Political maneuvring over the past 24 hours has revealed a deep division in the local Liberal Democrats over the status of now independent Dukes ward candidate Tony Dawson.
Cllr Dawson has remained an active part of the Sefton Liberal Democrat group in recent times despite departing the Liberal Democrats over an “issue with the national party”.
Originally, Southport Liberal Democrats planned for Tony Dawson to stand as an indepent, unopposed by any Liberal Democrat candidate. The local association were unaware that David Newman, who is also the Liberal Democrat candidate for Liverpool City Region Mayor, approached a senior party official based outside of Sefton to seek permission to stand in the ward just yesterday, on the final day of candidate applications.
John Pugh says that David Newman sought to stand without the “encouragement or full backing of the Lib Dem Council Group, the Dukes Ward Committee or the Southport Liberal Democrat Association.”
However David Newman has called on Tony Dawson to withdraw his candidacy and “come clean with the issues about why he was expelled from the party”.
A previous disciplinary investigation surrounding Tony Dawson is already a matter of public record, following a social media post where he claimed he could not lend his support to Lib Dem candidate Sue McGuire. It is not known whether Mr Newman is alluding to other undisclosed incidents or allegations.
Tony Dawson said: “The Lib Dems in Southport and I have continued to co-operate well since I ceased to be a Party member. I was grateful to hear that Southport Lib Dems decided that the people of Dukes Ward deserve to have a chance to continue to receive my services – which the voters endorsed by significantly increasing my majority when I last stood for re-election.”
“At four successive elections, Councillor John Pugh and I have both been been re-elected through receiving hundreds of votes on an individual basis from Conservatives, socialists and even some UKIP supporters – as well as many liberals.”
“Due to the thousands of individual cases in which I have helped individuals over the years I possibly know more Southport people personally than almost any other person in the town. I hope the residents of Dukes Ward will want to keep me working hard as an independent councillor for them all alongside councillors John Pugh and Ron Watson.”
David Newman told OTS News: “I’m very pleased to be offering a real choice for people in this town at this election.
“The Liberal Democrats have a real plan to fix our broken high street and supporting the most vulnerable who have been left behind by the Covid-19 pandemic by the Conservative government. The Labour Party have no answers and are left divided across Merseyside by the grotesque actions in Liverpool which may have scuppered over £100million of tax payers money.
“In regards to Councillor Dawson, he is an expelled member of the Liberal Democrats and will not be readmitted by the party. This has been supported by various disciplinary panels within the party.
“I appreciate that some in the local party have a friendly relationship with Cllr Dawson, however the local party is in full contradiction of our party rules in not standing a candidate and giving people a real choice.
“I would ask Cllr Dawson come clean with the issues about why he was expelled from the party and in doing so withdraw his candidacy and back the Liberal Democrats who are the only main challengers to the Conservatives here.
“I’ll be giving it my all, and I look forward to meeting many voters on the doorstep to talk them about my positive campaign for the town.”
Cllr John Pugh, leader of the Sefton Council Liberal Democrat group said: “Tony, though an active member of my Council Group, has issues with the national party that we in Southport hope to resolve as he has been very poorly treated and value his service to the town. Tony Dawson’s candidature for the 2021 election as an unopposed independent was supported by both the Council’s Liberal Democrat Group and the Southport Liberal Democrat Association.
“It is widely assumed that Tony standing for re-election as an independent represents the best chance of defeating the Conservative in what used to be their strongest ward. Should he win, Tony will remain part of our Council group which provides the only effective opposition on Sefton.
“Unfortunately, without the encouragement or full backing of the Lib Dem Council Group, the Dukes Ward Committee or the Southport Liberal Democrat Association, an individual has chosen off their own bat to put their name forward as a ‘Liberal Democrat’, and has done this by by-passing the local party authorisation process and seeking validation from a party official over in Cheshire.
“This may confuse electors and assist the Conservatives.”