Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Nationalists repeat Labour scandal, allegedly

Cleaning out my cuttings file (i.e., a box of various unsorted papers) this week, I came across a June 1995 report for the Independent by David Walker of allegations against councillors in the Monklands district of Strathclyde. As I write, the article is still on the Web, but who knows how long it will stay accessible seeing how easily Google and their ilk roll over in the face of requests to remove embarrassing links.

The allegations were that, in the constituency once held by Labour leader John Smith, councillors discriminated against non-Labour, non-Catholic, constituents in the matter of council house repairs and in allocation of council jobs. The accusations were so serious that an inquiry under William Nimmo Smith was set up, though with limited terms of reference. In the end, the inquiry cleared the district council.

The article points out that any party which has been in power too long is liable to succumb to corruption and lists various ways in which corrupt councillors can abuse their power. The de-municipalisation of housing, under Westminster PMs from Thatcher through to Brown and under Labour-dominated Welsh governments, has removed some opportunities for corrupt practices. However, Walker contends that privatisation brings its own possibilities of graft. The Rotten Boroughs columns of Private Eye certainly have their fair share of such stories, and Conservative as well as Labour councils feature.

Monklands District Council is no more, subsumed by the unitary authority of North Lanarkshire, whence Labour was swept away by the Scottish National Party. Now the SNP is having its own little local difficulties.

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