Exclusive: Ousted Tory warns Labour on ‘meddling’ in constituencies

Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh. Picture: Harry Atkinson
Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh. Picture: Harry Atkinson
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OUSTED POLITICAN Anne McIntosh has warned Labour that deselection brings weakness into the heart of Government.

The long-standing Conservative MP, who was fired by her own party, has made her return to Parliament as a peer.

However in an exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Post she warns Jeremy Corbyn that meddling with who represents constituency seats creates unhelpful and bitter divisions that do not lead to strong governance of the country.

The 61-year-old former MP for Thirsk and Malton, who was deselected by her local association in 2014, said: “With massive deselection it could lead to a split in the party by chosing to deslect sitting MPs, who may then chose to stand on an alternative ticket.”

“I was deselected but I had many good years before that and I take the rough with the smooth, but it would be very damaging for any political party to go through widespread deselection because is looks inward looking and insular, and not looking towards the electorate.”

Her high-profile deselection followed a bitter internal battle in the local party where she was said to have fallen out with the executive - in particular its chairman, Peter Steveney, a retired Army major and former Jockey Club stewards’ secretary.

She had at one time been the only female Conservative MP in the whole of Yorkshire, chaired the Defra Select Committee and had a 11,000 strong majority when she was voted out by the local branch’s 560 members almost two years ago this week.

On her two years in the political wilderness, she said: “Obviously I’ve had an interim period where I thought I was out for life.”

However she belives her own personal experience of rejection has taught her the wider ramifications of party machinary seeking to change its MPs, despite them having a strong mandate from the electorate.

Rumours have plagued the Labour Party since leader Jeremy Corbyn was elected in September that moderate, Trident supporting MPs, or those who favour military intervention, could be deselected following the huge swell in local branch memberships.

Ms McIntosh, now Baroness McIntosh of Pickering and the Vale of York, said in her long political career she witnessed the upheaval caused by many deselections, well before her own.

She said: “I experienced deselection through the Militant Tendency in early 1980s where very moderate Labour candidates and sitting Labour MEPs were deselected for no reason.”

“I would make a play to the Labour Party that they have got to look a being a responsible opposition and I think Jeremy Corbyn is warming to that, and allowing in internal debate for example on Trident. But it would be no good for the governance of this country if you got an opposition that became completely self absorbed and inward looking.

“For the Conservative Government is has ramifications, it would not be good goverance of the country if you went into the EU or the next General Election with massive deselection of sitting MPs.”

Baroness McIntosh was elected to the European Parliament in 1989 before becoming MP for the Vale of York in 1997.

When that seat was lost as part of boundary changes at the 2010 election, she became the candidate for Thirsk and Malton and won with a majority of 11,281.

However after 18 years in post, she was fired by the Thirsk and Malton constituency association in a bitter row played out in public in 2014.

She accused some in the local party of ‘ungentlemanly behaviour’ at the time, but urged members to continue to support the Conservative Party going into the General Election, when she decided not to stand as an independent MP against the Conservative candidate Kevin Hollinrake.

An internal Conservative Party report found that a previous vote to de-select her in 2013 had been “fundamentally flawed” and ordered that the result should be set aside.

She said: “At the time it felt very personal, but I’ve moved on and I’ve remained close friends to that close group of supporters. I hope it’s done no lasting damage to the party locally. What I intend to do now is work ouside the party [locally]. I maintain strong links to the local farmers and I will be having a local farmers meeting three or four times a year.”