ALL debate has been “stifled” in the Labour Party and membership democracy has been "completely removed", a councillor who quit the party has said.

Sean Halsall, who sits on Sefton Council in Merseyside, parted ways with Labour this week sharing a brutal resignation letter that tore into the direction Keir Starmer was taking the party.

Speaking exclusively to The National, he said after joining Labour as a passionate trade unionist under the leadership of Ed Miliband in 2014, he now believes external pressure must be applied to the party “to remind it what it’s meant to do”.

He also suggested Scottish Labour would be better off distancing themselves from their UK counterparts.

In his resignation letter, Halsall cited Labour supporting the two-child benefits cap and the party “stopping any expression on Gaza” as leading reasons why he decided to leave.

Asked when he first felt he needed to scrap his membership, Halsall said: “Probably about a year [ago].

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“I thought, perhaps wrongly, we could change it from the inside. I don’t completely believe we can’t change it from the inside now, but I do think there needs to be pressure from the outside as well.

"There needs to be external pressure on the Labour Party to remind it what it’s meant to do.

“There is a complete lack of any ideas or thinking, and this is what you get when you only draw your MPs from think tanks and lobbyists or people that work for other MPs.

“There’s no diversity of opinion. That’s the sad thing; the Labour Party was set up to represent working class communities. You can count on your hands how many people have been in a blue-collar job now.”

‘Death by a thousand cuts’

Halsall is one of many elected members who have ditched Labour in recent months.

His Sefton Council colleague Natasha Carlin also resigned from the party on Monday. Their departure followed 20 councillors in Lancashire halting their membership in protest over the party’s leadership earlier this month.

In November, 11 councillors quit the party in Burnley over Starmer's decision not to push for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Six councillors from Hastings Borough Council, including the council’s leader and deputy leader, also announced their intention to form an independent group before Christmas, saying Labour “no longer provides us with the policies, the support or the focus on local government that we need”.

Halsall, who used to be a bus driver for 16 years and now advises trade union reps on how to deal with employers, said he felt it was his responsibility to take a stand after losing patience with the number of policies the party had turned its back on.

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He said he was particularly frustrated with Labour ditching their green investment pledge and party peer Peter Mandelson warning against “rushing” through workers’ rights plans.

“I have brilliant comrades in the Labour Party and I do not blame anyone for staying, because I did the same for a long time,” he said.

“But I’ve made my decision because I’m waiting for someone else to do something from the outside and it’s not happening so I see it as a responsibility on me. I can’t wait around.”

Asked if there was any one thing that pushed him to leave, the dad-of-two added: “It’s been death by a thousand cuts. It’s slowly rolling back on various areas of policy.

“The green new deal stuff was absolute insanity. They’re saying we need growth, you don’t have that unless there’s investment.

“[The two-child cap] demonstrates complete economic naivety. We’ve got an ageing population and declining birth rate and we’re going to need people working to look after people when they get older.”

‘Membership democracy has been removed’

Amid mass resignations of councillors from Labour, new polling by Labour Together suggested earlier this month that four in five members back Starmer and believe he will win a majority.

But for Halsall it’s not been the leader that’s been bothering him, but the way in which he and others have been “held to ransom” by an “outdated whip system”.

He said: “The policies matter more than who the figurehead is. Leaders come and go, but the issue I’ve got is all debate in our party has been stifled, we’re not allowed to discuss things.

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“We move things at conference and then it’s just ignored. The membership democracy has been completely removed from the party and that’s not why I got involved.”

Halsall added he found the party’s attitude to the situation in Gaza and their unwillingness to call for a ban on arms sales to Israel as “horrific”.

“You’ve only got to open your phone to see what’s going on,” the 39-year-old added.

“You’ve got the International Court of Justice talking about plausible genocide and yet we still back selling arms to Israel. It’s insane.”

‘Scottish Labour should go its own way’

When it comes to the situation north of the Border – where Anas Sarwar's Scottish Labour are constantly labelled a “branch office” by critics – Halsall insisted they would be better off distancing themselves from their UK bosses.

He said: “What have the UK Labour Party ever done for Scotland?

"Scottish people deserve to have voices that represent them. You see with the Brexit vote, just getting pulled in a direction which was not what they went on, it’s just wild.

“There needs to be more devolution, not just in the democratic structures of the country but also with political parties.

"I think Scottish Labour would do much better disconnected from the UK Labour party.”

Asked if he thought the trend of elected members departing Labour would continue as the General Election, Halsall said: “I think so. I’ve had some interesting conversations over the last day. I think there’s an appetite.”