Yeo's ex-mistress and 20 others quit Tories claiming victimisation of colleague

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The former mistress of disgraced minister Tim Yeo and 20 other members of her local Conservative association have resigned from the party after claims that an activist who came to her defence during the affair had been 'victimised', writes Andrew Gilligan.

Julia Stent, 34, stood down as vice-chairman of Hackney South Tories in protest at their treatment of Phil McCullough, who served on Hackney council with her until this year. 'The party treated a colleague terribly and I had no option but to leave,' she said. The exodus has reduced the association's membership by more than a quarter.

Mr McCullough, a car dealer, lost his seat in last month's elections. He had hoped to stand again but claimed a private meeting of constituency officials blocked his ambitions. He said he felt 'betrayed'.

'I buil t up South Hackney from a derelict party into an efficient machine, and I was dumped,' he said.

Mr McCullough is said to have irritated Hackney's Tory group leader, Joe Lobenstein, when he acted as Ms Stent's agent in negotiations with newspapers during the Yeo affair. His outspoken claims of council corruption are also said to have caused upset. Mr Lobenstein described the episode as a 'hiccup' and said: 'Julia Stent had not been active for two years. She was more a name than a substantial presence.'

Letter, page 21