A Brighton and Hove councillor has resigned from the Labour Party today (Monday 20 March) over the national leadership’s stance on Europe.
Michael Inkpin-Leissner, who represents Hollingdean and Stanmer on Brighton and Hove City Council, emphasised that his resignation was not a criticism of his fellow Labour councillors.
He is critical, though, of the Corbynite direction of the local constituency parties and is sensitive to concerns about anti-semitism.
He said: “When I joined the Labour Party it was a natural choice for me as a Social Democrat from Germany. Labour was a proud pro-European movement.
“The current leadership of the Labour Party seems to have forgotten that. The lukewarm stance to defend the European nationals by the parliamentary Labour group (I applaud the Lords on this occasion) made me feel more and more uncomfortable to be a part of the Labour Party.
“When I joined the Labour Party it was a centre-left party like the German SPD. Now it has been taken over by left-wingers and the Momentum extremists, who are working to build an axis with former German Communists ‘Die Linke’.
“As a German, you will understand, I can never support this and never will compromise my stance against any form of anti-semitism.
“Unfortunately, the position of the Labour Party, though there are strong personalities standing up against anti-semitism, seems to be not really sincere any more, proven by the lacklustre investigation of Baroness Chakrabarti.
“I have lost my faith in national Labour fighting anti-semitism and for Europe.”
Councillor Inkpin-Leissner, 49, was a passionate Remain campaigner before the “Brexit” referendum last year on whether to leave the European Union (EU).
As a German living and working in Britain, he exemplifies the advantages of the free movement of people so it is perhaps no surprise that he would oppose Brexit. He comes from the town of Emsdetten, in North Rhine-Westphalia, about 30 miles from the German border with the Netherlands.
Last week the national Labour leadership ordered the party’s MPs to back the government’s Brexit bill unamended even though Labour members of the House of Lords had voted to change it.
Councillor Inkpin-Leissner was not alone in Labour ranks in being disappointed by the lack of resistance in the Commons. He had hoped that MPs would at least vote for EU nationals like himself to retain residency rights even if they were in the end likely to be outvoted by government supporters.
After a long struggle with my conscience and conversations I have made up my mind and decided.
— M. Inkpin-Leissner (@mikeleissner) March 20, 2017
Earlier today he said on Twitter and Facebook: “After a long struggle with my conscience and conversations I have made up my mind and decided.”
Councillor Inkpin-Leissner will continue to sit as an independent although no decision has been taken on whether this will mean giving up his seat on the council’s Planning Committee.
The membership of committees is divided proportionally along party lines to reflect the number of overall seats on the council held by each party.
Councillor Inkpin-Leissner has been the Labour group representative on two local organisations – the Civil Military Partnership Board and the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE). He will have to give up these roles now that he is no longer a party member.
Council leader Warren Morgan said: “I would like to thank Michael for his work over the past two years on the council as a member of the Labour and Co-operative group, in particular, as our representative on the Civil Military Partnership Board.
“I understand his feelings with regard to the party’s position on Europe nationally and his personal position as a German citizen following the vote on the status of EU nationals in Parliament last week.
“Anyone who resigns from the Labour Party nationally cannot remain a member of the Labour group locally.
“Our work as an administration remains unaffected and we will continue to focus on getting the basics right, doing our best for vulnerable residents and growing the economy so that everyone benefits.”