Speaker backing for McIntosh

John Bercow has given his backing to MacIntosh Credit: Press Association

Speaker John Bercow has given his backing to a Tory MP who faces being ousted from her seat by her local Conservative association.

A secret report found senior Tories in the North Yorkshire seat of Thirsk and Malton have fought a long battle with Anne McIntosh to deselect her as the party's candidate in the next election. A ballot of local members will decide the issue tomorrow.

Miss McIntosh has fallen out with her local party's executive and in particular chairman Peter Steveney, a retired Army major and former Jockey Club stewards' secretary.

Today, the MP received the support of Speaker John Bercow and Commons Leader Andrew Lansley.

After Miss McIntosh, 59, raised a question about problems with drainage following the flooding, Mr Lansley said the MP's determination to resolve the issue reflected how important she was to her constituents.

Turning to the MP, he said: "If I may - I don't want to embarrass you - say it is further reflection of the very important work you do here on behalf of your constituents and others. You are a fine chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee and we much appreciate the work you do in this House."

As Tory MPs cheered their support for the MP, Mr Bercow then added: "I hope the cheers for that proposition will be noted in the North of England."

The intervention of Mr Bercow, who has to be perceived as neutral in the chair, comes after the internal inquiry found that the local executive broke the rules by co-opting a large number of new members on to the association's executive board weeks before a vote where it was decided not to reselect her for the 2015 general election.

John Bercow has given his backing to MacIntosh Credit: Press Association

The investigation decided the way she was deselected was "fundamentally flawed" and its result should be set aside.

It also criticised Mr Steveney for a letter he sent to members last February, reminding them to make sure they had the "whole story" before they voted, and urging them to contact him for a personal response.

The inquiry panel report said: "This association is troubled by factions. It needs to unite, and personal feelings need to be set aside in the greater interest of the association and the party.

"Everyone was in agreement that the situation in Thirsk and Malton had spiralled out of control and was potentially damaging to the party's standing locally."

Regarding Mr Steveney's letter, the report said: "The interpretation of these words is that Mr Steveney put himself in a position of being the sole and final arbiter of what was the correct version of events which would inform a decision of a member of the association who considered that they did not have the 'whole story'.

"The tone of the language and the implication that he was somehow the guardian of the truth which his fellow members may not have, also gave the reader the impression that there was 'something going on' and may make the reader doubt that, after all, they had all they needed to make an informed decision."

The confidential report, which was leaked on the internet but has since been removed, said there had been "allegations" about Miss McIntosh's work.

But the report found some association officers "were totally misconceived and appeared to indicate a lack of proper understanding of the role of a Member of Parliament".