MP to stand down after caution for assaulting his girlfriend

The MP for Bury St Edmunds, David Ruffley, is to stand down at the next general election in 2015 after he was cautioned by police for assaulting his girlfriend.

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Suffolk: Tories to meet to discuss future without Ruffley

David Ruffley MP. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The resignation of Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley looks set to dominate a meeting of the local Conservatives Association tonight, as the search begins for a new candidate to stand in next year's General Election.

The Tory MP has represented the town in The Commons since 1997, but faced mounting pressure to stand down after it emerged he'd been cautioned by police for assaulting his former partner.

MP to stand down after police caution

After weeks of mounting pressure, the decision by Suffolk MP David Ruffley to step down at the next election has been broadly welcomed in his constituency. Calls for him to vacate his Bury St Edmunds seat came after news surfaced that he's received a caution for common assault on a partner. But his detractors say next May isn't soon enough, and he should go immediately. Here's Tanya Mercer's report.

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David Ruffley to stand down at next election

David Ruffley agrees to stand down at next election

The Tory MP for Bury St Edmunds who apologised after receiving a police caution for domestic assault involving his former partner will stand down at the 2015 general election.

David Ruffley confirmed in a letter to his local Conservative Association that he will not stand for re-election next year, saying the "protracted media debate" on his private life would not serve the interests of the party in his constituency.

Mr Ruffley also said he was not willing to continue to sustain the "unrelenting orchestrated intrusion into my private life".

The MP revealed last week that he had apologised to his former partner for the March incident, which led to him accepting a caution for common assault.

Mr Ruffley said the woman had accepted his apology and stressed that he did not condone domestic violence "under any circumstances".

Writing to Andrew Speed, the chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association, Mr Ruffley said: "Sadly, although I have apologised for a very regrettable incident last March and both my former partner and I considered the matter closed, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that a protracted media debate on my private life, whatever the motivation or however misinformed, would not serve the wider interests of the Conservative cause in East Anglia.

"Nor at a human level am I prepared to continue to sustain the unrelenting orchestrated intrusion into my personal life."

The former shadow police minister went on to say he was standing down with a "heavy heart".

Mr Ruffley was referred by the Conservative Party to chief whip Michael Gove for investigation last week after he revealed his apology to his former partner.

Michael Gove, Conservative Party Chief Whip

Calls for Suffolk MP to resign intensify

Pressure is mounting this evening on Bury St Edmunds Conservative MP David Ruffley to resign after receiving a police caution for an assault on his then girlfriend.

Mr Ruffley, a former shadow police minister, last night issued a statement publicly appologising for his "inappropriate action" during the incident in March.

However senior Conservatives say his apology is too little too late.

Suffolk MP referred to Chief Whip over police caution

Michael Gove - chief whip Credit: PA

A Suffolk Tory MP who apologised after receiving a police caution for a domestic assault has been referred by the party to chief whip Michael Gove, a Conservative source has confirmed.

Former shadow police minister David Ruffley revealed in a statement that he had apologised to his former partner in relation to the incident in March, which led to him accepting a caution for common assault.

He said the woman had accepted his apology and stressed that he did not condone domestic violence "under any circumstances".

It is understood that Mr Gove wants to establish exactly what happened. He has the power to strip MPs of the party whip at Westminster if wrongdoing is found.

The party had previously responded to queries about the assault by saying that the issue "was dealt with at the time by the police", and the decision to refer Mr Ruffley to the chief whip for investigation was being seen in Westminster as a significant development.

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Police chief voices his concerns over behaviour of MP

Tim Passmore

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner has also voiced his concerns over the behaviour of David Ruffley.

Tim Passmore said such behaviour was "inexcusable". In a statement, he said:

It was particularly disturbing for me to hear that one of our Suffolk Members of Parliament accepted a police caution for a domestic abuse offence which, I understand, took place in London a while ago. I would like to make it absolutely clear that domestic abuse is never acceptable under any circumstance. The future of David Ruffley as a Member of Parliament and prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Bury St Edmunds constituency is a matter for their association but I hope I have made my views entirely clear - such behaviour is inexcusable. Those of us in a leadership role in society must do our level best at all times and try to set a good example to others in what we do and how we behave - that includes all politicians regardless of any party affiliation.

In my opinion there cannot and must not be any hiding place for the perpetrators of such brutal crimes."

– Tim Passmore

Pressure mounts on MP after Dean's call for him to resign

Letter from the Dean of St Edmundsbury

The letter which sparked the calls for David Ruffley to quit as the MP for Bury St Edmunds was sent by the Dean of St Edmundsbury, Frances Ward.

In the letter the Dean says that Mr Ruffley's position is now untenable. she says:

I had received sufficient comment and concern from a wide circle of people, both within the Cathedral and through the town and county, to have arrived at the opinion that your position is untenable.

– Letter to David Ruffley

The letter goes on to question his version of events.

On Monday, on the phone, I heard your lengthy justification and defence of yourself, but I think I need to question your version of events. You tried to convince me that in the 'incident' back in March there was blame on both sides... I cannot let you try and tell me that it was only 'a little local incident' or that she was at fault. I must remind you of the seriousness of the assault and that you were arrested, not her.

– Letter to David Ruffley

The letter goes on to urge the MP to seek professional help and to "come to terms with his behaviour". The letter ends by saying it was her belief that Mr Ruffley had lost the confidence of a significant proportion of his former supporters.

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