Video: Breaking news - two Labour councillors defect to the Conservatives

Two prominent Ashfield Labour councillors have defected to the Conservatives.

Ashfield District Council Labour councillors Lee Anderson and Chris Baron have today defected to the Conservative Party, saying Labour no longer represented the interest of "hardworking men and women" following what they called the "hard-left" takeover of Labour.

Councillor Lee Anderson.

Councillor Lee Anderson.

Chris Baron has served as an Ashfield Labour councillor for 16 years and is a former leader of Ashfield District Council. Lee Anderson is Chairman of Ashfield Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

The Labour party say the pair have let residents down who voted for them as Labour Party candidates.

Explaining his move, coun Anderson said: “The Labour party is no longer the party I joined.

"Both locally and nationally, it has been taken over by the hard-left who are more interested in fighting internal ideological battles than standing up for the priorities of working men and women.

Councillor Chris Baron.

Councillor Chris Baron.

“I have joined the Conservatives as they are now the only party of aspiration who listen and act on the everyday concerns of working people.”

Coun Anderson, who was recently deselected as a Labour candidate for next May's council elections, said recent friction between him and the Labour Group was not the reason for his decision.

Coun Chris Baron said: “Having served as a representative of the Labour party for three decades, this has been a heart-wrenching decision, but the Labour party has changed, and it has changed for the worse.

“Elected members should try to leave their posts having improved things for people, but in Ashfield, the Labour council are making things worse.

“The people of Ashfield want their elected representative to pursue sensible policies driven by mainstream politics, which is why I have taken the decision to leave Labour and join the Conservatives.”

Ben Bradley, Conservative MP for Mansfield, added:

“I’ve worked with Lee and Chris for a long time and I’m delighted to welcome them to the Party.

“They are an asset to the local community and both have a record of prioritising the needs of the people they represent above all else. They’ve always been open and wanted to work together at the Council, regardless of party politics and the pressure they were put under by Labour’s leaders.

“I’m so glad they’ve chosen to carry on and to join us in the Conservative Party, because they could so easily have let the hard-left in the Labour Party force them out altogether. I think it’s clear who really represents the priorities of working people in North Notts, and it’s pretty sad that Labour are trying so hard to drown out the voices of their most sensible and capable councillors.”

Councillor Cheryl Butler leader of Ashfield District Council, said:

"I’m disappointed and surprised that they have chosen to move to a party that has done nothing for Ashfield, apart from cut local government funding massively, cut police numbers, cut NHS and social care funding and services, and increased child poverty to name a few of their draconian measures..

"The electorate put their faith in these people when they voted for them as Labour Party candidates, they have now let these residents down.

"Instead of staying with the Labour Party which is For the Many they have chosen to join a party which will only ever be the few."

Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero added:

"I thank Lee for all of the hard work he has done for the Labour Party.
"If he has had a political change of heart and decided to leave the Labour Party and join the Conservatives, that's a matter entirely for him.
"This Conservative government has led to increased NHS waiting times, reductions in the number of police officers on our streets and school budgets under strain.
"I believe only a Labour government will improve life for the residents of Ashfield."

More when we have it.