A senior Plymouth Tory councillor has expressed his anger and “complete surprise” after not being selected by his party to run in upcoming elections.
Joe Ives, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk
Councillor Downie has been a city councillor for almost eight years and was planning to stand again as the Conservative candidate for Budshead in the May elections.
The move is particularly surprising given that cllr Downie is also a cabinet member for education, skills and children and young people, and chair of the council’s corporate parenting group.
It’s not clear why he had his application to represent the party rejected by the eight-member approvals panel of Plymouth Moor View Conservative Association on Saturday 22 January.
Cllr Downie said he was supported by the leader of the council, Nick Kelly (Conservatives, Compton) who, Downie said, “gave a very good testimony” prior to the interview.
“I interviewed extremely well in the opinion of my leader and in my own humble opinion but, for whatever reason, the panel chose not to approve me as a candidate in the ward that I have served for eight years.”
He said it was a “complete surprise…to be deselected by your own association is extremely upsetting and has made me very angry, if truth be told.”
Cllr Kelly says the matter was not directly a matter for the Conservative group at Plymouth City Council, nor a decision the group has control over.
Cllr Downie said he “could speculate all day” as to why he was rejected but admitted, “there’s no proof of anything.”
“I have my own thoughts and opinions as to why my own executive wouldn’t support me, although I have an unblemished record.”
Cllr Downie said he had the support of the council leader and that he would be appealing the decision, although he can only appeal on technicalities and processes.
He added: “I don’t understand it. I’m amazed that in this day and age there can be a secret ballot with no feedback given as to why someone was not chosen.
“These unelected people [at the Conservative Association] are allowed to make unelected decisions about other people’s livelihoods and not give any feedback and any information as to why they declined their application for approval.”
Margaret Boadella, chair of the Plymouth Moor View Conservative Association said she was unable to comment on the decision at the moment.
Cllr Downie said if his appeal fails he would “seriously consider” standing an independent candidate for Budshead.
He said: “I would like to think I would gather quite a few votes because I’m extremely well known there, I’ve done a lot of work for the community over the years.
“I’d like to think I could challenge whoever was put up in Budshead ward and give them a good fight.”