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Resignation dilemma for Peterborough Tories who insist defecting councillors must face by election

Peterborough Conservatives believe any defecting councillors must resign and face the electorate

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Peterborough Conservative Association is yet to call for a defecting councillor to resign and force a by election – despite their own councillors demanding just six weeks ago that “any MP or councillor that crosses the floor mid-term should call a by election”. The double standards were evident today as it was revealed on the Peterborough City Council website that Cllr Mohammed Rangzeb, elected in Ravensthorpe, Peterborough, in 2022 as a Conservative councillor is now designating himself ‘independent’.

Peterborough Today is reporting that Cllr Rangzeb has resigned from the Conservative Party over its policies on the Israel/Gaza war.

And the paper quoted Cllr Andy Coles, chairman of the Peterborough Conservative Association as saying that Cllr Rangzeb “will still be with us but he will not be a member of the party.

Election count 2022 when Peterborough Conservatives retained control after 19 out of 60 were up for election. Tories had 28 councillors – no change. However, in 2023 and following defections they are, technically, down to 22 with the latest defection although the level of defection is in doubt. PHOTO: Terry Harris

Election count 2022 when Peterborough Conservatives retained control after 19 out of 60 were up for election. Tories had 28 councillors – no change. However, in 2023 and following defections they are, technically, down to 22 with the latest defection although the level of defection is in doubt. PHOTO: Terry Harris

“It’s a very moral, personal view which we have to respect, and it is entirely fair that someone of his character takes a particular view. It’s his decision and we respect that”.

However even if Cllr Rangzeb continues to sit alongside Conservative councillors at Peterborough town hall, and reportedly abide by the decisions of the group, it leaves Peterborough Conservatives facing a dilemma, not least because of a November 1 motion to the city council.

Chief whip outlines defecting councillor principles

At that meeting Cllr Rylan Ray moved a motion to the effect that in local elections in Peterborough and elsewhere the public were able to cast their vote to elect councillors based largely on the political manifestos set out by each candidate and a general belief in the same principles of the party or person they choose to support.

Cllr Ray, of Eye, Thorney and Newborough, is coincidentally the Conservative group’s chief whip and was cabinet advisor to former council leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald (ousted at the same meeting as leader).

Cllr Ray said that, generally, people voted for likeminded people, whether that be for a smaller party candidate or one of the main ones such as Labour, the Liberal Democrats, or the Conservatives.

Election count 2022 when Peterborough Conservatives retained control after 19 out of 60 were up for election. Tories had 28 councillors – no change. However, in 2023 and following defections they are, technically, down to 22 with the latest defection although the level of defection is in doubt. PHOTO: Terry Harris

Election count 2022 when Peterborough Conservatives retained control after 19 out of 60 were up for election. Tories had 28 councillors – no change. However, in 2023 and following defections they are, technically, down to 22 with the latest defection although the level of defection is in doubt. PHOTO: Terry Harris

He said that it was simply not right that once elected, an individual councillor was able to abandon that manifesto and swap to another party or claim to be independent of the party they stood for and the promises they made, without displaying accountability by going back to the public to face a further vote in the ballot box.

Minutes record Tory support for defection by elections 

“He believed it betrayed the trust of the people that voted for them when rather than displaying openness, individuals misled the electorate by standing on a political platform, only to cross the floor within a matter of weeks or months,” records council minutes from that meeting.

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“He asked that the council resolved to write to the city’s MPs, Paul Bristow, and Shailesh Vara, to take the necessary steps in Parliament to gain cross-party support and change the law to state, “any MP or councillor that crosses the floor mid-term should call a by election”.

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald will tonight learn his fate as leader of Peterborough City Council. He expects to be ousted. PHOTO: Terry Harris for CambsNewsOnline

November 1 was also the night Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald was ousted as leader of Peterborough City Council. PHOTO: Terry Harris for CambsNewsOnline

This, he added, would hold elected representatives accountable and would ensure when they stand on a set of policies, funded by those that believe them and are elected by those that support them, they were doing so with honest and selfless intentions.

Undemocratic to cross the floor says Tory chief 

Cllr Steve Allen seconded the motion and made the point that for every member that stood for a political party, people worked on their behalf and money was invested in them as a candidate.

Crossing the floor was undemocratic, he said.

Election count 2022 when Peterborough Conservatives retained control after 19 out of 60 were up for election. Tories had 28 councillors – no change. However, in 2023 and following defections they are, technically, down to 22 with the latest defection although the level of defection is in doubt. PHOTO: Terry Harris

November 1 meeting of Peterborough City when councillors debated motion that “any MP or councillor that crosses the floor mid-term should call a by election”. PHOTO: Terry Harris for CambsNewsOnline

The minutes record that council debated the motion and a summary of the points raised by members included:

  • The comment was made that there had been no calls previously for legislation when members of opposition parties had crossed the floor.
  • There would be a cost for any additional by-elections required.
  • Members spoke about how they felt that their political views or values had not changed but that the parties they represented had or representatives of the parties, they believed, had acted in an unacceptable fashion.

It was also felt that in certain cases the electorate voted for the candidate rather than the party.

The member still represented residents no matter which party was represented.

Cllr Mohammed Rangzeb, elected in Ravensthorpe, Peterborough, in 2022 as a Conservative councillor (4th left) is now designating himself ‘independent’. PHOTO: Terry Harris

Cllr Mohammed Rangzeb, elected in Ravensthorpe, Peterborough, in 2022 as a Conservative councillor (4th left) is now designating himself ‘independent’. PHOTO: Terry Harris

A recorded vote via the electronic voting system was taken on the motion moved by Councillor Ray (19 voting in favour, 32 voting against, 1 abstaining from voting.) The motion was defeated.

The Conservative Party constitution says this: “Candidates for principal local authorities shall be informed, before being selected, that, if elected, they would be obliged to join the Conservative Councillors Association and pay an annual subscription.”

 

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