A LONG-STANDING Conservative councillor has revealed he is leaving politics to start a new career. Councillor James Airey, the leader of the Conservative group on Cumbria County Council, will depart at the end of the month. The Urswick-based councillor has been in local politics in the area for the past two decades and has tried four times to become an MP four times.

He came closest in the 2019 general election when he was fewer than 2,000 votes behind South Lakes MP Tim Farron.

The Mail: RESIGNATION: James AireyRESIGNATION: James Airey

He sparked controversy in one of his final meetings.

During a virtual Cumbria County Council debate on child food poverty, Cllr Airey upset Labour Cllr Dr Karen Lockwood by walking out of her speech by messaging on Teams that 'he’d rather be home washing his hair.' Cllr Lockwood interrupted the flow of her speech to vent her fury at the remark. She said: “Is it that we think washing our hair is more important than listening to a speech on child and food poverty?"

The Mail: UPSET: Cllr Dr Karen LockwoodUPSET: Cllr Dr Karen Lockwood

Cllr Airey said: “I listened to the vast majority of the speech.” “I of course share concerns about child poverty and families in need of support but Dr Lockney descended into a left wing anti conservative rant. I thought I left politely considering.” Cllr Airey will take up his new role as the National Farmers Union adviser for Cumbria on December 1. He said: “It’s a difficult choice to go now but I’m going back to my agricultural roots. “It is the right decision for me and my family. “It is going to be an exciting and challenge change from front-line politics.” Cllr Airey's political career began as a Lancaster city councillor in the Lune Valley 23 years ago. He has been a Cumbria county councillor for the last 12 years.

During that time, he ran for Parliament four times without success, something he described as 'not being in the right place at the right time.' He said he would miss some of the people he has worked with. He said: “ The Covid situation has made it difficult to be able to say goodbye with any form of a leaving party, including being able to see people from the opposite benches who I also admire.” His departure leaves a void at the top of Tory party in the county. No date has been set to appoint his replacement.