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Tory euro election apathy `worrying'

PUBLISHED: 08:40 11 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:17 24 February 2010

THE Conservatives have nearly 55,000 members across the six counties comprising the East of England – but only 545 showed any interest in choosing who should by the party's candidates for the 2004 European elections.

THE Conservatives have nearly 55,000 members across the six counties comprising the East of England – but only 545 showed any interest in choosing who should by the party's candidates for the 2004 European elections.

The Tories held regional hustings in Norwich, Chelmsford, Huntingdon and Hertford so members could listen to the existing MEPs and others wishing to stand and then place them in their preferred order.

Figures compiled by Ian Dowling, the regional co-ordinating chairman, reveal that only one Tory Party member from Sir Michael Lord's Central Suffolk & Ipswich North constituency bothered to take part in this exercise in party democracy.

Other constituencies in the doghouse are Waveney who also had only one member voting, Bury St Edmunds (3), West Suffolk (5), Ipswich (3), Colchester (8) and Harwich (9).

There was more support from South Suffolk which sent 22 members, North Norfolk 21, Norwich South 22, Norfolk South West 29, Norfolk South 24, Maldon & Chelmsford East 24 and West Chelmsford 19.

In a letter to area chairmen, directors and the selected candidates, Mr Dowling describes the lack of interest as "worrying."

He should take some comfort from the fact that the Tories did at least give their members the opportunity to listen to its candidates. The Labour Party's National Executive Committee decided who its eight candidates should be in the East of England, and merely sent party members a postal ballot asking them to rank them in preferred order.

One senior Essex Labour Party member refused. "I'm not voting for people I'm not allowed to listen to and answer my questions on policy," he declared. Quite right too.

ANGER at the increasing number of mobile telephone masts has bubbled over in Saffron Walden, where one councillor, Christine Bayley, tied herself to the railings outside the Crocus public house for three hours to protest against plans to put a four metre high Hutchinson mast on top of the building.

Bury St Edmunds brewer Greene King owns the Crocus, in Landscape Way, and Mrs Bayley wants the town's supermarkets Waitrose and Tesco to stop selling the company's products in retribution.

Greene King is unamused, believing the protesters should be arguing with the Government, which has given the go-ahead for phone masts in urban areas.

LIBERAL Democrats in Colchester were embarrassed on Friday when 42,000 copies of their newspaper Colchester Star were delivered to the Manningtree offices of the town's Conservative constituency chairman Neil Stock.

The mix-up occurred because the Tories and Liberal Democrats use the same Exeter based company to print their rival constituency newsletters. "After reading the publication and finding nothing of interest, we sent the lot back," said the town's Tory candidate Kevin Bentley.


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