CALLS have been made for a by-election after a senior Ukip councillor defected to the Conservatives.
Chris Wood, who led his former party’s group on both Hampshire County Council and Fareham Borough Council announced his defection to the Conservatives on both councils stating recent events – including the altercation between MEPs Steven Woolfe and Mike Hookem – had led Ukip to become ‘toxic’.
He should have stayed and fought his cornerCouncillor Shaun Cunningham
Cllr Wood was previously a member of the Tories before standing as a Ukip councillor for Hampshire in 2013 and Fareham in 2014.
His defection has now led to calls for a by-election for his Stubbington and Fareham Crofton seats to take place.
Cllr Colin Galloway, who leads the Ukip group on Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘There should absolutely be a by-election after this.
‘As he was elected by residents as a Ukip councillor, then there should be a by-election to see if he would retain his seat as a Tory.’
Cllr Galloway added that Mr Wood’s departure was ‘a big loss’ to the party.
Cllr Shaun Cunningham, who represents the Liberal Democrats on Fareham Borough Council said: ‘He should seek a mandate to serve Stubbington as a Conservative councillor.
‘It’s disappointing to see him leave Ukip as it will just make it harder for the opposition now. He should have stayed and fought his corner.’
The borough council is now made up of 25 Tories, four Liberal Democrats, one Ukip and one independent.
Cllr Wood said in a statement: ‘I joined Ukip because I wanted the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and I am incredibly proud of the role that we have all played in securing this momentous achievement.
‘Many residents will recognise that I am and always have been a Conservative. I’ve not taken this decision lightly, there are many good and decent people in Ukip who I regard as friends, however, I don’t believe in opposition for opposition’s sake.
‘Many will recognise that Ukip has become toxified.’
Cllr Wood also said that the Tories’ work towards building the Stubbington bypass was one of the key decisions in his decision to defect.
Cllr Sean Woodward, executive leader of the borough council, who had previously clashed with Mr Wood on many occasions, met the new Tory councillor yesterday to confirm the decision.
He said: ‘I’m happy to welcome Chris back into the Conservative party. I have no doubt that he will now make a positive contribution to local politics in Fareham.’
Cllr Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council, also welcomed Cllr Wood’s decision.
He said: ‘We have been working with Chris on getting the Stubbington bypass complete, opposing the construction of IFA2, as well as building up the Daedalus Enterprise Zone.
‘It also means that the Hampshire County Council ward of Crofton is now under the Conservatives.’
The decision comes a week after Gosport borough councillor Patrick Bergin defected from Ukip, also to join the Conservatives.