With the days and months counting down to the next Canterbury City Council election, a former Lord Mayor has decided to switch political allegiances.
Blean Forest councillor George Metcalfe, who served as Canterbury’s first citizen in 2016 and 2017, is quitting the Conservatives and joining the Liberal Democrats.
Cllr Metcalfe said: “I have increasingly found myself moving to the left of centre and have frequently voted with the Lib Dems on the Canterbury City Council on several issues. I no longer feel able to continue as a supporter of the Conservative Party.”
Cllr Metcalfe is a Trustee and Director of Catching Lives, a member of the Canterbury Festival Committee and the Canterbury Arts Council. He sits for the Blean Forest Ward and was formerly a Westminster City Councillor.
As well as crossing the floor of the council chamber, Cllr Metcalfe is understood to be ready to stand as a Liberal Democrat candidate next year.
The election promises to be hotly contested with the Conservatives’ iron grip on the authority under pressure from the Lib Dems and Labour – especially in the city of Canterbury.
Liberal Democrat Alex Lister said “We welcome George to the Liberal Democrats. Like George I once campaigned for the Conservatives, but the party has become toxic.
“George has chosen to side with us on a number of issues over several months and I suspect this has bruised some egos on the Tory benches.
“Like many reasonable voters, moderates will always find a home with the Lib Dems.”
Greig Baker, the chairman of the Canterbury Conservative Association, told the Canterbury Journal: “Local Conservatives decided not to select George Metcalfe as a candidate in next year’s council elections.
“George has now decided to try to stand for the Liberal Democrats. While explaining his decision to me, George said he still hopes the Conservatives will successfully replace Labour in the next Parliamentary election in Canterbury, but that he wants to try to find another way on to the council in May.
“Local members and residents will be surprised at George’s decision, but we have set a very high bar for Conservative candidates and I imagine missing out on being selected can be disheartening.
“The most important thing now is to ensure personal ambition does not undermine cross-party trust and co-operation on the council.”
Cllr Metcalfe lives in Ashford Road, Thanington, and was first elected to the council in 2015.
At present the make up of Canterbury City Council is 29 Conservatives, four Labour councillors, three Lib Dems and three Independents.
The Conservatives have controlled the council since 2005 when they replaced a Lib Dem and Labour alliance.