A councillor who joined Labour when he was still taking his GCSEs has quit the party amid the national fallout over bullying and anti-Semitism.
Now-independent councillor Danny Hackett says he will not be calling a by-election after he defected from Labour over the weekend.
The councillor – who stood for Parliament in the last election against communities secretary James Brokenshire in Old Bexley and Sidcup – joined the first wave of councillors to copy MPs who have left the party to sit as independents.
The Thamesmead East representative said he it was an “agonising” decision to leave the party he joined when he was still in secondary school.
Councillors from at least 10 authorities resigned the whip over the weekend, including Hackett, who has served in Bexley since 2014.
He said today: “I know many colleagues across the country that want to follow in our footsteps but they’re not ready yet. It’s a momentous decision people need to make and I certainly won’t be the last.
“It’s something that I’ve been wrestling with for a fair amount of time now. It’s been hanging over me.
“On Monday when the indie group split, and then you had the Tory defections on the Wednesday, that was the push I needed to help me find that courage to say that actually there is a better way of doing politics in this country and there are people out there that agree, and maybe we can make this work.”
Today I have left the Labour Party. This has been one of the most agonising and heartbreaking decision of my life, but one I know I had to take. I will continue to serve the residents of Thamesmead East as an independent Councillor. #LeavingLabour pic.twitter.com/hE4quhVCAA
— Danny 🇬🇧 🇺🇦 (@DannyHackett) February 23, 2019
In a letter to Jennie Formby, the general secretary of Labour, Hackett said the party’s leadership is to blame for a culture of bulling and toxicity – adding “the party he joined is not the party [he] recognises today”.
Hackett says he has had no response from the local branch since announcing his resignation, and has no plans to call a by-election.
“My values remain the same,” Hackett said.
“I have not changed; the Labour party has. I will not be calling a by-election because I am the same councillor I was on Friday. I will still be fighting for residents in my ward, and I will be judged on my record.
“Clearly there will be further calls for a by-election. I am not entertaining it. I’ll continue to serve with those values but unfortunately just not inside the party.”
Among those calling for a by-election is Bexley Labour Group, which said they were informed on Saturday evening of his decision.
A statement from Bexley Labour says: “Danny cites his criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party as being the reason for taking this action.
“Danny was immensely proud to stand under his leadership and policy platform in the 2017 general election. He stood for a second occasion under his leadership when he was re-elected as a Bexley councillor in the May 2018 local elections.
“Given his mandate was received only nine months ago under Bexley Labour’s manifesto, and with regards to what may be the wishes of the residents of Thamesmead East, we believe that it is only correct that he should resign his seat and seek a fresh mandate as an Independent candidate.”
Tom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Bexley. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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