Peterborough councillor defecting to Labour calls Liberal Democrats ‘Tory lite alternative’

Cllr Darren Fower
Cllr Darren Fower
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A leading Liberal Democrat councillor has defected to Labour after accusing his colleagues of appearing like a “Tory lite alternative.”

Darren Fower quit the Lib Dems on Monday but stated he has no plans to step down as a Peterborough city councillor and call a by-election. Instead, the member for Gunthorpe insists he will represent the ward until at least 2020.

He told the Peterborough Telegraph that when he first joined the Lib Dems they were “pushing radical ideas that promised real change, real fairness via real democracy.”

He added: “Sadly, over the years, and especially after their time in coalition, I feel that they have retracted, retreated and in this county, on occasions, appeared like a Tory lite alternative.”

Cllr Fower, who currently works for Royal Mail and is involved with the Communication Workers Union, was first elected in 2000, aged 23. He stood as the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate in North East Cambridgeshire in June and in Peterborough in 2015.

He said he had been impressed by the work of Labour councillors over the St Michael’s Gate saga, where 72 households were evicted by a private housing firm. The council then used the homes as temporary accommodation for homeless households.

He said some opposition councillors said and did nothing, but that people like Labour group leader Cllr Ed Murphy were “battling, investigating and holding the Tory administration to account.”

Cllr Fower has now asked Labour if he can join its group and become its 16th member in the 60 seat council.

Cllr Murphy said: “I welcome his application along with many others who have recently joined the Labour Party. He is a hard-working councillor who will support Labour Party values.

“His application still needs to be ratified. Meanwhile, I will consider if he can join the Labour Group.”

Lib Dem councillor James Lillis said the party wish Cllr Fower well, but added: “Many of my colleagues have been left saddened by Cllr Fower’s failure to voice his apparent concerns to either the local party or council group.”