Tagged: George Dunning

Ed Miliband picketed at campaign rally by former leading members of his own party

Labour leader Ed Miliband denied accusations he supported “bullies” or was a “coward” after an attack by disgruntled party members on a visit to the North-East.

Mr Miliband gave a speech and took questions from the public on a visit to Redcar, a town which the party hopes to take from the Liberal Democrats in May’s General Election.

He offered a vision of better jobs, fairer employment rights and more power and money for the region – but the event was overshadowed by a protest from former party loyalists.

The demonstration outside Redcar and Cleveland College, where the Labour leader was speaking, was led by former long-standing Labour leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, George Dunning, who brandished a banner saying ‘Does Miliband Support Bullies?’.

Cllr Dunning, a trade-unionist and former steelworker, and ten other councillors were deselected by the party earlier this year.

The councillors went on to resign from the Labour Party saying they had been “bullied.”

Cllr Dunning’s former deputy leader, Sheelagh Clarke, went further,  branding Mr Miliband “a coward.”

She said:

“He called Cameron a coward because the Prime Minister won’t take part in the TV debates. But he can’t find a quick minute to talk to eight, nine or ten of us ordinary people. How can he be leader of our country if he can’t talk to a few ordinary people? It is cowardly.”

 In an interview with The Northern Echo, Mr Miliband dismissed the protest, saying: “I understand why people are upset, but our focus has to be on the public.”

Mr Miliband said he was offering “a big plan” for the region which included increasing the minimum wage, more apprenticeships for youngsters, an end to ‘zero hours’ contracts and more high quality jobs. A key area where the economy could be boosted and high paid jobs created was green energy, he said, which with some Government investment and encouragement could be a major asset to the North-East.

Earlier, Mr Miliband welcomed the improved employment figures, with 45,000 new jobs created in the region since Labour lost power in 2010, but said many were “low paid, insecure and not good enough.”

 The Labour leader also confirmed a Labour Government would guarantee free TV licences, bus passes and the value of the state pension for old age pensioners

But in much of his question and answer session with about 200 members of the public he focused on what he would do for young people, including guaranteeing apprenticeships for 18-year-olds and lowering university tuition fees.

Asked about the decline in Durham Tees Valley Airport he promised a future Labour Government would “look at the whole issue of regional airports.”

One Teesside woman spoke movingly of having to leave work for eight months to look after her severely ill, 11-year-old daughter with various authorities declining to offer support, while another talked of having to look after four grandchildren and having to give up her home.

Mr Miliband received his biggest round of applause after publicly thanking the women for their “incredibly important work” and said it was an issue the party was already looking at.

Source – Northern Echo, 07 Mar 2015

Former Redcar Labour councillors call on Ed Miliband to launch investigation

Former Labour councillors today called on Ed Miliband to investigate after a bitter row in the Redcar party led to the departure of a number of high-profile members.

Former Redcar and Cleveland Council leader George Dunning headed a demonstration in Redcar asking for a full investigation into the party’s “flawed selection process”.

The call came ahead of the Labour leader’s question and answer session at Redcar and Cleveland College.

Mr Dunning’s deselection followed those of Redcar and Cleveland Council cabinet members Steve Goldswain (Eston) and Norman Pickthall (Teesville), the chair of Cleveland Fire Authority, Cllr Brian Briggs (Skelton) and Cllr Olywn Peters (Eston).

The deselections meant Mr Dunning and his colleagues could not stand for Labour in May’s elections and followed claims of bullying and harassment in the local party.

Mr Dunning, who has since quit the party, said:

“I was and still am the longest serving leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council.

“But I was deselected due to the influence of a group within the party who have never been voted for by the public.

“Everybody knows the selection process is flawed from start to finish.

“I’m absolutely appalled by the Labour Party. I’m nearly 65 and this is the first time ever I will not be voting for Labour. It is not a democratic party anymore and it no longer represents the working class.

“I’ve asked the question, will Ed Miliband carry out a full investigation into Labour Party North’s deeply flawed selection process?”

The deselections have seen Labour lose control of Redcar & Cleveland Council.

> Which seems a weird thing to do just before elections….

The upheaval in the Redcar and Cleveland Labour group follows a similar row in the Middlesbrough party last year.

Five councillors were deselected following interviews, and although Cllr Derek Loughborough won an appeal against the decision, he quit the party along with Cllrs Len Junier, Pervaz Khan, Sajaad Khan and John McPartland.

