Labour leader Peter Hammond resigns after mayor cabinet row
Peter Hammond, the leader of the Labour group on the city council, has resigned.
He released a statement last night after a decision made by Bristol's Labour councillors to join George Ferguson's cabinet was overruled by the party's governing body.
Mr Ferguson told The Post yesterday that he was disappointed with the party's move.
Mr Hammond said last night: "Earlier today the Labour Party announced that they were not prepared to endorse a proposal from Bristol’s Labour councillors to take up the offer of three seats (out of six) in George Ferguson’s cabinet. As a loyal member of the Labour Party I must and will abide by that decision however flawed I think it is.
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"However I am not simply a member of the Labour Party but its principle elected spokesperson in local government in Bristol – I am expected to publicly endorse and advocate Labour Party decisions.
"In all conscience I cannot publicly support a decision that runs contrary to the advice I gave to Labour councillors which they accepted by a majority decision as they are entitled to do.
"Labour failed, much to my personal sadness and regret, to win the Mayoral election on November 15 but received the support of substantial numbers of voters across Bristol who believed that Labour would act in their interests.
"To date I have received numerous emails and had numerous conversations (literally over the vegetable counter in Tesco’s for example) with Labour Party members and members of the public (Labour voters and otherwise) who told me that Labour should forget what they saw as narrow party self-interest and ‘get in there’ to argue for the values and practical measures Labour represents.
"I have never believed that Labour participation in this cabinet would deliver the manifesto upon which we contested the mayoral election but in these changed political circumstances we should at least be able to be at the table to advocate Labour’s approach in dealing with the issues facing the people of Bristol in the face of government actions which do not benefit Bristolians.
"As a consequence it would be wrong of me to continue as Leader of Bristol’s Labour councillors where clearly I have their confidence but not that of the wider Labour Party."
He added: "I would like to thank all Labour councillors whether or not they agree with the argument adopted by the Labour councillors on the basis of my advice.
"Over the last week Labour councillors held three meetings where regardless of their personal stance councillors debated the issues seriously and properly and came to a considered position using their experience as public representatives of the Party.
"I have enjoyed and valued my period of leadership of Bristol’s Labour councillors where I believe I have played my part in making Labour once again a viable alternative administration working in the interests of the people of Bristol.
"I wish my period of leadership of Bristol’s Labour councillors hadn’t ended this way – but comprising your integrity to stay in office only contributes to a justifiable cynicism in the minds of the public to the political process.
"I wish my successor every best wish in a difficult task in the months ahead. I hope they remember this – as Labour leader make sure that you reflect not only Labour values but also what the people of Bristol expect you to do.”