Feb 14 2008 By John Rowbotham
A WELL-KNOWN ex-South Lanarkshire Labour councillor is to stand against the party at a by-election.
John McGuinness will contest the South Lanarkshire Council seat of Cambuslang East as an independent.
The 63-year-old was a South Lanarkshire councillor for 12 years and had been a Labour Party member for 38 years.
He has been a close colleague of Council Leader Eddie McAvoy since they were both senior shop stewards at the Hoover factory in Cambuslang.
Up until May, when he failed by 29 votes to gain re-election, Mr McGuinness had served as a Labour whip and deputy business manager.
It was thought he would have the chance of an early return to the council as Labour candidate at the forthcoming Cambuslang East by-election.
The poll on March 6 follows the death on December 29 of SNP councillor John Higgins.
However, following a wrangle over Mr McGuinness’s Labour Party membership, he was denied the opportunity of fighting for the party nomination.
This week, an angry Mr McGuinness claimed he had been the victim of bitter in-fighting within the Rutherglen and Hamilton West Constituency Labour Party.
He told the Advertiser: “I was gutted by what happened.
“There’s been a feud in the constituency party for years and many people have walked away because of that.
“But I don’t intend to take this lying down.”
Mr McGuinness, who lives in Cambuslang, said until the election he had paid his Labour subscription by direct debit and also handed over a £6 per month donation to the party.
He cancelled the direct debit following the poll.
In August, he said, he sent to the party a cheque to cover membership fees from April to December.
However, the cheque was not cashed and in January of this year he was told he was “lapsed”, and could only join as a new member.
He appealed to Eric Wilson, Labour’s constitutional officer, and sought the assistance of Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP Tommy McAvoy.
On January 18, a special meeting of the Constituency Party was convened to decide on his membership status.
Mr McGuinness said: “I got the chance to put my case but they voted nine-five to recommend that I should not be given continuity of membership.
“If you don’t get continuity of membership, it means that you have to take out new membership, and the implication of that is you are barred from standing for the party for six months.”
Labour have since chosen Richard Tullet, a former aide to Jack McConnell, as their by-election candidate.
Mr McGuinness added: “I decided to stand as an independent after talking it over with my family.
“This is not just about the Labour Party and my membership.
“It’s about two factions within the Constituency Party fighting each other.
“After more than 30 years as a party member and all the work I have put in for Labour, I feel as if I have been stabbed in the back.”
Eddie McAvoy declined to comment on John McGuinness’s move and Tommy McAvoy failed to return the Advertiser’s calls.
A spokesman for the Labour Party in Glasgow said: “If this is a decision of local members, then it is not something we would be able to comment on.”
A party source added: “I would have thought that anyone hoping to stand for the party again would make sure their membership was up to date.”
And one constituency party member said: “There are a lot disaffected party members in the CLP and John could become a rallying point.”
EDDIE McAVOY: refused to comment on the row.
TOMMY McAVOY: John McGuinness asked the MP to intervene.