Conservative councillors in Kenton beat Brondesbury Park rivals to be named as the opposition party in Brent
- Credit: Archant
Labour councillors have been thrown into confusion after they were forced to vote either Kenton councillors or Brondesbury Park councillors as their main opposition party.
The issue dominated Brent Council’s first annual meeting at the Brent Civic Centre in Engineers Way, yesterday, intended to celebrate Cllr Lesley Jones as the new Mayor of Brent.
Cllr Butt, leader of the council, refused to enter the “internal squabble” that has been building up between the two conservative groups by re-electing Kenton’s Cllr Suresh Kansagra as his opposition leader, over the Conservative Party choice of leader Cllr John Warren, who represents Brondesbury Park.
He said: “Their internal squabbles are no concern of ours. We will be supporting Kenton as the official opposition.”
He added he did “not take advice from Conservative central office”.
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In a council the second largest group acts as the opposition but the six councillors voted in as Conservatives by the public in 2014 split shortly afterwards.
In a whirlwind of recent events, the Conservative Party called an AGM on May 13, which the Kenton councillors did not attend and where Cllr Warren was endorsed as leader of a new Brent Conservative Group with Cllr Shaw as deputy leader.
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They have since been threatened with expulsion if they do not join the new group.
In what was described as “unedifying” and “a Punch and Judy” show by Labour councillors, the two groups publicly appealed to Cllr Butt to choose one of them as leader.
Cllr Warren read out an email from the Conservative Party he had received that morning.
He said: “I quote: ‘The Conservative Party recognises the group led by Cllr John Warren. No other group is permitted to use the party name or emblem.’
He continued: “So when we talk about the principle opposition party it’s pretty clear to me that my group is the main opposition party and any other decision would be a completely perverse decision. I’m not making an argument, central office is telling you. Are you going to ignore the wishes of my party?”
As all 56 labour councillors voted in favour of Kenton councillors, the borough’s sole Liberal Democrat, Mapesbury’s Cllr Helen Carr, voted for Cllr Warren, questioning the legality of what was happening. “If central office says Cllr Warren is the leader of the group, shouldn’t his group be the opposition?”
Following the vote Cllr Warren said: “We have now got the Kenton branch in the Labour Party. The fact that Butt dismissed the central office was appalling.”
Cllr Michael Pavey, deputy leader of the council, said a constitution committee will review the situation next week adding: “Only a vote by full council or a change in the number of members in either Tory group can change this.”