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Tory seat row 'out of control'

A secret Conservative report into a plot by local association figures to oust their sitting female MP has found the situation "spiralled out of control".

Senior Tories in the North Yorkshire seat of Thirsk and Malton have fought a long battle with Anne McIntosh to deselect her as the party's candidate in the next election.

A ballot of local members will decide the issue on Friday.

Miss McIntosh has fallen out with her local party's executive and in particular chairman Peter Steveney, a retired Army major and former Jockey Club stewards' secretary.

An internal inquiry found that the local executive broke the rules by co-opting a large number of new members on to the association's executive board weeks before a vote where it was decided not to reselect her for the 2015 general election.

The investigation decided the way she was deselected was "fundamentally flawed" and its result should be set aside.

It also criticised Mr Steveney for a letter he sent to members last February, reminding them to make sure they had the "whole story" before they voted, and urging them to contact him for a personal response.

The inquiry panel report said: "This association is troubled by factions. It needs to unite, and personal feelings need to be set aside in the greater interest of the association and the party.

"Everyone was in agreement that the situation in Thirsk and Malton had spiralled out of control and was potentially damaging to the party's standing locally."

Regarding Mr Steveney's letter, the report said: "The interpretation of these words is that Mr Steveney put himself in a position of being the sole and final arbiter of what was the correct version of events which would inform a decision of a member of the association who considered that they did not have the 'whole story'.

"The tone of the language and the implication that he was somehow the guardian of the truth which his fellow members may not have, also gave the reader the impression that there was 'something going on' and may make the reader doubt that, after all, they had all they needed to make an informed decision."

The confidential report, which was leaked on the internet but has since been removed, said there had been "allegations" about Miss McIntosh's work.

But the report found some association officers "were totally misconceived and appeared to indicate a lack of proper understanding of the role of a Member of Parliament".

Miss McIntosh, 59, is chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

The report added: "By virtue of their onerous parliamentary commitments, MPs are obliged to be in Westminster during the week. In addition, Anne McIntosh chairs a House of Commons select committee.

"There is no evidence to suggest that Anne McIntosh has in any way neglected her duties or failed to discharge her responsibilities on behalf of her constituents."

A Tory source said the panel report, which was completed last July, referred to the previous situation in Thirsk and Malton, and that the local association had a newly constituted executive.

The safe Tory seat, won with a majority of 11,000 in 2010, would be highly desirable for any rival to Miss McIntosh.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "We cannot comment on internal party matters."

Mr Steveney referred reporters to the national HQ, saying: "I think there has been quite enough said. I'd rather not comment."

Miss McIntosh was unavailable for comment.

Later, the MP said the issue was being handled by Conservative campaign headquarters and declined to comment.


From Belfast Telegraph