Party responded to members voting for selection contest against controversial councillor by putting only incumbent councillor on paper and seizing control of ballot meeting
At the end of July, Cllr Ann O’Byrne was ‘triggered’ by Labour members in the Warbreck ward in the north of the city, after concerns about her links to a cash-only company from which the city council is trying to recover some £78,000 and which gave £20,000 to an organisation to employ O’Byrne’s daughter.
Despite the trigger vote, members told Skwawkbox they feared the party would rig the selection to protect the right-winger and so it turned out to be: Labour presented Warbreck members with a ‘shortlist of one’ that featured only… Ann O’Byrne.
Last night, Cllr O’Byrne was reselected to stand for Labour in Warbreck at next year’s local elections – but despite the shortlist of one, the Labour’s regional office was leaving nothing to chance. The branch’s elected secretary and chair were bypassed and the ballot meeting was controlled by a regional staffer along with former ‘Tinge’ party campaigner Sheila Murphy.
In addition, branch officers were not given the agenda for the evening until the start of the meeting – and the week’s notice required by the party’s rules was not given, even though the Ms O’Byrne had reportedly been texting members for support weeks in advance.
When the ballot began, the voting paper contained just O’Byrne’s name and a box to tick – no alternative option was on the paper, so opponents could only spoil the ballot or write ‘no’ or ‘other’ – a move described by one member present as ‘totally undemocratic’. Another called it:
A fittingly corrupt process.
When branch officers explained the irregularities to members, the regional staffer tried to shut discussion down and was reportedly ‘very rude’ to the young female branch chair. At the end of the meeting, members said they wanted to make a collective complaint about the process.
Because the only option on the ballot was O’Byrne, the only option for those who wanted an open selection was to spoil their ballot – but even if a majority of members spoiled ballots, they would presumably be counted as spoiled as opposed to a vote against, ensuring ‘victory’ for O’Byrne.
Both tellers were pro O’Byrne and the actual numbers were originally kept secret – but Skwawkbox has learned that at least nineteen ballots were spoiled out of some fifty attending.
Another local summed up:
It was a completely pointless exercise because the decision was made and there was no mechanism available to members who wanted an open selection to get one.
Democracy in the Labour party is a sick sham – and the more that comes out in Liverpool and around the country, the clearer it is that the O’Byrne example is the rule rather than the exception.
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