COUNCILLORS are preparing to vote for their third leader in less than two years – prompting opponents to brand a local authority’s ruling party an “utter shambles”.
Bob Constable has stunned colleagues at Midlothian Council by quitting his post after less than 17 months leading the SNP-Independent
It is understood the 69-year-old – who took the hot seat after Lisa Beattie quit in summer 2012 after five weeks – will be replaced by SNP colleague Owen Thompson at a special council meeting this afternoon.
In a bizarre twist, Councillor Thompson had previously led the party but was replaced by Mrs Beattie, the wife of Midlothian North & Musselburgh SNP MSP Colin Beattie, following the party’s local election success in May 2012.
Now, following a group meeting held in the wake of Cllr Constable’s resignation, Cllr Thompson has once again received the “unanimous support” of his seven SNP
It is thought that Green councillor Ian Baxter and independents Peter De Vink, who quit as finance leader earlier this year, and Peter Boyes, who recently left Labour after 47 years, will follow suit to sweep Cllr Thompson to power in the face of opposition from Midlothian’s seven remaining Labour councillors.
A senior council source said: “No-one is surprised. There is major infighting within the group and various factions. It’s an absolute carry-on.
“Bob isn’t getting any younger and he just couldn’t deal with all the squabbling.”
Cllr Constable plans to remain part of the administration “but in a less demanding role”.
Labour group leader Derek Milligan said: “The SNP need to treat their job of running Midlothian Council with more respect. This is an utter shambles. Midlothian deserves better than this.”
He added: “We will be looking at some evidence that the focus of the new leader will be in resolving Midlothian’s mounting problems rather than obsessing on the referendum campaign and internal party squabbles.”
However, Cllr Thompson denied that any such factions exist within the SNP group.
He said: “I absolutely refute this. Bob has been council leader for a year-and-a-half, it’s not like this is a regular occurrence. We have achieved a massive amount of good work in that time.”
He insisted ahead of today’s meeting that there were no guarantees he would become council leader.
Cllr Thompson said: “I do not wish to count on anything before the vote is taken, but I would hope to succeed Cllr Constable.”
Asked about previously being overlooked for leadership, he added: “I have always put the party and group ahead of my personal ambitions.”
GIVE IT A REST..
Up to election in 2012: Leader of SNP group was Owen Thompson;
May 2012: Election result declared, Owen Thompson removed as leader;
May 2012: Lisa Beattie elected as leader with Jim Bryant as her deputy;
June 2012: Lisa Beattie resigns as leader;
June 2012: Jim Bryant resigns as deputy leader;
June 2012: Andrew Coventry resigns from cabinet; cabinet numbers reduced by one to six;
July 2012: Bob Constable appointed new leader;
July 2012: Owen Thompson appointed deputy leader;
August 2012: Lisa Beattie reappointed to cabinet;
August 2012: Jim Bryant reappointed to cabinet;
September 2012: Peter De Vink resigns from cabinet; cabinet numbers reduced by one to five.
November 2013: Bob Constable resigns as leader of council.