It is with a sense of relief that I resign from the Labour Party – Cllr Jo Lawson

Contrary to statements given by both Cllr Cathy Scott – Leader and Cllr Will Simpson – Labour group chief whip, to the press on 19th January 2024, Kirklees Labour Group remains to put it bluntly a toxic swamp where any semblance of democracy, discussion on pertinent issues practically non-existent. Bullying is rife with the threat of deselection and the loss of special responsibility allowances (SRA) held over members heads. It is not for so called back benchers to dare to question in Labour Group meetings. We must unquestionable follow the whip or face the consequences. We are seen as voting fodder. More discussion is held on campaigning then on issues that matter to our residents at Labour group meetings.

Cathy Scott on her appointment as Leader promised a fresh start not only for Kirklees but for the Labour group – openness and transparency promised along with regular updates from Cabinet and much needed discussion on issues. Unfortunately all of this failed to materialise.

All we have seen is a revolving door with her cabinet appointments. It is practically unheard of for 3 Cabinet members to resign in such a short time frame. Worryingly are the reasons behind one of the resignations. We can but hope there are no further resignations as many councillors have declined to be in her cabinet so she must be running out of options.

The only unity within the group appears to be the over whelming desire to get Cllr Scott and with her Cllr Simpson out at the next Labour group AGM in May. Kirklees is being led by a leader who knows her fate is only a few short months away.

So much for a fresh start.

On Wednesday 17th January at Kirklees Full Council meeting I defied the Labour Whip over the Labour group amendment to the motion on Gaza put forward by the Greens.

Labour group members had been informed that any Labour amendment to the motion bought by the Greens would actually strengthen, the Green motion. At the Labour group on the 15th January a lengthy debate was held not on the Labour amendment but on the dress code for the forth coming Council Meeting, yes dress code was thought to be of more importance, by the Kirklees Labour group leadership.

This amendment in my opinion weakened and watered down the Green motion and could be seen as playing politics. The right of reply to the Labour Group amendment further confirmed this. I fully accept that breaking the Labour Group whip would mean I faced the consequences of my actions, I voted knowing this. I didn’t expect to be sacked within 30 seconds of me casting my vote with the Chief Whip bawling his congratulations across the council chamber to a member sat next to me on their new appointment as a scrutiny panel chair, apparently a considered discussion happened in those 30 seconds to remove me as chair. I didn’t expect weeks later to be asked to resign from a position I was publicly sacked from – apparently this was to save me the humiliation of being sacked in public. What I did expect was to be asked why I’d defied the Labour Group Whip – no such discussion ever took place and apparently it didn’t matter as I’d defied the whip and that was an end to the matter.

I have for a long time found myself increasingly at odds with the Labour Party stance both locally and nationally.

Like millions of others in this country I want nothing more then an end to 14 years of Tory rule, but I fear that any Starmer led government will not invest more in local government, protect and invest in our NHS, nor ensure a significant number of the 4.2Million children living in poverty are lifted out of it – The 2 children benefit cap will remain.

Britain is broken but I can not see Starmer fixing the multitude of problems.

Promises and pledges are regularly broken and that is before Starmer even has the keys to no 10.

Starmer has all but abandoned his green credentials with a U turn on the green new deal. One of his leadership pledges when he ran for leader of the Labour Party was to ensure that all public services were in public hands and not making profits for shareholders, with the horrific rise in energy costs this is much needed. Starmer has abandoned any such plans and millions will continue to live in some degree of fuel poverty. It appears that only the railways will be nationalised under a Labour govt.

The Labour Party appears to be running for office solely on a WE ARE NOT THE TORIES ticket and I suspect millions will be bitterly disappointed.

I found myself an elected representative of a party that if I had been just a member I would have resigned months ago. We all have one final red line that can’t be crossed and mine was Starmer’s stance on the Gaza. You can send as many letters as you want, you can stay and fight for change from with in but there has to come a time when you acknowledge all of this is futile. I can no longer be part of a party who will not openly acknowledge what is happening in Gaza is genocide.

It’s not a case of me leaving the Labour Party more the Labour Party left me, the party no longer holds the same values as me.

I will continue to represent the Crosland Moor and Netherton Ward as an independent.

Jo Lawson
Cllr Crosland Moor and Netherton Ward
Kirklees MBC

February 11, 2024

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