Councillor declares independence from Conservative Party instead of Europe

A second Medway councillor has resigned from their party to sit as an independent for the remainder of their term. Councillor Anne-Claire Howard, who represents Twydall, has quit the Conservative party after failing to be reselected to stand for the party in upcoming local elections.

This move won’t be entirely surprising to followers of local politics. Cllr Howard has long been one of the more outspoken members of the Conservative group, regularly criticising the stance of the party on Brexit as well as the actions of other councillors in the chamber.

Councillor Howard has issued this fairly damning statement:

On 1st November I resigned as a Member of the Conservative Party. I will remain as an Independent Councillor for Twydall Ward until the May 2019 elections, having no wish to trigger an unnecessary and costly by-election with only 6 months left to serve. I have represented the residents of Twydall to the best of my abilities over the past 3 and a half years and I look forward to continuing so until the elections working alongside Council Officers and other Councillors.

Many know I have been unhappy with the direction of the Conservative Party since the EU referendum, and the catalyst for my decision to leave was being deselected by the Gillingham & Rainham Conservative Association. The reasons given for my deselection were ‘poor attendance to meetings and a failure to actively campaign with the Party’. During this time, I went through two pregnancies and became the CEO of an international company. This was felt to offer no mitigating circumstances. I believe this sends a negative message to all working mothers, a demographic that the Conservative Party says it wants to encourage into politics. Despite my busy personal and working life, I have always made the residents of Twydall my priority.

The Conservative Party I joined was one of equal opportunity, a party that cared for the young, cared for the NHS, wanted each individual to have the best opportunities. Today this party has become one of division, extremes, where hard-liners steer the country on a path toward isolation; a party that would model this country on America where healthcare is accessible only to the few, where children services are decimated, where the older generations are viewed as more important than the young simply because they are the heart of their electorate. This is felt both at the national and local level.

Forward-looking Conservatives keep being shut down. But we need to bring back the responsible and compassionate Party which has all but disappeared as Brexit has taken centre stage. As a European national, a woman and a mother, I cannot in remain a member of the Conservative Party as it stands today.

Councillor Anne-Claire Howard

It’s interesting that the local Conservative association have cited ‘poor attendance to meetings’ as one of reasons for deselection. As our upcoming piece looking councillor attendance will reveal, at least four of her Conservative colleagues from Gillingham and Rainham have a worse record for attending meetings. As such, it’s difficult to see any logic in this decision beyond the fact the association wanted to remove her for our outspoken views on Brexit and other matters. It wouldn’t be the first time a Medway Conservative association deselected a sitting councillor for speaking publicly against the party line. The decision becomes even more baffling when one considers that Cllr Howard is the only Conservative to win a seat in Twydall since the creation of Medway Council.

Cllr Howard’s decision to sit as an independent comes days after Cllr Pendergast of UKIP chose the same thing. Could this be the start of an independent wave in Medway? Did Cllr Howard make the right decision? Could local politics function better without the influence of political parties? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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