Another Tory faces party action
By Liz HearnshawA SECOND Conservative councillor could be barred from standing for re-election under the Tory banner after refusing to sign a loyalty contract pledging to toe the party line.
By Liz Hearnshaw
A SECOND Conservative councillor could be barred from standing for re-election under the Tory banner after refusing to sign a loyalty contract pledging to toe the party line.
Robert Newman, who serves The Rows ward as a Conservative member of Forest Heath District Council, said yesterday he had been left in limbo after declining to sign the document, which demands loyalty to the group, party and leader at all times.
Mr Newman said the contract, which also asks Conservatives to accept the party whip and support the Tory MP, would compromise his position with the electorate and make it more difficult to support the people whom he was elected to serve.
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“The Conservatives have not rejected me yet, but I have made it quite clear to them that I will not sign this form,” said Mr Newman.
“I think the public are entitled to know that the Conservatives expect councillors to stick to principles rather than defending the views of the public.
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“But when I stood as a candidate, I stood for the people. I'm not here because the Conservatives put me here.”
The West Suffolk Conservative Association, which has already barred fellow councillor Terry Mills from standing in the May council elections as a Tory after he refused to sign the contract, said a final decision had yet to be taken on Mr Newman's future with the group.
Association chairman Peter Merrick said: “We are trying to keep Robert Newman on board because we value him very much as a local councillor, as well as all the hard work he has put in.
“It would be very difficult for someone to stand for the Conservative group without signing a form. It is really a party allegiance form and only two out of 40 members at the moment have had any difficulties with it.
“I think some people are reading more into it than was really intended. This is something which has been adopted nationally, as we do expect people to support the leader.”
Mr Mills was told he could no longer stand as a Conservative six weeks ago and has since criticised the political group for wasting public money and attempting to gag its members.
“There is no truer Conservative than Robert and I, and it seems like the group have lost the plot big time,” he said.
“I think it is because we are quite outspoken and refuse to waste money on the council, whereas I think the other councillors just enjoy spending the ratepayers' money.
“To sign a document would have curtailed our freedom to voice our opinion. This should be about principles over politics.”
A meeting between the West Suffolk Conservative Association and the Local Government Advisory Committee will be held tonight to decide Mr Newman's future within the group.