Under-fire MP ‘should have stood down when he had the chance’

HAPPIER TIMES: Tim Yeo chats to Linda Jewers at Hadleigh pet shop during a visit to the town last year.
HAPPIER TIMES: Tim Yeo chats to Linda Jewers at Hadleigh pet shop during a visit to the town last year.

Members of the local Conservative party have been urged not to support South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo and go for a candidate who will spend more time in the constituency.

As ballot papers were sent out to members on Monday asking them to decide whether to deselect Mr Yeo, Sudbury businessman Simon Barrett, from the South Suffolk Conservative Association, said it was time for a change.

“It is time for somebody new,” said Mr Barrett, who runs Barrett-Lee garage on Chilton Industrial Estate.

“The feedback from the majority of members is that 30 years in the post is enough, although he still has a few diehard supporters.”

Mr Barrett was among the association’s executive committee which voted to deselect Mr Yeo during a secret ballot in November.

Mr Yeo, however, chose to ask for a ballot of all party members, which will see him become a candidate for the next general election in 2015, if the count goes in his favour.

Mr Barrett, a town and district councillor for Sudbury, said Mr Yeo should have taken the opportunity to retire gracefully.

“We wanted him to accept it and the majority of the executive need to follow through on what they feel,” he said.

“He has not done enough and there needs to be a candidate that we are happy to represent us.”

Mr Yeo has drawn the backing of a number of high-profile politicians, including Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, but has often been dogged by accusations of government rule breaking.

Last year, following an undercover investigation by a national newspaper, he was alleged to have breached lobbying guidelines. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Earlier this month, there were claims that he spent too much time away from his constituents and used his position to earn more than £130,000 a year chairing company board meetings.

Mr Barrett said the fact Mr Yeo lived in Sandwich, Kent, and had been accused of misdemeanours, had resulted in many party members becoming fed-up with him.

“People are decent and tolerant in Sudbury, but Mr Yeo’s colourful private life has often stretched that to the limit,” he said.

“While too busy to spend more time in his constituency, he found time to write glossy golfing press reports describing exotic trips around the globe, and to accumulate lucrative directorships in environmental companies.”

Speaking this week, Mr Yeo said he did not want to retire from his position as an MP and was awaiting the outcome of the ballot, due in early February, with interest. “I look forward to the result of the ballot,” he added.