Local Tories called out for backing Hancock without asking members
- Credit: PA
A West Suffolk Conservative group has been labelled "undemocratic" for publicly backing Matt Hancock to remain as MP without consulting its members.
Earlier this afternoon the West Suffolk Conservative Association issued a statement formally backing the ex-health secretary to continue representing the constituency after The Sun newspaper published photos of him kissing advisor Gina Coladangelo.
The association — which chooses who will stand as the Conservative party candidate in elections, and has selected Mr Hancock since 2010 — publicly backed him after receiving a "heartfelt apology".
A spokesman for the association said: “Following Matt Hancock’s resignation as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, West Suffolk Conservative Association has taken soundings.
"We wish to express our support for Matt, who has served our constituency tirelessly over the past 11 years.
"Matt has given us a heartfelt apology for recent events, has faced up to the mistakes he has made on both a human and a professional level and expressed sincere contrition.
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"We want to thank Matt for the extraordinary job he has done as health secretary leading the country through the pandemic and overseeing the roll out of the world's best vaccination programme, and look forward to working with him as he continues to represent his constituents in parliament.”
However, Tom Kerby, a lifelong Conservative and member of the association, said: "It slightly concerns me that as a member of the Conservative Association that statement has been put out.
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"But that's not — as I know from the members I've spoke to — the correct view. This is a view of a spokesman for West Suffolk who we don't know who it was."
Mr Kerby said he had not been consulted on the statement and was not aware Mr Hancock had apologised until he read the the Conservative Association's statement in this newspaper.
He said: "It's slightly undemocratic to issue a statement without consulting members first on Matt Hancock's position."
He added that he wished to call an extraordinary meeting of the association to discuss the issue.
In a letter to this newspaper Mr Kerby, who is a former deputy mayor of Newmarket, wrote: "While it saddens and disappoints me to hear and read the terrible news of Matt Hancock MP, as Health Secretary he has overseen the Covid pandemic that hit the country throughout the past year with passion.
"In doing so, he has had to make some very difficult decisions and place restrictions on what as a government were thought best for the population.
"For then to flout those rules himself is indefensible and in my opinion to resign was correct with all trust and integrity in Matt Hancock lost.
"At present I am a West Suffolk Conservative Association member and in light of the circumstances surrounding this affair I would fully support the Deselection of Matt Hancock as the MP for West Suffolk."
West Suffolk Conservative councillor Ian Houlder has also written to the local party calling for Mr Hancock to be deselected.
"His behaviour has been beyond the pale, his honour, integrity, probity and honesty, should he have had any, trashed beyond redemption," the Tory councillor wrote.
"He has let every member of the public down, pontificating that they should all make huge sacrifices on the altar of the pandemic, whilst doing the complete opposite himself."
The scandal, according to Mr Houlder's email to the chair of the West Suffolk Conservative Association, shows Mr Hancock to be a "selfish, egotistical man".
Mr Houlder also wrote directly to the MP to say: "If you have a shred of integrity or honour you would resign without delay.
"Do the residents of West Suffolk a favour and stand down."