Former chair of Labour’s NEC leaves party to support UKIP

17th February, 2015 6:02 pm

Harriet Yeo, the former chair of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), has left the party and said she will support UKIP at the general election – citing Labour’s failure to offer a referendum on the EU as the key cause.

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Yeo was chair of Labour’s ruling committee between 2012 and 2013, and was President of the Labour-affiliated TSSA union from 2011 to 2013. She stood as Labour’s candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) in Kent in 2012 and is a councillor in Ashford. While she has said she will support UKIP in May, she has not formally joined the Eurosceptic party, and will presumably continue her councillor duties as an independent.

There were reportedly splits in the Shadow Cabinet about whether Labour should offer an EU referendum, with Ed Miliband and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander reportedly the most resistant to the policy. There is now little question that Labour will not back a referendum, with those at the top of the party seeing it as one of the areas Labour are most likely to win support from the UK’s business community over.

Update i: Here’s what a Labour Party spokesperson had to say about Yeo’s resignation:

“The vast majority of the Labour Party are united behind our position on Europe, believing Britain’s best interests are served by staying in a reformed EU and not sleepwalking towards an exit which would cost British jobs and influence.

“The truth is UKIP are a party of Tory people, Tory policies and Tory money: they are more Tory than the Tories.”

 However – it seems there’s more to this story than meets the eye.  Harriet Yeo was removed as Labour Group Leader of Ashford Council last week, after being accused of non-attendance at council meetings and a failure undertake council casework.

Last night she was deselected as a candidate for the 2015 local elections – and left the Labour Party the next day.

Which gives an altogether different tone to the story than the party’s position on an EU referendum being the sole reason for Yeo’s departure.

Update ii: On LBC, Iain Dale just asked Ken Livingstone who Harriet Yeo is. She was NEC Chair during a time when Livingstone sat on the NEC (as he still does of course). Yet he claimed he didn’t remember who Yeo was (or who the Chair of the NEC is now – it’s Jim Kennedy, as Dale rightly reminded him):

Livingstone also said that he’s on the NEC “to support Ed Miliband” and that the NEC is “not fit for purpose”.

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