James Page, Tory leader of Lewes District Council until last month, has left the Conservatives and joined the Liberal Democrats. The council now has 19 Conservatives, 19 Lib Dems, 2 Ukip, and an Independent.
Cllr Page says:
I have become very disillusioned with the Conservative party, and impressed with the approach of the local Lib Dems. The Tory ideology of small state seems to have translated locally to small minds, small ideas and a blind obedience to doctrine and party message. By contrast, the Lib Dems have shown that they are genuinely interested in helping people, improving the district and where appropriate transcending politics to that end.
While the Lib Dems have been open-minded and inclusive, the Tories have been tribal and dismissive of alternative ideas to a destructive degree. This behaviour has predictably just escalated to recent event in the blocking of the Business Rates Scheme and even worse in their total disregard of the sovereignty of Full Council by dismissing some focused activity on flood prevention.
It is in the interests of local people that the district council returns to Lib Dem control who will, I know, if given the opportunity work collaboratively for the good of the district, as demonstrated by the great cross party work in Newhaven that has generated more than £22 million of grants and regeneration activity. I hope my decision to change parties will get us to get back on track and overcome the very recent tribal U-turn. I encourage other Conservatives with similar concerns and a true desire to put residents first to follow suit by crossing the floor.
Sarah Osborne, Lib Dem leader on Lewes District Council welcomed Cllr Page’s decision:
I very much welcome James’s decision. I have always recognised that he wanted to do his best for the district, but it was obvious he was increasingly out of step with the Tory group. By contrast, the Lib Dems will welcome his enthusiasm and commitment.
Local MP Norman Baker agreed:
I am delighted that James is joining us. He has always been an independent thinking person with a desire to do his best for the local area. He will be much more at home in the Lib Dems.