Senior Reigate Conservatives are trying to de-select Crispin Blunt as their MP, who lost a re-selection ballot of just 22 Executive Council members. Blunt came out as gay in 2010, which didn’t seem to bother his local electorate one jot. However, it seems that his own Association’s elite was disconcerted that he was coming to terms with his sexuality. Former Reigate Association Chairman, Tony Collinson, said that Blunt would not necessarily have been selected as a candidate if he come out before, and he was not alone. One of Blunt’s supporters, Dr Ben Mearns, has resigned from his local Conservative branch over the issue of the executive council’s treatment of Mr Blunt.
Blunt now faces a postal ballot of 500 or so local party members, the outcome of which will reveal much about the Tory modernisation plan. The schism in Reigate is between a socially conservative executive and a more open-minded support base; a fault-line often replicated in the party across the country. It helps to explain why, for instance, on the one hand, the party leadership is committed to welcoming prospective candidates of all backgrounds but, on the other hand, minority prospective candidates don’t get a fair crack at constituency selection events without there being a strong national ‘steer’.
The expectation is that Blunt will win. It is inconceivable that a majority of party members would share the executive’s view that being gay means a candidate, however meritorious, should be snuffed out of the political process. But, the result on 18th November will have ramifications for the wider Conservative Party.
Imran Khan was a councillor in Reigate between 2008-12 and campaigns on Citizenship issues. He tweets @immikhan
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