Elizabeth Truss accused of 'deceit'

ELIZABETH Truss was charged with hypocrisy and deceit this weekend, and her threat of de-selection in SW Norfolk increased, after another aspect of her troubled political background came to light.

ELIZABETH Truss was charged with hypocrisy and deceit this weekend, and her threat of de-selection in SW Norfolk increased, after another aspect of her troubled political background came to light.

Like the Tory Association in that constituency, the local Conservatives in the Yorkshire seat of Calder Valley were kept in the dark about her affair with an MP when they selected her as their parliamentary candidate in February 2005.

She was having the affair at the time of her selection but failed to tell Calder Valley association about it. And she kept quiet even though she stood for the seat immediately after the de-selection of the existing Tory candidate, Sue Catling, over an allegation that she had concealed an affair with a member of the association.

The revelation drew protests from a Tory Breckland councillor that Ms Truss “has the cheek of Old Nick” and David Cameron should stop backing her.

A senior Conservative officer in the county added: “What a brass neck Elizabeth Truss had in standing in Calder Valley when she was secretly doing the very thing at the heart of the claim against Sue Catling. What hypocrisy.”

The new accusations relating to Calder Valley were put to Ms Truss by Conservative HQ after the EDP had informed it of them, and there was no denial.

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Instead she issued a statement declaring: “What happened in my past has already been well-documented, and I have publicly apologised for it. My focus now is on moving forward and proving that I am the best person to represent the people of SW Norfolk.”

The editor of the ConservativeHome website, Tim Montgomerie, has written an open letter to the SW Norfolk Tories urging them to support Ms Truss. An online poll it conducted showed that over 80pc of the 2000 people who responded believe the Tory Party as a whole will be damaged if she is dropped

But she is threatened with de-selection in SW Norfolk - at a meeting on November 16 - after many members of the association were shocked to discover, only hours after selecting her on October 24, that she had had an affair with Conservative MP Mark Field in 2004-5 when both were married.

She maintains she informed national and regional Tory officers before her Norfolk selection, but did not tell the local association because “I assumed people knew about it” and she thought there a rule stopping her from talking to local officers in a selection process.

The discovery that the Calder Valley association was similarly kept in a state of ignorance, despite the trauma it had just experienced over Ms Catling, is likely to add greatly to Ms Truss's difficulties in clinging on to her candidature in SW Norfolk.

Paul Rogan, treasurer of Calder Valley Conservatives in February 2005 and someone closely involved in the candidate selection process, confirmed to the EDP that at that time the association knew nothing of Ms Truss's affair with Mr Field.

“Had it been known, she would not have been selected. After all our trouble over Sue Catling, we wanted someone beyond reproach in their political and private life”, he said.

It was not long after Ms Truss's selection, however, before key members of the association began to conclude they had been misled.

“After she had been selected alarms started to ring because she began to bring Mark Field to the constituency and I started to realise there was more to their relationship than met the eye. A difference between her and Catling was that she (Ms Truss) didn't seem to mind people working out what was going on. By then, after the conflict over Catling and with an election approaching, the association chose to turn a deaf ear to the alarm bells”, added Mr Rogan, who has left the Tories and joined the English Democrats.

Another source, still active in the Calder Valley Tories, told the EDP: “It is absolutely clear no-one up here had a clue about the affair when she (Ms Truss) was selected.”

The 2005 general election took place only three months after her selection and she cut Labour's majority to 1,367.

Her 18-month affair with Mr Field, the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, ended in June 2005.

He was on the Tory frontbench as shadow minister for London in the period of their affair, but is now a backbencher. Following the affair, he was divorced from his first wife in 2006 and has since remarried. Ms Truss remained married to Hugh O'Leary and has had two children since the affair.

Ms Catling was Conservative candidate in Calder Valley in the 2001 election and planned to stand there in 2005 too. But a lengthy row based on an accusation that she had had an affair with a member of the association eventually led to her being deselected. Ms Catling has always denied the alleged affair took place.

Ms Truss has stated she flagged up her affair with Mr Field in sending her CV to Conservative HQ before her SW Norfolk selection and has blamed a “miscommunication” for the information not getting through to the local association.

Some of her supporters have also emphasised that reference to the affair could easily be found on the internet by Googling. But that certainly was not the case in the 2005 selection process in Yorkshire. There was nothing to Google then.

The “cheek of Old Nick” criticism of Ms Truss came from Breckland councillor Robert Childerhouse who added that she had shown herself “to be unsuitable as a parliamentary candidate”.

“I don't understand why David Cameron still keeps supporting her”, he added. “He must have known all about this deceit. Why should we keep toeing the Central Office line?”