The Conservatives in Northumberland have been rocked by a series of resignations amid in-fighting over its leadership.
The Journal has reported how Tory councillor and local branch chairman Bruce Hewison is severing links with the party – and may run for parliament as an independent, in protest at its management at local level. Now, it has emerged that his resignation was part of a wider walkout in the county.
Coun Hewison, a Tory party member, member of Alnwick Town Council, chairman of the Alnwick and Alnmouth branch of the Berwick Conservative Association, and a member of the association’s executive council and management team, said he had quit the association at the executive council’s annual general meeting in March.
His resignation as an Alnwick representative was in protest at a move by the party’s Berwick parliamentary candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan to nominate Aidan Ruff as association chairman, despite the incumbent John Rae having only served two years in a post most people hold for three. Mr Ruff was appointed.
Now, it has emerged that his departure was part of a mass walkout which saw all other management team members standing down, with six resigning and one retiring.
Mr Rae; Coun Hewison’s wife Jeanette, deputy chair of fundraising and membership; Karen Thorburn, deputy chair political from Berwick; and Steven Purvis, Northern representative from Berwick have all confirmed to The Journal they resigned in protest at the same issue.
Mrs Thorburn said her husband Keith, member for Conservative Future, had also resigned.
Mr Rae, a Tory party member for 45 years, told The Journal: “One of the unwritten rules is the prospective parliamentary candidate does not interfere with the running of the association. It must be allowed to run itself.”
He said the nomination of Mr Ruff came “very regrettably” amid what had become a “fairly fraught relationship” between Mrs Trevelyan and the management team. “The management team took that as an attack on their integrity and decided it was not going to be possible to work with her.”
Mrs Trevelyan said she had been approached by Mr Ruff about his becoming chairman and had been happy to nominate him, as she was democratically entitled to.
She claimed Mr Rae had almost served his maximum of three years and that it was not his “divine right” to receive another.
Mrs Trevelyan said it seemed a “logical” time for a change as Mr Ruff’s maximum three years would see him as chair up to and beyond the general election.
Of Mr Rae’s claim that she was interfering in the running of the association, Mrs Trevelyan responded: “I do not run the association but I am a member and I am entitled to nominate anyone who might ask me to.”
Asked about his suggestion of a fraught relationship with the management team, she conceded only that Mr Rae “probably would not think on the same wavelength as Aidan and I do.”