Statement from Labour Party Cllrs. Ferris and Mahabadi on their resignation from Peterborough City Council

5th November 2018

Due to a variety of factors, both personal and political, it is our decision to stand down as Councillors for Park Ward and East Ward.

It has been an absolute privilege to represent our Wards and to speak up for all constituents in our City. We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to try and do our best to deliver for you on your doorsteps and in the Council chamber, and our only hope is that we have done everything we can to improve the lives of those we represent.

These resignations, we wish to emphasise, in no way reflect on the leadership of Cllr Shaz Nawaz, Leader of the Labour Group on Peterborough City Council. We know that Shaz, like many of the Councillors in the Labour Group, have been there for us and supported us, just

as we have tried to be there for them, and support them.

As a Councillor you cross paths with many wonderful people, and we owe thanks to so many. We must of course thank the electorate who voted for us, who put their trust in us to speak on their behalf. We hope we have delivered on our promises to you.

We are deeply grateful to our loved ones for standing by us with unwavering, unconditional support when duty has called in our Wards. We owe to our families and the activists who have supported us a very deep debt of gratitude: your strength and patience in delivering electoral success has hopefully allowed us to improve our City for all.

We are thankful to all of our supporters who have stuck with us through thick and thin. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has supported us, delivered leaflets for us, knocked on doors with us, and been there for us before and during our time as Councillors.

We are also thankful to those Councillors, irrespective of party, who have worked with us in a spirit of unity, dignity and mutual respect to focus on what is important: making this City a better place to live for all.

Finally, we wish to thank Council Officers, especially Gillian Beasley and Adrian Chapman, for their proactive and hands-on work in taking on issues we have raised with them, especially those found in St Michael’s Gate.

The role of Councillor is not one for the faint hearted. There are moments of joy and exhilaration, such as when a resident you’ve been working with for many months, who has suffered so much injustice, is finally offered a Council House for their deeply deserving family. And yet it is tiring, stressful, soul-crushing at times. When we reflect, for instance, on our efforts, albeit minor, in helping residents in St. Michael’s Gate, this experience often left us bereft. It is staggering and heartbreaking that in this day and age such deprivation still exists. The scythe of heartless cuts — delivered by a Tory Government — have been devastating both to our City budgets and to the lives of ordinary families, including those in St. Michael’s Gate. It is to the everlasting shame of this Tory Administration that it took unwanted pressure from the Peterborough Telegraph to force them to fix the heating and roofs of these residents, a shame that will live long in the memory of our City.

Sadly, it is not just failure by inaction demonstrated by senior leaders in the Tory Administration. Their hubris and childishness is to blame for a culture of disrespect and playground pettiness that inhabits the Council chamber and social media. Grown men acting like children, playing silly pranks, flipping the middle finger at other Councillors, is not what our City deserves, and represents everything that holds Peterborough back. These are decision makers who get paid handsomely for what they are supposed to be doing — guiding our City with vision — rather than embarrassing our City, and themselves, whenever they get a chance. It is shameful, and Peterborough deserves better.

Sadly, the incompetence and pettiness of the Tory Administration has not been our only battle. We have faced pressure, bullying and alienation by a powerful minority of ‘militant’ elements of our own Labour Party to shut up, pipe down, keep schtum about the problem of antisemitism in the Peterborough Labour Party.

We took no pleasure in blowing a whistle on the infamous decision made by certain members of the Party Officialdom this year to select a Labour Party candidate who questioned the historical basis of the Holocaust. Neither do we take pleasure in calling out the disgraceful actions of one of our branches who have affiliated themselves with an organisation condemned by Jewish Community Leaders, which is intent on the dismantling of Israel and on the removal of Jews from the Levant (specifically, the so-called “Jewish Voice for Labour”). Even when we have tried to change things for the better, tried to open dialogue on and challenge the prejudices that sadly exist in our party, we have been blocked from doing so. This is shameful.

We don’t believe that the actions of this powerful minority represent the true face of the Labour Party. Yet we question why these people are so powerful, why the remain in power, and why they believe they act on behalf of the membership when they make such disgraceful decisions. It is as though they believe they are above the anti-racist values of the Party. Enough is enough.

This bullying and incompetence has manifested itself in whispered threats of deselection and slanderous rants on social media. It is not a joke to say that we have at times worried for the safety of our families, given some of the comments made online. There is as such a tinge of sad relief in standing down, given the alienation and ignorance we have faced, and the failure of our Party to take seriously the disease of antisemitism we have diagnosed.

Yet, despite all of this, we have been so grateful to be Councillors and to have had the chance to help residents in our City. With hope for the future, we move on to new challenges and new roles outside of local politics, and we will continue to support our local communities in any way we can. We only hope that in our time we have done a little to contribute to the betterment of our Wards and our City.

Thank you, Peterborough, for letting us serve you.

Faithfully yours,

Cllr Richard Ferris — Deputy Leader — Park Ward

Cllr Matthew Mahabadi — Shadow Cabinet Member for University — East Ward