Long-serving Portsmouth Lib Dem to step down over political rows

Cllr Les Stevens
Cllr Les Stevens
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A LIB DEM councillor under investigation for his role in the probe over Mike Hancock’s conduct has announced he is standing down at the next election.

Cllr Les Stevens says a rise in ‘political mudslinging’ by parties in the city is a big factor in the decision not to defend his seat in Portsmouth’s St Thomas ward in May.

But he insists the criticism he faced for serving on a panel scrutinising the conduct of Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock last year is not one of reasons.

Cllr Stevens, who has served on the council for 12 years, said the last meeting of all members was the final straw after there was a lengthy debate about the Holocaust which had nothing to do with current issues in the city.

A row surfaced over Ukip leader Nigel Farage having formed an alliance in Europe with a man with controversial views on the Jewish genocide.

Cllr Stevens, who has served on the council for 12 years, said he had considered stepping down for a while but recent council behaviour had helped to make up his mind.

‘The political mudslinging has sunk to a new low lately – it’s a farce,’ he said.

‘I was sat there in the council chamber listening to everyone have a go at each other and I just thought; “what is this all about?”

‘We were meant to be sitting there doing council business.

‘After 12 years, I have had enough and I want to spend my time on other 
things.’

Cllr Stevens is to face an investigation by a complaints panel after admitting to The News: ‘I am protecting Mike Hancock because I am his friend’ in January this 
year.

Councillors will decide whether Cllr Stevens was not impartial during the probe into whether Mr Hancock acted inappropriately and if his comment is a breach of the council’s code of 
conduct.

Yet Cllr Stevens insists his remark was taken the wrong way and he was instead protecting Mr Hancock’s right to a fair hearing.

At the time a High Court case was pending against the MP over his behaviour towards a constituent.

He later went on to apologise for his actions.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem group leader, said he hopes Cllr Stevens will think again.

‘I regret his decision and I hope he will reconsider,’ he said.

‘He has worked hard as a councillor and done a good job.’

Cllr Donna Jones, Tory leader of the council, said: ‘Regardless of someone’s political affiliation, it’s always a loss when Portsmouth loses experienced members of the council.’