A LONG-serving Malvern Hills councillor has defected from the Liberal Democrats to the Greens with a stinging attack on his former party.
Despite being a stalwart Lib Dem member for more than 35 years, Clive Smith said he had grown “deeply unhappy” at the party’s role in the Coalition government pursuing “the most reactionary agenda this country has ever seen”.
“I joined the Liberals because I believe in social justice, that the most vulnerable in society should be supported rather than demonised,” he said.
“The Coalition’s assault on higher education, the health service and the welfare state is not in tune with my Liberal principles.”
Coun Smith is also a Malvern town and Worcestershire county councillor and his defection gives the Greens their first ever representation on Worcestershire County Council.
At Malvern Hills he will remain a member of the opposition Lib Dem/Green/Independent group. Coun Smith said jumping ship was “the most difficult decision he had ever made” and that he continued to “respect deeply” his local Lib Dem colleagues, saying many had their own misgivings.
But he added: “I find myself unable, in public or in private, to defend what is being done in our name.”
Coun Smith said the final straw was what he considered a total lack of support from Lib Dems in neighbouring Wychavon during recent battles over the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP).
Lib Dems at Malvern Hills voted unanimously against the housing masterplan, calling for more investigation of alternatives to mass housing developments on the edges of Malvern and Worcester.
“They knew what we were doing but we got no support whatsoever.
“They as much as anyone parked their tanks on our lawn over the SWDP and they should have showed us more understanding,”
said Coun Smith.
Coun Liz Tucker, Worcestershire Lib-Dem leader, said: “I believe he is wrong.
“The broad principle of what he is saying is fine but we have to pay for these things and the country is in crisis.
“I hold similar values to Clive but I believe this is the right path.”
She said she was not aware of any other members with similar concerns.
Tom Wells, leader of the Lib Dems in Malvern Hills, was not available to comment.
But Malvern Hills Green leader John Raine said: “Clive cares deeply about our community and his uncompromising stand on issues of social justice will ensure that he is a highly valued additional member of our party.”