Opposition councillors have reacted with disbelief, astonishment and embarrassment following the shock resignation of four Conservative councillors last night.

At a Mayor Making meeting last night (May 15) four Conservative councillors dramatically resigned from their group over claims of "backstabbing and duplicity" in the party.

The resignations of Councillor Suzanne Evans, for Hillside ward, Councillor Richard Hilton, for Lower Morden, Councillor Rod Scott for Raynes Park and Councillor Linda Scott, also for Raynes Park, came after the group elected Councillor Oonagh Moulton on Monday as their third leader in three months, after Coun Hilton called a leadership election last week.

Coun Evans also announced her intention to form a new group which all four former Merton conservatives have said they will be joining.

Reacting to the meeting last night Labour Councillor Peter Walker, said he was "embarrassed" by the behaviour displayed at an event that normally celebrates the work of the retiring mayor and welcomes the appointment of the new mayor.

He said: "I and most of the councillors from all parties listened open mouthed as front bench Conservative councillors accused their own colleagues of "disgraceful, dishonest and poisonous war."

Labour Councillor Martin Whelton called it a "shambolic and self indulgent" performance by a group of "renegade" Conservatives.

He said: "We were disappointed that the mayor making was over shadowed last night.

"We respect the office of mayor but also the residents of the borough.

"They deserve better than what happened last night.

"We had been tipped off that something may happen but I think what happened took everyone by complete surprise.

"I think no one expected that kind of outburst but also that the way the words were said in terms of the poisonous atmosphere and the statement Councillor Evans made at the meeting.

"Nobody at all expected what happened.

"Generally mayor makings are straight forward.

"I don’t think Merton has seen anything like it in its 50 year history.

"There’s been contentious mayor making meetings in the past but nothing like what happened last night."

Councillor Oonagh Moulton, leader of the Merton Conservatives, also condemned the behaviour of her former colleagues. 

She said: "I am delighted to be elected Leader of the Merton Conservative Group and to join with Members across the Council at our Annual Meeting to welcome our new Conservative Mayor, Councillor Krystal Miller who has the full support of my Group.

"I am extremely disappointed that after conciliatory discussions four colleagues have walked out and resigned from the Conservative Group in such a public and melodramatic manner for what appears to be selfish political ambition.

"It doesn't deflect me or my Group.

"I was elected Leader of Merton Conservative Group on a clear message of support for lower Council tax and am clear that we will deliver the maximum benefit for Merton's residents.

"I shall be working closely with the Member of Parliament, Stephen Hammond MP and GLA Member Richard Tracey AM to defeat Labour in the local elections 2014 and to deliver a Conservative led administration for Merton Council."

As of just two months ago, Merton Council began webcasting their full council meetings - which means the outburst, will be available to view today.

This morning Labour Councillor Martin Whelton suggested on Twitter than some Merton Conservatives had asked for webcast replays to be turned off.

He tweeted: "Following the dramatic resignation speech of @SuzanneEvans1 - some @MertonTories asked 4 the webcasting 2 be turned off - censorship?"

A webcast of the meeting is set to go online at merton.public-i.tv/core today.