Copeland Labour Group leader slams Mayor of Copeland for joining the Conservative Party

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Copeland Councillor Michael McVeigh, Leader of the Labour Party group, has written an open letter to Mayor Mike Starkie in response to his controversial move in abandoning his Independent label, and joining the Conservative Party. 

Mike Starkie was elected in 2015 as an independent following a second round run-off. In May 2019 he was re-elected as an Independent, receiving 10,008 votes. 

Councillor McVeigh has slammed the decision by Starkie, and has told him to leave his new blue rosette at the door and to help the community through the Coronavirus pandemic. 

A decision has not yet been made by the CLP on how they will work with the Mayor moving forward. 

Read the letter in full:

Having consulted with my own members, I wanted to write to you regarding your announcement on joining the Conservative Party. I am making this letter public as I feel I have a duty to keep the people of Copeland informed. As Labour councillors we have spent the last three months working on the ground in communities all over Copeland, helping local people battle a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. 

I am proud, but not surprised, that our councillors have stood shoulder to shoulder with local volunteers, delivering food, providing care and organising activities to make sure the most vulnerable people in Copeland are protected. 

We were shocked, surprised, and deeply disappointed, therefore, to learn last week via the media that you had chosen this time, a time which is so critical in terms of the Covid response, to join the Conservative Party. In so doing you have chosen not only to break your promise to us, as your partners at Copeland, but more importantly to break your promise to the people of Copeland, to serve them as their Independent Mayor. 

Working alongside you at the Council, we have known of your ideology for some time — but we have set aside any disagreements to work together for the greater good, because we believed that was best for our citizens. 

Whatever your personal political leanings you have said publicly that politics has no place in local government. At the elections last May you campaigned, as you had in 2015, on a platform of political neutrality. 

Your leaflets carried the slogan was 'Your Mayor not a Party Mayor' and, on the back of this, you were widely supported. As you know, the Labour Party was also widely supported in those elections. 

The public elected a higher number of Labour councillors than even our most optimistic predictions, meaning we have a sizeable majority on the council and a significant mandate from voters — voters who knew exactly who we were and what we stood for when they voted for us. 

We have chosen over the past 12 months used this mandate to support you, because we recognise that people do not want to see political fighting, and because you had made a promise to keep politics out of local government. While we don't always see eye-to-eye, we have enjoyed some successes, and jointly played our part in delivering those. We have worked in partnership, supporting our officers, and delivering as best we can for the people. 

The Covid-19 response is perhaps the biggest example of a time when local people need councillors, of all parties and none, need to work together. 

Therefore it beggars belief that you've chosen this moment to betray the community and break your pre-election promises. 

It is you who has made made Copeland Borough Council political, and at the worst possible time. Joining the Conservatives is a betrayal of all that you promised the people of this borough. What were you thinking? 

From the phone calls you've made to me and other Labour councillors, clearly you are keen to know what Labour intend to do going forward. It is rather odd that, having changed everything, you're spinning a line in the press that nothing has changed, and that we are welcome to continue to work in your now Tory controlled administration. Frankly, your political stunts are not our priority. We are busy on the frontline, serving the people we represent, and helping our officers to do the same. 

People cannot afford for us to become distracted, just as they cannot afford to wait for your Conservative government to send help, given that they're providing neither Copeland nor Cumbria County Council with anywhere near enough resources to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. 

We will, when the opportunity arises, produce some proposals on how we think you can redress the political imbalance that you have created. The people of Copeland have emphatically told us all that they want a balanced council which puts their needs first, and we want them to have what they voted for. 

In the meantime I would respectfully suggest that you leave both your new blue rosette and personal political ambitions at the door, and focus on the job at hand — helping our community. 

Yours sincerely 

CIIr Mike McVeigh, Leader, Labour Group, Copeland Borough Council 

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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland: Copeland Labour Group leader slams Mayor of Copeland for joining the Conservative Party
Copeland Labour Group leader slams Mayor of Copeland for joining the Conservative Party
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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland
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