Councillor Richard Farnell confirms he has resigned from the Labour Party

Date published: 19 July 2019

Former Rochdale council leader Richard Farnell confirmed on Thursday (18 July) that he has resigned from the Labour Party.

The Balderstone and Kirkholt councillor said he had resigned “some time ago” because he had “no confidence he would receive a fair hearing” over his suspension, and that after 44 years as a Labour member, he could no longer “support a party led by Jeremy Corbyn”.

Councillor Farnell was previously suspended by the Labour Party in April 2018 after he was found to have lied under oath to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, over historical abuse allegations at Knowl View School.

Councillor Farnell always maintained he told the truth to the Inquiry, and a lengthy investigation by the Metropolitan Police found there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute him for perjury.

In a statement, Councillor Farnell said: “I resigned from the Labour Party some time ago. I have done so for two reasons.

“After 44 years’ loyal membership, I cannot any longer support a party led by Jeremy Corbyn. Labour is being destroyed by extremists and fanatics who have infiltrated the party and now control all the major levers of power.

“We have the most inept and unpopular Tory government in living memory, yet Labour came a miserable fourth in the European elections and our support is down to just 18 percent in recent polls – the lowest in our history. Any decent opposition would today be polling over 50 per cent and on course for a landslide victory.

“I fear for the future as Labour is being destroyed as a credible party capable of winning power. Our country and millions of people need a mainstream Labour government. They are being betrayed by a toxic leadership making the party unelectable and in danger of extinction.

“I have no quarrel with the local party and our MP.  I will continue to support the hardworking members of the Labour Group on the council who are doing an excellent job in maintaining public services in the face of swingeing cuts from the Tory government. I will not be joining any other party.

“The second reason is that I have no confidence that I will receive a fair hearing in dealing with my suspension. The party’s disputes unit has been proved to be chaotic, incompetent and politically biased.  

“My 15-month suspension is unjust and has gone on far too long. I have on three occasions asked for progress to be made only to be completely ignored. Only after a complaint was lodged by my local party did they eventually write to me. Too little, too late. 

“I have 16 pages of evidence that proves beyond any doubt that I could not have been told about events at Knowl View. I told the truth to the Independent Inquiry; and the Metropolitan Police’s decision to clear me of allegations of perjury vindicates this. 

“I am grateful for the support I have received from scores of party members over recent months. In many ways, I feel I am letting them down by resigning, but for me, I have reached the end.

“Enough is enough. Like thousands of others right across the Labour Party, I cannot remain a member of an intolerant and hard left party led by an incompetent leader.”

Current council leader Allen Brett said: "Sad that a loyal Labour member felt he had to resign because of the bureaucracy of the national party."

Councillor Farnell says he will stand down as a councillor at the next local elections in May.

Previously council leader between 1986 and 1992, Councillor Farnell most recently stood down as leader of the council in December 2017.

Councillor John Blundell, spokesman for the Rochdale Constituency Labour Party, said: “I am sad to see Councillor Farnell resign. We wish him well.

“We believe he resigned over the length of time it took for the party to resolve these matters. We have already commented that we believe the party should resolve issues like these in a speedy fashion as soon as the evidence is collected.

“We hope the party will take heed on this in the future.”

The makeup of Rochdale Borough Council now stands as:

44 Labour, 9 Conservative, 3 Liberal Democrat, 2 Independent, 1 Non-Aligned and 1 The Brexit Party.

Additional reporting: Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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