Conservatives have launched an inquiry into claims the selection process to pick a candidate for the post of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner was flawed.
The Tories used a series of open primaries to choose a candidate, in a bid to involve the wider public in a decision which would usually be left up to party members.
Public meetings were held in Birmingham, Walsall, Halesowen and Solihull, and anyone who registered to attend could vote for the candidate they preferred out of a shortlist of two.
But the high-profile process, which led to the selection of former Birmingham councillor Matt Bennett, has led to a row following claims that the rules were unclear and not applied consistently.
Jim Cooper, chairman of the Conservative organising committee which oversaw the selection, said: “One of the candidates appealed and that appeal is being considered”.
The party could not comment further while the appeal process was taking place, he said. Joe Tildesley, a Solihull councillor who failed to win the nomination, told the Post he could not comment.
Mr Bennett said: “All I can say is that there have been no allegations against me or any of my supporters.”
The Tories have refused to release voting numbers for the primary, but Coun Tildesley has previously said that he lost by just ten votes.
The appeal focuses on claims that rules requiring members of the public to register in order to take part in the election were not enforced during the three public meetings in Birmingham, Walsall and Halesowen – but were enforced during the final event, in Solihull, where Coun Tildesley expected to do well because of his high profile locally.
Up to 28 of his supporters may have been turned away and refused the opportunity to vote for him, it is claimed.
Rules stating that the primaries were open to “anyone on the electoral roll in the Police Authority area” were also ignored, according to the appeal.
No checks were made to ensure members of the public who turned up for the first three meetings were registered to vote in the West Midlands Police area, it is claimed.
Other candidates standing for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner in the West Midlands include Wolverhampton councillor Bob Jones for Labour, former police officer and independent candidate Cath Hannon, and former detective Mike Rumber, also an independent.
More candidates could come forward as nominations remain open until October 19. The election will take place on November 15.
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group is to place the candidates under the spotlight at a hustings event at the Chamber’s Edgbaston headquarters on September 25.
It is open to anyone who registers to attend through the Chamber’s website, at www.birmingham-chamber.com.
The Government has come under fire over the decision to hold the election in November and not to subsidise publicity material for candidates. In general elections, candidates are entitled to have a leaflet delivered to every home in the constituency they are contesting with the postage funded by taxpayers, but Ministers have decided not to repeat this practice for the Police Commissioner ballot and have instead set up websites which will include details of candidates.
The Electoral Reform Society says it estimates that turnout could be as low as 18.5 per cent, compared to local election turnouts of around 34 per cent.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “This election is beginning to look like a perfect storm, which could result in the lowest turnout for a national election in British history.”
* The official website for the West Midlands Police Commissioner election can be found at www.westmidlandspcc.info.