South Tyneside Conservatives unite as race row rumbles on

South Tyneside’s embattled Conservatives have named two politics students to lead them into a new era after the borough’s two associations broke with tradition and amalgamated.
Coun Jeff MilburnCoun Jeff Milburn
Coun Jeff Milburn

Jack White has been appointed the first chair of the combined branch, which is expected to be titled South Tyneside Conservative Federation.

It ends the existence of the independent South Shields and Jarrow associations.

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Mr White, a former Harton Technology College student, was voted in unopposed and will be supported by Sam Pryor, a fellow student at Newcastle University, who was elected his deputy.

Last November, branch members voted almost two-to-one in favour of joining forces in a combined body, a decision now ratified.

Since then, the party has become embroiled in a damaging internal battle around allegations against Coun Jeff Milburn, South Tyneside’s only Conservative councillor.

He has been accused of racism by Ajay Jagota and Gerard Leake, who have resigned as chairmen of the South Shields and Jarrow branches respectively, in protest.

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They have accused regional Conservative party officials of failing to investigate their claim – and quit in protest.

Coun Milburn, who represents the Cleadon and East Boldon ward, has denied the allegation and has claimed to have been cleared of wrongdoing after an internal probe.

Party sources say Mr White’s first task will be to speak to regional party officials around the allegation against Coun Milburn.

One said: “There is a feeling among Conservative in South Tyneside that it was time for change and we are stronger as one organisation.”

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Of the allegation against Coun Milburn, the Conservative party has said it does not comment on internal matters