In his first interview after announcing his decision to quit as leader of York city council, James Alexander spoke to Harry Gration on BBC Look North. Here’s what he said.
Did the pressure get to you?
“I wouldn’t say the pressure got to me, but it certainly influenced my decision. I’ve been incredibly resilient over the last few years and I think many other people would have toppled ages ago.
“I’m confident about what we’ve achieved and I’m proud of our achievements.
“But at the same time, there comes a time and point when you have got to start thinking of your family and thinking what that impact is.
“I didn’t have a young family when I started as leader, when I was here slightly larger and more bushy tailed.
“Now I do and I can’t afford to be in a situation where, potentially, opposition can take control of the council at will and I wouldn’t be able to afford my next month’s rent.”
Were you worried you would lose the proposed vote of no confidence by opposition councillors?
“No because that only came forward today, and you know how these things work. It’s almost like a chicken and egg.
“i’m sure that they got wind that I was going to make this announcement and therefore they wanted to be able to say that I was pushed.
“That’s certainly not the case.
“I went through an interview a few weeks ago. I’ve had to think long and hard about the decision over the last few weeks and I think I’ve made the right one.”
The Conservative leader Chris Steward has said you’ve ridden roughshod over the council for three and a half years.
“He often says things like that and he’s also called on me to go I think about six or seven times, so maybe he’ll be rubbing his hands after this announcement.
“But at the same time, I argue that politics is supposed to mean something. It’s supposed to make a difference to people’s lives, and it’s about ideas and ideals.
“It shouldn’t be about personalised politics.”
Regrets? Lendal Bridge – that wasn’t a very good idea, was it?
“Well it depends. Traffic congestion is not going to go away in the city of York as you well know. And we have to take some tough decisions forward.
“We’ve spoken about it as a city since 1974. I’m not one of those politicians who simply wants to remain in office forever and do nothing.
“I think that’s pointless.
“And if you’re going to make a difference, you’ve got to make some of those big decisions.
“This one was unpopular. We listened. We’ve reacted.
“But at the same time, I don’t regret trying it.”
Do you think Labour in York will survive the next election?
“Well Labour is more than any one person. A lot of people are trying to characterise the party as me in York and I think that’s inappropriate.
“I’ve got every confidence that Labour will win a majority at the next local elections.”