THE national Liberal Democrat party has no power to force the local party to put up a candidate against Mike Hancock this year.
And the Lib Dem city council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, refused to be drawn on his knowledge of a deal that Cllr Hancock would quit the cabinet if the party won’t oppose him in May.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It’s a local party issue.’
The deal was agreed at the Portsmouth Lib Dem executive, chaired by Simon Dodd, which is separate to the council group.
But he said inviting Cllr Hancock to Lib Dem group meetings is something the group does for others.
He said: ‘His membership is suspended not revoked.
‘(He’s invited) not as a voting person but as a guest. We do the same for other people as well.
‘We always have done, it’s a long tradition of ours. Candidates and Simon are invited as guests who are not allowed to vote.’
Cllr Hancock was suspended from the Lib Dems on January 24 after a QC’s report detailing allegations of sexual assault was leaked. He strongly denies the allegations.
Cllr Hancock, said the decision not to stand a candidate in Fratton ward was not his.
He said: ‘I will face whatever comes my way, as I’ve always done.
‘I won’t get into an argument with Cllr Eleanor Scott, or anyone.
‘I will fight to hold my seat in Fratton and campaign for the people of Fratton to the best of my ability, as I’ve always done.
‘The people of Fratton know that when they’ve got a problem they know where they can come.
‘I have to say that’s what I’ve always done, and I will continue to do that for as long as they want me.’
Yesterday she called for the national party to impose a candidate against Cllr Hancock in May.
A spokeswoman for the party said: ‘It is the right decision for Mike Hancock to step down from the Portsmouth City Council cabinet while he fights the serious allegations against him in a civil court case.
‘Mike Hancock is suspended from the party while an internal disciplinary process takes place.
‘Decisions about candidate selection in local elections and attendance at group meetings are a matter for local parties and council groups.’