AFTER Rushmoor Conservative Leader John Marsh narrowly survived a coup by members of his group, he immediately sacked another former Mayor, David Clifford, from his Cabinet position.

Now the 25 strong group is split between traditionalists and modernisers. Coun. Marsh, who gets £14,000 a year, is understood to have only survived a "back me or sack me" vote by 14 votes to 11.

The energetic Coun. Clifford had led moves to update the Conservative councillors' constitution by having an annual election for leader instead of once every four years. He raised a petition signed by two thirds of the members calling in addition for the chairmen of scrutiny panels to no longer be appointed by the leader and for the chairman of group meetings not to be the group leader.

At the group meeting Coun. Marsh agreed to all the changes. But as soon as he had survived the confidence vote he invited Coun. Clifford to leave the room with him and gave him the sack! He is replaced by Coun. Rosemary Possee.

Coun. Clifford has become the chairman of the Borough Services and Review Panel, a job not within Coun. Marsh's gift.

He says: "I am surprised to have been dropped from the Cabinet. I very much enjoyed working on a variety of sports and community projects and I have put a priority on youth initiatives, which I am pleased to say have been very successful thanks to the support of the Conservative group."

Coun. Clifford said he did not regard himself as a conspirator against Coun. Marsh.

"I was doing what I felt to be in the interests of the public and sometimes that can make you unpopular with some of your colleagues or officers," he added.

Meanwhile, Coun. Marsh declared: "I would like to thank David for his hard work and achievements in his Cabinet role over the past two years. He was behind the successful skate board park in Farnborough and introduced the Council's Park Rangers and Youth Services."