Labour denies party chaos

THE Labour Party in Strathkelvin and Bearsden faced a wave of resignations this week over the expulsion of Councillor Charles Kennedy.

More than 20 members have already ripped up their membership cards in protest at the treatment of Councillor Kennedy, who was sensationally axed from the party last month.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party has denied that the local branch is in chaos.

The spokesman said: "We have no evidence to suggest that these people have left the party.

"The Milton of Campsie branch does not exist as a single entity. It is part of the local Labour Party and it was the local party who brought forward the complaint about Mr Kennedy.

"It was the National Constitutional Committee (NCC), which is made up of party members, who decided that Mr Kennedy should be expelled."

Councillor Kennedy, who is a former council leader and councillor of over 20 years, was expelled for allegedly backing Jean Turner in the 2003 Scottish Parliament elections.

Doctor Turner took the seat from Labour's Brian Fitzpatrick with a majority of 438, just two years after Mr Fitzpatrick won the seat in a by-election with a majority of over 7,800.

Leading last week's walkout was Rosebank and Waterside Councillor Jack Young, who said he could not stand by and watch as an "innocent" colleague was subjected to a "witch-hunt."

Councillor Young was joined in the exodus by party members Jim Gilmour, Tommy Cairney and Tess Devine, who have more than 40 years' service between them.

And on Monday night, the 13 members present at a Milton of Campsie branch meeting agreed to submit their resignations, in a massive vote of confidence for Councillor Kennedy. It is believed the remaining two branch members were unable to attend the meeting.

Milton of Campsie branch chairperson John Telfer explained: "We feel strongly about this - some of the members have been in the party for over 20 years.

"People have been phoning me saying they can't believe the way Charles Kennedy has been treated and it's not just in Milton of Campsie but also people from Kirkintilloch."

Councillor Kennedy's expulsion and Councillor Young's resignation leaves Labour with just seven elected councillors on East Dunbartonshire Council, compared with 12 Lib Dems and three Tories.

The group's weakened position is further highlighted by the fact that councillors Alan Moir and Rhondda Geekie hold the smallest majorities on the council, at 38 and 150 respectively.

In contrast, Councillor Kennedy holds the biggest majority at 1446. Councillor Young was elected last year with a majority of 546 - the fourth biggest majority secured by a Labour councillor.

Jim Gilmour, who has close to 23 years service with the Labour Party, this week launched a scathing attack on the Strathkelvin and Bearsden constituency party.

He said: "I would like to express my disgust at the treatment of Charles Kennedy given his long service to the people of Milton of Campsie and to the Labour Party.

"To be taken to a kangaroo court without right of appeal is more prevalent to an Eastern Bloc country than Great Britain.

"It seems to be that a small group of people run Labour in this area, much to the detriment of the whole party."

Party member of eight years, Tess Devine, said: "I joined a party that was supposed to work for everybody, but this doesn't seem to be the case anymore."

Tommy Cairney, a party member of more than nine years, added: "This is certainly not the Labour Party I joined years ago.