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 It is not a democratic party anymore and it no longer represents the working class.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
A Labour councillor has been suspended after she joined protesters opposing council cuts.
Councillor Rosalind Copeland (Southwick) was hit with a three-month suspension by Sunderland’s Labour Group for going against the orders of party whips.
The ban means she will not be able to take part in the group’s meetings or sit with Labour members at full council meetings.
Members voted to take action against Coun Copeland at a party meeting on Monday.
It appears the row was ignited after the grandmother-of-two joined placard-carrying protestors in the city centre, ahead of an annual budget-setting meeting last month.
A group from North East People’s Assembly met to lobby councillors before the meeting, during which £35million of cuts for 2014/15 were given the green light.
Carrying placards in the shape of coffin lids to signify each public service they said will suffer because of the cuts, the group handed out leaflets.
Coun Copeland attended the lobby in Park Lane before the meeting and supported the demonstrators.
Pointing out that she was not there to criticise the council, but to defend what it is legally bound to do in the face of Government cuts, she said: “I am here to defend my council and the decision my council will have to make – the agony we are facing as councillors.
“As council members, we are having to do things we don’t want to do. The Coalition is pilfering the working class. It is not this Labour group at fault.”
Supporters have given their backing to the 65-year-old, who was elected in May 2008.
Anti-cuts protestor Gary Duncan set up the online petition and a Facebook page calling for the suspension to be lifted.
He said: “As a Sunderland resident and Labour voter who actively opposes cuts to public services, I am absolutely disgusted by this suspension.
“How can the leaders of Sunderland’s Labour Party justify punishing one of their own councillors for fighting the cuts?”
> Labour voter ? So he’s not the same Gary Duncan who, if I remember correctly, stood as a Respect candidate then ?
Though he probably is the Gary Duncan who last year got into bother with Sunderland Peoples Assembly (presumably a different entity from North East People’s Assembly)
A Labour Party insider, who did not want to be named, said: “Coun Copeland signed a letter in 2011 to say she would not talk to the press, unless it was ‘on message’.
“But if you started slinging people out of the Labour Party for opposing Tory cuts, there would be nobody left. She is a good local councillor.”
A spokesman for Labour Party North confirmed Coun Copeland had been suspended from the Labour Group for three months for going against the party whip.
Council leader Paul Watson said: “There is an internal Labour Group enquiry live at the present moment. It is against party rules to discuss the situation until we have an outcome and the process is fully concluded.”
Source – Sunderland Echo 12 April 2014