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Calls for by-election after Kensington and Chelsea Labour councillor switches allegiances to Lib Dems

Andrew Lomas has quit as deputy leader of the group, has walked the floor and is now the second Lib Dem in the council

Cllr Andrew Lomas has quit as deputy leader of the Labour group in Kensington and Chelsea, joining the Lib Dems

A senior member of the Labour group in Kensington and Chelsea has crossed the floor and changed allegiances to the Lib Dems.

Cllr Andrew Lomas has quit as deputy leader of the Labour group in the Royal borough and will now sit for Colville ward as a Liberal Democrat .

The former Labour parliamentary candidate said he wanted to join a party that will stand up against the Conservatives’ divisive rhetoric on immigration and the economic risk of a hard Brexit .

Labour criticised the decision and is calling for an immediate by-election in the ward.

Cllr Lomas said: “Faced with a Conservative Brexit Government retreating to base nationalist rhetoric, I am not prepared to be complicit in the Labour Party’s silence.

“I’ve left a party only interested in talking to itself, and joined the Liberal Democrats.

'I want to be a member of a party that stands against the noxious language unleashed at the Tory conference about foreigners'

“I’ve been thinking hard about this for some time. It’s clear to me that leaving the EU without crashing the economy is going to be an astonishingly difficult task, and that neither the Conservatives nor the Labour Party seem willing or able to face up to this.

“I want to be a member of a party that stands against the noxious language unleashed at the Tory conference about foreigners, and for a Britain that is open, tolerant, and united.”

He will now join Earl’s Court representative Linda Wade , who had been the sole Lib Dem, on the council. Labour drops by one to 11 councillors, while the Conservatives remain the same with 37 representatives.

The defection of Cllr Lomas, who was first elected in May 2014, was welcomed by Lib Dem London region chairman Chris Maines.

Lib Dems now have two councillors in K&C, while Labour's number drops to 11

He said: “Andrew’s decision to become a Liberal Democrat councillor will help us to hold the Conservative administration in Kensington and Chelsea to account.

“Many other former Labour members and supporters across London have joined the Liberal Democrats over the past few weeks

“They will help us provide the real opposition to this Conservative Brexit government, which does not represent the majority.”

Labour leader Robert Atkinson said an election should now be called, saying Lib Dems had been rejected in the ward: “We believe that in the circumstances he should present himself for re-election to the voters of Colville Ward and we therefore call for an immediate by-election.”

'Now is not the time to quit the field'

He said he shared Cllr Lomas’ disappointment over the Brexit vote, before adding: “I had hoped that he would fight his corner and join with his Labour colleagues and our excellent London Mayor Sadiq Kahn to fight to secure London’s prosperity by staying within the single market and preserving and strengthening our multi cultural society and free movement of citizens across European frontiers.

“Now is not the time to quit the field when there is still so much good about the European Union that needs to be fought for.”

Last year former Hounslow Council leader Dave Wetzel said he was switching from Labour to the Green Party.

And before that Santokh Dhillon joined the Conservatves from Labour in Hillingdon.

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