Crunch night for Truss and Cameron

ELIZABETH Truss's D-Day dawned in Norfolk South-West today with both her supporters and opponents expressing uncertainty about the outcome of the meeting that could break her political career and deliver a big blow to David Cameron.

ELIZABETH Truss's D-Day dawned in Norfolk South-West today with both her supporters and opponents expressing uncertainty about the outcome of the meeting that could break her political career and deliver a big blow to David Cameron.

Leaders of the two sides will lock horns in a debate at the Swaffham Assembly Rooms that is expected to be heated and which will end in a secret ballot that could result in Ms Truss being evicted as the local Tory association's parliamentary candidate only three weeks after she was chosen.

Her champions at the meeting include county councillor Shelagh Hutson, who told the EDP yesterday that she should be reselected because "she is able and bright, and because she is being pilloried for something that some people are actually in no position to criticise her for".

Asked if she is confident that Ms Truss will get a vote of confidence this evening, she cautiously replied: "I hope so."


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Those arguing for Ms Truss to be sent packing will include Sir Jeremy Bagge, who further revealed yesterday that Mr Cameron had acknowledged to him that Conservative HQ had "made a mistake" in not passing on information to the association that she had had an affair with a Conservative MP.

The association had been both "betrayed" and deceived" by Conservative Central Office, he continued. And in reference to a plea to him by the Tory leader not to stir up more trouble because it could have "a ripple effect across the country", Sir Jeremy, a former high sheriff of Norfolk, emphasised: "Since then he has carried out a U-turn on a referendum on Europe which will have more of a ripple effect".

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He, Ms Hutson and other speakers will be given only two minutes each tonight to state their case in a debate that both sides still seem to think could go either way.

It will be presided over by Lord Taylor of Holbeach, a front bench Tory spokesman in the House of Lords. And that appointment was being queried yesterday by local activists - either because they had never previously heard of him or because they did not understand how someone in Mr Cameron's shadow ministerial team could be deemed independent.

It is unclear what role there will be at the meeting for the association chairman, David Hills, who was subjected to strong adverse criticism at an association executive meeting on Friday after he had performed a conspicuous U-turn - by publicly calling for support for Ms Truss after emailing executive members to stress that he wanted her thrown out.

Ms Hutson emphasised yesterday that her rebuking him at the executive was not because of the change of stance but "the lack of leadership at the beginning."

County councillor Cliff Jordan rejoined the attack on Ms Truss, saying that "the political elite has let Norfolk down, and this lady has let Norfolk down".

As they prepared for the vote, both sides voiced wariness yesterday of local activists saying one thing in public or to colleagues, and planning to do quite the opposite in the ballot. There was further concern that there has already been so much bad blood, that today's decision might not necessarily settle the row.

Among other indications of further strife, there is a suggestion that Mr Hills may soon be replaced by Hugh Colver, the association treasurer.

Ms Truss was chosen as the Tory parliamentary candidate for the constituency on October 24.

A storm broke almost immediately because of a newspaper disclosure about her affair with MP Mark Field, that the association had not been informed of.

If it ends in her deselection, Mr Cameron will suffer his biggest rebuff by his party since becoming its leader in 2005.

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