Ten Labour councillors in Redcar and Cleveland – including the council leader – have resigned from the Labour Party. It means that Labour no longer have control of the council.

The Darlington and Stockton Times reports:

“A POWER struggle at the heart of a North-East council’s Labour membership has come to a head this morning when up to ten councillors tore up their Labour party membership cards.

“The mass resignation follows the deselection of seven leading members of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, including leader George Dunning and his deputy Sheelagh Clarke.

“Pivotal to the row is the deselected members blaming interference from the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Tom Blenkinsop, and members of his staff, including three fellow Labour councillors.

“This morning, they held a protest outside the office of the party’s candidate for the Redcar parliamentary seat, Anna Turley, which had the shutters down.”

The Council leader Cllr George Dunning said:

“This is a devastating day for me, I have been member for more than 25 years and it has come to the point where I have had to rip up my membership card.

“This situation didn’t have to happen but it has been forced upon us by Labour North and the bullying antics of some members.”

In total seven of the ten had been deselected. A Labour Party spokesman says this has all been done in a proper, rigorous, fair minded way as Labour “expects the highest standards from our councillors and council candidates”.

Could the deselections have taken place purely on merit? Is it that councillors who are lazy or incompetent have been ditched?

It sounds to me that the power struggle explanation is more plausible. Otherwise why are all the useless Labour councillors elsewhere allowed to proceed without interference from the Party machine? As long as they hand over a slice of their allowances to Party funds there doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Anyway the Lib Dems have a majority of 5,214 in the Redcar constituency in the last General Election. I’m not sure how much impact the Labour Party tearing themselves apart will have on their prospects of gaining the seat – but it is hardly likely to help.