Constituency row MP denies issuing misleading statement

Darlington and Stockton Times: SECRET BALLOT: Anne McIntosh SECRET BALLOT: Anne McIntosh

A PROMINENT Conservative MP has dismissed criticism from a leading member of her own constituency association, ahead of a vote to decide if she should stand as its candidate at the next general election.

Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh said a press release she sent stating she had been “invited to put her name forward as Conservative candidate” was factually correct after the association’s president described it as “a travesty of the facts”.

The row follows 11 months of wrangling between the MP and the executive of her constituency association, which has involved discussions with the chairmen of the Conservative Party and the influential 1922 Committee.

The dispute, which appears to have been sparked by a communication breakdown, has also seen four voluntary leaders of the association summoned to attend hearings over unspecified charges at Conservative Central Office with legal representatives.

The executive, which voted last January not to automatically readopt Miss McIntosh, the chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, as its 2015 general election candidate, was later told by party chiefs its decision was technically invalid.

Miss McIntosh was asked to decide whether the process should feature an open panel meeting with a choice of three candidates, including herself, or an open postal ballot for constituency members.

Her constituency association said rather than being invited to stand for readoption, after waiting six months for Miss McIntosh to make a decision the board of the Conservative Party had directed the MP to have her name put forward for a secret ballot of association members in January.

Its president, Hutton le Hole farmer James Holt, said while Miss McIntosh would have the chance to present her case ahead of the vote, the executive now faced being gagged over the saga by the board.

He said: “More than 60 per cent of the board are either MPs, ex-MPs or Conservative Party officials and it is a travesty of justice for the people who write the rules also to be the judge.”

Miss McIntosh said: “My statement is factually correct according to the rules.

“Of course I have my detractors, don't we all, but I believe I have the support of the overwhelming majority of the party members who have the final say on who should be the Conservative candidate at the election.

“The board is entirely in favour of this procedure and have not forced it upon me.”

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