Express & Star

Councillor laments over 'broken' Britain as he quits Conservatives for Reform UK

A Tory councillor has defected to Reform UK, saying his old party had left Britain a "broken" country where "nothing works".

Lichfield councillor Barry Gwilt (left) with Reform UK leader Richard Tice on a visit to the West Midlands

Barry Gwilt, who represents Fazeley on Lichfield District Council, said former colleagues had branded him a "treacherous b*****d" after he quit the ruling Conservative group.

The former council chairman, who has represented Fazeley since 2019, said a combination of Tory failings on national and local issues had persuaded him to cross the floor.

He said quitting the Tories had been on his mind for a few months and that he had been deselected ahead of the district elections in May. He said things came to a head when he had his van stolen and was told by a policeman that it "wasn't important".

"My wife needed the doctor and couldn't get in, so I had to pay for her to go private," he added.

"I run a catering business. I'm being taxed to death and every part of my business is being annihilated and the Conservatives are doing nothing to help me.

"I just think nationally everything is broken and nothing seems to be working.

"I've been a Conservative all my life and they've called me a treacherous b*****d for defecting, but I hope there will be a few others, if only to point the Conservatives back in the right direction."

Councillor Gwilt previously served as chairman of Lichfield District Council

On Lichfield District Council, which the Tories dominate with 32 seats, he said: "As a district they are more interested in debating having a pay rise than they are in the important issues.

"I raised a question in the chamber about law and order and I got shut up. They don't want to discuss the important issues. I'd just had enough."

Explaining his decision to join Reform, he said: "I do like what Reform stand for, although I'm a bit either way on Brexit. I was Leave in the referendum but as a caterer I've seen how much food prices have gone up, so it's not been great for my business.

"A lot of the other policies, particularly on tax, I fully agree with. I think immigration has got to be controlled and not a free for all. When I lived in Hong Kong for four years it was controlled, when I lived in America it was controlled.

Councillor Gwilt says he plans to stand as a Reform candidate for Fazeley in May's local elections, and is also standing in the Staffordshire County Council by-election in Watling South.

Councillor Doug Pullen, Conservative leader of Lichfield District Council, said: "I understand that Barry was not selected as a candidate for the upcoming district elections by his local association, and he has now decided to join another party.

"I wish him well for the future."