Iain Dale hosted the Tory "Open Primary" in Bedford a few days ago to select their candidate and did a good job of glossing over what seemed obvious from all the TV coverage. That being that the meeting appeared to have been packed with supporters of one candidate.
People commenting to Iain's blog suggested that voters had been instructed by their Mosque to attend and vote for a particular candidate whilst the sudden interest (over 800 people turning up with undreds left outside) surpassed Tory estimates and previous open primaries, suggesting somethig different was happening in Bedford in order to see such a dramatic increase in the turnout of people voting.
Now this criticism would be easy to dismiss and has been by many Tories merely as Lib Dem bluster or sour grapes. But the rift in the local Tories in Beford, widely gossiped and whispered about, but denied by the Tories and Tory bloggers, appears now to have made the news. The Bedford on Sunday Newspaper reports that one of the defeated candidates who was shortlisted has complained that the meeting had been packed and broke its own rules that had been arranged in advance.
In the Bedford on Sunday article, which had details of a leaked e-mail from Nicky Attenborough (Tory Group leader on Bedford Council) it says
‘It is my opinion that Monday night was quite disgraceful. The members, who had been told to get there by 7.30pm, were left sitting there for two hours and the candidates locked in one nasty classroom for two hours and told nothing.‘When I protested at the shambles that was occurring outside, I was told by our minder, ‘you can always go home’.
‘What followed was quite shameful, for a party that prides itself on its efficiency and democracy.‘It was very obvious that the meeting had been hijacked and quite clearly, from where I was sitting, I could see the Liberal Democrats on the front row, Labour on the back row and a sea of faces who couldn't even understand what the candidates were saying.
‘So how could you say that this was a Conservative selection procedure? It was a joke and the backlash has been very severe. Especially since the members were written and told they would have a private meeting in the end to endorse the candidate.‘Despite several angry protestations from the floor, this was ignored, and people with a green band were told to put their hands up. Quite frankly, it just seemed the icing on a very bad cake.
‘You have treated loyal members of this Party with utter contempt, people who fundraise for you, support you financially, go out in the good years and the bad, in all weathers to deliver and canvass for you, sit in polling stations for you, and up to now, were proud to stand for the Conservative Party.
With BBC East reporting this in some detail on the lcoal news today, with more expected tomorrow, it seems that the cat is out of the bag about how this meeting was not all that it seemed.
Remember, David Cameron goes around telling everyone that this is what other parties should be doing !