A COUNCIL leader has resigned from his post and quit the Labour Party – saying he is no longer prepared to put up with the fall-out from a local party rift.
Bob Watson has stood down as chairman of Seaton Valley Council in Northumberland, which he has led since its inception in 2009.
He has also resigned his long-standing membership of the Labour Party, several months after what he describes as a split in Labour ranks in the Holywell ward.
Mr Watson lost out to Labour rival Bernard Pidcock for the party’s nomination as candidate for the Holywell seat at the forthcoming county council elections.
He and his supporters were not happy about the way the selection meeting was conducted, and he claims his call for an investigation was rejected by the party.
Mr Watson says the rift has led to him receiving anonymous phone calls and emails – and accusations that he is not sufficiently left wing, and that there is a “class struggle and warfare” in the Holywell ward.
He has condemned what he describes as “petty, small-minded politics” in the local party – and says he has not yet decided whether to contest May’s elections as an independent candidate.
Mr Watson – who has been a stern critic of the Liberal Democrat administration at County Hall – said his disillusionment stemmed from a split in the Holywell branch about 12 months ago, which created two separate factions.
“I have been getting anonymous emails and phone calls saying I was not a left wing socialist and should not be in the Labour Party. Talk about class warfare in Holywell is just claptrap and the sort of thing I grew out of before I left college in the 60s.
“Eventually I said I was leaving the party and resigning from Seaton Valley Council.
“I believe I am leaving the council in a good position but I always said I would get out if the fun went out of it, and that is what has happened.
“I sent a complaint to Labour North and the Blyth Valley party and didn’t even get a reply. My wife has been upset by it all and I have decided it is the right time to go. I’ve finally decided it is too difficult to fight against the very small minority who cannot see any vision for the future of Seaton Valley.”
Yesterday Mike Dungworth, chairman of the Blyth Valley constituency Labour Party, which includes Seaton Valley, said: “Bob has given a lot of service and it is always sad to see someone leave the party. However, people do come and go and we are getting plenty of new members too.”
Constituency secretary John Potts said the selection meeting at which Mr Watson lost out to Mr Pidcock had been monitored by a Labour representative from the county council, who was satisfied that it was carried out in accordance with the rules.
“No-one who fails to get selected is ever happy, but there were no rules broken and there was nothing to investigate,” he added.
Mr Pidcock said: “I’m sorry Bob’s gone and that he feels he must leave the party. However, we’ve got work to do to get rid of the current regime in County Hall and this coalition Government. I have got my head down to ensure we secure this seat in Holywell and get a Labour majority on the county council.”
I have been getting anonymous emails and calls saying I was not a left wing socialist and should not be in the Labour Party