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Dover district councillor Peter Walker quits Labour after n-word race row

By Sam Lennon

A Labour councillor who was at the centre of a race row has revealed that he has resigned from the party.

Peter Walker's departure is another blow for Labour in Dover after its group district leader walked out without warning last week.

Cllr Walker had been suspended after he used the n-word at a private meeting as part of an old school saying rather than wanting to make any racial slur.

Cllr Peter Walker (5301789)
Cllr Peter Walker (5301789)

He says he has been a victim of "hysterical political correctness."

Now he reveals that he has also left because of criticism from members of his party for nominating a Conservative councillor for an honorary alderman title.

He also said that there was "a lot of infighting" going on because of boundary ward changes, which will slash the number of councillors in next May's election.

He told the Mercury: "I feel rather sad and bothered for the future of the people of Dover district in general and people in my ward in particular. They are not getting the support they deserve from some of the Labour party.

"There is a lot of infighting going on at the moment because of the boundary changes reducing the number of wards and in particular wards where there are fights to get seats. That is causing a lot of problems.

"In my own particular case I wasn't selected, yet I've been a councillor for the last two terms."

Cllr Walker wrote his resignation letter on October 22, to both overall council leader Keith Morris and to Cllr Mike Eddy who was his then group leader.

Dover council has lost two Labour members in a couple of weeks
Dover council has lost two Labour members in a couple of weeks

He explained that he had been interviewed by party officials last July for selection as a Labour candidate where he discussed some Labour councillors he was in disagreement with and used the expression: "It's rather like n****** in the woodpile" as an analogy.

He said he immediately apologised to the interview panel and since then has "bitterly" regretted using the phrase.

The incident was reported to the General Secretary of the Labour Party and he was instantly suspended pending investigation, which was due to finish in mid-November when the National Executive met.

Following that he was not selected as a candidate in the next district election.

He said of the offensive word: "It was certainly said in private, never in public. It's been misused and misappropriated. It's a great example of sometimes hysterical political correctness and it doesn't do well for the future of Labour if people are going to behave like that."

A n***** in the woodpile is a figure of speech originating in the United States, meaning some fact of considerable importance that is not disclosed - something suspicious or wrong.

Decades ago it was an acceptable phrase but is now considered too taboo because of its inclusion of the racist word.

But some people, with more old school mentalities, have in recent years naively used the phrase for its original intent and not as an intended racial slur.

Cllr Walker believes he had blurted out the word subconsciously as 50 years ago his wife had been acting in the 1939 Agatha Christie murder mystery Ten Little N******s.

The word is now considered totally unacceptable and deeply offensive and the story is now called And Then There were None."

Cllr Walker's second flashpoint was when he had last year nominated former council leader and Conservative Paul Watkins as an honorary alderman, as he had done for ex-Labour Dover mayor Jim Hood. The two former veteran councillors were presented the awards in January.

He said that he had "severe criticism" from a small number of Labour councillors over his nomination of Cllr Watkins.

He told the Mercury: "I was told it was preposterous for a Labour councillor to nominate a Tory.

"But the fact is 95% of the work we do as councillors is cross-party. It is serving people and they come first."

Cllr Walker said that these disputes within Labour distracted members from their main purpose of serving constituents and effectively opposing the Conservatives."

Cllr Walker has been a ward member for Eythorne and Shepherdswell since 2011 and now classes himself as a non-party councillor.

Hailing from South Yorkshire, he has been a life-long socialist and has been a member of the Labour Party for 12 years.

He is a retired head teacher at the Abbey School in Faversham and he made national news in 2005 when he made it the first school to have random drug testing.

Cllr Mike Eddy
Cllr Mike Eddy

Cllr Mike Eddy had been Labour's district council opposition leader until he left the party to join the Greens.

He said he left after receiving a number of "bullying" emails.

The Labour leadership said it took bullying "extremely seriously" and would investigate if complaints were made.

Members at a full Dover District Council meeting in March voted to slash the amount of councillors from 45 to 32 after next May's election. Wards are expected to be reduced from 21 to 19.

A spokesman for the Labour Party said today: "We would like to thank Mike Eddy for the many years of service as a part of the Labour Party, we are disappointed that he has defected.

"Peter Walker was suspended from the Labour Party for using racist language."

The spokesman said an investigation into that was still pending.

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