Mayoral race: Senior Tories predict defeat

Insiders slam the Conservatives' campaign for Parvez Akhtar to become Mayor of Bedford

Senior Bedford Conservatives have slammed the party's mayoral election campaign this week and admitted that they are heading to defeat just as the borough goes to the polls.

Polling stations are open today for the big vote, but angry top Tories have claimed that:

Sitting councillors weren't told about two separate visits to town by shadow cabinet members.

Current and former councillors have been phoned by party activists asking if they plan to vote Conservative.

Local activists feel they have been "kicked in the teeth".

One well-known local Tory, who asked not to be named, said: "There is a general feeling that Central Office have imposed this mess. If this is how they will play the General Election then this could be the miracle that Labour are looking for.

"We are not going to win. If we win now I'll be very surprised indeed.

"The rural areas won't support us in the election. It is a shame because Parvez is a good man.

"I have never known such anger and disillusionment in the party in all my years. Local members have been kicked in the teeth. This so-called "help" has done so much damage."

Bedford's Conservatives broke new ground in September when the party held an open vote to choose a mayoral candidate.

Parvez Akhtar, chosen as the Conservative's flag-bearer in an open meeting, was initially favourite according to bookmakers Ladbrokes, but this week his odds lengthened.

Both Conservative Party chairman, Eric Pickles, and shadow cabinet minister, Caroline Spelman, have visited Bedford during the campaign.

This week David Cameron came to town and claimed that the mayoral campaign had been run from "the bottom up".

But another senior Conservative source said: "I don't know who has or hasn't been organising the campaign.

"With David Cameron there is an element of security, but with everybody else I would have thought it shouldn't have been a problem.

"I didn't know about Eric Pickles or Caroline Spelman until after they had visited. That was frustrating."

A spokesman for Bedford Conservatives said: "Today people have a choice – they can vote for fresh new leadership which will ensure lower council tax, a regenerated town centre and a better balance between our rural and urban communities, or vote for politicians mired in years of Town Hall politics and only interested in themselves."

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