Manchester councillor quits Labour to join Greens and blames party’s ‘culture’ for move

Coun Ekua Bayunu said she felt ‘constantly at odds’ with the culture of the Labour party group as she made the move across the chamber - a shift which makes her new party Manchester’s official opposition.

A Manchester councillor has quit Labour to join the Greens, saying she felt ‘constantly at odds’ with the culture of the largest party at the town hall.

Hulme councillor Ekua Bayunu defected to the Green Party on Friday (July 1), making the group of three the official opposition at Manchester Council.

She blamed ‘bullying’ and ‘harassment’ in Labour locally and said that being a black woman and a socialist in the party has become ‘increasingly untenable’.

However, Labour says these claims were found to be ‘without foundation’.

What has Coun Bayunu said about her move to the Greens?

Coun Bayunu said: “On a local level, I have been subjected to bullying and harassment.

“It was specifically very targeted when I became a councillor based on a number of things.

“Based on my politics, but also, based on who I am, my relationship with this country and my place in it.”

Elected in May 2021, Coun Bayunu was the first to challenge Sir Richard Leese’s leadership for two decades, just weeks after becoming a councillor.

Hailing from the left of the party, she replaced deputy leader Nigel Murphy in Hulme after he was deselected and received 15 votes in her bid to be leader.

Coun Ekua Bayunu, who has moved from Labour to the Green Party

The 60-year-old, who joined Labour in 2016 inspired by then-leader Jeremy Corbyn, does not support the direction Sir Keir Starmer is taking the party in.

And she says she hasn’t seen enough of a ‘culture shift’ locally since Coun Bev Craig took over as council leader in December to ignore the national picture.

In a letter to her constituents, the Hulme councillor said: “I have felt hampered in my ambition to serve you all to the best of my ability.

“I have felt constantly at odds with the culture of the Labour Party.

“To serve you better and to be able to do more for you I have made a big decision.

“I have found a new home, a new hope, a group committed to working with local people and that is the Green Party.”

The Green Party becomes the official opposition

Coun Bayunu will join Green Party councillors Rob Nunney and Astrid Johnson who each ousted Labour in Woodhouse Park at the last two local elections.

The move takes the Green Party’s total number of councillors in Manchester to three, meaning the group – which won its first seat in the city since 2008 last year – are now the second largest party in the firmly Labour-held council.

Manchester’s Labour group – still the largest in the country – now holds 91 out of the 96 seats at the council, with the Lib Dems on two councillors in total.

But the move means Manchester Council now has an official opposition group.

What has the Green Party said about Coun Bayunu’s move?

Welcoming the move, Manchester Green Party co-chair Scott Robinson said: “We are delighted to welcome Councillor Ekua Bayunu to Manchester Green Party, and we look forward to having her join our two other councillors in making Manchester a greener, fairer place to live.

Coun Johnson, added: “The recent election success of the Greens nationally has allowed more people to find the Green Party as their home.

“We are delighted to welcome Ekua and look forward to working with her in the council chamber to address urgent issues such as climate change and the cost of living crisis.”

Hulme councillor Ekua Bayunu, who has defected to the Greens

Carla Denyer, the co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales who visited Manchester on Friday (July 1), wished Coun Bayunu a ‘warm welcome’.

She said: “We are seeing a steady stream of councillors moving to the Greens from other parties as they discover where their hearts lie and see Green councillors working hard to make their communities greener and fairer.”

Will there be a by-election and how has Labour responded to Coun Bayunu’s defection?

Coun Bayunu has confirmed she has no intention of standing down and calling a by-election before her current term as a councillor comes to an end in 2024.

The Labour Party has been contacted for comment.

Manchester Labour secretary Pat Karney said the group is ‘sad to see her go’.

He said: “She had an absolute loyal commitment of Hulme members who worked so hard for her in the election. They will be very disappointed.

“But people make these choices in life.

“The Labour group will go to the Hulme Labour Party about the next steps.”