Lib Dem conference heckler resigns as a Chelmsford councillor

A Chelmsford Lib Dem councillor who heckled the party leader Jo Swinson at over her decision to accept Tory defector Phillip Lee has stepped down from the city council citing “political reasons”.

Catherine Finnecy, who won her Marconi seat at the local election in May, was one of 31 new Lib Dem councillors who stormed to victory, thereby overturning the Tory administration.

She was appointed chairman of the audit committee but has recently stepped down from that role.

Her comments over Ms Swinson’s decision to allow former Tory Phillip Lee to defect to the Lib Dems as a sitting MP, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson was at the Despatch Box, were made at the Lib Dem conference.

It was during a question and answer session that Ms Finnecy complained over the decision to accept the East Dunbartonshire MP, whose Immigration Bill in 2014 would have seen immigrants tested for diseases including HIV before getting permission to enter the country.

In a deleted tweet from September 17 Ms Finnecy criticised the party’s local deputy leader and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Marie Goldman.

“I’ve resigned as councillor for Marconi due to what is, in my opinion, unacceptable behaviour from my deputy leader and PPC,” she tweeted.

“For now I remain a member of the Lib Dems.”

Her decision means there will now be a by-election to contend her Marconi seat.

The council is now made up of 30 Liberal Democrats, 21 Conservatives and five Independents, with one vacant seat.

She added: “I need to be able to go about this internal Lib Dem political fight without dragging my local party into the mix.

“They never caused this problem and their values are absolutely in line with progressive national Lib Dem LGBT+ policies. The disagreement was over the handling of this.”

Paul Clark, leader of the Independents group on the city council, said: “We would like some to stand and then we would support them – it would be someone who shares our common views.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter