Saffron Walden Conservatives elect new chairman as party moves on from last months infighting

17:44 18 March 2014

Keith Eden

Keith Eden

Archant

A new chairman of Saffron Walden Conservatives has been elected following the infighting which engulfed the party last month.

Bob Langman, the group’s former chairman, quit over his part in what was described by one Tory as “a grubby little plot” to de-select the area’s long-standing MP Sir Alan Haselhurst.

At the Saffron Walden Conservative Association’s annual meeting last Friday (March 14), Keith Eden, pictured, the current mayor of Saffron Walden and member of Uttlesford District Council, was elected unopposed to the role vacated by Mr Langman.

He told the Reporter: “One of my key tasks is to unify everyone so we can go forward and win next year’s elections.

“I wasn’t part of what went on in the past so for me it’s just a case of looking ahead and taking on the challenge of increasing Sir Alan’s majority.”

Cllr Eden added: “It’s unusual that there is a General Election on the same day as local district and city council elections, so it’s key that we get people enthusiastic and keen. Particularly if we’re going to get the first new Conservative Government in 18 years.”

There has also been a change of president. Howard Rolfe, an Uttlesford District Council cabinet member, has stepped down from the role after three years.

There were claims by Tory members that he was another who thought it was time for a change – but when approached about the Reporter’s exclusive story last month he refused to comment.

Cllr Rolfe was quoted in The Sunday Times suggesting Sir Alan, 76, could “do an Alex Ferguson” and, like the former football manager, retire gracefully after an “extremely distinguished career”’, although he claimed his words were taken out of context.

John Aldridge, a long-standing Essex county councillor who represents the Broomfield and Writtle division, was elected as the new president.

Sir Alan, the constituency’s MP since 1977, will stand at next year’s General Election.

The Tory stalwart, who will be in his 80s at the end of the next Parliament beyond 2015, rejected claims he was too old to go on when rumours of the de-selection threat surfaced.

The vote count for the de-selection ballot was not made public, despite Tories present asking for it to be revealed, but it was understood to be overwhelmingly in Sir Alan’s favour.

Mr Langman chose to resign after losing the vote, a motion he had put forward, saying the result made his position “untenable”.

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