Pressure on Mates to step down grows
The pressure on Michael Mates to stand down as Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Hampshire grew this afternoon when a second senior Tory in the area questioned his suitability to run in November’s election.
Councillor Steve Wemyss, the chairman of the Conservative association in the Tory-held seat of Portsmouth North, who is also a former Leader of the Conservatives on Portsmouth Council, said: “Candidates should be beyond reproach but there are question marks over him which the public deserve to have answered.
Cllr Wemyss, like many of his colleagues in Hampshire, is concerned over two points:
First, Mr Mates’ long-standing public support for the jailed fraudster, Asil Nadir.
Second, the issue of why Mr Mates has never paid to the Common authorities any of the estimated £40,000 windfall he received from his tenancy of a flat in Dolphin Square – the rent on which was publicly funded from his parliamentary allowances – as many other MPs have done.
This afternoon Mr Mates responded to his critics. They should bring their questions directly to him, he told me, and deliver any complaints directly to senior party officials. “I say to them, ‘if that’s your view you should talk to the Conservative authorities and not the press’ ” he said.
“I do find it extraordinary,” he told me, “that people who say they are disinterested Conservatives should make these remarks to you rather than to the area chairman, which is how you would expect Conservatives to behave.”
“All this is innuendo coming from people in the area where my defeated opponent in the selection process comes from.”
By “opponent”, Mr Mates was referring to Donna Jones, who is deputy Conservative leader of Portsmouth Council. Ms Jones was the runner-up to Mr Mates in the Conservative selection process for PCC candidate in Hampshire.
Cllr Wemyss, says he has made a complaint to the regional Conservative Party.
Pressure may also be coming from the top of the party. Earlier today David Cameron, at Prime Minister’s Questions, side-stepped a question from a Labour MP as to whether he supports Mr Mates as PCC candidate.
Cllr Wemyss said: “It would seem to me the PM also has some question marks in his mind. There should be a pause for reflection as to his suitability.
“Mr Mates is very experienced and when he has been asked questions he has avoided giving answers. ”
Another senior local Tory, Graham Burgess, deputy leader of Gosport Council, also urged Mr Mates to stand down.
He told me: “The candidate for police and crime commissioner should be beyond reproach and this candidate still has some questions to answer.
“I believe he should stand down and I have been contacted by many Hampshire members who have expressed a similar view.”
And I have spoken to several other Tories who share these views but aren’t yet willing to go public.
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