Shadow Minister claims move to oust Sunderland City Council leader was 'right decision'

Peter Kyle chats to members of the public
Shadow Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Peter Kyle visits Hexham -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

A Shadow Minister has stated that replacing the leader of Sunderland City Council was the correct decision.

It was revealed last week that Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) stepped in to appoint Michael Mordey as the group leader of Sunderland Labour, taking over from Graeme Miller. Coun Miller had been leader since 2018, while Coun Mordey was his deputy until 2020 before being removed due to what was described as "internal Labour Party politics".

The NEC suspended a routine meeting and prevented local councillors from selecting their own group leader. Speaking on a visit to Northumberland on Thursday, Shadow Minister of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Peter Kyle backed the move.

He said: "We are always looking as a Labour Party to have people who are fit for the moment and the best people to serve local communities in the moment. I think we have made the right choice now and I'm really excited about the opportunities we have in order to serve communities as a result of the changes that are being made.

"These are very normal changes that are made up and down the country. Where the Labour Party gets a chance to serve for the first time, people experience real change - but where the Labour Party has been in power for a little while, we need to constantly renew and make sure we have got the team that is fit for the moment.

"I'm confident we have got that right now."

Asked if other council leaders should fear for their positions, Mr Kyle said that anyone in a position of the Labour Party should be "on their toes".

Graeme Miller former leader of Sunderland Council
G raeme Miller former leader of Sunderland Council -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

He continued: "We as a party are always striving to make sure we have got the teams in place to serve and solve the challenges of the moment, exploit and take advantage of all the opportunities communities have with the right Labour team in the right places.

"We will always be open-minded to that, simply because we believe that voting Labour deserves the right people for the moment. That means people who have served in the past deserve our thanks and gratitude, but we will always be looking to the future as a Labour Party.

"For me, as a Labour MP and a Labour shadow secretary of state, I'm always on my toes because I know that Keir (Starmer) is always looking at me and judging me by my performance and what I can deliver into the future. That's the way it should be and that's the way all of us should approach public service.

"With Keir Starmer's changed Labour Party, that is the way it will always be."

Coun Miller was council leader from 2018 until last week. Under his leadership, there were several positive developments for the city. These included the building of a new City Hall, associated development in the city centre and new investment at the Nissan plant that was delivered with the help of the council.

Despite fears that the party could lose overall control of the council in the 2022 local elections, Labour held on and, in the elections earlier this month, gained six seats from opposition parties.

However, Coun Miller is thought to have angered some within Labour for endorsing Jamie Driscoll to be the party’s candidate in the North East mayoral election last year rather than the eventual winner Kim McGuinness. Coun Miller gave his backing before the bitter row which saw Mr Driscoll blocked from Labour’s mayoral selection.