Thirsk and Malton: Tory MP Anne McIntosh de-selected, 5-way marginal for 2015?

by Stephen Tall on January 31, 2014

Interesting news from Yorkshire, where controversial Tory MP Anne McIntosh has been de-selected by her local party following a ballot of local party members.

Ms McIntosh has been in a long-running dispute with local officials about her political future. The MP, chair of the Environment Select Committee, said she still intended to fight the seat. Ms McIntosh, who was first elected to Parliament in 1997, survived a similar vote of confidence before the 2010 election and went on to increase her majority to more than 11,000. The MP is reported to have fallen out with the chair of her local party association, triggering the vote of party members about her candidacy at the 2015 general election.

ConservativeHome reports that the turnout in the ballot of party members was a whopping 88% – ‘which reflects the strength of feeling, and the depth of the controversy.’

Before we offer too much sympathy, by the way, it’s worth remembering that Anne McIntosh was the MP who warned of the danger of too many women becoming GPs and working part-time as and when they had children: “I think that is something that is going to put a huge burden on the health service.”

Intriguingly in her statement she’s made clear her intention to stand at the 2015 election – and assuming that’s no longer as the Conservative candidate it suggests she’ll run as an Independent. If she did, it could split the Conservative vote.

In 2010, Thirsk and Malton was in the unique position of voting after the formation of the Coalition, owing to the death of the Ukip candidate during the campaign. Here’s what the result was of the poll held on 27th May:

    Conservative: Anne McIntosh – 20,167 (52.9%, +1.0)
    Liberal Democrat: Howard Keal – 8,886 (23.3%, +4.5)
    Labour: Jonathan Roberts – 5,169 (13.6%, ?9.8)
    UKIP: Toby Horton – 2,502 (6.6%, +3.5)
    Liberal John Clark – 1,418 (3.7%, N/A)

The seat itself is the successor to Ryedale constituency, home to a short-lived SDP-Liberal Alliance by-election win in 1986, when Elizabeth Shields won from the Tories on a swing of 19%. The Lib Dems continued to poll strongly there at general elections, though the party’s vote has fallen back from its most recent high-point of 36% in 2001.

Ukip’s relatively strong showing in the seat (close on 7% in 2010) could mean the small-c conservative vote splits three ways in 2015, between an official Tory, Anne McIntosh and Ukip. If (and I realise it’s a big if) it did so, it’s possible to imagine Thirsk and Malton becoming a five-way contest, with turn-out perhaps the key to who would sneak through. You’d still bet on the Conservatives winning – after all the party got more than half the vote last time – but the ructions there make this a seat worth keeping an eye on.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.