Anne McIntosh: What's it all about?

Anne McIntosh. Credit: Press Association Images

A lot of people have asked me in the past few days: "What's all this arguing over Anne McIntosh about?"

Well, the answer depends on who you speak to. The MP has some staunch critics in her local constituency, several of whom are on the executive committee of the local Conservative Association.

That committee normally decides whether or not to reselect Anne McIntosh as the Tory candidate. Twice before they've tried to get rid of her, then last year they stuck the knife in for a third time.But why?

Well her critics say she's difficult to work with, has a short temper and neglects her constituency by choosing to spend most of her time in London. One senior party figure told me 'she's a nightmare' and that the local Tories have struggled to get her to even tell them which visits she's going on in her constituency so that they can c-oordinate campaigning.

But then there is the McIntosh camp. Many in her constituency - particularly female party members and farmers - are loyal to her. They claim some of the old guard on the executive committee are a bit sexist; that they can't handle a strong woman and that they don't understand the MP's heavy commitments as chair of the influential Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in London.

Conservative Central HQ seemed to partially side with this view when they found that the local association had stuffed the executive committee full of new members - was this a coup to get enough people into positions where they could vote to oust Anne McIntosh? It seemed fishy.

Hence the national party have put it out to a wider vote of all party members in Thirsk & Malton, not just the executive committee. But since then the whole row has turned even more sour, with spats in the local paper and rifts in the party. Are the executive committee really 'old bulls with ageing antlers?' Is Anne McIntosh truly 'a silly little girl'?

Whichever side you take, this is now about morethan just Anne McIntosh. It's about party unity and the ability oflocal members to hold it together for the next election, especially with UKIP on the campaign trail.