A LABOUR group is "at war with itself" according a key member of the party who has been de-selected as a councillor and expects to be suspended from the party altogether.

Councillor Steve Goldswain, a Labour cabinet member at Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, made his comments after a secret 2012 report about disputes in the party was leaked to the BBC.

The leader of Redcar Labour Group has been told by party superiors not to discuss the issue with the media.

But George Dunning, leader of the council, has defied the ban to tell The Northern Echo he stood by Cllr Goldswain and other councillors recently de-selected by the party.

Labour lost what was once a safe parliamentary seat to the Liberal Democrats at the last General Election in 2010 but are still the largest party on the council.

Darlington Labour councillor Nick Wallis was called in to investigate strife between rival factions of the party in 2012 so the party could concentrate on winning the constituency back.

The resulting report was not made public but has now been leaked. Recommendations were made and followed-up but Cllr Goldswain, said the situation had actually worsened since 2012.

Last year five leading councillors have been deselected as candidates to stand for the council for not "showing a commitment to campaigning for the party".

Two of them were cabinet members - Cllr Goldswain and Norman Pickthall - and both have had their appeals rejected.

Cllr Goldswain, who expects to be suspended from the party altogether for going public, stood by quotes that the party in Redcar "had gone to war with itself" and was "almost akin to North Korea".

Leader of the council George Dunning said that the recommendations in the report, including closer ties between the Labour Group leadership with the office of Middlesbrough South and east Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop, were enacted.

He said: "I stand by all the deselected councillors 110 per cent as does my deputy (Sheelagh Clarke). They will be a big loss. I can say as leader of the Labour group that we followed through on all the recommendations in the report."

A spokesman for Labour North said: “The Labour Party is clear with any member wishing to represent the Party in local government that we expect the highest standards. These expectations include a commitment to campaigning for the Party and engaging with the local communities all year round.”

According to the BBC the Wallis report said it was "unacceptable" on both sides that Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop, also a Labour member, was filing Freedom of Information requests to the Labour-run Redcar council as he had "no faith in the party's usual communication channels".

Mr Blenkinsop could not be contacted for comment.