A BREXIT Party councillor has announced that he has joined the Conservatives.

Mark Cunningham, who represents Kearsley, revealed today that he would be defecting to Bolton Council’s ruling group.

He said the decision was an effort to make certain he had a voice in plans to “deliver Brexit” and ensure residents in his ward had their views heard.

It is the second time in the last seven months that Cllr Cunningham has decided to change parties. In August last year, he left UKIP to become the first Brexit Party councillor in Bolton.

He also ran to become MP for Bolton South East in the 2019 General Election, losing out to Labour candidate Yasmin Qureshi by around 18,500 votes.

“As a sitting councillor who was elected by the people of Kearsley to fight for better investment in Kearsley and Brexit for our country, the Conservative Party appears to me to be the only party that can and will now deliver Brexit,” Cllr Cunningham said.

“I believe the best way to have any influence on getting this right and achieving the true Brexit we voted for whilst getting the best outcomes on local matters for the people of Kearsley is to do it from within the Conservative Party.”

He went on to say that he would not be changing his priorities as a member of Bolton Council.

He said: “I came into politics to fight for three main principles and priorities.

“Kearsley, my hometown and its people, which has been systematically run down and neglected by previous administrations for over 30 years

“My country, to fight for Brexit and regain our sovereignty by ensuring we left the EU and gained all the benefits of being a free trading global nation.

“And, a better deal for Bolton as a whole within the Greater Manchester Combined Authority."

This Is Lancashire:

Cllr Mark Cunningham after the 2016 council elections. Picture by Julian Brown.

Cllr Cunningham was welcomed by David Greenhalgh, leader of the council and the Conservative Group.

He said: “We are delighted that Mark has decided to join us. He is someone who works extremely hard in his community and cares passionately about the people of Kearsley, but he is also a great contributor in council debates and in committees, always speaking a great deal of sense.

“He has the reputation of someone who prefers to solve problems face to face, dealing with issues with directors and officers face to face, quietly getting on with the job, rather than self-promoting.”

“Now that we have a Prime Minister who has got Brexit done, and has finally broken the deadlock, we are thrilled to have Mark on board, gladly welcome him to the team, and with that, offer him all the support we have at our disposal.”

Cllr Cunningham follows in the footsteps of ex-colleague and Hulton councillor Diane Parkinson who left UKIP to join the Conservatives in 2017.

Speaking after making the switch, Cllr Cunningham said: “I am changing parties but not my principles and priorities.

“In 2016 the people of Kearsley voted for me as a true Brexit candidate. Now that we have begun the process of leaving the EU, I need to be part of the party where I can continue to exercise my voice and pressure from within to fully deliver what the majority of Kearsley residents voted me in for and also to be able to deliver the best outcomes for Kearsley locally.

“With a Conservative government in parliament and for the first time in 40 years a Conservative administration in Bolton Town Hall, I believe being a Conservative councillor will give me a massive advantage over other party candidates in the local election of delivering the best deal for Kearsley and its people who overwhelmingly voted in the December General Election to lend their vote to the party to improve the fortunes of our town and country.

“December 31 was only the beginning of process and I promise with your support and your votes in the May elections to continue to do my level best to drive through those changes and improvements.”