Former council leader and Dudley mayor de-selected by Tories ahead of election
A former council leader and mayor of Dudley has been de-selected as a Conservative candidate ahead of the local elections in May, it has been confirmed.
Councillor Anne Millward was told she had been unsuccessful following a meeting of the Dudley North Conservative Association held on March 20.
She claimed she was rejected despite being the only candidate put forward for the seat – and alleged the reason for her de-selection was down to misogyny.
But the association has denied the claims accusing the former candidate of acting "like the boy who cried wolf" and creating an impression which is untrue.
Councillor Millward, believed to have been the first female Dudley Council leader between 2009 and 2011, said: "I've been a councillor for almost 20 years, except for four years when I was chairman of the association, and I applied for my seat as I'm up for election in May.
"Despite being asked time after time, the Dudley North Conservative Association left it and then had to organise an 'emergency selection meeting' because they've not pulled their finger out. I was called in front of the executive, I was the only candidate, and then I found out later I was unsuccessful with no rhyme or reason attached – they've just deselected me.
"When I did find out I have to say I did laugh and I thought 'I can't even win a fight with myself' – I did think it was unusual because they told me I was the only candidate, and I've been told I'm not successful."
The former Mayor of Dudley, who served between 2021 and 2022, claimed misogyny was involved in the process and cited the likes of Councillor Karen Shakespeare and Councillor Tina Westwood being de-selected across the borough.
"You've got three female councillors with a combined 55 years of experience who have all been de-selected in favour of male candidates. They have a real problem and it's very sad we're being singled out in this way," she claimed in a statement refuted by the association, who later revealed Claire Sullivan had been selected as the candidate for Gornal.
She also accused the association of leaving the announcement late so they "couldn't give the 14-day notice" so the public would be unable to have a say in how they select their candidate.
Councillor Millward was suspended last year by the Conservatives and briefly sat as an independent for 21 days after comments criticising the Black Country Plan, but said she wasn't "going to stand by" and let green belt areas of her ward be developed.
And when asked about her political future, Councillor Millward said: "I've been approached by another party but I've politely declined. The thought of standing as an independent is quite exciting, but it's something I'm weighing up. I've had a great political career. I was the first ever female leader of Dudley Council. I was instrumental in setting up the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) at the time and bringing all the people together – I've been a cabinet member and I'm experienced and I can speak on any number of subjects.
"I'm very annoyed about it more than angry. Being independent is something I could consider but I'm not making a decision on it at the moment."
She added: "I'm a resident of Gornal and have been all of my life. It's been an absolute pleasure to represent the people and residents and I've always tried my very best for them. And even when I was off the council, I worked very hard for them and will continue to to that.
"I want to live in a nice area – I'm impacted by vandalism, buses not arriving and everything which impacts on residents in my ward. I will continue to fight for those residents whether they see me as an independent, or as a resident, my door is always open and the phone lines are free for a call."
A spokesman for the Dudley North Conservative Association, addressing the points raised by Councillor Millward, said: "It is really disappointing that, like the boy who cried wolf, Mrs Millward appears to be using one of the protected characteristics to try to create an impression that simply isn’t there.
"Our Upper Gornal & Woodsetton ward candidate for 2023 is the formidable and brave Lynette Corfield, and in 2022 the only seat in Dudley that moved from Labour to Conservative was won by our candidate, and now Councillor Sara Bothul.
"The Gornal ward will be re-advertised and I can assure you that the successful candidate will be chosen on merit, not gender, race, religion, or any other ‘tick box’ exercise.
"The selection process for the Gornal ward had to be paused for a substantial period as Mrs Millward was suspended by the Dudley Conservative Group. That is not the fault of Dudley North Conservative Association or its executive."