A POLITICAL purge has seen a raft of comings and goings within South Tyneside Labour Party ahead of next year’s Local Elections, the Gazette can reveal.
Three sitting councillors will not contest May’s poll for the party and a fourth is planning to swap wards – creating another vacancy.
The internal manoeuvering has led to a good deal of bitterness, with one ousted councillor saying he “felt let down by Labour ward members”.
Among the councillors leaving is Sherie Murphy, who represents the Boldon Colliery ward.
It is understood her seat will be taken by Northumbria University law lecturer Sandra Duncan, who served as a borough councillor in the 1980s.
Coun Ian Harkus lost a selection vote in Hebburn North by nine votes to three.
Student Adam Ellison has been lined up to replace him.
In Whitburn, long-standing Labour representative Sylvia Spraggon has also been ousted. That seat has been earmarked for Coun Joyce Welsh, who currently represents West Park in South Shields, and who recently moved home to live in Whitburn.
A Labour Party source said that one of the potential candidates for the West Park ward will be Susan Traynor, sister of South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm.
In the fall-out from the selection meetings, Coun Harkus expressed his dismay.
He said: “I feel let down by the Labour ward members.
“This is my first term and I like helping people and feel I deserved more time.
“I worked long and hard to become a councillor and now this has happened. I will now take a little time to consider my options.”
Coun Spraggon declined to comment on her de-selection, saying only: “I don’t want to say anything but I will be sending a letter to the Gazette in the new year thanking the constituents.”
The Labour source said the party had “paved the way” for Coun Welsh to take her place.
Coun Murphy denied she had been de-selected and said her departure had been by choice.
She added: “I decided not to stand. I only ever intended to do one term and I am very busy doing other things.”
Coun Welsh, whose selection meeting is being staged tonight, said she would be “very proud” to represent Whitburn.
She said: “I lived there for many years and I have moved back to be nearer to my family after suffering ill health last year.
“It will be a different challenge but one I will relish, if I’m selected.”
Coun Gladys Hobson, who is overseeing the selection of candidates in South Shields, revealed that there was an all-woman shortlist in both West Park and Whitburn.
She said: “That’s because those wards are currently held by women and the party is looking towards 50 per cent of all candidates being female.”
Council leader Iain Malcolm declined to comment on the changes when contacted by the Gazette.