Tories question whether Fenland Cabinet member is paying the price for protest letter over ousted former deputy leader

A FENLAND councillor and Cabinet member surprisingly de-selected by his party protested at the decision and has begun an appeal to be re-instated.

Councillor Phil Webb, portfolio holder for Fenland’s Profile, found himself out on his ear following an initial selection meeting attended by only a handful of party members.

Cllr Webb fears he may be caught up in a widely spoken of ‘campaign’ to punish a group of councillors who wrote a letter of complaint to the Standards Board of England regarding the conduct of ousted former deputy leader Councillor Fred Yeulett.

Both Cllr Yeulett and senior party officials have always denied the existence of any such ‘campaign’ but Cllr Webb believes his de-selection was unfair and he now wants a broader group of party members to investigate.

A meeting of the North East Cambs Conservative Association will take place on February 24 when Cllr Webb’s appeal will be heard.

“There’s something odd about this and that’s all I can really say,” said Cllr Webb. “My belief is that the process is simply not fair and so I have appealed. They can either uphold the appeal or throw it out.”

I understand the branch meeting at which Cllr Webb was de-selected was attended by only a handful of members and in fact the branch has only recently been set up following a recruitment initiative.

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The ward, comprising Christchurch, Elm, Coldham and Friday Bridge, agreed to adopt another Cabinet member, Councillor Mac Cotterell, for one of the two seats, giving the second seat to Christchurch parish councillor Will Sutton.

A second councillor, also known to be one of those who signed the standards board letter, was Councillor Mick Speechley of Whittlesey: he has lost out to Whittlesey Mayor Councillor Derek Stebbing as a Conservative candidate.

Cllr Webb, who admits to “not understanding why and what has happened”, believes the party should move to an open selection process of all members where a sitting councillor is threatened with de-selection.

He is also angry that insufficient account was taken of his work for the council and of his work for the party, which included twice delivering General Election leaflets on behalf of Tory MP Steve Barclay.

* The de-selection battle moves on tonight as three Conservative district councillors for March West square up with a fourth candidate to hold onto their seats. Councillors Kit Owen, Steve Count and Jan French found themselves in a surprise battle to retain their party support after the emergence of local Tory Adam Triggs who is hopeful of winning one of the three now contested seats.

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