Tories in Turmoil: Former mayor calls for MP's deselection - Alan Duncan is under fire from some constituents over his council

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A FORMER Conservative mayor yesterday called for the deselection of Alan Duncan, after describing the MP's controversial council house deal as 'despicable'.

Joan Stokes-Morris, a member of Melton Mowbray Borough Council for 14 years, said a tide of opposition to the MP was growing in his Rutland and Melton constituency following revelations about the deal and his 'arrogant' response to them.

Mrs Stokes-Morris has no influence on whether Mr Duncan will be chosen as the area's next parliamentary candidate - she is no longer in office and stood as an independent Conservative in the last years of her political career - but there is evidence that her outburst may serve as a rallying cry to other disaffected Tories.

Opposition to Mr Duncan among members of the Melton Conservative Club in Leicestershire was palpable yesterday. All those people canvassed criticised his house purchase deal and said they would like a new candidate for the next election.

Mrs Stokes-Morris decided to speak out following Mr Duncan's dismissal of criticism which she described as 'arrogant'.

'People were nonplussed when they heard what he had done,' she said. 'Why does a millionaire have to stoop to these levels to make a fast buck? Now people I speak to are angry and want him out. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

'What he did was completely legal but, morally, it was absolutely despicable. No one would have complained if he had paid the market price. I would like to see him deselected.'

Colonel Jim Weir, the constituency association chairman, has said Tories are '100 per cent behind Mr Duncan', but there was no evidence of that in Melton town centre or the Conservative Club yesterday.

None of the club members would be named; they say it has a history of censuring critics. But one, a retired Army man, said: 'Most people here think Duncan is a fly boy who is just out to feather his nest. He is not liked and is liked even less after the house deal.

'If he was only lending that chap the money to buy the house, why did he spend pounds 30,000 doing it up? Because it was already his. I would like him to be deselected.'

Mr Duncan suffers from comparisons with his predecessor, Sir Michael Latham, who enjoyed enormous respect and popularity. Nevertheless, this cannot count for all the disaffection.

One married couple said many Tories had taken against him since the weekend.

However, constituency workers point out that Mr Duncan came top in attendances at House of Commons votes and they insist he works hard on constituency matters.

William Ross-Wilson, Tory councillor for Gaddesby, said Mr Duncan needs time to prove himself. 'He has a tough act to follow after Sir Michael,' he said, although he described the MP's council house deal as 'unfortunate'.

There was a modicum of sympathy, too, from Peter Hands, Sir Michael's former agent. 'I hear a lot of people hark back to the days of Michael, particularly after what Mr Duncan did with the house,' he said. 'He is quite right to say it was legal but it was also, shall we say, a little sharp.'