LABOUR’s decision to only put forward women as their candidate for the next general election has driven one councillor to quit and another to strongly criticise the pary.

Worcester city councillor Marc Bayliss described the decision as the “last straw”, while his fellow councillor David Candler said he thoroughly disapproved of the way the policy was decided.

Both councillors had already announced they would not stand for re-election as Labour candidates in May.

Now Coun Bayliss has decided to quit the Labour party and see out the remainder of his term as an independent councillor for the Arboretum.

Coun Bayliss said he had no problem with a woman becoming Labour’s next parliamentary candidate, but believes positive discrimination is unnecessary, counter-productive and potentially dangerous.

“I believe we need to work to understand and breakdown barriers, to work for genuine equal opportunities and not to divide people based on innate characteristics,” he said.

“Loyalty to my principles comes before loyalty to my party.

“Resignation is not a move I have taken lightly or without careful thought, but we all have bottom lines, points beyond which we cannot go.

“For me this issue is one such bottom line, and I am willing to sacrifice my membership of the Labour party in the defence of the principle that all people are equal and that no form of discrimination – positive or otherwise – is ever justified.”

Meanwhile, Coun Candler – who is not opposed to women shortlists – has expressed concerns about how the decision to back a female-only list had been reached.

“The party as a whole has hardly been properly consulted,” he said.

“The control of the party in Worcester for the last couple of years has effectively been in the hands of a small pernicious group, skilled in the art of control freakery.

"It’s those sort of factors, in addition to my advancing years, which have stopped me seeking re-election.”

Chris Winwood, chairman of Worcester Labour Party, said he believed consultation had been properly carried out.

“We have had three consultations with the party and had a meeting in November with our members asking for their opinions,” he said.

“The responses were broadly positive and at the meeting earlier this week we had a full and open discussion.

“All women shortlists are always going to be controversial – and Marc’s resignation is absolutely in line with everything he has always said in the past. But it is always a shame when people leave the party.”