Rural Conservatives test MP’s popularity with local ballot

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Yorkshire’s sole female Conservative MP faces a crunch ballot of local party members as she battles a second attempt to have her deselected from her seat.

Anne McIntosh, the MP for Thirsk and Malton and chair of the influential Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee, will find out in January whether she is to remain the local Tory party candidate at the next election.

Miss McIntosh, 59, has been an MP in North Yorkshire for more than 15 years, having held the now-abolished Vale of York seat between 1997 and 2010. She represented the region at the European Parliament for a decade before that.

She currently enjoys a majority of more than 11,000 in the safe seat of Thirsk and Malton – one of the most rural in England – and would normally expect to be returned to the Commons in 2015 without much of a battle.

But she has faced a long-running whispering campaign from opponents within the local Conservative Party, who have accused her of spending too little time on constituency matters. They first tried to deselect her in 2009, and another attempt was launched this year to prevent her fighting the seat again in 2015.

Now she has announced that all 540 members of the local Tory Party will be balloted in January to decide whether she can remain in her post.

Miss McIntosh said she was “delighted” to put her name forward, and that the time is right to lay the matter to rest.

“The decision on whether to adopt me as the Conservative candidate will be taken by all Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association members, in the true spirit of democracy and openness,” she said.

“Having served as MP for the new constituency of Thirsk Malton and Filey for three years now, it is right and timely to concentrate on priorities for the next election.”

Ballot papers will be sent out in the new year, with votes to be counted on January 31.