Independent who quit Tory Party after de-selection will not stand again

Jim Rae pictured just after being elected to West Sussex County Council in May 2013
Jim Rae pictured just after being elected to West Sussex County Council in May 2013

An independent Horsham county councillor who quit the Tories last year will not stand in next year’s elections.

Jim Rae was first voted on to West Sussex County Council in 2013, but left the Conservative Party in early 2015 after not being re-selected by the Tories’ local association to contest his Holbrook East ward in last May’s Horsham District Council’s elections.

In a Facebook post announcing he would continue as an independent in February last year, he said he had been ‘sold down the river’ by the National Conservative Party Board in their ‘selfish quest for party unity’.

Instead he stood as an independent general election candidate looking to replace then Horsham MP Francis Maude in May, but finished last with 303 votes, 32,324 votes behind the Conservative’s successful candidate Jeremy Quin.

Yesterday Mr Rae announced he would not be seeking re-election in May 2017 when all West Sussex county councillors divisions are contested in order to spend more time supporting his wife, who has been struggling with ‘ever decreasing personal health’.

In a public Facebook post he said: “For the last three years I have had the privilege to be the WSCC councillor for the Roffey division of Horsham, in that time I have worked tirelessly for the benefit of Roffey’s residents – I have had a few headlines (maybe not so good) and a few unheralded successes along the way which have made all the hard work I have put in and all the hours that my wife has missed my mental and physical support worthwhile.

“But all things must come to an end.”

He continued: “I shall with Shirley’s agreement and understanding work through my final year as a WSCC councillor with all the dedication that I have shown since being elected in May 2013, this is not a decision taken lightly; I have found the work at a county council level a very satisfying challenge including my work with West Sussex Fire and Rescue and the Regulation, Accounts and Audit Committee.

“There may be some people who may question the wisdom of my/our decision but to them I say, we came, we saw, we cared, we did our bit – even if at times our bit was not appreciated – we will however leave the stage with our heads held high and our integrity very much intact.”

The Roffey division was one of the most hotly contested in 2013, with Mr Rae finishing just 25 votes ahead of UKIP’s Mike Rowlands, and 156 ahead of the Lib Dem incumbent Warwick Hellawell.

Afterwards he admitted the result might have been different if his opponent ‘had actually delivered a single piece of paper’ to people’s homes.

Both Helena Croft, former deputy leader at HDC, and Mr Rae were not chosen as candidates for the May 2015 district council elections by the Horsham Conservative Association for Roffey North and Holbrook East respectively.

Mrs Croft was subsequently selected by the Arundel and South Downs Conservative Association as one of two candidates to contest the Henfield ward, but polled behind fellow Tory Brian O’Connell and independent Mike Morgan, who were both elected ahead of her.

Both Mr Rae and Mrs Croft were criticised by residents for voting for the Horsham District Planning Framework, which included plans for 2,500 homes and a business park north of the A264, and yesterday Mr Rae said he had spent the last 20 plus years ‘fighting for the environment of North Horsham’.

This included his ‘mission of protecting the residents of North Horsham from their bouts of illogical, irrational and highly dangerous (to them) anger about housing development forced upon them (and us) by this Conservative Government through the infamous NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework]’.

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