The BNP in Stoke-on-Trent have been thrown into turmoil by the shock resignation of their leader
Councillor Alby Walker told his nine-strong group last night that he was standing down with immediate effect. And he is also unlikely to stand for re-election to the council in May.
Mr Walker, aged 52, told The Sentinel that he wanted to devote more of his time to family and work commitments. The ward member for Abbey Green had led the group since being elected to the city council in May 2006. However, there have been rumours of growing friction within the group over its future leadership and political direction.
Mr Walker announced his resignation in a brief email to council officials, saying: "As from your receipt of this email I am standing down as group leader of the BNP group. When this issue has been resolved within the BNP group the new leader will inform you of the new group structure in due course."
Mr Walker admitted he had been contemplating the move for some time. He said: "I am finding it difficult to juggle the political workload with my work commitments outside the council, running a joinery business. I have also had numerous things on my plate in my personal life, including my wife Ellie's treatment for breast cancer. I increasingly felt that I was not giving the role and my responsibility to the group my full attention, so in the interests of the group I have taken the decision to stand down."
Mr Walker also hinted that he is considering giving up his council seat ahead of the May elections. He said: "I won't deny the rumours at this stage, but I will have to discuss it with the group before I can make a proper decision."
But he declined to say whether he would remain a BNP party member. He added that he felt he had helped to change public perceptions of the BNP in the city and boost support for the far-right party. He said: "When I took over, BNP councillors were regarded as lazy ward members who didn't make a positive contribution to debates. I have totally transformed the group and our approach to politics, and I just hope that whoever takes over will take that forward."
The group will be run by deputy leader councillor Michael Coleman until a new leadership structure can be decided.
Mrs Walker, aged 54, said she fully supported her husband's decision, but she had no plans to leave the group. She said: "I support what he is doing, but I think it's a shame as he is really the backbone of the group."
Mr Coleman was last night unavailable for comment.
Labour group leader councillor Mohammed Pervez said: "I think this is a matter for the BNP to sort out. I don't want to get involved in their affairs; I've got far more important things to do."