Mayor says seats will be left empty if Labour refuse to join
BRISTOL mayor George Ferguson will leave three empty seats in his new cabinet, if Labour refuses his offer to join.
Labour councillors were expected to meet this weekend to vote on whether to take part in the elected mayor's new cabinet.
The local Labour Party met on Wednesday night to discuss and vote on the issue. And although party chiefs have refused to reveal how the vote went The Post has been told members have advised city councillors not to take up George Ferguson's invitation to join his rainbow coalition cabinet.
The 22 Labour councillors on the city council will have to make a decision on the issue by Monday when Mr Ferguson is expected to announce his new cabinet.
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He told The Post: "I made Labour a good offer and I would be surprised if they turned it down.
"However, if they decide not to take me up on it then I will leave three empty seats at my cabinet table.
"I will not fill them with other councillors, I will leave three empty chairs."
Darren Lewis, the chairman of Bristol Labour Party, has refused to say which way the vote went on Wednesday evening. But he has publicly stated that he believes the Labour Party should not join the coalition.
When pressed he refused to give any details about the debate or the decision, claiming it would tie the Labour Party's hands.
A spokesman for the Labour Party said: "The appropriate procedures are being followed and a decision will be made in good time as to whether Labour councillors in Bristol take up places in Mayor Ferguson's cabinet."
At Wednesday night's meeting members were asked to vote on the motion: "No Labour MP, councillor, PPC (prospective parliamentary candidate), council candidate, officer of either CLPs (Constituency Labour Parties) or the BLP (Bristol Labour Party) or members shall sit in the cabinet of George Ferguson, act as an advisor to George Ferguson or allow themselves as being described as acting as an advisor to George Ferguson."
The decision to remain in opposition has been criticised by Post readers on the thisisbristol website.
One reader said: "I don't suppose the Bristol Labour Party would like to pause, reflect and realise that it is precisely this sort of attitude and behaviour that caused there to be a mayor in the first place.
Another reader wrote: "If what is reported is true, about your group not joining the mayor's cabinet, then you should all stand down and call an election in each ward.
"You were elected to represent citizens of Bristol, just in case you have forgotten. This attitude reminds me of when Labour lost overall control of the council so they refused to play ball with the Lib Dems and we had an impasse until John Prescott told you all that you faced direct control from Whitehall.
"In my opinion you are no better than a group of primary school children having a playground rant."