Monday 7 January 2013
Crossing the Floor
News that Theressa Bowen has defected from Labour to join the ranks of Pam Palmer's "Independents" is not on the face of it much to get excited about, but there is something very odd about this particular move, and it tells us something about the peculiar nature of the Labour Party in Carmarthenshire as well as the official Independents who like to pretend that they are not actually a political party at all.
Defections by politicians from one party to another are nothing new, but they remain relatively rare events. Usually they come about after a long gestation of profound disagreements over policy or, rather less nobly, because the defector calculates that he or she has a better chance of being re-elected and appointed to a top job by joining a different party. Sometimes defections are triggered by personality clashes and tantrums.
Ms Bowen has quite a long and colourful history in the sometimes murky world of Llanelli politics. She ran a bitter and protracted vendetta against Meilyr Hughes who represented the two-member ward of Llwynhendy for Plaid Cymru, and finally unseated him in the local government elections in May last year as Labour in Llanelli surfed the national wave which brought the party back from the disastrous losses it suffered in 2008.
Ms Bowen has now been a county councillor for all of 7 months, an unusually short period of time for a defection. Even odder, although she has physically crossed the floor from the Labour to the Independent benches, the two parties are in coalition, so we can rule out long, simmering disagreements over policy issues as the reason for her move.
We can guess how Labour would react if the Independents put up Cllr Bowen for promotion to a job with a special responsibility allowance, so we can probably also rule that out as a motive.
Ms Bowen was known to be close to Labour's deputy leader, Tegwen Devichand, and various highly unsavoury accounts of what happened to cause the rift are circulating. What seems clear is that the Independents were quick to seize an opportunity to add to their ranks.
Whatever the truth, this is not a run of the mill defection, and it puts Labour and the Independents level pegging with 22 seats each. Pam Palmer, who was obviously less than ecstatic about the outcome of the election and having to play second fiddle to Kevin Madge, will now have her sights set on the role of council leader. We may even see the job of council leader turned into a revolving arrangement, with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee taking it in turns to run the council every alternate year.
As for Labour, the party needs to have a serious look at its candidate selection process. Not only was it clearly unable to attract people willing to stand in most parts of the county, but the candidates it did attract were, to put it mildly, a mixed bunch. Some, such as Shahid Hussein, fortunately never made it to County Hall, despite Kevin Madge's best efforts. Theressa Bowen did, and Labour now rues the day. Some others are little short of a disgrace to public office.
Labour's decent rank and file members and councillors must be asking themselves what their party has come to.
And as for the rest of us, the grubby goings-on in County Hall leave us wondering what the hell we have done to deserve this.
Posted by Cneifiwr at 08:35