‘I felt censured for speaking up’: Ex-Tory leader dropped from 2021 elections leaves party
- Credit: Archant
The former deputy leader of Suffolk County Council has left the Conservatives - just weeks after being dropped as a candidate in next year’s elections.
Jane Storey was among three high-profile Tories - including former leader Colin Noble who was reinstated after an appeal - deselected by the party in October.
But Mrs Storey lost her appeal, and is now planning to contest her seat for Thedwastre North as an Independent councillor in the county elections next May.
She said the decision was not against anyone in particular, but revealed she had felt “censured” for speaking up for villagers in Elmswell and Woolpit over SCC’s controversial Home to School transport policy – which divided parts of her constituency in two. Mrs Storey has represented the area for almost 20 years.
“This has been on my mind for a while,” she said. “There were various reasons for my decision, I’m happy I can follow my conscience now and vote for things that affect my constituents.”
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Mrs Storey said her concerns began to grow in February over policy changes to school transport - which now only provides funded travel to youngsters to their nearest school if it is two miles away or more - adding that “there didn’t seem to be a common-sense option”.
“The fact that I was censured for speaking up for my villagers, that was the beginning, if you like. I think it’s important for a local councillor to be able to do that,” she said.
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“There’s been a lot of things going on that I haven’t been comfortable with, so I thought that now was the time.
She added: “It was more important to me to be able to vote for my constituents rather than what was dictated by the group at the county.”
MORE: Ex-leader Colin Noble wins right to stand as Tory candidate againAlongside Mr Noble and former transport cabinet member Guy McGregor, Mrs Storey was deselected for the 2021 elections by the Bury St Edmunds Constituency Conservative Association (BSECCA) in October.
She lost her district council election in May 2019, as did Mr Noble, when the Conservatives had problems nationwide during the last months of Theresa May’s premiership and rows over Europe.
Mrs Storey said her resignation was not specifically to do with the deselection, but it was one of the factors she took into account.
When asked if she felt there was a campaign against former council leaders, she said: “You might think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.”
Those close to the current SCC leadership said there had been no attempt at a purge of former group leaders and any decisions were taken by local party members.
Paul Rayner, BSECCA chairman, said: “On a personal level, and on behalf of the association, I’d like to thank Jane for all she did during her time as a Conservative councillor.
“BSECCA has selected its candidates for the 2021 Suffolk county elections and intends to contest every seat.”
Matthew Hicks, current leader of the council, said that on a personal note, he was “very sorry” to see Mrs Storey leave the Conservative group.
“Jane was one of the first councillors who I met when I joined Mid Suffolk District Council back in 2011 and has always been a good friend,” he added.
“I want to place on record my thanks to Jane for her many years of service to the residents of Suffolk during her time as a county councillor.”