Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has been urged to publicly condemn the bullying and intimidation employed by the Labour group on Glasgow City Council during this week’s budget debate, and to take disciplinary action against those responsible.
The calls from Glasgow MSP James Dornan follow reports that comments were made to a female councillor regarding her disabled son, who has an apprenticeship at a firm controlled by the Labour controlled local authority.
Mr Dornan, SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, has written to Ms Lamont to urge her to take strong action, saying that Labour’s bullying tactics were unjustifiable.
The most serious allegation is that Cllr Anne Marie Millar – who resigned from the Labour Party on Tuesday this week – was led to believe her son’s apprenticeship with City Building, on which several Labour councillors sit as board members, was under threat if she failed to support her former party in a crucial budget vote.
A clearly distraught Cllr Millar broke down when giving her account of a conversation she claimed to have had with a Labour councillor. Labour won the crucial vote by a narrow margin despite defections of several Labour councillors who voted against Gordon Matheson’s ruling group.
Accusing the Labour group at the council of using “unnecessarily heavy-handed tactics” Mr Dornan, who is also a Glasgow councillor, said:
“No one who saw Cllr Millar yesterday could have been in any doubt that she had been on the receiving end of some very unpleasant behaviour. She was visibly shaken and upset by the intimidation she experienced.
“That was probably the worst example of the bullying tactics that Labour employed before and during the budget debate, but it was not the only one. Several other councillors – some of them members of the Labour group – came in for similar treatment.
“Obviously Glasgow Labour was under pressure, but that is no excuse for this disgraceful behaviour. It is no way to run a council or a city.
“Despite being Glasgow’s most senior Labour politician, Johann Lamont has been silent on this matter so far. That is not good enough. She must publicly condemn this behaviour in the strongest terms and institute disciplinary proceedings against those who were responsible for it.
“Continued silence from her on this matter can only lead to the conclusion that she has no problem with her party’s councillors behaving in this manner.
“The true nature of Glasgow Labour politics was laid bare yesterday, and it was not a pretty sight. Glasgow voters will have the chance to kick them out in May.
“In the meantime, Gordon Matheson must recognise that his position as council leader is untenable and resign, and Johann Lamont must take decisive action against the bullies in the Labour group. The people of Glasgow deserve nothing less.”
Gordon Matheson, who took over as head of the Labour group from disgraced former leader Stephen Purcell, has refused to step down. A relieved Mr Matheson yesterday insisted he was relishing the forthcoming council elections and said: “bring it on”.
Mr Matheson’s group has been torn apart by a series of high profile resignations which has left Labour with a majority of just one.
Many Labour councillors are unhappy at what they see as London's influence in the candidate selection process. May's local authority elections could see former Labour colleagues facing one another in the battle for council wards in Glasgow.
The full text of James Dornan's letter to Johann Lamont is below
You will, I’m sure, be aware of the very serious allegations of intimidation and bullying by members of the Labour group at Glasgow City Council before and during yesterday’s budget debate.
The most serious allegation is that of the threat that was made to Cllr Anne Marie Millar in relation to her disabled son’s apprenticeship with City Building. No one who saw Cllr Millar yesterday could be in any doubt that she had been on the receiving end of intimidating behaviour: she was visibly shaken and upset.
I am very concerned that the official response of the Labour Council leadership to Cllr Miller’s allegation appeared to be “no comment”, without any commitment to investigate the matter urgently.
That was not the only incident reported, however, and it is clear that some unnecessarily heavy-handed tactics were employed by some members of the Labour group yesterday.
I realise that the Labour group was under some considerable pressure yesterday, however that in no way justifies the bullying and intimidation which took place. It is no way to run a Council or a city. Glasgow deserves better.
As leader of Scottish Labour and Labour’s most senior Glasgow politician, I trust that you plan to take strong action on this matter.
I urge you to publicly condemn yesterday’s behaviour by Labour and to begin disciplinary proceedings against those who were responsible for it.
I would be grateful if you could respond to me with details of the action you intend to take.
I look forward to hearing from you.