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Ipswich: Borough’s Conservatives appoint new leader following rebellion

PUBLISHED: 08:25 05 March 2014 | UPDATED: 08:25 05 March 2014

The new Conservative group leader Liz Harsant

The new Conservative group leader Liz Harsant

Archant

Conservatives at Ipswich Borough Council have appointed a new “caretaker leader” after their predecessor came under fire for proposing a controversial budget amendment.

Liz Harsant was voted in as Chris Stewart’s replacement at Monday’s group meeting, taking the opposition leadership on a temporary basis until the Conservatives’ AGM in June.

Despite the rebellion that mounted against Mr Stewart’s leadership, Mrs Harsant said the meeting was “amicable” and her predecessor “stood down very gracefully”.

The former leader’s proposed amendments at last week’s budget meeting had opened a rift in the party after only four of his nine colleagues voted in support of the motion, exposing the Conservatives to ridicule from the Labour majority.

Mrs Harsant plans to draw a line under the party feuding and focus on gaining more Conservative seats during May’s local elections.

“My plan is to pull the party together at the upcoming local and European elections,” she said.

“We’ve got a lot to offer and a couple of seats we’re looking to take.”

Mrs Harsant, the ward-holder for Holywells, said Mr Stewart would be continuing as a councillor and praised his work with the party during a “very difficult time”.

“He still has an awful lot to offer,” she said.

“He has given a lot to the party and took on the role in early February last year at a particularly difficult time.”

Mrs Harsant has appointed Nadia Cenci, one of the ward-holders for Stoke Park, as her deputy leader.

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Witham MP Priti Patel faced questions over the prospect of a possible Cabinet return this morning in her first broadcast interview since quitting over her secret meetings with senior Israeli figures last year.

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