I’ve just been informed that Anne McIntosh has been deselected by members of the Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association.
Deselections through this method – a vote of the full association membership – are extremely rare. Reading back through Conservative history, by my count only four other MPs have been sacked by membership ballot in the last 25 years:
- Sir Anthony Meyer, the notorious Clywd West MP who was deselected in 1990 after challenging Mrs Thatcher for the leadership
- John Browne, MP for Winchester who was deselected in 1992 in a dual storm over his divorce and failing to declare financial interests in the Parliamentary Register
- Sir George Gardiner, the Reigate MP who was deselected in 1997 after portraying John Major as a europhile puppet of Ken Clarke
- Nick Hawkins, deselected as MP for Surrey Heath in 2005 as a result of accusations that he wasn’t a “team player”
MPs have been deselected through other routes (the leadership driving out Howard Flight in 2005, for example) and no doubt others over the years have chosen to step down after a quiet word from Association officers, but there are signs that some party members are increasingly willing to attempt deselection ballots. This is the third such ballot in under six months – first Crispin Blunt resoundingly defeated a deselection attempt in Reigate, the McIntosh today, and next week Tim Yeo’s fate will be decided by the Conservatives of South Suffolk.
I doubt this will be the end of tensions in Thirsk and Malton – as the bitterness of the battle has shown, there are evidently deep rifts among some officers and members, not just between the members and McIntosh. It doesn’t seem like she intends to let things rest, either. Here’s her official statement (my emphasis):
“I’d like to thank all those who supported me throughout, from both Vale of York and Thirsk and Malton. It is my intention to stand for Thirsk, Malton and Filey constituency at the next General Election.”
“Meanwhile I remain committed to the Conservative Party locally and nationally and shall continue with my constituency and parliamentary duties with my customary passion. In the coming year I will support Conservative candidates in the European Elections in Yorkshire and the Humber and Conservative local Government candidates in Thirsk, Malton and Filey in 2015.”
As she is still a Conservative MP, she is still on the candidates’ list – and could therefore apply to the selection process in Thirsk and Malton when it opens, though it’s hard to see what hope there would be of selection after this defeat. If she did reapply, that would undoubtedly mean an already bitter war of words dragging on for the foreseeable future.
The worst case, and more likely, scenario lies in:
- a) her “intention to stand at the next General Election”, ie she isn’t saying she hopes to be chosen by anyone, she’s stating it certainly
- b) her very specific commitment to support Conservative Euro candidates this year and Conservative local government candidates in 2015, ie not supporting Conservative Parliamentary candidates next year.
Might she stand as an independent, or for another party?
The statement of Peter Steveny, the Association Chairman, could be read in a number of ways:
“This has been a stressful time for everyone in our Association, including Anne. I’m sure all members will join me in uniting and moving forwards to campaign for a Conservative victory in 2015.”
The turnout in the ballot was apparently 88 per cent of the Association membership – which reflects the strength of feeling, and the depth of the controversy.
Meanwhile, McIntosh has told the BBC:
“I have 77,000 Constituents who I have faithfully served. I do not intend to be thrown aside by a small cabal…It is for my Constituents as a whole to dismiss me if they wish to do so.”
It now seems almost certain she will end up standing as an independent next year, running against whoever is chosen to succeed her as the Tory candidate.