THE wife of Dudley’s former leader of the council has followed her husband’s lead in quitting the borough’s Conservative group in a bitter condemnation of ex-colleagues.

Stourbridge Councillor Les Jones, former Dudley Council leader, resigned the whip after months of in-fighting following heavy local election defeats which handed control of the authority to Labour in 2012.

He resigned as group leader in February but now says he is unable to work within the group and will remain on the council as an independent Conservative.

His wife, Councillor Karen Shakespeare, a Halesowen North councillor for the last 13 years, has also quit in anger after his successor, Cllr Patrick Harley, called for his resignation in last week’s News to force a by-election.

She said his remarks were the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and followed months of unhappiness over the behaviour of some members of the group towards her and her husband.

Cllr Shakespeare, who has been a card-carrying Tory for 30 years, indicated the decision to sit as an independent Conservative along with Cllr Jones may lead to the end of her political career.

She said: “I have resigned the Conservative whip as a result of the behaviour of a few members of the Conservative group since late November last year.

“Patrick Harley’s call for his [Cllr Jones’] resignation was probably a knee-jerk reaction, but he still made the comment and I’m not happy with it.”

The husband and wife councillor team, who live in Foley Road, Pedmore, would not be drawn on the detail of their disapproval of some members’ behaviour.

But Cllr Jones, who represents the safe Tory seat of Pedmore and Stourbridge East, said: "There are a small number of people who I believe have behaved in a way that is morally indefensible, I can't share a room with them let alone a policy debate.

"A small number of people are personal and vindictive. I'm desperately sad, I particularly enjoyed being leader of the council and later in opposition holding Labour to account."

Cllr Shakespeare said she would continue to support the principles and policies of the Conservatives and to work for her constituents, but she would not stand against a member of the party in 2015 when she is due for re-election.

Cllr Harley said the pair had “many more friends within the group than not” and he believes Cllr Jones would have survived a vote of no confidence, had one been called before he quit as leader.

But he added: “I would have thought they would have shown more support to a new leader who had shown nothing but loyalty to the previous leadership team.

“When the dust has settled they will either step down or come back into the fold and I hope it’s the latter.”