|Issue 10 - February 1973|
continue our long-running serial on Alderman Andy Cunningham .....
Back in 1971, during a drugs case in Durham Crown Court, policemen were observed photographing people attending the trial. When asked about this, Andy, as Chairman of the Police Authority, said:
IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE THAT THE POLICE MAY HAVE TO RESORT TO WHAT MAY NOT BE CONSTITUTIONAL OR LEGAL PRACTICE IN THEIR ATTEMPTS TO STAMP OUT CRIME ... THEY MIGHT SOMETIMES HAVE TO BREAK THE LAW. THE POINT IS THEY SHOULD NOT BE FOUND OUT BREAKING THE LAW.
Now Mr Cunningham is obviously an honest man for admitting publicly what other policemen only mutter into their beer, and this fact should be borne in mind when you read the rest of this page .....
In the days when he had an architectural practice, John Poulson used to pay T Dan Smith £20,000 a year. From this, Dan Smith used to pay Andy £1,000 a year: which may not seem very generous, but Andy's wife was also employed as a consultant in Poulson's Newcastle office - a post for which, incidentally, she had no professional qualifications.
Now read on .....
So the Cunning Ham still survives.
This last month has seen strong pressure on him to resign from his position as Chairman of the Durham Police Authority.
The first move to oust Andy came from monacled Douglas Nicholson, chairman of Vaux Breweries, member of the Police Authority and himself a former chairman. Nicholson called on Cunningham to 'temporarily resign' until the Poulson matter had been cleared up.
Nicholson said pointedly: "The Chairman of the Police authority should not be under the shadow of suspicion." And after the meeting - at which Labour members rallied to give Cunningham a 19-11 majority - Nicholson explained to reporters what he meant by this. The authority was responsible for spending more than £3 million a quarter, he said, and as the committee only met once a quarter the chairman played a big part in the allocation of that expenditure in between meetings.
So Andy survived this first attempt on his political life but by then the red clouds were gathering. The Labour group likes to extract its own justice and so a group of Labour dissidents called a group meeting to get Cunningham to talk about Poulson and explain his poor attendance at recent Labour group meetings.
The meeting took place on December 29 and janitors at County Hall were given strict instructions not to allow reporters beyond the entrance of the building. The apparent reasoning was that Labour members shout so loudly when they get aerated that some of their comments were sure to stray out of the Council chamber where they were meeting.
After two and a half hours the Labour group emerged in twos and threes from the chamber. Cunningham was beaming and when approached by reporters for a comment he came back with the immortal line: "Piss off."
Alderman Bob Coxon, Labour group leader, then appeared and said that the motion to oust Cunningham had been defeated by a "Substantial vote". Coxon added that he had ruled any discussion of the Poulson business out of order so that it hadn't been mentioned and that Cunningham had "explained" his non-appearance at Labour group meetings by saying that he had been away on business with his union or with the Labour Party.
Councillor Robert Wilkinson, a miner from Horden, who led the putsch on Cunningham was also keeping mum. It is known that he had the support of about a dozen of the Labour group and although none of them were Aldermen, it is also known that several Aldermen on the County Council are beginning to get a bit sick of Cunningham.
In the County Council there was an unsuccessful attempt by Councillor Buckingham to find out why Cunningham was not available to answer allegations in connection with the Poulson affair, and to call for his resignation from the Police Authority. Councillor Buckingham was told his questions were out of order.
Andy Cunningham, of course, has other jobs. Two of these are as regional boss of the GMWU and as a member of the Labour Party Executive. Both of these bodies passed a vote of confidence in him after the Poulson disclosures.
Is it a coincidence that the Labour candidate for the forthcoming Chester-le-Street bye-election (Andy lives in Chester) is a GMWU official from London?