An extraordinary row has erupted in former prime minister Liz Truss' constituency with the Conservatives accused of "petty party politics".

The accusation was made against Tory-controlled Breckland Council after it denied its Labour vice chairman the chairmanship.

Terry Jermy, who would traditionally have been elected to the key council role after his stint as vice chairman, said he missed out because he was standing as the Labour MP candidate against Liz Truss.

Labour councillors have accused the Tories of "tearing up tradition" after Keith Gilbert, an independent, was elected in the role, which Mr Jermy said was because of Conservative fears about giving him "publicity" in his General Election campaign.

Mr Jermy was instead re-elected as vice chairman.

Conservative members have argued that Mr Jermy would not have been suitable for the job - as they claim he would have shown political bias when presiding over meetings of the council.

Other members, however, have come out in support of Mr Jermy.

Roger Atterwill, leader of the Independent and Green group, said that he was "not aware that this has ever happened before" and added that "it is petty party politics".

Eastern Daily Press: Breckland councillor Terry JermyBreckland councillor Terry Jermy (Image: Submitted)

WHAT IS THE DIPSUTE ABOUT?

The row broke out after Breckland Council's annual meeting saw Keith Gilbert, an independent member, elected as chairman.

The vice chairman of the council is usually elected as chairman at the end of their term, with Mr Jermy expecting to step into the role.

However, the Conservative-run council opted to select Mr Gilbert in an unusual move, with the new chairman himself saying it had "come out of the blue".

"I didn't see this coming," Mr Gilbert added. "I'm totally unprepared for this."

Mr Jermy said: "I am naturally disappointed to not take up the role of chairman. I care passionately about the area and would have liked the opportunity to serve in the role.

"I think this is further evidence that the contest in South West Norfolk is closer than many predicted. The clear tradition is for the vice chairman to become the chairman but that did not happen on this occasion and I am sad to think tradition has been the victim of party politics."

He added: "I am genuinely happy for Keith Gilbert - I know he'll do a great job."

He voted in favour of Mr Gilbert becoming the new chairman along with his fellow councillors.

WHAT DO OTHER COUNCILLORS SAY?

Conservative members have argued that Mr Jermy would not have been suitable for the job of chairman as they believe the role should be held without political bias. The chairman presides over meetings of the council and attends events as its representative.

Paul Claussen, Conservative councillor for Mattishall ward, said: "It's impossible to say that he was going to be apolitical in light of the General Election.

"You have to be there to serve the whole council - it's that simple. We wanted Mr Jermy to be chairman but he had made this political choice to stand as a parliamentary candidate."

However, opposition groups on the council claim that the Tories have unnecessarily thrown out a long-held tradition.

Roger Atterwill, the leader of the Independent and Green group, added: "I'm not aware that this has ever happened before.

"It is petty party politics - the Conservatives have still got the hump that Mr Jermy has the audacity to stand against Liz Truss."

Eastern Daily Press: Labour councillor Terry LandLabour councillor Terry Land (Image: Newsquest)

Terry Land, a Labour councillor, added: "I was appalled at the treatment of Terry Jermy.

"He is a popular and good humoured member of the council who has behaved impeccably as vice chair, meaning the decision by the Conservative majority feels shoddy and partisan.

"The Tories often talk about tradition when it suits - but appear fully ready to tear it all up at the first inconvenience."

Liz Truss was reselected to fight the South West Norfolk seat more than a year ago, following her brief stint as prime minister which saw her resign after just 44 days in office - the shortest premiership in British history.

READ MORE: Labour's Terry Jermy says Liz Truss book blitz brought boost

Eastern Daily Press: Conservative MP Liz TrussConservative MP Liz Truss (Image: Newsquest)

WHO ELSE IS STANDING AGAINST LIZ TRUSS?

Mr Jermy, who also represents Thetford West at Norfolk County Council, is hoping to take the South West Norfolk seat from Conservative Ms Truss, who has held it since 2010.

Former Norfolk high sheriff James Bagge is also standing against Ms Truss. He was a member of the so-called 'Turnip Taliban' which had opposed her selection as Tory candidate in 2009 and is running as an independent candidate.

Ms Truss has increased her majority each year since she was first elected in 2010. In the last general election, in 2019, she took 69pc of the vote, with a majority of 26,000 plus, well clear of second-placed Labour.

However, Labour candidate Mr Jermy said he has noticed a "sudden surge of support" in his campaign - following Ms Truss' publicity campaign for her memoir Ten Years To Save The West, which details her brief stint in Downing Street.

He said Ms Truss' media appearances in the UK and USA had helped swell his election fundraising pot to its £5,000 target.