Somerset councillor quits Tories for Reform in general election bid

A SOMERSET councillor has defected to Reform UK in hopes of representing the party in the next general election.

Steve Ashton (Ind, Crewkerne) resigned from the Conservative party on Friday (March 22) over dissatisfaction with MP Marcus Fysh (Con, Yeovil) and a broader “mistrust of the Conservative machine”.

Later that day, he joined Reform UK and applied to stand for the party in Yeovil for the upcoming general election.

“The main reason is, I have an issue with our MP,” Cllr Ashton said.

He said he worked hard to keep the stroke unit at Yeovil open, but even as a Conservative councillor, was unable to get a prompt response from Mr Fysh, who the Crewkerne native said he had tried to depose.

“He doesn’t do anything for the town,” he said.  “We (the local Conservative party) tried to de-select Marcus Fysh but he turned to the electorate.”

Your Somerset Leveller understands Cllr Ashton put himself forward to replace Mr Fysh as the Conservative candidate but was unsuccessful.

Cllr Ashton said he holds more affection for Lib Dem candidate Adam Dance (“I get on with him very well”) and Green candidate Serena Wooton (she is “very good”) than he does for Mr Fysh, but feels disenfranchised with the established political system and Reform presents an attractive “loose group”.

READ MORE: Diane Abbott remarks ‘clearly racist and completely wrong’, says Tory Marcus Fysh 

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Another key factor in Cllr Ashton’s decision to leave the Conservatives, he said, was his disappointment with its environmental policies, such as moving the 2030 target for zero emission cars and re-opening licences for North Sea oil.

“I think it was influenced by the fossil fuel industry,” he said.

Therefore, voters might be surprised by the committed climate campaigner’s switch to Reform, a party he accepts is full of “climate change sceptics”, but he hopes to change this from the inside.

He said: “I find Reform attractive in their policies are fluid at the moment.”

“I think a control of immigration is going to be an important issue.”

Reform, meanwhile, has been forced to drop multiple candidates over controversial social media posts.

Cllr Ashton said: “I know the media is presenting them (Reform) as extreme right, ultra-racist.

“I have to put my hands up and say I’m naive to this.

“This is a new playing field – issues of gender, ethnicity – I will form my opinions as soon as I can.”

But he acknowledges Lee Anderson’s views, including comments that Islamists have control of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, will “carry a lot of weight” but stresses the party “needs to moderate them”, in a similar way to Nigel Farage’s legitimisation of UKIP.

Reform is yet to select a candidate for Yeovil; Cllr Ashton hopes he will be chosen and able to take enough Conservative votes with him to oust the incumbent.

“I’ve been in touch, I’ve filled in the forms, I’m waiting to hear back,” he added.

“I live my life by going, ‘Why not?’”

The Somerset Council website currently lists Cllr Ashton as an Independent; his membership of Reform was added to his register of interests on Monday afternoon.

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