Annunziata is banished and a Tory plot backfires

Are Cameron and his friends aiming to ‘castrate’ the Tory right long before the election?

Column LAST UPDATED AT 10:55 ON Wed 1 Jun 2011

There is growing dismay in Tory circles that David Cameron and his modernising clique are trying to rid the party of its more traditionalist right-wing elements - and are even considering a permanent coalition with the Lib Dems.

It hasn't been helped by the Conservative high command's decision to quietly ditch some of the celebrity wannabes of the last general election from its candidates' list. They include Lord Rees-Mogg's daughter Annunziata, one of the most high-profile 'Tatler Tories' - the group of candidates featured in the magazine before the 2010 election.

Annunziata (above), who failed to unseat Lib Dem David Heath in Somerset and Frome, ruffled feathers long before polling day when she revealed that Cameron had tried to persuade her to shorten her name to 'Nancy Mogg', which she flatly refused to do, the little rebel.

Another Tatler Tory to be axed from the candidates' list is Lancashire Conservative activist Deborah Dunleavy, candidate in Bolton North East at the last election, who is a leading light in the 'women2win' organisation formed to increase the number of female Tory MPs.

The Whitsun cull was sneakily carried out while MPs were on holiday and Cameron faces an angry backlash when he and his family get back to Westminster from their Ibiza break. While Sam Cam was enjoying a rave in the sunshine, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen thundered to the Mail on Sunday that it was "entirely wrong to treat some of our staunchest supporters in this way".

The cull is seen as a fresh attempt to rid the Conservatives of their 'toff', public school, white middle-class image by their toff, public school, white middle-class leader, David Cameron.

But is there more to it than that? Is there a plot by Dave and his friends to "castrate" the Tory right long before the next election, as Tory blogger Tim Montgomerie puts it?

The fact that Deborah and Annunziata are no longer required contradicts the Tory leadership's claims to want more women in parliament. They were clearly not the right sort of Tory women, and there are suspicions they were dropped because they were not only too posh, but were too eurosceptic - like the vast majority of Conservative voters.

The backlash has been triggered by an article from the mischievous Times hackette, Rachel Sylvester, who suggested the Cameroons hope to stay in permanent coalition after 2015 because it suits them to use their Lib Dem coalition partners to stop the Tory right holding the leadership to ransom, as the eurosceptic nutters did to poor old John Major.

The prospect of the Conservative party being wedded to the Soggy Democrats for ever has provoked outrage on Montgomerie's grass-roots website, ConservativeHome.com, after he claimed that the attractions of permanent coalition are privately being discussed by Cameron's advisers.

"Three senior ministers have told me that senior advisors to Cameron are actively discussing ways of castrating the right," Montgomerie wrote. "The alleged purge of the candidates' list, appointments of many 'tame' peers and active briefing against senior right-wing members of the government are early signs of this strategy."

We have not heard the last of this. ·