Havant council boss Michael Wilson in fight for leader’s role after failing to be selected in his own ward

Havant Borough Council leader Michael Wilson. Picture: Malcolm Wells
Havant Borough Council leader Michael Wilson. Picture: Malcolm Wells

HAVANT’S council leader is ‘determined’ to deliver ‘prosperity’ across the borough after facing an election scare inside his own party.

The vow from Michael Wilson comes after Conservative members voted to deselect him as an election candidate in his ward of eight years, Hayling West, at a meeting last month.

Hayling East councillor Clare Satchwell. Picture: Mick Young

Hayling East councillor Clare Satchwell. Picture: Mick Young

His chance of clinging on to power was resurrected days ago however, when it was announced he was successful in applying to stand in neighbouring Hayling East instead.

But the lifeline comes at a cost for residents in that ward who voted to elect standing councillor and long-time Hayling Ferry backer Clare Satchwell, in 2015. 

Her term of office will come to an end in May – after failing to secure selection in a swoop for Conservative candidacy in Hayling West on Monday, despite ‘giving it her best shot’. 

Mr Wilson described November’s result as ‘disappointing’ – but said his focus now shifts to being re-elected in May 2019, which would continue his leadership of the council.

‘I have given my local party and Havant Borough Council a clear direction and strategy for the prosperity of the borough and I am determined to see that through,’ he said. 

‘I see Hayling as a whole rather than separate wards and over the past eight years I have behaved as a councillor for the whole island. In that way this should not make any difference.’ 

Speaking for herself, the chairwoman of the Hayling Island Residents’ Association, Anne Skennerton, said she was ‘shocked and worried’ at the drama in both wards. 

She described Cllr Satchwell as a ‘considerable loss’ for Hayling East – but said Cllr Wilson was ‘strong, articulate and measured’ and had ‘done a good job’ as leader so far. 

An anonymous Conservative member who voted to deselect Cllr Wilson on November 16 told The News ‘the people of Hayling Island did the rest of Havant a favour’. 

Despite this Mike Fairhurst, the chairman of the Havant Conservative Association, denied Cllr Wilson’s failure to be selected in his own ward was the sign of an internal party ‘row’.

‘We are very proud in the Conservative Party that we give the members in the ward the power to select their candidates –  and they decided not to select Michael Wilson,’ he said. 

‘Clearly there is a difference of opinion of who their councillors should be, because some people supported him and some did not.’ 

He added: ‘We’re okay – I don't know why people are getting so excited.’ 

It was announced on Monday Martin Box would be the Conservative candidate for Hayling West at next year’s local elections, after a ‘rigorous’ selection process. 

Mr Box, a police officer, does not live on Hayling Island but resides in Havant.

However, Havant Conservative Association’s deputy political chairwoman, Cllr Jackie Branson, said he ‘fully intends on living on Hayling’. 

Mr Fairhurst added Mr Box had ‘impressed the panel’ in his bid to become a candidate.

The News will publish a complete run-down of the area’s 2019 local elections next year.