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Sunday, 8 May 2016

An Inevitable Challenge

Cllr Mikey Pavey is set to challenge Cllr Muhammed Butt for the leadership of Brent Council.  Although this was only announced on Saturday, it has been brewing for a long time.  Indeed at least one member of the Group has been going round for weeks that Muhammed Butt has asked her to stand as Deputy Leader, so it is fair to say Mikey Pavey has been forced into standing.

Cllr Butt often acts as if the Labour Party had no rules, but in fact it does.  That is why he was stymied in his efforts to deny the Labour Group the right to vote on a Deputy Leader.  He was forced to back down after an intervention by the director of the London Labour Party.  That is simply one of a number of occasions when Cllr Butt has sought to dictate to the Group, including refusing to raise Council Tax despite a vote by the Labour Group to do so, trying to make himself leader for four years without election (and in effect permanently), trying to suspend councillors without due process, manoeuvring to get councillors removed under the six month rule, bouncing the Group into abolishing Scrutiny beyond the legal minimum, and on numerous occasions seeking to deny members of the Labour Group the right to vote on who belongs to particular committees. 

The members of the Group will now have a chance to decide whether they wish this kind of behaviour to continue.

Process in the Labour Group
It may be worth noting the due process in Group meetings, as they appear to have escaped Cllr Butt and possibly others.  Votes are held of all the paid up Labour councillors and no one else.  The vote is by secret ballot, and follows the rules known as "exhaustive ballot".  This means that where there are multiple candidates (as I imagine there would be if Cllr Pavey becomes leader as far as the Deputy Leader post goes), the candidate with the lowest number is elimated and a new vote taken, until somebody get 50% plus one of the votes.

The Group officers (such as Leader and Deputy Leader) are voted on by the whole group, as should other positions such as the Planning Chair and the members of the Executive.  This also applies to the new Deputy Mayor, but the Mayor post is normally taken by whoever was last year's deputy without an election. 

The Scrutiny positions are voted on by the non Executive members (i.e. excluding the Leader, Deputy Leader, Executive and (I think) the Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

Since all these votes are by secret ballot, they can be expected to take a long time and be unpredictable.  My past experience of such elections is that many councillors promise their votes to multiple candidates.  I take it from Cllr Butt's attempts to suspend one of his critics and other rumours I have heard, that he is far from confident of victory. 

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