MULE | 14.04.2010 19:07 | Analysis
After being questioned on Tuesday, Leese accepted a caution for assault and was released at around 7pm, having spent 20 hours in Pendleton police station in Salford. His acceptance of the caution amounts to an admission of guilt, but with no further legal action pending.
Leese announced his resignation with immediate effect this morning. In a statement he said:
“I’ve asked the Labour group and party to allow me a necessary period of time out, as long as is needed, to resolve serious family issues.
“This request has been agreed and the deputy leaders [Jim Battle and Val Stevens] will be taking on my responsibilities. My wife Joanne and I and our family would appreciate it if we could be left in peace during this period.”
Amid a mixed response on the Manchester Evening News website, one observer from Wythenshawe remarked:
“I heard that he has stepped down to sort out his problems or as I see it to hide out of public view like many a bullying coward before him. The best thing for him to do is to resign and do it quickly.”
This comment, however, was far from typical. Manchester Confidential went as far as to say:
“[W]e want him back leading the city.
“Of course we are not condoning assault in any way.
“But what we are certain of is that Sir Richard Leese carries political weight throughout the country, he is the most important city leader outside London by a factor of ten, he is a visionary in terms of how he sees the city and how he leads the city.”
It seems this view is shared by the Manchester Labour Party. Having accepted his temporary resignation, group secretary and local councillor Pat Kearney said: “[T]his was a private family matter which the family now consider closed.”
The Council is taking a similar line, with a spokesperson saying: “We consider this a private matter which we leave up to Richard to deal with his family.”
Three years ago, Sir Richard launched a campaign against domestic abuse in Manchester, saying: “Violence in the home will not be tolerated.” One in every four women in Manchester is a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetimes, and police in the UK receive a domestic violence call every minute. Concerns are already being raised that the Council’s response in this instance is woefully inadequate and counterproductive in addressing the issue.
“The Council had an opportunity here to make a strong statement about domestic abuse, and instead gave the archaic response that it was a ‘private matter’. The Council should be doing all it can to say no to violence against women, including condemning its own leaders,” said Hazel Kent, the University of Manchester’s Women’s Officer.
Manchester Confidential says it understands there will be a re-assessment of the decision in June after the elections. MULE will continue to monitor the story as it unfolds.