Bristol's Labour Party could decide tonight not to accept places on the new Mayor's Cabinet or to advise the Mayor (see here) and impose a ban on all its members. I hope they dont [**see the series of updates below!]. Local govt co-operation between parties is eminently sensible – and it’s what people have voted for, so this should be recognised provided the new Cabinet is: committed to taking decisions openly and accountably; and its members are able, diplomatically, to speak their minds and not own every single Mayoral decision.
Each individual Councillor and Party needs to change mindset and both scrutinise, criticise and support as appropriate. Conscience first not party – that’s what they are supposed to be doing according to the code of conduct they sign up to in any case! This code includes ‘making decisions on merit’ and reaching
‘their own conclusions on the issues before them and act in
accordance with those conclusions’. Councillors have power through a vote on the council, through committee work and through lobbying the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Asst Mayors when in place. Hopefully some power will be properly and effectively devolved to local councillors and people in neighbourhoods soon too.
Labour were the party with councillors that got the most votes and in next May's local elections Labour are likely to make gains on the council - the Tory and Lib Dem vote has sunk and is unlikely to recover enough for them not to suffer councillor losses. I'm most in favour of people getting into the Cabinet on the basis of merit not party but having said that the Mayor should also take into account which parties the public are voting for.
[Update 22 November: According to The Post Bristol's Labour Party last night voted against taking up three Cabinet seats offered to them and so have have refused the opportunity to argue for their policies directly with the Mayor and others. Its still unclear to me whether they voted to ban all members from taking part.]
[Update 23 November: According to The Post Labour Councillors in Bristol have agreed to join the Mayor's Cabinet and have gone against the local party vote. Its a good sign that Labour Councillors have asserted themselves. Its Bristol's voters they have to be listening to and not just the local party and they seem to have done that. Which Councillors finally end up doing what is not yet finaliised though.]
[Update 26 November (!!!): According to Bristol 24-7 and ITV West and The Post Labour's South West regional organisation, probably with some central party influence, has prevented Bristol's Labour Councillors from joining the Mayor's Cabinet. This has caused Cllr Peter Hammond the Leader of Bristol's Labour Councillors to resign. It remains to be seen whether individuals choose to defy this intsruction.]