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Political games afoot in the race for next mayor

By UttoxeterPostandTimes.3522974.UttoxeterPostandTimes  |  Posted: February 05, 2014

Conservative Councillors..Julian Mott

Conservative Councillors..Julian Mott

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SHOCKWAVES have been sent through the annuls of politics in East Staffordshire after it was revealed the main opposition group were set put forward their own candidate for mayor of the borough in an unprecedented move.

The Advertiser has learned that the East Staffordshire’s Labour group are preparing to put up their own candidate for the ceremonial role later this year – in a move that breaks with tradition.

Normally, the appointment of the role is taken in turns by the different political parties.

However, this time, despite the position falling to a Conservative, it seems as if the Labour party have decided that they have enough support to push their candidate over the finishing line.

It is thought that the reasoning behind the move comes following the formation of a breakaway protest group from East Staffordshire’s controlling Conservatives last year.

The rebellious ‘gang of four’ - made up of Robert Hardwick, Malcolm Barrett, Nathan Birnie and Peter Ball - quit the Tories to form the East Staffordshire Independent Group following a variety of problems that have never been disclosed to the public.

Due to this, the Conservatives no longer have the majority in the borough with the council now made up of 18 Tories, 16 Labour representatives, one Lib Dem and the new group.

Mr Birnie, spokesman for the group, said: “It is brilliant to hear that the Labour party might be fielding a candidate for mayor.

“The move must come on the back of the knowledge that they have the votes to push the move through.

“I cannot speak for the group in terms of votes but, for me, personally, I would definitely back a Labour candidate - depending on who that candidate is.”

The current mayor is Liberal Democrat Michael Rodgers with David Leese, a Conservative, all set to take over the role later this year after serving for the past 12 months as deputy.

Conservative MP Andrew Griffiths said: “I was very surprised to learn of the news that Labour look set to offer up a candidate for mayor.”

East Staffordshire’s Labour group could not be reached for comment by the Advertiser.

Last year, the Advertiser reported how Labour representatives on the borough council were to hold talks with the Independents.

Despite the traditional differing ideologies between Labour and the Conservatives, Labour group leader Julian Mott said discussions would be held to see if there is any common ground between themselves and the former Tories.

Labour members in the borough sense getting the rebels on side will enhance their chances of gaining power in 2015.

Councillor Mott said: “We want what’s best for East Staffordshire so from that point of view it would be foolish not to speak to them.

“We will look at our manifesto and see if there is anything we have in common.

“If we have shared aspirations about what we want to happen then there is a chance we might be able to out-vote the Conservatives.”

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