Labour councillor given warning after working with Tories to deliver food to foodbank

5 May 2020, 07:45

Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

A Labour Councillor has been given a formal warning after working with Conservatives to deliver thousands of pounds worth of food to vulnerable residents.

Ian Henderson, who's a Councillor in Kensington and Chelsea, delivered the goods with others in mid-April when food banks in the borough started to run dry.

He was able to get £10,500-worth of food from Tesco, paid for first by a local charity, and then the council. He delivered that food in mid-April.

But, while doing so, he appeared in a short video with the Conservative MP and Tory Council Leader, which provoked complaints from his own side.

He’s since been threatened with losing the Labour whip, unless he apologises and gets it taken down.

Ian Henderson was given a formal warning after helping Conservatives deliver food to a foodbank
Ian Henderson was given a formal warning after helping Conservatives deliver food to a foodbank. Picture: Felicity Buchan MP

A Labour source close to the dispute described this all to me as “completely bonkers".

The source said: "We risk being made to look like sectarian idiots completely out of touch with national mood.

The offending videos only got ten and three retweets respectively and there was real fear among some in the party that the publicity and backlash against punishing Cllr Henderson would do much more damage.

A few days after the video was posted by Felicity Buchan MP, the councillor received a 'formal warning' from the Group Whip Sina Lari and was told the Labour Party Governance would be informed.

The letter said: "It is in the Tories' interests to appear that they are working cross-party in order for them to satisfy the standards set by the Taskforce, LGA and other bodies which have been keeping track of Council performance.

"Pandemic or no pandemic, you should seek formal advice and approval before appearing in media and publicity done by the Conservatives."

Ian was given a formal warning and told to disassociate himself from the video. He responded, defending himself, but received a second warning.

It concluded: "By the end of the coming weekend, I request that you apologise to Pat Mason as Leader, copying in the Group and do everything you have been asked to disassociate yourself from the Conservative publicity videos. This involves untagging and requesting the Member of Parliament and Elizabeth Campbell to untag you from the video and doing any other necessary action to disassociate yourself from it. It also involves responding to the video on twitter to clarify in a short and simple statement that the video does not represent the views and has not been endorsed by the Labour Group.

"If requests from the Whip are not complied with, further action can potentially be taken including removal from Council positions within the province of the group and withdrawal of the whip, following a vote of the Labour Group."

Remember the video is about giving food to foodbanks and he is being told to clarify that it does not represent the views of the Labour Group.

I'm told this has led to a considerable row within the Labour party factions. Some have accused Ian of 'appearing in Tory propaganda' and he has been told that only the leader of the Labour councillors can work cross party.

More moderate Labour members have been horrified by the row, saying it risks them becoming a 'public laughing stock' and that the new leader Keir Starmer himself has encouraged cross-party working especially during the coronavirus pandemic.