TOP New Forest Tory Goff Beck has been dropped by the Conservatives from its list of candidates to fight the district council elections in May.
The blunt-speaking former Marine, who has represented the Barton ward on NFDC for 21 years, including a stint as chairman, says he is “upset” and “bewildered” at his axing by a selection panel.
However, the vice-chair political of New Forest West Conservative Association (NFWCA), Cllr Michael Thierry, said Cllr Beck only had himself to blame because he had not returned a letter to the party confirming he wanted to stand again.
Speaking exclusively to the A&T, Cllr Beck said: “I’ve no objections to being rejected by the electorate but for someone in an office to make a decision, after all the things I have done and achieved – and I have achieved quite a bit in local politics – I find it very disrespectful.”
He questioned the reason for his axe, which comes shortly after association chairman Cllr Philip Daubeney was replaced in late February by Cllr Alan O’Sullivan, a long-time New Milton Town Council and NFDC colleague of Cllr Beck.
“There is something amiss here,” said Cllr Beck.
He has ruled out running for NFDC as an Independent, so his career at Appletree Court, where he was a member of the council’s cabinet for six years holding the crime and disorder portfolio, is almost certainly at an end.
Now in his 80s, he had indicated he wanted to stand as a Conservative for the NFDC poll on May 2nd and early last year went before a Tory panel that vets potential candidates.
He was approved and told the party and senior members he would stand. “I recall speaking to Cllr Thierry at the council chamber. He asked me, ‘are you standing?’ and I said ‘yes I am’. I thought that was that.”
‘I find it very disrespectful’
But in January Cllr Beck said he was told he had been deselected, and he requested a hearing before the NFWCA.
The matter was discussed at two meetings and a report by Cllr Thierry was put before the NFWCA executive. A vote was also taken and members sided with the association’ decision.
Cllr Beck said he was “surprised” that at one of those meetings – both held in Ringwood – a number of fellow Tories who sit on New Milton Town Council turned up and voted against him.
Cllr Beck said he was not aware he had to write an official letter or email confirming he had accepted the invitation to stand as a Tory candidate.
In previous years, he continued, the confirmation was given in other ways. Cllr Beck said he knew that because he was the vice-chair political prior to the role being assumed by Cllr Thierry.
“As far as I’m concerned, I cannot recall handing over a form or email being the procedure. People had to confirm but they could do that verbally or other ways – it wasn’t restricted to writing in. They will come back and say it’s always been the policy. I say, show me the policy.”
He added: “I have been a loyal member of the NFWCA for over 20 years, have served as an officer of their committee and organised fundraising events and supported other branch’s events.
“I am extremely disappointed to have been treated in this manner.”
Cllr Back revealed he had written to Conservative central office in London over the issue and will consider his options when he gets a reply.
Asked to comment, Cllr Thierry said: “Goff Beck is the author of his own misery. If he had simply sent in a one-line acceptance email he would not be in this position he is in today.
“All of the 60 New Forest Conservative candidates sent in their acceptance letter apart from Goff. He was the only one who didn’t send in his letter.
“I personally reminded him he had to do it and on numerous occasions he went into our Barton offices – which he lives very close to – and he could have sat down and written out a simple acceptance.”
Cllr Thierry said Cllr Beck “did not deny” at a Tory meeting he had failed to send a letter accepting his invitation to stand as a candidate.
“Had we decided because he is Goff Beck and a past chairman of the council and an ex-cabinet member to make an exception, it would have been plainly wrong and completely unfair to other candidates who were involved in the process,” he said
Cllr Beck can appeal to the party in London, but to win that he would have to find fault with the way the process had been run, Cllr Thierry said.
The party’s candidates for the Barton ward will be sitting member Cllr Alan O’Sullivan and Cllr Keith Craze who is a member of New Milton Town Council.
‘He has been an excellent servant’
Cllr Thierry said of Cllr Beck: “He has been an excellent servant to the people of Barton – nobody can dispute that. He has had a very, very strong career in respect of the district council.
“He was chairman and a cabinet member and he was a man who did whatever function he had to do 150%.”
NFWCA chairman Cllr Alan O’Sullivan said Cllr Beck had still not notified the party he would like to stand as a Tory candidate for the NFDC elections.
Cllr O’Sullivan added he personally visited Cllr Beck and handed him the paperwork he would need to submit to stand again for New Milton Town Council. That had not been responded to, he added.
NFDC would “miss” Cllr Beck, he said. “Experience is always very useful. It is nice sometimes to get new councillors and points of view but obviously we do need experience and Goff’s forthright views and his experience are probably what we will miss the most.”
He said Cllr Craze was a worthy replacement. “Goff has obviously had many years of experience but I have got no qualms with Keith filling his shoes in the long run,” Cllr O’Sullivan added.