Ex-Mayor Nader Fekri has caused raised eye brows by switching to Labour from the Liberal Democrat Party and chosing to live apart from his family in Turkey. This is the letter he sent to colleagues explaining his reasons.
It is with a heavy heart and much sadness that I write to tell you that after much soul-searching, I have resigned from the Liberal Democrat party nationally, effective immediately.
For nigh on the past decade, since me and my family’s return from Central Europe, I have had the honour of representing the people of West End ward initially and subsequently Calder ward.
I am proud of what we have achieved on Council and especially the last two years in running Calderdale with our Labour colleagues.
It has been an enormous privilege to work alongside so many fine Liberals, especially Janet, John, Christine, Jennifer, Pauline, and Peter, amongst many.
I am proud that we have brought a culture of greater openness and transparency to the democratic process in decision-making on council, and helped mitigate the worst of the cuts imposed from London.
However, the national situation has caused me much anguish. From the start, I have made no secret of my opposition to the decision to enter into a coalition with the Conservative Party.
Having voted against the Coalition Agreement at the Special Conference in Birmingham two years ago, I accepted the decision as a good democrat, hoping against hope that my fears would be unfounded and that the Tories would change their spots and be able to be trusted. However, the Conservatives have once again shown themselves to be “reliably untrustworthy”, reliable in their attacks on the poor, and to be trusted on not keeping their side of the bargain.
Last year, as Mayor, I was studiously neutral and even dare I say, apolitical.
However, I find it impossible to defend the devastating policies that this government is inflicting on the country. Not merely its inept management of the economy, with nary a grasp of basic Keynesian economics, but also in major policy areas, especially education and of course the NHS.
On the economy, far from “all being in it together” we have a worsening recession which is adversely affecting millions of people across the country, but especially thousands of folk here in Calderdale, every day.
The impact has been aggravated by so-called “benefit reforms”, cuts to much-needed services, and attacks not only on the workless but also those on lower- and middle-incomes, whilst the top rate of income-tax for a few thousand super-rich is cut from 50% to 45% including the Prime Minister himself.
At the same time, this government has brought in confused and confusing changes to the education system which has weakened and fragmented support and pitted school against school in a vain race for short-term advantage. The policies of forced academies and free schools will Balkanise the state education system making any sort of co-ordination at a local level nigh-on impossible, and ironically giving the Michael Gove even more power to intervene in our schools. So much for local autonomy.
I am horrified that the Lib Dems have supported the Tories’ bungled, unwanted, unpopular “reforms” to the NHS, despite a commitment that there would be no top-down changes. On these I trust the professionals rather than Andrew Lansley.
The Liberal Democrats and the Labour party share a common radical heritage, and I have always believed that we should seek to find common ground and work together for a progressive future.
Regrettably, the actions of the national party has moved the party away from this shared heritage.
I have therefore sadly concluded that I cannot support policies that have been so damaging to the people and communities that I am proud to represent.
I believe that I can best represent these interests and pursue the issues on which I was elected and that I am passionate about, as a member of the Labour party, and have subsequently applied to join.
Over the past two years our two parties have worked well together on Calderdale and personally, I’d like that arrangement to continue.
I fully appreciate that there will be some who think that as I was elected as a Lib Dem I should stand down and fight a by-election. I have thought long and hard and spent many a sleepless night thinking about this. I have come to the conclusion that a by-election will be both costly and disruptive, and that ultimately, I am the same person with the same beliefs and commitments as I had when last re-elected in 2010. It is the party nationally that has moved to the right, not I.
Again, many of you will know that my wife Helen has taken up a new posting in Istanbul. While our original plan was for me and the boys to join her for the next couple of years, circumstances have changed. While the boys are to join her, I shall continue to be based here in Hebden Bridge and continue to work on our family home on Cheetham Street, which is taking much longer to make fully habitable than we had expected.
Hebden Bridge is, and shall remain our long-term family home.
I was elected for a four-year term and feel a huge responsibility to continue to work for the folk who voted for me.
Clearly, I shall need to visit my family in Istanbul. But I shall continue to serve the people of this ward, dealing with their issues, concerns, and problems and representing them at council.
Of course, I shall regularly review the situation, and if I ever feel that I was not doing my job or letting the electorate down, I shall reconsider my decision.
I want to re-iterate that I have had and will continue to have the highest regards and respect for my local Lib Dem colleagues, and that the decision I have taken is in response to a national situation that I simply can no longer stomach.
Finally, I realise that many of you will feel upset and even angry, and for that I am truly sorry.
I hope that we can remain friends and continue to work together for the benefit of the people of Calderdale.