Independent Portsmouth councillors form own group to 'support local campaigners'

(L-R) Cllr Claire Udy and Cllr Jeanette Smith
(L-R) Cllr Claire Udy and Cllr Jeanette Smith
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A NEW political group looking to 'shatter' conventions and champion Portsmouth campaigners has been formed by two previously independent councillors.

Founded by Charles Dickens councillor Claire Udy and ex-resources cabinet member Jeanette Smith, the Progressive Portsmouth People group will seek to provide an alternative to national organisations.

Group leader, Councillor Udy, said: 'Most voters are tied to a particular colour and we are here to offer help to people who want to get into politics without going through traditional parties.

'We also want to support local campaigners and help them flourish in the area.'

Cllr Jeanette Smith was a Lib Dem member until her resignation in July this year when she professed a concern that decisions weren't being made 'for the benefit of the community.' She added: 'We want to shatter the belief that it’s about what party you are a part of. 

'And we want locals to be able to vote for a campaigner who has worked hard in the community, and give those people a platform to do that.'

Currently Progressive Portsmouth People is a group, however, there is scope for it to become a party in the future if registered with the electoral commission.

Council leader, Lib Dem Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, described the coalition as 'promising.' He said: 'Both of them have got good ideas to bring and both of them have experience and know how the council runs.'

Cllr Udy received some backlash prior to her election in 2018 after a five-year-old tweet from her personal Twitter account that some branded 'anti-semitic' resurfaced - after which she resigned from Labour.

Tory boss Cllr Donna Jones said: 'Both councillors have had a tumultuous time since being elected to the city council,' she said.

'I wish them well for the future and hope they can find harmony in their new group.'

Cllr Tom Coles, deputy leader of the city's Labour group, added: 'The true progressive party in Portsmouth is the Labour Party, fighting austerity affecting so many across our city after decades of neglect.'

There are 17 Lib Dem, 16 Tory, six Labour, two Progressive Portsmouth People and one non-aligned independent councillors on Portsmouth City Council.