Councillor investigated for Prince Philip tweets rejects by-election calls
Matthew Smith, local democracy reporter
- Credit: Twitter/Stevenage Borough Council
A Stevenage councillor who left the Labour party after they opened an investigation into jokes she made about Prince Philip when he died is refusing calls to stand down.
Yesterday, Stevenage Labour said that “in all conscience” Councillor Lizzy Kelly, who represents Bedwell, should call a by-election for her seat.
However, the councillor has confirmed she will sit as an independent until the end of her term in May to avoid Stevenage Borough Council having to hold a “costly by-election” or leaving her constituents with representation.
Cllr Kelly quit the Labour Party last week after they informed her of an investigation into a tweet she made asking if there would be a “spare space in the Windsor’s beer garden” after Prince Philip died, and a retweet of a second joke about the Duke of Edinburgh.
She said the investigation was “the last in a series” of reasons which meant she no longer felt welcome in the party, and cancelled her party membership.
Following her resignation, a statement released on behalf of the Stevenage Labour’s chair Jim Callaghan and Leader of Stevenage Borough Council Sharon Taylor (Labour, Symonds Green) said Cllr Kelly should let constituents decide whether she would be allowed to remain in post.
The Stevenage Labour group said: “We understand that Cllr Kelly has decided to leave the Labour Party, although she has not yet had the courtesy to formally advise us of that decision. We are led to believe that she considers the current direction of travel of the Labour Party as incompatible with her personal political views.
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“We would strongly suggest that as she was elected for Bedwell under the banner of the Labour Party she should, in all conscience, now resign her seat and allow the people of Bedwell to elect her replacement.”
However, Cllr Kelly has confirmed she will sit as an independent until the end of her term in May.
In a Facebook post, the councillor said that she had not commented on the story "in order to focus on fulfilling my commitments to local residents rather than engage in destructive Labour infighting”, but said constituents deserve an explanation into why she will sit as an independent.
Cllr Kelly said her seat would be up for election in May, and resigning her seat would result in “a costly by-election in an already severely under-funded council shortly before the scheduled election, or temporarily leaving Bedwell without representation".
She added that her politics have not changed since being elected in 2018, and “factional Labour politics” meant she could no longer represent the party.
The councillor’s statement continued: “Moreover, my politics and principles remain the same as when I was elected in 2018.
"My view is that the Labour party has departed from those principles, and is uninterested in addressing the shocking imbalance of wealth and power in this country; and combined with the personal toll of factional Labour politics I felt unable to remain a Labour representative in good faith.
“I was elected to stand up for an area that has been stripped of public services under a decade of Tory rule with dire social consequences, and I will do so to the best of my ability for the remainder of my term.”