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Archive - Friday, 9 May 2003
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Deputy voted into ousted leader's shoes
THE unenviable task of following in Dave Walsh's footsteps as Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has been handed to his former deputy.
George Dunning, who was the Labour leader's second-in-command, beat his main rival, Dave McLuckie, by one vote to become the party leader.
Inheriting a local steel industry in crisis, Mr Dunning will also have to lead his party through power-sharing in a hung council.
The lead member for regeneration polled 12 votes to Mr McLuckie's 11 at a meeting to elect a leader on Saturday.
Coun McLuckie, re-elected to his Skelton ward, had been many people's favourite to succeed Coun Walsh.
Mr Dunning reflected on the challenges ahead. He said: "Thankfully, one vote was enough to get me in.
"I have got to fill the shoes of Dave Walsh but, as his deputy, I feel I was halfway there already.
"The biggest and most immediate challenge for me is the state of the steel industry, of course.
"Dave Walsh took on this subject for years and, as a former steel worker of 30 years' myself, I will pick up the mantle.
"I fully support the steelworkers and their families. The Labour group is somewhat diminished now, but we have to continue to fight for Corus jobs."
Of equal importance to the party will be the bargaining needed to enter into a successful power share with other parties on the council.
Coun McLuckie said: "We are still the borough's largest party so, in my view, we should have several seats on the executive. But there is no overall control and the situation is such that there will be deals done all over the place. I will support the new leader, of course."
Mr Walsh, who served as a councillor for 18 years and began life in politics as a canvasser for Harold Wilson in 1964, said: "One golden rule for outgoing politicians is never to meddle."
However he vowed to fight again. "I don't intend to sit back and watch cricket. I'll stand again in four years or even before that if there's a by-election. However I don't argue against democracy."
It appears part of the reason for Coun Walsh's defeat was of the Labour Party's own making. Dave Walsh had served the Loftus ward in the last council but, with an increased threat from the East Cleveland Independents in that ward, the North-East Labour Party transferred him to the seemingly safe Eston, a traditional Labour area. That played into the hands of Independent candidates who have consistently argued the people of Eston have been taken for granted by the Labour.
The second reason may have been the hard work over many years of successful candidate Ann Higgins. As leader of the Eston Residents Association she is extremely well regarded in the area for years of community campaigning.