Wisbech St Mary Tory councillor Sarah Bligh leaves the group to join Lib Dems amid claims of ‘bitter infighting’ and ‘opressive overtones’

Sarah Bligh as she celebrated being elected to represent Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary.

Sarah Bligh as she celebrated being elected to represent Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary. - Credit: Archant

Fenland councillor Sarah Bligh has announced she is leaving the Conservative party to join the Liberal Democrats after “bitter infighting” and “oppressive overtones” within the Tory group.

The councillor for Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary, who was elected in 2015, said the decision comes after “careful consideration” and will be the “best choice” for both her and constituents.

“There have also been major issues that I have been stopped from discussing in council because of the groups wider decision,” she says.

In a statement issued this morning (June 15) Cllr Bligh also states that fighting within the Conservative group impacted on her mental health.

The full statement read: “After careful consideration, I am leaving the conservatives and joining the Liberal Democrats to work closely with my fellow ward Councillor Gavin Booth and gain benefit from the wider support of Fenland & Peterborough Liberal Democrats.”

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“This hasn’t been an easy decision, but after recent events I have decided this is the best choice for both my constituents and myself.

“I was elected in 2015 following a brief spell of getting to know the local Conservatives, I was open and honest from the start, admitting I wasn’t very political and wasn’t sure to which party I belonged, my overriding aim was to help my local community and being a councillor would give me the opportunity to stand up for and pay back into the community I lived in.

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“I was made to feel welcome in the beginning, with promises of help and support, which did not materialise from those that made the promise.

“In recent months, there has been bitter infighting within the Conservative group that hasn’t sat well with me. I have made no secret of the fact that I had suffered from mental health problems in the past and the infighting behaviour was starting to bring back those feelings.

“I was also concerned that those people that did support me when I started as a councillor were de-selected as a result of the political infighting and this did not resonate with me, what was happening in NECCA was just not fair.

“It has become clear to me that a certain group of people controlled the selection process by filling the executive with their supporters. I started thinking what happens if I don’t agree with this select group and I’m suddenly out of favour? How would this affect my work as a councillor?

“There have also been major issues that I have been stopped from discussing in council because of the groups wider decision.

“There are oppressive overtones within the conservative group that discourages free discussion, this is not healthy for local democracy and as a result I have felt unable to attend a number of council meetings.

“During the recent leadership elections, I was asked for support for one of the candidates, I agreed and once the vote was over, I was made to feel unimportant once again.

“This type of behaviour is common within the group and personal political ambitions of several individuals is getting in the way of the ruling group running the council.

“I am sadly expecting there will be calls from some conservatives for me to resign, however I fully intend to stand true to the 1138 voters, (whether they only voted for me because of the party or not) and represent them until the end of my term, there would be absolutely no sense in calling for a by-election, months before the next full elections scheduled for May 2019.

“I acknowledge that some residents that voted for me because of the party and invite them to contact me if they would like to discuss my decision further.

“I am looking forward to working within a united team for the residents of Parson Drove & Wisbech St. Mary ward with Cllr Gavin Booth.

“We have been working pro-actively on ward issue over the last few years and it is clear to me that the type of issues I have experienced in the conservatives are not present in the local Liberal Democrats who are prepared to stand up and fight for local residents on issues that affect them.”

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