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Lib Dem row as Councillor jumps ship

Jonathan Schofield and the attendance v national policy row at the Town Hall

Written by . Published on September 2nd 2010.


Lib Dem row as Councillor jumps ship

City centre councillor Ken Dobson has resigned from the Liberal Democrat Group at Manchester City Council and will serve out the rest of his term, until 2011, as an independent.

Did Cllr Dobson expressly state his opposition to the Coalition Government as his reason for leaving the party or did he use that as an excuse when they decided not to re-select him for 2011?

Sounds simple doesn’t it? But there’s a tangled web of bitter argument underlying it all.

“I was saying things the Group didn’t want to hear about the coalition government and the national party,” says Cllr Dobson. “I’ve been a loyal party member for twenty years but I can’t support the national cuts and the fact that it’s the Lib Dems that are taking the blame for them. I don’t feel I can defend national policy which harms the people of this city.”

Cllr Simon Ashley, opposition leader at the council and the top Liberal Democrat, claims this is “rubbish”.

“There’s never been any conversation about national policy or cuts or the coalition government. The real fact of the matter is that Ken has only attended 44% of the Council, Committees and Ward meetings he should have, and as a result the Party has not reapproved him to stand for us next May. We have a minimum stipulation that councillors must attend 66%. Ken’s way off that and he knows it. He’s taken the hump.”

Cllr Dobson says he has extenuating circumstances for his poor attendance record.“I set up an amateur boxing club in east Manchester,” he says, “to help give lads something to do. I work this on a voluntary basis, often in the evenings and this clashes with meetings. I explained this to the Group and asked for a special dispensation but they refused.”

“We did know about the boxing club,” says Cllr Ashley. “But the evening meetings are once every six to eight weeks and we asked him to get cover for these. He’s getting £16,000 in council allowances and a big part of the job is to turn up to meetings to discuss how best he can represent his ward. We’re only asking for people to come to two-thirds of the meetings – we understand illness, family commitments and so forth can be a barrier but I’ve managed to get to 95% of the meetings for instance.”

That issue aside did Cllr Dobson expressly state his opposition to the coalition government as his reason for leaving the party or did he simply use that as an excuse when they decided not to re-select him for 2011?

“I wasn’t given chance,” says Cllr Dobson. “I asked to talk to Cllr Ashley after an exchange of emails and when I went into his office it was done and dusted. I have a good record as a councillor for my surgeries, the legwork I’ve put in, but I could tell they wanted to get rid of me. Simon Ashley basically told me I was being de-selected, end of. He just said “Goodbye” and refused to talk.”

Round and round we go.

“He came in and said he was off,” says Cllr Ashley. “He’d clearly made up his mind is the way I see it – remember he had the right of appeal against de-selection. The main point here is that we want to improve our councillors’ performance. Councillors’ jobs shouldn’t be jobs for life. We flagged the problem up to Ken twelve months ago and he didn’t change his behaviour. You can’t expect councillors to be given privileges that the private sector don’t get.”

The Lib Dem Group’s arguments in this issue make sense, rules are rules. As Cllr Ashley also argues, if Cllr Dobson really wanted to resign over national policy before the issue over his low attendance became a de-selection issue then he could easily have done so.

That said Lib Dem actions in national government are bound to play an increasing role in internal politics. Members of the party will become more anxious as their safe third party status of fighting for community values is undermined from on high. There is no doubt that Cllr Dobson clearly has doubts over Nick Clegg and his mates in London, the question in this case is exactly how much those doubts influenced his decision to become an independent.

“I’m still representing the people in the city centre,” says Cllr Dobson. “I’m still their elected representative at least until May 2011. I have a good record as a councillor and I will continue to work hard for them. But I won't join the Labour Party that would be wrong. Still in the end I remain a community party person.”

Only now, not a Liberal Democrat community party person.

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15 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

pat karneySeptember 1st 2010.

We are going to see more of this.Only last week a senior lib dem member in Liverpool defected to labour because of the co alitions policies.There is turmoil in the lib dem group in manchester I am talking to three other members who may jump after their conference Watch this space for exclusive news.Pat

John HarrisSeptember 1st 2010.

