Tory councillor defects to Lib Dems a month before election

Cllr Richman says the Lib Dems believe in ‘giving a voice’ to communities like West Hendon
By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Helene Richman, who represents West Hendon (credit Barnet Lib Dems)
Helene Richman, who represents West Hendon (credit Barnet Lib Dems)

A Barnet Conservative councillor has defected to the Liberal Democrats, claiming the Tories had “given up on communities like ours”.

Helene Richman, who has represented the West Hendon ward for the Conservatives since 2018, has quit the group just one month before local elections take place on 5th May.

In a recorded statement posted to Twitter on Sunday, Cllr Richman said she had dedicated her “heart and soul” to improving the lives of residents, but added: “I’m watching as the Conservatives are letting inequality rise and living standards drop. They have given up on communities like ours.”

Explaining why she’d chosen to join the Liberal Democrats instead, Cllr Richman said:  “The Lib Dems believe in giving voice to communities like West Hendon.

“Like me, the Lib Dems believe in a fair and just society, where everyone, no matter what their background, feels comfortable and supported.”

The former Tory described the Lib Dems as “the party of the grass roots, of local champions”, adding: “That’s what I stand for.”

During her time as ward councillor, Cllr Richman said she had campaigned against the closure of a police base and to save a local pub, tackled fly-tipping, founded a foodbank and worked on the regeneration of West Hendon Broadway.

Cllr Richman’s defection brings the number of Liberal Democrats on Barnet Council to three. Group leader Gabriel Rozenberg is himself a former Conservative, while colleague Jess Brayne, who is not standing for re-election in May, is ex-Labour.

Cllr Rozenberg said: “I’m thrilled to welcome Cllr Helene Richman to the Liberal Democrats today. She is a fabulous and relentless campaigner for West Hendon residents. Voters in West Hendon, whoever they typically vote for, should lend a vote to Helene, so she can carry on her outstanding work on behalf of all residents.”

There have been some allegations made about Cllr Richman’s conduct as a councillor, however, that the Tories claim is the real reason for her leaving the party.

In a statement posted to Twitter shortly after the defection was announced, Dan Thomas, leader of Barnet Conservatives, said: “I am absolutely delighted Cllr Helene Richman has left the Conservative Party. She leaves under a cloud of two outstanding and serious complaints regarding her conduct.”

Cllr Thomas said the proceedings against Cllr Richman “forced her to jump before she was pushed” and added: “In 2020, a recording of Cllr Richman making unpleasant remarks to West Hendon residents came to light. She apologised after I spoke with her, and I genuinely thought she had improved her behaviour. Sadly, recent incidents have caused me to change my mind.

“The Liberal Democrats welcoming Helene illustrates how desperate they are. I look forward to working with our new West Hendon candidates and continuing our positive campaign.”

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Richman said she entirely disputed the leader’s claims. She said that in cases that are serious enough to warrant an investigation, “normally you would expect the whip to be removed”, but in her case that had not happened. “I did not do anything wrong”, she added.

Responding to the comments, Sarah Wardle, the Barnet Conservatives’ election agent for the Hendon area, said Cllr Richman had been removed from the approved list of candidates on the basis of the complaints raised, and this was subject to appeal. In order to stand for the Conservative Party, candidates need to be on the approved list.

The Post needs you. No matter how small, your support makes a difference

Barnet Post is a community newspaper that holds authority to account, highlights inequality, promotes good causes, and provides a platform for local people. We do real local news with no paywalls, free to read for all. We can only do this with the continued support of our readers. If you can afford to, please consider supporting us with a small monthly or one-off contribution..

Monthly direct debit 

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month.  

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly 

More Information about donations