Friday, March 17, 2023

Senior Leicester Labour councillor to stand for the Greens in May

One of the four Labour councillors suspended by the party in Leicester has announced that he will be standing for the Green Party in the city council elections in May.

In a tweet sent at lunchtime today, Patrick Kitterick said:

Ever since being elected as a councillor for Castle Ward, I have always sought to do the right thing. I have now taken the decision to leave the Labour Party and will stand as a Green Party candidate for Castle Ward in the upcoming City Elections.

Kitterick was suspended, along with his fellow councillors Rita Patel, Ross Willmott and Jacky Nangreave, for moving or seconding council motion that would have ended Leicester's mayoral system of local government.

The suspension means they will not be able to stand for Labour in May's all-out elections.

Patel and Willmott have spoken to the Leicester Mercury about their suspension, with Cllr Patel saying:
"I think the suspension [feels] illegal because it breaches our human rights in terms of having the freedom to speak. 
"Councillors are elected to speak up for their residents, and if we can’t do that it begs the question of what are we doing? You can talk all you like about timing, but actually it's a really important debate.

"It’s about real democracy in this city. We’re a democracy; if people feel differently to others they should be able to voice that.

"We’ve had the mayoral system for the last 12 years. We’ve given it a go. I really feel we need a debate [on whether it should be kept]. It’s not working in terms of the concentration of power in one position.

"It’s making councillors almost redundant. They become glorified case workers more than people who are really involved in decision making and being able to feed in the concerns people have and then go back out and let people know how things are changing in response to those concerns.

"We’re being gagged on the city council from speaking up and saying what needs to be said on behalf of the people who vote for us. I’m elected to represent the people in my ward and make sure their voices are heard."

There has been disquiet at the dominance of Sir Peter Soulsby, who has been the elected mayor for 12 years and will be Labour's candidate in May's mayoral elections, among party members in Leicester for years.

It's clear that it exists among Labour councillors too, and these heavy-handed sanctions will do nothing to reduce it.

This is very much a Leicester problem for Labour, but it will be interesting to see if other councillors from the city or beyond follow Patrick Kitterick into the Greens.

Keir Starmer's strategy is based on the belief that he is free to concentrate on wooing swing voters because his internal critics have nowhere else to go. That belief may turn out not to be wholly true.

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