Richard Willis's Blog

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Reading Labour’s Leadership Troubles

labourI have been sent some interesting insights into the developing Labour leadership contest from a Reading Borough Councillor who prefers to remain anonymous. I have taken their own assessments and added a few of my own:

Rumours are rife in the Council chamber and in the local press that all is not well within the Reading Labour Group. Moves are reportedly afoot within the Labour Group to depose their leader Cllr Jo Lovelock this May after a number of years at the helm.

Whether Labour’s falling poll position nationally is starting to give local Labour Councillors and candidates the jitters remains to be seen.

Cllr Rachel Eden is reported to have thrown her hat into the ring, being forced to respond to rumours in “GetReading” on Friday 21st March, relying upon a rather bland statement about “protocols” rather than an outright denial. One thing is for sure, Cllr Lovelock is not going to go quietly…

With a leadership challenge seemingly on the cards let’s take a look at the Labour benches at the potential runners and riders:

Abbey                 Bet Tickner – stood down from a lead councillor role a year ago, unlikely to seek a front bench position again, let alone the leadership.

Abbey                Mohammed Ayub – not a prolific contributor during Council meetings so unlikely to want to lead the Council.

Abbey               Tony Page – Considered by many to be the real power behind the throne of the Labour group. Has been content to be Deputy to Cllr Lovelock and sure to be listened to within Labour group plotting sessions. If he says Cllr Lovelock should stay, who would have the courage to stand up to him?

Battle                Chris Maskell – former Mayor and current Chair of Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee. Unlikely to seek to lead the Council.

Battle                Gul Khan – another former Mayor, but seemingly happy on the back benches.

Battle                Sarah Hacker – daughter of fellow Battle Ward Councillor Chris Maskell. A possibility, and would get at least 1 vote.

Caversham        Richard Davis – extremely ambitious and known to command the support of the “Young” Labour group of activists. Stood for selection as Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Reading East but was soundly beaten by Katesgrove’s Cllr Rodda. If he thinks there is a vacancy, will he stand? Probably.

Church               Eileen McElligott – pleasant person but so far has not made much impact in the Council Chamber and does not appear to have any ambitions.

Church               Paul Woodward – strong character, and probably thinks he could do it. But would he have the support?

Katesgrove        Matt Rodda – Busily running around Reading East trying desperately to find an issue to latch himself onto in order to raise his profile for 2015 whilst watching all the funds being channelled into Reading West. Rarely speaks in the Council Chamber and has yet to make any impact. Definitely not.

Katesgrove       Rose Williams – another former Mayor (many years ago now) who is well liked across the Chamber. Seems happy to remain on the back-benches and is more likely to want to be Mayor again than the leadership.

Kentwood         Daya Pal Singh – A quiet Councillor who seems happy at present on the back benches.

Minster              Liz Terry – Formerly a senior Council officer. May find it odd to lead a political grouping, let alone take over as leader of the Council. Would certainly have the support of husband Cllr Tony Jones (Redlands).

Minster              Marian Livingstone – Currently the Mayor of Reading. Unlikely to have the time to do the lobbying required to unseat Councillor Lovelock.

Minster              Paul Gittings – Recently seemed to get very riled in the Council Chamber, attacking local campaigners and being forced to issue an apology in the press. This has damaged his stock, so an unlikely candidate.

Norcot                Graeme Hoskin – Rumoured to have tried to take the top job in the past, was defeated and was cast into the back bench wilderness for a couple of years. Now back as a front bencher but probably a case of “once bitten, twice shy”.

Norcot                Jo Lovelock – Has stated her intention to stay on as the Leader, but who knows how much longer she will want to stay on the Council. Currently elected to 2016, but may stand down then, especially if husband Pete Ruhemann stands down in 2015 as rumoured.

Norcot                Peter Jones – standing down this May.

Redlands           Jan Gavin – hugely ambitious and very political operator. Rarely appears to listen to the opinions of others and can turn almost any topic into a party political issue. Unlikely to command support across her group.

Redlands           Tony Jones – A maverick who previously left the Labour group in a huff to sit as an Independent. Lucky to have been allowed back into the Group, but looking forward to being Mayor (again) next year. Will not challenge Cllr Lovelock for the leadership and would not command support among many of the “younger generation”.

Southcote          Deborah Edwards – Former Mayor, popular locally and in the chamber but does not seem to covet higher office. A possible if she chose to run.

Southcote          John Ennis – Very close to Cllr Lovelock. Unlikely to stand against her.

Southcote          Pete Ruhemann – married to Cllr Lovelock so standing against her is a domestic impossibility.

Whitley              Kelly Edwards – Quiet in the Council chamber, and seems more focussed on her professional career than on local politics.

Whitley              Mike Orton – long standing Councillor and well respected across the chamber. Probably not looking to lead at this stage of his political career. Also rumoured to be standing down at the next opportunity.

Whitley              Rachel Eden – Clearly ambitious, and currently the rumoured front runner to challenge Cllr Lovelock. Was damaged politically by her cack-handed closure of Arthur Clark Care Home and has a tendency to get emotional in debates but definitely cannot be ruled out if she chooses to challenge Cllr Lovelock. Would she be ready for the internal repercussions if she is unsuccessful, however?

The assessment – Councillors Lovelock, Eden, Davies, Hoskins and Gavin will be lobbying behind the scenes for support within the Labour Group. The final decision will probably come down to who “kingmaker” Cllr Tony Page throws his weight behind, eventually leading to an acrimonious run off between Eden and Lovelock.

There will undoubtedly be blood on the carpet and it will be fascinating to see who wins!

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March 22, 2014 - Posted by | Local

1 Comment »

  1. Reading Labour are damaged due to the Arthur Clark scandal and deliberate profiteering from traffic infringements, let alone their practice of buying votes among other sins. As for the in-fighting, it’ll go to one of the old guard. It doesn’t matter, people see them for what they really are.

    Comment by HadEnough | April 1, 2014 | Reply


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