A LABOUR councillor who was in talks about quitting her party has said she is “not a Tory”.

A bitter row broke out last night following an apparent change of political allegiance by Darlington Borough Councillor Sajna Ali.

It follows a chain of events over the weekend, which started when an announcement was made via social media that Cllr Ali, who represents the Northgate ward, had defected to the Conservatives.

Yesterday, Cllr Ali confirmed she was a member of the Labour party.

A statement said: “Contrary to statements made over the weekend by senior Darlington Conservatives Councillor Sajna Ali has not defected to the Tory Party. Councillor Ali is a member of the Labour Party.”

She added: “I want to reassure the voters of Northgate that I will continue to fight for their best interests as a Labour Councillor alongside my Labour ward colleague Councillor Eleanor Lister.”

Last night, the Darlington Conservative group said it was “disingenuous” to suggest Cllr Ali had not defected to the party, adding: "Albeit for a short time, she most certainly did."

The post added her behaviour was “extremely disappointing” to the group.

The group went on to make allegations of bullying within the Labour group, which was refuted by leader Cllr Stephen Harker.

Cllr Harker described the Conservative’s response as “bile” and said he fully supported Cllr Ali.

Cllr Harker, who on Saturday released a press release calling for Cllr Ali to resign to allow her to seek election as a Conservative, said: “This story is about Sajna. She has made a simple statement saying that has chosen to remain a Labour Party member. That is her decision, and her decision alone. We should respect that decision. I hope that one day Sajna will choose to tell her side of the story.

“The reaction of the Tories is absolutely appalling, if they really cared about Sajna’s welfare – as they claim – they wouldn’t plaster details all over social media and the press.”

Cllr Rachel Mills, leader of Darlington’s Conservative party, told the Echo that the group had been approached by Cllr Ali, who had expressed a desire to join the party after being “impressed” by work being done in her ward.

She added she would support Cllr Ali in whatever her decision was.

Tweets were sent on Friday by Cllr Jonathan Dulston and Darlington MP Peter Gibson welcoming Cllr Ali to the Conservatives.

The Northern Echo:

Last night, Mr Gibson described the situation as “like the Hokey Cokey”.

The Northern Echo understands a series of discussions were held over the weekend and on Tuesday, Cllr Ali confirmed she would remain as a Labour councillor.

Her profile on the council’s website was changed on Friday to say she was part of the Conservative group. It was changed back to Labour on Tuesday.

A Darlington Borough Council spokesman said: “Cllr Ali informed the council on Friday of her decision to switch from the Labour group to the Conservative group on the council. On Tuesday afternoon, Cllr Ali informed the council that she will revert to being a Labour councillor.”

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