Edinburgh Councillor Ross McKenzie needs to realise he owes his seat to the Labour party – Susan Dalgety
Surprisingly, I have quite a lot in common with Ross McKenzie, the Labour councillor who has, once again, lost his party’s whip.
This time he has been kicked out of the Labour group until March next year for voting with the SNP and Greens on the controversial strip club ban. He was previously suspended for refusing to support his party’s budget and is clearly hell-bent on a career as a serial rebel.
When I say we have a lot in common, it’s not because I support his stance on either the budget or strip clubs, but because he represents some parts of the city where, 30 years ago, I too was privileged to serve. His patch extends from Dalry, through Gorgie, up to Parkhead, Longstone and Broomhouse, and, as his Twitter bio says, “a wee bit of Kingsknowe”.
I was elected the Labour councillor for Parkhead in 1992 under the old first-past-the-post system, so my ward wasn’t as extensive as Councillor McKenzie’s, which he shares with two SNP councillors and one Green member. But we both canvassed the same streets, knocked on the same doors, and might even have asked some of the same people to trust us with their precious vote.
But unlike Councillor McKenzie, I was never arrogant enough to think that I was elected because I was Susan Dalgety. The people of Parkhead lent me their support because I was the Labour candidate, the wee lassie with the red rose. They knew very little about me beyond what was on my election leaflet. They were voting for a party and its values, not for an individual.
Of course, there are some politicians who, over years of hard work and diligent service, earn a personal vote. Who become so well known in their area and so well respected that people will vote for them because of who they are, not which party they represent. Labour’s Ian Murray and the SNP’s Joanna Cherry spring to mind as two Edinburgh politicians whose large personal following bolsters their party’s support.
But I think that even they would admit that they would struggle to hold onto their seats if they were to stand as independents. As for Ross McKenzie, he would not be in the City Chambers if it were not for the Labour party.
He justifies his disloyalty by claiming that he is excluded from the decision-making process. “Labour councillors who don’t have the leadership’s favour are not included in policy discussions and often only discover Labour policy at the point at which we are being told how to vote,” he whines.
I doubt that is true. Broad policy is agreed at weekly group meetings, with the detail hammered out between senior councillors and officials, before being brought back to the group for agreement. He will always have a say, but he is a junior councillor, new to the role.
His job is to get to know his ward inside out, so he can properly represent its interests in the City Chambers. And the people who put him in power will expect him to be on Labour’s side. After all, that is what they voted for.
McKenzie loses whip, again.