Bury St Edmunds: Cathedral dean turns up the heat on under-fire MP David Ruffley

Dean Frances Ward of Bury St Edmunds Cathedral. Dean Frances Ward of Bury St Edmunds Cathedral.

Saturday, July 19, 2014
10:00 AM

The Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral has written to local MP David Ruffley calling on him to consider his position as calls mount for his resignation.

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And his local Conservative association has brought forward a meeting of its executive at the end of this month in the wake of the revelation he had been given a police caution for common assault.

The Very Rev Frances Ward has written to Mr Ruffley saying that he has lost the confidence of many of his supporters in Bury St Edmunds and that he should consider his position.

She copied the letter to council leaders, new government chief whip Michael Gove, senior police figures, and political heavyweights.

Mr Ruffley, who has declined to comment about the incident, was given the caution by the Metropolitan Police after officers were called to a flat in Pimlico on March 15.

The police would only confirm that a 52-year-old was given a police caution for common assault after what they described as a “domestic incident”. It is understood that the victim was Mr Ruffley’s then partner, Bury St Edmunds artist Wendy Drew.

Dr Ward is a close friend of Mrs Drew.

Meanwhile the Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association executive has brought forward its regular meeting planned for September 9 to July 31.

They have written to Mr Ruffley “requesting” that he attend. Association chairman Andrew Speed said it was always planned that Mr Ruffley would be at September’s meeting and that there would be other matters on the agenda.

“This is not an ‘emergency’ meeting. I’m sure members will want to ask David about the incident – but we have other matters to deal with including how we will fight next year’s election and appointing an agent,” he added.

There is also a belief among senior local Tories that the mood has changed at Westminster with Mr Gove and his team – which includes Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey – taking a tough stance on party discipline.

However senior Conservatives in Suffolk remain worried about the apparent lack of concern shown by officials of their party, both locally and nationally, about the issue of domestic violence which lies at the heart of the issues surrounding Mr Ruffley.

Senior Conservative councillor Joanna Spicer, who is chair of the county’s health and wellbeing board, said: “I suppose I can understand why the Conservative Party, both nationally and in Bury St Edmunds, has chosen to protect David Ruffley from the consequences of his police caution.

“However, I am totally bewildered and disappointed that both nationally and locally the Conservative Party remains silent on the issues surrounding domestic violence.

“The Government published an excellent ‘Call for Action’ on domestic violence only two years ago and has recently revised the action plan.

“Their silence leads many people, including Conservative supporters, to conclude that they condone domestic violence.”

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