Former Merton Tories Defect To UKIP

Call for by-elections after Councillors move parties

Former top Merton Conservatives Richard Hilton and Suzanne Evans have defected to UKIP.

The announcement follows a period of turmoil for the local Tories in which four Councillors resigned from their group within a week of electing their third leader inside two months.

Last week a fifth Councillor was suspended from the Conservative Party and had the Group whip removed from him.

Councillor Suzanne Evans, who represents the Wimbledon Hillside ward, and Councillor Richard Hilton (Lower Morden), have now announced that they have joined UKIP.

Councillor Evans (left) said she and Councillor Hilton resigned from the Conservative whip, on principle, in protest at the "unacceptable" way they felt some of the Tory Councillors were behaving.

She added: "Since then, we have both spoken personally with Nigel Farage and have been impressed with his plain speaking and 'common touch.' 

"We've also had chance to explore UKIP's ideas in more detail and have come to the firm conclusion that Merton residents would be far better off were his party running the Council. After discussions over the weekend, we have therefore decided to join UKIP. Comments about 'swivel-eyed loons' were really the final straw."

Councillor Hilton (left), who was the Tory group leader from mid-March to earlier this month as well as acting chair of the local Tory Association, told today's Daily Telegraph that the much-reported comment about Conservative activists being "loons" was the "final straw".

Councillor Hilton, who was also interviewed by Sky TV about his defection to UKIP, added that the comment demonstrated "the arrogance and the attitude of the liberal elite that runs the Tory party nowadays".

But the local Green Party has called for by-elections in their wards. Spokesman Dominik Leeson said they had shown "no respect" to their constituents and said they now had no democratic mandate to represent their wards.

He added: "UKIP may have had a surge of support since 2010 outside of London, however, as we live in a democratic country, it is the decision that we as residents can make next year. It is not a decision career politicians can make to fulfil their own self-centred ambitions.

"The Merton Green Party will campaign to keep out UKIP from our local council, as their views, albeit their views on immigration, or on economics goes against the very diversity of our borough, and would increase hardship amongst hard working families in Merton."

They have started a petition calling for a by-election. The link is: here.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Group on Merton Council have announced a new Shadow Cabinet as follows:

Oonagh Moulton – Leader of the Opposition
Suzanne Grocott - Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance
James Holmes - Shadow Cabinet Member for Education and Young People
Henry Nelless - Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Engagement
David Simpson - Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement
Samantha George - Shadow Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Housing
John Bowcott - Shadow Cabinet Member for Planning and Regeneration
Debbie Shears - Shadow Cabinet Member for Health and Older People
Janice Howard - Shadow Cabinet Member for Environment
Miles Windsor - Shadow Cabinet Member for Transport.

Councillor Oonagh Moulton, who replaced Councillor Hilton as Leader earlier this month, said: "I am delighted to announce a Shadow Cabinet which reflects the experience and multi-talented skills of our Conservative Group on Merton Council.

"This provides a strong team that will enable us to focus on our Conservative agenda of better value for money and improved services for the residents we serve. I am confident that this winning team can lead our Group to victory in the local government elections in 2014."

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May 17, 2013