Tory MPs defend former minister Green after rejection as election candidate

Senior Tories have rallied round former Cabinet minister Damian Green after he was rejected as the party’s candidate for a newly created seat.

Mr Green, who was effectively deputy prime minister under Theresa May, said he was “disappointed” not to have been selected for the Weald of Kent constituency.

His failure to win the nomination has driven speculation that MPs who played a part in Boris Johnson’s downfall could face the wrath of grassroots activists.

Mr Green, chairman of the centrist One Nation Conservatives caucus, has been MP for Ashford since 1997 but boundary changes will see the constituency split up.

Former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke – a supporter of Mr Johnson – said he hoped Mr Green finds a seat because “he is a fantastic MP”.

“It is important that a range of views are represented in the Conservative Party,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Clearly, who candidates are in particular seats is a matter for local parties to determine.

“That is a fundamental principle of local democracy. But I very much hope that Damian is readopted for a seat because he is a fantastic MP.

“He has had a wonderful record of service in government.”

Mr Hands, who became Tory chairman earlier this month, acknowledged that there would be complications as a result of redrawn constituency boundaries ahead of the next election.

“We stand behind our MPs,” he said.

“With new parliamentary boundaries, complicated selections are inevitable.

“We aim that Conservative MPs have the best possible chance for re-election.

“Damian has been a very distinguished MP since 1997 and senior Cabinet member and has our full support.”

Mr Green said: “I am disappointed not to have been adopted as the Conservative candidate for the new Weald of Kent seat.

“I am now thinking about what to do next and how I can best continue to work for the people of Ashford and support the Government.”

His deselection fuelled speculation that Tory grassroots campaigners are targeting parliamentarians seen as responsible for Mr Johnson’s forced departure from No 10.

David Campbell Bannerman, chairman of the Conservative Democratic Organisation, which plans to “restore democracy” within the party, tweeted: “There is now hard evidence MPs allegedly associated with bringing down Boris are being directly held to account and punished by members.”

The organisation led by Brexiteers and Johnson loyalists takes issue with Rishi Sunak’s elevation to Number 10 without a membership vote.

But its vice-president Lord Greenhalgh denied Mr Green’s deselection was linked to Mr Johnson.

The Tory peer said it was “more to do with a system of selection/deselection of MPs that needs fundamental reform”.

Mr Green, who is acting chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, was rejected by the local executive.

He could still put his name forward as the selection of an MP goes to the wider constituency membership.

Mr Green was sacked as a minister in 2017 following an inquiry sparked by former Tory activist Kate Maltby, who said he “offered me career advice and in the same breath made it clear he was sexually interested”.

She said he touched her knee after inviting her for a drink in 2015, and a year later sent her a “suggestive” text message to ask her for a drink after she was pictured wearing a corset.

Mr Green denied the allegations but a Cabinet Office report said Ms Maltby’s account was “plausible”, however, “with competing and contradictory accounts of what were private meetings, it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion on the appropriateness of Mr Green’s behaviour”.

But allegations about pornography on Mr Green’s parliamentary computers, covered by the same investigation, did end his ministerial career.

The Cabinet Office investigation found he had made misleading statements suggesting he was unaware of any indecent material on computers in his office.

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