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Boris Johnson backer threatens to derail Tory election campaign over Rishi Sunak snub

NewsBoris Johnson backer threatens to derail Tory election campaign over Rishi Sunak snub

Rishi Sunak’s election preparation could be thrown into chaos, as prominent Conservative activist and former MEP David Campbell Bannerman has threatened to take the party to court after being blocked from standing as a candidate next year.

Mr Campbell Bannerman, a prominent supporter of Boris Johnson’s, told the Express that he was approved as a star candidate after going through the Tory HQ process, being given a “comprehensive pass” that allows him to apply as a candidate in any constituency he likes.

Unusually, however, his comprehensive pass included a “deferral”, meaning he’s effectively blocked from standing.

While a deferral is very rare, it is notionally to allow the candidate extra time for development, such as public speaking – something Mr Campbell Bannerman said is laughable given his career as an MEP.

He revealed that, following CCHQ preventing him from applying to any more seats, he had a meeting at Tory HQ during which it was explained to him that the due diligence committee had combed through his social media, and as a result was asked if he could “be nicer about Rishi Sunak” in order to continue applying for constituencies.

Mr Campbell Bannerman now says such a request is “unconstitutional” and goes against Conservative Party Rules, with shadowy figures from No. 10 intervening to ensure candidate selection is for “their own benefit”.

He insisted that he’s “always been loyal to the Conservative Party”, and were he selected he would follow rules about sticking to the party line throughout the election campaign.

The chairman of the Conservative Democratic Organisation, which campaigns for renewed democracy within the Conservative Party and additional rights for members, clarifies he isn’t “anti-Sunak”, but is critical of the way he entered No. 10 with no say from Tory members.

He’s now threatening to legally challenge the Tories over the issue, a move – he claims – that could throw the party’s whole election preparation up in the air.

Mr Campbell Bannerman said such legal action could “injunct the entire candidate selection process until the matter is resolved, which would be very interesting and wouldn’t endear me. But legally, that is an option”.

While he clarified it is not a route he wants to go down, and says he is looking for a reasonable way forward with Tory HQ, he has spoken to a barrister and has already received legal advice.

He said: “I don’t want to have to go down that road, I want to be reasonable. I want to have a reasonable resolution.

“I don’t think a deferral is very acceptable, especially on political grounds, and it is very dodgy in terms of applying those kinds of political considerations to a constitutional selection process.

“It’s very weak ground indeed, and challengeable.”

Mr Campbell Bannerman said, like the Conservative Democratic Organisation he campaigns for, Tory members in the constituency should be the ones deciding who their MP is.

He’s hoping to stand in South Norfolk, where the current MP Richard Bacon is standing down after 23 years, and is just up the road from his home in Norwich.

He said: “Let the good people of South Norfolk decide whether I’m too old or whether they want all my experience… it’s really down to them what they want.

“It should be up to the members to decide, and not be stitched up to protect Rishi.”

Last night the Guardian reported a small number of Tory MPs have called on Rishi Sunak to continue blocking Mr Campbell Bannerman after his CDO group was criticised in the Privileges Committee special report into a “Co-ordinated campaign” of interference over their investigation into Boris Johnson.

One MP briefed the paper: “I don’t understand why central office has allowed him on the list. He doesn’t support the Conservatives; he’s a Ukipper who sought to get Tory MPs deselected.”

Another said: “Rishi has constantly said that standards and integrity are a part of governing and it remains unclear why, in his capacity as Conservative leader, he’d allow somebody like David Campbell Bannerman on the candidates’ list given his abusive comments about a parliamentary committee.”

The Conservative Party declined to comment.

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