Labour has hit back at a councillor who quit the party to join the Greens, suggesting she may have “extreme views.”
Cllr Gail Jenkinson was elected in the 2023 Wirral Council elections as one of Greasby, Frankby and Irby’s first Labour councillors. On 3 January 2024, she announced she had left the party and joined Wirral’s Green Party.
In response to the surprise defection, a Labour Party spokesperson said, “Under Keir Starmer’s leadership the Labour Party has changed fundamentally. The Labour Party is no longer a party of protest.
“The Labour Party will go into the next General Election with a credible, sensible and deliverable offer.
The spokesperson added, “There are some within the Labour Party that have not been comfortable with this change. They have decided to leave, and often have taken their extreme views with them.”
“A vote for the Green Party is a wasted vote. Elections on the Wirral are a choice between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. And it is the Labour Party that maintains a brownfield first approach.”
In 2023, Cllr Jenkinson won the most votes out of any candidate in Greasby and had previously stood as a Labour candidate in the ward coming within 64 votes of beating the Conservatives in 2022.
She was also chair of the Wirral West Labour Party until she resigned in September, and had made a pitch in August to become the parliamentary constituency’s Labour MP.
The Greens now have 14 councillors on the council which puts them only three seats behind the Conservatives, Wirral’s second largest party. Labour, the largest party, now have 29 councillors.
In response to Labour’s comments, Cllr Jenkinson said, “The Labour Party up until today was happy with my views so I know they couldn’t consider me to be extreme because they were happy for me to be in the party until today.”
She added, “A vote for the Green Party is not a wasted vote. The Green Party has comprehensive policies on the environment, living conditions, wages, and many other aspects of our daily lives and the more people come to understand that, the more they will realise there is an alternative view.”
She said the Greens had not been expected to be so successful politically on the Wirral, adding, “We no longer have a two-party system on Wirral and that can be replicated anywhere across the country.”
Asked about why she had put herself as a Labour candidate as recently as August if she had concerns about the direction of the party, Cllr Jenkinson said she thought she could be a voice within the party on stopping green belt development. Labour leader Keir Starmer in October pledged to use areas of greenbelt such as “disused car parks” and “dreary wasteland” for development.
Cllr Jenkinson added, “If it wasn’t for me, there wouldn’t be any Labour councillors in this ward. However, every single leaflet I put out contained an article if not a headline on protecting the green belt.
“Since the change in the national party’s policy towards the green belt and given that most of the people voted for me to protect the green belt, I have changed my party so I can keep my promises to them and what I promised isn’t changed.”
Image: Gail Jenkinson resigned from her position as chair of the Wirral West Labour Party earlier this year. Credit: Edward Barnes