Bridgwater “A Carnival Town, a Rebel Town , a Pirate Town and a Party Town”

Tuesday, 16 July 2019Leave a reply
Labour Leader Cllr Brian Smedley “What do we want? Festivals!”

Bridgwater is a Carnival town, a Rebel town, a Pirate town, a Clash town, an Internationalist town and a Party town. It’s rural, it’s urban, it has all the waterways you can imagine, it’s a transport hub, a creative outpost, an industrial centre and it’s location is second to none. Within 20 minutes you can be on the coast, in the hills or on the moors. And this weekend people from all over will be coming to Bridgwater to celebrate the diversity, creativity and down to earth culture of this unique Somerset town as the Quayside Festival takes to the streets, International Twinning Week reaches it’s peak and the Towns Art Centre -the first in the country – is re-opened with a new programme and a new brochure. On top of this a progressive major green initiative to combat climate change is launched and the medium….another festival!

Continue reading “Bridgwater “A Carnival Town, a Rebel Town , a Pirate Town and a Party Town””

Sedgemoor Labour Elects New Leadership Team

Thursday, 11 July 20197 Replies
Brian Smedley
Cllr Brian Smedley , Leader of Sedgemoor Labour Group

Sedgemoor Labour Group held an emergency meeting on Wednesday night to elect a new leadership team. Westover councillors Brian Smedley and Kathy Pearce were elected unanimously as Leader and Deputy Leader.

Brian Smedley said after the meeting “It’s an honour to take on this great responsibility. Despite the state of politics nationally, the day-to-day business of being a councillor is helping to run the town and trying to improve things for its people. Obviously, we condemn anti-semitism and racism in any form, but this is nothing to do with our work and the great challenges and opportunities ahead. What is important is our economy, the environment and our communities. Myself, Kathy and the Labour Group will continue to do our best to serve, and to build on our achievements. On Town Council we are taking Climate Change seriously, tackling the transport chaos in the area and trying to positively promote a bright future for our town. We will naturally be happy to work with any parties or individuals provided they take a constructive approach to the future of the town and aren’t just playing political games. “ Continue reading “Sedgemoor Labour Elects New Leadership Team”

Bridgwater Labour ‘Stunned and Saddened’ by Unexpected Resignation of Leader

Saturday, 6 July 20194 Replies
Labour leader resigns after fronting election campaign

Bridgwater Labour Party has been stunned and saddened by the sudden and unexpected resignation of their District Group Leader and former Mayor Cllr Diogo Rodrigues. The news was delivered ‘out of the blue’ on the afternoon of Friday 5th July shortly before appearing on Facebook, Twitter, on the councillor’s own blog and in the local press generating 100’s of responses both supportive and critical.

Cllr Rodrigues moved to the Bridgwater area in 2015 and joined the local party immediately being quickly selected to fill a last minute vacancy in Dunwear North ward which he  won. 4 years later he had been nominated by the controlling Labour Group to be the Town’s Mayor -a ceremonial post voted in by the 16 Town Councillors, 14 of whom were Labour. During his time as Bridgwater’s youngest ever Mayor he launched many initiatives including a massive personal social media presence and rapidly increased his own following along with that of his party.

In May 2019 he fought for the Dunwear ward on Sedgemoor District Council for Labour , which he won alongside new councillor Alexia Bartlett, ousting the sitting UKIP candidate. He also stood for Labour in the Fairfax East ward on Town Council  which he also won.

lex and diogo
Diogo and Alexia Bartlett had fought together to win Dunwear ward. Alexia said she was “saddened”

With the Labour Group keeping control of the Town council, Diogo was made a Labour Cabinet member on Town for Youth and was elected by his fellow members onto the Council’s powerful Executive Committee.

