A prominent Tory politician and former leader of Kettering Council has left the party and become an independent councillor after standing against another Conservative in an upcoming by-election.
Cllr James Hakewill has had the whip removed and will no longer be able to represent the Conservative Party after putting himself forward in the forthcoming Rothwell Town Council by-election.
He now becomes an independent councillor on both Kettering Council and Northamptonshire County Council.
The long-serving councillor, who was first elected to Kettering Council in 1987, said he knew by standing against a fellow Conservative he would be expelled from the political party but said ‘representing local people mattered more to me than politics.’
He said: “A vacancy appeared on Rothwell Town Council and I asked to be considered as a candidate by the Conservative Party.
“However they decided that I lived too far away to qualify. I did my research, found that you have to be within three miles and I used Google maps to work out the distance, but still I could not convince them that I qualified.
“I got to the stage where, because I care about Rothwell very much, it mattered more to me to try and represent the town than continue as a member of the Conservative Party.
“Clearly there are very difficult times ahead and I want to be a strong voice for the parish and town councils as we move towards a unitary system.”
Rachel Nash has been put up by the Conservative Party as the candidate for the Tresham ward election and Stuart Everitt is standing for the Labour Party.
There is also an election for the Trinity ward with Jilly Coleman standing for Labour and Keith Patrick for the Conservatives.
Cllr Hakewill currently represents the Slade Ward on Kettering Council which covers villages including Harrington, Thorpe Malsor and Cransley.
He has served on Northamptonshire County Council since 2013 and represents the Rothwell and Mawsley ward.
He was chairman of the finances and resources committee but resigned earlier this year. Northamptonshire County Council is in financial difficulties and is being overseen by central government commissioners.
Cllr Hakewill has been a vocal campaigner in the area, campaigning against the proposed closure of Rothwell library and also to have a planned link road in place before 700 homes are built at Rothwell North.
The former Kettering Council leader, who was in charge from 2007 to 2011 until he was ousted by colleagues, said he felt he had been badly treated by his party.
He said: “I do feel that I could have been given the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes I think the way I challenge things is uncomfortable for some fellow party members.
“But I’m excited about the future. I recognise that some people who voted me in as a Conservative may be disappointed, but at the end of the day representing the people and their views is more important than party politics.”
The Hakewill family has a long-standing political history in the Kettering area. Cllr Hakewill’s father Charles was a local politician from the 1950s and was former leader of Kettering Council from 1976-1979. He also served as Kettering mayor in 1975.
Cllr Hakewill, who lives in Braybrooke and was mayor in 2012, tried on two occasions to become the Tory MP for Kettering but was beaten to the selection by current MP Philip Hollobone.
He fought as the Conservative candidate in the 2001 elections in South Derbyshire and received more than 18,000 votes.
The by-election is being held on July 26.