Further unrest in Matt Hancock’s constituency has emerged after Tory councillors walked out of a meeting last week. It followed the council passing a motion of no confidence in the West Suffolk MP.
The motion was proposed by independent councillor Chris O’Neill, who says the move comes after years of frustration.
The motion declared:
“Newmarket Town Council states its concerns that the West Suffolk MP, Matthew Hancock has neglected the best interests of his constituents.
“As Secretary of State for Health, he has demonstrated hypocrisy and hubris in the pursuit of his own interests.
“Newmarket Town Council states that we no longer have confidence in Matthew Hancock MP.”
Council no longer Tory-controlled
The council has until recently been Tory-controlled. But it was only on the casting vote of the mayor, Councillor Rachel Hood, leader of the Tory group and chair of West Suffolk Conservatives.
There was a furore when she used that casting vote to exclude non-Tories from serving on any of the council’s committees, which deal with its business.
But six seats came up for election in 2020. Though the number of Tory and opposition seats were tied again, crucially on the vote for mayor a Tory councillor abstained.
So, on the no confidence vote, five voted in favour of the motion and five against. Four abstained. The result was determined by the casting vote of the new mayor, Labour’s Michael Jeffreys.
He told the East Anglian Daily Times: “Matt Hancock I feel has embarrassed the people who live in West Suffolk and has indeed let the people of West Suffolk down.
“There has been lots of reasons for not being happy with our MP, and being caught in the way he was was the final straw.”
Councillor O’Neill, the independent who proposed the motion, said: “I think that it has caused great embarrassment to this town that we have an MP who told people what they should be doing and to abide by the rules, which clearly he did not.”
One of his colleagues, Councillor Douglas Hall, called Hancock “morally corrupt”.
After the vote, according to others present, Councillor Hood and her Tory colleagues “stormed out” of the meeting calling the vote a “disgrace”.
Councillor Hood was unavailable for comment in spite of attempts to reach her for a response.
In particular, it is alleged that Tory councillors were required to swear that they would agree to follow the party whip on all matters. The whip is an agreement between members of a party to vote in a certain way, and in itself is not unusual.
But in this case, the vote would have been set by the Conservative Party outside the council. So in effect, decisions about the town would be made by outsiders, others not involved with the council. Any democratic control by the council and the people of Newmarket would be bypassed.
This is a question which is likely to arise again.
Matt Hancock is coming under increasing pressure in his apparently safe Tory seat. There have been resignations from his local party and a petition is circulating demanding that he step down as an MP.