Sunderland set to have new council leader as Graeme Miller ousted by national party

Cllr Michael Mordey
Cllr Michael Mordey -Credit:Copyright Unknown

Sunderland is set to have a new council leader after the national Labour Party intervened to appoint a new group leader.

Michael Mordey, who was deputy leader of the council until 2020, takes over the group leader job from Graeme Miller, who had been leader since 2018. Coun Miller had removed Coun Mordey as his deputy in 2020 due to what he described as “internal Labour Party politics”.

The change of leadership came after Labour’s national executive committee stepped in to suspend a routine meeting and prevent local councillors from choosing their own group leader. With Labour having a substantial majority on Sunderland City Council, Coun Mordey will become council leader and a member of the new North East Mayoral Authority cabinet.

Read more: last week's Sunderland City Council results in full Keep up to date with all the latest breaking news and top stories from the North East with our free newsletter

Coun Mordey, an ally of Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, said: “I look forward to working in partnership with councillors to deliver essential frontline services for communities in Sunderland. Local authorities like Sunderland are bearing the brunt of 14 years of Tory economic mismanagement, compounded by spiralling inflation and a stagnating economy. We hope to provide the certainty and stability needed in spite of these challenges.”

Councillor Graeme Miller at the opening of the new South station in Sunderland
Councillor Graeme Miller at the opening of the new South station in Sunderland -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

Coun Miller has been council leader since 2018 and his tenure has seen a number of positive developments for the city, including 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. And though there were fears two years ago that the party could lose overall control of the council, that did not come to pass and recent results have seen the party gain more than 10 seats from opposition parties.

Coun Miller is thought to have displeased some within the Labour Party when he initially backed former North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll to be the party’s candidate for the expanded North East mayoral contest. Almost all of the region’s MPs and council leaders backed eventual winner Kim McGuinness.

A Labour Party source said: "The NEC interviewed and shortlisted prospective role holders. This is not an unusual intervention and adhered to the Labour Party’s internal processes."

Elsewhere, Kelley Chequer has been appointed as deputy leader of the Sunderland Labour group with roles also for Phil Tye, Tracey Dodds, Beth Jones, Dianne Snowdon and Alex Samuels.