A Manchester Labour councillor has announced she is stepping down after just six months in office, saying that the “racism and bullying” she has endured during her time as a councillor is the reason why.
Marcia Hutchinson announced she would be resigning from her position as Labour Councillor for Ancoats & Beswick ward in an explosive letter published this week, in which the former councillor alleges she suffered from “racism and bullying” at the hands of the Manchester Labour Group, the city’s leading political group.
“I am stepping down after barely six months as a local councillor,” Hutchinson said in the letter. “Why? Because I have endured more racism and bullying in my five years in the Labour Party than the rest of my life combined.”
In the letter Hutchinson details several incidents during her time as a councillor, which she felt to be bullying behaviour, and believes she suffered discrimination due to being a black woman.
In one incident in 2019, detailed in the resignation letter, Hutchinson ran for women’s officer for the Local Campaign Forum which covers the five Manchester Labour constituencies. The only two shortlisted candidates were her and another black woman, Ekua Bayunu, now Labour councillor for Hulme ward.
“Despite the fact that delegates could abstain, eight out of 53 chose instead to write derogatory comments on their ballot papers,” Hutchinson recounts in the letter. “They only did this when both candidates were black.”
Council leader Richard Leese had been present at the meeting, Hutchinson states but to her knowledge “did nothing to condemn the behaviour and no attempts were made to identify the authors of the comments.”
Hutchinson says in the letter that she began encountering problems when she started initiatives to get more black councillors elected in Manchester:
“In 2017 there was only one visibly African Heritage councillor on Manchester City Council (two others also identified as Black),” Hutchinson says. “This, in a city where black people make up over 10% of the community. So I started the Pipeline Project.”
Hutchinson says she was threatened with disciplinary action by the Whips Office for tweeting support for Pipeline Project Alumni who were shortlisted for council seats for this year’s local elections. “Apparently there is an unwritten rule that forbids support for candidates who are standing against sitting councillors,” she writes in the letter.
After checking the the Labour Party rulebook Hutchinson concluded she didn’t break any rules, stating. “I did not campaign against any councillor, I simply tweeted in support of all shortlisted Pipeline Alumni. But to those who think being a councillor is a job for life; the two things are synonymous.”
In the resignation letter Hutchinson includes the text of an email from Sir Richard Leese to all 94 Labour Group councillors which confirmed that she had not broken any rules in stating support for Pipeline Alumni. Hutchinson then states Leese, “condemned me anyway, having allegedly received a ‘large number’ of complaints about me.”
Following the emails from Leese Hutchinson then raises emails sent by Labour Group secretary cllr Pat Karney, to all 94 Labour councillors in which he states that he has, “been accused of bullying and racist behaviour which has upset me greatly.”
Hutchinson says that the combined effect of the emails from senior Labour figures was to give Labour councillors the “green light to join the pile-on,” of bullying she alleges to have experienced within the Manchester Labour Group.
The resignation comes at the twilight of Sir Richard Leese’s 25-year-long tenure as a leader of Manchester city council. Burnage councillor Bev Craig becomes new leader of the council today.
A spokesperson for Manchester Labour Group said in the MEN, in response to Hutchinsons resignation letter that all allegations have been “thoroughly investigated” by the whips’ office and were found to be untrue.
The Manchester Evening news also reported that group secretary Pat Karney said all of the allegations made by Marcia were found to be untrue, and: “There’s no toxic culture in the Manchester Labour group. We’ve got 90-odd councillors who are dedicated to working for their local communities.”
Karney went on to defended diversity within the Labour group, saying it, “reflects modern Manchester” with their being a “large number” of members from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background and a female majority.
In the letter Hutchinson suggests that the bullying stemmed from the fact that she is a longstanding critic of Manchester Labour Group’s leadership and what she claims are “unwritten” rules concerning the conduct of city’s councillors.
In September this year Hutchinson penned an article for independent media outlet Levenshulme News, in which she attacked Manchester Labour Group’s disciplinary processes in what was widely seen as a direct challenge to councillors Leese and Karney.
“As a new councillor, I entered a culture where councillors who do not toe the Leadership line are ruthlessly bullied,” Hutchinson writes in the resignation letter. “Criticism is simply not tolerated. Any objections to policies which the Leader has decided to implement are dismissed as coming from the ‘sectarian left’.
“More often than not, the Whips Office is the tool used to carry out the bullying but the culture came from the top. Those disciplined are not told who has complained about them or often the exact nature of the complaints; a system ripe for abuse.”
The bullying was so bad it prevented her from effectively doing her job as a councillor Hutchinson states: “This was not a working environment in which I could function… Colleagues stopped returning my calls and even Council Officers failed to respond to emails.”
Hutchinson told The Meteor that she is considering pursuing redress through the Labour Party’s Anti-Black Racism Code, as well as having the option of taking legal action for defamation as stated in the resgination letter.
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