Two Conservative Councillors Turn Independent at Central Bedfordshire

  • Two Conservative Councillors have decided they can no longer 'tow the party line' at Central Bedfordshire Council. 
  • Cllr Steven Watkins (Biggleswade North) and Cllr Nicola Harris (Stotfold, Langford, Fairfield & Astwick), have decided to continue serving their residents on the Council until the next elections as Independents.

On Saturday, 18 December, Cllr Steven Watkins declared, “I’m very disappointed and upset to have left the Conservative group on Central Bedfordshire Council.
“I’ve been a member of the Tory Party since I was sixteen and always supported them locally and nationally.
“I’ve been increasing vocal in cabinet about the poor performance of some of my colleagues. My view was that I should be able to do this privately. If not then, when? 
“I am a Biggleswade man through and through, but we have seen this council let us down with dodgy developer deals, allowing more housing than we can accept, a lack of progress on a health hub, with GP appointments a rarity and a lack of a plan for our town apart from more housing.
“The leader thought my insolence was too much to bear and suggested I ‘resign’ from cabinet, abstain from votes on policies I didn’t agree with and perhaps disappear to the toilet for votes on issues I couldn’t stomach. 
“There was only one answer to that: get stuffed.
“If anyone thinks it’s an ego trip, I must say that in reality my political career is over. I sit as an independent until 2023 when I need to decide if I stand again.
‘You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?’

On Sunday, 19 December, Cllr Nicola Harris stated, “Following much consideration I resigned from the Conservative party as of 28th November 2021.
“I will continue to work as your local councillor, as an Independent councillor without any affiliation to a political party.
“Cllr Steven Watkins for North Biggleswade also left the Conservative party since my departure and has released his own statement explaining his reasons.
 “Acting as an Independent allows me to address your concerns and issues as always, but without the restrictions and limits placed upon me by a political party. “The phrase ‘toeing the party line’ is commonly used and unfortunately is a very accurate way to describe what is currently expected of a party member. 
“A Conservative councillor is expected and required to vote with the party on any matters even if they feel it is not in the interest of the local community. Simply put, the party puts self interest ahead of anything else, and this is not something I can agree to. 
“Within the local Conservative group, this culture means an elected representative is penalised if they do not tow the party line, even if they do not agree with it. This is clearly not in the best interest of the local community. 
“Neither is this what democracy is about, and the party I was once proud to represent has become an embarrassment. 
“The national Conservative party is antiquated and has lost sight of its core values, and in the shambolic handling of the pandemic a 'one rule for us' culture without any accountability, has been created.
“I am now free to continue as a councillor, but without party restrictions taking precedent over what is most important - addressing the needs and concerns of the local community.
“I would like to thank you for your ongoing support, and I look forward to working on behalf of you all, as an Independent Councillor.
Cllr Nicola Harris
Ward Councillor for Stotfold, Langford, Fairfield & Astwick”

Private Eye News earlier this month. See our story last week

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