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Selection row in top Tory target seat

Theresa May met supporters on a visit to Bridgend this week Photo: PA, Rebecca Naden

Welsh Conservative chiefs are being accused of 'closing ranks and bullying' members in a selection row in one of the party's main target seats.

They're accused of blocking local hopefuls and trying to impose a shortlist of two candidates on activists in Bridgend, just days after Theresa May visited the constituency.

Party leaders say they're giving local members as much choice as possible while speeding up the process because of the closeness of the election.

The concerns have been raised in an anonymous email sent to ITV Cymru Wales by someone who describes themselves as a 'concerned Bridgend Conservative.'

The email claims that 'the party centrally' is trying to limit the shortlist to two candidates, 'neither of whom are from the local area.' The email's author goes on to claim that:

They had an opportunity to shortlist three candidates but chose not to. This is in spite of high calibre local candidates putting their names forward. This situation has been challenged by a number of members who have written to the Party hierarchy at CCHQ in London and Cardiff to ensure that we have our local choice of candidate on the shortlist.

Not only that but the rules simply haven't been followed.As you will see, instead of reviewing their decision and listening to the local party membership, the Party are closing ranks and bullying us, threatening us with supportive measures if we don't comply and I believe the same is happening in Newport West.

The majority of members are up in arms as this is an outrage and tearing our Association apart in a target seat. It is hardly an example of strong and stable leadership in the national interest.

This is immoral and treats all of us hard working volunteers who have been here through thick and thin with contempt. Some senior members are threatening to resign and there will be a meeting on Sunday at 7pm at which there will be an attempt to overturn this decision to force a candidate upon us and ensure that our excellent local candidate can contest this important election.

– 'Concerned Bridgend Conservative' via email

Conservative party leaders deny they're trying to impose candidates but say they're having to speed up the process while giving local members a choice 'where possible.'

In a statement, the chair of the body which represents volunteer members, the National Conservative Convention, said:

Given the shortened timeframe we have worked hard to ensure that Associations and their members are given a choice of candidates where possible.

The senior volunteers have been and will continue to be fully engaged throughout the process – and ultimately must agree any shortlist given to Associations.

We have also made sure that Associations who wish to reselect their 2015 candidate can do so as quickly as possible so we can get out and fight the election, and help deliver the strong, stable Government our country needs.

– Rob Semple, Chairman of the National Conservative Convention

This isn't the first and probably won't be the last selection row as parties race against time to choose candidates to contest the election on June 8th.

Plaid Cymru's selection of business owner Mari Arthur to fight for the party in Llanelli has caused concerns in that constituency.

It's emerged that she came second in number of votes in a hustings but the winner, a popular local activist, was ruled ineligible to stand by Plaid Cymru party bosses.

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