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Labour leaders in Birmingham accused of ‘silencing’ backbench MPs and treating them ‘like children’

Labour leaders in Birmingham accused of ‘silencing’ backbench MPs and treating them ‘like children’

Furious councillors on Birmingham City Council’s Labour benches have criticised their leaders for sending out a memo that treated them “like children” and attempted to “silence” them.

The memo, first revealed in the Inside Birmingham with Jane Haynes newsletter, was sent to 65 Labour members shortly after the party’s national victory by group leader Councillor Ray Goodwin and authorised by group leader Councillor John Cotton.




He said there should be no interviews with the press, nor that anyone could “talk to the press” without prior arrangement. He also said that none of them should “walk around” or leave the boardroom during the five-hour meeting (except during a half-hour break).

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The tone of the memo was described by one group member as “condescending”, while another said it was treating elected officials “like children”. Conservative councillor Meirion Jenkins said he had received a two-word response from his group leader to the memo: “and the second one is off”.

One member, Cllr Martin Brooks (Lab, Harborne), spoke publicly about the email, tweeting: “Just received an email from the Brum Labour Chief Whip telling councillors we are now unable to speak to the media without their permission. The entire social fabric of the town is under threat, yet our leadership believes it is acceptable to silence local representatives.”

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The issue was raised at this week’s full council meeting (Tuesday 9 July). Councillor Richard Parkin (Cons, Sutton) put a question to John Cotton about it. Referring to the Labour hierarchy as “the politburo”, he asked: “What do you think this gag order says about your leadership, given that you do not trust your elected members to represent residents to engage in what is an important part of the democratic process without asking your permission to speak first.”