Chiswick Conservative councillors elect new leader

Images above: Cllr Joanna Biddolph; Cllr Gerald McGregor

Cllr Gerald McGregor elected leader

Chiswick’s Conservative councillors have elected Cllr Gerald McGregor as their leader, replacing Cllr Joanna Biddolph as the leader of the Conservative group on Hounslow Council.

The Chiswick Calendar learned of the unexpected decision after the election was held at the group’s Annual General Meeting on the evening of Wednesday 29 July.

Cllr Biddolph has made some unpopular decisions in the past few months, first cancelling the planting of cherry trees on Turnham Green (dubbed ‘Cherrygate‘) by calling in the decision made by council officers who were then forced to cancel the planting with less than 24 hours’ notice, and then by encouraging people to go out shopping and declaring Chiswick ‘open for business‘ just as the Government was urging everyone to stay home at the beginning of the lockdown, to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

She has recently championed the cause of traders in Devonshire Rd who are unhappy with the traffic restrictions introduced by the council. One of them told The Chiswick Calendar “she works hard and is on our side”, but she has alienated many Chiswick residents by engaging in bitter exchanges with cyclists on social media over the introduction of Cycleway 9. She also set up a High Rd Task Force in July 2018, to look at ways to improve the economy of Chiswick High Rd, but took two years to published their first report, in July 2020.

The Chiswick Calendar understands that within the local party her leadership style had been considered at times to be dictatorial and she has been outspoken but not necessarily represented the views of other councillors in the group. The election of the leader is carried out only by elected councillors.

Cllr Biddolph was elected councillor for Turnham Green ward for the first time in the last local elections in May 2018 and became leader of the group at their Annual General Meeting in May 2019. Her election then was something of a coup, taking the incumbent leader Cllr Sam Hearn by surprise. He had been expecting to continue as leader until the next elections.

The Conservative group were due to have their AGM in April. LB Hounslow was also due to reconfirm its Cabinet members, but both votes were put off because of the pandemic. It was widely expected that the election would be postponed until next year, but the Conservative local party constitution allowed the group to hold its AGM separate from Council business.

Gerald McGregor, who represents Chiswick Homefields ward, has been a Chiswick councillor since 2004. A chartered accountant by profession, he has specialised in Budget and Finance matters and is the author of many a colourful quote. In September 2019 he dubbed LB Hounslow ‘Venezuela-on-Thames’, writing:

‘More bad news on the financial record of the current tired bunch of has-beens and never got theres who make up the Labour administration in their new £65m headquarters in Hounslow is provoking real concern. Budget targets missed, and only the few positive budget messages being highlighted in the current reporting with deficits at the end of the last financial year carried forward despite promises in 2017 and 2018 and 2019 to get things sorted’.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Life is just a bowl of cherries – not

See also: New leader of the Conservative group – May 2019