Surprise independent candidates in St Albans Council elections

TWO formerly strong party members have decided to stand as Independents in next month’s district council elections.

One-time Labour group leader and twice Mayor of St Albans, Malcolm MacMillan, is standing as an Independent in London Colney and current Conservative plans (north) committee chairman, John Chambers, is fighting Harpenden North as an Independent.

Should they and sitting Independent councillor Tony Swendell, who is standing again in Redbourn, be successful, the Independent group would be almost as large as the current Labour group on the district council.

John Chambers was deselected from Harpenden North where he has been a district councillor for the past 12 years in favour of Julie Bell, who has moved from Harpenden East to stand as the Conservative candidate in the ward.

He admitted he was really disappointed about the decision of the local Tories and had worked hard for the ward but he was well-known in Harpenden North and was confident enough to fund his own election campaign.

John said this week that he was disillusioned with the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition nationally which he felt had not worked and he was “really worried” about issues like secondary school places, the roads falling to pieces and the lack of progress on some building schemes in the town which had been given planning permission.

Unfettered from the Conservative Party, he said he would no longer “be told what to do and whether to vote” and could do what he believed in.

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Malcolm MacMillan, who was a district councillor on and off for 26 years during which time he was Mayor twice and Labour group leader, has been absent from local politics for several years.

But he left the party some years ago after the Regional Labour Party tried to impose an all-woman shortlist on London Colney. Now that his working life with the Royal College of Midwives is not involving long-distance travel, he has decided to stand for one of the two vacancies in London Colney ward.

And to complicate the situation still further, he has seconded the nomination of Labour’s Dreda Gordon, for one of the vacant seats.

Malcolm said that he would not have stood if she had been the only Labour candidate in the village but as there was also a by-election and two councillors would be elected, he believed he was in with a good chance.

He said: “It is only this week that the first leaflets went out and the phone calls I have had have been unbelievably supportive. The response has been overwhelming.”

One third of the Conservative-controlled district council is up for re-election on May 3 and the Tories and Labour have candidates for all 19 vacancies while the Lib Dems are contesting 18 and the Green Party 17. The current make-up of the council is Conservatives 29, Lib Dems 23, Labour, four, Independents one and Green Party one.