New scandal hushed up by Labour

`A report into Glasgow council is thought to recommend the expulsions of six members'
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The Independent Online
Labour party managers have delayed publishing the results of an inquiry into a second party scandal in Scotland to avoid further embarrassment in the run-up to next month's devolution vote.

A report into allegations of widespread misbehaviour by Labour councillors in Glasgow is thought to recommend the suspension and possible expulsion from the Labour group of up to half a dozen members and censuring around 20 more. One Labour source said: "When this comes out, if the Labour party investigators have done their job right, it will make events in Paisley pale into insignificance."

The investigation was launched in June by a sub-committee of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee. It originally focused on suggestions that councillors were allocated trips on delegations and places on council dinners according to their loyalty when voting in debates in Labour group meetings.

However, the remit has been extended to cover the political in-fighting in the council, which has paralysed the leadership. Two main factions on Glasgow council centre around the leader, Bob Gould, and his deputy Gordon McDermott.

One of those who was interviewed by the investigators said: "They were interested in the general conduct of the group and how members behaved." Suggestions have also been made that councillors have assaulted members of staff.

The Independent has learned that the completed report criticises up to a quarter of Labour's 75 councillors in the city and recommends the expulsion of between four and six. Many councillors may face charges under Labour's catch-all offence of bringing the party into disrepute.

Although interviews with 50 councillors were completed early last month, Labour did not want its findings to emerge until after the 11 September devolution referendum. It is now expected to be presented for approval by the meeting of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee next month.

Labour's image in Scotland has been tarnished by the suspension of two of its MPs in separate investigations, Mohamed Sarwar (Glasgow Govan) and Tommy Graham (Renfrewshire West). The Tories have capitalised on allegations of Labour "sleaze" and have used pictures of the men on a poster opposing devolution. If details of the report on Glasgow leaked out, party managers fear the impact on the devolution debate.

A majority of Glasgow's Labour councillors are full time and many of the complaints centre around the allocation of key committee posts, worth salaries of up to pounds 20,000 for a chairmanship and pounds 12,000 for a deputy chairmanship.

Gordon Archer, who recently defected to the Scottish National Party from Labour said: "These posts are not allocated on the basis of ability, but on the basis of loyalty. If you toe the line, you get a good job, which is pretty rich given that many of these people are unemployable elsewhere."

There has also been criticism of the use of the Common Good Fund, a pounds 2m fund obtained from the sale of Glasgow's gasworks in the 1920s whose proceeds are at the disposal of the Provost (the equivalent of mayor). At least pounds 2,000 was allocated to pay for a fleet of limousines to take 20 councillors and their spouses to the Edinburgh Tattoo last year.

The Glasgow scandal will add to Labour's woes in local government which is rapidly tarnishing its clean image and may cost it dear in its first major electoral test, the May 1998 local elections. In Doncaster, five councillors and the local party have been suspended amidst allegations of junketing, while in Hackney the party has split over accusations and counter-accusations of corruption.

Saturday Story, page 14