'˜Brexit is a symptom' '“ Portsmouth councillor quits Conservative Party blaming splits

A senior councillor has quit the Conservatives claiming the party's views have changed '“ blaming Brexit as a 'symptom' of the split.

Wednesday, 15th August 2018, 6:50 pm
Updated Sunday, 2nd September 2018, 10:07 pm
Former Conservative councillor Jim Fleming pictured at a Brexit debate hosted by The News in 2016 ahead of the referendum. Picture: Sarah Standing

Councillor Jim Fleming '“ a former cabinet member when the Tories ran the council '“ said he resigned his membership yesterday, and is now listed as an independent.

The move is blow to the Portsmouth City Council Tory opposition group as it takes their number to 18 '“ with the Lib Dems maintaining its minority administration with 16 councillors after former leader Donna Jones was deposed in May this year.

But the Cosham ward member's resignation might be seen as a symptom of the party's in-fighting over Brexit, with hard line Eurosceptics urging a no-deal crash out of the European Union next March.

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The European Research Group, formerly chaired by Fareham MP Suella Braverman and now by Jacob Rees-Mogg, is challenging prime minister Theresa May's Brexit plans with its own no-deal model, the Financial Times reported.

In a series of messages with The News, Cllr Fleming said: 'I have also resigned my party membership.

'The issue is not centred around Brexit, but it's certainly a symptom.'

The former Portsmouth North Conservative Association chairman added: 'My general view on the subject is that my views and values remained the same, while those of others within the Conservative Party have either diverged from those or perhaps weren't even there in the first place.'

The Conservative group leader on Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Donna Jones, said: '˜Cllr Jim Fleming has served the Conservative Party for a number of years in various roles both as chairman and most recently as a councillor and cabinet member on Portsmouth City Council. The Conservative Group wish Jim all the best for the future and thank him for his support in the past.'

Cllr Fleming, who was elected in May 2012, remains a councillor but is now a non-aligned independent.

It comes as the number of independents has increased at the council, with former Labour Party members Claire Udy and John Ferrett now sitting as independents.

Five councillors make up the Labour opposition group at the city council. The Labour group supported replacing Conservative leader Cllr Jones with the Lib Dems' Gerald Vernon-Jackson after the local elections in May.