NORTH Lanarkshire Council leader Jim McCabe has survived a bid to oust him as a Labour Party candidate in the area he has served for 20 years.
Thorniewood branch members were asked last week to choose two candidates from a list of three to stand for the party at next year’s council elections.
The vote was forced by trade union activist Hugh Gaffney who decided to challenge Councillors McCabe and Bob Burrows for one of the two places.
There was speculation that Mr Gaffney would muster enough support to squeeze out Councillor McCabe, council leader for the last 13 years.
One Labour insider claimed ahead of the vote that it was ‘too close to call’, but it’s understood Councillor McCabe survived comfortably in the end, though he polled fewer votes than Councillor Burrows, the council finance convener.
Councillor McCabe claimed afterwards he didn’t know the voting figures, but admitted: “It’s a relief because you never take these things for granted.”
The veteran politician insisted he had never viewed the challenge as an indication that Labour Party members in the Viewpark and Tannochside area were dissatisfied with his performance.
He said: “We have a strong, active branch which shows in our fundraising and election work. This vote was a sign of the democratic way in which we operate.
“Every Thorniewood branch meeting lasts two and a half hours, and we need every minute of that because we try to go through things as much as possible, have debate and vote if necessary.”
Councillor McCabe also denied that the challenge from Mr Gaffney, secretary of North Lanarkshire Trade Union Council and a leader of last year’s campaign against council cuts, was a distraction as Labour bid to bounce back from this year’s disastrous Holyrood elections.
He said: “I would go into the trenches to defend someone’s right to have an opinion.”
Meanwhile, Mossend and Holytown branch of the Labour Party meets tonight (Thursday) to choose its candidates for the council elections.
Members must decide on a replacement for Councillor Kevin McKeown who was prevented by the party from standing again for Labour because of his poor record of attendance at meetings.
Councillor McKeown, who claimed difficult family circumstances had led to his attendance falling, appealed unsuccessfully against the decision.
Earlier this month he quit the party, but he continues to serve on the council as an independent.
Councillor McCabe admitted: “Not having Kevin is a loss, given his record against SNP candidates.”