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Saturday, 16 May 2015

Resignation from Southampton Labour Group

As reported in the Daily Echo, on BBC Radio Solent, and on Radio 4's World This Weekend, I can confirm that I am now an Independent councillor for Redbridge, having given notice on Thursday afternoon to Southampton City Council's Monitoring Officer, as soon as he had confirmed the procedure. 

A week is a long time in politics, and a great deal has changed during the last week, not least the huge vote against Labour in the South. 

Sadly what hasn't changed is the approach of the Labour council in Southampton, as I confirmed from my very worrying conversation with Leader Cllr Letts on Wednesday, when he offered me a Cabinet position. 

Indeed his and successive (revolving door) Cabinet members' sustained and continuing lack of revenue generation and municipal enterprise for the City, and desire to work for the people of Millbrook, Maybush and Redbridge, were major factors in my leaving the Labour Group before it does more damage to Southampton and its people. 

I can have no part in it, if I am true to my conscience, and my job to represent and protect others.

Like many others have, I could have taken the Cabinet role I was offered, and the allowance, and just kept my head down, selling out the people of Southampton to party politics that leads to destruction instead of objectivity.

I couldn't be part of it in a failing Cabinet and failing Labour Council.

It is failing in many ways, not least because the Aims and Values in the Party rules for Labour Groups are not being followed. As I said in my interview on BBC Radio Solent, these are:

"To work constructively in their local authority for real and sustainable improvements in the economic, social and environmental well-being of the communities and local people they represent."

The Labour Council has now had three years to do this. They have failed to promote the Labour Aims and Values, and they have failed to protect services for the people in the area I represent.

Instead, they have continued to bungle, and make chaos in our great City.

Just look at the roads! Chaos caused by the inadequacy of the Labour Council.

Look at the bungled removal of adult social care that has lost Labour votes.

Look at the changes to Sure Start that are turning Labour supporters away.

Look at the bungled way that the Test Lane proposals have been handled.

Look at the Millbrook and Maybush Regeneration project that has lost Labour votes, through no fault of my own, because of how it has been mishandled - despite my best efforts to advise privately for the Leader Cllr Letts to get it sorted. 

Look at the libraries! Unashamedly, they have threatened to remove libraries from areas of deprivation, which a Labour Council should never do. I have pushed back privately, time and time again. But Cllr Letts and other members of the Cabinet dismissed my views, and the views of people in Redbridge.

I have been very patient, and extremely loyal in the face of extreme provocation and Labour negligence. As I say, I can have no part in it.

I tried and tried again over the last three years to ensure that the Labour Council is actually a Labour Council. It isn't. It is just more and more cuts, and a lack of innovation that is needed to protect services and the vulnerable. Other councils, of all parties, have done it. Why hasn't Southampton? Because of a lack of leadership and a lack of vision.

I have been a member of the Labour Party for 10 years. I believed it was the natural party for working people, as a workplace trade union representative before I joined. 

I do not believe that Labour is that party any more. And neither do millions of voters who didn't back Labour.

The Labour Group in Southampton, and the Labour Party in England, faces the electoral abyss unless it properly changes to represent the majority of working people and to promote aspiration. I am highly sceptical that will happen, for many reasons.

I have resigned from the Labour Group out of conscience. I have not done this lightly. 

I remain a member of the Labour Party for the time being, and am alarmed at the lack of due process and lack of democracy being followed by Labour Party officials. They have not even followed enough due process to warrant my accusing them of a kangaroo court! Sadly, in my experience over the last decade, a lack of professionalism from paid officials is commonplace in the Labour Party. It is indicative of the wider malaise that voters have detected - that the officials and bureaucracy are helping the already powerful and the careerists, rather than what a Labour Party was founded for.

I will continue to fight for Redbridge, and work very hard for my residents, listening to them and acting for them, as I have done over the last four years. 

My successes have largely been despite, not because, of the Labour Council and despite Labour's failings nationally - which were proved by the votes going elsewhere in the General Election.

Perhaps a new Party will emerge, or an existing one will reform, to represent the many, not the few.

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