Labour row as Dawn Butler praises Militant-led Liverpool council for setting illegal budget

Posted On: 
22nd September 2018

A senior Labour frontbencher has been criticised after she praised a Militant-led council for setting an illegal budget in the 1980s.

Dawn Butler is shadow minister fr women and equalities.
PA Images

Shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler said "better to break the law than break the poor" in a speech to the women's Labour conference in Liverpool.

In 1985, Liverpool's Labour Council, which was run by the party's far-left Militant wing, defied local government spending cuts imposed by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government.

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But their actions were condemned by Labour's leader at the time, Neil Kinnock, who accused the council of inflicting "grotesque chaos" on the city and being forced to sack their own workers after running out of money.

Three years ago, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell signed a letter urging present-day Labour councils not to follow Militant's example.

In her speech, however, Ms Butler said: "Local councils, have seen nearly 50% of their funding cut – I want to give a shout out to all the councillors fighting everyday against these Tory cuts.

"Conference, we are in Liverpool where over 30 years ago the council stood up to Thatcher and said-better to break the law than break the poor."

Her comments were condemned by Glenys Thornton, Labour's shadow health minister in the House of Lords.



One Merseyside Labour councillor told PoliticsHome: "Thirty years ago Militant-run Liverpool Council set an illegal budget and then sent redundancy notices to its entire workforce. Is Dawn suggesting that Labour-run councils across the country should do that today?"

Richard Angell, director of centre-left campaign group Progress, said: "Dawn Butler’s speech is like a lesson from the Ken Livingstone Academy for Revisionist History.

"The Militant Tendency did break the law, left the bills to be picked up by the poor and kept the Tories in power for twelve years more. Labour should look up the local government leaders of today who deliver socialism, not those from 30 years ago who discredited socialism.‬"

A Labour party spokesperson said: "The point Dawn was making was that, like the Thatcher government of the 1980s, this Tory government has prioritised tax cuts for the rich while cutting services like women's refuges that save lives and keep women safe."