In a statement issued at the time of the deselections, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Redcar, said it was “time for change”.

Leader George Dunning and deputy leader Sheelagh Clarke have served Redcar and Cleveland with great commitment and have a lot to be proud of,” the statement said.

“However, local Labour Party members have today voted to replace them with other candidates for the ward of Teesville. We have a wealth of talent in the Labour Party and the bar has been set very high this year.

“The people of Redcar and Cleveland deserve the very best representation that the Labour party has to offer in the local community and members have chosen some fantastic local candidates. It is time for change. We are building a fresh, exciting and committed new team.”

The statement was released in the names of Mr Blenkinsop, Ms Turley and John McCormick, chair of Redcar and Cleveland Local Campaign Forum, Neil Bendelow, chair of the Redcar Constituency Labour Party and Bill Suthers, chair of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour Party.

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 06 Mar 2015

Green could be the new red in Redcar

The leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council has hinted that he could stand as a Green Party candidate after being deselected by the Labour party.

Councillor George Dunning, who expects to be removed as leader on Thursday, was one of ten Labour members who last week tore up their party card outside the office of the party’s would-be Redcar MP, Anna Turley.

The veteran Labour councillor was not selected, alongside his deputy Sheelagh Clarke and several members of his cabinet committee, by the party to fight in May’s council election.

Now he said he could stand as an Independent councillor but says several of the members have been approached by the Green Party.

Mr Dunning said:

“I expect to be thrown out as council leader as the Lib Dems move a motion of no confidence in me for a second time, the last time was September 2013. I expect that following Thursday’s council meeting I won’t be the council leader after being the longest serving Redcar and Cleveland Council leader. Options for me, and the other former Labour councillors, will then be considered.”

The news comes as a leading union official announced that he would be standing for the Green Party in the Redcar constituency.

Confirming his selection as the Green Party candidate, Peter Pinkney, the president of the RMT union, said:
“I spoke at the Green Party Conference in 2013, and I was impressed with the ideas that were being put forward. The ideas of the Greens resonated with a lot of my beliefs.

“Obviously the Greens commitment to bring railways back into public hands struck a chord, but also policies to invest in the NHS, build social housing, institute higher taxes for those who can afford it, and put forward progressive policies on immigration informed my decision to stand.

“As a life-long socialist, I could see that most of the policies were what the Labour Party once had, but those days are long gone with Labour.”

Source –  Northern Echo,  09 Feb 2015

Redcar and Cleveland Council deputy mayor is latest to resign from Labour party

The deputy mayor of Redcar and Cleveland Council is the latest to resign from the Labour party after a week of turmoil at the authority.

Ten Labour councillors resigned their membership last week after council leader George Dunning, deputy Sheelagh Clarke and members of the authority’s cabinet were told by Labour that they had not been selected to stand again for their party in May’s elections.

Now Doreen Rudland, who represents the Brotton ward, has confirmed she is the 11th current councillor to leave the party.

She said: “I think it is disgraceful what has happened to those councillors who were deselected by the party.

“Ten councillors resigned last week – and I am supporting them.”

Cllr Rudland, 77, is the authority’s deputy mayor and was elected at a by-election in Brotton more than four years ago.

She confirmed  that she was not planning on standing in the May elections.

“I had already taken that decision, I did not want to stand because of my age.

“I have enjoyed being a councillor, and I have particularly enjoyed my time as deputy mayor.”

On Sunday, the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Constituency Labour Party selected its candidates to stand in May’s election.

Current Labour cabinet members Joan Guy and Helen McLuckie were selected to stand again in their Saltburn and Skelton wards, the local party confirmed.

The ten councillors who resigned from the party at a protest outside Milbank Terrace office of Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley last week were: George Dunning (Teesville), Sheelagh Clarke (Teesville) Steve Goldswain (Eston), Olwyn Peters (Eston), Norman Pickthall (Teesville), Mark Hannon (Kirkleatham), Vic Jeffries (Marske), Brian Briggs (Skelton), Carole Simms (Normanby) and Wendy Wall (Normanby).

A vote of no confidence in leader George Dunning has been tabled by the council’s Liberal Democrat group for Thursday’s meeting of the full council.

In the wake of the row, Councillors Steve Goldswain and Olwyn Peters spoke out about alleged bullying in the local party, while the chairman of the Redcar constituency party Neil Bendelow confirmed that Cllr Vic Jeffries had made a formal complaint about bullying.

