COVENTRY Conservative councillor Gary Ridley has ruled himself out of the general election but has confirmed he will be standing to lead the opposition at the Council House.
The experienced councillor has also revealed how Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement of a snap election was unfortunate timing given he had decided to take a family holiday abroad where he was cut-off from normal communications.
As a candidate in the last two general elections in Coventry, it was widely speculated he may stand again.
His announcement comes days after colleague Allan Andrews also ruled himself out, paving the way for him to become Coun Ridley’s deputy in charge of the council Tory group from next month when current group leader John Blundell becomes deputy Lord Mayor.
Coun Ridley held cabinet positions at the council house when the Tories were in power before 2010 and now has a shadow cabinet portfolio after returning to become a councillor.
Coun Ridley’s announcement this afternoon on Facebook will increase speculation that an out-of-town candidate could stand against Labour’s Jim Cunningham in Coventry South, which is the Conservatives’ 32nd target seat nationally – possibly Sevenoaks district council deputy leader Michelle Lowe, who stood in the city in 2015.
Coun Ridley’s full statement reads:
“During the last week I’ve been on a family holiday. We planned this for the Easter break eighteen months ago to coincide with the fallow year and my wife’s holiday’s as a teacher. Back then there was no such thing as an election for the Mayor of the West Midlands so I thought I’d be safe to take a break!
With no phone signal and poor internet connectivity I’m sure you can imagine my surprise returning to discover there’s going to be a General Election this year!
I’ve been really touched by the kind words and supportive messages I’ve received asking me if I’m going to stand again this time around. I’m also flattered that the media linked me to Coventry South.
However, I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you and say now that I won’t be a candidate at this year’s General Election.
There’s a number of reasons for this but in quashing speculation about one position I can confirm speculation about another. I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be standing for the leadership of the Conservative Group at our AGM in May.
I love our country – but I love Coventry too and having given my word to colleagues that I’d stand for the position it’d frankly be opportunistic and wrong for me to pull out now.
There’s some really talented people in our party and I know we’ll have three first class candidates in Coventry for the electorate to support.
However the coming weeks turn out I look forward to fighting alongside them – the choice at this election is clear, strong leadership with a vision for our future or Labour’s coalition of incompetence.
For a country that works for everyone Vote Conservative.”