WHY, as a North Dorset District Councillor, have I resigned from the Conservative party. I grew up in post-war Germany, and have vivid memories of visiting camps housing stateless and displaced people from all over Europe, with my Dad.

He told me they were there as a result of an evil dictator’s extremist and divisive political philosophy. I didn’t understand him then, but I found their plight distressing.

It bred in me a lifelong hatred of extremist and divisive political ideas. Yet, once again, I feel these ideas are on the march – internationally, nationally and even locally.

The Tory party is in the process of tearing itself apart over apparently irreconcilable differences. Its in-fighting is doing much commercial harm to the country, and to our international standing.

As the natural party of business, it is rapidly losing its credibility.

Brexit has also summoned the very worst demons that lurk in the Conservative psyche, and has compounded the party’s demented fixation with immigration, while distracting it from the true challenges of the 21st century.

This is the same party which recently held a secret ballot locally to decide who would be selected for the candidates’ list for the new unitary authority. Candidates were asked to attend a selection committee, but were given no criteria regarding terms of selection.

I have served the people of Gillingham and local area to the best of my ability, in my role as district councillor and town councillor for the past four years. If I am to be denied the opportunity to do that in the future, I would prefer the electorate to decide, rather than a furtive committee.

This has happened at a time when I have reflected and questioned more and more my commitment to Conservative ideals and policies. I am a passionate Remainer and supporter of a second referendum – but, this time, based on the facts, as we now know them.

Although I believe in financial probity, this cannot be at the expense of very damaging cuts to local services, such as education, social care, public health, roads and policies.

Liberal Democrat policies have become much more in tune with my thinking. They are resolutely pro-EU, and in favour of a second referendum or ‘People’s Vote.’ They are also campaigning against the constant cuts in local and national government spending.

I have, therefore, resigned from the Conservative Party, and have accepted an invitation to join the Liberal Democrat Party. I will continue to serve the people of Gillingham on North Dorset District Council as a Liberal Democrat, and hope to stand as a candidate for my new party in Gillingham and the surrounding villages in the forthcoming Dorset Unitary elections in May.

Cllr Mike Gould, North Dorset District Council

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