Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy dismisses allegations that he brought the Conservative party into disrepute
06:30 13 August 2012
Conservative in-fighting over the conduct of Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy has escalated after one constituency association urged a neighbour to consider allegations he had brought the party into disrepute.
The letter sent by South West Norfolk Conservatives’ chairman Lady Kay Fisher to party leaders in South Norfolk highlights national party rules that allow associations to expel members.
Such a move could threaten Mr Murphy’s County Hall career because anyone whose expulsion from a local Tory association is confirmed by the national party is removed from the national membership list and cannot contest elections for the party.
Mr Murphy dismissed the allegations against him as “tittle-tattle” and “nonsense” and said he was the victim of a dirty tricks campaign because of his support for the King’s Lynn incinerator, which put him at loggerheads with Conservative-run West Norfolk Council.
He said the letter contained “a considerable number of factual inaccuracies” and he had sent a “robust rebuttal” to the national, regional and local Conservative party chairmen.
Mr Murphy currently represents the Freebridge Lynn division, the site of the proposed incinerator at Saddlebow, but in May it was announced he would fight the Forehoe division, 50 miles away, for South Norfolk Conservatives in next year’s county council elections.
The EDP understands Lady Fisher’s letter alleges his conduct damaged the Conservative campaign in the recent Mid Forest by-election for Breckland Council – a claim Mr Murphy said was “arrant nonsense”.
South West Norfolk Conservatives’ executive council voted to send the letter by a “substantial majority” at a meeting on August 3.
David Pope, an executive council member and West Norfolk Council cabinet member, said: “We are trying to keep pressure on him all the time and make some of the county councillors think ‘We are getting in a bit of a hole and elections are coming up and is he our talisman?’ and we will see what happens.
“We are against the incinerator and he is obviously in favour of it and we are trying to use every means available to us to try to stop it and he is using all the means he has to get it done.”
South Norfolk Conservatives are already due to consider calls from two individuals to expel or deselect Mr Murphy at a management team meeting on August 28. He has said the complainants had “absolutely no evidence on which to base their statement”.
News of the letter comes after it was revealed that the North West Norfolk Conservative Association has written to the Conservative Party’s co-chairman, Baroness Warsi, about Mr Murphy’s conduct, saying that despite his “undoubted skills” he has the “propensity to sow divisiveness” and “pursue personal vendettas against those who oppose him” in a way which is damaging the party electorally.
Involvement of the Tory party at national level increases the pressure on all sides.