Old pals’ claim leaves a stain on Tory Party

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So the cads and bounders of Thirsk and Malton have, alas, got their way in ditching Anne McIntosh as their Conservative candidate at the next general election.

If, as has been widely speculated, this is a ploy to allow one of David Cameron’s Old Etonian chums, barrister Edward Legard, to replace her as candidate, then that makes a bad situation that much worse.

For all the Prime Minister’s blather about letting local constituencies decide on their own candidates, this, if it is true, is shameful.

What is even more serious is Miss McIntosh has been insultingly referred to as “a silly girl” amid accusations “dirty tricks” have been employed in order to give her the boot. I have worked in the Parliamentary Press Gallery for about half-a-century, and I can recall few Members of Parliament more assiduous and passionate as Miss McIntosh in her battle to improve things for her constituents and, as chairman of a key Parliamentary Committee, to protect and promote country people nationwide.

The Tory grandees of Thirsk and Malton should be grateful to have such a person as their Member of Parliament instead of ditching her for – what appears to the rest of the world – the flimsiest of reasons.

We do not know what has gone on behind the scenes, but to the general public McIntosh has presented herself as an ideal MP. I am glad she has said she’ll be fighting the seat at the next general election as an Independent. I hope she wins.

The Prime Minister’s cave-in over the Immigration Bill was not his finest hour. He would have attracted a lot more respect had he stood up to the revolt but instead he, bizarrely, allowed Labour and the Lib Dems to get him out of trouble in the voting lobbies.

It was not what pundits like to call “the smack of firm government”, and more and more Tories are now looking for a firmer approach from their leader.

They claim that at the mere sniff of trouble in the air, the Prime Minister will change his mind rather than stand firm. It is, most people believe, too late in the Parliament for them to change their leader safely, but many Tories still believe Mr Cameron has not fulfilled the promise he demonstrated when he was elected to the job.