THE LABOUR leader of Brighton and Hove City Council will not commit to remaining a member of the party after he retires.

Councillor Warren Morgan announced his resignation earlier this month.

He will step down as leader next month and retire from the council at next year’s elections.

But the 50-year-old told The Argus he could not commit to paying his Labour membership subs after that, saying he would not make a “permanent commitment”.

In a wide-ranging interview, the outgoing leader also said:

  • He no longer recognises the Labour Party of which he has been a member for 25 years
  • GMB boss Mark Turner, with whom Cllr Morgan has regularly crossed swords, should resign
  • Left-wing Momentum candidates will not win as many of this year’s selection battles, to stand in next year’s council elections, as they claim.

Cllr Morgan, who has made no secret of his disagreements with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has been under increasing pressure from the left wing of his party since Mr Corbyn’s election in the summer of 2015.

The Labour Party in the city has grown from a membership of 2,000 to around 9,000 in the last three years, many of whom do not share Cllr Morgan’s centre-Left politics.

He is the third centrist Labour council leader in the country to leave his position in the last year.

Councillor Morgan said elected officers of the city’s Labour branches had been telling him for six months to step down.

He said GMB boss Mark Turner pressured him to resign.

Cllr Morgan implied Mr Turner should resign, calling for “new figures on both sides” of the relationship between the GMB and the council.

Mr Turner told The Argus: “I don’t intend to take his advice.

“I’m in an elected position.

“The one thing I don’t need is advice from politicians on when to step down.

“The people who decide are my members. And while GMB membership is growing month on month I must be doing something right.”


Why did you resign?

As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s clear and undeniable that the Labour Party in the city did not wish me to continue.

Who do you mean by “The Labour Party” and what do you mean by “made it clear”? 

The Labour Party, as expressed through branches, through Constituency Labour Parties, and indeed through the new Local Campaign Forum (LCF), which is the city wide organisation.

Officers within that have made it clear to me, one to one, that they do not wish me to continue as leader over the last six months, sometimes longer.

There has always been a view among some of the people in the party that I shouldn’t be leader of the Labour group and leader of the council, obviously the party has changed in terms of membership, vastly, the same as elsewhere

Do you still recognise it?

No. No. 

And I think people from the other side, if you like, within the party, would say they don’t recognise the party either. 

They would say it’s changed and in many ways it’s a change for the better.

We’ve brought in a lot of people who are very optimistic, very positive, very keen. Full of hope, and that’s the word many of them would use, and that’s great.

That’s something that I’ve sought to engender for 25 years in the Labour Party. 

When you get a whole swathe of new members who are very keen, who will go out there and campaign, you can’t say that’s a bad thing.

Are you going to continue to pay your membership subs after you step down from the council?

That’s over a year away, I can never make a permanent commitment.
I am in the Labour Party at the moment. 

I’m not asking for a permanent commitment, I’m saying 18 months from now, are you still a Labour Party member?

We’ll have to wait and see. It’s no secret I’ve had strong differences with the leadership of the Labour Party. 

The policy on Brexit, position on anti-Semitism, more recently the events in Salisbury and the fallout from that.

What role has the GMB played in this?

The local government association peer review last year found the relationship between the council and the local unions, principally the GMB, is dysfunctional.

Mark Turner has called for me to step down, he’s been more influential than LCF members.

He’s the one who’s called publicly for me to step down, and when I announced I was going he called for me not to serve out my term.

It’s a role he’s been in for 30 years, and all I’d say is it might be beneficial for the city if there was a proper reset of that relationship with new figures on both sides.

So the most influential individual behind the pressure for you to resign was Mark Turner?

He’s one of them. I’m not going to mention the others.

Why did you step down specifically when you did?

I could have fought on until the elections but that would have perpetuated the tensions within the party. 

If you’re going to make a change you don’t make it at the election. At the last election we had the Greens going into the election with no leader.

It’s important that voters know who they’re going to get. 
There was an article which said my stepping down early was a move against Momentum - but if you’re pressured to go, you go.

I don’t think Momentum have the people to take the number of places they anticipate that they will take, but that is to play out over the coming months. 

Would Councillor Dan Yates do a good job as your successor?

Yes. He’s an intelligent guy, he’s had a senior role for three years, prior to that he led the Labour Group in Adur, he’s a senior person in his field of work. 

Tony Blair  said he bore “scars on his back” from his time in office. Do you feel the same way?

You can’t do the job without incurring some kind of damage or injury - that’s probably too strong a word.

But you go through it, as with any job where you’re in the political heat of it, you’re never going to come through without coming away with some injury if that’s the only word I can think of.

But also with a huge amount of pride in the stuff you were able to do.