Election 2021: Could former Tories deny their party victory in three Suffolk seats?

Jane Storey

Former council chair Jane Storey is standing as an independent in May's County Council election. - Credit: Gregg Brown

The publication of the list of candidates for next month's local council elections has produced some potentially fascinating contests in some parts of Suffolk.

Two former chairs of Suffolk County Council are standing as Independents against official Conservative candidates in their current divisions - potentially splitting the vote.

Guy McGregor

Former county council chairman Guy McGregor. - Credit: Any Abbott

Tory party bosses are not too worried about Guy McGregor's decision to stand as an Independent in the Hoxne and Eye Division - that has been solidly Conservative since 2001 and while Mr McGregor is well known, the official Conservative candidate Peter Gould is a cabinet member at Mid Suffolk and is well known in the area.

The Liberal Democrat and Labour parties did not do well here last time.

Jane Storey, who as well as being a former chair of the council is also its former deputy leader, was deselected by the Conservatives in the Thedwastre North division - which includes Elmswell, Thurston, Bacton and Woopit - in favour of another Mid Suffolk cabinet member Harry Richardson.

However, here the Green candidate is another Mid Suffolk councillor, Andy Mellen, who has become well-known in the area. Mrs Storey's decision to contest the seat against Mr Richardson has left many Conservatives worried that a split vote could let the Green Party win here.

There are also fears of a party split costing the Conservatives the Hadleigh division which has changed hands between the Tories and Liberal Democrats three times in the last eight years.

In 2013 Conservative Brian Riley won the seat after long-serving Lib Dem David Grutchfield retired.

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Mr Riley then caused controversy by emigrating to the US without giving up his seat. Eventually he had to step down after failing to attend a meeting in a six-month period - and Trevor Sheldrick won it back for the Lib Dems in a by-election.

In 2017 Mick Fraser won the seat back for the Conservatives - but now he is being challenged by Independent Kathryn Grandon who was a Tory before she was deselected by the Tories before the Babergh elections in 2019.

Kathryn Grandon

Babergh chair Kathryn Grandon is contesting the Hadleigh division as an independent. - Credit: Babergh Council

She stood as an Independent in those elections, and beat the official Conservative to retain her council seat. She is now Babergh Chair.

Mr Fraser, who had a majority of 52 (2.4%) over Mr Sheldrick in 2017, will be facing tough opponents on two fronts as Mr Sheldrick, a former Hadleigh Mayor, is standing again. The split in Conservatives must give the LibDems a strong chance in Hadleigh.