Tonbridge Tory President angers party in attack on May

Cannon Lawn Tonbridge 2

THE President of the Tonbridge & Malling Conservative Association has been criticised by his own party after he called for Prime Minister Theresa May to resign in a letter to a national newspaper.

Jacques Arnold, the former MP for Gravesham and a prominent supporter of Brexit, wrote to the Daily Telegraph criticising the Conservative leader for her ‘Chequers’ White Paper on leaving the EU.

He also lambasted Mrs May for her treatment of Boris Johnson after he criticised Muslim women for wearing burkas, saying they looked like ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’.

Mr Arnold signed the letter with his official title, and the West Kent Conservative Association has said he should have expressed his views as a private citizen rather than using his office.

Mr Arnold wrote: ‘The Prime Minister went behind the back of her responsible Cabinet colleague to produce an alternative White Paper on Brexit.’

He went on to say that she had ‘spent £100,000 of hard-earned party funds to circulate individual members with a mendacious interpretation of her White Paper’.

Mr Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary who resigned last month over the Chequers plan, was told to apologise for his comments about burkas by Tory party Chairman Brandon Lewis – and Mrs May agreed with him.

Mr Arnold added: ‘Now, she has arraigned a senior parliamentary colleague, in his absence abroad, for investigation on anonymous allegations of racism, Islamophobia and sexism.’

He closed his letter: ‘In 50 years of mostly voluntary service to the Conservative Party, I have never known such discourtesy and malevolence.

‘Theresa May has indeed created a nasty party. She is at best an embarrassment, and at worst a humiliation for our great party and country. Enough is enough. She must go.’

Andrew Kennedy, Agent and Campaign Director for the West Kent Conservatives, told the Times: ‘Mr Arnold was writing in a personal capacity and should not have signed his letter as President of the Tonbridge & Malling Conservative Association.’

He added: ‘Like all members of the public, Conservative Party members hold a wide range of views on Brexit.

‘Members are entitled to express their views – we are a democracy and debate is a good thing – but they should do so in a personal capacity.’

Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative MP for Tonbridge & Malling, said: ‘It’s no surprise that as the Brexit talks are reaching their conclusion, tensions in all political parties are rising.

‘Jacques Arnold is entitled to his views but I am assured that he was speaking in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of Tonbridge & Malling Conservative Association.’

Mr Tugendhat was identified by the Telegraph as one of 15 ‘Brexit mutineers’ on its front page in November after they threatened to vote against a bill to enshrine the Brexit date in law.

‘Most members who I speak to just to want to get on with it and focus on the issues that will make a real difference to our lives,’ he told the Times. ‘That’s what unites Conservatives across the country.’

And he warned: ‘Whichever way you voted on Brexit, the knowledge that a [Jeremy] Corbyn-led government would lead to ruin is focusing most people’s minds, and reminding people that divided parties lose.’

Mr Arnold was the MP for Gravesham from 1987 until the Labour landslide 1997, and is a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent. He was Chairman of the local constituency party from 2012-16.

PICTURE: TAKE YOUR LEAVE: Jacques Arnold called Theresa May ‘an embarrassment’ and ‘a humiliation’

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