Ashley Crossley is currently the Conservative PPC for the Falmouth and Camborne constituency. This constituency is considered as a 'target' seat by the Tories, as the relatively low Labour majority there (4,500) indicates it is potentially winnable by the Conservatives. Mr Crossley is a barrister who lives in London. He is homosexual, and has never made a secret of the fact.
Several members of the constituency leadership have been suspended, the Telegraph reports, by Conservative Central Office for allegedly promoting a video put out by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Mr Crossley supported, naturally enough, Central Office. A local 'activist', who evidently has issues with Mr Crossley, is quoted as saying:
"People don't think he is good enough for the job. This man has decided to come down here and walk over everybody. He is to blame for the suspensions."
"We have no problem with his sexuality but he should have disclosed he had been living with a man for seven years."
Now of course I have no personal knowledge of Mr Crossley's character, whether he is overbearing and arrogant, or whether he is a friendly and cooperative individual. In any case, it seems uncontroversial that a PPC should support most of the broad principles of the Party, although there may be room for divergence on details of policy - there always is. However, supporting the avowed policy of the UKIP to withdraw the UK from membership of the EU is most definitely not a minor detail, whatever view of the argument of whether the UK should remain within that organisation you take.
The second comment from the activist gives the real clue, I suspect, to the reasons why there are moves in the constituency to deselect their current PPC - they may pretend they have "no problem with his sexuality", but do they really think it better for Mr Crossley either to:
- live a lie and get married to a woman, simply to be conventional in their eyes, when both he and the lady in question would probably end up being very unhappy; or
- live a celibate life as a 'confirmed bachelor'; or
- indulge his 'lifestyle' furtively, so as not to upset their sensibilites?
It seems that there was no secret that he was a homosexual when they selected him, if the facts reported in the Telegraph story are true; did their imaginations not run to the possibility that he might have a 'friend', or partner, or whatever other euphemism you care to use? The man is a barrister, for goodness sake, not a 'crack dealer'.
It is good that Central Office, and Mr Howard, are saying they have full confidence in Mr Crossley. I wonder how people such as David Davis feel about the matter, though. I really do despair for the Conservative Party.
UPDATE (Monday 13SEP2004 23.05 BST): I just read this report from 9th September this evening. It seems the moves to deselect Ashley Crossley as a Conservative PPC have been overwhelmingly defeated, although it also seems clear that not all of those who were thwarted plan to let the matter go.
2ND UPDATE: (Wednesday 22DEC04 16.35 GMT) The denouement of the above. The Telegraph reported yesterday that "virtually the entire leadership of [Falmouth] Conservative association was sacked yesterday for allegedly promoting the UK Independence Party". Five of the six who have been sacked, including the Chairman and Treasurer, have been barred indefinitely from holding office in the local association or from standing for election under the Tory banner in the area. The sixth has been barred from holding any office in any Tory association and from standing for any elected public office as a Conservative candidate for at least a year. Ashley Crossley remains the consituency PPC for the next General Election. A necessary purging of bigotry, it seems.
3RD UPDATE: (Wednesday 5OCT05 17.30 BST) Over the past week or so, I have observed in my site statistics regular visits as a result of web searches on 'Ashley Crossley', seemingly all from the same server. I am deeply curious to understand why there is repeated interest in this post. Just an observation ...