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Former Tory man gets Labour nod to contest city council seat
A WELL-KNOWN Worcester councillor who stunned the city's Conservatives by dumping the party has been confirmed as Labour's election candidate for a vital seat.
Jabba Riaz, one of Worcester's most controversial political figures, will be contesting his Cathedral ward seat for Labour after party selectors gave him the nod.
It means Cllr Riaz will be pitted against former Conservative colleague Francis Lankester, a former Cathedral councillor himself who lost his seat in 2012 after 13 years in the role.
Tensions between the duo have already kicked off, with Mr Lankester saying Cllr Riaz's actions "gives democracy and politics a bad name".
Cllr Riaz resigned from the Tories in October after failing in a bid to switch to the safer seat of Battenhall for this summer's elections.
But the politician, a former Conservative cabinet member for safer and stronger communities, told your Worcester News he is proud to stand for Labour.
Mr Lankester, who lives in Diglis, said: "He was first selected for us as a young man with Conservative views - I find it difficult to see how that could change in just a few weeks.
"Of course people who have talent ought to stand for the council, he's a talented man, but nobody is indispensable and what he's done is wrong.
"It gives politics and democracy a bad name."
Mr Lankester also took a swipe at the Labour leadership at the city council, calling decisions like cutting £10,000 from playgrounds and reducing street sweeping "ludicrous, damaging and stupid".
Cllr Riaz has always maintained he would have switched to Labour anyway, saying he became fed up of the Coalition Government's cuts.
He said: "I'm pleased the Labour Party has shown faith in me and am extremely grateful, we've got on like a house on fire and the work ethic is excellent.
"I'll be standing on my track record - when I was elected I had three objectives to push for, the improvements to Fort Royal Park, protecting CCTV and completing the riverside.
"When it comes to the (Labour and old Tory) administrations, when I was with the Conservatives there were things we could have done differently."
He also attacked the Tories for its decision to stop Cllr Aubrey Tarbuck, 83, from standing in St Peter's this year.
As your Worcester News revealed last week, Cllr Tarbuck says he is quitting the city's Tories this month after the fall-out.
"I'm disgusted what they've done to him," he said.
Cllr Riaz has a majority of 506 in Cathedral, with the seat considered a vital one in deciding which party controls the city council.
Due to his own personal popularity, and with Cathedral consistently returning a solid Labour vote, he is considered the favourite.
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