Thursday, July 18, 2024

Selection row response

Reporting by James Aldridge, edited by Kennet Radio.

A councillor who accused the Liberal Democrats of unfairness in their MP candidate selection process in Reading is considering running as an Independent.

The Liberal Democrats have recently selected their candidate for the newly formed Reading West & Mid Berkshire MP seat.

Party members voted for Helen Belcher to represent them at the next general election.

But a former Lib Dem councillor has accused the party of being “incompetent or corrupt” during the selection process.

Councillor Adrian Abbs, who was elected as a representative for Newbury Wash Common in May, was hoping to be the Lib Dem candidate for Reading West & Mid Berkshire.

However, Cllr Abbs was excluded from the voting process after he claimed he won the first round of voting.

A spokesperson for the Reading West & Mid Berkshire Liberal Democrats said: “All political parties set rules for candidates applying for selection.

“In Cllr Abbs’ case, he was found to have broken the rules and was therefore disqualified.

“While understandably very disappointing for Cllr. Abbs, all candidates are fully aware of the rules, and having broken them, there was no other option than to disqualify him.”

Cllr Abbs also accused winning candidate Mrs Belcher of speaking of an implicit endorsement by the Lib Dem party headquarters.

In response, Mrs Belcher said: “I never claimed or implied an endorsement from anyone, in accordance with the selection rules.”

Mrs Belcher currently lives in Corsham, Wiltshire, which is around an hour’s drive from Reading. However, she was born in West Reading and grew up in Burghfield Common.

A spokesperson from Liberal Democrat headquarters said: “Candidates are selected by local party members in a process run by independent returning officers.

“Adrian Abbs was disqualified for breaching the selection process rules and his appeal was dismissed.”

Cllr Abbs has since left the Liberal Democrats, becoming an Independent, giving up his role as an executive portfolio holder for climate action, recycling and biodiversity in the process.

He is now considering standing as an Independent candidate for Reading West & Mid Berkshire.