Hartlepool Labour exodus continues as second councillor resigns from party
Another Labour councillor has resigned from the party after claiming allegations of homophobic abuse and racism within the party have not been dealt with.
Coun Sandra Belcher, who represents the Jesmond Ward on Hartlepool Borough Council, has resigned from the party a day after the town’s ceremonial mayor Coun Allan Barclay said he stepped away from the party over unresolved complaints.
Coun Barclay, councillor for the Manor House Ward, said there have been issues of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic abuse which have not been dealt with by the party.
He added council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher had been physically threatened by a Labour Party member and ‘vilified for being gay’, issues which he said had not been deal with.
A Labour North spokesperson said they take all complaints extremely seriously and they investigate them in line with its ‘robust rules and procedures’.
Coun Belcher has defended Coun Barclay, who along with herself was deselected by the party ahead of this year’s local elections, and hit out at Labour locally and nationally in her resignation.
She said: “I feel the Labour Party that we were all proud of has lost its traditional value base and been infiltrated by people who do not share my values of respect and dignity towards others.
“I am also ashamed of the way that the Labour Party locally and regionally have stood [by] unpleasant and unwarranted attacks on people who I care about.
“The recent comments by the Labour Party in relation to Allan Barclay’s resignation shows the utter contempt and lack of will to deal with unpleasant racism in the Labour Party.
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“The Labour Party are fully aware of a number of complaints and instead of dealing with the issues in hand they try and discredit a decent man who has served his country.
“Shame on them for their despicable act of denial.”
Coun Barclay also hit out at the Labour Party for being ‘disingenuous and in complete denial’ of discrimination issues within the party and said he was disappointed with their response following his resignation.
He said ‘the Labour Party should deal with issues and stop attacking those people who have been brave enough to raise complaints’.
Coun Belcher added there could be further resignations, not just in Hartlepool, ‘should the Labour Party continue failing to act on the complaints they have received’.
In a letter sent to the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn she added she has lost faith in the national party over its ‘appalling handling’ of the Brexit issue.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “Sandra Belcher wasn’t successful in the democratic selection process undertaken by her local party and therefore could not stand as a Labour candidate in the upcoming local elections.
“The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously, which are investigated in line with our robust rules and procedures. We cannot comment on specific cases.”
Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporting Service