THE leader of the Allerdale Conservatives has resigned in a bitter post-election power struggle as high-stakes talks continue to form the council’s ruling group.

Tony Annison has stepped down following what he has described as a “hostile” meeting last night (Thursday), with the Tory deputy leader Mark Jenkinson now leading the group.

The bust-up puts the Seaton councillor among the front runners to lead Allerdale Council following an election upset that saw the Independents storm to victory, the Tories break even and Labour slump to third place.

Coun Annison, who previously likened the political infighting to the intrigue of hit TV series Game of Thrones, said that he now “feared for the future” of his former group with Mr Jenkinson at the helm.

However, the Tories do not appear to share these concerns after voting him in unanimously following the former leader’s decision to step down.

But in a parting shot, coun Annison has laid bare the internal power struggles and rivalries within the group.

Writing in his resignation letter, he said coun Jenkinson was “mad” to swap the leadership at this point, branding him a “control freak”.

He claimed he was “widely mistrusted” with a “reputation for ruthlessness”, while describing himself as the “moderate” face of Conservatism.

Coun Annison revealed he had been instrumental in bringing councillor Jenkinson back under the wing of the Conservatives following his earlier defection to UKIP – and that he had done so against the advice of some Tory members and of current council and Labour leader Alan Smith.

In the letter, he added: “We have swerved to the right after this election which breaks my heart as a moderate proud Conservative.

“I have considerable respect outside our group in the Allerdale bubble. You have a reputation for ruthlessness that is going to lead to disaster in the forthcoming negotiations.

“I therefore cannot stay in the group with the obvious hostility from the factions that support you. This means that, with my resignation from the group which will be taken at a time of my choice, I have to leave my beloved party on a technicality and principle and will return when its our party again and not UKIP’s.

In a Group statement, the Tories said: “Allerdale Conservatives are disappointed that Tony feels as he does. He had the same opportunity as every other group member to stand for election as leader, as is the annual process mandated by the group rules, and declined to do so.

“The group reluctantly accepted the resignation of Councillor Annison as Leader, and thank him for all of his hard work and guidance over the term of his leadership.”

Mark Jenkinson was elected unanimously as the new Leader, with Alan Pitcher elected unanimously as Deputy Leader.

A source has also told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the meeting was chaired by an indepedent staff member from the Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ).

Independent candidates stormed to victory on May 2, clinching 19 seats as Labour suffered a big slump and the Conservatives kept 15.

The Independents are in the strongest position, but they are a broad church politically and could potentially form alliances with one another, with the Conservatives or with Labour.

Labour’s Alan Smith remains in the top job until May 22 when the new leader will be formally announced.

The Conservatives have already ruled out a deal with Labour after the dust has settled on last week’s shock election results.

This makes a Tory-Independent coalition among the most likely outcomes, though it is unclear whether the leader will be an Independent or a Conservative.

A meeting of the Independents tonight should give a clearer picture of what the new council administration will look like, with non-aligned councillors set to make a decision on their next step.