Outgoing Birkenhead Labour MP’s stark warning to Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer and the Labour Party have been given a parting warning from Labour’s outgoing MP in Birkenhead.

Mick Whitley was the Wirral town’s MP since 2019 when he won as the Labour candidate with 59% of the vote taking over from the previous MP, the late Baron Frank Field of Birkenhead.

In 2023, he was not selected to stand for re-election by the party after a challenge by Alison McGovern, the former MP for Wirral South whose constituency was being abolished.

Voters will be going to the polls on 4 July to select their next representative in a town that has always voted Labour but the Green Party is hoping to gain votes following their successes in recent council elections.

Mr Whitley considers himself to be a lifelong member of the Labour Party with over 45 years in the party and with a background in the trade unions. He ran for the seat when there was a vacancy under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Over his time as MP, he cited his work on a number of key issues including contracts for Cammell Lairds shipyard, pushing for new maritime research centre plans, as well as fighting for jobs in the wider area such as linking the Stellantis manufacturing plant in Ellesmere Port with plans at Wirral Waters.

He said he handled 22,800 cases, sent 73,000 emails and 815 letters during his time in office.

As he steps down from the role, he criticised Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and called for Labour to be more radical in its pitch to voters in a town he feels has been “left behind”.

He believes the party has “moved to a centre-right position and is agreeing with the government,” adding, “You couldn’t put a fag paper between the two parties.”

He criticised the admission of former Conservative Natalie Elphicke into the Labour Party as well as dropped pledges by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer such as bringing water companies back into public ownership.

Mr Whitley said, “I understand people are going to have routes to get themselves into power but unfortunately we have got to be careful because if people do not see the benefit or if they are getting more of the same, people are going to say what has changed since last year. They are going to become disillusioned again.”

He also believes the left of the party is being excluded and criticised the length of time it took for the party to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. He said, “Keir Starmer keeps banging the drum that he has changed the party and he believes it’s for the better. I do not believe that. The Labour Party is a broad church.

“If you are on the left and [they are] saying we will get rid of you, we have got to get back to a situation where I can accept your point of view and you can accept my point of view without fear or favour.”

Despite the criticism, Mr Whitley will vote Labour on 4 July, adding, “I am a member of the Labour Party. I am not happy with the party but I haven’t been for many years. In 1997 when Blair came in, he did a fantastic job with the NHS and there were no waiting lists but once we lost power in 2010 even with the coalition government, successive governments have taken out money from the NHS and we have now got people talking about whether the NHS is worth it.”

He added, “Where is the alternative? People talk about the Greens. Now there is only one Green MP and she is stepping down. There is no viable alternative and the other thing is workers and the trade unions are still affiliated. I am a lifelong trade unionist. The Labour Party has a commitment with the unions for workers rights from day one.”

The Labour Party has promised to secure workers’ rights including delivering a genuine living wage, banning exploitative zero-hour contracts, and ending fire and rehire. Mr Whitley said, “They are the only party that is going to deliver that. On that alone, I would vote Labour.”

He added, “I am trying to be realistic and pragmatic here. There are some good people within the Greens. I wouldn’t disrespect them but the reality is the Greens aren’t going to win.

“It’s either going to be Labour or Tory so the best thing for us to get rid of this government is get Labour in power. You can fight for improvements once you are in power.”

The Labour Party did not respond to a request for a response to Mr Whitley’s comments. When launching the Labour Party manifesto on 13 June, Labour leader Keir Starmer said, “We are still a great nation. We can still achieve great things. What we lack is a government that can match the ambition working people have for their family and community, with a credible long-term plan.

“This manifesto is that plan. Fully costed, fully funded – built on a rock of fiscal responsibility.

“At its heart are five national missions – with clear first steps to begin the journey of rebuilding – that provide a clear destination for everyone invested in Britain’s future. A new Britain, where wealth is created in every community. Where the golden opportunity of clean British power is harnessed for lower bills. Where your town centre has been revitalised and everyone feels safe to walk the streets.”

Six candidates are standing in Birkenhead. They are:

PartyCandidate
GreenJo Bird
Freedom AllianceCatherine Evans
Liberal DemocratsStuart Kelly
LabourAlison McGovern
Conservative and UnionistSarah Payne
ReformTony Stanley

Image: Mick Whitley, the former MP for Birkenhead. Credit: Ed Barnes

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