Portsmouth's furious council leader 'wasn't able to sleep' after suffering a humiliating political body blow following 2022 election

A POLITICAL row over an alleged alliance between city Conservatives and Labour councillors has today deepened after the island’s Lib Dem boss suffered a humiliating post-election body blow.

By Tom Cotterill
Friday, 20th May 2022, 8:01 pm

The furious head of the council, Liberal Democrat Gerald Vernon-Jackson, has accused the two parties of ganging up on him after they bagged the majority of key committee chairman positions.

Despite being the biggest political party on the council with 17 elected officials, the Lib Dems have been unable to secure majority control, with the Tories having 13 councillors, Labour having nine and Portsmouth Independent Party having three.

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However, despite this, Cllr Vernon-Jackson had hoped to have members of his party taking up prominent leadership roles on key committees.

But in a move that caught the Lib Dem chief off-guard, Labour and Tory councillors voted together at Tuesday’s Portsmouth City Council annual general meeting to elect four councillors from each to the head of committees, including the powerful planning and licensing.

The move left a seething Cllr Vernon-Jackson indignant with rage. Speaking to The News, the council boss said: ‘I haven’t been able to sleep because of this.’

But his rivals have brushed off claims of an alliance and instead accused Cllr Vernon-Jackson of complacency and ‘arrogance’.

Body blow: L:eader of the council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson has been left furious after Labour and Conservative councillors bagged key roles in city council committees ahead of his own politicians. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 050522-56)

Cllr Simon Bosher, who leads Portsmouth’s Conservative group, was quick to shrug off the accusation of a Labour-Conservative alliance - insisting such a prospect would never happen.

He added: ‘It’s very easy for Cllr Vernon-Jackson and his sidekicks to chuck around “coalition coalition”. But they don’t want to engage with anyone else.

‘There’s an arrogance there that they have a divine right to rule. That’s not the case in a democracy.’

Portsmouth Labour leader Cal Corkery, pictured, said the new committee shake-up in the city would help give greater scrutiny into the ruling Lib Dem administration and would ultimately benefit the people of Portsmouth Picture: Habibur Rahman

He said there had been discussions between the Labour Party and Portsmouth Independent Party ahead of Tuesday’s meeting but added: ‘At no time did Councillor Vernon-Jackson ever bother to pick up the phone to me [before the meeting]. It was complete arrogance.’

Cllr Cal Corkery, who was elected as the city’s new Labour leader, taking over from previous boss George Fielding, also refuted claims of an alliance.

The Labour leader insisted the shake-up of council committees – which had previously been dominated by Liberal Democrats – would ultimately help to place more scrutiny on the Lib Dem administration.

‘Before the election, Labour was very clear that we wouldn't support the Conservatives controlling the council – that’s something we have stayed true to and believe in quite strongly,’ he added.

Portsmouth Conservative leader Cllr Simon Bosher denied any political alliance with Labour and instead branded Lib Dem leader Cllr Vernon-Jackson 'arrogant' for thinking his party had a right the rule key committee. Picture Ian Hargreaves (180470-1)

‘Our intention is to use these positions to hold the council to account. Our intention is to do everything we can to ensure the interest of the city is served.

‘I think if there had been better scrutiny in place then we might not have seen issues like the Tipner West progression so far. The Lib Dems spent upwards of £18m on a plan they no longer support.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson had his reservations about the political shake-up, though, and warned: ‘There could be decisions being made where we are saddled with decisions from a joint Labour and Tory coalition which we think are wrong for the city.’