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”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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. “
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”
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”
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”
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”
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.
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”