The London Assembly started its new term today with a series of confrontations between the Labour and Tory groups.
Following the pattern set by Labour in the 2000–2004 session, the Tories have reached a power sharing agreement with the LibDems and shared the positions of Assembly Chair and Deputy Chair between the two parties. Tory member Brian Coleman was elected as Chair while LibDem Baroness Hamwee became Deputy.
The election was marred by angry sniping from the Labour group and their leader Len Duvall who claimed past public comments and actions by Coleman raised questions about his nomination.
Duvall warned that Labour would be “monitoring” the new Chair. This prompted LibDem group leader Graham Tope and Tory Bob Neil to urge greater “respect for the office of Chair” from their opponents.
This confrontation was followed by an angry exchange when the assembly voted to hear an urgent item from the Tories over Mayor Livingstone’s calls for the appointment of former Labour Assembly Member Lord Harris to the Metropolitan Police Authority.
The Home Secretary is entitled to make one appointment to the MPA to represent his interests in the Met’s policing of national events and ant-security operations.
The Tories pointed to undertakings given by Lord Williams of Mostyn in the House of Lords that the appointee would be free of party affiliation and truly independent. They claimed that this made Lord Harris would be unsuitable.
Mr Coleman urged the assembly to write to the Home Secretary pointing out that the Mayor’s comments did not reflect the will of the majority of assembly members.
Responding on behalf of Labour, Jeanette Arnold claimed the Tories were taking a “holier than thou” position and suggested that the other parties would do the same if they had won the Mayoral elections.
Speaking for the Greens, Darren Johnson stressed his support for the motion but condemned the “Victorian” system of patronage which allows the Home Secretary to appoint members to the MPA.
The Assembly passed the motion by a substantial majority although the Labour group opposed it en bloc.