A WIRRAL councillor who's held her seat for nearly three decades has quit Labour, becoming the fifth member to hit out at a "hard-left" takeover in the party.

Cllr Chris Meaden, who currently holds the Rock Ferry seat on Wirral Council, is the latest to go independent after what she called "public attacks" and "double standards" in her former party.

Hers are the latest in a host of allegations made against the "hard left" in the past months, by Birkenhead MP Frank Field, council leader Phil Davies, and friend and fellow ward member Cllr Moira McLaughlin – the latter who recently quit the party after 40 years to sit as an independent.

In a letter to council leader Phil Davies, Cllr Meaden said: "I have been concerned for some time about the way the party is controlled by hard-left members and are dictating policy to the Labour group.

"Rock Ferry branch was taken over in one year by people who were new to the party, some of whom had belonged to other parties and campaigned against the Rock Ferry councillors recently, and they are clearly receiving instructions from outside the ward."

She was deselected by her local branch in favour of former party leader Yvonne Nolan, and Cllr Meaden had some strong words for her successor as Labour nominee.

She said: "I believe over the coming months more information about Ms Nolan's past involvement with politics will emerge and I don't believe she is fit to serve the people of Rock Ferry."

With her term coming to an end this spring, Cllr Meaden was ousted at a selection meeting back in October.

But she said some of those present had "never attended" a branch meeting, while others had "never so much as delivered a leaflet".

She added: "That makes me believe that the meeting was packed with the aim of removing me and replacing me with Yvonne Nolan and the intention is to bring her in to lead the group."

Ms Nolan led the council during the 1980s, and has since denied her party’s link with the left-wing Militant group.

Her spell as leader saw her district party suspended by the NEC, but Cllr Meaden believes Ms Nolan has been brought in to lead the party once more.

Responding to the councillor's resignation, Ms Nolan said she "regretted" the news.

But she added: "The party has a democratic process where all councillors serve for a period of four years, and, at the end of their term, have to take part in a selection process where the local party decides on the candidate to represent the area for the next four years.

"Being a councillor is not a 'job for life' and nobody is 'entitled' to the role.

"I am sorry that Chris has made such disparaging comments about the members of Rock Ferry Labour Party. I have found members to be hard-working, thoughtful and dedicated to delivering Labour's policies."

She said she would not respond to the allegation of "personal attacks", as they are not "the kind of politics I get involved in".

But Ms Nolan added: "I am interested in getting on with dealing with the issues that people are reporting on the doorstep, dealing with the devastating impact of Tory austerity and doing everything in my power to ensure that our council delivers Labour policies for the people of Wirral."

Cllr Meaden said was with "deep regret and sorrow" that she would leave the party after 46 years of membership, and 28 years of serving Rock Ferry.

She also served as Mayor of Wirral between 2005-06.

She added: "My branch report and the chief whip's report was excellent and there has never been any question to say I have not been a good and loyal group member and ward representative.

"It has taken me since October to come to this decision after my deselection from the ward I have represented for 28 years with no explanation of why they have done this to me."

The final straw in pushing Cllr Meaden to resign, she said, was a council meeting last year when she was told her actions had brought the party into disrepute when she applauded Cllr McLaughlin's resignation speech.

She added: "I was informed of this almost immediately after the council meeting and the speed and contrast to the way others, such as those who have consistently shown disrespect for the council procedures and the Labour group, and others who have been involved in very public verbal attacks on female party and group members have been dealt with by the party.

"This leads to the inevitable conclusion that the party operates a double standard, in that hard-left members are treated more leniently than more moderate members."

Cllr Meaden has not yet announced whether she will run as an independent in May's upcoming local elections.

Kathryn Runswick, chair of the party's local campaign forum, said: "everything about the selection process was legitimate" and that it was a "shame" Cllr Meaden had quit.

Ms Runswick claimed Cllr Meaden was invited by "at least" one other branch to stand in their ward, adding: "The Labour Party on Wirral reflects the mainstream of Labour Party opinion and I do not recognise Chris's description of it.

"Yvonne Nolan is an excellent candidate with years of experience and a great attitude of inclusiveness. She will represent the people of Rock Ferry very well if she is elected."


The allegations against "hard left" bullying in Wirral over the past months:

Frank Field MP, who quit the Labour whip back in August over perceived anti-Semitism and bullying.

Council leader Phil Davies, who announced in October he would not seek re-election in May having hit out at "hard-line extremists who wanted to undermine the democratic mandate of Labour".

Cllr Moira McLaughlin, who quit the party after 40 years citing "absolute aggression" of the "hard-left clique". She is still sitting as an independent.

Cllr Mike Sullivan, who also quit the party after "bullying and intimidation" by "hard-left parasites" back in August. He is also sitting as an independent.

Cllr Ron Abbey, who hit out at the "loony left" after being deselected by his party after 22 years.