This morning Paul Offer has resigned as Conservative candidate for the City of Chester. I reprint his resignation statement below in full. It does not make happy reading. I have met Paul a couple of times and my information is that he was a hard working, well regarded candidate. He was fasttracked for reselection having fought the seat at the last election. The Party needs to investigate his allegations in full. Chester is a good example of a seat which the Conservatives should never have lost. Paul Offer's allegations may point to some of the reasons why it has been difficult to win back.
"It is with deep sadness that I resign as the Conservative’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the City of Chester.
For the last three years I have dedicated myself to Chester and to working for the people of Chester, so that they could get the representation in Parliament that they deserve. My commitment to the city and to the Conservative Party has been unfaltering, but I am not prepared to tolerate the infighting that the Conservatives are so well known for.
I must stress that the vast majority of the local members have been truly wonderful to me and Trudy and our two girls and it has been a real pleasure knowing them. Many members have contacted us over the last couple of weeks encouraging me to stay in Chester, and their words have been truly appreciated.
I will take considerable credit for turning Chester from what Labour regarded as a safe seat, into one of the most marginal parliamentary seats in the country. I have also played a central role in turning the Conservatives from the smallest party on the City Council to the largest. It was mentioned on Friday 1st December that one of my faults is that I have probably campaigned too hard!!!!!!! It saddens me to see that the local Conservatives Association has self-destructed and undone so much of the good work that has been achieved during the last three years.
Ten days ago, a meeting was held between me, two of the Association Officers and regional representatives to discuss my future. The conclusion from that meeting was that there was no case against me with regards to de-selection. It was agreed that all parties had made mistakes, so we would regroup and focus on winning elections as one team. However, others within the local Conservative power-base were clearly not happy with that decision and appeared determined to force me out. I must point out that there has not been a single occasion this year when the Officers of the Association have called me to a meeting over concerns with my performance as a PPC and I am not aware of any complaint ever having been made to Central Office.
I was prepared to stand my corner and fight for my continuation as Chester’s PPC, but when the campaign was turned against my wife and attempts made to contact my ex-wife of 15 years to try and dig up some dirt, I realised that I was wrong to believe that a sense of decency would prevail. I realised it was time to go.
I remain totally committed to the Conservative Party and believe that David Cameron’s agenda is the right agenda – his major challenge though is to change the attitudes of some of the people running his Associations. I have witnessed sexist bullying (and) heard racist comments [deleted section]. I believe that such abhorrent prejudices have no place in the Conservative Party and I refuse to work with people who have such opinions: I cannot say anymore about these as a formal investigation is already underway.
Chester Conservatives are only four seats away from taking control of the City Council, but I hope the electorate will question whether the Conservatives are fit to run the City. Most of Chester’s Conservative Councillors are decent, honourable people who are there for the right reasons, but some are more interested in the power than they are the City or its residents.
I have several commitments to Chester and I shall continue to honour those. A friend and I were about to announce one of the biggest challenges that members of the Party has ever undertaken in a bid to raise awareness of, and funds for, local charities. We intend to continue that commitment to Chester and we will announce more in the New Year.
I thank everyone who has supported me over the last three years and apologise to anyone who feels let down – this has not been an easy decision to make. "
COMMENT: I thought long and hard about posting this in full - and there will no doubt be some in the Party who think I shouldn't have. Washing dirty linen in public is never very edifying. But these are serious allegations and they must not be swept under the carpet. They demonstrate just how far from reality some local parties and local councillors have become. And before our opponents start shrilling too much about this, everyone knows that some of these attitudes are prevalent in all parties. One lesson to draw from this is how difficult it can be for candidates to get on with their jobs if they are prevented from doing so by their local party. There are always too sides to every story and I am sure Chester Conservatives have a very different perspective to Paul Offer. But they must answer his allegations fully whether in public or to the Board of the Party. ConservativeHome has already highlighted this week the problems in Plymouth Sutton and Westmorland & Lonsdale. From what has been said there it seems CCHQ is determined to get to grips with local associations who are either constantly squabbling or not performing. In my view it's not before time.
UPDATE: I have just had a call from a senior member of Chester Conservatives, who was not willing to go on the record, but disputes many of the allegations made in Paul Offer's statement. He asked me to remove one passage which is considered defamatory. On reflection I have agreed to do so.