Great. Let's make Manchester even more of a one party state than it is now.

AnonymousSeptember 2nd 2010.

Interesting Cllr. Karney. Now we've sorted out the in-fighting, any chance of a comment from you regarding your suggested banning of Christian protests at Pride? I am an Aetheist so have no vested interest, however I find it somewhat ironic that one of Manchester's leading and most outspoken Councillors, is discouraging free speech and free expresion during a weekend that celebrates exactly that. I note you did not protest about the EDL march earlier in the year.

AnonymousSeptember 2nd 2010.

Pat, I find your comments ever so childish. Less talking to lib dem members about jumping ship and more doing the actually job would be lovely. Why are Labour, at every level, seemingly so god damn obsessed with behind doors deals? It is what it is now, let the government get on with it.

Simone13024September 2nd 2010.

This man sees helping out with amatuer boxing classes as more important than doing the job we pay him to do? If you turned up to only 44% of work you were supposed to, what would your boss do? You couldn't make these things up and the then for Pat Karney to try and make it party political is just too much! Can they do a fly on the wall with our council please? I'm thinking a bit like 'The Office' but obviously called 'The Council' and without the need for any comedy writing as the actual events are sufficient to make viewers giggle, or despair.

MadelaineSeptember 2nd 2010.

I don't understand people. What's wrong with politicians trying to score points. I think it's great and makes it more human.

AnonymousSeptember 2nd 2010.

Kenny Dobson has been upsetting his former LD colleagues in the Council for quite some time: it comes as little surprise that he has finally thrown his toys out of the pram.

As for representing people in the City Centre... Words fail me. A resident for eight years, I cannot consider him as somebody who responds to, or listens to the concerns of residents. And don't get me started on the Origin debacle.

Charles DarwinSeptember 2nd 2010.

What's this Origin debacle?

Ex LibDem''''erSeptember 2nd 2010.

Simon Ashley always says departees are lazy good for nothings whether they become independents, Tories or Labour as in recent past. Perhaps their principles are just not flexible enough for the LibDems and Simon. (I've decided mine are not and will never vote for them again). Or is the uninspiring and ineffectual leadership of Simon that is the problem. Best he could do is switch himself, into early retirement.

Bill2September 2nd 2010.

The guy has made it political by leaving the POLITICAL party under whose banner he stood for election in the first place. The question is whether he has a genuine political reason or whether his motivation is self-preservation. In either case, perhaps he would be better standing as a candidate in Moston.

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2010.

Hang on. I think we've totally missed the point here. This is someone who couldn't be arsed, for whatever reason, to turn up for half of the meetings he was supposed to. Yet he took his allowances all the same. Then, when cornered about it, he tried to make it a point of principal rather than a point of him being a lazy sod.

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2010.

good grief... is Simon still around. I recall him moaning to me in a train journey to Disley on our way to a meeting sometime last century about how difficult his crew were to keep in line. Indeed, as people are saying DD as he is known is no loss since Marc R does everything, and even claims he does what I have done! At the time we hasd the vote of a Mayor fro Manchester (not a Lord Mayor) I said that party leaders overstay their welcome if they do it for more than eight years. Enough is enough for us all.

Kevin PeelSeptember 3rd 2010.

Sounds like he jumped before he was pushed! It's shocking that he has done so little for local people during his time as a Councillor.

I'm also astonished that Simon Ashley thinks it's acceptable that Lib Dem Councillors only need to attend 2/3 meetings. City Centre residents need a voice in the Town Hall who will work for them all the time, not 66% of the time.

James11364September 3rd 2010.

I didn't realise than Simon actually deselected candidates personally. Does he choose them as well. I suppose that is the solution to the problem anon mentioned of keeping his crew on message.

martha karneySeptember 3rd 2010.

My brother Pat never responds to anon requests.For anon above 1 09 40 am if you contact him with your name and address he is prepared to discuss matters .I know he was completely involved in trying to stop the EDL coming to Manchester.On the day I brought sandwiches for him and Jim Battle to the city centre emergency centre that was overseeing the EDL presence in Manchester So you are talking horlicks. MARTHA

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