Lib Dem councillor quits to join Brexit Party

Date published: 11 July 2019

A Liberal Democrat councillor has stunned her colleagues by quitting to join The Brexit Party – just six months after defecting to them from Labour.

Councillor Kath Nickson now says the Lib Dems’ staunch pro-remain stance goes against her beliefs.

It makes her the second Rochdale councillor to defect to Nigel Farage’s pro-leave party, following former Labour councillor Alan McCarthy’s recent decision to jump ship.

The Brexit Party now has a recognised group on Rochdale council for the first time in its brief history.

Councillor Nickson – who represents Balderstone and Kirkholt – says she could not back the Lib Dems’ position on UK membership of the EU. 

She said: “The national Lib Dem policy of remaining in the European Union is against what I believe in. 

“Three years ago we voted, as a country, to leave the EU.

“This democratic decision – having been made – has not been honoured by the Conservative government and we are now, I believe, facing either a no-deal Brexit or not leaving at all. 

“The first will be catastrophic for jobs, the second catastrophic for democracy.”

The Balderstone and Kirkholt councillor was first elected in 2014 and was re-elected with 52% of the vote in May 2018.

Councillor Nickson added that she felt duty-bound to back Brexit given the result of the 2016 referendum in Rochdale.

She said: “My former colleagues in the local Liberal Democrat group have treated me well and are all very decent people. However, I simply do not believe in their party’s policy of blocking Brexit.

“Turnout for elections in this area have been concerningly low. If we fail to leave the EU they could fall further as people lose faith in democracy.

“I want to be able to look my constituents in the eye as a representative who has respected and honoured their democratic decisions.

“They voted to leave, and I am representing them in their decision.”

Councillor Nickson left Labour in January claiming she was being ‘blocked from doing her job’ – while group leader Allen Brett said her relationship with the party had become ‘untenable’.

However, her surprise departure from the Lib Dems, whilst coming as a shock to the group, appears to have been less acrimonious.

“I have been treated in an outstanding way by the local Liberal Democrats. My colleagues, Irene Davidson, Dave Bamford and Andy Kelly are very decent people,” said Councillor Nickson.

Liberal Democrat group leader Andy Kelly said: “It sounds like Councillor Nixon is a little bit lost politically. She clearly had issues with Labour in Rochdale and a few issues with Lib Dem party politics. If she has found her political home, then I wish her all the best.”

Last week the former Labour leader of Rochdale Council, Colin Lambert, also announced he had joined the Brexit Party – although he stood down as a councillor in 2016.

The political make-up of Rochdale council is now as follows:

Labour 45, Conservative 9, Liberal Democrat 3, independent 1, Brexit Party 2.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

Additional reporting: Rochdale Online

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