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Worcester City Councillor Jabba Riaz explains his defection
A LEADING Tory councillor has sensationally quit the party to join Labour – claiming “disastrous” policies are behind his defection.
Councillor Jabba Riaz, who represents the Cathedral ward on Worcester City Council, has stunned the Conservatives by tendering his resignation and crossing the political divide.
But the politician, who claimed he had been unconvinced by party policies “for a long time”, had his motives questioned yesterday after details emerged showing how he tried – and failed – to swap to a safer council seat ahead of next year’s elections, while still representing the Conservatives.
In July, he told the party’s leadership he did not want to defend his Cathedral seat in 2014 and instead put himself forward to contest Battenhall – which the Tories hold with a much bigger majority.
But eight days ago, he was informed the Conservatives had selected Steve Mackay, a former policeman, to fight it instead, leaving him out on a limb.
Coun Riaz insisted he would have quit even if he secured the seat and insists he had been thinking of leaving for a year.
He said places like Cathedral ward were “bearing the brunt of David Cameron’s disastrous policies” and accused the Tories of causing nationwide “devastation”.
“For a long time now I have been uncomfortable with the direction of the Conservative party,” he said.
“It is clear to me that places like Cathedral are bearing the brunt of David Cameron’s disastrous policies, as living standards are plummeting and our city is getting poorer.
“It has become clear to me that my views are at odds with the Conservatives on a national level.”
He said he was involved in a foodbank project with St Paul’s Hostel and over the last year the number of people needing help had increased by more than 50 per cent each month.
He also insisted that he wanted to leave Cathedral for “a fresh challenge”.
“The Labour administration locally and the Labour party nationally understand that tough decisions have to be made, but I believe they will make those decisions fairly and with compassion,” he said.
“I’ve served on the council for over three years and I care passionately about the people I represent.
“This isn’t a decision I have taken lightly. I’m a councillor who has always put the needs of Cathedral ward first. But it is clear Conservative policies are now harming those I represent.”
Coun Riaz, first elected in 2010, is a former Conservative cabinet member for safer and stronger communities.
He now wants to contest the Cathedral seat for Labour next year, but the selection process is yet to start.
His Tory majority in Cathedral is 506 votes, but it is seen as one of Worcester’s key marginals and one of the ward’s three seats was won by Labour last year.
Battenhall has two seats, both with strong Conservative backing.
Coun David Tibbutt, who is stepping down next year, held it in 2010 with a majority of 791.
It means Labour now has 16 city councillors, the Conservatives on 16, Lib Dems on two and the Greens on one.
CONSERVATIVE PARTY SHOCKED BY DECISION
THE Worcester Conservative Association has put out a statement saying it is “sad and extremely surprised” by Coun Riaz’s shock defection.
It said: “The association is sad and extremely surprised to hear the news that Coun Jabba Riaz has defected to Labour.
“We are particularly surprised as Jabba was a candidate only eight days ago in the contest to select a Conservative candidate in Battenhall ward for next year’s council elections.
“Jabba formally applied to be a candidate for next year’s election as recently as September 11 and was interviewed by a panel and placed on the approved local candidates’ list on September 16.
“As part of the process he was asked in writing, and in person by the panel, whether he had any concerns regarding Conservative policies locally or nationally.
“In writing, and at the interview, he confirmed he had no problem with Conservative policies and even stated on his application form that during the next four years he hoped to ‘take on a more prominent role in the party and help the Conservatives back into power’.
“We, therefore, believe that statements regarding differences over policy lack any credibility at all.
“At no time did Jabba approach either (the association), or Coun Geraghty (Simon, leader of the Conservative group at the city council) with any concerns regarding policy.
“He did, however, write in July stating he did not wish to be considered for the candidacy in his home ward of Cathedral and wanted to switch to another ward which, we can only believe, be considered safer.
“Having failed to win the nomination in Battenhall in an open and democratic process that involved local party members selecting from a field of four candidates, Jabba has put his own personal advancement ahead of loyalty to his colleagues, constituents, or the party which has supported him from the outset.”
But the claims have been rubbished by Labour.
Coun Joy Squires, Worcester’s parliamentary candidate, said: “Coun Riaz has recognised that David Cameron and his Tory-led Government are out of touch with local peoples’ priorities.”
THINGS COUN RIAZ HAS DONE
* Helped draw up a £1m Heritage Lottery Fund bid to
revamp Fort Royal Park, which was not successful but did
lay the groundwork for today’s newly-completed £220,000
* Spent over two years developing proposals for a new swimming pool at Perdiswell, costing up to £13.5m
* Approved a new £445,000 loan system for extremely
vulnerable households in south Worcestershire in March,
known as the welfare assistance scheme
* Led the policy, along with Labour Councillor Paul
Denham, to ban chuggers from Worcester’s streets on
weekends via the licensing committee
* Put an extra £10,000 into CCTV monitoring earlier this
THINGS COUN RIAZ HAS SAID
* “From the electorate’s point of view, they want
councillors to be open, transparent and honest,” speaking
about Labour city councillor Lynn Denham. September 11
* “It beggars belief, I am dumbfounded - where does this
leave our Olympic legacy?” September 26 2013 after the
new Labour leadership decided to close Nunnery Wood
Sports Complex on Fridays
* “Defunct of strategy, vision or direction, they struck a
deal with the devil in desperation for recognition - if
Worcester was listed on the stock exchange the alarm
bells would have been ringing on Tuesday night and there
would have been a crash yesterday morning; the only way
is down from here,” following the Lib Dems and Green Party
deal with Labour to take control of the city council. May 16
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