Labour students have decided to “no platform” the leader of Manchester City Council after they discovered he had received a police caution for assaulting his stepdaughter.
Manchester Labour Students said that it had cancelled a planned speaker meeting with Sir Richard Leese next month in protest at the incident that took place in 2010.
Leese, one of his party’s longest serving town hall chiefs in England, spent a night in a police cell after being arrested and cautioned for striking his 16-year-old stepdaughter in a row over their pet cat.
The student group, which represents more than 70,000 undergraduates and postgraduates at Manchester University and Manchester Metropolitan University, had planned to host the council chief on December 5.
It has now announced on its Facebook page that, having been made aware of the “domestic assault” caution, it would “feel unable to host him at one of our events or endorse him as a Labour club”.
It claimed that giving Leese a platform would “go against not only our personal moral beliefs but the beliefs of our party as a whole”. It added that “we value the safety and security of our members as our highest priority”.
Manchester Labour Students is one of the biggest student organisations in the country, and regularly hosts leading party figures such as former premier Gordon Brown.
Leese temporarily stood down from his post at the time of the incident in 2010, in order to “resolve family issues”. It later emerged that his stepdaughter had flown into a rage after he gave their pet cat some medication.
Greater Manchester Police said at the time that a girl had “sustained a very minor injury to her ear” and Leese was arrested “on suspicion of common assault and has been cautioned”.
A month later, he was back as leader of the council, declaring his regret over the incident. “I’m very much chastened, but determined to learn from the experience…It is something I very much regret,” he said.
Local Lib Dems attacked his decision to stage a political comeback, pointing out he had backed a zero tolerance campaign on domestic violence.
Leese has been lauded by Labour and Tory Prime Ministers for his role in leading the rejuvenation of Manchester as an international city and was knighted for services to local government.
But that breadth of approval – including joining George Osborne to support his ‘Northern Powerhouse’ plan – has attracted growing criticism from Jeremy Corbyn supporters in Manchester,.
Party members locally were also furious that Leese supported a letter calling for the Labour leader to resign in 2016.
Three sitting Manchester councillors have been replaced by Momentum-backed candidates in next May’s elections and a total of six of its supporters are now set to take up seats.
HuffPost UK approached Leese for comment but has not had any reply.
But a former senior member of Manchester Labour Students told HuffPost UK: “It’s a hysterical overreaction. I’ve never heard of a Labour students group no platforming a Labour politician before, let alone the leader of a city council.”
It is understood that the Labour party investigated the incident at the time and concluded that Leese was eligible to return to his post.
One local Labour insider told the Manchester Evening News last week that the Leese was one of several targets for the Left, as well as Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell.
“People are trying to prove their power, but this is a long game with Sir Richard in the crosshairs, to force his early retirement or position unions and Momentum for the succession. And to deselect Lucy Powell,” they said.
However one Momentum member told the paper: “Certain pockets of Manchester Labour are clearly wedded to the discredited policy framework of Labour’s rightward drift under Blair and Brown – particularly in relation to planning and housing – and are clearly determined to protect their cliques and bastions within the party, at the expense of member engagement”.