The process of selecting a Tory candidate for Penrith was left in chaos, after concerns over how the shortlist had been drawn up.

Members of the Penrith and the Border Conservative Association's executive said procedural issues over the selection of the shortlist "compromised their integrity" and so walked out of a private meeting.

Penrith and the Border has been a Tory stronghold for years, but was thrown into disarray when previous MP Rory Stewart rebelled against the Government over Brexit and had the whip withdrawn.

He subsequently resigned from the party, sitting as an Independent, before announcing he would not contest the seat in a general election as he is instead running for Mayor of London.

Dissent in the ranks was almost immediate, with Robert Craig resigning his Tory Party membership and position as association president in the wake of Mr Stewart’s suspension from the Conservatives.

At the time Mr Craig said he felt let down by the local party.

The dissatisfaction within the local party is rumoured to have continued, with reports that the association executive walked out during a recent candidate selection meeting.

Reports from Mark Wallace, executive editor of ConservativeHome, say they were unhappy over the candidate shortlist provided by CCHQ.

Apparently, those who remained were said to have pressed ahead with the vote, selecting vet Dr Neil Hudson.

Helen Fearon, chairman of the Penrith and the Border Conservative Association (PCBA), said she was unable to comment on any issues.

A spokesman for the north west region Conservative party initially said the party would not comment, but PCBA has now issued a statement.

"A private meeting of the Penrith and the Border Conservative Association was convened on Saturday to consider the selection of a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Constituency," the statement says.

"The executive took the view that a number of procedural issues involved in the compilation of the shortlist by CCHQ compromised their integrity and they could not proceed. After explaining this they left the meeting.

"Members present felt they wanted to interview the candidates on an informal basis and this was done under the chairmanship of the chairman of the Cumbria Conservative Association.

"One candidate secured more than 50 per cent of the advisory vote and it was the view of the meeting that this information should be conveyed to CCHQ."

The party is expecting to announce its candidate for the seat today.

Candidates already confirmed for the Penrith and the Border seat are:

  • Jonathan Davies, Putting Cumbria First
  • Ali Ross, Green Party
  • Matthew Severn, Liberal Democrats
  • Sarah Williams, Labour