10 May 2009

A split in Glasgow Labour?

As Jeff points out today, Steven Purcell's ego is rather getting on everyone's nerves: he's going out of his way to tread on Iain Gray's toes, and is avoiding any discussion of the Glasgow School Closures with Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, deciding that campaigning in the Drumchapel & Anniesland By-Election is more important than the future of education in his city.

But most of all, it's his call for an wage increase for the lowest paid Council workers to a £7 living wage that raised the most eyebrows: here was a leftward tack, the first shot in his bid for the Leadership of Labour in Scotland and a potential tilt at the First Ministership in the future.

Well, I don't think he'll be too chuffed with his City Treasurer, Gordon Matheson. While Purcell is calling for wage increases, Matheson lobbed a hand grenade into proceedings on today's Politics Show by calling for a public sector wage freeze right at the tail end of the programme, arguing that wages make up the bulk of public sector expenditure and the alternative is to cut jobs.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is local government not the public sector?

Does that not, therefore, blow Purcell's campaign out of the water?

Has he just been knifed on live television by one of his colleagues?

The answer to all three questions appears to be yes.


Jeff said...

Noticed that myself Will, an eyebrow-raising comment if ever there was one. I reckon Purcell needs to knuckle down and take one leadership role at a time.

Will said...

Well, Jeff, your post highlighted how he's more interested in political manoeuvres than doing his job - that's bad enough.

But he's just been outmanoeuvred by his own City Treasurer - so he can't even do that right without leaving himself exposed. His rise within Labour is about to get checked. I wonder if Charlie Gordon has anything to do with this?

BellgroveBelle said...

I think you may be giving them too much credit ;-)

Will said...

Hard to say... does the City Treasurer want to be a conniving backstabbing bastard who's just undermined his boss, or a complete idiot who doesn't realise that by throwing that in, he's just undermined his boss?

He either knew what he was saying or he meant well - I have to credit him with one of them! :)

Stephen not from "Drumpchapel" said...

Talk about splitting hairs, you guys really are partisan...there's a global economic crisis, a squeeze on public finances and nobody is contradicting anybody to say in a recession:

(i) there should be a very modest floor for the small number of lowest paid workers in Glasgow - although our Deputy First Minister isn't rushing to implement the Living Wage in the NHS or any of its subcontractors;
(ii) with falling inflation, public sector pay rises across the board in the near future will cost too many jobs. SNP ministers will need to face up to that with the national pay deals they've agreed several years ahead despite the uncertainty.

What's wrong with supporting the lowest paid more, but keeping as many people in work?

PS I don't fancy your chances of landing a blow when the SNP website can't spell "Steven" or "Drumchapel"!

Will said...

Of course it's a contradiction... Purcell wants a wage increase for GCC workers. Matheson wants a public sector wage freeze. Those GCC workers who Purcell wants to pay more are in the public sector, so would be in line for Matheson's freeze. And this would be less of a problem if the UK Government hadn't eliminated £500million in efficiency savings from the Scottish Budget while still proposing to pay MPs extra just for turning up in Parliament.

This is Labour's problem:

It attacks the Tories for proposing cuts, then proposes its own cuts. Either cuts are bad, or they're good. Which is it?

It complains that the SNP Government shouldn't question the usefulness of the cuts but should live within its means then signs a letter calling for extra money for students. Either the Government should be spending less, or it should be spending more. Which is it?

Glasgow City Council's Labour Leader calls for a wage increase (while everyone else is out for efficiency) but his City Treasurer calls for an across-the-board public sector pay freeze. Either workers should get a decent wage increase or they should have their pay frozen. Which is it?

Labour is all over the place on public spending at every level of Government. And no amount of trying to argue that black is white will change that.

Ted Harvey said...

First on the Glasgow City Council’s higher-than-minimum-wage-rise gimmick. I thought it was crass and bone headed posturing that probably has backfired. The message perceived by many Glasgow residents was:
"In a city where poverty-in-work in the shady parts of the private sector is a major problem and we are in the midst of an unfolding recession... don't worry your generous local council is going to put up for many of its securely employed employees, their already-above-the-minimum wage rates".

The messages were really mangled because this followed on the Council's banging on about how it had previously frozen its Council Tax.

I happen to think that what Mathieson said was at the very least thought out and premeditated; those who have dealt with him know that he doesn't do anything with aforethought - and usually the thought is 'do nothing'.

So there was something afoot here. Could be a straight forward case of the Treasurer being forced to say "but Mr wannabe First Minister, our first duty is to Glasgow's financial stability, not your Holyrood career".

There was a follow-up interview on BBC Radio Scotland this morning (you had to ignore the execrable, over-fast-talking and pointlessly sarcastic ‘Gary’ the interviewer of course). Compared with Mathieson the Unison guy (Smith?) came across as one of the worst type of 1970s unthinking, selfish trade union types – according to him there was to be no question of job losses and no question of pay freezes or restraint or whatever – just carry on regardless – to do anything on public sector pay was, his word, “immoral”.

On Stephen Purcell I’m genuinely dismayed at the way he seems to have suffered from premature acceleration. He seems to have gone off in the visionary direction of Holyrood leadership (never mind just a Holyrood seat). Dismayed, because I was one of those impressed by his initial arrival in the post of council leadership. After Charlie boy, here was someone who was actually quite articulate, economically literate and offered assertive leadership without the bruising, hectoring and crude bullying. For example, it was a change to attend the annual events of the Glasgow Economic Forum and hear from a council leader that you felt was an ambassador, and not an embarrassment, for the city.

But I think in the Doctor Owen way, it all maybe came too early for our Stephen and he has gotten carried away with it all.