Exclusive by Tom Bristow
Monday, February 4, 2013
Two main candidates emerged last night as the most likely to compete to become the new leader of Norfolk County Council, with a third also refusing to rule herself out of the race.
Following Friday’s day of political drama at County Hall, which ended with the resignation of Derrick Murphy as chairman and leader of the Conservative group, the council’s current interim leader Bill Borrett and its cabinet member for transport Graham Plant, have thrown their names into the hat to take over permanently.
Meanwhile, cabinet member for economic development, Ann Steward, also refused to rule herself out.
Mr Murphy quit as leader and chairman of the Conservatives on the council on Friday after a standards hearing found he had breached the councillor code of conduct by asking a political assistant to lie on his behalf.
He had already stood down from his role as council leader several weeks earlier.
A leadership battle is now likely and last night Mr Plant became the first candidate to put his name forward, claiming he would be a “steady hand at the tiller” as the council grapples with budget cuts of around £125m over three years.
Mr Plant is being backed by two senior Conservatives - cabinet member for children’s services Alison Thomas and former deputy leader Ian Mackie, who stepped down last September as cabinet member for finance.
But current acting leader of the council and the group Bill Borrett is also expected to seek the post full-time.
Cabinet member for economic development Ann Steward also refused to rule herself out of any leadership challenge.
She said she was “very flattered” by suggestions she could replace Mr Murphy but said it was too early to say either way if she would stand.
Mr Murphy declined to back any candidate as his replacement and told the EDP he would now focus on taking up a host of issues raised by Friday’s standards hearing into his behaviour.
For more on this story, see today’s papers.