveals:
• It is either naïve or cynical to say that local government can be ‘non-political’. The UK’s modern democratic system of political parties goes back nearly 200 hundred years. Allerdale Council is how we express our local democratic rights. It has faced staggering cuts from central government since 2010 and has a budget this year of over £15m. Of course it’s political.
• Independents may be the biggest group on Allerdale Council but they have no majority. They are disorganised. They disagree with each other. They are not really ‘a group’. At worst, there are several with allegiances to far right political parties who do organise so they can obstruct. Having so many different Independents has been a recipe for chaos in the governance of Allerdale since Labour lost control last year.
• This latest move by Cllr Fitzgerald is further evidence of alignment between most Independents and the Conservatives. Independents are usually either Tories in sheep’s clothing, right wing and/or anti-Labour.
Allerdale needs a strong and stable Labour Group with new councillors successfully elected at next year’s by-elections.
How our Labour Group has responded
Labour has 12 Allerdale councillors, Conservatives 15 and Independents 18, so no group has a majority. By-elections will be held next May in four wards –Seaton, Aspatria, Dearham and Christchurch (Cockermouth). Labour wins are essential.
The Labour Group this week issued this statement about how they are currently working to stabilise the Council.
‘Labour councillors have pledged to support Allerdale Council through the COVID-19 crisis.
‘Currently, no party has a majority on the Council. Remaining autonomous, the minority Labour Group will work with other councillors where it feels this is in the best interests of Allerdale’s residents.
‘The Labour Group had previously been offered and turned down the option of a formal coalition with the Conservatives. Unlike the Allerdale Independents last year, we have made no deals with the Conservatives and have taken no paid positions on the Council Executive.
’The Labour Group has also rejected the idea of making a coalition with the Allerdale Independents. Labour have no objections to working with independent councillors in principle, but many of them have right-wing political connections and others are openly hostile to our members.
‘Allerdale’s Labour councillors look forward to working with those who will work with all in the interest of the community.’
Will you join Labour’s local councillors?
It is vital that Labour succeeds in next year’s local government elections. There will be 4 by-elections for Allerdale Council and elections for Cumbria County Council. Please put yourself forward to be considered as a Labour candidate. We need a diverse pool of members keen to join Labour’s teams. Candidates will be selected in the autumn. For a chat about what’s involved, a serving councillor will get in touch if you email email@example.com
Our communities need Labour councillors to put progressive and compassionate values at the heart of local government. Please put yourself forward or join our campaigns teams to engage with voters and spread Labour’s messages of hope and fairness by contacting our Campaign Co-ordinator Rhys Guthrie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Workington Constituency Labour Party