Southampton Labour Councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, who opposed
cuts in local services, have been expelled from the Labour Party.
Southampton Labour Councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, who opposed cuts in local services, have been expelled from the Labour Party.
After their opposition to the closing of a local swimming pool led to their being suspended from the Labour Group for three months, they have taken the decision to set up a new group in the Council called Labour Councillors Against the Cuts. This was supposedly to allow them to speak out against the cuts and defend the jobs and services likely to be cut in the budget-setting review due in the New Year. However, this move has played into the hands of the right wing. Setting up as a new group in opposition to the Labour Party meant automatic expulsion under the rules.
Clearly we believe that this decision is a big mistake and will be seen as a great disappointment to those local government workers and trade unions that had previously supported their stand. That support led to the reduction of suspension from six months to three. This new action by the two will now make it easier for the right wing to carry through their policies within the Labour Group in the future.
Whilst they admit that they would have been put in the position of opposing expected plans to cut jobs and services costing £25 million next year, there was an opportunity to build support for their stand in the local and national Labour and trade union movement.
This was reflected at a recent Labour meeting in Southampton where campaigner Owen Jones spoke. He explained the problem of getting the Labour leadership to organise opposition to the cuts in his column in The Independent newspaper. Many Southampton Councillors expressed their concern at the coming cuts and were looking for a lead.
It is therefore a great shame that the Councillors decided to provoke expulsion from the Labour Party, not because of their stand against the cuts, but by breaking the rules in forming their own separate group of two, which is unlikely to achieve anything except isolation from the movement.
The union Unite has supported the Councillors who are members. But it is the union’s policy to encourage their members to join the Labour Party and fight for union policy on the cuts. The choice of the two Councillors to leave the party will not help this struggle to reclaim the Labour Party for the working class.
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