A senior Labour councillor has resigned from the party – claiming allegations of homophobic abuse towards the council leader have not been dealt with.
Coun Allan Barclay, the current ceremonial mayor of Hartlepool and 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.
A Labour Party spokesperson said they reject what they have described as ‘dangerous rhetoric and baseless claims’ but said they take all complaints ‘extremely seriously’ and investigate them accordingly.
Coun Barclay claimed 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.
Coun Akers-Belcher said he reported incidents which happened in August 2018 to the Labour Party and he is awaiting a response.
Coun Barclay, an armed forces veteran, said he feared the Labour Party is ‘at a dark turning point and marching towards fascism at a steady pace’.
He said: “I have witnessed anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, disability discrimination and a general disrespect towards others.
“I am aware Labour North and the national leadership are aware of an incident where our council leader was physically threatened by a Labour party member and also vilified in a local campaign meeting for being gay.
“The sentiment expressed in these discussions was “the Labour Party cannot be lead into future elections by gay people”. I am deeply distressed by the fact that no action has been taken to address this kind of behaviour. “
He said he first got involved in the Labour Party at the age of 14 and the party is now ‘unrecognizable’ from when he first joined.
He was previously deselected as a Labour candidate ahead of the local elections in May.
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said it was ‘hugely disappointing’ to see anyone feel like they have to leave the party.
He said: “From my point of view, it’s hugely disappointing that any member of the party feels in anyway like they’ve been bullied out of party, that’s the main thing.
“Allan has been a really successful and hard working councillor and we’re disappointed to lose him.
“I have my own complaint with the national party which is being investigated and I’m still waiting on a resolution on that.”
Coun Barclay also praised the current leadership of the council and the progress the town was making, although he warned local Labour members could be harming the work.
He said: “Hartlepool as a town is at the point of turning its fortunes around.
“For the first time in over a generation the council leader and deputy leader along with good council officers have attracted multi millions of pounds into Hartlepool. In real terms this means more local jobs.
“This investment and hard work is being put at risk by some Labour councillors and Labour members who are more interested in playing divisive political games and undermining the Labour controlled administration.”
He added he remains supportive of Coun Akers-Belcher’s leadership and claimed he was the ‘best leader in over a generation’.
A Labour Party spokesperson rejected the wider claims put forward by Coun Barclay and said they take all complaints ‘extremely seriously’.
They said: “Allan Barclay was deselected as a Labour candidate by his local party and therefore could not stand as a Labour candidate in the upcoming local elections. We reject his dangerous rhetoric and baseless claims.
“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