Tory AM warns of 'severe' UKIP challenge in 2016

William Graham Image copyright William Graham
Image caption 'Issued without my knowledge or consent' - William Graham AM on e-mail

The path to next year's assembly elections continues to be a bumpy one for Conservatives in one corner of Wales.

In October, two sitting AMs failed to win automatic re-selection. William Graham and Mohammad Asghar were told they had to fight it out in an open contest with nine other hopefuls.

I don't normally cover internal party politics in Wales, as I'm based in Westminster, but I hear that process has not run completely smoothly. An employee of Mr Graham, Alan Mazey, emailed 44 party members in Newport West (part of the South Wales East region) to ask them to turn out to support his boss at a local hustings on November 2.

Mr Mazey, in his role as deputy chairman (finance) of Newport West Conservative association, wrote: "Please do your best to attend and support someone who has supported us for 16 years!"

Apparently, this broke party rules, which led to the director of the Welsh Conservatives, Richard Minshull, emailing every party member on November 6 with details of each of the 11 candidates (supplied by them).

Mr Graham wrote in his entry: "All the candidates for the South Wales East regional ballot are required to write to you following an email, issued without my knowledge or consent, from a Newport West Officer inviting 44 of their members to attend the hustings meeting to support me and the other candidates from that association.

'Invalid'

He added: "In the forthcoming election we face a severe challenge from UKIP, this requires a strong knowledgeable candidate with a proven track record of winning."

The ballot papers have now been sent to party members, with instructions that those who fail to rank all the candidates from one to 11 will result in their vote being declared invalid.

"Voting for all candidates or being disqualified is a bit of a nightmare," complained one party member, his pen poised over the ballot paper.

A spokesman for Mr Graham told me: "William included the line [about the email] even though he did not need to nor was it ever revealed that it was William's staff who sent the email, yet William felt the need to explain."

He added: "[I] Have not heard that anyone is unhappy at all. Indeed, we have had a groundswell of support from members."

The other candidates include former AM Laura Anne Jones, councillor Geoffrey Burrows, Monmouthshire council leader Peter Fox, councillor Gavin Chambers, Chris Butler, Jane Pratt, Elizabeth Simon, Nicolas Webb and former assembly candidate David Williams.

A Welsh Conservative spokesman declined to comment on what she said was "an internal party matter". The winning candidates are due to be revealed around the middle of November.

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