Tory Party fractures in Bedford over Mayoral Open Primary

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 !


Iain Dale said...

Nich, unusually for you you didnt bother checking your facts before writing this drivel.

1. 800 didn't turn up. 400 did. Everyone had to preregister. No one was allowed in unless they had done so.
2. No one was left outside. I know because I wouldnt start the meeting until everyone had been processed.
3. The BoS story is based entirely on an email from one of the defeated candidates - the same one who was photographed on stage after the result was announced happily shaking the hand of the winner. She was given ample opportunity to complain on the night but did not do so.
4. Yes, the winning candidate did have a lot of supporters there. Good on him. The others had equal chance to galvanise support but failed to do so.

As I chaired the meeting I will refrain from commenting on what Nicky Attenborough had to say in her email. Apart from to say it is complete and utter garbage from start to finish.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I took the figures from the local press and BBC.

Anonymous said...

"others had a chance to galvanise support"

If that's not an admission that one candidate packed the meeting then I don't know what is.

Letters From A Tory said...

Although it sounds like the facts in this instance are open to dispute, the fact remains that open primaries are wide open to abuse and always will be.

Sir Edward Heath said...

There is a really big problem with Tory Open Primaries. Whoever gets elected is a Tory. Hee! Hee! Hee!

Newmania said...

Of course the Liberal Party has been trying to parlay its small support into control from the centre via class hierarchy for years . Thats what PR is/ Openly accountable Democracy is a like Garlic to a vampire to them especially as it kills of their dreamt of back room deals with AV placemen.
This country’s elite is already far more Liberal than the people, on crime on immigration on social issues and yet the whine that the system is against them . This move kills PR stone dead and drags the truth out into the open .Of course it will be attacked .Mind you as the Liberals admittedly fare badly under FPTP it is the Liberal progressive wing of the Labour Party with most to fear