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Happy Families

Great disquiet over Independent Alliance candidate for Westoe, South Shields

It seems from information reaching the Corner Shop that the South Tyneside Independent Alliance group of councillors is in the midst of a fractious family argument.

For the last couple of years this Independent party of disaffected former Labourites on South Tyneside District Council has made a lot of mileage from attacking the family interests and values of some of it’s political opponents, specifically the Malcolm family who represented seats in South Shields, and the Waggott family of the former Labour Leader who represented seats in the Jarrow constituency, however this business of seeing siblings, married couples or other relatives represented on our council is nothing new and is almost a tradition around here. Mind you I cannot ever remember councillors from the same family representing the same seat in the past. Some may still disagree in principle with family members following the same political path in life, others will rightly point out that the electors will always have the final say, but one of the reasons why I have so recently backed the idea of open primaries to choose candidates is because it takes these decisions out of the hands of a few at the top of the local party, and that cannot be a bad thing. Times have changed, our perceptions of our politicians have changed, the public mood currently dictates that they are all self serving loathsome characters out to make a few quid on our backs! So we now demand less secrecy, more honesty, candour, transparency and openness from our representatives. Something which apparently the Independent Alliance has campaigned for.

Which begs the question that I asked in the comments of another post – just what procedures do the Independent Alliance employ in choosing their candidates? How have they put themselves in the position of doing exactly what they campaigned against doing?

Information has come to me from a number of reliable sources, both within and without, that the Alliance had a very fractious meeting a few nights ago which was not attended by Cllrs. Jane or Alan Branley and that heated exchanges of views took place regarding the “appointment” of Jane Branley’s son, David McBride, to fight the Westoe seat in South Shields on behalf of the Alliance in May, following the announcement that Cllr. Victor Thompson is to stand down. I have heard allegations that his announced political background and contribution to the Alliance is not as extensive as has been claimed and that other councillors within the group thought their own offspring would make better or more “deserving” candidates. So far, it has been difficult to substantiate some of these allegations since some leading members of the Alliance seem unable to answer my emails requesting further information and clarification (there’s nothing new there).

Why is it that every time I email Jane Branley these days, I get an immediate response from her current deputy Ahmed Khan? I had asked for a list of their leading officers and in double quick time Cllr. Khan informed me that the current position remains unchanged, i.e. Jane is the Leader and he is her deputy. Taking a quick sniff of the air, I decided to seek further clarification regarding the future position as South  Tyneside Council approaches it’s annual meeting (I had heard an unconfirmed rumour that Cllr. Khan had decided NOT to seek re-election as Deputy Leader, and had told colleagues of this decision at the aforementioned meeting).

So I fired off this reply to Cllr. Khan:

Can you confirm that you have decided not to seek re-election as deputy leader of your group following the decision to “appoint” a third family member as a possible councillor in the Westoe ward?

Would you support the view that it is not ethically right for a family to attempt to dominate a ward’s representation, and create a “dynasty” in this manner?

Would you agree that the Independent Alliance has made a lot of political mileage from attacking just this type of nepotism in it’s opponents, specifically the Malcolm family and the Waggott family?

Is there truth in the allegations that two Independent councillors would have preferred to see their own sons or daughters as a candidate in Westoe in preference to Mr. McBride?

I await his reply with anticipation and sympathy, yes sympathy. I feel for him, he has spent the best part of the last three years campaigning vigorously against the way he believes the electorate has been treated by their politicians, he has claimed the moral high ground in his campaigns and has been forthright in the manner in which he has presented them, he has vilified his opponents for creating these dynastic fiefdoms, it must gall him to witness his own party leader following exactly the path that he has campaigned against, and apparently doing so without the prior consent , approval, or opinion of her supporters on the ground. However, I will temper my sympathy a little, Cllr. Khan has also championed the candidacy of his own daughter in her first electoral outing.

Cllr. Khan was extremely quick to respond to my first email, but he’s a consummate signed up politician now, with all of the traits of the national big boys in the Conservative or Labour parties, he now has to stall, buy time, and choose his spin words very carefully, will he be a man of principal and stand by his words for once, or a man of political expedience who looks after himself and his position before others?

I am also hearing that there is a fair amount of public disquiet and concern at the attempt to foist Mr. McBride on the Alliance and attempt to have him elected to the family manor in Westoe, I understand that many people in South Shields want their voice to be heard, they want it to be known that it is no longer acceptable in the 2000s  for a family to dictate to a larger group and disregard wider opinion. Fiefdom and servitude died a long time ago, and political parties or movements should be far more democratic and accountable to their members and supporters as well as to their electorates.

