A personal blog by Tom Gordon, Scottish Political Editor of the Sunday Herald
Sunday, 11 December 2011
In the red corner
There's more trouble at the City Chambers, as Glasgow Labour continue to fight among themselves instead of focusing on the SNP threat ahead of May.
Here's a longer version of the story in today's Sunday Herald.
Tom Gordon and Paul Hutcheon
THE most high-profile Labour politician in next year’s council elections has been accused of threatening one of his party colleagues, the Sunday Herald can reveal.
Gordon Matheson, the leader of Glasgow City Council, is the subject of a complaint to the country’s independent watchdog for councillors.
He has been reported by fellow Glasgow Labour councillor Tommy Morrison, who claims he was threatened with the loss of a £11,000-a-year post at Strathclyde Fire & Rescue unless he helped an ally of Matheson get re-selected as a Labour candidate.
The complaint is a blow to Matheson, who has faced continued Labour infighting at the City Chambers since he replaced boss Steven Purcell last year.
After their landslide win at Holyrood, the SNP made May’s local elections their next priority, with Glasgow the main prize.
Matheson’s high-pressure job is to defend the city, where Labour has 47 of the 79 councillors.
The SNP last night said the Morrison complaint had exposed panic and indiscipline within Glasgow Labour as the election approached.
Central to Labour’s election strategy has been a recent clear-out of so-called ‘deadwood’ councillors, and the selection of new candidates.
The purge led to almost half the party’s sitting councillors in Glasgow failing candidate vetting, effectively ending their political careers.
The result has been an angry backlash against Matheson and his chief whip Alex Glass.
Morrison, a councillor in the Greater Pollok ward since 2007, was among those who failed vetting.
His complaint concerns the lead up to a meeting of Greater Pollok Labour branch on November 24, which was due to select two candidates for May.
The ward currently has three Labour councillors - Morrison, Willie O’Rourke and Alex Glass.
With Morrison deselected and O’Rourke suspended, only Glass was eligible to stand for re-selection.
Morrison claims he was warned before the meeting that if he interfered with Glass’s bid, or failed to support him, he would lose his council-related place on Strathclyde Fire Board, which last year carried an allowance of £10,978.
It is understood Morrison discussed the issue face to face with an “agitated” Matheson, in the latter’s office at the City Chambers.
Morrison complained to the party hierarchy, and he and Matheson allegedly reached a brief truce.
However Morrison has now complained to the Public Standards Commissioner about the episode, and copied Labour HQ into the correspondence.
A friend of Morrison told the Sunday Herald: “Tommy made a complaint to the Standards Commission against Councillor Matheson. Cllr Matheson told Tommy that if he interfered with the selection of Alex Glass, he would be removed from the Fire Board. Tommy could not accept a threat to democracy in any shape or form.”
In the end, Glass lost the Pollok selection, as local members, including many of Morrison’s supporters, voted for former Anniesland MSP Bill Butler and newcomer Rashid Hussain instead.
Glass is understood to have been gutted at his defeat, which was also interpreted as a slap in the face for Matheson.
Glass is now trying to get selected in a new ward, with rumours circulating within Labour that party bosses will try to parachute him into Springburn.
Graeme Hendry, the SNP’s chief whip on the council, said: “This latest bout of infighting is yet another indictment of the lack of leadership, vision and discipline within Glasgow Labour.
“Any party which tried to control colleagues through intimidation and bullying would not be fit to lead a great city.”
A spokesman for Cllr Matheson said: “Allegations that Gordon Matheson threatened any member of the Labour group are completely untrue.”