On the 14th December I attended the mayoral referendum debate on behalf of my party The Community Action Party as part of The Mayoral Alliance. The Mayoral Alliance (Yes team) was challenged and invited to attend a public meeting by Councillor N Owen Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Salford City Council, regarding the merits of a mayoral system of local government. We accepted this challenge and the invitation in good faith.
Within a matter of days we came across significant evidence that the meeting was going to be hijacked with Labour and Lib Dem activists and councillors and it was immediately clear to me that the intention of this hijacking was to descend the meeting into a farce which would portray The Mayoral Alliance negatively.
The only choice we had was to pull out or continue with the challenge to take them all head on. We did this the set we could in the circumstances we were in. With pro-Labour media organisations watching our every move, no doubt if we pulled out we would have been slated. We attended, took the wrath of the Labour & Lib Dem audience for their anger aimed at us for putting their cushy numbers at the town hall at risk.
In the NO camp was Leader of the Council John Merry and Leader of the Lib DEms Norman Owen and in the yes team was Geoffrey Bery (petition organiser) and Stephen Morris (Campaign co-ordinator) and English Democrats NW Region Chairperson.
I was sat in the audience. Question after question aimed at Mr Berg's direction and was not able to respond properly due to constant heckling and barracking from the Labour and Liberal councillor's and activists.
I stood up and confronted the audience telling them we knew it was a stitch-up and slated their dirty tactics of telling lies, deceipt and dirty tricks in relation to labour's campain for a no vote by trying to associate the YES team with the BNP, exagerated costs associated with the referendum and their constant and vile attack against Geoffrey Berg.
The biggest surprise to me was the performance of Cllr Norman Owen, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Salford. His performance was pathetic and unbelievable. An opposition leader sat side by side with the Labour leader and defending John Merry's performance as Leader of the Council. Is it any wonder Salford is in the mess its in with opposition like that ?
Coouncillor Owen is up for re-election in May 2012 and is it any wonder that he and the other 2 remaining Lib Dem councillor's will lose their seats next year ? No it is not by his performance in the last few days.
His defence of Cllr Merry and that of Salford City Council is political suicide on his part.
The performance of Geoffrey in the circumstances he was in was difficult and Stephen Morris performed exceptionally well in what was a lions den.