Local Tories are reeling after it was announced on Friday that senior officers of the Sleaford and North Hykeham Conservative Association had been removed from office with immediate effect, following concerns by Central Office about the procedure for selecting their candidate for the General Election.
In an email shared with local party members - seen by The Standard - the Board of the Conservative Party announced it had resolved to “exercise its power” under the constitution of the Conservative Party “to remove forthwith from office, the following officers of the Sleaford and North Hykeham Conservative Association”.
They are George Clark, the chairman, and his deputy chairmen Stephanie Thorne and Henrietta Reeve. They are accused of not following procedure and allegedly “culling” some of those eligible to vote on parliamentary candidate selection, something they have denied, claiming they had stuck to the rules.
This comes just a week before the Lincolnshire County Council elections and just six weeks before a General Election with local members due to decide on re-selecting their MP Dr Caroline Johnson as their candidate, who won a by-election just five months ago.
The announcement on behalf of the Board, said it authorises Richard Butroyd, chairman of the Area Management Executive, to assume the role of Association Chairman with immediate effect and call a Special General Meeting of the constituency association to elect new officers after the General Election.
When contacted, deposed chairman George Clark declined to comment further than confirming he and his deputies had been removed.
A Conservative Party spokesperson confirmed: “Three officials from the Sleaford and North Hykeham Conservative Association have been removed from their positions in accordance with party rules.”
Tory County Councillor Christine Talbot said she had received an email confirming the officials’ removal, but said: “I have had no reason to why that happened.”
In papers leaked to The Standard it appears to centre around the local constituency chairman calling a meeting of the Executive Council which was to be held on Friday night to deal with the business of reselecting Caroline Johnson.
Central office Voluntary Party Manager Carys Parry claimed in an email to Mr Clark on Thursday that this meeting would not comply with the rules for selection of Parliamentary candidates for 2017. She ordered the meeting be cancelled and the Area Chairman and herself would be calling the meeting in line with the rules, contacting all members of the Association Executive Council.
She said she had seen communication to suggest that the Executive Council seemed to have been “arbitrarily culled” without due process. If the officers had not complied they would have been immediately suspended from the Conservative Party as well.
In her emailed reply, local party Deputy Chairman Henrietta Reeve insisted no member of the Executive Council had been excluded. Explaining the situation to members, Ms Reeve said: “We followed guidelines set down by our association in our constitution agreed in 2010 in absence of any other advice or information. CCHQ will now take over running this process. I apologise to members of the executive and of the association who may feel disenfranchised. As you can see, we have no choice.”
○ See tomorrow’s Sleaford Standard for full story.