Considering that on South Tyneside Council, the Independent Alliance’s numbers are now near half of what they were at the beginning, one must question the strategic and tactical leadership of Cllr. Mrs. Branley, during her tenure she has overseen a disastrous divorce when the Progressive Association withdrew it’s support, further splits when other former Labour councillors Elsom and Haram withdrew their support, and more recently the loss of Independent councillor Steve Harrison, on top of that she had to oversee and organise a campaign to have her husband re-elected after embarrassingly being thrown off the council for failure to attend meetings. As a mother hen she seems to have done her best to throw most of her fledgling chicks out of the nest, I’m surprised that so far there has been no challenge to her leadership but after her attempt to cut budgets even further than Labour last week I’m sure her family of ex Labour supporters and the misguided will see that her ineptitude and disconnect from the wider audience of voters outside of Westoe will cost the rest of them dearly.

Perhaps Cllr. Khan might seize the moment for change, who knows?

For now though, the Independent Alliance appears to be the most unhappy family in South Tyneside and they could end up even more unhappy if some them insist on pressing the claims of one particular family over the opinions of the rest of us.

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Written by curly

March 6, 2010 at 10:02 am

9 Responses

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  1. Who the hell do these people think they are? A seat on the council is not a job creation scheme for the sons and daughters of people who would berate other parties for doing something similar.
    I know that the Labour Party vets and interviews potential candidates before they are accepted on to a ‘panel’.’ They can then apply to become a councillor by putting their case to a members meeting in a particular ward. I don’t doubt the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Progressives operate something similar.
    This dynastic handover without the semblance of a contest is very telling. One wonders if the lack of the sort of vetting operated by other parties may come back to bite the Branley’s on the bum. One would have hoped that fellow Independants would have had something to say on the fairness and transparency rather than the fact that Ms Whatever ( she seems to vary her name depending on whether she is writing to the Gazette as a humble student or standing for election in Hebburn) has been denied a crack at a ‘safe’ seat.

    I spy

    March 6, 2010 at 3:31 pm

  2. Ive been following this on twitter Curly, these people are shocking and couldnt care less about anyone except themselves. What the hell makes this rich bunch think that makes them different to any other bloody politicians, Hang there heads in shame. And that bloke Khan is a disgrace to South Shields if he behaved with me the way he has with you Id be round his house to knock his block off, nowt but a schoolyard bully.

    Man in a rage

    March 6, 2010 at 8:21 pm

  3. It strikes me that this shower are in it for themselves. Worse that the worst of the Labour party.

    I wonder what the electorate will make of this naked nepotism? I bet most people have no idea what is going on. I think we have a responsibity to get the word out.

    This sounds like the perfect story for Mr Hislop and his Private Eye monkeys.

    Ahmed Khan's Tooth Brush

    March 6, 2010 at 9:35 pm

  4. Curly – I loved Jane Branleys comments that the election of her son in westoe would reduce the average age of councillors.

    Have you seen some of their candidates?

    Aaron Luke, [the dog lover] in Primrose is no youngster

    neither is the guy in the Hill, Mr Allsorts who admitted to looking up Eileen Leasks skirt

    Jim Hodgson in Beacon and Bents is well passed retirement age

    and Mr Pattinson in Biddick looks like he will not see 50 again

    mind you, neither will Jane

    The phrase “people in glass houses” comes to mind


    March 7, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    • Why do all these people who make such comments never use their real names,is there a serious lack of courage or possibly a big cover up.I have spoken to Ahmed Khane on a few occasions and just because he is big does not make him a bully he is one of the nices and kindest man you could wish to meet.By the way if you talk about the ages of councillors AUDRY Mcmillen, Olive Punchion, Bill Brady, Maisy Stuart, Alan Kerr,Joan Meeks, Sylvia Spraggon,Tom Pigott and labour canditate for Bede Arther Meeks are all over 70 and a few more i forgot about so i do think young people should be brought into the council and let our elderly councillors go and have a bit of peace and quiet befitting there advanced years

      patricia boschung

      March 30, 2010 at 11:56 am

  5. I see that the Independent Alliance website has introduced a certain Helen Spiers as their West Park candidate.

    Allan Branley has a sister called Helen and like the one mentioned in the Indy website she moved down south with her parents and brother Kevin when she was younger.

    Allan stayed up north.

    Surely the two Helen’s couldn’t be the same person?


    April 2, 2010 at 11:42 am

  6. Perhaps they could do you think?
    You just never know with this family business/party which pretends to be not a party.
    Could it be possible that they’d want a husband and wife, sister/sister-in-law, and son/step son all on the council together?
    My word, it would take this game to a whole new level don’t you think?
    I wonder what that other great thinker, The Fat Councillor would think of this?


    April 2, 2010 at 4:44 pm

  7. @curly @heaintheavy

    Guys, I heard exactly the same information from a council contact this week. In fact I blogged about it.

    This shower have no shame. Perhaps it is time for your Fat Councillor to take a closer look at dear Helen. I feel a post coming on.

    Fat Councillor

    April 2, 2010 at 5:36 pm

  8. You will be happy to note that two other contacts within the local authority have emailed me with details that tally with the accounts that you have received.

    I’m about to have a look at The Representation of the Peoples Act.


    April 2, 2010 at 11:59 pm

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