THE chairman of Devizes Constituency Conservative Party Brigadier Peter Sharpe has resigned just days before members meet to select a new parliamentary candidate to replace Claire Perry.

Brigadier Sharpe was not happy about the influence Tory party head office has had on the choice of candidate for the safe seat. Originally six candidates were put forward but when the snap General Election was called different rules meant this had to be reduced to three.

The Brigadier’s wife Gill, who is also furious that two local candidates did not make the final three, said: “We were away on holiday when my husband found out that the local candidates had been ditched.

“He was livid and felt he could not go on an chairman and so resigned. He had fought for a local candidate.

“It is an undemocratic action, as it undermines the role of the local association and has scant regard for the requirements of a local MP.

“Because it is a safe seat it appears that Conservative party headquarters are attempting to get their man or woman in, regardless of connection, knowledge or suitability be be the MP for a rural community.”

Now Antonia Cox, who grew up in Hampshire, but now lives in London and is a local councillor, Sir Ashley Fox a former member of the European Parliament representing the south west and Danny Kruger the Eton educated son of Bake Off judge Prue Leith will go before Devizes party members on Saturday afternoon.

It is expected that about 400 members will be in the Corn Exchange to cast their votes in private on Ms Perry’s successor and a decision will be made around 5pm.

Wiltshire councillor for Burbage and the Bedwyns Stuart Wheeler has taken over as chairman of the constituency party.

Executive committee member Jonathan Seed confirmed the changes but said the mood in the local party was upbeat.

He said: “People now just want to get on with choosing a candidate and then campaigning for them to win the seat.”

Antonia Cox was emphasising her local connections at the weekend when she posted a picture of herself and her father in Marlborough High Street on Facebook. She wrote: “With my father in Marlborough reminiscing about a school trip there, and visiting the White Horse Bookshop.”

She describes herself as: “Free school founder, local councillor and education campaigner, ex-Daily Telegraph commentator, mother of three grown-ups.”

Sir Ashley Fox, who will be 50 on November 15, lives in Bristol with his wife and two children and stood as a Conservative for Bath in the 2001 general election. He was leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament from 2014 to 2019.

Mr Kruger, the son of Prue and her late husband Rayne Kruger is a former speechwriter to David Cameron and key aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He is also an old Etonian, like Boris, and has previously worked for the prisons charity Only Connect which he founded.

Other candidates standing for the Devizes constituency were getting on with campaigning. Lib Dem Jo Waltham was at her party’s launch and annual meeting in Lockeridge where she was supported by a loyal army ready to take election leaflets to all corners of the area.

Labour candidate Rachael Ross took the chance of a snap with leader Jeremy Corbyn at a rally in Swindon on Saturday.

Other Devizes candidates include Green Emma Dawney and the Brexit Party’s Dan Day-Robinson.