Party hopping councillor has left the Conservatives citing ‘Tory sleaze’

Date published: 10 November 2021

A party-hopping councillor who has represented Labour, the Lib Dems and the Brexit Party has now parted company with the Conservatives.

Rochdale councillor Kath Nickson – dubbed ‘turncoat of the year’ by Private Eye magazine in 2020 – said she had found her political home after joining the Tories last year.

But the Balderstone and Kirkholt member has now ditched the blue rosette citing ‘Tory sleaze’ in the wake of the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal.

It is understood she intends to see out the rest of her term of office – which ends in May – as an independent.

Rochdale’s Conservative group leader Councillor Ashley Dearnley had little to say other than to ‘wish her well’ following her latest change of heart.

However, she has been strongly criticised by ex-Labour colleagues in the past and also mocked in national publications for her many defections.

But Councillor Nickson said she was wholly unconcerned by any potential censure.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I have resigned as a result of Tory sleaze at parliamentary level and I couldn’t care less about being criticised.”

The newly independent councillor declined to comment any further on her decision.

Since being elected as a Labour candidate in May 2014 Coun Nickson has represented four different political parties.

She jumped ship to the Lib Dems in January 2019, claiming she was being ‘blocked from doing her job’ – with then Labour leader Allen Brett agreeing her position in the party was ‘untenable’.

But she stunned her new colleagues in July of the same year by announcing she was joining The Brexit Party to respect the referendum result.

Her decision certainly raised eyebrows given the Lib Dems are a pro-EU party and the referendum was held in 2016.

Councillor Nickson later claimed she did not go through with the move, confirming in August that she was to continue as an independent.

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

And after becoming a Conservative in May 2020, she is now embarking on her third stint as an independent.

The peripatetic politician made an ignominious appearance in Private Eye – the satirical magazine edited by Ian Hislop – at the end of last year.

Under the 'Rotten Boroughs' section, she received the dubious honour ‘turncoat of the year’.

An accompanying cartoon depicted her wearing a rosette with Labour, Lib Dems and Brexit Party scratched off, with just the ‘Conservatives’ name remaining.

“Surely time for her to give the Greens a go?” the publication mockingly suggested.

Like all 60 Labour councillors, Councillor Nickson will have to stand at the May 2022 local elections if she wishes to continue in office.

This will be an ‘all out’ election due to the political map of the borough being redrawn by the boundary commission.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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