By John Baron
An Armley councillor has this morning announced she has resigned from the Labour Party and joined the Green Party.
Lou Cunningham was elected a Labour councillor in May 2019 but today announced her resignation from the Labour Group on the city council during a Green Party gathering in Armley Park this morning.
She takes the Green group’s number of councillors in Leeds to four.
Councillor Cunningham’s term ends in May but she has confirmed she will stand as a Green Party candidate for Armley ward in next May’s local elections.
Speaking this morning, she said: “This has been a big decision for me. I have run one term as a Labour councillor and I decided not to stand as a Labour Party candidate some months ago for a number of reasons.
“I live here and I love Armley and feel there is still a lot of work work to be done.”
In a letter to residents, she added: “After weeks of careful consideration, I believe that the Green Party has policies and ways of working that align more closely with my views, principles and values.
“I love Armley, it is my home and my heartland. My ability to represent my community will be strengthened as the Green Party allows its councillors to speak out when the council is not doing right by their area.
“I hope people will see that my top priority will remain the same – the residents of Armley. I will continue to be a councillor with strong principles who advocates for my residents and I will continue to work with and for our community.”
Welcoming the move, Farnley & Wortley Cllr David Blackburn, Leader of the Green Group on Leeds City Council, added: “The recent election success of the Greens nationally has allowed more people to find the Green Party as their home. We are delighted to welcome Lou and look forward to working with her in the council chamber to address urgent issues such as the cost of living crisis.
“Lou’s move to join the Greens is another sign that the Labour Party is failing in its commitment to Leeds residents.
“We will work alongside Lou to fight tirelessly for the residents of Armley, alongside our work across the whole of Leeds to improve the lives of residents across the city.”
Cllr Ann Forsaith who also represents neighbouring Farnley & Wortley Ward, added: “Lou and I first met as councillors in May 2019, and I am aware of the hard work she does for her community, and the respect she commands.
“Several times I regretted that as members of different political parties it was not as easy as it might have been to work together for the neighbourhoods that we have in common.
“She brings a lot of experience, particularly through her work in community groups and I am looking forward to working with her more closely to serve residents of Leeds.”
Cllr Cunningham’s switch to the Greens leaves Labour with 57 seats and still in control of Leeds City Council. The Conservatives have 21 seats, Liberal Democrats 7, Morley Borough Independents 6, Green Party 4, Garforth and Swillington Independents 3, and Social Democratic Party 1.
Update 11.59pm, Saturday, 17 September: A spokesperson for Armley Labour Party said: “Councillor Lou Cunningham has today shared the news that she has resigned from the Labour Party to join the Green Party. Earlier this year Lou had announced that she would not be restanding as Labour councillor in the 2023 local elections. The Armley Labour councillors and Rachel Reeves MP want to thank Lou for her service as a Labour councillor.
“Armley Labour Party has already selected local candidate and support worker Andy Parnham to be Armley’s candidate in the 2023 local elections. We look forward to campaigning with Andy, who will be a fantastic councillor and part of a strong Labour team representing the people of Armley.
“After 12 years of Tory government we’ve been left with falling living standards, low growth and failing public services. Communities like Armley need Labour in power more than ever, and your local Labour team will continue working hard to deliver for residents, and help ensure a Labour government at the next election that people in Armley desperately need.”