POLL: Labour says Lib-Dem defector Graham Jones should defend his seat at a by-election. Do you agree?
10:33 16 October 2012
North Norfolk Labour Party members are calling on councillor Graham Jones to follow the advice he has given fellow Liberal-Democrat defectors and contest a by-election after his resignation from the party yesterday.
Mr Jones, 69, has also resigned from the Lib-Dem groups on North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) and Norfolk County Council, intending to remain as an “Independent Liberal Democrat”.
In a statement he said he had become “totally disillusioned with party politics across the political spectrum” but admired North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb and would continue to support him.
Mr Jones, 69, from Antingham, said he had found being a Liberal Democrat during a coalition government including right-wing Conservatives “difficult”. He added: “There are too many millionaires in a closed shop. They don’t know what real life is all about.”
But Denise Burke, chairman of North Norfolk Labour Party, said his resignation was another example of the Lib Dems in disarray.
She added: “Mr Jones says that there are too many that are out-of-touch in government and defends the local MP, yet Norman Lamb has supported those at the top in every single government vote. We believe Graham Jones should follow the advice he and the Lib Dems gave to all party defectors - councillors Rice, Callaby, and Hardy - which was to resign from their seat and fight a by-election.”
Her view is echoed by Lib-Dem county councillor Paul Morse. In his on-line blog Mr Morse says about Mr Jones’ resignation: “I’m quite surprised; whilst he’s thrown his toys out of the pram many times in the five years I’ve known him and knew he was thinking about it, I didn’t think he would go through with it.
“I was his group leader at the county council for three years and found him something of a maverick; full of great intentions and emotion, but not always logical or organised and I’ve known better team players.
“What will his resignation achieve? Picture in the EDP perhaps and the opportunity for the other political tribes to pour some scorn and/or vitriol towards us?
“I wonder if he is going to resign his seat – he quite rightly expected councillors Rice, Callaby and Hardy to do so when they left the party they had belonged to when elected.”
Mr Jones, a Gaunt ward district councillor, said he felt particularly strongly about government moves to cut council-tax benefits which would see 4,000 people in the NNDC area up to £30 per week worse off.
He resigned from an NNDC working party set up to manage the measure this summer claiming he found it repugnant deciding how much benefit people already struggling financially should lose.
In his resignation statement Mr Jones also accused the Conservative administration at County Hall of dragging politics to a new low, claiming leader Derrick Murphy had done incredible damage to the cause of democracy.
He added that the George Nobbs-led Labour party was a shambles.
Mr Nobbs has defended his party in a letter to the EDP. He said that since the 2009 county council elections the Conservatives had gained three seats and lost three, the Greens had gained none and lost one, the Lib Dems had gained none but lost four and Labour had lost none, but gained two - both at the ballot box.
He added: “It’s a strange definition of a ‘shambles’ councillor Jones.”
Mike Brindle, leader of the Liberal-Democrat group at County Hall, said they were disappointed by Mr Jones’ decision to leave the party and knew he had not supported some of the decisions made by the coalition government.
“The reality is that the economic crisis means that tough decisions have to be made at a national level and these will have an impact locally.”
He added: “While we are sad to see that Graham has become a casualty of these decisions, we as local Liberal Democrats remain firmly behind the work of our MPs in government who continue to work tirelessly in influencing strategic decisions at a national level and protecting our society’s most vulnerable.”
Mr Jones, who lives in Antingham, near North Walsham, said he had also resigned as constituency chairman of the North Norfolk Liberal Democrats two months ago.
But he added: “I couldn’t belong to any other party. I am a Liberal Democrat through and through. I believe in liberal democracy.”
He has represented the Gaunt ward on NNDC since 2003 and the Mundesley division on the county council since 2009. He was a member of Suffolk County Council in the 1980s.
Before retirement Mr Jones worked as the East Anglian field sales and marketing executive for the broadcaster Sky.