THE Conservative Party has advised an embattled constituency association to allow every voter in the area the chance to select its next prospective parliamentary candidate.

Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association, which voted not to automatically reselect sitting MP Anne McIntosh as its candidate in January after a lengthy battle, has been issued guidance stating that an open primary selection process would engage more voters and attract a higher quality candidate.

Miss McIntosh, 59, who has represented North Yorkshire constituencies for 17 years and is thought to have strong support among Conservative voters who are not association members, has called for the American-style system to be adopted.

She said: “I believe the only way to bring the association together and unite behind one candidate is to hold an open primary to select the candidate and that I be allowed to submit myself to that process.

“That is the most open, transparent and democratic way of selecting a candidate.”

A party spokesman said it had issued the guidance to all constituencies and would not interfere with the selection process, which would be solely determined by the association.

He added: “We were the first party in the UK to hold any open primaries.

“It is a method we support, and has proved successful in four constituencies in the last electoral cycle and many others at the last election, but we can’t and wouldn’t force this on a local association.”

Leading members of the association said as Miss McIntosh had previously been chosen using a traditional selection process, in which candidates are picked by association members, she should accept that method should be adopted again.

An association spokesman: “Anne McIntosh MP remains on the party’s list of approved candidates and is free to apply for selection in any available seat.”

“Furthermore, the candidate selections for constituencies like Thirsk and Malton have all been postponed until after the European elections in May.”