Ex-leaders of Tory constituency in turmoil call for change to party rules

Darlington and Stockton Times: CONSTITUENCY STORM: Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh. CONSTITUENCY STORM: Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh.

SEVERAL former leading Tory officials say the party in a safe Conservative seat is being blighted by a "war" between their MP and the constituency association.

Former chairmen of Anne McIntosh’s constituency, including Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire Major-General Murray Naylor and ex-chairman of North Yorkshire County Council Peter Sowray, said the dispute had continued for more than a decade.

In a joint letter, Maj Gen Naylor, fellow ex-chairman of Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association Simon Wood and former president of Ryedale Conservative Association Ashley Burgess accused bosses at the party’s headquarters of failing their members.

The criticism comes ahead of a secret ballot of the association’s 560 members in January to decide if Miss McIntosh, the chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, should be readopted as the constituency’s 2015 general election candidate.

They said: “Rules underpinning the ballot are divisive by allowing the sitting MP to canvass support by the use of a sheet of A4 paper to accompany the ballot papers, but permit no similar facility to the officers of the local association, who are allowed to put their case for not reselecting the sitting MP only by word of mouth.

“We believe true democracy is being thwarted in the interests of resolving this acrimonious dispute."

The letter added: “It is to be hoped that the ballot will end the internecine warfare which has blighted Conservative political and fundraising activity in Thirsk & Malton for the past several years, creating schisms and unpleasantness between friends."

Miss McIntosh retains a large group of supporters, which this summer presented a 300-signature petition at 10 Downing Street calling for her to be automatically readopted as the Conservative candidate.

Even some of her most vocal detractors describe her as responsive to constituents, a skilled orator and hard-working, but are furious over her treatment and communication with her constituency executives - groups of volunteers who lead fundraising and political campaigning.

Audrey Kitching, of Skipton on Swale, who chaired Miss McIntosh’s previous Vale of York constituency party from 2002, said while Miss McIntosh was charming, her executive’s dispute had started after the MP refused to give top-ranking North Yorkshire officials her phone number or dates of constituency appointments.

Both Miss McIntosh and a Conservative Party spokesman said they did not wish to comment on an internal process of the party.


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