Former candidates sue Conservative party after missing out on MEP posts
The Conservative party is being sued for breach of contract by two former candidates who claim to have been passed over for vacant seats in the European parliament.
One former Tory hopeful has issued a high court writ alleging that the party should have offered him a seat in north-east England when the incumbent was elevated to the House of Lords.
In Scotland, the party is being taken to court over a similar alleged “stitch up” which is said to involve Ruth Davidson, head of the Scottish Conservatives.
The disputes are further evidence of Conservative infighting amid claims that officials at party headquarters want to place their own people in the European parliament as Brexit is negotiated.
Alex Story, an Olympic rower who competed in the 1996 Games in Atlanta, has hired the libel specialists Carter-Ruck to claim he should have been offered a vacant European seat in Yorkshire and Humberside.
During the European parliamentary election in 2014, Story was second on the party’s list of candidates presented to the electorate. Timothy Kirkhope, who was first on the list, was elected and Story just missed out in the European elections.
But after Kirkhope was elevated to the Lords, party officials did not act according to protocol and offer Story the seat, he claimed. Instead, it went to the third person on the list, John Procter.
The writ claims that the party is in breach of contractual obligations and has broken established protocol with other MEPs.
Story told the Guardian he was suing the party because it had ignored the democratic process but was seeking only nominal damages because he still has faith in the organisation.
“I realise that I cannot change what has happened but I am fighting to ensure that the democratic decisions of the party’s members are not overturned, or interfered with, by unelected party apparatchiks.
“The integrity of the ballot paper must remain sacrosanct. My name was on the ballot paper presented to the public, in position two. Some people voted Conservative based on that fact,” he said.
The writ is not Story’s first attempt to overturn the decision. He applied for an injunction last year but was turned down by a judge.
Separately, Belinda Don was the first candidate in line to replace Ian Duncan who stood down as Conservative MEP for Scotland after being made a peer.
Don has claimed that she was next on the party list and assumed she would step up to the seat but has been overlooked for the person fifth on the list.
Critics claim the decision was a deliberate snub because Don had opposed Davidson becoming Scottish Tory party leader. Don, from Edinburgh, served as an adviser and parliamentary assistant to former Tory MEP Struan Stevenson for 12 years.
A Conservative spokesman said any European parliamentary candidate has to be not only the next person on the relevant regional list held by the returning officer but also on the current approved list of Conservative candidates.