‘Follow my lead’ – renegade St Albans councillor urges LibDems to quit party

Cllr Michael Weaver, Year 12 student Holly Burnett, cllr Steve Bowes-Phipps and cllr Gill Clark at S

Cllr Michael Weaver, Year 12 student Holly Burnett, cllr Steve Bowes-Phipps and cllr Gill Clark at STAGS for Local Democracy Week - Credit: Archant

Two councillors have been challenged to quit their party to demonstrate the depth of disapproval over the coalition government’s betrayal of St Albans residents by backing a massive rail freight terminal.

The challenge has been issued by furious former Conservative councillor Steve Bowes-Phipps, who resigned from the party last Wednesday over Secretary of State Eric Pickles’ decision to grant planning permission for a terminal on the former Radlett Airfield site.

Cllr Bowes-Phipps, who will continue as an Independent councillor, called upon Lib Dem counterparts also representing Park Street ward, councillors Aislinn Lee and David Yates, to follow suit.

He told the Herts Advertiser: “Eric Pickles has been on record saying that Green Belt decisions are for the local people to decide, not for central government to dictate.

“I looked at the arguments and I didn’t see how they could destroy such a large piece of Green Belt and I thought that it would never get through.

“I put my confidence in the government – the coalition – saying that local people should have a say.”

Cllr Bowes-Phipps said while he realised his sudden resignation from the party would not create a “tsunami” he thought it was the “only way to hit home, by standing up and saying enough is enough”.

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He went on: “I would like to publicly call on Aislinn and David to follow my lead and demonstrate the strength of their convictions against this appalling outcome.”

However Cllr Yates has rejected his call, saying that he and Cllr Lee would “not entertain the idea” of leaving the Lib Dems.

He went on: “It was a decision made by Eric Pickles. To say it was a decision by the coalition government rather than the Secretary of State is over-egging it.”

Cllr Bowes-Phipps, 48, said he had received “overwhelming support” from residents for making a stand, with locals telling him they had been “put off the Conservative party” as a result of Mr Pickles’ decision.

However he has quashed rumours on social media that he would defect to UKIP, saying, “that is utterly ridiculous.There is nothing attractive about UKIP policies to me.

“I don’t like their policy of bringing back smoking in pubs, and they are not even a political party, they are more of a protest group.”

Conservative group leader Cllr Julian Daly said he was not sure how Cllr Bowes-Phipps resignation from the party would affect decisions at the council.