Portsmouth councillor who quit Labour would have been ‘expelled anyway’ for promoting Lib Dems

Cllr Aiden Gray
Cllr Aiden Gray
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A COUNCILLOR who recently quit the Labour Party has defended his decision to back the Lib Dems going into tomorrow’s local elections.

Cllr Aiden Gray announced his resignation from Labour on Twitter as he believes the party no longer ‘speaks’ for him. He has also decided to stand down at tomorrow’s local council election and not defend his Cosham ward seat.

But he’s come under fire for featuring in pro-Lib Dem party leaflets, where he’s quoted as saying that the electorate should vote Lib Dem in order to remove the Conservatives from power.

And Labour Party’s national headquarters say Cllr Gray would have been ‘expelled’ from the party if he had chosen to campaign for another party, if he had not already chosen to resign.

In a letter criticising Cllr Gray’s actions to the party’s national leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour supporter Alan Cooper said: ‘I am angry to have received a letter from Aiden Gray, deputy leader of the Portsmouth Labour group, urging me to vote Lib Dem in tomorrow’s local elections.

This seems to be a complete abrogation of the party’s duty to mount a credible political argument and to seek political power. I would be interested to hear whether Mr Gray’s letter, incidentally, published by the Lib Dems, has the backing of the Labour Party nationally.’

A Labour south-east spokesman replied: ‘The Labour Party was not aware of it and of course does not condone the sentiments expressed by Councillor Gray.

‘Campaigning on behalf of another party or advocating supporting an opposition candidate is an automatic expellable offence within the Labour Party. If Mr Gray had not resigned he would have been expelled.’

It comes despite Tory council leader Donna Jones revealing Cllr Gray visited her to ‘eat crumpets’ while discussing a possible move to her party.

But Cllr Gray said: ‘The leaflet is promoted and printed by the Liberal Democrat party.

‘I was happy to endorse a few candidates from both Labour and the Lib Dems.

‘I have no intention of joining another party. No party has my full confidence.

‘The leaflet was down to the Lib Dems. It’s a letter that’s been put out because I whole-heartedly back the sentiment that were trying to stop a Conservative administration.’

He added: ‘I had no hand in the design or layout. But I was happy to endorse these candidates and happy with the wording.’

Portsmouth Labour group leader, Cllr John Ferrett, believes Cllr Gray’s actions have ‘undermined’ the Labour Party.

Cllr Ferrett said: ‘Clearly, it’s going to undermine the party and undermine those candidates in areas where these leaflets have bene issued.

‘But this is not unexpected from the Lib Dems. This is the way the Lib Dems campaign.’

But defending Cllr Gray, Lib Dem Ben Dowling said: ‘It has got a red border but it’s also got a very, very clear election imprint, published by us. It’s very much from Aiden Gray.

‘When it was printed early last week he was still a Labour councillor and deputy leader of the labour group.’

He added: ‘For a councillor to air his view about who he thinks best represents an area is not underhand.

‘In fact, it’s very honest.’

Cllr Dowling said he was perfectly comfortable with the leaflets which he said were sent out before the Bank Holiday. Cllr Gray resigned on Saturday.

Cllr Gray was elected as a Lib Dem in 2012 in Cosham, before he quit the party and joined Labour six months later.

It prompted calls for a by-election to be held in the ward, though one was never held.