The leader of Glasgow City Council, Gordon Matheson, is set to stand down from his role within the next few days.
Matheson, who is openly gay, was initially expected to step down in February 2016 to allow him to concentrate on his campaign to be elected to Holyrood. However, following some dreadful by-election reversals for Labour and criticism of his leadership, it would appear he will be stepping down early next week.
He has also antagonised unions through what they see as his poor handling of a pay dispute. Frustration with the council leader stems from a strike of homelessness caseworkers lasting four months due to “an absence of political intervention”.
There has also been talks of a “mutiny” among Labour ranks in the city chambers.
The SNP won all of last Thursday’s by-elections including former Labour safe wards of Craigton and Calton. It is not only the defeats for which Cllr Matheson is being blamed, but the scale of them – the swing to the SNP across the four wards averaged over 20 per cent.
Matheson is also a candidate for the Scottish Labour deputy leadership, and the nature of his expected departure could well harm his ambitions.
While Matheson has made no secret of his desire to become an MSP – if successful he would be Labour’s first ever openly gay MSP – since announcing his intention to seek election to Holyrood he has been under pressure to resign from colleagues who would prefer a leader whose energies are focused on local rather than national politics.
It has been reported that half of Glasgow’s labour councillor had signed a demand for an Emergency general Meeting to elect a new leader, and that Matheson’s decision to stand aside comes after lengthy conversations between himself and Scottish Labour HQ seeking ways to avoid open rebellion.
A Labour spokesperson said: “The rebels have been asked not to press for an EGM and have been given a commitment that Gordon Matheson will stand down on Monday the 17th.”
Likely successors include former leader and ex-MSP Frank McAveety, and current deputy leader Archie Graham.
The leader of the SNP group on Glasgow City Council, Cllr Susan Aitken, said: “These reports come at the end of a great week which has seen a clean sweep of by-election victories for the SNP and, if they prove to be correct, further highlight how tired and divided Labour in Glasgow are.
“The problems of the Labour party in Glasgow run deep and a change of leader will do nothing to address these problems. It is time to give Glasgow back to the people.”
Matheson has led the city council since 2010, and surprised many when he secured an overall majority for Labour in the local elections two years later – elections widely expected to be won by the SNP. In 2014 he was named Local Politician of the Year by The Herald and earlier this year was made a CBE in the New Year Honours List for services to the community.