Tory MP cautioned for domestic abuse faces disciplinary investigation
Conservatives take action after dean of St Edmundsbury cathedral writes to David Ruffley saying he should step down.
The Tory MP who received a police caution for assaulting his ex-girlfriend is to face a disciplinary investigation conducted by chief whip Michael Gove.
David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, will be called to a meeting with Gove to discuss his conduct, after a complaint was sent to the Conservative party.
The incident took place in March but the party only decided to take action after the Very Rev Frances Ward, the dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, wrote to Ruffley and key party figures saying he should step down.
“I had received sufficient comment and concern from a wide circle of people, both within the cathedral and through the town and county, to have arrived at the opinion that your position is untenable,” she wrote.
“I hope you take on board the extent of the concerns that I shared with you, for the sake of the town of Bury St Edmunds and the Conservative party.
“It is my belief that you have lost the confidence of a significant proportion of your former supporters and should consider your position.”
Ward, a friend of Ruffley’s former partner, said the woman had “winced in obvious pain” when they hugged in greeting a few days after the incident and told of how frightened she had been of his “rage and violent behaviour”.
Until now the Conservative party has maintained that the matter was dealt with at the time by police. However, a spokesman said on Thursday that Gove would now launch an investigation into Ruffley’s conduct.
In a statement released by his solicitor, Ruffley said he had apologised to his partner some time after the event, which he said she had accepted, and stressed that he did not condone domestic violence under any circumstances.
“In March this year, an incident occurred between me and my former partner, resulting in inappropriate action on my part, which I deeply regret,” he said. “I am pleased to be able to say that she has accepted my apology. I have refrained from making any public statement on this matter as it is a deeply personal matter. It is my understanding that my former partner wishes the incident to remain private.
“The incident was dealt with by the police and I accepted responsibility for my actions at the time. I regret this matter in its entirety and the position in which I put my former partner and I now ask that her privacy be respected.”
The county’s Conservative police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore, has also raised concerns, saying such behaviour was inexcusable.
In a statement, he said: “It was particularly disturbing for me to hear that one of our Suffolk members of parliament accepted a police caution for a domestic abuse offence which, I understand, took place in London a while ago.
“I would like to make it absolutely clear that domestic abuse is never acceptable under any circumstance. The future of David Ruffley as a member of parliament and prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Bury St Edmunds constituency is a matter for their association but I hope I have made my views entirely clear – such behaviour is inexcusable.
“Those of us in a leadership role in society must do our level best at all times and try to set a good example to others in what we do and how we behave. That includes all politicians regardless of any party affiliation.
“In my opinion there cannot and must not be any hiding place for the perpetrators of such brutal crimes.”
Ruffley has already been re-selected to contest the Bury St Edmunds seat for the Conservatives at next year’s election but the local association is expected to discuss the issue among other items at a meeting next Thursday.
The MP, who has represented the seat since 1997, was given leave from the party in 2010 after suffering minor injuries when he was hit by a train at Victoria station in London. At the time he was reported to be suffering from depression.
- The Guardian,