South Suffolk: Yeo’s de-selection confirmed after party ballot
PUBLISHED: 10:09 04 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:11 04 February 2014
The search for the successor to Tim Yeo – deselected yesterday as the Conservative Party’s South Suffolk candidate to fight next year’s general election – is set to start immediately.
Mr Yeo’s ousting, after more than 30 years holding the seat, was confirmed after party members voted against him in a ballot.
He will remain the South Suffolk MP until the next election, but the local party will now look for a new candidate to fight the seat.
Sources said about 82% of the 600 members of the South Suffolk Conservative Association took part in the ballot, the result of which was declared shortly after 3.30pm yesterday.
Exact results of the ballot have not been revealed by the party. However we understand the margin was about 35 votes.
That would mean about 230 members voted for Mr Yeo and 265 voted against him.
Mr Yeo’s de-selection came despite support from Chancellor George Osborne and education secretary Michael Gove and an 11th-hour letter of support from the Prime Minister.
He was also backed by Suffolk’s six other MPs who all signed a letter saying they hoped he would remain in parliament because they valued his advice.
The result heralds the end of a long political career for the MP who has represented the seat since 1983. By the time of the next election Mr Yeo will be 70.
He was de-selected by the association’s executive in November, but decided to put his case to a ballot of the entire membership, the result of which was declared yesterday.
Exact numbers of votes were not revealed, but agent Peter Burgoyne – who was one of the observers of the count – said the result was “decisive”.
He said: “The association now needs to get all its members behind it and to go forward. We have a major election to fight (the Euro-election in May) and we all need to work together on that.”
One of Mr Yeo’s fiercest critics has been executive member and Babergh councillor Simon Barrett.
He said it was important that the decision of the executive was vindicated by the membership as a whole.
“We always said we were representing the views of the membership – but during the ballot process you could never be sure how things would go.
“Now we know what we have to do – to go ahead and build on the Conservatives’ position in the constituency.”
His view was supported by James Finch, president of the largest single branch in the constituency, Nayland with Wissington.
He said: “I am not proud that it had to happen at all and that the South Suffolk Conservative Association (SSCA) Executive’s judgement of its members’ views could not be trusted without such a ballot. The result for me is no surprise whatsoever.”
He added: “Our first job is to immediately start the selection process for a new parliamentary candidate so that as many as possible can meet him or her before the next election.
“This is essential to give us the best chance of a Conservative MP being returned to our constituency with a substantial majority.”