Councillors Ian Rathbone, Linda Kelly and Deniz Oguzkanli

New Conservative councillor Linda Kelly with her fellow Leabridge (Labour) councillors Ian Rathbone and Deniz Oguzkanli

Hackney Labour councillor Linda Kelly has defected to the Conservatives.

Just after the directly-elected Labour Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, heaped praise on her at last night’s Council AGM for her role as Deputy Speaker, she announced she was joining the Conservative benches.

Cllr Kelly said: “I woke up. I saw them for who they are. Hackney Council is run like a dictatorship. You are not allowed to disagree with Jules Pipe or his executive, they stifle all opposition.”

“I wanted the voice of my constituents to be heard and I felt that the best way for this to happen was to speak from the Conservative benches.”

As a councillor (in Leabridge ward, Clapton) she has the second highest personal vote in Hackney and her defection brings the size of the Conservative Group to five.

Cllr Michael Levy, leader of the Conservative Group on Hackney said: “We welcome Linda with open arms. The invitation is open for other members of the Labour Group if they really want the voice of their constituents to be heard.”

Commenting on the move, Conservative London Assembly Member and Hackney resident Andrew Boff said: “There are many hard-working Labour councillors who are fed up with the control-freakery of Jules Pipe’s administration. It must be like being a Member of Parliament in North Korea.”

Update 2.30pm Thursday 19 May 2011:

In a statement, Hackney Labour Party said: “It’s a shame for Cllr Linda Kelly that she has decided to join the Conservative Party, following nine years as a Labour councillor in Hackney.

“Cllr Linda Kelly wanted to become the Speaker of Hackney for a second time, and in a recent election, Labour councillors chose another councillor for the civic post.  Linda was not happy with this outcome and it seems that she decided she could no longer continue as a Labour councillor.

“She recently issued a statement saying: “The Con-Dem Coalition is attacking the fabric of a civilised society… We would like to see local Councils across London leading the charge and refusing to adopt cuts budgets as a result of government enforced policies and producing a Needs Budgets to show what should be funded…. We are facing a national and international emergency and this calls for exceptional measures to mobilise our people and defeat the Con-Dem Coalition.”

“It will be interesting to see what her new Tory allies in Hackney think of her anti Coalition Government stance.

“Leabridge ward had the lowest Tory vote in London in May 2010 (5.3%), so she has no mandate to continue as a councillor in that ward. Leabridge ward still has two hard working Labour councillors and Linda should resign and fight a by-election so that residents there are given the chance to decide on who represents their interests best.”

Leabridge ward Labour councillors Ian Rathbone and Deniz Oguzkanli said: “We regret the decision of our former colleague to leave the Labour Party and join the Conservative councillors on Hackney Council.

“We would like residents to feel assured that it will be ‘service as usual’ as we continue to work to serve the residents of Leabridge ward as Labour councillors committed to carrying out the Labour manifesto.”

Update 3.20pm Thursday 19 May 2011:

Commenting on Cllr Linda Kelly crossing the chamber, Mick Carty,  Communist Party of Britain candidate for Leabridge ward in last year’s local elections, said: “Kelly’s move has betrayed 2,878 working class voters in Leabridge Ward for no reason other than blatant opportunism, and petty self interest.

“There is no dignity in what she has done, and if she had any integrity she would resign immediately and allow the voters of Leabridge ward to choose not only who represents them, but in whose interests their representative will act”.

“Hackney Labour Party needs to look long and hard at itself as to how it could harbour individuals with Tory sympathies. There is a clear need for elected Communist representatives to ensure that Hackney Labour councillors are consistently held to account in order for genuine working class representation to take place.”

Update: 4.15pm Thursday 19 May 2011:

In response to the news of Cllr Kelly’s defection to the Conservatives, a spokesperson for Hackney Liberal Democrats said: “So, a councillor can cross from the Labour to the Conservative party and feel perfectly at home.

“It demonstrates how alike in some ways the two parties are: authoritarian centralists who believe in tight control and in telling people what to do. The only difference now appears to be economic – “cut now” or “cut later”, hardly surprising when both Blair and Brown saw themselves as Thatcher’s heirs.

“If Linda Kelly had serious criticisms of the Labour programme, as we do, then she has always been free to voice them. We look forward to hearing them now.”