Tory 'forced to quit' amid row over candidate

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A long-serving Tory councillor has quit his party after claiming he was the victim of a hate campaign.

Councillor Lee Hunt resigned as the Tory whip at a group meeting on Friday saying he could 'no longer stomach' his colleagues' actions.

The Central Southsea councillor of 10 years says he was forced to quit because he spoke out against Southsea Town Council and refused to support the group's parliamentary candidate, Flick Drummond, who is fighting Mike Hancock for his seat in the next general election.

'There has been a whole series of things,' he said.

'I have been ostracised. I have been stopped from using offices or equipment to do my work as a councillor.

'The hatred towards me is clearly personal because I do not feel Flick Drummond can represent Portsmouth.

'We should have a local candidate, not someone from Winchester, but the pro-Southsea Town Council supporters cannot see reason.'

Cllr Hunt supported the party's two previous candidates – Philip Warr, a chartered surveyor from Bournemouth, and Caroline Dinenage, daughter of Meridian TV presenter Fred Dinenage.

Both lost to Mr Hancock.

Ms Drummond said she was 'surprised' by Cllr Hunt's resignation.

'Since moving with my family to Portsmouth nearly a year ago, the welcome and support we have received has been brilliant,' she said.

'I am surprised and disappointed that a councillor has decided to leave the Conservative group of Portsmouth City Council, but I wish him all the best.'

The acting chairman of Portsmouth South Conservative Association, Tony Ford, was not available to comment.

But a statement from the association said: 'Flick has thrown her life and soul into Portsmouth life and has built a superb team of volunteers.

'It is a pity one person feels unable to be part of that team.'

Cllr Hunt says he has not made any decisions about his future but will be speaking to the Lib Dems – the Tories biggest rivals in Portsmouth.

Tory group leader Steve Wemyss said: 'Lee and I remain good friends and I am sorry to lose a hard-working and dedicated councillor.'

alex.forsyth @thenews.co.uk