Just what are Hastings Conservatives up to? Their candidate for St Helen’s Ward in this month’s council election, Matt Lynch, has been exposed as an imposter in his claims to be a Falklands veteran. A previous Tory councillor for St Helen’s, Matthew Lock, was arrested after being caught in a paedophile sting and charged with 28 child sex offences. “There is something catastrophically wrong with the Tory’s selection process” says Labour’s Andy Batsford who won St Helen’s after Lynch was eventually suspended by his local association.

But Labour are now questioning why action wasn’t taken sooner. Both the town’s MP, Amber Rudd, and the council’s Conservative group leader, Rob Lee, are understood to have been informed of Lynch’s duplicity weeks before he was officially disowned. However his name still appeared on the ballot paper and he still managed to garner 596 votes.  His fellow conservative candidate, Martin Clarke, lost to Labour by just nine votes, quite possibly as a result of the exposure of Lynch.

It was the Hastings Parachute Regimental Association (to which Amber Rudd is a special advisor) who first questioned Matt Lynch’s claims to have served in the Falklands as a Para. They asked the Conservative party for his army serial number and checked with the MOD only to discover that there was no record of him in the Para Regiment’s books or on the Falklands Roll of Honour. The association’s secretary, Bryan Hunter, passed on the information to the local Conservative association around 6th April – approximately two weeks before the postal ballot deadline. Mr Hunter said they told him the matter was “under review and that it had to be handled with great delicacy.” “I took that to mean they wanted to brush it under the carpet until after the election,” he told HIP.

According to Cllr Batsford, the Conservative Association did take down all information about their candidate from their website and Facebook page, but within a week it was back up, only now any references to his military career had been removed and his photograph no longer showed him wearing regimental insignia.

“This was an absolute disgrace;” says Cllr Batsford, “nearly 600 people who subsequently voted for him were effectively disenfranchised. I’m calling on his election agent and leader of the Conservative group on the council, Rob Lee, to stand down as a result.”

It’s understood that Amber Rudd’s office was informed of Mr Lynch’s deception as was the Conservative party nationally and information was passed on to the Hastings Observer. But no action was taken and no story appeared until the BBC broke the news on May 1st – just two days before the election. Only then was Lynch officially suspended as the Conservative candidate though his name still appeared on the ballot paper as one of two official Conservative candidates for the St Helens ward.

The result of the poll put Andy Batsford in first place with 957 votes, and the other Labour candidate Antonia Berelson in second place with 738 votes. She narrowly beat Martin Clarke of the Conservatives by nine votes, while the now discredited Matt Lynch still managed to attract 596 votes. According to Cllr Batsford, there has been no apology or statement of any sort from the Tories. “They are still covering it up for political gain,” he told HIP. “They are clearly desperate to find any candidates to stand for the council but their selection procedures are totally inadequate. When you scrape the bottom of the barrel you pull up some very nasty residue.”

The Para Association’s Bryan Hunter was also critical of the Conservative’s selection procedure. “Why can’t they do proper background checks?” he asked. “I’d like to see such incidents of stolen valour made a criminal offence and people like Matt Lynch prosecuted.”

No one from Hastings Conservatives answered requests from HIP to comment.  Mr Lynch has declined to respond to the allegations.

 

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