December 21 2014 Latest news:
Monday, February 3, 2014
Counting has started in the ballot to decide the future of South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo.
Officials from Conservative Central Office in London started counting the votes at noon today. The result is expected to be announced during the afternoon.
Mr Yeo was taken in to the office through a back door, evading journalists who were waiting at the front.
About 600 ballot papers had been sent out to registered members of the South Suffolk Conservative Association and these have returned to London.
As they arrive at Central Office the returned papers have been recorded and stored securely away. The envelopes have not been opened so no one has any indication how the vote has gone.
At noon today the envelopes will be opened, and the first thing for the officials to do is to check the names of the returnee against the list of Association members.
Once that has been done, the actual papers themselves will be opened and the counting will start.
The count will be conducted by paid Conservative Party officials whose work will be scrutinised by Mr Yeo himself, a representative chosen by him, an officer of the South Suffolk Conservative Association, and agent Peter Burgoyne.
It is not clear what time the result of the ballot will be known – this will depend on the number of ballot papers sent in and the closeness of the result.
Members from Suffolk have said they don’t see why the votes should not be counted within about two hours – but the national officers are being more cautious, estimating that the result will be known between 3pm and 4pm.
The official statement is expected to come in a joint release from Mr Yeo and the South Suffolk Conservative Association – although it is possible that the result will leak out first.
On Friday former Essex MEP Anne McIntosh, who is now MP for Thirsk and Malton in Yorkshire, was de-selected after a ballot of 560 members of her local party.
The result of that count was announced by Conservative Central Office shortly after 4.30pm – so members of South Suffolk Conservative Association could have a long wait this afternoon.