Meanwhile, on Sedgemoor District Council Labour had increased their numbers after the election and the Tory majority was looking precarious, however their Leader Mick Lerry had sadly lost his seat by just 10 votes. Labour members had no hesitation but to put their faith in Diogo and elected him to the paid position of Labour Leader on Sedgemoor District Council and therefore Leader of the Opposition. Diogo had been in post for just one month and was now part of the District Council’s senior ‘Leaders Liaison group’, ‘Property Investments Board’ and  had also recently attended the Local Government Association Conference in Bournemouth.

‘Thought it was a hacker’

Diogo with Alec and Hilary -all won Labour seats in Fairfax in May 2019

Labour’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Brian Smedley said “This resignation came as a bolt out of the blue and appeared on my ‘messenger’ at 1.30 on Friday afternoon. It was so unbelievable I assumed it was a joke  and had to check he hadn’t been hacked. I was astounded that it was genuine and obviously immediately  tried to talk him out of it but his mind had been made up and in fact he’d already gone to the Press and informed the Council’s officers that he would now  continue as a councillor but as an independent. I informed Labour colleagues who were naturally astounded by the news particularly as we’d all just fought an election campaign together alongside him and we knew that ordinary members of the Party who had leafletted and canvassed on his behalf would feel disappointed to say the least. However, the point of a Labour Party is to provide organisation to local government and to bring change to society against a very well organised ruling Conservative Party. That’s why we need political parties.  Without that Unity we are nothing and so we will simply close ranks, lick our wounds and carry on the struggle. We put a manifesto to the people, we all stood on that and we are now delivering it even in the face of this devastating blow.”

Resignation Letter

Resignation breaks on social media and in the Press

Diogo outlined the reasons for his resignation in a letter to the CLP, which he also put out in the Press and on Social Media that same afternoon. In his letter he said that “the decision was not taken lightly and is no way a reflection of the great work local Labour councillors do”. He also described the Labour Party as having “clear principles of fairness, equality and opportunity for all”  but went on to say that he felt “more and more disenfranchised and disconnected”. His reasons included the EU referendum which, despite being a ‘remainer’ himself  he was now critical of Labour “arguing against the democratic  result”. He also added he believed Labour had become “tainted” by an “antisemitism crisis” although he later added that the Tory party was “mired in islamophobia” and was  “in a bigger mess than the Labour Party”. He also concluded that “The UK with Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson as prime minister is a great risk to ordinary people across the country”.

Diogo’s decision to now sit as an Independent will mean Labour committee places on Sedgemoor are reduced as the council operates on proportionality. There is one other Independent on SDC, a man from Cheddar of indeterminate politics, but to gain seats they will have to now declare themselves to be an ‘independent group’. It is not known whether they’ve even spoken to each other yet.

street campaign
Diogo campaigning alongside fellow Labour Councillors Leigh Redman and Brian Smedley and branch secretary Gemma Shanahan bringing new life and youth into the party

On Bridgwater Town Council Diogo has declined to resign from the Executive and could only be replaced by a vote of councillors at 2020’s annual meeting should the members wish to do that.

Labour Closes Ranks and Moves On

Bridgwater Labour Party members and Councillors will meet on Wednesday to discuss the crisis brought about by their former colleague and decide on their response whilst at the same time electing a new leader and taking steps to deal with the loss of Committee places.

Cllr Smedley said “Diogo is a passionate and committed young activist and we recognised this immediately  and naturally encouraged him because that’s what we do and that’s important. You have to trust people. He did some great work as  a Labour councillor – but it wasn’t on his own, it was part of a team. Lots of people put in a lot of time to help him realise his ideas.  In terms of the Mayoralty he definitely did a brilliant job bringing it into the 21st century and in terms of Youth Work he was an excellent advocate for empowering young people. But he couldn’t do that on his own, he had the support of the rest of the councillors and because the Labour Party was in power locally we made that happen. Regarding his reasons, he is not alone in being disillusioned with the state of British politics, but you don’t change things by running away, you stay and fight.

