Greens to Install A Labour Mayor and Administration in Reading
Today it has become clear that the Greens are set on allowing Labour to run Reading as a minority administration. Both Greens and Labour have released copies of letters between them. More of that later.
Labour have been saying on blogs and to anyone who would listen that they “have a mandate” to run Reading. However, they do not have a majority on the Council with 22 seats (24 are needed for a majority). The Conservative/Lib Dem coalition also has 22 seats. In the local elections Labour received 17,778 votes or 39.9% of the total votes cast; the two parties of the Coalition received 20,942 votes or 47% of the vote. The Greens received 4,999 votes which is 11.2% of the votes cast. So of the two alternatives, it is the Coalition that has “the mandate” if one exists. Only if the Greens entered formal coalition with Labour would they have a majority of votes cast in the elections and a majority in the Council chamber.
Last year when the Coalition had a majority of seats in the Council we honored the fact that Labour’s Cllr Gul Khan was the Deputy Mayor and supported his elevation to the Mayoralty. This year the Deputy Mayor is Conservative Cllr Jenny Rynn and she had every right to expect that the other parties would honour the standing convention that after a year of loyal service the Deputy Mayor succeeds the Mayor. Indeed the Greens promised to us and the Lib Dems that fairness dictated that they would support Jenny’s candidacy at the Annual Meeting of the Council on Wednesday. Some of us always suspected that the Greens would then be true to their left-wing credentials and install a Labour administration.
The public exchange of demands and letters is revealing. It suggests that the Greens have been suckered by Labour into allowing them to take office but without the restraint of a formal coalition agreement. Labour’s letter is a list of “promises to investigate” and “when resources allow”. The Greens seem unaware that Labour are offering nothing in return for the power they will gain. Indeed many of the Green “demands” are already in set hand by the Coalition.
At the request of former Cllr Wazir Hussain 20mph limits are planned for Park ward roads and residents’ parking areas were already planned to be extended where residents agreed; a new East Reading Study Group, to tackle the problems of Cemetery Junction and the surrounding area, was to be set up after the local elections; and Kennetmouth and the listed Horseshoe bridge were to be protected. Labour’s letter offers nothing that was not already in their plans e.g. they have long planned a public transport link across Kennetmouth from Thames Valley Park to Reading Station but they are being disingenuous on the Third Thames Bridge. They rule out a “motorway link” which is in no-ones thoughts or plans and to my knowledge never has been. The land needed to build the third bridge is in Wokingham and South Oxfordshire and neither authority would ever agree to a “motorway link”. Labour’s deviousness on this attempt to deceive the Greens is highlighted by their Transport spokesman’s regular calls to me in public forums not to let the Third Bridge slip down the list of priorities.
The Greens have willingly been taken for mugs by Labour and in so doing have allowed the worst tribalism of Reading Labour Party to manifest itself once again in not allowing Cllr Jenny Rynn to succeed to the Mayoralty this year. Traditionally the Mayor chairs Council meetings and sits above party politics. However, this year’s Labour Mayor will be a very “political Mayor” (as was blogged by Cllr Rachel Eden before she was instructed to take down her blog post). That this should happen is Labour’s doing, aided and abetted by the two Green Councillors. This deal between Labour and the Greens will harm the Greens and only benefit Labour. When the next local elections come we will remind the people of Reading how it came to pass.