One of the biggest political battles in Ryedale for decades got underway this week with MP Anne McIntosh fighting to be re-selected as the Conservative candidate for the Thirsk and Malton constituency for the General Election in 2015.
The dispute began last February when the executive of the constituency Conservative Party said it would not automatically reselect her for the safe seat which the 59-year-old barrister represents with a majority of more than 11,000.
Opponents in the party have cricitised Ms McIntosh – chairman of the Government’s Defra select committee for the environment, food and rural affairs who was recently praised by Prime Minister David Cameron – for what they claim to be the amount of attention she devotes to the constituency and her stance on some issues.
Ms McIntosh has been an MP for 15 years, previously being the member for the now abolished Vale of York division before boundary changes saw it become part of the Thirsk and Malton division. She had previously been a member of the European Parliament for 10 years.
This week a newsletter was sent by Ms McIntosh seeking the support of the constituency party’s 540 members. In it she spells out her record of voting in nearly 84 per cent of votes in the House of Commons, spoken in more than 100 debates, and asked 142 questions.
In addition it includes comments by constituents and the press, praising her work, as well as a letter from David Cameron in which he exalts her role as a senior member of the party and chairman of the Defra committee. “I value both your support and your contribition. You are one of the most assiduous MPs, almost always there in the Chamber (of the House of Commons) shouldering the burden of Parliamentary duties. I really do appreciate your enormous efforts,” it states.
The outcome of the ballot among the party members will be known on January 31.
Ms McIntosh said she had been invited to put forward her name to again be the Conservative candidate for Thirsk and Malton, the biggest constituency geographically in the country. “The decision on whether to adopt me as the candidate will be taken by all party members in the constituency this month, in the true spirit of democracy and openness. It is right and timely to concentrate on priorities for the next election. The focus will be very much on delivering excellent affordable public services in a rural area and a fair deal for farmers,”she said.
Ms McIntosh, Yorkshire’s sole female Conservative MP, survived a previous attempt to de-select her in 2009 in what was described as a whispering campaign.
“I’m proud of the work I have done for the Thirsk and Malton constituency. There’s always rough and tumble in politics but I’m confident of being selected as the party’s candidate and believe I have the overwhelming support of the local party,” she said earlier this year.
Last July the constituency Conservative Association was ordered by the party’s national board to re-think its decision not to automatically reselect Ms McIntosh, and to reconstitute its executive committee.
The chairman of the Conservative Association in the constituency, Major Peter Steveney, said ballot papers would be issued on Friday and the result of the ballot, to be declared on January 31, would be binding.
“The Conservative Party rules are very one-sided. The sitting MP can self promote but we can’t put our case,” he said.
He added that he was anxious to see the situation resolved. “We need to start to concentrate on our campaign for the General Election in May next year and to plan fund raising events.”
l See also page 12.