Valerie Wise, the former leader of Preston City Council, told a packed Stop the War meeting last week in the city why she had left the Labour Party. She spoke to Socialist Worker about her decision.
Valerie said that, “Leaving the Labour Party was the hardest decision of my life. I have been a member since I was 14.
“I was brought up in a Labour family - I am one of the fourth generation of Labour activists. It took months of anguish and heartache, but I decided that I couldn’t stay in.
“I left the party a little while ago, but I didn’t tell anyone. But because of what is happening in the Middle East, I felt that I had to speak out publicly about why I have left and make a stand in the run up to Saturday’s demonstration.
“I knew I could make an impact because I have been the leader of Preston city council and I have been on the Greater London Council.
“My mother was the MP Audrey Wise and she is still remembered with huge respect and fondness in Preston as an MP who had principles.
“The Labour MP that we have now in Preston is atrocious - he is just an apologist for the Labour government.
“I am still considering what to do next politically. I am certainly supporting the Stop the War Coalition. I was on the demonstration at the Labour conference last Saturday.
“I am angry over Lebanon but also over the whole instability in the Middle East including Palestine and Iraq. I think it is destabilising Britain too.
“I watched Gordon Brown’s speech this week on TV. He seems to be promising more of the same. I was not surprised on one level - as I have no illusions in Brown.
“But considering that the Labour Party is so unpopular at the moment - and if Brown wants to be prime minister and stay prime minister - the party needs to make some big changes if it is going to be re-elected.
“Labour’s foreign policy is the reason that I left the Labour Party, but I am also angry about domestic issues. I am involved in education as a chair of governors so I have seen first hand the inspections, targets and competition in schools.
“I am against the private finance initiative in both schools and hospitals. I am very unhappy at what has happened to the health service. I also feel strongly about domestic violence - which affects women in poverty in particular. To tackle it means more resources.
“I am not happy with attacks on benefits or with housing - the acute shortage of social housing and the transfer of housing stock. I think that the left needs to come together and unite.”