WIRRAL's mayor Cllr Hilary Jones has accused her local Tory association of staging a kangaroo court to force through a vote of no confidence in her husband Laurence, who has quit as a prospective parliamentary candidate.

Party officials in London gave funeral director Laurence an ultimatum to either drop his duties as his wife's mayoral escort, or resign from the parliamentary challenge against South Wirral MP Ben Chapman.

One of the couple now plans to stand against the party at the General Election as an independent Conservative cand-idate.

'No respect for mayor'

Cllr Jones, who has resigned the Tory party whip, said: "We have had a flood of phone calls from people to say they are disgusted with the way the party has treated Laurence. It's just like Liverpool in the 1980s - there is no respect for the office of mayor."

She claimed that Wirral South Conservative Association ordered a special meeting last week at a time to coincide with the time she and he husband were meeting the Duke of Edinburgh.

She observed: "They realised Laurence had to attend a meeting with the Duke with me and in his absence they went ahead with a kangaroo court and passed a vote of no confidence in him. He would have met them at any other time; he had no opportunity to put his side to them."

Mike Wilson, president of Wirral South Conservative Association, commented: "We don't have kangaroo courts, we have proper procedures laid down.

"There have been a number of meetings over the preceding months regarding this.

"Laurence has resigned and we are sorry it has happened this way. He has resigned as parliamentary candidate because he wants to concentrate on being consort.

"We fully understand the reasons for Laurence's decision and wish both him and Hilary all the best for the future."

Laurence Jones was a Wirral councillor for ten years until last June when he decided not to defend his seat so he could devote more time to campaigning in Wirral South.

Wirral Tory group leader Cllr Jeff Green said: "I understand that Hilary is very upset that her husband has decided to resign as a Conservative parlia-mentary candidate.

"However, I think that she should have considered the 2,530 voters that elected her on the council."

Cllr Jones retorted: "I haven't changed my views and I still represent my constituents until 2006.

"I have resigned the Conservative whip on the council. But this does not mean I will be voting with Labour or the Liberal Democrats."