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Labour leader quits party
WORCESTERSHIRE’S top Labour councillor is quitting the party and has launched a devastating personal attack on Worcester’s Labour MP.
Councillor John Buckley, the high-profile opposition leader at Worcestershire County Council, has exclusively told your Worcester News that after more than 40 years as an active member of the Labour party, he will not stand for them again following the breakdown of his relationship with city MP Mike Foster.
Coun Buckley, who has represented the Worcester ward of Warndon and Gorse Hill for the past eight years, attacked Mr Foster for running a “me me me” campaign centred entirely around his own re-election.
Mr Foster has agreed that his relationship with Coun Buckley has broken down, but says he has only ever sought to do what he believes is right for the city.
But Coun Buckley says Labour councillors in Worcester are treated as nothing more than ‘leaflet-deliverers’ by Mr Foster’s office, and are frequently undermined by policy announcements on council matters made out of the blue by the MP, often conflicting with their own agreed policies.
He was further undermined, he said, by Mr Foster making visits to County Hall to discuss issues and make agreements with council officers without letting him know.
He said his work at County Hall as chairman of the influential scrutiny committee was “totally undervalued”, and that as his relationship with Mr Foster has deteriorated he has been subjected to a “whispering campaign” and even “insulting e-mails”.
He said: “I put 41 years of my life into this, and you think – is this how it is? Is this how it is to have a Labour MP? Is this the comradeship, the working together? It just becomes a drain on you.”
Coun Buckley, who joined the Labour party at the age of 18 and says he has contested every election since, came to his decision late last summer. He resigned his position as group leader on Friday afternoon and will not now stand for Labour at this summer’s local elections.
He ruled out standing for any other party, but would not be drawn as to whether he might stand as an independent councillor instead.
Ironically, were he to do so in Warndon and Gorse Hill, he would be up against Labour’s proposed new candidate for that ward – controversial city councillor Alan Amos, who last week launched the controversial proposal to twin the city with war-torn Gaza.
Coun Buckley revealed the extent of his fall-out with the city MP – for whom he acted as electoral agent in the 2001 general election – when he stated Mr Foster “has not spoken to me since October”.
But the councillor added: “The issue isn’t just my relationship with Mike. The way things work in Worcester CLP (Constituency Labour Party) is that everything works around Mike’s office.
“The people around him see the most important thing as maintaining and supporting the MP. Anything I or my colleagues feel strongly about, you have to have a huge row and win a great big battle.
“Mike sees councillors as his leaflet fodder – ‘deliver the leaflets and don’t ask questions’.”
Coun Buckley said he was “devastated” by the situation, but added he plans to continue the youth work for which he is well known in Warndon “without all the political machinations”.