Former Labour councillor who joined Lib Dems before announcing she was defecting to The Brexit Party has now become a Conservative

Date published: 19 May 2020

A former Labour councillor who caused a stir last year by announcing she was ending her short tenure with the Liberal Democrats to join The Brexit Party has now hooked up with the Conservatives.

Councillor Kath Nickson has been confirmed as the newest member of Rochdale Council’s Conservative group.

It means that, since being elected in May 2014, the Balderstone and Kirkholt councillor has represented three different political parties – as well as two interim stints as an independent.

However, despite stunning her new Lib Dem colleagues last July by declaring she was joining The Brexit Party, she ultimately did not go through with the move, confirming in August that she was to continue as an independent.

She was, though, briefly listed as belonging to The Brexit Party on the council’s website in summer 2019.

Her decision to now align herself with the Conservatives is sure to raise eyebrows, but Councillor Nickson believes she has finally found the right party for her.

She said: “It has been six years since I was elected to the council and feel that, eventually I have found my political identity.”

Her journey to the blue side of Rochdale politics has been welcomed by Conservative leader Councillor Ashley Dearnley, who says she will be ‘an asset’ for the group.

He said: “She will bring with her a lot of knowledge on all the regeneration in Kirkholt and add a lot to the team.

“She is someone everyone in the group got on with in the past. We all welcome her and we are pleased she is with us.”

Although Councillor Nickson was first elected as a Labour councillor in 2014 - before her brief defection to the pro-remain Lib Dems and flirtation with The Brexit Party – Councillor Dearnley believes her days as a political wanderer are over.

“I think she is comfortable now with the Conservative Party,” he said.

Councillor Nickson is no stranger to controversy in the world of Rochdale politics.

Her announcement she was to leave the Lib Dems – who were campaigning on a fiercely pro-remain policy – for The Brexit Party baffled many.

But she left with the best wishes of Rochdale’s Liberal Democrat leader Andy Kelly, who said he hoped Councillor Nickson had found her political home.

Things weren’t so amicable, however, when she split with the Labour group in early 2019 after five years as a councillor.

Councillor Nickson claimed she was being ‘effectively blocked’ from doing her job, and could not go on working in an ‘undemocratic manner’.

But the council’s Labour leader Allen Brett said he gave her comments ‘no credence whatsoever’, adding that her relationship with the group executive had become ‘increasingly untenable’.

He also called on her to resign and trigger a by-election to let her ward constituents ‘decide if they would prefer a Lib Dem instead’.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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