A Falkirk of their own: Tory party activists in Thirsk and Malton accused of feud against MP Anne McIntosh
An angry, retired Army officer, a confidential document posted on the website of a B&B and a party feud that has “spiralled out of control” – this is the world of North Yorkshire Conservatives.
While the Labour Party has Falkirk, the scene of allegations of trade-union vote-rigging, the Conservatives have Thirsk and Malton, where evidence has now emerged that local activists played fast and loose with party rules in their determination to sack their sitting MP, Anne McIntosh. One suspicion is that there are Tory activists in North Yorkshire who just do not like being represented by a woman. A prominent local told the Yorkshire Post that their MP is a “silly girl” – when the constituency needs someone like Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage.
Their shenanigans have been exposed at a convenient moment for Ms McIntosh. Earlier this month, all 560 members of the Thirsk and Malton party were sent ballot papers to vote on whether to sack Ms McIntosh or let her stand again as a Tory candidate. With her future in the balance, a journalist from the Yorkshire Post spotted a copy of a confidential internal party report on the website of an award-winning bed-and-breakfast in the North York Moors owned by a prominent local Conservative and supporter of Ms McIntosh.
The report, which contained a warning that any Tory caught leaking it “shall be liable to disciplinary action”, detailed how a year ago the local party executive was packed with “representatives” of non-existent party branches, just before a crucial vote was to be held on Ms McIntosh’s future. The inquiry panel, which was sent in by the Tories’ head office to investigate problems in the constituency, pointed out that “it is not possible to serve on an executive council, ‘representing’ a ward or branch which no longer exists”.
The rules were designed “to prevent an unrepresentative takeover of an executive council”, their report added, and “by failing to follow established norms, conventions and procedures, the composition and status of the executive council became confused”.
There was confusion over who was allowed to vote, which was important because at its first meeting, on 17 January 2013, the enlarged executive had to make an instant decision on whether Ms McIntosh was to be their candidate at the next general election.
Tories in Thirsk and Malton say Anne McIntosh fails to spend enough time in the area (AFP/Getty Images)
Thinking that the Coalition was on the point of collapse, and that an election loomed, the executive decided not to re-select Ms McIntosh. A month later, the constituency chairman, Peter Steveney, a retired Army Major, wrote to all local party members saying they might be balloted on her future, urging anyone who wanted to hear the “whole story” to contact him.
His letter infuriated Ms McIntosh’s supporters, who reported Mr Steveney to the party’s Disciplinary Committee. They decided to take no action. Then somebody noticed that Mr Steveney and the chairman of the disciplinary committee, Trevor Mort, had been fellow officers of the Royal Armoured Corps. The subsequent committee of inquiry investigated rumours of a whitewash between old Army chums, but ruled it out because it was more than 50 years since the two last met.
The committee criticised Mr Steveney’s letter, saying that it was “unhelpful and detrimental to Miss McIntosh’s position, and unfair to her”. Their report concluded that the situation in the “divided and fractious” Thirsk and Malton association had “spiralled out of control and was potentially damaging to the party”.
Major Steveney, who could not be contacted, told the Yorkshire Post: “I thought the report was a travesty. We wrote to the party asking for an apology in July, and they still have not replied.”
David Cameron is standing by Ms McIntosh, saying she is a valuable MP and chairwoman of a Commons committee. Local members complain she does not spend enough time in her constituency.
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£15 per hour: Ashdown Group: IT Analyst / Helpdesk - 2 Month Contract - £15ph ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This group is the world's secon...
£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Permanent Sales Support Coordinator is...
£30000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fast growing cloud accounting...