A VETERAN South Tyneside Labour councillor who is facing a six-month party ban after an alleged no-show at a regional meeting has received support from a surprising source – a top Tory.
Coun Eddie McAtominey, the borough’s longest-serving elected representative, was suspended for six months earlier this week by the borough’s Labour Group.
This smacks of a ‘kangaroo court’ which brings politics and political parties further into disrepute.
It followed the Hebburn South councillor’s alleged failure to represent the authority at a Tyne and Wear Pensions Fund training day in York.
Coun McAtominey, who was due to fight to retain his ward seat at the local elections on May 7, is appealing the decision.
Today, a senior Conservative spoke out in his defence – claiming he was the victim of a “kangaroo court”.
George Smith believes the treatment of Coun McAtominey, who he describes as the “father of the council” as its longest-serving member, brings “politics and political parties into disrepute”.
Mr Smith, CBE, the president of South Shields Conservative Association, has written to the chief executive of South Tyneside Council, Martin Swales, to raise his concerns.
He has also made a Freedom of Information request to the authority for a list of the attendance records at meetings of all borough councillors over the past 12 months.
Mr Smith said: “I was appalled to read in the Gazette that Coun McAtominey, the father of the council, had been suspended from the Labour Party for six months for breaching the council’s code of conduct.
“At a secret meeting of 50 Labour members and after a secret ballot, he was suspended from the party, but remains a councillor.
“He has 14 days in which to appeal. This smacks of a ‘kangaroo court’ which brings politics and political parties further into disrepute.”
He added: “I have requested, under the Freedom of Information Act, a list of meetings each councillor has been called to, and their names, in the last 12 months.
“I would say ‘He that is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone’”.
One Labour councillor, who did not wish to be named, said: “Eddie hasn’t had any public support from his Labour colleagues.
“It’s ironic that the only one coming to his defence is a Tory, but the truth is that Mr Smith wasn’t in the meeting and is not aware of all the facts that the members there had to take into account in making their judgement.”
Labour’s chief whip, Coun John McCabe, who oversaw Coun McAtominey’s internal hearing before the Labour Group at South Shields Town Hall earlier in the week, declined to comment.
Coun McAtominey was also unavailable for comment.
Also unavailable for comment was Wilf Flynn, secretary of Jarrow Constituency Labour Party, or any spokesman from the party’s regional office, Labour North.