THE Labour group on Hillingdon Council has chosen a new leader as it sets its sights on regaining control of Uxbridge Civic Centre in 2014.
Previous leader Councillor Mo Khursheed (Botwell) was deposed from his position at the annual meeting of the local party by Councillor Peter Curling (Townfield), who won a majority of support from members.
Mr Khursheed had led the group since 2009 and wanted to continue the work which had seen the party gain two council seats at the last election in 2010, but could not persuade enough members to back him.
Cllr Curling (pictured) said it was time for a fresh start. He told the Gazette: “I have a great deal of respect and support for Mo. He has been a great leader over the last few years.
“We are a democratic organisation and I decided to stand for the leadership because I think we need a regeneration to move forward.
“The Labour Party is attracting younger people and there is an enthusiasm there we need to embrace.”
Cllr Curling said he wanted to capitalise on the recent victory of Labour candidate Dr Onkar Sahota in the London Assembly elections, in which he beat Conservative Richard Barnes to win the Ealing and Hillingdon seat at City Hall.
“We need to make ourselves more visible and more appealing to the electorate,” added Cllr Curling. “It is far better to build on the victories you have got, and now we have a voice to utilise in City Hall.”
During Mr Khursheed’s three years as the leader of the opposition on the council, he has had to deal with controversies including the temporary suspension from the party of two councillors – one for a police caution and the other over a vicious email sent to a colleague.
But he has also been a thorn in the side of Council leader Ray Puddifoot, who described Mr Khursheed in his monthly Gazette column this week (see page 26) as ‘the toughest opposition leader he had faced in his 12 years at the helm’.
Mr Khursheed declined to elaborate on the internal politics which got him ousted, but told the Gazette: “It was a democratic process that was duly carried out, there are reasons behind it. During my leadership we won two council seats and built bridges between ourselves and the current administration at the council.”