Anger as Mike Hancock deal means Lib Dems won’t oppose him in council election

Mike Hancock
Mike Hancock
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A LIBERAL Democrat councillor who quit the city council cabinet says she is disappointed she will not be able to vote for a Lib Dem in the local elections.

Cllr Eleanor Scott’s comments come after a deal was struck in which Cllr Mike Hancock resigned his cabinet role when the Portsmouth Lib Dem executive agreed it would not stand a candidate against him in the Fratton ward in May.

Cllr Scott, who quit her role after the Lib Dem group’s initial decision to keep Cllr Hancock in the cabinet, has written to national party president Tim Farron.

But she welcomed the election of two women, Cllr Terry Hall and Cllr Sandra Stockdale, to the Lib Dem cabinet.

Cllr Scott said: ‘They’ve got their work cut out picking up portfolios so late on in the year but good luck to them.

‘I think (the executive) should put a Liberal candidate up in Fratton in May.

‘I feel very disappointed I won’t be able to vote Lib Dem where I live. To me that’s wrong. I’d like the national party to intervene and impose a candidate.’

Cllr Hall has taken on Cllr Hancock’s former job in planning, regeneration and economic development, while Cllr Stockdale has taken over from Cllr Scott in environment and community safety.

Cllr Hall, a member for Eastney and Craneswater, was asked by leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson to stand.

She said: ‘It’s been a very difficult time for everyone in the party. I’ve had five years’ previous experience on the cabinet. I hope to be a steady hand, it’s a difficult role.’

Cllr Stockdale, a member for St Thomas ward since 2012, said: ‘I’d just like to concentrate on my new role. I’m very proud to be on the Lib Dem group.’

Deputy leader Cllr Hugh Mason said the pair were the best for the roles.

It follows Cllr Hancock’s suspension from the Lib Dem party after a QC’s report into alleged sexual assault was leaked. Cllr Hancock strongly denies the allegations.

Simon Dodd, chairman of the Portsmouth Lib Dems, said the decision had been cleared with the national party.

He said: ‘We decided (on Sunday) at the party executive that we would not be standing against Mike.’

But he refused to be drawn on the details of the deal, adding: ‘They are two decisions that co-exist together, they are obviously all part of the same story.’

And Cllr Hancock can attend group meetings but not vote.

Opposition leaders have spoken of their shock over the Lib Dem deal not to oppose Mike Hancock in the local election.

Labour leader Councillor John Ferrett said: ‘I am surprised to hear that he’s going to stand as an independent candidate and the local party aren’t going to put anyone to oppose him.

‘I would find that very surprising given that Nick Clegg was very firm a few weeks ago.’

Tory leader Cllr Donna Jones added: ‘This is blatantly a case of he’s jumped before he was pushed. He’s clearly now trying to establish himself as a independent councillor.’

In his resignation letter Cllr Hancock said he is ‘always a fighter for the city’ and is looking forward to rebutting the allegations.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson’s reply said Cllr Hancock has ‘always put working very hard for local residents at the heart of what you do.’

Read the resignation letter and the reply here