DEFEATED MP Anne McIntosh will fight on at next year’s general election despite her shock de- selection by local party members as the bitter civil war among North Yorkshire Conservatives continues.
Miss McIntosh, one of David Cameron’s most senior backbenchers and the only female Tory MP in the whole of Yorkshire, was formally de-selected as the Conservative candidate for Thirsk and Malton yesterday after losing a ballot of around 560 local party members.
She becomes the first Tory MP in almost a decade to face the ignominy of being de-selected by her local association, but made clear she nonetheless intends to fight the Thirsk and Malton seat again next year – potentially as an independent against whoever is chosen as the new Conservative candidate.
“I’d like to thank all those who supported me,” she said in a statement. “It is my intention to stand for Thirsk, Malton and Filey constituency at the next election.”
The likelihood of a divided Conservative vote in Thirsk and Malton – where the party is already losing large numbers of voters to Ukip – will delight the Liberal Democrats, their nearest opponents in what is currently one of the Tories’ safest Northern seats.
Miss McIntosh’s de-selection – the first of any Tory MP since 2005 – follows months of increasingly bitter battles with her opponents on the local party executive, led by racehorse owner and retired Army Major Peter Steveney.
The Yorkshire Post revealed this week how Mr Steveney, the association chairman, was heavily criticised by a secret Conservative Party inquiry into the long-running Thirsk and Malton row, which concluded he and his officers broke party rules by co-opting a large number of new members onto their decision-making committee shortly before it voted not to readopt Miss McIntosh.
The scale of the fall-out between grassroots members and Conservative headquarters over the affair is laid bare today with the publication for the first time of a letter Mr Steveney wrote in response to the damning report.
Dismissing the internal inquiry as a “whitewash”, Mr Steveney said its authors – senior Westminster Tories – had shown an “extraordinarily arrogant and condescending” attitude towards him and his fellow activists. He also accused Miss McIntosh of displaying “a consistent pattern of non-co-operation, non-communication, bad manners and divisive behaviour” during her tenure as MP.
In a statement last night, Mr Steveney made clear he hoped the de-selection vote would at last draw a line under the long-running saga and begin to heal divisions within the Tory party.
“This has been a stressful time for everyone in our association, including Anne,” he said. “I’m sure all members will join me in uniting and moving forwards to campaign for a Conservative victory in 2015.”
But the prospects of any truce appear bleak, with Miss McIntosh seemingly determined to either throw her hat back into the ring when the local Tories begin the process of seeking a new candidate – or more likely, taking on the winner as an independent.
“I do not intend to be thrown aside by a small group,” she told the BBC. “It is for my constituents as a whole to dismiss me if they wish to do so.”
One Tory backbencher, Zac Goldsmith, called for a “full open primary” to decide the Conservative candidacy in Thirsk and Malton. “Allow her to stand and let local voters decide,” he said.
A spokesman for the Conservatives said selection of a new candidate would begin “in due course.”