Anger was today (Friday, February 28) mounting at the de-selection of the Tories’ chairman-elect on Horsham District Council - after he was apparently dumped by the Conservative Party for standing up for his constituents’ concerns on greenfield development in North Horsham.
Yesterday, former council leader Liz Kitchen said she was ‘absolutely appalled’ by the decision to drop Christian Mitchell from the role after the Conservative group imposed a three-line whip instructing councillors how to vote in public on Wednesday.
Today, another fellow Tory colleague Peter Burgess said the vote had inflicted damage on the council itself.
He said: “I think Christian would make an excellent chairman and especially in these difficult times for the council that are ahead especially with the proposed North Horsham building.
“He will steer us through it with skill and honesty.”
While past vice chairmen have automatically become chairman at the end of each municipal year, Tory councillors voted to indicate their preference for South Downs councillor Brian O’Connell (Con, Henfield) becoming the chairman for 2014/15, effectively deselecting Mr Mitchell as chairman-elect.
Although the decision appeared to be taken at the full council meeting, in reality it was taken at a private Tory-only group session earlier in the week.
According to Mr Burgess the issue was subject to a three-line whip which meant all Tory councillors had to support the decision in public, and if he spoke out he would be ‘drummed out of the brownies’.
“Christian is a long-serving, well-respected councillor. He is a barrister, he has a keen mind and he is very good at looking at the big picture. He is well liked by the party and he is well respected by the council’s Conservatives,” he added.
“I would say that Christian with his mediation skills, if anybody can heal any potential rift it would be Christian. He did a hell of a lot to heal rifts in the past.”