A LEADING Tory has resigned from a senior position at Wycombe Conservative Association after slamming national party bosses over the selection of its next Parliamentary candidate.
David Moore stepped down from the local party’s management committee after posting a statement on the WCA’s website accusing Tory HQ of interfering with its selection of the candidate, widely expected to win the seat at the next election.
The statement was not sanctioned by the party as an official statement, said association chairman Bob Woollard, who “wasn’t the first to ask for his resignation”. It has now been removed. Mr Moore tonight said it was right he stood down for “embarrassing” members.
It was revealed yesterday that the hunt for the next candidate had been suspended. Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) said the correct procedures had not been followed in finding the replacement for Paul Goodman MP, who is standing down. They would not specify what procedures had not been followed.
Wycombe members will meet tonight to try and establish the facts. One suggestion is that a candidate complained to CCHQ after discovering other candidates and not themselves had attended a dinner party with a senior local Tory (see later).
Mr Moore’s removed statement said national party chairman Eric Pickles MP suspended the selection process because of an “alleged irregularity”.
It said: “Of course the biggest irregularity was his imposition on Wycombe Conservative Association of Rules handed down by CCHQ which do not appear to have been properly ratified properly [sic] and which are contrary to that part of the Constitution of Wycombe Conservative Association that was imposed on it by CCHQ in the first place.”
It went on: “At least we will have a chance now to rerun the selection with a fair procedure.”
It went on “Wycombe Conservative Association note the Conservative policy of eradicating top down government."
He accused Mr Pickles of not understanding the policy and said he had no authority to suspend a committee of the executive council of Wycombe Conservative Association.
Mr Woollard told the Bucks Free Press: “It was an unauthorised entry onto the website by a member of the association and was completely unauthorised by myself or anyone else in authority.
“It is his personal view as a member of the association and it has been taken off. I have asked for his resignation today and he has given me his resignation.”
Mr Moore, the association’s web manager, told the Free Press: “I embarrassed Wycombe Conservative Association and the appropriate thing for me to do was to resign from the committee.”
Yet he said he stood by his views on the “appalling” interference by CCHQ, which he said most local members shared. The national party had not commented at the time of going to press.
A second statement on the website was posted by Mr Moore but also removed.
It said: “Yesterday (Tuesday 15th September 2009) Eric Pickles MP, chairman of the Conservative Party, suspended procedure for the selection of candidates in the Wycombe constituency because of an alleged irregularity.
“The selection procedure was being conducted by a selection committee of the executive council of Wycombe Conservative Association, but it appears that this action was taken without any direct communication with any of the officers of the association.
“It is also unclear until the executive council meet what the effect of the purported suspension is.”
The local party had begun the process of selecting a candidate when the suspension was announced. Candidates applied to CCHQ which put hopefuls through an assessment.
Those who passed could apply for the Wycombe seat, with names passed to the association.
It is thought about 260 people were on the shortlist handed to the WCA.
Today Conservative sources told the Free Press that the row centres on an evening at a senior member of the local association’s home.
The final candidates were invited for drinks at the home where they met members of the association’s selection committee, one source said. It was felt this was needed to whittle down the list further, they said.
They said two candidates remained for a dinner at the home and this did not include selection committee members and had been arranged well in advance.
However, they said it was possible that one of the candidates who was not invited to the dinner regarded this as suspicious and reported it to CCHQ.
Another said the event itself may have been deemed inappropriate by CCHQ.
Half the candidates on the final shortlist must be women. Mr Woollard said this was not behind the suspension decision.
Mr Woollard added he had not been privy to any discussions of the selection committee and he had not applied for the post of MP himself.
He said: “I expressed an interest in the beginning, along with a lot of other local people.
“A separate committee was formed specifically to deal with the selection process, of which I have never been a member. Subsequently I did not apply for the position when it was advertised.”