Green county councillor defects to Conservatives, saying his former party had become too “left wing” and was not respecting country’s will over Brexit
PUBLISHED: 16:25 09 December 2016 | UPDATED: 16:25 09 December 2016
A Green county councillor has defected to the Conservatives, blasting his former party for becoming “increasingly left-wing” and some members not respecting the will of the country over Brexit.
Adrian Dearnley has acknowledged his switch will anger some of those he represents in Norwich’s Thorpe Hamlet division, who he has represented since 2013.
Mr Dearnley said he will not be standing again in next May’s county council elections, but felt he could not continue in the Green party.
In a statement released to explain his defection, Mr Dearnley said: “This has been a difficult decision which will no doubt anger some people and surprise others.
“My original reason for joining the Green Party was a deep concern about climate change and the future of our planet.
“However I have for some time struggled with the direction it has taken, seemingly unable to separate environmental issues from an increasingly left-wing political ideology.
“This is not to say that I don’t have great respect for many Green councillors, who are fully committed, hard-working individuals doing their best for the local community.
“The party’s move towards a far-left position in recent years has, in my view, made it harder to win support from the many voters who do not adhere to this philosophy yet remain very concerned about environmental issues.
“My view has been influenced further by the EU Referendum result and the reaction of many in the national Green Party to the democratically expressed will of the British people.
“They appear to be saying ‘you got it wrong’ over Brexit and seek to either overturn or change the result. This has been further illustrated by recent moves towards forming so-called ‘progressive alliances’ against Brexit – in which the Greens participated in the Richmond by-election by not fielding a candidate.
“Ultimately, whatever one’s views, the decision has been made, and I believe it is vital that politicians rally together to achieve the best outcome for the United Kingdom as we leave the EU. I do not feel I can campaign for a party that seeks to frustrate the mandate of over 17 million voters.
“I am also minded to consider the economy. At times I have been a critic of austerity, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the financial crash.
“However, I now feel we are at a turning point regarding the public finances and the size of the national debt.
“We cannot keep trying to spend our way out of debt by borrowing or printing money and it is our duty to consider not just the current financial position but the one we will pass on to future generations.
“The Conservative government understands this, and whilst taking necessary measures to support the economy, is aware that it should not take irresponsible risks with the country’s long-term stability. I support this view.
“For these reasons I have switched allegiance to the party which I feel is best able to unite the country at this critical moment.”
Conservative leader Cliff Jordan said: “I’m naturally delighted that Adrian has made this decision, which I fully appreciate will not have been an easy one.
Norwich Green Party claim defection is ‘betrayal’
The Norwich Green Party has issued this statement:
“Norwich Green Party and the Norfolk County Council Green group condemn councillor Adrian Dearnley’s decision to defect to the Conservative Party, and in particular his decision to announce this through the press without informing us.
“We were aware that Mr Dearnley had some growing differences of opinion with the Green Party, notably on the EU referendum. If he feels that he can no longer be a member of the party, then that is a decision for him.
“However, we are shocked that Mr Dearnley would choose to throw in his lot with the Conservative Party, which over the last six years has overseen the systematic destruction of local government and the welfare system, left British people poorer and more divided, and shown total disregard for our environment and the urgent need to tackle climate change.
“ocally, too, the Conservatives are the party of environmental destruction, pushing for the King’s Lynn incinerator and ill-thought-out road schemes like the NDR, which the Greens have fought so hard to oppose.
“Most of all, we are appalled by the lack of respect shown by Mr Dearnley both to Thorpe Hamlet residents, who elected a Green councillor to serve them, and to his former colleagues in the Green Party, who feel betrayed and angry that he saw fit to make this decision behind their backs.
“Your Green councillors will continue to work hard to represent you, to challenge the Conservative administration at County Hall and to speak up for the environment and for those hit by cuts.
“We stand in solidarity with the residents of Thorpe Hamlet in the face of this betrayal.
“The work of councillors Lesley Grahame, Ben Price and Jo Henderson in their ward will continue to show them the real face of Green councillors – hardworking, concerned for people and planet, and committed to giving residents a voice.”
“From my point of view, he has been an excellent and conscientious councillor and has shown great integrity in all he has done. He will be a great addition to the Conservative Party and our group on the county council.”
The switch means the political make-up at County Hall, which is controlled by the Conservatives is now: 42 Conservative, 14 Labour, 13 UKIP and Independent, 10 Liberal Democrat, 3 Green, and 2 Non-aligned.
Mr Dearnley’s defection comes almost five years after another Green county councillor for Thorpe Hamlet made the switch to the Conservatives.
In December 2011, Philip Hardy, who was elected to serve Norwich’s Thorpe Hamlet division in 2009, said it has been a “very difficult decision” to make the switch to the ruling Tory group at County Hall.
Mr Hardy, who is now a Conservative South Norfolk district councillor for Newton Flotman, said at the time he changed sides that he had found himself alone on a growing number of issues within the Green Party.