Longest-serving Labour councillor to stand as independent as he delivers parting shot to Starmer

Sandwell Council's longest serving member has announced he is standing as an independent candidate in next month's elections after he was deselected by Labour.

Councillor John Edwards is standing as an independent after being deselected by Labour
Councillor John Edwards is standing as an independent after being deselected by Labour

Councillor John Edwards, who has represented Greets Green and Lyng for 43 years, said Labour had refused to endorse him after he criticised the "dismal performance" of Sir Keir Starmer.

He accused the Labour leader of being "more in tune with the Tories than with traditional Labour", and hit out at "faceless Labour officials" for interfering in the selection process in Sandwell.

In the council elections on May 6 Mr Edwards will face Paramjit Randhawa, who was selected by Labour to contest the seat in his place.

It comes after former West Bromwich West MP Adrian Bailey accused Labour's National Executive Committee of making "hugely damaging" decisions for the party after a number of councillors were deselected.

Mr Edwards, a former Sandwell Mayor who has also served as chair of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, said he has been "moving away" from Labour since Sir Keir replaced Jeremy Corbyn last year.

He said: “I have been gutted by the dismal failure of Keir Starmer to provide a voice for ordinary working families and by his woeful lack of opposition to the Tory government.

"When our nurses are campaigning for a well-deserved 12 per cent pay increase he mutters platitudes and looks the other way.

"He seems to be more in tune with the Tories than with traditional Labour.

"Sadly this is what happens when a working class party finds itself being led by a Knight of the realm who has nothing in common with the experiences of working class people.”

Mr Edwards said Labour refused to endorse him after he was warned about using social media to express his views about the "dismal performance" of Sir Keir and a range of other issues.

He has previously been issued with a formal warning following a complaint over claims he had posted anti-Semitic tweets.

Mr Edwards added: “National interference by faceless Labour officials has taken place in the selection of local candidates, no one in my local party had any say in this.

"But I think the people in Greets Green and Lyng who have supported me for over four decades deserve the right to choose the representative they want, so my name will be on the ballot paper and if re-elected I will continue to work and campaign for local people as I always have.”

It is understood that Mr Edwards will be automatically excluded from Labour, as party rules ban members from standing against Labour candidates.

Labour is the dominant force on Sandwell Council but candidate selection has been mired in turmoil for successive elections amid claims of national interference.

Newton councillor Joyce Underhill, Oldbury's Susan Downing, and Sharon Davies of Langley have also been deselected.

Councillor Susan Eaves was dropped in Rowley, although she has now been put forward for Princes End after that ward's candidate was forced to pull out for administrative reasons.

Councillor Ian Jones is unable to stand for Labour in Tipton Green as he is currently suspended.

Labour declined to comment.

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