Havering cabinet member Cllr Robert Benham drops out of 2014 election, dubbing Tory selection process ‘charade’

Cllr Robert Benham: Tory party selection process is 'flawed and undemocratic'

Cllr Robert Benham: Tory party selection process is 'flawed and undemocratic' - Credit: Archant

A Havering cabinet member has dropped out of the 2014 elections, slamming the local Tory party as “flawed and undemocratic”.

Cllr Robert Benham’s shock announcement comes as the Recorder reveals two other cabinet members have been slashed from the party’s election campaign and a total of 13 Conservatives will not be defending their seats next year.

Cllr Benham called the process for selecting candidates at the Romford Conservative Association a “charade” because it required would-be councillors to pledge money if they are elected.

“Principles and integrity have to come first,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Recorder, “and I am willing not to stand [in 2014] if this is how they wish to behave.”

He added: “I raised concerns […] when the [association] decided not to use the official Conservative Party selection application form and instead used an 18-page form they had written themselves that included questions about giving them money rather than a focus on serving the local community.

“This concern was ignored.”

Cllr Benham has complained to Tory HQ about the selection process, making him at least the third serving cabinet member to do so in recent weeks.

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The Recorder has seen the application form, which “requires confirmation” that anyone elected to Havering Council “contribute a reasonable sum of £1,000 to the association per year to help towards the overall cost of campaigning”.

Cllr Benham also objected to the form’s request that elected councillors consent to hand the £12,000 “CAT fund” – into which councillors have paid, privately, for promotional material – over to the association.

The Brooklands councillor told the Recorder: “I value democracy, honesty and integrity and I will not be a part of this charade.”

Romford Tory chairman Cllr Osman Dervish denied the 18-page form was mandatory, saying the only compulsory document was the five-page application form issued by Conservative HQ.

But e-mails sent to prospective candidates – seen by the Recorder – only included the 18-page form, and no reference was made to it being optional.

Cllr Dervish added: “Candidates making a contribution to the cost of campaigning […] is standard practice.

“Robert has paid into the campaign fund for the last seven years without complaint.”

Keep an eye on the Recorder website for more exclusive coverage of the Tory party split.