Tory leader suspended from the party for two years

Nicky Attenborough finds out news from press reports

Councillor Nicky Attenborough, leader of the Conservatives at Borough Hall, has been suspended from the party by Tory top brass.

The move follows the party's defeat in last week's mayoral election.

When the Times & Citizen contacted Mrs Attenborough, who until the election of Dave Hodgson on Friday was the acting Mayor of Bedford, she had not been officially informed.

She said: "I haven't been told.I haven't been officially informed of anything and I am quite surprised to say the least."

Mrs Attenborough, who has been a member of the Conservative Party for three decades, was suspended for two years.

The Times & Citizen understands that the reasons for the suspension included her refusal to publicly to endorse the Conservative candidate when asked to do so by the media.

She will still be able to sit as a councillor.

On Monday night a meeting of the Conservative Party Board, which is responsible for all operational matters including fundraising, membership and candidates, decided to suspend Mrs Attenborough.

The Times & Citizen understands that the matter had been referred to the board by party chairman Eric Pickles.

The move follows Mrs Attenborough's widely reported disaffection with the Conservative mayoral campaign.

Mrs Attenborough had hoped to be the Tory mayoral candidate, but when the party put the decision to the public at a US-style open primary Parvez Akhtar was chosen.

A party insider said: "The press knew about this before Nicky did. Clearly the party has taken strong action by suspending her for two years.

"They now need to have a major re-think about the parliamentary campaign, as there are questions about the campaign that need to be answered.

"Bedford and Kempston is a top target seat which the party has to win to be serious about getting a parliamentary majority. But there is a big question mark over whether we can win it right now.

"Carole Ellis is likely to be leader again now, with either Tom Wootton or Jane Walker as deputy."

Mrs Attenborough is not the first former Conservative leader to leave the party in recent years.

In 2000 Councillor Carole Ellis left the group in a row over the party's policies in the borough. She later returned to the group and is still a Conservative councillor.

Two years later Tom Foster left, following a row about the first election for a Mayor of Bedford. He later formed the Independent Rural Alliance with his wife Mollie another ex-Tory leader at the council, Tony Hare.

The BedfordToday files:

Tory candidate for Mayor chosen

Mayoral race: Cameron's visit to Bedford

Mayoral race: Senior Tories predict defeat

Tory leader suspended by party - reports