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Sunday, May 29, 2022

Newcastle Council Leader dramatically defeated in selection battle

Prominent political figure Nick Forbes has sensationally lost a party selection battle meaning he won’t be able to stand for re-election as councillor this May.

The news has shaken the political establishment on Tyneside about a man who has carried the mantle for the Labour-led local authority in Newcastle since 2011.

What’s more the landslide manner of the defeat in his Arthur’s Hill ward on Tuesday has put his political future in jeopardy. He is of course, a national player in the local government ranks of Labour and a huge ally of Sir Keir Starmer. Cllr Forbes is also leader of the party’s group on the Local Government Association, and Chair of the Convention of the North.

Cllr Forbes could still stand again if he were to be parachuted into an alternative seat in the city. The move however would still carry doubts about his ability to hold on to his role as leader. It could in fact, bring the curtain down on an eventful era at the civic centre. He’s led the group since 2007 when the party regained control from the Liberal Democrats.

He has carried the torch for some major transformation policies, such as the planned pedestrianisation of Grey Street. The Council Leader has also set Newcastle an ambitious target of reaching net zero emissions by 2030. Mr Forbes has battled central government budget cuts seeing the authority lose potential spending of more than £300m.

There was controversy however over the recent council tax rise at such a difficult time for families which may have added fuel to the fire in Tuesday’s contest. Just last week, he spoke about the homophobic and threatening abuse he had received online while being in the public eye.

The 48-year-old has been fighting against internal party divisions in Newcastle, surviving a challenge to his leadership from rival Nick Kemp last year. He also lost out to Jamie Driscoll, a Corbynite councillor, in the fight to secure a Labour nomination to become North of Tyne Mayor in 2019. This, despite securing the region’s first devolution deal for the North of Tyne.

Asian Standard understands Mr Forbes lost Tuesday’s vote 13-4 to ‘Keen campaigner’ Abdul Samad.

Mr Samad previously came third with 725 votes when he stood for the Parklands ward on the council in 2021.

A city Labour source said Mr Samad is thought of as being more left wing than Cllr Forbes, though was not considered to be a part of Momentum, and that he promised at Tuesday’s branch meeting to make the Arthur’s Hill ward his sole priority if elected.

According to the Local democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Forbes may seek to have Tuesdays result overturned.

Asian Standard has received a statement from Cllr Forbes. It says: “It has been a huge privilege to represent the Arthur’s Hill area of Newcastle for the past 22 years. I have worked hard, alongside the local community, to promote clean safe streets and public spaces, tackle the problems caused by uncaring private landlords, and support those who struggle with financial problems. I am proud to have campaigned for every council house in the area to be upgraded to modern standards, for dozens of new council homes, for top class facilities such as the new Newcastle United Foundation sports centre, Nun’s Moor Children’s Centre, Westgate Hill Primary School and the Sikh Gurdwara to be located in the ward and funding for the neighbourhood groups that bring our diverse communities together.  I have promoted Labour’s core values of fairness, equality and social justice in all my work in the ward.


“I am therefore immensely sad that Labour Party members have chosen a different candidate to stand for Arthur’s Hill in the May local elections, although I congratulate Abdul Samad on his victory and wish him every success.


“I would like to say a particular thank you for all those residents who, through being active in local community groups, work tirelessly to improve the area. It has been an honour to work with so many amazing people, true community heroes whose dedication and commitment has been a constant inspiration to me over the years.


“The Labour Party’s selection processes in the city have not yet been completed and a number of party members have already approached me asking if I will stand in a different ward in the city. I would now like to take some time to consider these options for the future. In the meantime, I will continue to serve as Leader of the Council for the remainder of my term of office as an Arthur’s Hill Labour and Co-operative Party councillor.”





















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