Southport political news: Liverpool Daily Post 15 January 2010

A “CIVIL war” has broken out between senior Conservatives in the key seat of Southport as the general election looms, a leaked letter has revealed.
It lays bare an extraordinary spat between the Tory candidate, Brenda Porter, and the party chairwoman in the constituency that threatens to derail election campaigning.
The bitter clash follows simmering feuds dating back several years that have been linked to high-profile defections and an attempt to deselect a former town mayor.
It will alarm David Cameron, who has pinpointed Southport – where the Liberal Democrats enjoy a slender 3,838 majority – as a must-win seat if the Conservatives are to bounce back in the North.
Most worryingly, the letter was leaked to Lib-Dem candidate John Pugh, suggesting a deliberate attempt to undermine the campaign from within the Tory ranks.
The letter was sent by Ken Porter, the candidate’s husband and Ainsdale ward chairman, to Jackie Glover, the constituency chairwoman and her husband Tom, the town’s longest-serving councillor.
In it, Mr Porter:
Hits back at a “threat made to Brenda, by you”, to publicly come out against her campaign and “cause a lot of trouble for her”;
States he has told Brenda Porter she “must not be alone in your company again”, because it makes her so “upset”;
Condemns plans to allow two people “openly hostile against Brenda” to rejoin the party, warning it would “harm the campaign”;
Accuses Jackie Glover of being on “an ego trip to show who is more important”, rather than campaigning for a Tory victory;
Threatens that any further letters from the Porters, on any topic, will be “put where they belong, in the bin”.
The war of words follows the defection of former Conservative MP for Southport MP, Matthew Banks, to the Lib-Dems and of ex-Sefton Borough Council Conservative leader Cllr Les Byrom to Labour.
David Pearson, a former Sefton mayor was controversially suspended by his party colleagues before being given the all-clear to stand as a council candidate.
Last night, Mr Porter refused to discuss the revelations of Tory feuding in Southport, although he insisted: “There is no civil war”.
But Mr Pugh, who first won the seat in 2001, suggested the splits were “personal, not ideological”, with no great arguments over party policy.
He said: “It can’t be much fun in the Southport Conservative party with this much unhappiness, personal bitterness and rampant intolerance. They are conducting their own bizarre civil war”.
However, Mr Pugh declined to agree that the feud was a gift to his campaign, adding: “It clearly can’t help Conservative chances, but that’s all down to the voters”.
Until now, Cllr Porter has attracted attention mainly because of her age – she is 71 later this month – making her one of the oldest candidates standing.