A leaked minute from a local Labour branch meeting highlights the low morale among party activists ahead of May’s council elections.
The damning document, from a meeting of the Labour Party’s Braes Branch focusing on election campaigning on February 1, stated that analysis shows there is “no longer a core Labour vote/typical Labour voter” they can rely on to help secure election success.
There was also discussion on the open vacancy for a second Labour candidate in the Upper Braes, which members voted unanimously against and where it looks likely they will field only one candidate for the ward, despite currently holding two seats.
The memo states: “Wide ranging discussion – local view was that if we do not have a good, local, second candidate now then we should not get one – focus on getting JMc (John McLuckie) re-elected and minimise risk of vote split between two Labour candidates.
“Decided, unanimously by Upper Braes members that we would request the LCF NOT to stand a second candidate in Upper Braes.”
The memo added: “...we need a local message for non SNP voters – try and persuade to go Labour for # 2 (number two) vote”.
Now the Falkirk Council SNP Group is questioning the relationship between the local Labour party and the Conservatives.
The SNP believe that Labour has stood aside to support the Tory candidate for the Upper Braes, James Kerr, as the best prospect of defeating the SNP using the Single Transferable Vote system of election.
SNP Group Leader Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn said: “The leaked document demonstrates the fact Labour has thrown in the towel in terms of winning the election in their own right and are now seeking Trojan Horse entry to the council via the Tory party.
“That means Labour voters, many of whom have had their benefits cut, or faced pay freezes are being asked to vote for the party responsible for pushing tens of thousands of our most vulnerable people into poverty.
“Both parties’ bosses may congratulate themselves on devising a wizard wheeze they think may slow the SNP down, but the good people of the Braes are no mugs and I suspect will see through this further demonstration of the merging of Labour and Tory parties into one common ethos and one common purpose – to prevent much needed change.”
Secretary of the Labour Braes branch Douglas Pettigrew responded saying: “Labour has led Falkirk Council in saving vital local services from SNP cuts.
“The Braes branch area has been represented by hard-working councillors who have delivered improvements for their communities.
“In May, Falkirk Labour is confident that the people of the Falkirk Council area will choose to elect Labour councillors who will continue to protect and develop services for Falkirk’s people and reject the SNP who seek to use division to hide the damaging effects of Scottish Government imposed austerity.”
Lower Braes seat ‘vulnerable’
The Upper Braes was a key battlefield in the 2012 election campaign and was the deciding ward in securing Labour a tight victory that year.
This part of the district is covered by two wards – Upper Braes and Lower Braes – with three councillors in each ward: currently Gordon Hughes (SNP), John McLuckie and Rosie Murray (both Labour) for the Upper ward, and Alan Nimmo (Labour), Malcolm Nicol (Conservative) and Steven Jackson (SNP) for the Lower ward for villages including Polmont, Hallglen, Slamannan, and Maddiston.
In 2012 Labour took two of the seats to give the party 14 councillors to the SNP’s 13 – who were then propped up by two Tory councillors Malcolm Nicol and John Patrick, as well as independent Billy Buchanan, who have helped run the administration for the past five years.
The Leaked memo also revealed the branch’s campaign plans in the run-up to the local authority elections on Thursday, May 4 with slogans such as ‘Councillors for the Braes’.
It also highlighted council successes throughout the past five years for candidates to focus on during canvassing such as: improvement of the housing stock in Braes villages and insulation and heating; amenity provision such as playparks; and educational achievements.
The memo shows members are also worried about the Lower Braes seats, stating: “Vote analysis suggests that Lower Braes seat could be vulnerable could be vulnerable, with vulnerable, with both the Conservatives and SNP with a possibility of gaining two seats, and with limited resources, it may be better to focus efforts there.”
It added: “There will be an overall Falkirk theme, but the manifesto has not been written yet – won’t be available until March.”