A BITTER Tory civil war over a safe North Yorkshire seat looks increasingly likely at next year’s election after the chairman of the local party signalled he does not want to choose the next candidate via an “open primary”.
In a letter to members of Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association, copied to the Yorkshire Post, Major Peter Steveney said he wants selection of the area’s next Tory candidate to be undertaken “in the normal way”.
Mr Steveney added that he hopes to use the forthcoming Euro election campaign to “mend fences” within the local party, following the bitter row which saw sitting MP Anne McIntosh formally de-selected in January.
But despite having lost that ballot of the 570-strong members of the Thirsk and Malton association, Miss McIntosh has made clear she wants to be considered when the local party picks its new candidate for the 2015 election.
She has called on the association’s executive to opt for an unusual American-style “open primary”, where the selection process is opened up beyond the local party - allowing any registered voter to have a say. She has made clear that should she be denied that opportunity, she is likely to stand as an independent against the new Tory candidate in 2015.
The decision on how the new candidate will be selected remains in the hand of the local Tory executive, however, which holds its annual general meeting later this month.
In his letter to members, Mr Steveney - who will step down as chairman at the meeting - makes clear the selection process is now on hold until after the Euro elections on May 22, but signals he does not want an open primary to be held.
“We have been advised by the party board that candidate selections... will be deferred until after May 22,” he said. “In the normal way, CCHQ will then supervise a selection that will be open to applications from potential candidates whose names are on CCHQ’s ‘approved list’.”
He added: “We hope to receive a wide choice of applications, and will welcome potential candidates who can help us to unite our association and campaign harmoniously for victory in 2015.”
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post last night, Miss McIntosh said that she too wants to “unite” the divided local party - but argued the best way to achieve this was through the “fair and democratic” process of an open primary, allowing her to compete against other prospective candidates in an open vote at a public meeting.
“I don’t think Peter Steveney would want his legacy to be a permanent split of the association,” she said.
“Therefore, in my view, the best way of uniting the association is to hold an open primary, so I can submit myself to that process whereby any registered voter of any party or none can participate in the process.”