Dudley Tories in turmoil

8:30am Thursday 7th February 2013

Exclusive By Bev Holder

EMAILS leaked to the News days after the shock resignation of Dudley’s Conservative party leader show just how much turmoil the borough’s Tories are in.

Councillor Les Jones, former leader of Dudley Council, announced last Friday he was stepping down - the day after the Tories lost another council seat to Labour, in the Wollaston and Stourbridge Town by-election.

The long-serving councillor for Pedmore and Stourbridge East said his decision to resign was not related to the by-election defeat but it comes after a testing 12-months which has seen Dudley returned to Labour control and the Tories hit hard by the deaths of three sitting and popular councillors - Margaret Cowell, Angus Adams and Malcolm Knowles.

He said he decided to call it a day after a whispering campaign against him by certain members of the borough’s Conservative group.

He said: “I tried to address this but it got to a point where it was distracting from our proper job of holding Labour to account.”

And emails leaked to the News show tensions in the party, which had been rising for some time, boiled over following last week’s by-election defeat.

Outspoken former leader of Dudley Council Anne Millward, who lost her seat and top job in May 2011, described the party’s present situation as a “sorry state of affairs”.

In a candid message to all party members and Dudley councillors: “We are no longer a strong opposition, just a group floundering along with no purpose, direction or leadership and no-one has the backbone to say anything about it even though the grumblings and opinions are rife within the group.”

Former Lye councillor Adrian Turner, who lost his council seat last May, also lashed out over the party’s internal affairs, saying the group needed to “start acting professionally instead of like a bunch of amateurs”.

He added: “We want respect from the electorate - it must be earnt.

“Labour have learnt from their bad times, we are no different to what we were in the late 90s. We are in danger of coasting to disaster and returning to just seven or eight councillors like before.”

Cllr Jones described the comments as “unhelpful” and said: “I don’t believe these sort of things should be done on email.”

And he said of the ill-feeling within the party: “Nobody came up to me and said you are not doing your job, they always seemed to be telling me something else – that is the wrong kind of politics.

“I couldn’t see any way of resolving this without giving them a clear opportunity to put it to a vote, I won’t be standing for re-election.

“I made my decision about a month ago, it was a combination of circumstances.”

Stalwart Kingswinford councillor David Blood, shadow finance spokesman for the Conservatives, said: “I’m terribly disappointed that it’s come to losing Les as our leader.”

Senior Tory members including councillors Patrick Harley and Tim Wright are now said to be in the running to take over the top job and a decision is expected on Friday night.

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