Former Labour Leader John Turner alongside current leaders Brian Smedley and Kath Pearce pictured in 2008

Brexit is tearing the country apart and is affecting families, communities and, as in this case, friendships. Anti-Semitism is an evil and it has to have no place in the Labour Party. I guarantee that locally there has been zero tolerance and zero incidents. The political fight is with the Tories and not with ourselves. Unity is always the answer because United we Stand Divided we Fall. And that is especially poignant this week as we say a final farewell to our former leader John Turner who understood the value of loyalty and devoted his entire life to Labour and to the people of Bridgwater. No matter what threatened to divide and undermine us he put party, class and community first and we’ll miss him. He knew it was important to promise what you’ll deliver and then deliver it. That’s what he did through his life and that’s what we’ve done as a Labour Group in control of Bridgwater Town Council and in opposition on Sedgemoor and that’s what we will continue to do. “

Labour’s John Turner Dies Aged 91

Thursday, 27 June 20191 Reply
John Turner
John Turner, a giant of the Labour Movement in Bridgwater

For more than 50 years John Turner has been a towering figure in Labour politics in Bridgwater.He has a street named after him, a room in the Town Hall named after him, he’s a ‘Freeman of the Town’, a former Mayor, a former Borough Councillor, Sedgemoor District Councillor and still a Town Councillor, an ex-Trades Union leader, an ex-Magistrate and , probably most important to him, an ex-Matelot. John sadly died this week aged 91 after a short illness.

John Turner was first elected to Bridgwater Borough Council in 1961, continued onto its successor councils Sedgemoor District (1974) and Bridgwater Town (2003). Throughout this time he never lost an election and for most of it he was the Leader. Continue reading “Labour’s John Turner Dies Aged 91”

Labour Offers ‘Constructive Working’ with Other Parties at Sedgemoor

Wednesday, 22 May 2019
Diogo makes some final amendments to committees and portfolio appointments

Sedgemoor District Council has a new Chairman,Vice Chairman and Executive Committee. All Tories. As re-elected Council Leader Duncan McGinty announced his new team, which included Duchess of Durleigh, Gill Slocombe, as his deputy, and Badlands Boy, Lance Duddridge, as Portfolio Holder for ‘Customer Access and the Digital Doomsday Device’ (or something) , Labour’s new Leader Cllr Diogo Rodrigues made clear in his maiden speech that Labour was prepared for ‘constructive working with all parties on Sedgemoor’.

Hungry Heart

With Sedgemoor’s political balance now tighter than ever as the Tory majority shrunk at the last election , committees are very evenly balanced in some cases, with Conservatives having a majority of just 1 on key arenas like the 2 Scrutiny committees which will again be chaired by Labour. Cllr Brian Smedley will chair the inward looking Corporate Scrutiny Committee and Cllr Kathy Pearce the outward looking Community Scrutiny, both with the power to call in Tory Executive decisions. All other committees will have a clear Tory majority plus Tory Chairs. Continue reading “Labour Offers ‘Constructive Working’ with Other Parties at Sedgemoor”

Somerset Celebrates International Workers Day in Wells

Tuesday, 7 May 2019
Wells May Day march 2019

This weekend Labour Party members from across Somerset paraded their red flags through the city of Wells in celebration of International Workers Day as countless thousands did around the globe. The Chair of Wells Labour Party, John Fones,addressed the gathering from the bandstand with a rousing speech which we include in full here.

Did we lose – yes.But “Are we downhearted? No?”

After the local elections this week in Mendip and Sedgemoor, should Labour members be mourning and should we be downhearted? We should be sad that that voters chose to show their dissatisfaction with national politics and the Brexit fiasco by voting for people who will do little to turn the tide for ordinary people like you and me. Continue reading “Somerset Celebrates International Workers Day in Wells”

Diogo Set to Become New Leader of Opposition on Sedgemoor

Tuesday, 7 May 2019
Diogo Rodrigues-New Sedgemoor District Labour Leader

Bridgwater’s former Mayor, Diogo Rodrigues, has been voted in as the Leader of Sedgemoor District Labour Group by his fellow Councillors following the District Council elections of May 2nd which saw Labour increase its numbers to 12 seats and the Tories crash down from 35 to 28 but still retaining control in a night where all other Somerset Districts saw them evicted from the seats of power. The decision will mean that Diogo will become the Leader of the Opposition on Sedgemoor District Council.