Cllr Dunning said that the resignations came after a long-running internal dispute in the Labour Party between council leadership, and the offices of Ms Turley and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop.

After Councillors Dunning, Clarke, Hannon and Jeffries joined Steve Goldswain, Brian Briggs and Norman Pickthall in being deselcted by the party, Mr Blenkinsop said that “he wasn’t part of the selection process”.

Ms Turley said in a statement:

“I am sad that the councillors and members who didn’t get selected don’t feel they can continue to be part of the Labour movement without being paid councillors, but the party cannot be held to ransom.

“There were simply other candidates who won their elections and they deserve their opportunity to serve their local communities.”

In response to Mrs Rudland’s announcement, Labour repeated its statement made in the wake of the other resignations that it was “disappointing but unsurprising”.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 09 Feb 2015

Redcar : Council leader tears up Labour Party membership card as bitter internal dispute continues

The future of a Teesside council has been left in disarray after its Labour leader and other cabinet members resigned from the party.

Redcar and Cleveland Council leader George Dunning, his deputy Sheelagh Clarke, the mayor, cabinet members and other senior councillors resigned this morning.

The move is the latest development in a bitter internal Labour dispute and comes after the councillors were not selected by the party in their seats in May’s council elections.

Ten councillors – including more than half of those on the council’s cabinet – staged a public protest outside the Redcar office of Anna Turley, Labour’s candidate for the Redcar seat in the General Election.

An informal meeting is taking place today in which the group will speak to cabinet members still in the Labour Party, and also approach independents to debate how the council can continue to function.

The most pressing issue is the need to pass a budget before the end of March, which includes a vital decision on whether to raise council tax.

But the Liberal Democrat group on Redcar and Cleveland Council have now confirmed that they will table a motion at next Thursday’s full council meeting calling for Cllr Dunning to stand down as leader.

Speaking at the protest in Redcar, Cllr Dunning said Redcar and Cleveland residents have “nothing to worry about”.

Cllr Norman Pickthall, cabinet member for corporate resources, said: “The direction of travel is that we will agree the budget, with a 0% council tax rise.

“All the work has been done. Other councillors would be foolish to reject it.”

Asked if he thought Labour would again win control of the council in May, Cllr Pickthall said: “I don’t think so. Not if the councillor who wants to become leader succeeds.”

Cllr Dunning said that South Bank councillor Sue Jeffrey wanted to become leader of the council’s Labour group.

The ten councillors who resigned from the party were Steve Goldswain (Eston), Olwyn Peters (Eston), Norman Pickthall (Teesville), Mark Hannon (Kirkleatham), Vic Jeffries (Marske), Brian Briggs (Skelton), Carole Simms (Normanby) and Wendy Wall (Normanby).

Their total membership in the party spans 230 years.

Cllrs Goldswain, Briggs and Pickthall were deselected as Labour councillors in November.

Cllrs Dunning, Clarke, Hannon and Jeffries were deselected at a meeting on Sunday, the culmination of a rift the council leader says exists between the leadership and Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Anna Turley, and councillors Joe Keenan and Dale Quigley, who work in Mr Blenkinsop’s office.

Mr Blenkinsop said earlier this week that “he wasn’t part of the selection process”.

Ms Turley said in a statement today:

“I am sad that the councillors and members who didn’t get selected don’t feel they can continue to be part of the Labour movement without being paid councillors, but the party cannot be held to ransom.

“There were simply other candidates who won their elections and they deserve their opportunity to serve their local communities.”

Ms Turley was out campaigning when the councillors staged their protest at her Milbank Terrace office.

A Labour Party statement said the decision was “disappointing but unsurprising”.

It read:

“The selection process in Redcar &; Cleveland has been fair, robust and competitive. The Labour Party expects the highest standards from our councillors and council candidates. These expectations include that a candidate demonstrates a willingness to campaign in their community all year round.

“The selection process is still ongoing but local members have begun to choose a new team of candidates drawn from a wide range of backgrounds, including a postman, a steel worker, a cobbler, a barmaid, and a netball coach.”

Cllr Sheelagh Clarke has now called for an independent inquiry into allegations of bullying, and the selection process which saw senior Labour members rejected by their party.

Cllr Peters said she had suffered a nervous breakdown because of bullying – and that she supported the deselected councillors who she said “represented what Labour is all about”.

Cllr Goldswain has also complained about bullying.

