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Bridlington Tory Councillor Defects to Reform UK

An East Riding councillor has defected to Reform UK, saying the Conservatives lack a plan nationally and are becoming fractured with division.

Bridlington Central and Old Town’s Cllr Maria Bowtell said she decided to join the right wing Reform UK after looking at and agreeing with their policies.

The councillor added her defection was not a reflection on the East Riding Conservative group but was related to the situation nationally.

A Conservative group spokesperson said they were disappointed by the move and believed in having principled politicians speaking for their residents

Cllr Bowtell’s defection comes after she held Bridlington Central and Old Town for the Conservatives in May’s local elections.

She succeeded former group leader Richard Burton who stood down.

The Bridlington councillor told LDRS she had nothing but respect for her former East Riding Conservative colleagues.

She added she was fed up with two party politics and looked forward to the freedom of operating more freely as a Reform UK councillor.

Cllr Bowtell said:

“I’ll continue to work as a councillor but as a party of one without a whip, but my ward work and beliefs haven’t changed.

“The Conservative party has fractured into left and right wing opinions, I don’t see any plan or integrity in the national party.

“I can’t be aligned with a party that is scared of the truth, I’ve read Reform UK’s Contract With You and I would say I support that.

“Every Conservative is an individual and this is a reflection of my choice to move to a party that I feel has the principles that I have.

“Nationally the Conservatives have their five targets and they don’t seem to be reaching those, otherwise I fail to see a plan.”

The Conservative group spokesperson said their group would continue to work for local people.

The spokesperson said:

“We are disappointed by the decision of Cllr Bowtell.

“We firmly believe in principled politicians who respect the views and wishes of their residents.

“As councillors elected by our residents as Conservatives, we will continue to work hard to address the issues from fixing the roads to delivering good social care for our loved ones; whilst also delivering on our devolution ambitions to secure more jobs and more funding for our region.”

Cllr Bowtell’s defection marks the first time that Reform UK has been represented on East Riding Council.

It leaves the Conservatives, who currently run the council as a minority administration with support from the Independent group, with 28 councillors.

It follows a number of other defections to the party from Conservatives in recent years, including Barry Gwilt of Lichfield District Council who joined in January 2023.

Reform UK won six council seats in local elections last year and currently has eight other councillors across the country’s councils.

Cllr Bowtell’s defection also comes as Reform UK leader Richard Tice said he turned down two Conservative MPs who applied to defect to the party.

He has also had talks with Lee Anderson who was suspended from the Conservative parliamentary party following comments claiming London Mayor Sadiq Khan is controlled by Islamists.

The comments have been widely condemned and the Metropolitan Police is currently investigating a report of hate speech in connection with them.

Reform UK began life as The Brexit Party which was founded by Nigel Farage and Catherine Blaiklock in 2018.

It formed from a split from UKIP and it is currently led by Mr Tice.

Its draft Contract With You states that it stands up for British values and is against multiculturalism and ‘woke ideology’.

The party also opposes the Northern Ireland Protocol which left that part of the UK in the EU single market in order to resolve post-Brexit trade issues.

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