The Labour Party made a “monumental cock-up” by forgetting to nominate its own candidate to stand as leader of Peterborough City Council, according to a leaked email.
Councillor John Holdich was the only person nominated as council leader, meaning he replaced fellow Conservative Marco Cereste in the role following a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, May 20.
However, the decision by Labour’s Cllr Mohammed Jamil not to stand against him was revealed to be a huge mistake by Labour Cllr John Shearman in a leaked email to his own group, which also claimed Cllr Jamil had been forced to gloss over the error in an interview with the PT.
Cllr Shearman’s email stated: “As for last night’s ill-fated council leadership counter-nomination, if anyone is looking for a conspiracy then they are going to be disappointed! It was no more than a monumental cock-up involving a number of people, including myself for not ensuring at the group meeting that we confirmed who was to propose and second the nomination at full council.”
The email went on to say: “When questioned after the meeting by Joel Lamy as to why the nomination was not made, Jamil had the choice of saying either ‘we made a cock-up and no one was sure who was proposing/seconding’ (that would have looked good in the press and on Twitter!) or being less than truthful and telling Joel he had decided not to stand. To his credit he protected the group by choosing the latter.”
Cllr Jamil told the PT straight after the meeting: “I was going to stand. I was expecting all of the opposition’s support but there were people who changed their minds.”
He added: “I’m conciliatory. I want this council to work for everyone in Peterborough. If I went up against [Cllr Holdich] it would send out the wrong signal.”
The failure of Cllr Jamil, who was appointed group leader a week earlier, to be nominated as council leader led to a call for a vote of no confidence by fellow Labour Cllr Jo Johnson.
Cllr Johnson and Labour and Cooperative Cllr Ed Murphy, who himself had been preparing to stand against Cllr Holdich, both walked out of the meeting after Cllr Jamil was not nominated. Both later re-joined the meeting.
After the meeting Cllr Johnson said: “We agreed at a Labour group meeting to oppose Cllr Holdich’s leadership with Cllr Jamil to stand, but he did not do so. There will be a vote of no confidence in the group, and if they do not get it I will walk from the party.”
Labour Cllr Richard Ferris, after reading a tweet which stated that Cllr Jo Johnson had called for the vote of no confidence, tweeted back saying: “And do you really think that she is in charge? Pathetic journalism.”
In his own email to the group, which was leaked to the PT, Cllr Ferris took full responsibility for the failure to nominate Cllr Jamil and offered his resignation as group secretary.
The emails also show Cllr Johnson is pushing for the vote of no confidence once half term ends this week.
An attachment sent from the Labour group to the Peterborough Telegraph by mistake also stated that Cllr Murphy is being investigated for his use of social media.
After being contacted for a comment, a Labour spokeswoman said: “The Labour Party does not respond to unsubstantiated leaked emails.”
The Conservatives hold 26 of the 57 seats in the council, with one seat left vacant.
Cllr Holdich was nominated as council leader by Cllr Peter Hiller who said: “You cannot question his integrity.”
Other party leaders said they were willing to work with Cllr Holdich for the betterment of the council.
Cllr Holdich said: “It’s good for the people of Peterborough if we are working together.”
However, the Conservatives suffered an immediate setback as an amendment, which passed from support by opposition groups, could see the party lose their positions as chairs of council scrutiny committees.