Chair of the Redcar Constituency Labour Party, Neil Bendelow,  claimed  earlier this week that there had been “no complaints” about bullying.

However, Cllr Vic Jeffries said he had made an official complaint around three weeks ago – which had been acknowledged.

Mr Bendelow said: “We had no complaints from those councillors who have spoken about the issue in the press. But we have had a complaint from Cllr Jeffries – the first I have ever had to deal with – and it will be dealt with by Labour Party process.”

Speaking after ripping up his 30-year Labour Party membership this morning, former mayor Cllr Jeffries said: “It is a very, very sad day.

“I am weighing my options up. I am a socialist and I believe in fairness, transparency and truth.”

Cllr Brian Briggs said: “I used to help my father with party business when I was a boy. I am Labour through and through. It is with a very heavy heart that I resign my membership.”

Independent mayoral candidate for Middlesbrough Len Junier, and fellow Middlesbrough councillors Pervaz Khan, John McPartland and Derek Loughborough supported their Redcar and Cleveland counterparts at the protest.

All but Cllr Loughborough were deselected by Middlesbrough Labour Group last year.

Cllr Junier said: “I think that this shows that party politics on Teesside is in terminal decline.

“It is the rise of the Independents. I hope we see a repeat across Teesside.”

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 04 Feb 2015

‘It’s been a cull’: Redcar councillors react to being deselected as Labour candidates

The deselected deputy leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council Sheelagh Clarke has called the process “undemocratic” – and claims “somebody in London wants rid”.

Council Leader George Dunning, along with deputy Cllr Clarke, cabinet member Mark Hannon and former mayor Vic Jefferies were told at a meeting at the Claxton Hotel in Redcar on Sunday that they would not be allowed to stand for Labour in their wards in May’s elections.

It immediately raises questions about how the authority will run on a day-to-day basis – coming as it does after a further four Labour councillors were deselected last year.

But Cllrs Dunning and Clarke say they remain “as committed as ever”.

 

How the leader and deputy responded

“There is a budget for us to get through, and we’re proposing to keep council tax frozen again and do what’s right for the people of this borough,” said the leader.

“We’ve done a hell of a lot of work since taking the council back in 2007 – which a lot of people in our party didn’t even think we would do.

“As far as we’re concerned, unless there’s a vote of no confidence, Sheelagh and I will continue to run the council.”

Cllr Dunning insists he is the victim of a “power struggle” within the Labour Party and that the office of Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop “wants to run the council, and we won’t let them”.

“A lot of members in Teesville are getting on, or have been ill,” the leader continued.

“I wasn’t going to round people up on a cold day and tell them they had to come and vote for us, but I know we had the support.

“This has been a struggle for years.

“There have been people in this party who wanted to be leader, who wanted to be on the cabinet, and they are paranoid and power-mad.”

‘It’s not democratic’

Cllr Dunning has survived tests of his leadership in the past – both from within his own party and from the Liberal Democrat opposition.

And Cllr Clarke said:

“I do not think it is a democratic process. If the people of my ward had voted me out, I would fully accept that.

“But those people have been denied a chance, because somebody from the Labour Party in London wants rid of us.”

Meanwhile, cabinet member Mark Hannon blamed the fall-out on a rift between senior councillors and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Mr Blenkinsop, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Redcar Anna Turley, and councillors working in their offices.

Candidates are chosen by local Labour party members in each ward, but if not enough members show up, as was the case on Sunday, the party’s local executive steps in to vote.

And Cllr Hannon, cabinet member for economic development, said: “I went and did a ten minute presentation at my interview, I answered questions for ten minutes, and I know I did the best presentation.

“The other candidates weren’t in there for anywhere near as long as me.

“I am popular with people in Redcar.

“Since I’ve been a councillor, we’ve got a new hospital in my Kirkleatham ward, housing, a new shopping centre.

“That doesn’t matter though. It’s been a cull of senior councillors.”

‘Labour just want to keep people on benefits’

“The Labour Party doesn’t care about the working classes any more.

“They just want to keep people on benefits and feather their own nests.”

“Against a backdrop of austerity, we have totally regenerated Redcar.

“We’ve not only kept leisure centres open, but we’ve built a new one, we’ve kept libraries open – and we’ve tried to keep council tax down.”

Cllr Hannon alluded to bullying within the party – which led cabinet member Olwyn Peters to claim she had suffered a breakdown.

This comes two-and-a-half years after Labour North’s Wallis Report claimed the Redcar and Cleveland Labour Group was “dysfunctional”.

