This morning I attended the Transport Committee of the London Assembly, we were meeting to decide the fate of Brian Cooke, Chairman of London TravelWatch.
Brian had made a statement in a personal capacity supporting Boris Johnson as Mayor. It was made clear that Brian had acted in breach of the guidelines, for which he had already apologised. It was clear that some form of sanction would be required but I was amazed when the Chair of the committee, Valerie Shawcross, indicated that she felt that the most extreme penalty should be used.
Instant dismissal is meant to be used only when the person has brought their position into public disrepute. The fact that there were only two emails of complaint between his statement and the election hardly indicates a widespread lack of confidence in him, let alone bringing his position into disrepute.
During the sitting members from across the political spectrum agreed that Brian had been a fair and effective chairman yet the Labour and Lib Dem members felt that they had to impose the most severe sections on him.The committee could have given him a written warning, asked for a formal apology or even made him step down with three month’s notice. The chose to fire him on the spot!
The Conservatives voted against this action but were outnumbered, the whole thing had the stench of a witch hunt about it.
Brian was got rid off for being political and as a punishment for supporting Boris. The unfairness of the situation was highlighted when the Labour Chair of the committee attempted to put a Labour councillor into Brian’s now vacant position.
I believe that London TravelWatch should not be filled and chaired by councillors, Labour or otherwise. If you care about transport in London and want a fair deal for passengers, I urge you to apply to join and make sure this body doesn’t lose credibility by becoming a Labour party front.