A Conservative councillor in Barnet has defected to the Liberal Democrats, claiming her former party has “given up on communities like ours”.
Councillor Helene Richman confirmed on Sunday she was switching political party to stand in the West Hendon ward as the Lib Dem candidate at the local elections next month.
Jewish News understands Richman had not been selected as the Tory Candidate in West Hendon for the May election, despite representing the ward since 2018.
At a press conference confirming her defection, the former vice-chair of Hendon Conservative Association attacked the local Tory Group’s record claiming: “I’m watching as the Conservatives are letting inequality rise and living standards drop. They have given up on communities like ours.
“So today I am announcing that I have resigned from the Conservative Party, and joined the Liberal Democrats, so that I can continue to work to bring the community of West Hendon together.
“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 their background, feels comfortable and supported.”
The leader of the Lib Dem Group on Barnet Council Gabriel 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.”
Richman, a barrister, who describes herself as a passionate Jewish inter-faith supporter, has sat on the committee on Barnet Council that scrutinises councillors’ conduct.
In her defection speech, Richman also stressed her belief in a “multi-cultural community” saying this was what she had always worked for.
She will be the Lib Dems only candidate to stand in the West Hendon ward on 5 May.
Richman was first elected as a West Hendon Tory councillor in Barnet in 2018 and has benefitted in the role from her experience at the Bar in areas such as planning, property and regeneration.
In 2021 Richman delivered the Holocaust Memorial Day address from Hendon Conservatives saying: “We so strongly encourage, indeed advocate, for continued work to rid our world of antisemitism, the oldest hatred, and for us all to live in peace with our friends and neighbours.”
Cllr Rozenberg added: “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.
“Our movement is gaining strength. The Lib Dems were already the only council group in Barnet that increased in size over the past four years. Now we’ve done it again. Across the borough, more and more people are turning to the Liberal Democrats to stand up for their community.”
In a damning rebuke Barnet Tory Group leader Cllr Dan Thomas 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. In my personal opinion, she is not suitable to be a councillor and was recently subject to proceedings regarding her candidacy, which I believe forced her to jump before she was pushed.
“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”.
Jewish News has also contacted Sarah Wardle, the Barnet Conservatives election agent for comment.
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