Lets put all tribalism aside in our comments. Lets pretend for two seconds that we have no axe to grind and we are totally objective observers in the whole sorry business of the "Leaders panel" hearing into the case against Barnet Council Mayor Hugh Rayner. This hearing was held on Wednesday evening and this panel cleared Hugh Rayner of all wrongdoing. The panel had a natural Conservative majority and by all accounts was split in its deliberations, presumably on party lines. The panel had three Tories, two Labour and one independent (non voting member).
I am not going to pass comment on the verdict. Turkeys don't vote for Xmas. What I will say is that I believe this committee is flawed and has done no one, least of all Mr Rayner, a favour. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, there is no way a partizan committee such as this can be impartial. Whatever happens, no fair minded person could really believe Mr Rayner has actually been cleared. There will always be a question mark. Lets suppose for a second that GLA rep Andrew Dismore has in fact really been unfair to Rayner. A truly independent and impartial panel could have said so. Sadly for Rayner if this is the case, there was no point in the committee saying it, because the committee has no credibility.
The situation is lose/lose for Barnet Council. If Mr Rayner is innocent and Dismore has been beastly, no one will believe it, because the committee is clearly partisan. If Mr Rayner has broken the rules, then the Council has shown itself to be so deeply flawed that it has turned a blind eye.
I am sure when Richard Cornelius set up the new system, he didn't envisage this mess. The mind can only boggle at what would have happened had this committee had to deal with the numerous breaches Brian Coleman made of the standards code. The big winner in all the is is Mr Andrew Dismore. He has all the ammunition he needs to portray the Tories as the villians of the piece. I suspect that in a years time, when Mr Dismore is back in Westminster, Matthew Offord will have wished that a proper independent panel had adjudicated and saved the local Tories from a year of bile. I suspect that the most a truly independent adjudictor would have done to Rayner, had he been found guilty of technical breaches of rules, would be to send him for training and to re ratify the votes. It seems to me unlikely, given the Tory majority at the time, that any fair minded person would say Rayners non disclosure was anything more than a technical breach and would have had no result on the actual decisions. I am not seeking to excuse it, but in practical terms that is what it was.
As it is, Mr Rayner and the local Tories can expect a winter of discontent.