Gerald Vernon-Jackson re-elected leader of Lib Dem group on Portsmouth City Council

Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Gerald Vernon-Jackson
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Gerald Vernon-Jackson has been re-elected leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Portsmouth City Council.

He won the vote just hours after announcing he was quitting as leader of the council after a decade in charge.

He will bow out when the full council meets on Tuesday to decide the make-up of its future leadership.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson, who will continue in his role as ward councillor for Milton, said poor results in the local elections, which saw the Lib Dems drop from 23 councillors to 19, were the reason behind his decision but that he was heartened to see the full support of his party, despite no other candidate stepping forward.

His resignation as council leader paves the way for a debate to be held on who should be the future leader, with the Conservatives confident of seizing power with the support of Ukip and Labour.

‘It is with a heavy heart that I’m standing down,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson said.

‘Let’s be clear, if we were still a majority then I would be expecting to carry on as leader, but we are not. We want to make sure there is a stable administration. We shouldn’t cling to power for the sake of clinging to power.

‘This is a great city to work in – it’s a wonderful place and I have worked with great people and I will miss that all a great deal. I’m sure whoever follows me will enjoy it just as much.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson is stepping down a year before his term of office finishes next May. As reported, he is now seeking to become the Lib Dems’ parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth South in the 2015 General Election.

When asked if that was now his main priority, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said that depended on whether the Lib Dems lose power.

If the Lib Dems retain control of the council, Cllr Vernon-Jackson could be re-elected as leader, but that is unlikely.

Councillor John Ferrett, Labour leader, said: ‘He has taken a very opportunistic approach to running the council. The events over the last 18 months, not least with respect of the Mike Hancock investigation, really made his position untenable.’

Cllr Hugh Mason, Lib Dem deputy leader of the council, praised Cllr Vernon-Jackson’s leadership, saying: ‘He has shown considerable courage in saving money in the city, at a time when very hard decisions have had to be made.’