Cameron offers support as Tories gather to decide fate of newly selected candidate
DAVID Cameron firmly endorsed Elizabeth Truss as the Tory candidate for SW Norfolk (which includes some Fenland villages) as she fought to avoid being de-selected today - only three days after being chosen.She will go before a back her or sack her emer
DAVID Cameron firmly endorsed Elizabeth Truss as the Tory candidate for SW Norfolk (which includes some Fenland villages) as she fought to avoid being de-selected today - only three days after being chosen.
She will go before a 'back her or sack her' emergency meeting of the constituency Conservative association's executive this evening in Swaffham, and a senior local party insider claimed that "there is a shift towards 'she'll have to go'".
Fury has erupted over the constituency party being kept in the dark about an extra-marital affair she had had with a Tory MP in 2004-05. Many people in the local party knew nothing about it until learning, only a few hours after her selection on Saturday, that it was to be featured in a Mail on Sunday article.
The executive will receive an explanation from Ms Truss this evening, and will then decide to support or drop her. If the vote goes against her she will almost certainly set a new record for a rapid candidate de-selection.
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Pressure from Conservative national headquarters for the executive to stand by her has increased. "She has the full support of the national party. She was selected at the first ballot with more than 50pc of the vote, and is clearly an outstanding candidate. We stand by her", said spokesmen for Mr Cameron.
If the local executive defied Mr Cameron, the association could be suspended, an eastern region Tory MP warned.
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But that threat could further stoke up anger among leaders of the SW Norfolk association who are protesting that they were misled by Ms Truss and their national leadership.
"She should fall on her sword for the sake of the association and the party, and she should have done so on Saturday night", said a senior Tory figure in the constituency. "Conservative Central Office will back her all the way. But she is not right for us. This will not go away, and we do not want a divided association." He added that it was embarrassing that she was already being nicknamed locally as 'MisTrust' and 'MisTress'.
In emphasising his backing for Ms Truss, a 34-year-old 'Cameron A-list' candidate, the Tory leader ran the risk of further alienating the local association - which appears to feel as let down by its national leadership as by Ms Truss. But it will not be easy for it to deliver a high-profile rebuff of him as well as her.
The gap between the national party and the association was underlined last night when a spokesman for Conservative HQ voiced incredulity that the SW Norfolk Tories did not know about Ms Truss's affair with Mark Field, the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster "when it can be easily found on Google".
Local opponents of Ms Truss's selection drew attention yesterday to the fact that she was president of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats in 1995, and that the previous year she had spoken against the monarchy at that party's annual conference.
"We Liberal Democrats believe in opportunity for all. We believe in fairness and common sense. We do not believe people are born to rule", she said.
Ms Truss dismissed these matters yesterday as "youthful indiscretions". She was now "pro-monarchy", she said "and very much so". In the early to mid-1990s, she continued, she had "experimented with some bizarre political ideas".
She added that she did not know the Mail on Sunday would be running a story about her until after she was selected as the SW Norfolk candidate.
The executive body that will decide her fate tonight has a membership of 40. It will be preceded by a meeting of the 10-person management team.