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Guildford Council’s Breakaway Tories ‘Return to the Party Fold’

Published on: 17 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 19 Dec, 2020

By Martin Giles

Four Conservative councillors who split from their official party at Guildford Borough Council have reunited, now with Cllr Nigel Manning (Ash Vale) as group leader, Guildford Conservative Association has announced.

The breakaways had been led by former council leader Paul Spooner (Ash South & Tongham), with Graham Eyre (Ash South & Tongham), David Bilbe (Normandy) and Richard Billington (Tillingbourne), Guildford’s mayor, now recovering from surgery.

After the party’s electoral debacle last year broke their long-term council dominance, Cllr Spooner continued to lead the other seven Conservative survivors at Millmead.

He was also on Tory-controlled Ash Parish Council, chaired by Cllr Manning, and clashed with him and his partner Marsha Moseley (Ash Vale). Cllr Spooner resigned from the parish council in March.

At the time, he said: “…it is clear there has been a breakdown in a number of relationships with Cllr Manning and Cllr Moseley, not just my own”.

Off the record, one member of the group said the problem was caused by competing egos.

Then in July the group at GBC split, causing a time-consuming re-jigging of council committee appointments.

See: Leadership Issue Forces Break-Up of Guildford Borough Tories

The splinter quartet’s statement read: “The group of four has found it necessary to form a Conservative ‘independent’ group owing to differences within the wider Conservative group of eight.”

The official party brought in mediators and the matter was said to have been referred to Conservative HQ in London, but they did not respond to requests for information.

Cllr Spooner also failed to respond to requests from The Dragon to confirm the reunification or to answer the question: “Do you think any damage has been done to the party’s or the group’s reputation by your action?”

Sallie Barker

But today Sallie Barker, chair of the Guildford Conservative Association (GCA), wrote: “We understand the four councillors, who remained members of the Conservative Party, have re-joined the Guildford Borough Council Conservative group following a period of mediation. Cllr Manning is leader of the group.”

One member of the GCA told The Dragon: “I’m pleased to see this matter has been resolved. The split, over nothing of substance as far as members could tell, has been a drain on morale for long enough.

“It’s hard to campaign with one hand tied behind your back. No one ego is bigger than the greater Conservative cause.”

Borough council leader Joss Bigmore, also leader of the Residents for Guildford and Villages group, said: “Councillors were notified that the two Conservative groups were merging together earlier this week.  It has obviously been a challenging period for all involved but here in the season of goodwill I wish them well.”

Cllr Manning refuses to communicate with The Guildford Dragon NEWS and our communication with Cllr Spooner, who has frequently accused The Dragon of bias, remains patchy.

The GCA’s Ms Barker has agreed to remain in communication on borough council matters from the party’s viewpoint.

See also: Local Tory Party’s Silence on Spooner Split Seems to Say, ‘Least Said, Soonest Mended’

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test One Response to Guildford Council’s Breakaway Tories ‘Return to the Party Fold’

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    December 18, 2020 at 1:48 am

    I think we’ll find that most residents have better things to think about than such mundane and boring Tory chest thumping.

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