A councillor with only two years’ experience serving communities in North Yorkshire looks set to become the county’s civic leader amid a furore that he conducted an American presidential-style campaign to secure the coveted and prestigious role.

Tory councillor George Jabbour, who has attended an unprecedented number of North Yorkshire Council meetings since being elected as the member for he Helmsley and Sinnington division in 2022, secured some 50 votes to become the authority’s vice chairman for the coming year at a full meeting of the authority.

He overcame competition for the role, which traditionally is awarded to long-serving councillors and leads to automatically becoming the authority’s chair the following year, from Liberal Democrat councillor Philip Broadbank, who is marking his 45th year as a councillor for Harrogate.

The vast majority of votes for Coun Jabbour were from members of the ruling Tory group.

Proposing Coun Jabbour’s nomination, Councillor Angus Thompson told the meeting while Coun Jabbour had been “particularly effective” in cross-party work, such as campaigning for York to be the new base for a national rail body.

Fellow Tory Councillor John Mann added Coun Jabbour had “an extensive knowledge” of council meeting procedures.

However, opposition councillors said the position of council chair and vice-chair were “an acknowledgement of long-term service” to the authority traditionally awarded to those with “broad, in-depth experience” of both council affairs and the communities it serves over many years.

The meeting heard council protocol was the coveted position should be be agreed by consensus between the parties, but the proposal to nominate Coun Jabbour had proved so contentious the Liberal Democrat group had mounted a challenge.

The group’s leader, Councillor Bryn Griffiths, told the meeting Councillor Philip Broadbank, who is marking his 45th year as a councillor for Harrogate, would be a much more appropriate candidate for the role.

Describing Coun Jabbour’s nomination as “a bit strange”, Independent group leader Councillor Stuart Parsons said the authority’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, had pledged that opposition councillors would be allowed to stand for the role for two years of the four-year council term.

Coun Parsons said Coun Les had informed him last week the Tory group had “regrettably changed their position”. He added Independent members had been lobbied by Coun Jabbour “under the guise of cross-party working”.

He said Coun Jabbour’s behaviour at a recent scrutiny committee meeting had contradicted that. Coun Parsons said: “He practises one way and tries to preach to us the other.

“I also find it very odd that this is the first time ever that members have been lobbied by another member of this authority for their support to be nominated as vice chairman.

“We should be offering the chairs to people of great experience.”

Coun Les replied that he had only said the Conservative group would be “minded to consider” alternating the council’s chair between parties.

Labour group leader Councillor Steve Shaw Wright said Councillor Jabbour’s “unseemly” campaign to become the council’s vice chair had been “more like a campaign for American President”.

Calling for a review of the authority’s constitution, he said he had “serious concerns” as the council chair and vice chair were civic roles and politics should not play a part in the selection process.

Coun Jabbour did not respond to the criticisms, and instead said he was “incredibly grateful” to councillors from across the chamber “for bestowing this huge honour on me”.

He added: “I will do everything I can to serve the residents of our beautiful county of North Yorkshire and I look forward to working with everyone in this chamber in any local causes to serve our communities.”