THE Liberal Democrat local election campaign is in disarray after it emerged that three senior councillors, including the council’s deputy leader, have been ditched by the party.

Hopes that the Lib Dems, who currently run the council in coalition with Labour, could become the biggest party look to be in ruins after the party confirmed leader John Macklin, cabinet member for environment Bob Belam and chief whip Bob Carey will not stand for the party on May 6.

A party spokesman admitted the move was the result of an internal dispute, but did not provide any further detail.

But the Guardian understands the party’s decision to ditch the three followed a bitter row over an attempt by members sitting on the Walthamstow executive to de-select Cllr Carey, who represents Chapel End ward with Cllrs Macklin and Belam.

Cllr Macklin admitted there has been concern about the executive’s candidate selection for some time.

He said: “There has been a dispute about issues around candidates selected in several wards, including Chapel End.

“There has been concern about inappropriate candidates being selected for target level seats.

“The issue has been going on for several months and I don't think it is something that has been completely resolved.

“Myself, Bob Carey and Bob Belam are the best people to represent Chapel End ward because we have worked the area for years and have listened and acted on residents' complaints.”

Cllr Macklin said he was “bitterly disappointed” that he was having to talk in public about the row and conceded it is “not good” for the party.

He added that he had not decided whether to stand as an independent.

A spokesman for the Lib Dem London region party said: "The local and regional executive have agreed the conclusion of internal mediation and no members have been suspended.”

The Walthamstow Executive is made up of members and activists including Cllr Johar Khan, Cllr Bob Wheatley and Walthamstow parliamentary candidate Farid Ahmed.