Excl: yet another Watson councillor ally resigns – this time from Labour Party under cloud

Sandwell councillor Bill Gavan – who has acted as driver for Labour deputy leader Tom Watson – resigned this evening

Cllr Bill Gavan

The Labour right in the West Midlands borough of Sandwell has been rocked – yet again – this evening by yet another resignation. Councillor Bill Gavan – a close ally of local MP Tom Watson who has acted as Watson’s driver according to local sources – announced his sudden resignation during this evening’s annual general meeting (part 2 and 3) of the council’s Labour group.

Gavan’s resignation came as a surprise to the gathered Labour councillors and came just hours after the SKWAWKBOX revealed a recording of Gavan’s erstwhile colleague Cllr Bob Piper making comments about Asian residents that have become the subject of a formal racism complaint to the party.

Gavan is also the subject of a complaint made last year by a local Asian councillor and is said locally to have been facing further complaints.

Cllr Paul Moore also recently resigned both from the council cabinet and from his position as Watson’s office manager and research assistant, in what local Labour members considered a sign of the further weakening of what was for years the iron grip of the Labour right on local party structures.

Watson’s close ally, Steve Eling, was forced to resign as Sandwell council leader earlier this year after being suspended by the party pending the investigation of serious complaints. He was consequently ineligible for selection as a Labour candidate and lost his Abbey ward council seat.

Cllr Gavan has been contacted for comment.

Update: Gavan has responded by text to say that he has not resigned from the party. However, several councillors have attested that he stood up during the meeting, in the presence of Labour’s deputy West Midlands regional director, and said: “I resign from the group and the Labour Party and will be joining the opposition and I invite others to join me.”

Cllr Gavan did not respond to a follow-up question whether he had withdrawn his resignation.

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8 responses to “Excl: yet another Watson councillor ally resigns – this time from Labour Party under cloud

  1. It’s starting to look like a domino effect, lets hope that TW is brought down as well. .

  2. What are they even doing here?
    It’s rare for people to express those views without reinforcement from others in my experience.
    Most keep their mouths firmly shut in the company of people who challenge them – so I’m guessing they’ve been spewing racist bile from the beginning of their time with Labour and been unchallenged.
    How the fuck does that happen?

    • Most of these people were Blairite placements and were allowed to perpetuate with the support of the McNicol regime?

      • I suspect these people are more the old LP right SteveH rather than Blairites.Though I don’t doubt the vile McNicol and co became allies when putting the “fix” in against their common enemy on the left of the party.

      • ” the old LP right ”

        You’re spot on in picking up this distinction – it’s become too common to just chuck everything in the boxes labelled ‘Blairite’ or ‘Centrist’. Labour machine politics goes way back before Blair, and comes in a variety of flavours.

      • RH – True about racism being more common in society back then but so was homophobia and other attitudes based on ignorance and bigotry that today’s society is trying to reject.
        My parents weren’t racist bigots by the standards of the 1950’s but would be considered so by most of us here.
        If people can’t ‘get with the programme’ I don’t believe they belong in Labour – I’m not personally enamoured of the broad church view that I think you’ve argued is electorally essential.
        I think change is abhorred by the centre like nature abhors a Hoover – and we need a lot of change.

  3. Surely as a Labour member who is a councillor he has to belong to the Labour Group. It is not a matter of choice.
    Bill is/was a personal friend but asked me three years ago to ‘lay off’ Tom Watson after I authored a very critical resolution for Unite Regional Committee which was buried by Coyne.
    He certainly was Watson’s driver for a time.

    • Field’s resignation of the Labour whip was a de facto resignation from the party.

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