Conservatives 'completely wrong' not to contest Richmond Park says former party chairman

Grant Shapps said the party’s rules on the question were ‘crystal clear’

Tom Peck
Friday 02 December 2016 16:44
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Cameron loyalist Grant Shapps said the ‘rules were crystal clear’
Cameron loyalist Grant Shapps said the ‘rules were crystal clear’

The Conservatives were “completely wrong” not to field a candidate in the Richmond Park by-election, according to former party chairman Grant Shapps.

The party decided not to run against Mr Goldsmith, who was also backed by Ukip, in the hope that the MP, who quit in protest over the Heathrow runway decision, would be returned to parliament and support the party’s narrow majority.

Bur Mr Shapps, a Cameron loyalist, said that the party’s rules are “crystal clear”.

“If someone stands against the party, then we contest. It was therefore wrong not to be on Richmond Park ballot,” he said.

The MP told website Politics Home: “The precedent set by not being on the ballot paper is completely wrong. And, as it happens, it wouldn't have altered the outcome either.

“As a former party Chairman I know our rules are simple. If you stand against the party then you lose the whip and are no longer a member of the party.

“In such circumstance a Conservative candidate must then be selected to contest the seat. To do otherwise would have required the special suspension of this rule by the Conservative Party Board. So how and when was that decision taken?”

Mr Shapps, who is MP for Welwyn Hatfield, made similar comments when the party announced its decision two months ago.

Mr Goldsmith lost the seat to Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney, who campaigned on a platform of keeping the UK within the EU’s single market.

Mr Goldsmith who beat the Liberal Democrats in to second place in a narrow victory in 2010, had increased his majority to over 15,000 at the 2015 election, following a long campaign against the proposed third runway at Heathrow.

He also lost to Labour's Sadiq Khan in a bitter race for the London mayoralty in May this year.

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