Denny makes a comeback

Have your say

A POPULAR ex-councillor who was blackballed by his own party is to return to politics.

Former Castle ward councillor Denny Wilson was told he could not stand for re-election in last May’s council elections, after the Labour party ruled he was not a suitable candidate.

The move caused outrage among Sunderland Labour members and undermined city council leader Paul Watson, who had chosen Coun Wilson as one of his ruling cabinet of senior councillors.

Now party insiders say Mr Wilson has been selected to stand in Castle ward – a safe Labour seat – in May.

It means he is almost guaranteed to be re-elected.

He would replace former Mayor of Sunderland Tom Foster, who is understood to be retiring from the council.

It is not clear whether or not Mr Wilson would return to the cabinet or another position of power after the election.

He has not been available for comment and party colleagues have remained tight-lipped about the situation, which comes after a rift between Labour North and the Sunderland branch of the Labour party.

Sunderland’s communities chief, Coun Tom Wright, was disciplined by Labour last year after claims he was a “key instigator of trouble” engulfing the region’s party.

In September, Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) also permanently dissolved Sunderland Labour’s existing Local Government Committee, which oversees the running of the party’s council operations in Wearside, as officials cracked down on what they saw as rebellious members.

Sunderland party members were outraged at what they called “the dark side” of the party trying to undermine Councillor Watson, because of the ongoing rift.

In a letter leaked to the Echo, Declan McHugh, the NEC’s director of strategic planning and constitutional affairs, told Labour members in Sunderland their Local Government Committee would be entirely replaced.

He said: “The Sunderland Local Government Committee had become dysfunctional for some time – since at least 2006/7.

“The meetings were conducted poorly and there was acute factionalism, to the extent that delegates had begun to be intimidated by the aggressive conduct of meetings.”

He said “numerous witnesses” claimed St Anne’s Coun Wright had organised Labour members to break party rules and “sought to dominate” the Local Government Committee.

Mr McHugh was writing to Labour members after an investigation into the party in Sunderland.

Labour members had called for an investigation over the decision to dissolve the committee and to block Mr Wilson, who was responsible for tackling crime and promoting culture in Sunderland.

One Labour insider said at the time: “This is the return of the dark side. We expected the investigation to be a total whitewash of Labour North, but this is just outrageous.

“Tommy Wright did nothing wrong. The Labour Party is his life.

“He eats, sleeps and breathes Labour and has donated thousands to the party.”