A NEW political force is emerging in West Cumbria amid allegations of “bullying” and “cronyism” within the Workington Constituency Labour Party.

The New Independent Group has been set up by lifelong Labour Party member David King who hopes to field five candidates in the borough and town council elections in May.

A long-serving member of the Workington CLP and its former vice chairman, he said he had been the victim of “unpleasant tactics” and was tired of being “threatened with repercussions” for speaking his mind.

But Mike Rollo, chairman of the Workington CLP, said he was “not aware of any allegations of bullying” at a local level, adding that the party had policies and procedures in place to respond to such allegations.

Announcing his intention to stand for St John’s ward as a New Independent, Mr King said the rule book had been “manipulated” by the Workington CLP to obtain people of their choice as candidates.

He also claimed that party members who speak out against these alleged practises have been “dismissed” from elected positions without notice.

His wife Janet King, who had been due to stand for Labour for the Stainburn and Clifton ward, is the first confirmed defector.

She said: “Having gained my values upholding fairness, tolerance and anti-racism from my parents – Dad had been a staunch Labour Party member for 80 years when he died – I am utterly saddened by the bullying behaviour and lack of respect for other people and their views condoned by some at the Workington Constituency Labour Party and, after much agonising, have decided that I no longer wish to be a part of it.

“There are many lovely and good people that I shall miss but I feel it is time for local politics to represent the views of ‘the many not the few’ by enabling councillors of all parties to have a greater say in major decisions.

“There should no longer be a ‘me and my executive’ attitude, and the executive should not be made up solely of members from one party, but of skilled, experienced people with a mix of views.”

Mrs King will stand for the Stainburn and Clifton ward in both the town and borough council election, with the Labour Party confirming it will select a replacement candidate.

Coun Rollo described Mrs King as a good candidate and said he was “disappointed” that she has decided to go down this route.

The move comes ahead of a major change in the political landscape of Allerdale, with the number of councillors slashed from 56 to 49 following a ward boundary shake-up.

The group would be ‘centre left’ leaning and distinct from the Independent Group founded by Moorclose councillor Stephen Stoddart.

It also follows the creation of a breakaway party formed at a national level by disaffected former Labour members including Chuka Umunna, who are unhappy with Labour Leader Corbyn’s response to Brexit as well as the handling of the antisemitism allegations that have dogged the party.

An Allerdale Labour spokesperson said that the party had a “positive campaign” to make Allerdale a better place and improve people’s lives, adding: “We will contest all the seats at this election.”