Ipswich: Borough Tories to discuss leadership after split in budget debate

Conservative group leader Chris Stewart. Conservative group leader Chris Stewart.

Monday, March 3, 2014
11:29 AM

Opposition Conservatives at Ipswich Council are meeting tonight with the fate of their leader Chris Stewart expected to be top of the agenda.

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Mr Stewart’s leadership of the group came under fire after four of the nine Tories at last week’s meeting of the borough council failed to support an amendment he had proposed to the Labour budget.

And it has emerged the rebellion could have been even greater. Mr Stewart’s deputy Robin Vickery was not at the meeting because he had important business with the Royal British Legion.

However he said he was not happy about the amendment and had told Mr Stewart he would have great difficulty in supporting it.

Members of the group spent the weekend discussing the leadership, and most we have contacted have said they would like to see a change of leadership.

Mr Stewart has said he has no immediate plans to stand down as leader, but his colleagues are known to be discussing whether to propose a motion of no confidence in his leadership.

One said: “There has been talk of changing after May’s elections, but to be honest I think it would be better to do it sooner than that.

“There’s another council meeting in a few weeks and if we go forward with the current leadership they (the Labour administration) will be ready to mock us again.”

There is also concern that unless the group is pulled together in the very near future, there could be an affect on the party’s ability to fight the 2015 general election during which Conservative MP Ben Gummer will be defending a majority of just 2,079.

If Mr Stewart does lose the leadership, Mr Vickery would take over until the election of a new leader, probably a week later after candidates have come forward.

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