Four Conservative councillors have been suspended from the party after they declare they will stand as independents on May 2
A breakaway group of Conservative councillors have been suspended from the party and are likely to be stripped of their various committee roles at Fenland District Council.
The move follows their announcement on Friday that they would be fighting the upcoming local elections as independents – a move branded “sour grapes” by the chairman of the North East Cambridgeshire Conservative Association (NECCA), Jan French.
Mike Cornwell, Will Sutton and Michelle Tanfield all failed to be selected to fight the May 2 elections when the local party held its selection process two years ago, while Fred Yeulett announced he would be standing down from public office.
Three were cabinet members at the time, and their removal as candidates led to the then council leader, John Clark, announcing his resignation from the role.
In a brief statement the four claimed their “allegiance to the Conservative party remains and the action we have taken has nothing to do with what is happening nationally”.
They went on: “Our prime reason for leaving the Conservative group and seeking election as independents in the forthcoming election on May 2 is the action taken by NECCA in deselecting Will Sutton, Michelle Tanfield and Mike Cornwell, who do not deserve such treatment.
“We are concerned at the direction being followed by NECCA and its executive, particularly the organised voting practices – namely block voting by Wisbech branch members.
“The current NECCA is not the NECCA that we joined and supported.”
But Mrs French accused the four of “sour grapes” and said they had decided to stand as independents after failing to be chosen as Conservative candidates.
She said the three who were not re-selected had given poor presentations compared to the others seeking to be chosen to stand.
Mrs French said: “They seem to think they can remain members of the Conservatives and stand as independents, but it doesn’t work like that.
"They have been suspended from the party, and they are likely to be stripped of their various committee roles at Fenland District Council because it is done on proportionality.
“They have talked about the ‘Wisbech Mafia’ controlling NECCA and made accusations of bullying, but they are totally untrue.
"I respect their choice to stand as independents, but you cannot be an independent and a Conservative, there are very strict rules about that.
“In the upcoming elections, we will be concentrating on what the Conservatives have achieved for this area, not on personal attacks.
"We are very proud of what we have done, and that’s the Conservatives as a whole and not those individuals, they can’t take personal credit.”
Meanwhile the four are hoping others will join their band of independents.
“It is out intention to attract independent candidates across Fenland and anyone interested should contact us and we will provide help and support,” they said.