Plymouth ‘Independent’ group may emerge following Tory chaos 

Nationally Conservatives are disintegrating, now it looks like the same is happening locally. – Owl

Plymouth City Council’s Conservative group is set to undergo yet more losses following on from the suspension – and deselection – of its former leader, Nick Kelly. Saturday night saw news that the former leader of the council – who was ousted from his position in March this year following a vote of no confidence – had been suspended by his own group following claims of “several serious and different complaints and allegations”.

Carl Eve www.plymouthherald.co.uk 

The Plymouth Conservative Group released a statement saying that allegations had been made formally to its Group Executive team and it confirmed Cllr Kelly, who represents Compton ward, had been “suspended from Plymouth City Council Conservative Group, pending all necessary investigations.”

However, Cllr Kelly took to his Facebook page to reveal that he had undergone the selection interview process with the Approvals Panel on Saturday and had been informed that he would not be selected to stand as a Conservative in his own ward at the next local election in May 2023. Cllr Kelly said he was “extremely disappointed that the local Conservative Party have deemed that I am not fit to represent the party” at the forthcoming election.

Read next: PM Liz Truss ‘laughed’ as she sacked Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer

PlymouthLive has learned that Cllr Kelly wrote to the Conservative group following his ‘deselection’ and then suspension, saying he was resigning his position. Since then there have been a number of claims circulating which suggest he is looking to create an ‘Independent Alliance’ with other Independent Plymouth councillors. Sources have told PlymouthLive at least three councillors are in talks about forming a new group.

In addition, PlymouthLive has now heard from three sources who have stated that a second Conservative councillor – Cllr Patrick Nicholson – who represents the Plympton St Mary ward – has also not been selected to run as a Conservative at the next election. It is understood that Cllr Nicholson aims to appeal the decision.

Mr Nicholson has been contacted to confirm this information.

PlymouthLive has also had sight of an emailed response from Cllr Kelly to Conservative Group Chief Whip Cllr Pat Patel, (St Budeaux ward) who had informed the former leader he was being suspended pending an investigation over “a number of complaints”. In his strongly worded reply, Cllr Kelly wrote asking him him to explain under which rule of the “Plymouth City Council Conservative Group Rules” he had been suspended and “the specific reason/s for this suspension.”

He argued that in his opinion the “professional way to conduct such an act” would have been to adhere the the group rules, ensuring that it was only the “Group Leader who has the ability to suspend a member.”

He added: “To make unfounded allegations, without any specific details, and circulate these to the media is quite dangerous from a defamation point of view.”

He went on to make a number of allegations regarding Cllr Patel and pointed out that he “formally resigned from the Conservative Group on the 15th October 2022.”

Cllr Kelly’s deselection and suspension has drawn the ire of other former councillors who were themselves told they would not be selected to represent the party at the next local election..

Dave Downie wrote on Cllr Kelly’s official Facebook page: “The best most forward-thinking and innovative leader this council has had for a long time. Stabbed in the back by a clique who will not have the courage to explain why this decision was taken. A complete disgrace. Conservative politics in Plymouth are being dictated by a group of non-accountable, unelectable idiots who are not acting in the best interests of the city. They only want ‘their people’ front and centre. If you dare challenge them, you are not approved to stand for election again. Things must change. Party politics is over.”

Similarly, former Lord Mayor Cllr Terri Beer, who left the Conservative group earlier this year but who has continued her role as ward councillor for Plympton Erle Ward as an independent, wrote: “You are such an amazing Councillor Nick. This is what unelected people do to hardworking councillors. Conservatives self-destruction. Vote Independent in May.”

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