BASILDON Labour group has become the first political party in the district to elect a woman as its leader.

Councillor Lynda Gordon was voted group leader at the local party's annual general meeting.

Mrs Gordon, who was once chairman of Basildon Council, takes over from former leader Nigel Smith, who announced he would quit as leader following this month's local elections.

She represents Lee Chapel North ward and has worked as a senior constituency assistant for Basildon MP Angela Smith since 1997. Mrs Gordon, 48, said: "I hope the fact that I'm a woman won't make a difference. I want people to judge us on what we say and do."

Councillor Allan Davies, who was tipped as a possible group leader, remains as deputy.

Council leader Malcolm Buckley said Mrs Gordon would pose "no more challenge" than any previous group leader.

He said: "She is more sensible than some of the other members, but will face the same challenge as Nigel Smith in that the Labour leader is instructed by the group, whereas the Conservative leader leads."

Challenger's attempt to topple Tories' head

BASILDON Council leader Mal-colm Buckley faced a potential challenge to his leadership at the Basildon Tory group AGM.

An unnamed backbencher put his name forward as a contender before the leadership vote, but after getting a proposer failed to get a seconder to nominate him as a candidate.

The lack of support meant Mr Buckley, a councillor for Wickford Castledon, was voted through as Conservative leader with Tony Ball, councillor for Wickord North, remaining his deputy.

Tory sources say there has been some discontent against Mr Buckley's leadership in the past. There was a previous challenge by a Billericay councillor three or four years ago, but the latest rebel is not believed to have come from any of the Billericay wards.

Mr Buckley brushed off the bid and said having a potential challenge which failed was further vindication of his leadership.

He said: "There is no significant issue in the group.

"Someone came forward, but did not get the two supporters needed to get nominated. In some respects, it is good to have a challenger. It shows the leader has the endorsement of the group."