Howard Balkind, the current ward councillor for Swinton South, has resigned the Labour Party whip and will sit as an 'independent Labour councillor' on Salford City Council until the next local election.
In a damning email to Labour Party colleagues yesterday, Councillor Balkind wrote...
Please note with immediate effect I am resigning the whip and I will sit as an independent Labour councillor and make my own mind up for the next six months. I just wonder whether the so called spokesman who said I was not a good councillor has the guts to name him or herself.
Regards to those of you that are still my friends..."
Councillor Balkind was de-selected at a ward meeting of Swinton South Labour Party this week, with 12 out of 14 members voting for a new candidate, Stuart Dickman, who is the full time Communications Officer for Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Dickman is also the Campaign Coordinator for Salford and Eccles Labour Party and a part time PR student at Manchester Metropolitan University (Lecturers please note: he's not very good - the Salford Star is still waiting for a quote from Rebecca Long-Bailey promised by him almost a month ago...).
Now Councillor Balkind is accusing a different member of Rebecca Long-Bailey's staff of "actively campaigning to get me removed..."
"I've heard it from more than one person" he tells the Salford Star "I challenged him on it but he denied it. Rebecca Long-Bailey said she was furious about this guy supposedly campaigning to get rid of me but said she's spoken to him and been assured that he wasn't doing it. However it was interesting that he turned up at the meeting and sat outside almost waiting for the result – if you put two and two together..."
The current Swinton councillor argues that his de-selection was a "fait accompli", believes his de-selection was decided in advance by a separate short-listing meeting and noted members at the meeting he'd never seen before...
"Normally, we're lucky to get six people at the meetings, now suddenly there were 14, and 12 voted against me, including a senior member of the Cabinet" he says "I think people want to be able to influence the Council and, basically get Rebecca Long-Bailey's people in. Although I've always supported Rebecca strongly, I feel as though I'm an outsider..."
Councillor Balkind is noted for speaking his mind on issues, both in public and behind closed Labour Party doors, which don't always tally with the leadership, including attending community meetings opposing Salford Council cuts to vulnerable people...
"I believe in speaking my mind" he says "Everyone originally wanted to shut up about the Salford Jam Butty Camp. They wanted to shut it down but for me it was a part of history and all it needed was a change of trustees. We got that and it's stayed open.
"I've also spoken out recently about other things, and I think certain people wanted me forced out" he adds "There's too much power in too few hands in my opinion. Someone has got five positions both on the Council, on the Labour Group and within the Labour Party constituency. They wield so much influence that I believe it's ending up almost like nepotism – a lot of people aren't happy but they won't speak out...
"As a councillor, I am a political animal but I've done charity work for over fifty years and I see myself acting as a conduit between the people who live in the ward and sorting out council matters for them" he explains "That's the work I love to do. I spoke for five minutes at the section meeting on this casework but it fell on deaf ears. I think it was a total waste of time."
What is interesting is that, while a backbench Labour Party councillor gets de-selected in what is being described by others as some sort of Momentum purge (all twelve of them!), ancient Cabinet members who were around from the Hazel Blears days, and who implemented affordable housing demolitions, cuts to services for vulnerable people and lots more under the last Labour Government are still around in safe seats...Very odd.
Main photo shows Howard Balkind speaking at a Boycott Dogs4Us protest