Portsmouth Conservatives in chaos after mistake in leadership election

RECOUNT Cllr Steve Weymss, left, was wrongly declared the new Tory leader over rival Cllr Simon Bosher, right
RECOUNT Cllr Steve Weymss, left, was wrongly declared the new Tory leader over rival Cllr Simon Bosher, right
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A BIZARRE mix-up has led to the wrong councillor being declared the leader of the Conservative group on Portsmouth City Council.

After a ballot of Tory councillors last Friday, it had been announced that Cllr Steve Wemyss would continue as group leader after beating rival Cllr Simon Bosher 8-7 in votes.

But The News has learned that after a letter signed by five Tories called for a recount, it was discovered that Cllr Bosher had in fact won.

On Monday, the council’s strategic director Roger Ching visited the Tory group’s office, and opened its locked ballot bin.

This revealed Cllr Bosher had polled eight votes to Cllr Weymss’ seven.

Cllr Bosher is expected to be confirmed leader of the group at a meeting tomorrow evening.

The entire Tory group was either unavailable for comment, or refused to speak on the circumstances behind the error.

But a source told The News: ‘Some members were unhappy about the result and called for an independent person to come in and check the ballots.

‘They did so and it looks like the first result was wrong.’

Cllr Bosher had put himself forward to take over as Tory leader following last Thursday’s city council election.

He and his supporters felt Cllr Wemyss’ leadership should end after the group failed to capitalise on a national slump in Lib Dem popularity and take over the council.

Instead, the Lib Dem group won nine seats – its highest ever total at one election.

The Tories won the Copnor ward, increasing their seats on the council from 16 to 17, but still behind the Lib Dems’ total of 23.

The result of Friday’s vote was announced by Cllrs Mike Park and Alistair Thompson, who were in charge of the count.

When contacted by The News, Cllr Thompson would not comment on the recount, while Cllr Park could not be contacted.

Cllr Bosher was sacked from the Tories’ shadow cabinet in February after voting in favour of the council giving more money to the Pyramids Leisure Centre, against the group’s wishes.

Cllr Wemyss, who said at the time the sacking was to ‘save money’, refused to comment on the leadership vote.

Cllr Bosher would also not comment on the leadership vote.

He would only say: ‘I don’t know about what happened on Monday, as I was in Southampton all day.

‘There will be a meeting on Thursday.’