What the MPs said

In a joint statement, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Redcar, thanked Cllrs Dunning and Clarke for their service but said it was “time for change”.

Mr Blenkinsop said:

“All candidates knew exactly what to expect, and the bar has been set very high in these elections.

“If deselected councillors were not told about the reasons for deselection, they’re not asking the right questions. Selection is a democratic process.

“The Labour Party is not looking for candidates that take support for the party for granted, or for anyone who is complacent. Candidates need to get out and talk to people to find out what they want.

“But I wasn’t part of the selection process for these councillors, so I don’t know what the reasons were.”

 

‘If Labour group can’t manage their own affairs, how can they manage the council?’

Glyn Nightingale, leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, said the possibility of launching another ‘no confidence’ vote would “be a matter for group members to discuss”.

“If the Labour group cannot manage their own affairs, how can they manage the council?” he added.

“I do not agree with what George Dunning and his administration have done in office, but I acknowledge that they have been working hard.

“It was up to the people at the ballot box to replace them – not an internal party manipulation.”

‘I totally do not accept any form of bullying’

Neil Bendelow, the chair of the Redcar Constituency Labour Party, said that all members had been treated equally.

“The way that candidates were selected follows the Labour Party process and would be the same anywhere,” he added.

“All councillors were asked the same type of questions, and were allowed to give a ten minute presentation and answer questions for ten minutes.

“We have some fanstastic candidates who are going to work tirelessly for their wards.”

Last year, Cllrs Brian Briggs, Steve Goldswain, Norman Pickthall and Brian Hogg were also deselected.

But Mr Bendelow added: “I totally do not accept any form of bullying whatsoever.

“There is a process for anyone to follow if they feel they are being bullied, and I have received no complaints and no shred of evidence has been given to us.”

What the future holds

Cllrs Dunning, Clarke and Hannon were told that they could possibly stand for Labour in other wards – but say they were not given reasons for their deselection.

Cllrs Dunning and Clarke said that at this point, they would not consider standing as independent councillors.

Cllr Dunning said that Bob Norton, Rob Hodgson, and Geraldine Williams will now stand for Labour in the Teesville ward.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 02 Feb 2015

Redcar council leader says ‘real’ working-class MPs are being squeezed out of Parliament

Poloticians with “plumby” accents are squeezing out working class MPs from Parliament, a leading North councillor has warned.

George Dunning, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said “career politicians” with “silver tongues” are being parachuted in ahead of real people in the corridors of power.

Coun Dunning, who worked in the Teesside steel industry for more than 30 years, said he was recently interviewed by a Labour panel of councillors who struggled to understand what he was saying.

I don’t talk with plumbs in my mouth because I was born and raised as part of a working-class Teesside family,” he said.

The Labour panel said I tended to raise my voice during debate and this made me difficult to understand.

“Obviously these people didn’t know I spent 30 years or more working in steel and 10 of those with no hearing protection.

“What annoys a lot of us, is, although we are a diminishing breed in steel, chemical and manufacturing, we are still around and we should have adequate representation in Parliament.

“I think it’s a kick in the teeth when members of your own political party struggle to understand why you talk the way you do.

“We’re working people with working-class backgrounds.

“Let’s see more real people in Parliament and not just the increasing breed of career politicians.”

The Teesside council leader is not alone in raising the issue of accent.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, who was born and raised in  Ashington, accused Parliament of being hostile to working-class northerners.

He said: “We’ve got an elite in Westminster which, quite frankly, frightens me.

“They haven’t been anywhere or done anything, and when you’ve got an accent like mine, they think ‘Well, that man doesn’t know too much.”

> Mind you, you know what they say about the Ashington accent…

A woman goes into a hairdressers in Ashington and says “give me a perm.”

“Ok“, replies the hairdresser, “I wandered lonely as a cloud…”

His Labour colleague, Pat Glass, who represents North West Durham, last year gave her take on the culture within Westminster.

If they spot a northern accent they start shouting about it to put you off,” she said.

Coun Dunning backed Mr Lavery’s words and credited the Northumberland MP as one of the few “real” working-class politicians in the Houses of Parliament.

“Ian Lavery’s comments hit where it hurts,” said Coun Dunning. “That being the elite class of MPs at Westminster feeling Ian’s blunt words. Then the truth always does, especially when stressing the lack of real people in Parliament.”

Source –  Sunday Sun, 11 Jan 2015