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Labour members express need for 'new blood' at the top...
Labour members express need for 'new blood' at the top

By Nick Golding

Sir Jeremy Beecham's seat on Labour's governing body is under threat from a leader keen to influence the local government white paper debate.

Wakefield MBC's leader Peter Box is challenging the Local Government Association's Labour group leader for his role on the party's National Executive Committee, which plays a key role in ensuring members' views are translated into policy.

Sir Jeremy has sparked recent controversy as NEC chairman by attacking home secretary Charles Clarke for criticising party officials who were angry that the party had received secret loans.

There have also been suggestions that new blood is required in the party's upper echelons, with Sir Jeremy having initially risen to prominence as chairman of the Association of Metropolitan Councils 15 years ago.

Sir Jeremy welcomed the challenge, insisting: 'I believe I can speak for Labour local government and not just in England - in Wales and Scotland too.

'I hope I have established a track record of arguing local government's cause and advancing an agenda most Labour councillors believe in.'

He admitted there was always a 'strong case' for refreshing senior leaders but insisted he always sought to encourage new blood.

Mr Box, who at 59 is only two years Sir Jeremy's junior and is also chairman of the Yorkshire & Humber regional assembly, said he wanted to use his influence to ensure councillors' views were reflected in city regions and regional government policies.

'We need to look at how these policies relate to one another. The government are looking at that and I'm standing so I can bring my experience to help government articulate how these initiatives can work in a constructive way,' he said.

However, one Labour LGA insider believed Sir Jeremy's grasp of local government was widely respected.

Responding to the furore over Sir Jeremy's recent interventions, the source added: 'Jeremy is a very principled human being and it's a difficult path to tread between Labour councils and government policy.'

Although there are two seats reserved for local government and voted for by Labour councillors, one must be occupied by a woman, meaning Dame Sally Powell's position is safe.

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