THE former Liberal Democrat leader of Lancaster City Council has defected to Labour.
Stuart Langhorn, who was leader of the council when he lost his Lower Lune Valley seat at the last local election in May 2011, has joined the Lancaster and Fleetwood Labour Party.
Mr Langhorn was the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Lancaster and Fleetwood seat in the 2010 general election.
But after that election, the Liberal Democrats’ national leadership entered into the coalition with the Conservatives.
And a year after losing his council seat, Mr Langhorn has decided that enough is enough, citing the coalition’s NHS reforms as the final straw.
Mr Langhorn, who lives in Brookhouse, said: “’I became involved in politics because I wanted to make things better for my community.
“The Lib Dem leadership has lost touch with ordinary people and their communities.
“Whether it is in education, health or the economy they are supporting the Tories – who are interested only in the privileged.
“When Lib Dem ministers banged the cabinet table and cheered at the passing of Andrew Lansley’s reforms of the NHS I knew it was time for me to join Labour.
“I can’t sit idly by and watch them destroy everything I hold dear.”
Mr Langhorn, a religious education teacher, is due to take up a new post at Lancaster Royal Grammar School in September.
He was welcomed to the local Labour group by shadow health secretary and Leigh MP, Andy Burnham, at a fundraising meal at Lancaster’s Gatehouse Restaurant.
Also there were local Labour and Lancaster City Council leader, Coun Eileen Blamire and chairman of the Lancaster and Fleetwood Labour Party, Coun Clive Grunshaw.
Mr Burnham used the occasion to condemn the Government’s NHS reforms, which he said would lead to a massive increase in private sector involvement.
He claims the re-organisation will cost billions and is opposed by thousands of patients, doctors and nurses.
Mr Burnham said that the Government’s refusal to publish the full risk assessment of the changes was wrong.
“Both parties in the coalition Government, Tories and Liberals, went into the last election promising to protect and improve the NHS,” he said.
“These were blatant untruths.”
He added that despite the refusal to publish the risk register that people were “beginning to see the threats to the NHS becoming a reality on the ground, with patients left on trolleys in corridors and denied urgently needed treatments and thousands of nursing posts being lost”.