Thursday, 23 October 2008
Warring Tories set for face-to-face meet SHAUN LOWTHORPE 23 October 2008 06:48 Warring Tories in Norfolk will hold their first face to face meeting tomorrow but the damaging split between them is not on the agenda - officially at least. The EDP understands that the group has called a gathering at County Hall ostensibly to discuss the Icelandic banking crises, where the council has £32.5m tied up, and to brief members on the status of the controversial review of local government following speculation that the credit crunch will see the process kicked into touch. Anger over the review - which has seen the county council installed as front runner with a bid for a single super council including Lowestoft - has sparked the crises and blown apart a compromise brokered by Tory Central Office over supporting the status quo. But all eyes will be on whether council leader Daniel Cox will be challenged by Breckland's Cliff Jordan, who has been stung by claims that he is leading a coup against the cabinet, and says he is prepared to make a challenge after being goaded to put up or shut up. Last night it emerged that county councillors in West Norfolk are facing challenges to their seats including Janice Eells, David Rye, Tony Wright, and Heather Bolt. While the EDP has learned that several senior county councillors were told they would not be selected and pressurised to stand down from party posts. One West Norfolk councillor, who did not want to be named, said 20 candidates were fighting for 10 places. “I have never seen anything like this in my life as a Conservative Party member,” the councillor said. “The thing that amazes me is that on the selection committee there are five borough councillors, who are standing. It will wreck Norfolk County Council if it goes on like this.” Another said he was accused of “doing the devil's work” by towing the county council line on the unitary issue. Mr Cox was de-selected last week alongside cabinet colleague John Gretton, and Christopher Lloyd-Owen, in what is being perceived as a revenge attack and an attempt by district councillors to get their own supporters on the county council, after their unitary bids failed. Mr Gretton, who complained that the selection committee was loaded with Breckland councillors, is challenging the process with the battle expected to centre on whether party activists and agents have followed the correct selection processes. Critics of Mr Cox believe his position has been weakened after his failure to be re-selected for his Wymondham seat, and one source close to the selection process, said it was a case of “bruised personalities, trying to make the story fit the result”.