Labour party members have reported the Labour group on Wirral MBC to the party leadership for alleged misconduct after a councillor accused activists of intimidation and abuse in his resignation letter and warned councillors across Merseyside are also facing hostility and the threat of de-selection.
Mike Sullivan resigned last month saying the party had become “over-run by a narrow, ideological cult” with verbal abuse by members at local party meetings in the Wirral East constituency becoming the norm.
Responding to the allegations in a statement, officers of the Wirral Labour party’s local campaign forum, which includes delegates from the area’s four constituency parties, branches and the council Labour group, confirmed they had made a formal request to Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby to investigate the “leadership, conduct, bullying culture and finances of Wirral’s Labour group”.
It added “generalised criticism of Wirral Labour members was part of a choreographed campaign to besmirch and undermine them”.
The statement continued: “Bullying is a serious issue, not a political football. Therefore, we would urge any member who feels they have been bullied, or who have any other concerns, to use the Labour party’s established and fair processes.”
Speaking to LGC, Cllr Sullivan blamed his departure on members of campaign group Momentum, who he said view Labour councillors and other long-standing party members as “the enemy”.
He said: “It’s bullying, they are deselecting [councillors] and just want to get their own people in place. They are interviewing now but Momentum are all on the panel. They have all the executive posts on the constituency Labour party. At the last meeting I was shouted down.”
Wirral council has elections by thirds, with the next election taking place in May 2019.
Cllr Sullivan, who will now serve as an independent, voted for Jeremy Corbyn for leader twice and previously left the Labour party under Tony Blair’s leadership to join the Socialist Labour Party.
He said: “I’m not a disgruntled Blairite. I say to people I’m to the left of Che Guevara.
“The thing is with Momentum is they talk about democracy and they talk about debate, but they do not want either. They want it their way or no way.”
Wirral Momentum has been contacted for comment.
A spokesman for Wirral West CLP said no complaints had been received from Cllr Sullivan, adding: “We take accusations of bullying very seriously and so it is disappointing that Mike has chosen not to follow the well-established and fair procedures.”
Cllr Sullivan, who is a former member of the Liverpool City Region CA overview and scrutiny committee, also said party members are looking to de-select leader Phil Davies and deputy leader George Davies, as well as others, and claimed councillors at other Merseyside councils are facing similar challenges.
Wirral’s leader did not respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month Birkenhead MP Frank Field quit Labour over the anti-Semitism row and what he described as a culture of “intolerance, nastiness and intimidation” within the party, including in his constituency in the Wirral.
Last week, former minister and critic of Jeremy Corbyn Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield North, blamed a narrow vote of no confidence in her by her constituency party on “Trots, Stalinists, Communists and assorted hard-left”.
Luton South MP Gavin Shuker, who has also criticised the Labour leader, also lost a vote of no confidence last week.
Former Labour leader of Haringey LBC Claire Kober stepped down ahead of elections in May claiming Momentum “intimidation” made her councillors’ positions “intolerable” and accused the Labour activist group of destroying a decade of work to improve the calibre of the council’s members.
This story was updated at 15.30 on 11 September to include comments from Wirral Labour party’s local campaign forum.