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Tory candidate Cash is 'immature' says Widdecombe

PUBLISHED: 13:12 08 April 2010 | UPDATED: 16:53 07 September 2010

Joanne Cash

Joanne Cash

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe has criticised fellow Tory and Westminster North parliamentary candidate Joanne Cash for the immature way she handled a row with the local association. The 62-year-old is retiring at the next election afte

Charlotte Newton

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe has criticised fellow Tory and Westminster North parliamentary candidate Joanne Cash for the "immature" way she handled a row with the local association.

The 62-year-old is retiring at the next election after 23 years representing Maidstone and The Weald.

During her time in politics, she was minister for prisons under Prime Minister John Major and shadow home and health secretary.

At a literary event at The Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb, the forthright MP denounced A-lists - such as the one which helped Ms Cash to be selected as the candidate for the marginal seat.

The 40-year-old was selected from an A-list of candidates by the local association to stand against Labour MP Karen Buck.

"I'm against all women shortlists and A-lists because I don't believe in manipulating the way a candidate is selected," said Ms Widdecombe. It should be on merit.

"These candidates have no political experience. They are a generation of Twitterers and I think it's going to be extremely difficult [for them in Parliament].

"We saw what happened in Westminster North between the candidate and member of the association - a more experienced candidate would have handled that more maturely.

"If you're in a high profile seat first time round, you're not going to be able to resolve these things quietly."

Ms Cash resigned at an emergency meeting of the local Conservative association last month after political rival Amanda Sayers was elected as the group's new president.

The two women reportedly fell out after Ms Sayers tried to have Ms Cash deselected as the candidate for Westminster North.

After a 24-hour cooling off period, Ms Cash - whose husband Octavius Black attended Eton with Tory leader David Cameron - confirmed that she had changed her mind and decided to stay.

It came after Conservative HQ said that Ms Sayers was no longer president of the association.

Ms Cash announced on the social networking site Twitter, the day after the meeting: "I did resign. Assoc did not accept. CCHQ has resolved specific issue so I am not leaving. It's official DC has changed the party!!!!!!!!"

The feud between the two women dominated the headlines - raising questions over excessive meddling from Tory HQ and potentially alienating local activists who felt their wishes had been steamrollered.

Ms Widdecombe, who was defeated in two elections before securing Maidstone and The Weald, explained that it was only by fighting to be selected by the local constituency party and then in a general election, that prospective candidates learnt about the pressures of being an MP.

She said: "You learn how to deal with the press - that it's no good getting into a fever of indignation about something and how to get on with the constituency party - quietly, away from the public eye."

Like many prospective and incumbent politicians, Ms Cash is a prolific user of the social network site Twitter.

Ms Widdecombe said: "It's the tweetering which worries me. Everyone tweeters at the drop of a hat."

Ms Cash and the Westminster Tory Party declined to comment.

A national Conservative Party spokesman said: "Excellent candidates have been selected across the country by local Conservative associations. Conservative candidates represent the choice of real change at the next election.


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