The vacancy arose because experienced former Labour Leader Mick Lerry narrowly lost his Bridgwater Victoria seat by  just 10 votes to Tory incumbant Lance Duddridge, although new Labour candidate Julie Cordiner came top of the Victoria Poll. Mick however retained his Town seat for Victoria. Continue reading “Diogo Set to Become New Leader of Opposition on Sedgemoor”

Red Flags still fly somewhere

Friday, 3 May 2019
Red flags still fly somewhere

As results come in it’s clear that the Lib Dems have regained the ground that they lost following their disastrous results after the 2011-2015 coalition with the Conservatives taking councils such as BATH & NORTH EAST SOMERSET and SOMERSET WEST & TAUNTON and MENDIP from the Conservatives and COTSWOLD & NORTH DEVON from NOC. Meanwhile Labour has held it’s key South West Councils of EXETER, PLYMOUTH and BRIDGWATER.

In Exeter Labour dropped 1 seat  and the Tories dropped 2 while the Lib Dems gained 1 the Greens gained 1 and Independents gained 1. Labour retain control 29 Lab 6 Con 2 Libdem 1 Green 1 Ind

In Plymouth Labour kept control and gained 1 seat from the Tories. Labour 31 Con 25 Ind 1.

in Somerset West & Taunton the Lib Dems took control from the Tories gaining 19 seats while the Tories lost 31 and UKIP lost 1. Inds gained 10 and Labour gained 1 while the Greens gained 2 leaving a council composed Libdem 30 IND 14 CON 10 LAB 3 GREEN 2

In Bath & North East Somerset the Lib Dems gained control from the Tories climbing 23 seats  while Labour and IND both gained 1 each and the Greens dropped 1 making a council of Lib Dem 37 CON 9 LAB 7 IND 6

In Sedgemoor the Tories clung on but Labour held the town of Bridgwater and made gains across the District council reducing the Tory majority there to  just 8 votes.

Labour Holds Bridgwater Town Council

Friday, 3 May 2019
Brian Smedley still leads the largest political group at Bridgwater Town Hall

Bridgwater has remained a lone Labour stronghold in the West of England between Bristol and Exeter proudly flying the red flag from its Town hall. After the hard fought town elections the final score was Labour 12 Tories 4. Although the Tories naturally regained their 2 seats in their Wyndham heartlands (they didn;t stand there last time so opposition parties made a temporary grab) but 2 ever-so-close battles saw narrow Tory wins. In Fairfax Labour councillor Alex Glassford lost to Tory Mike Cresswell by just 1 vote while in Dunwear South Labour’s Gary Tucker was defeated by Tory Suria Aujla by just 7.

Continue reading “Labour Holds Bridgwater Town Council”

Labour and Lib Dems increase to narrow Tory control of Sedgemoor

Friday, 3 May 2019
Labour Leader Mick Lerry who led a Labour revival but narrowly lost his own seat

As Tories collapsed across the country and across the county they managed to cling on here in Sedgemoor but with a heavily reduced majority.  Labour regained 2 seats in Bridgwater  with new candidates Hilary Bruce. knocking out out Tory Chairman Mike Cresswell from his Fairfax ward, and Alexia Bartlett, kicking out UKIP from Dunwear. Also new on the District scene is former Mayor Diogo Rodrigues who won the top placed seat in Dunwear.

Other Labour councillors new on district included Julie Cordiner in Victoria, Tony Heywood and Li Gibson in Eastover and Liz Leavy in Hamp. Continue reading “Labour and Lib Dems increase to narrow Tory control of Sedgemoor”