Whatever the result in Trafford this week it is likely to be talked about quite a bit on Friday. It is an important council and one where Labour would only need modest gains from the Conservatives to sweep to power. There are currently 33 Conservative councillors against 26 for Labour and four Lib Dems. So barring an accident Labour would expect to pick it up.
Except that Labour has had an accident.
It takes the form of the leak of notes from a private meeting which show their true policies to be quite different to those they are presenting to voters.
Here is what the notes said about grammar schools:
There was a lengthy debate on education provision in the area, particularly around the grammar school system and the Labour Group’s approach and opposition. It was felt that due to the political sensitivity of attempts to eradicate the grammar school system, our focus instead should perhaps be on the current problem of children aged 10 or 11 being required to sit multiple examinations rather than having one exam for all schools. However again it was felt that, from the perspective of the public, any efforts to change any part of the system may be seen as an indication that the Labour Group would scrap schools if in control and therefore an electoral risk.
When it comes to Council Tax the meeting notes said:
There was lengthy debate about the possibility (and pitfalls) of raising Council Tax. It was felt this would be an extremely difficult debate to win and could impact badly on candidates in marginal wards. The possibility of making it clear what services would be provided as a result of the increase was suggested (like a contract).
It was suggested that area specific neighbourhood forums could be held to identify key themes by area, and Paul Goggins suggested that we need to pick 3 or 4 key issues to focus on which represent our values and offer clear dividing lines.
In public the messages have been rather different.
Herer are a couple of comments from the Labour Group leader, Cllr David Acton, given in an interview.
On Council Tax, he says:
Labour does support a council freeze. The reason we support a freeze is simple – the Conservatives have presided over a cost of living crisis.
While on grammar schools he says:
The Labour Party nationally and locally has clearly stated that we support all our grammar schools.
What impact will the exposure of this cynicism have on the electorate?
Surely anyone who favoured low council tax and supported grammar schools would be left with some doubt as to whether Labour was really the Party for them.
I also wonder whether some true socialists will lose patience with such duplicity and go off and vote for the Green Party. The behaviour of the Labour Party is unprincipled – it may also prove to be bad politics.