LIFELONG Labour supporters in York are deserting the party in the wake of the war in Iraq.

One long-term Labour supporter and election candidate, Gordon Campbell-Thomas, has already publicly burned his party membership card because of the war.

Now, three stalwart supporters have vowed never to vote Labour again - starting with the coming local election.

Anna Kesteven lives in Bishopthorpe Road, in City of York Council leader Dave Merrett's old Bishophill Ward, now Micklegate Ward. Ms Kesteven said she will vote for the candidate she feels is best placed to defeat Labour. She said: "I will possibly vote Green. It is because of the war, it sickened me."

Ms Kesteven, 39, said she realises local elections are about local issues but said the only way to get the message to the Labour Government was through the ballot box.

Jean Churm, 55, of Leeman Road, has voted Labour all her life but will not support them in Holgate Ward at the election. She said: "The war was an abomination. I will vote Green with one of my votes, I haven't decided about the other two."

Charles Patmore, 53, of Hull Road, has always voted Labour but is voting Liberal Democrat.

"It is entirely a protest vote on national issues. Many people think this is the only way they can make their point. I don't believe Blair will listen to a protest vote but perhaps Labour MPs will."

Coun Merrett said the war has been mentioned on the doorstep by only a "very small" number of voters. He said: "Let's see what happens on May 1. We have got to respect whatever decision people make, but I believe most people will recognise this election is about this city."

Conservative Leader John Galvin said he suspects the war will influence some voters but the true effect would only be known when the results came in. Liberal Democrat leader Steve Galloway said the anti-Labour feeling mirrors views he has been hearing on voters' doorsteps.

Updated: 10:52 Saturday, April 19, 2003