When Lib Dem Councillors defected to Labour in the early days of the Coalition, many said that we would not see that happening in Gloucester. This was reaffirmed at the last local Elections when the Lib Dems stayed as the main opposition. However it seems that not all is as rosy it appears in the Lib Dem ranks as a senior Lib Dem Councillor, Usman Bhaimia, has “seen red” with the approach of the Lib Dems in Government and come to join the Labour Party.
Usman was first elected to the Barton & Tredworth ward in 2004, and is well-respected for his engagement with the community and I think it is because of this “grass-roots” representation that he has decided that the Liberal Democrats is no longer aligned with his own views. I have a lot of respect for someone who decides to shift party, especially if you are in an elected position. It takes a lot of guts to do such a thing, knowing just how much press involvement there will be and no doubt the local Lib Dems will be quick to crucify him, in public, in council and behind closed doors. In fact, Jeremy Hilton has already taken it as a personal attack when he said “It is sad that Usman should announce his defection to the press without first letting me know. Especially, as I spent many an hour in 2008 knocking on doors in his ward to help him get re-elected. I do know that Usman has also spoken to Respect about joining them as well. He seems to have lost his political soul and now is happy to sing the tune of Labour, despite being such a strong opponent of many Labour policies and most of all the War in Iraq.” It seems that while Jeremy is quick to say that he thinks Usman was looking at other parties, he is missing the real point, in that he has a number of Party members who are deeply uncomfortable with the current position and the fact that one of his senior Councillors was looking for a new party at all should have set alarm bells ringing for him.
So in summary, I would like to extend my welcome to Usmanand I hope that he feels much more comfortable in his new political home, and I look forward to working with him in the future.