Tory split widens as another councillor quits

Published: 10 Apr 2012 18:3014 comments

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THE bitter split among Reading's Conservatives widened tonight with the resignation of a second councillor.

Mark Ralph said he has quit the party because of its treatment of ousted Tory councillor Jamie Chowdhary by Reading East Conservative Association (RECA) and the attempts to terminate his own membership because he spoke out in support of his Peppard ward colleague.

He said the attempts were only thwarted when a panel was set up by Conservative Party HQ last year to investigate the controversial de-selection of Mr Chowdhary, who resigned last month and has begun legal action against senior RECA members.

It is understood the panel ruled against his membership termination but supported the de-selection and its process.

Cllr Ralph, who will stay on the council as an independent, also backed Mr Chowdhary's claims that he was targeted after his de-selection with allegations of homophobia in a bid to justify the move, discredit him publicly and to derail his attempts to be selected a candidate by the Reading West branch.

He said: "No political group is free of rivalries and leadership bids but, it is my view that the primary objective of politicians, should be service to the community they have been elected to represent.

"The building of personal power‐bases and squabbling within groups is destructive, time‐consuming and detracts from this. It is our residents that suffer."

Cllr Ralph added: "It's not just the rank injustice to Jamie, a hardworking and respected councillor, it is also the blatant attempt to then undermine his application to be a candidate in Reading West and a sustained campaign, since the panel's report, to make false allegations, jeopardising his public reputation and position as a respected member of the Thames Valley Police Authority.

"To undertake such a vicious campaign when Jamie was unwell was contemptible and Reading East Conservative Association is not an organisation to which I wish to belong."

Cllr Ralph, who was first elected to Reading Borough Council eight years ago, had already jumped ship and joined Reading West, along with Mr Chowdhary and former Tory council leader, Andrew Cumpsty.

He said it was with "sincere regret" that he leaves the Reading West branch, which he said "protected" his status as a councillor while "those in Reading East were seeking to remove him" and gave him time to consider his future.

Cllr Ralph added: "I have great respect for Alok Sharma MP and the administration of RWCA. The association is not run as his personal fiefdom and the management comprises a good cross section of members.

"If I lived in Reading West, Mr Sharma would get my vote every time. I remain a strong supporter of Conservatism. "

He also claimed the reason for his resignation as the Tory group's education spokesman last month was because he had been asked to distance himself from his ousted colleague and a row over the contents of a website, PeppardWard.com which is run by Mr Chowdhary.

When asked why Cllr Ralph resigned, group leader Tim Harris told The Chronicle last month it was "private".

Cllr Ralph said he is cutting all ties with the Conservative Party and added: "I do so with some sadness, but I look forward to devoting more time to my residents.

"I fully expect some vindictive sniping and smear tactics, but I ask now that people dismiss it for what it is, while I get on with the job of serving the people of Peppard ward for as long as they care to elect me.

"As well as addressing my residents' day to day issues, I shall continue to pursue my particular interests in education, children's services, services for the elderly, community care and neighbourhood policing."

RECA chairwoman, Alison Swaddle, said: "Whilst it is always disappointing that anyone decides to leave the Conservative Party, Reading East Conservative Association is not surprised that Mark Ralph has chosen today to leave the party to sit alone in the council chamber as an independent councillor.

"It has been clear for some time that Cllr Ralph felt unable to operate as part of the team.

"The panel report upheld the conduct of RECA and its officers and asked that Cllr Ralph's membership not be terminated only in a bid to avoid inflaming the situation.

"Sadly Cllr Ralph has not heeded the report's call to move forward and unite. Mark Ralph has chosen to leave the Conservative Party but to remain a Peppard ward councillor.

"He was elected by local people as a Conservative councillor with the support of the local party and should now resign his seat and let the people of Peppard ward decide whether they want to be represented by a Conservative or an Independent at a by-election."

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  • Tories in Trouble
    Unregistered User
    Apr 10, 19:42
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    Yes! Yes! Yes! Well done councillor Ralph!

    Stand up to the bad individuals in the Tory Party Councillor! I'm sick and tired of these nasty little politicians who do very little for the public but undermine decent hard working Councillors because they don't support little pockets of kingdoms created by self serving MP's and their power- hungry cohorts.

    Nationally, the potty tories are making a total mess of our country, while taking good care of their rich buddies. Locally, they're being exposed as the nasty nasty bunch they really are! It's no wonder Labour is back to controlling this town, the only thing the Tories control is their egos! Here lies a lesson for the Lib Dems: distance yourselves from these maniacs before you become a distant memory!

    Recommend?   Yes 47     No 12

  • do tellll a
    Unregistered User
    Apr 10, 20:02
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    What allegations to smear him? I have not seen any, do tell...

    Recommend?   Yes 11     No 23

  • CONservatives OUT
    Unregistered User
    Apr 10, 20:13
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    The bully boys in the local Tory camp are good at bullying people who stand up for their consituants and their principles. Well done to this man for standing by his friend and his principles, we need more people like him to represent the people. I'm only sorry I'm not in his ward as I would have voted for him, without hesitation.

    I reckon it's time the local and National conservatives were given a good kicking at the polls.

    They really are a discipable bunch of nasties!!

    Recommend?   Yes 41     No 12

  • Boring...
    Unregistered User
    Apr 10, 20:22
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    Really who cares if some no mark cllr is now independent

    Recommend?   Yes 11     No 39

  • Who is Mark Ralph
    Unregistered User
    Apr 10, 20:27
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    CONservatives OUT as you want to vote for him I guess you think he should put his case to the local residents? After all they elected a conservative, if they want him they will re-elect him as an Independent - but dont think he will so how.

    Recommend?   Yes 8     No 34

  • CONservatives OUT
    Unregistered User
    Apr 10, 21:06
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    Mark Ralph is worth all of the handful of Rob Wilson Stalwarts, most of whom do little more than write meaningless blogs and carry out the hapless MPs wishes.

    Don't you be worrying yourself, as one of the hardest working Councillors in the ward, he would most definately get reflected, to the huge embarrassment and (hopeful) downfall of the mob trying to gain total control of Reading's Conservatives!

    Recommend?   Yes 36     No 8

  • Steed
    Unregistered User
    Apr 10, 21:38
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    You do realise ALL of the above negative Tory posters are the same individual? Sad but true. And just plain sad.

    Recommend?   Yes 17     No 30

  • CONservatives OUT
    Unregistered User
    Apr 10, 22:12
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    Steed:

    Wow Einstein you sound like one of the Tory Boys. I hear they're looking for candidates, no skills or work commitment required, just the ability to carry out dirty party deeds without question.

    Recommend?   Yes 30     No 6

  • Reading Cynic
    Unregistered User
    Apr 10, 23:02
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    Let's face it, the local Tories are proving they're unelectable and Labour have demonstrated it very soundly already. Looks like it's the time of the independents. Probably, the best thing that could happen will be if Reading ends up a town with no party in overall control.

    Mind you, where that will leave the Green Party, having been busy propping up Labour ...

    Recommend?   Yes 23     No 4

  • dickemery
    Unregistered User
    Apr 11, 03:41
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    torys in trouble your comment you have the ingorance and denial to accuse other parties for shoddy work but forget want your party done for uk over the last 12 years you inherited a good economy from a unpopular government you had tweedle dee as leader than tweedle dum as leader you sold our gold reserve at below market price the so called messiah chanecellor was printing money which will take years to pay back the country its over run by foreigner gangster and swindlers yeah you done nothing in fact the big 3 parties are a waste of time promise,promise but no balls vote save the planet good people or any other but not these school boys with their spin doctors and statistics

    Recommend?   Yes 2     No 5

  • Kate
    Unregistered User
    Apr 11, 05:30
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    All the comments about how lousy party politics are suggest there is room for more independent councillors who just want to get on and do the right thing for the people who elect them.

    Recommend?   Yes 29     No 8

  • Mama Duke
    Unregistered User
    Apr 11, 12:21
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    All credit to a man who sets aside his own career in support of a down-trodden colleague, this is what makes our country so great! Well done Mark Ralph!

    Recommend?   Yes 26     No 7

  • S C A R
    Unregistered User
    Apr 11, 15:54
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    With that dress sense is he a real loss? To anyone?

    As an aside is there really any integrity in quitting in support of a politician who holds homophobic views? Unless of course you share similar views...

    Recommend?   Yes 10     No 24

  • Hwk_UK
    Unregistered User
    Apr 11, 21:54
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    "If I lived in Reading West, Mr Sharma would get my vote every time. I remain a strong supporter of Conservatism.

    There is nothing Conservative about the Conservatives! The proposed Gay marriage law comes to mind.......

    Recommend?   Yes 2     No 11