Sir Patrick Cormack today received the backing of more than 80 of his parliamentary colleagues as he battled to remain the Conservative party candidate for his South Staffordshire seat.

More than 80 Tory MPs signed a letter to the South Staffordshire Conservative Association urging its executive to overturn its decision to oust the veteran MP as their representative at the next general election.

The letter to Wilhelm Rose, president of the constituency party, warns that his loss to parliament "would be an irreparable blow to our team in the Commons".

This action, sponsored by Julian Lewis, MP for New Forest East, follows Sir Patrick's unexpected rejection, by a single vote, by the executive last month.

A huge row followed this decision and Francis Maude, national chairman of the party, indicated that the meeting where the vote was taken was invalid.

It has been alleged that people who were entitled to be at the meeting were not notified, and that more votes were cast than the number of people present at the meeting.

The word "skulduggery" has been bandied about.

Now, however, there is a concerted attempt among Conservative MPs in support of Sir Patrick, 67, who has been an MP for the area since 1970.

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