Cameron is the region's choice

DAVID Cameron has emerged as the runaway choice of senior Tory activists throughout Suffolk and north Essex in the race to become leader of the Conservative Party.

By Graham Dines

DAVID Cameron has emerged as the runaway choice of senior Tory activists throughout Suffolk and north Essex in the race to become leader of the Conservative Party.

Support for Mr Cameron dwarfs that for the other contender David Davis, with the 39-year-old Shadow Education Secretary receiving the backing of nine of the 14 local constituency party chairmen.

An estimated 30,000 ballot papers have been distributed to party members in the region, who have the rest of the month to cast their votes. The endorsement from major figures in the voluntary party is an indication they believe Mr Cameron is the one to lead the Conservatives back to power by appealing to the electorate at large.

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The chairmen signed up for Mr Cameron are Gavin Maclure (Ipswich), May Reader (Waveney), Yvonne Spence (Chelmsford West), Julia Peel (Maldon and Chelmsford East), Neil Stock (Essex North), Paul Honeywood (Harwich), Howard Rolfe (Saffron Walden), Ron Levy (Colchester) and Roger Walters (Braintree).

The lone chairman backing the Shadow Home Secretary is George Vestey of Suffolk West constituency, which earlier this week hosted a visit to Newmarket by Mr Davis.

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Mr Cameron's support across Suffolk and north Essex comes from all age groups and wings of the party. Gavin Maclure, the Ipswich chairman, said: “Of the two candidates, he's the one who understands why we have lost three elections in a row and that following a core vote, right wing agenda will lead us to another defeat.”

Julia Peel, from Maldon and Chelmsford East and one of the party's most senior and influential activists in Essex, said David Cameron was in an “excellent position” to carry with him the bright new young intake of MPs.

She said: “He has huge potential, is very bright, and I am not put off one bit by those who say he does not have any policies. It is far better to develop policies in the period up to the election rather than announcing everything up front and be overtaken by circumstances.”

Essex North chairman Neil Stock, who favoured Dr Liam Fox until his elimination from the contest, has switched to Mr Cameron. “We have to broaden our appeal and he has the advantage as far as the general public is concerned of not having been associated with the last Conservative Government.”

Derek Brightwell, the Suffolk Coastal chairman, said he would probably “take a gamble” and back Mr Cameron. Brian Tora (Suffolk South) said he would be sitting on his ballot paper until the last moment in case any new developments emerged, although he was minded to support Mr Cameron.

Both Eric Flack (Bury St Edmunds) and Graham Mooney (Suffolk Central and Ipswich North) have refused to publicly endorse either candidate.

Mr Flack said: “I want to take time to consider what they both have to say. We still have four weeks left to reach a decision and I'm not rushing into it. The other factor is that I do not want to influence my own association members - they have to make up their own minds.”

Other high profile names from the voluntary wing of the party supporting the Cameron bid are Jeremy Savage, the deputy chairman of eastern region Tories, Elizabeth Baskerville, area chairman of Norfolk and Suffolk Conservatives, her deputy Hugh Tracy-Foster, and Kevin Bentley, the party's General Election candidate in Colchester.

Council leaders backing Mr Cameron include Jeremy Pembroke (Suffolk county), Lord Hanningfield (Essex county), Liz Harsant (Ipswich borough), Roy Whitehead (Chelmsford borough), Graham Butland (Braintree) and Ray Herring (Suffolk Coastal).

nSuffolk South MP Tim Yeo, who originally supported former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, yesterday endorsed Mr Cameron, saying: “I am much encouraged at his approach to issues such as climate change and global warning.”

A full list of declared supporters for Mr Cameron can be found on and for Mr Davis on

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