Alliance plans to target Lib Dems and the Greens at next election
5th September 2019
The Alliance party that swept aside the Tory candidates in the last borough council elections are now planning to target the Lib Dems and the Greens, the Times can disclose.
The party was created with the sole objective of stopping the £108million theatre and civic complex on the edge of Calverley Grounds.
As reported in last week’s Times, members of the Alliance have also been suspended from the community social media network, Nextdoor, for ‘soapboxing’ against the theatre.
Through an aggressive social media campaign that has attacked those in favour of the project, the Alliance managed to unseat five Conservatives during the local elections and now has six seats on the Council.
One of the driving forces behind the strategy for the election in May was Robert Chris who is now party chairman. He and other leaders live next door to the proposed site.
Alliance Cllr Nick Pope has already publicly warned Tory members who do not vote against the Calverley Square development that they will lose their seats at next year’s May elections. Cllr Pope was originally in favour of Calverley Square.
Robert Chris has been criticised for ‘hijacking’ a Full Council meeting when Calverley Square was discussed.
He also spoke at the CPO inquiry held by the Planning Inspectorate into the project earlier this year.
During the three-week CPO hearing, Mr Chris spent hours cross-examining Council witnesses and presented hundreds of pages of reports he had written himself condemning the Council and its proposed scheme.
All of his arguments were thrown out by the Planning Inspector, Graham Dudley, who gave the development a clean bill of health and sided with the Council over its economic impact assessments of the project.
Mr Chris was also accused of being a ‘misogynist’ by one councillor at a public meeting because of his behaviour.
This accusation resulted in Mr Chris appealing to the ombudsman, who threw out his complaint and sided with his female accuser.
Today, the Times can reveal that Robert Chris is planning to target the Lib Dems and Greens at the next Local Election, scheduled for May, in a bid to seize power of the Council.
Currently the chamber consists of 28 Conservative councillors, nine Lib Dems, four Labour, one independent, and six Alliance councillors.
Robert Chris sets out the party’s strategy in a briefing sent to other members and seen by this newspaper.
In it he explains the importance of including mentions of climate change in their public statements to ‘steal a march on the Lib Dems and Greens’.
He said: “My initial analysis strongly indicates that the Tories’ share of the votes cast varied little across the wards. But the Lib Dems scored well only in those wards we didn’t fight.”
He continued: “This suggests that next year, if voting follows a similar pattern, disaffected Tories will vote for us where we have a candidate and for the Lib Dems where we don’t.”
He went on: “In effect, the Lib Dems become our main electoral target.”
He also admitted to his members that the decision for Calverley Square ‘rests with the Council’.
He said: “The Council doesn’t have to produce any evidence to change the situation. It has planning consent. It has a confirmed CPO. It can just get on and do it, should it not choose to stop.”
Next May, another 12 seats are up for election at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
If more than four Conservative councillors are unseated, it could see them lose control of the Council in Tunbridge Wells for the first time since 1998 when the Liberal Democrats were last in charge.
Any coalition could see Alliance members having a controlling vote at Full Council meetings or a seat on the decision making Cabinet.