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The two Gillingham North Independent councillors have joined the Labour Group on Medway Council.

In a move which will disappoint residents who voted for them over Labour in 2011, Councillors Pat Cooper and Andy Stamp have crossed the floor and joined the 15-strong Labour Group.

Cllr Stamp, a twice former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, and Cllr Cooper ran together with Dan McDonald in 2011, in Medway’s most fiercely-contested ward. They went head-to-head with Labour and split the ward, with Labour Councillor Adam Price taking the third seat.

The trio attracted votes from across the political spectrum, as they offered a refreshing change from partisan politics and instead focused on local issues important to Gillingham North residents. As a less recognisable figure in the community, despite his work for the Citizens Advice Bureau, Mr McDonald missed out on election by over 100 votes, coming sixth behind the other two Labour candidates Naushabah Khan and Ian Darbyshire.

Although Cllrs Cooper and Stamp appear to be ideologically aligned towards the more moderate Labour wing, their voice in the council chamber did not always match that of the Labour Group.

Now, however, they have decided to cross the floor and join the council’s second-largest party, a decision which has disappointed many people known to this author who voted for the pair precisely because they offered a non-partisan approach to local politics.

Perhaps most ironically, Cllr Stamp has said that one factor in his defection was the reselection of Paul Clark as Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in Gillingham and Rainham – a politician he attacked when he stood against him in 2005 and 2010.

How the majority in Gillingham North will react to the news will not be known for some time; the next local elections in Medway are not until May 2015.

Until then, residents will be represented by three Labour councillors, whether they like it or not…

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