July 23 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Senior members of the Bury St Edmunds’ Conservative Association are expected to hold meetings over the next few weeks about reports that MP David Ruffley has been given a police caution for common assault.
It emerged last weekend that Mr Ruffley had received the caution from the Metropolitan Police in March following an incident allegedly involving his then partner Wendy Drew at a London flat.
Earlier this week the chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association, Andrew Speed, said it would not be taking any action after reports about the incident emerged. He said: “We are sure it has been a very difficult time for both of them.
“But the incident in March was dealt with by the police at the time and no further action was required.”
His statement has led to concern among senior party members who feel that it gives the wrong signal.
Simple cautions cannot be offered to an offender who has not admitted that they are guilty of the offence or who has raised a defence, and cannot be given to an offender who does not agree to accept the caution.
They were also concerned that they did not know about the incident on March 15 until details emerged last weekend – pointing out that the incident happened at the same time as Mr Ruffley was being formally re-adopted to fight the seat at next year’s general election.
They are now preparing to call an extraordinary general meeting to discuss the issue with Mr Ruffley.
One member said: “At the very least he needs to give us a full explanation and apologise.” Another said it was a “very difficult situation” and that the incident needed to be taken “very seriously”.
The concern within the Conservative Party emerged after Lighthouse Women’s Aid and the Fawcett Society both called on the MP to stand down, as reported in the East Anglian Daily Times yesterday.
The Conservative Party does have a mechanism to re-open a selection contest if a local association is petitioned by a significant number of members.
There is no suggestion that such a move is imminent, but senior party members are keen for the issue to be discussed – and with a general election due in less than 11 months they are keen to get the matter resolved.