Will they swipe left or swipe right? Future of Milton Keynes Council leadership lies with 13 Lib Dem kingmakers

Liberal Democrat councillors in Milton Keynes are set to decide whether to swipe left for Labour or right for the Tories when they meet within the next few days.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 12:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th May 2021, 1:20 pm

The Lib Dem group, which has 13 councillors after last week’s local elections, has flirted with both the other parties at specially organised online date nights – concluding with Labour last night (Wednesday).

And it seems the Lib Dems have had good meetings with both their potential suitors.

Their old-love or new-love decision could mean the Conservatives taking control of the council from Labour, and a new council leader being elected at next week’s MKC annual meeting.

Current council leader Pete Marland
Current council leader Pete Marland

Leader of the council’s 24 Conservatives, Alex Walker (Stantonbury) described their conversations with the Lib Dems as “constructive.”

Now, following their meeting on Wednesday with Labour, Cllr Robin Bradburn (Bradwell), the new Lib Dem leader, said: “We had a constructive meeting.”

He added that they were now organising a virtual get together of all their 13 councillors.

The group will be asked to make their minds up on whether to stick with their long term partners in Labour, or if their heads have been turned by the new, larger Conservative group, which leapfrogged Labour to become Milton Keynes Council’s largest party.

Tory leader Alex Walker

The current leader of the council which has no one party in overall control, is Cllr Pete Marland (Wolverton).

Cllr Marland, who leads the council’s 19 Labour councillors, said he believes the Lib Dems will make a decision that “will be what they feel is best for the city.”

Cllr Marland said: “The Labour group have met with the Liberal Democrats yesterday evening.

“No single party got a majority of votes last week and no single party has a majority in the council chamber.

Lib Dem leader Robin Bradburn

“We believe that to ensure a strong recovery with the change people want requires political parties to work together to deliver for everyone in Milton Keynes.”

He added: “I have enormous respect for the Liberal Democrats group and I know whatever decision they make will be what they feel is best for the city.”

The situation has sparked comments on Twitter.

Tory Liam Andrews, who finished in third place to Labour with 890 votes in the election in Central MK, said the red party has “lost a huge amount of experience” with the departure of councillors including Hannah O’Neill, Nigel Long, Norman Miles, and Martin Petchey.

“MK Conservatives have that depth of experience and a much bigger group to lead on health and the economy,” he said.

But Peter Carrington, referring to a national coalition between the yellow party and the Tories from 2010 to 2015, which ended with the Lib Dems being reduced to just eight MPs in Parliament, tweeted: “I’d hope the LibDems would have learnt that nothing good comes from a coalition with the Conservatives!”