Leading Conservatives in Pendle have welcomed a councillor who has defected from the Labour Party and joined them.
Pendle Council Walverden Ward councillor, Abdul Aziz, has defected to the Conservatives after resigning his Labour membership.
But his former party is now challenging him to resign from the council altogether. He had been an independent councillor for months.
Speaking of his move, Coun. Aziz said: “I woke up and saw Pendle Labour, their president Azhar Ali, and leader Mohammed Iqbal for who they are. They run their councillors like a dictatorship. You aren’t allowed an opinion or to disagree, or you’ll be sidelined – this happened to me and I had the party whip removed.
“That isn’t what I was elected for. I stood up for what I believed in and they didn’t like it. I wanted the voice of the residents to be heard, and the Conservatives are the party to allow me to do that.”
He added: “I have been considering my position for some time now, and have regularly met local MP Andrew Stephenson and leader of the council Joe Cooney over a period of months. Nobody is working as hard for Pendle as the two of them. They are the best people to take Pendle forwards, and I want to be part of that progression.”
Coun. Aziz’s defection brings the size of the Conservative group to 19 – its highest level in 30 years. They are now only six short of an overall majority.
Coun. Cooney, said: “The Conservative Group wholeheartedly welcomes Coun. Aziz, who I have got to know personally as someone who is genuine and has the interests of his electorate at heart. It is clear to see there are many disaffected Labour councillors on Pendle.”
MP Andrew Stephenson added: “I have worked closely with Councillor Aziz over the past few months, and he will be a real asset to the Conservatives. It is a vote of confidence for the work of the Conservative Party in Pendle, and the work everyone is doing”.
Sajjad Karim, the Euro-MP covering Pendle, said: “This is very significant. It shows that people see we are the party to lead in Pendle, and gives great confidence to the leadership of Pendle Council and the good work they have done”.
However, Pendle Council Labour leader Coun. Mohammed Iqbal said: “Coun. Aziz was suspended for an indefinite period a number of months ago for his actions, which had brought him into disrepute with the Labour group. I would challenge him to resign and fight a by-election on his new party’s platform – let the people of Walverden decide if he is worthy to represent them.”