St Albans councillor fails to win bid for safe Tory parliamentary seat

Tory parliamentary hopeful Heidi Allen

Tory parliamentary hopeful Heidi Allen - Credit: Archant

The pursuit of a parliamentary career via a safe Tory seat just 18 months into her role as a St Albans councillor has failed to win a candidacy for a former pub landlady.

Instead, she has come under fire from the member she ousted in May 2012, who believes residents had the right to know of her political ambitions before she stood for election.

Criticism has been levelled at St Albans district councillor for Marshalswick South Heidi Allen, recently shortlisted as South East Cambridgeshire’s next Tory candidate.

The councillor hit the headlines in The Daily Telegraph after a possible voting miscount was alleged to have resulted in the selection of the wrong candidate for the safe Conservative seat.

It was discovered in an unofficial recount that the candidate named as the official nominee, Lucy Frazer, received fewer votes.

The Telegraph said that a pile of 25 votes was marked as being for Miss Frazer, despite just the top two papers being for her, and the remainder for Cllr Allen.

The alleged error was discovered after an activist took the ballot papers home and did an unofficial recount.

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But the councillor’s bid to become a Member of Parliament has hit a hurdle after a spokesman for South East Cambridgeshire Conservatives said members decided at a special meeting last Friday to endorse Miss Frazer.

He added that members had a choice of either endorsing Miss Frazer, or starting the selection and voting process all over again.

The spokesman explained that if the latter possibility had been chosen, it would have then been referred to the Conservative party board, which is the ultimate decision making body of the Conservative party, and responsible for all operational matters including membership and candidates.

He said: “The problem was that the votes weren’t secured and they were recounted two days after the initial count, without any witnesses.”

The spokesman said it was “unfortunate” it had occurred when the process was outsourced to another organisation, “so we were in their hands”.

After Cllr Allen’s budding parliamentary career was brought to light, the St Albans district councillor she replaced, Melvyn Teare, admitted to “feeling annoyed at losing my seat”.

Mr Teare added: “Being a councillor gives you a unique opportunity to serve your local community and city to improve your locality.”

During his eight years as councillor, he was portfolio holder for the environment, heritage and tourism.

Mr Teare said Cllr Allen’s parliamentary bid appeared to be a “well thought-out game plan which has been two years in the making and I believe electors in Marshalwick South should have been informed.”

One of Cllr Allen’s fellow ward representatives, Cllr Rod Perks, said he found the news that she was trying to become a MP “most surprising”.

He added: “It would represent a fairly meteoric rise should she indeed find herself elected an MP in 2015.

“In 2012 Marshalswick South did find itself home to an England Football captain, Scott Parker, and I think it would be even more remarkable should it now prove to be a political springboard for Westminster.

“Her ambition is to be applauded and I shall now observe her progress with interest.”

Cllr Allen, who has a degree in astrophysics and once ran The Farmer’s Boy pub in St Albans, said she “understood” why Mr Teare was annoyed.

But she insisted residents were informed of her parliamentary ambitions.

Passing on her best wishes to Miss Frazer, Cllr Allen admitted she was “of course very disappointed at being unsuccessful”.

She added: “South East Cambridgeshire is a fantastic part of the country. I hope I will have the opportunity to represent the people of another constituency at the general election in 2015.

“Wherever that may be, you have my word that I will always do whatever I can to promote business in Cambridgeshire.”