The former Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Warren Morgan, has resigned from the party.
His departure after 27 years as a member comes two days after Councillor Anne Meadows defected from Labour to the Tories.
The switch by Councillor Meadows, who chaired the Labour council’s Housing and New Homes Committee, meant that the Tories became the largest political group on the council.
The Conservatives are preparing to try to seize control of the council within weeks even though local elections are due to take place in May.
Councillor Morgan, who represents East Brighton ward, will sit as an independent councillor until May when he stands down from the council.
He is the second Labour councillor in the current administration to resign and sit as an independent, for the same reasons, following Councillor Michael Inkpin-Leissner.
He said: “This morning I have submitted my resignation as a member of the Labour Party to the general secretary Jennie Formby, citing Brexit, anti-semitism and the toxic culture of aggression and bullying within the party and the broader Corbyn-supporting base.
“Under party and council rules, I am not able to continue to be a member of the Labour and Co-operative group on Brighton and Hove City Council.
“However, I will continue to vote with them in next week’s budget and any votes tabled by the Conservative aimed at taking control.
“I’d like to be very clear that I have no issues with the Labour group or leadership and fully support the valued colleagues I have worked with over many years in such difficult circumstances.
“I still believe I have something to offer in terms of public service to the city and local politics but in future I want to use my energies in a positive way, not in fighting internal party battles.”
Councillor Morgan’s successor as Labour leader of the council, Daniel Yates, said: “It was with great sadness that I have listened to Warren’s reasons for leaving the Labour Party.”
“On a personal basis I have known Warren as a tireless and principled Labour campaigner, activist and politician over the last 20 years.
“He was the guiding power behind, and leading, our successful 2015 local election campaign in the city – and led the city council’s Labour administration with vigour and enthusiasm for three years.
“Clearly, since changes/developments within the Party nationally and locally, Warren has felt challenged that the values and principles of the Party no longer aligned with his own.
“On tackling anti-semitism, and on other important matters, Warren was a strong and brave leader, demonstrating many characteristics which all leaders and public figures would do well to emulate.
“Although I have differences now with Warren over how best to continue to deliver for people in the city and country through the political process, I still count Warren as friend and thank him for his hard work delivering Labour promises and the values and principles of our movement, during his time in the party.
“I wish him all the best for the future, and am pleased that he has signalled that he intends to support our budget and our administration albeit from an independent group.”
Here is Councillor Morgan’s resignation letter in full …
“I joined the Labour Party in 1993, having been persuaded by a friend at university, Tom Watson, that the party had changed from the days of Militant and offered hope for the future.
“Like many, I was inspired by John Smith’s words ‘the opportunity to serve our country, that is all we ask.
“Ten years on I committed myself full time to the party, working for the local MP and being elected as a councillor to represent one of the most deprived wards in the south east.
“It has been an honour to serve the party and the residents of East Brighton for the past 16 years and It was a privilege to serve my city as council leader for three years until last May.
“Brighton and Hove was one of only two new Labour council administrations in 2015, something the party rewarded at conference in the city that September.
“As leader I oversaw the delivery of more new council homes than at any time in three decades and worked to ensure that despite massive Conservative cuts, no council staff faced compulsory redundancy.
“My excellent, talented, committed Labour council colleagues have delivered dozens of other achievements in the most challenging of circumstances.
“We worked and innovated, rather than grandstand and protest. I will support them and vote with them until May.
“As for so many long-serving members and councillors, it has been made clear to me on many occasions by people who largely joined in 2015, often from other left-wing parties, that I am no longer welcome.
“Indeed it has been argued I was never ‘real Labour’ at all. It was made clear that I should stand down as council leader and would not win reselection.
“I was one of the first to raise concerns about anti-semitism following events at the 2017 conference in Brighton.
“It was my duty as council leader, as a Labour councillor, to call out racism wherever and whenever it appeared, without fear or favour, in defence of the city’s Jewish community. For that I was vilified by members locally and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn nationally.
“Friends in the Jewish Labour Movement urged me not to resign my membership, as others have done, in response to the unchecked and rampant anti-semitism among party members, in order to fight back and clear the party of those with racist anti-semitic views.
“I have done so until now. The resignation of JLM chair Luciana Berger from the party is a clear sign that members of the Jewish community and those who support them have no place in Labour.
“I am and always have been a passionate supporter of the European Union. Brighton and Hove voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and it has appalled me that the leader of the party has in my view wilfully obfuscated and distorted his position in order to not comply with the intent of the policy set by members last autumn.
“Brexit will do immense damage to the economy of Brighton and Hove, to tourism, our universities, our service sector and our creative digital industry.
“I cannot remain a member of a party which supports and enables Brexit, which came about purely to win the Conservative Party the 2015 election, which was passed due to dog-whistle rhetoric on immigration, corrupt campaign practices, ‘dark ads’ and online interference, and decades of myths about the EU propagated by people who resent the restrictions the EU places on their business and financial interests.
“Any form of Brexit will harm jobs, employment rights, pay and conditions, opportunities for young people, our NHS and our economic wellbeing.
“The people Labour represents, those who we give voice to, are the ones who will be harmed most.
“It is an act of utter betrayal and dogmatic ignorance by Jeremy Corbyn to support, and not oppose vigorously, this act of catastrophic national self-harm.
“I came into politics to change society for the better, to win that opportunity to serve. I did not come into politics to spend all my time and energy fighting people in the same party.
“The racism, factionalism, bullying and intolerance of any dissenting view is intolerable. It has long ceased to be the broad church I joined. Hope of a return has, for me, faded and gone.
“I despair at what the party I have devoted more than half my life to has become, and the far left doctrines and dogmas that now constrict it.
“I respect all those true and valued friends and colleagues who will stay as members, councillors and MPs but it is with enormous sadness that I must now resign my membership of the Labour Party after 27 years.
“I feel I still have something to offer in public service and to my city and its communities.
“My values and my aspirations for those people have not changed in that time and nor will they but now like others I must find another means by which to realise those values, deliver better lives for the people who need the best of representation and help give others that opportunity to serve.”