Romford Tories: It’s war!
�Battle lines have been drawn between the Romford Tory old guard and its young pretenders, in a rift that could rip the group apart.
An increasingly wide divide now exists at the Romford Conservative Association, between those backing Romford MP Andrew Rosindell, and opposers supporting controversial party stalwart, Alby Tebbutt.
Relations between the factions have become so bad that the locks have been changed at the group’s headquarters in Western Road – with Mr Rosindell’s supporters literally left out in the cold.
One pro-Rosindell member, who asked not to be named, said: “It was done by the old dinosaurs. It’s all getting very petty.”
But Mr Tebbutt slammed Mr Rosindell’s team as “upstart newcomers”, who would “destroy Havering”.
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Mr Tebbutt, 72, rejoined the group two weeks ago after he was suspended following a conviction for common assault in December 2009. This was overturned on appeal and is something he always strongly denied.
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But questions have been raised with the Conservative central office about the legitimacy of his membership, with claims the current chairman David Thorpe did not follow party rules when he signed it off.
But Mr Tebbutt said everything was above board.
A crunch vote tonight (Friday) at the group’s annual meeting will decide this year’s leadership, with long-term Mr Rosindell supporter, Cllr Osman Dervish, and Mr Tebbutt going head-to-head for the top job – group chairman. Members were sent letters earlier this week from Cllr Dervish urging them to back his chosen line-up – dubbed the Team ’12.
In the memo, he said his squad are “determined to build a united Conservative Association and not allow the clock to be turned back to when we were fighting ourselves instead of Labour – we cannot allow this to happen again!”
Cllr Dervish told the Recorder: “That specifically refers to Alby Tebbutt, and ensuring he is not allowed to come back – it would cause ruptures.
“Alby has a certain way of working which I don’t think is agreeable.”
Mr Rosindell praised Cllr Dervish’s “backbone and courage” in standing against Mr Tebbutt, who was chairman of the group two years ago.
“I believe that Alby and that generation of Conservatives in Romford have served their time,” Mr Rosindell said. “They should make way for a new generation to take the Tories forward – people with energy and commitment, and who are prepared to do the hard work.”
Mr Rosindell advised Mr Tebbutt to “take a back seat politically and spend more time with his family”.
But Mr Tebbutt said he had been inundated with calls from old-school members urging him to run for chairman and return “security and stability” to the group.
“The future of Havering is at stake,” Mr Tebbutt said, “if you put all these new kids in, it will destroy the Tory party. What you need are the senior people with experience and knowledge, who can teach the youngsters – because they are our future.”
He added: “I pity Andrew; he has a hell of a lot to learn. Is he saying everyone over the age of 60 should be chucked on the scrap heap?
“My suggestion is, he should stop telling other people how to live their lives and concentrate on what’s best for the future of Romford - he spends most of his time looking at unnecessary animals in foreign countries.”
Cllr Eric Munday, president of the association, said he was one of Mr Tebbutt’s proposers.
He said: “Alby has provided Andrew with an enormous amount of support; perhaps the depth of gratitude is weighing too heavily.
“Alby is the sort of person who you either like or dislike, which is unfortunate for him, but he’s what you’d call a rough diamond.”
Cllr Munday, 84, admitted he changed the locks at the group’s headquarters because of “abuse of property” there, including “inappropriate use” of a computer.