Conservatives in turmoil in the Fens as president lashes out at his own executive for de-selecting four sitting councillors

PUBLISHED: 13:09 27 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:09 27 March 2018

Annual meeting of NE Cambs Conservative Association: President Victor Aveling conducts a vote of association members. PHOTO: RWT Photography

Annual meeting of NE Cambs Conservative Association: President Victor Aveling conducts a vote of association members. PHOTO: RWT Photography

Archant

Disarray in the Conservative Party in Fenland spilled over into the annual meeting of the local association with a blistering attack by president Victor Aveling on the de-selection of sitting councillors.

Annual meeting of NE Cambs Conservative Association: association members. Barbara Aveling, chairman of March Ladies, receives a certificate for fund raising from Steve Barclay MP. PHOTO: RWT PhotographyAnnual meeting of NE Cambs Conservative Association: association members. Barbara Aveling, chairman of March Ladies, receives a certificate for fund raising from Steve Barclay MP. PHOTO: RWT Photography

Mr Aveling opened the annual meeting of the NE Cambs association by attacking his own executive for de-selecting four senior councillors – three of them cabinet members of Fenland Council and the fourth the chairman of the planning committee.

He told a record attendance of more than 100 party members at the March Conservative Club last Thursday that effectively the split might lead to a break up of the association.

Among those de-selected are cabinet member Mike Cornwell and planning committee chairman Alex Miscandlon.

However the president’s greatest anger was reserved for the de-selection of cabinet members Will Sutton and Michelle Tanfield at Elm and Christchurch.

Annual meeting of NE Cambs Conservative Association: Julie Windle, chairman of Whittlesey Conservatives, receives a certificate for the town's successful membership efforts. PHOTO: RWT PhotographyAnnual meeting of NE Cambs Conservative Association: Julie Windle, chairman of Whittlesey Conservatives, receives a certificate for the town's successful membership efforts. PHOTO: RWT Photography

“We have replaced experienced councillors with some weak candidates,” he said. “And in my opinion one unsuitable candidate who after being deselected as a Conservative councillor stood against us unsuccessfully firstly as an independent and then under the UKIP banner,” he said.

The candidate selected for one of those seats is former councillor Phil Webb, who has rejoined the Conservative Party but who, in recent years, has unsuccessfully stood as a UKIP candidate and also as an independent. Mr Webb, who once lived in Elm, has since moved to Whittlesey but was still selected for the seat in the village where he once lived.

Mr Webb was present to hear his president castigate those responsible for his selection.

Mr Aveling believes the will of local branches was ignored during the selection process as many of the selections were carried out by the executive as most branches didn’t have enough members to make the selection.

“It has become obvious the majority of the executive have decided on their choice of candidate before the meeting either by having a prior meeting or by using social media,” said Mr Aveling.

“The idea of a private group deciding the policy of the executive council is completely unacceptable.

“We are meant to represent Conservatives within this constituency and if this continues it could cause the break-up of the association.

“I do not have any proposals to remedy the current position but to prevent it happening in the future it is obvious that it is in the councillors’ interests to be elected in their own wards.

“To do this they must ensure more the mass of Conservative supports in the constituency become members of the party.”

Mr Aveling conceded the situation could not be altered for this round of selections but the association voted for changes to the constitution nationally.

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