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Tories to stick with Matt Bennett for top police job

Tories to stick with Matt Bennett for top police job

🕔28.Aug 2012

Matt Bennett will remain the Conservative candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner whatever the result of an inquiry into the selection process concludes.

Chamberlain Files has learned that Tory officials won’t drop Mr Bennett even if an investigation into the conduct of a primary election held to select the party’s candidate discovers that mistakes were made.

An inquiry is underway after Bennett’s rival for the job, Solihull councillor and former police officer Joe Tildesley, complained that up to 28 of his supporters were turned away from a meeting and prevented from voting for him. It is believed they broke the rules because they had not pre-registered to vote.

The incident could have had a significant impact on the final result since it is believed Mr Bennett beat Coun Tildesley in a tense selection battle by just ten votes although the party is refusing to make the result public.

It’s alleged that the rules were strictly enforced at the meeting on Coun Tildesley’s home patch in Solihull but loosely applied at other meetings in Birmingham, Halesowen and Walsall where it is claimed proper checks on people taking part were not carried out.

Under the primary elections procedure used by the Conservatives, any person on the West Midlands electoral roll could vote as long as they registered their intention to do so in advance.

This meant that the Conservative PCC candidate would not be solely selected by Tory members.

It has emerged that Coun Tildesley is not appealing against the result of the selection and accepts that Mr Bennett will be the candidate. He has simply asked the party to conduct a “review” of the procedure.

He is understood to have made it clear to officials that he is specifically not asking for the result to be overturned, leaving the way clear for Mr Bennett to stand as Tory candidate at the PCC election on November 15.

One aspect being investigated involves attempts to register participants by mobile phone minutes before the Solihull selection meeting was due to start. It is claimed the attempts were unsuccessful.

Friends of Mr Bennett point out that confusion appears to have arisen as a result of a statement issued by Jim Cooper, chairman of the Conservative organising committee which oversaw the selection.

Mr Cooper said: “One of the candidates appealed and that appeal is being considered”.

A safer form of words would have been “an investigation into aspects of the process” is taking place, according to the Bennett camp.

Both Mr Bennett and Coun Tildesley are refusing to comment while the inquiry is underway.

Mr Bennett will be up against Labour’s Bob Jones and independent candidates Cath Hannon and Mike Rumber in the battle to become the first West Midlands PCC. Nominations remain open until October 19 and it is expected that a Liberal Democrat candidate will also be selected.

The PCC, who will replace the Police Authority, will have extensive powers to hire and fire the chief constable, set the force budget and approve crime-fighting priorities.

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