Tory party chairman quits over his part in ‘a grubby little plot’ to de-select Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan
10:51 20 February 2014
Saffron Walden Conservatives are reeling this week after the party chairman resigned for his part in a failed plot to overthrow the area’s long-standing MP.
Sir Alan Haselhurst will stand at next year’s General Election despite an attempt to oust the 76-year-old at a private meeting of the Saffron Walden Conservative Association last Thursday.
Party chairman Bob Langman quit over his involvement in what one Tory described as “a grubby little plot” to de-select Sir Alan, the constituency’s MP since 1977.
Mr Langman told the Reporter he chose to resign after losing the ballot to de-select Sir Alan, saying the result made his position “untenable”.
There were also claims by Tory members that president Howard Rolfe, an Uttlesford District Council cabinet member, was another who thought it was time for a change – he refused to comment.
Cllr Rolfe was quoted in The Sunday Times suggesting Sir Alan 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.
When asked by the Reporter whether he was one of the Tory rebels who voted against Sir Alan’s readoption, Cllr Rolfe said the ballot was secret and should remain so.
There was no indication a candidate was being manoeuvred into position as a potential successor to Sir Alan.
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.
Acting chairman Jonathan Rich, a staunch supporter of Sir Alan, said it was the younger association members who had led the charge for the former deputy speaker to be re-elected.
He said: “The speech Alan gave to our crowded town hall on a cold Thursday night was electrifying – full of energy and straight from the heart.
“Alan can be a quiet man, but this was a tour de force. It left no one in any doubt what the right decision was and got a huge round of applause.”
On the de-selection attempt, Cllr Rich said: “We’re obviously all sorry our chairman Bob Langman felt the need to resign, but we are in rude health.
“We’ll elect a fresh team of officers at our AGM in a couple of weeks, put this strange episode behind us and emerge all the stronger.”
The vote count is unknown, despite Tories present asking for it to be revealed, but the Reporter understands it was overwhelmingly in Sir Alan’s favour.
Speaking after the meeting, Sir Alan, said: “I am delighted to be re-selected and I look forward to fighting the next General Election.
“It has been very heart-warming to hear the amount of vocal support that I’ve had and the party is now united behind me.”
He added: “I have not lost the appetite for the job. It’s a job I have craved since my student days and it’s a job I love doing. I am still determined to try to help people the best I can.
“Whilst everyone will not agree with me, I try to ensure that their views are heard and taken into account.
“I hope that on the big issues for the constituency, I speak up effectively in Parliament and I look forward to continuing to do so.”