FURNESS Labour members still hold concerns over the direction of the party under new leader Keir Starmer.

Mr Starmer recently completed six months at the head of the Labour Party, after storming to victory in a three-horse leadership race earlier this year.

The former director of public prosecutions and ex-Shadow Brexit Secretary has improved Labour's national polling in that time - with the party leading the Tories, according to one survey this weeked, for the first time this year.

But he has also angered the party's left wing and associated social movements through moves like sacking shadow education secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, and referring to Black Lives Matter protests as 'a moment'.

This week, Mr Starmer sacked 24-year-old MP and care home worker, Nadia Whittome, after she voted against a controversial bill that seeks to introduce a presumption against prosecution for British soldiers serving abroad. The party had whipped MPs to abstain on the legislation.

Earlier this year, two members of the Millom Labour branch resigned their memberships over concerns regarding the direction they felt Mr Starmer was beginning to take the party in.

Cllr Shaun Blezard, a borough representative for Dalton South, warned this week that the party risked losing one of its 'greatest strengths' in grassroots activism and campaigns, as it ran the danger of a 'return to the focus groups and PR' associated with the New Labour years.

"If we go into [upcoming] county council elections without a clear sense of policy, it could be a real problem for us on the doorstep," he said - commenting in a personal capacity.

"I think we're in danger of going back to the days of focus groups and PR. One of the Labour Party's main strengths is its grassroots membership and campaigns. We should be looking to change and shape opinions rather than trying to triangulate."

In reference to a headline-grabbing interview with shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, Cllr Blezard said: "I'm not speaking for the CLP when I say this, but Lisa Nandy's 'Britain First' rhetoric this week made me feel quite disengaged.

"The problem with this focus-group approach is we end up in these cul-de-sacs of generalisations. The stereotypes of people in northern towns being rugby-league-loving racists that get bandied about just don't hold true."

Ms Nandy had told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "I think you'll see a real change in tone and approach from the Labour Party [going forward]. 

"I think you've already seen it, that we've set out in a number of areas, including in my area of foreign policy, that we stand up for Britain, we stand up for British people, we stand up for British interests and we will always put that first."

Cllr Blezard warned that Labour could lose members to formations like the Green Party if it was perceived to return to a triangulation strategy over defining political questions of the decade, such as the climate crisis.

He added: "There could even be a surge in Green Party membership if we're not careful over the next few years.

"The climate emergency is way beyond institutional politics and young people will see that - they're not as tied to party politics as my generation are.

"That said, though, it's still an exciting time to be part of Labour locally. There are great things going on at the town hall with community wealth-building projects in Barrow - along the lines of the Preston model - as well as other great initiatives and work being done.

"And, whatever my views of Keir Starmer, I'll still be out knocking doors - in the same way local members and activists did for Jeremy Corbyn."