Liberal Democrat Clive Jones is stepping down as leader of Wokingham Borough Council to focus on his campaign to become an MP.

But his Conservative opponent, current Wokingham MP John Redwood, accused him of “making a mess” of running the council.

Cllr Jones told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he had “the best chance ever of getting a Lib Dem MP elected in Wokingham.” It comes a week after the Liberal Democrats became the largest group on Wokingham Borough Council in local elections on May 4.

Announcing his decision on BBC Radio Berkshire on Thursday, May 11, he said: “I’m standing down but with a big grin on my face.

“In the local elections, so many people were telling me that they were pleased with what we did as a council and now what they really wanted was a Liberal Democrat MP in Wokingham.”

But in response, Redwood said Cllr Jones had made himself “unpopular” during his year as council leader.

Redwood told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Councillor Jones is very wise to stand down, having made such a mess of running the council for the last year.

“He has put up the council tax, wasted large sums of money, made it more difficult to drive to work or the shops, failed to mend the potholes, failed to produce a local plan to control development, threatened to undermine the refuse service and put up car parking charges.

“Why would he want to carry on to make himself even more unpopular?”

READ MORE: Good local elections for Lib Dems in Wokingham Borough

Cllr Jones launched his campaign to become MP in March last year. He said running the campaign and being council leader had been an “enormous challenge.”

He said: “It’s more important for me to be a member of parliament because we need to have some real change. The change that we have delivered in Wokingham in the last year, we need to be able to deliver that in Westminster as well.

“We need a strong local MP who is going to stand up for the NHS. Somebody who is going to say, we do have a problem with not enough doctors, not enough dentists, not enough nurses.”

The next general election is likely to take place in 2024—or January 28, 2025, at the very latest. If Jones is successful, his election would herald the first time that Wokingham has not had a Conservative MP since the constituency was created in 1950.

Jones came third when he stood as MP in 2015 and 2017. But he told the BBC: “I’m absolutely sure that in 2024 it’s going to be a different result.”

Although he is standing down as leader, he will continue to be a councillor for Hawkedon ward. He said Stephen Conway, Liberal Democrat councillor for Twyford, will replace him as leader.