THE man next in line to become deputy mayor of Basingstoke and Deane is “seriously considering” a request to put himself forward for mayor.

Councillor Keith Chapman has tried to remain above the fray, absenting himself from last Thursday’s vote at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council about whether Cllr Phil Heath should become mayor.

Cllr Heath became the first deputy mayor of Basingstoke in history to be blocked from elevation to mayor.

The 53-year-old was expelled from the Conservative Party in 2008 and set up his own Basingstoke First Community Party.

On Thursday, all bar four of the 33 Tories on the Conservative-controlled council voted against him.

By tradition, mayors in Basingstoke have been chosen on the basis of the number of years served on the borough council.

Cllr Chapman – the council Cabinet member for sport and leisure – is next in line for the mayoralty after Cllr Heath. He told The Gazette: “I have been asked by the chief executive Tony Curtis to complete a nomination form in light of the council’s vote on Thursday.

“I’m seriously considering, but if I put my nomination forward there is no guarantee it will happen.”

Cllr Chapman, who joined the council as ward member for Pamber in 1979, has already been mayor once before, in 1992-93.

He said: “It’s not ideal but, whoever is going to be it, it’s not going to be ideal for them either. The only difference is I have been mayor before. I know the ground and would get on with it.”

The veteran councillor said he had tried to remain neutral on the issue of Cllr Heath, adding: “I think it is rather sad that it’s got to this.

“Circumstances are circumstances. I can’t recall a time on this council of any problems with a prospective mayor coming up. He’s got four complaints against him going to standards committee and it does make it difficult.”

Asked whether he thought Cllr Heath should be mayor, Cllr Chapman said: “It’s entirely up to the council to make that decision, not me as an individual.”

Mr Curtis said: “On behalf of the mayor, Cllr Chapman has been asked, as next in seniority, if he wishes to exercise his seniority and seek nomination as mayor for 2010-11.”

Meanwhile, former mayors George Hood and Gerry Traynor, in a letter to The Gazette, have urged the council to reach a resolution that stops the mayoralty being politicised.

And former mayoress Jeanette Eddie, whose husband John Eddie was mayor in 1982-83 and in 1971-72, also wrote to The Gazette, to call for careful reflection.

Basingstoke MP Maria Miller, a Conservative, declined to say whether she thought that Cllr Heath should be mayor.

“I don’t comment on those things,” she said. “That’s an internal thing for the councillors.”