Fringe Box



Walton Councillor Claims He Was Considered Too Old for Tory Selection

Published on: 16 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 18 Mar, 2022

Cllrs Alan Kopitko and Christine Richardson of Walton, who have stood down from the Conservative party and say they’ve been told they’re too old. Photo Graeme Larter

By Emily Coady Stemp

local democracy reporter

A Surrey Conservative councillor claims he’s been told he can’t stand in the May local elections because he’s “too old”.

Councillors Alan Kopitko (Walton North) and Christine Richardson (Walton Central), who are a couple, stood down from the Conservative group at Elmbridge Borough Council’s budget meeting on Wednesday, February 23.

Cllr Kopitko, 64, tweeted after the meeting: “So tonight I publicly resigned from the Elmbridge conservative group. Why?.. In an email from a Conservative branch chair apparently thinks I’m too old to represent them.”

It comes after he received an email in October from the branch chair for Cobham & Oxshott Conservatives, Catherine Davies, about not being re-selected to stand in the local elections in two months time, who said: “I think we need more younger people to represent residents as our party can be seen as being ‘out of touch’ to anybody under 40.”

She ended the email, seen by the LDRS, by writing: “If I were you I should enjoy your retirement.”

Cllr Kopitko said he was “disappointed” with how things had happened, having represented Walton for 23 years as a councillor.

Ms Davies said the email “has been taken out of context” and that “some are considerably older than” him, adding it was written in response to Cllr Kopitko saying he felt the decision to deselect him was around age.

‘Email amounts to ageism’

Cllr Kopitko told the LDRS the contents of the email amounted to “ageism”, adding: “It should never have been written.”

He also said Conservative councillors were now seen as “foot soldiers” for Esher and Walton MP Dominic Raab, whose majority dropped from 23,298 to 2,743 in the 2019 General Election.

The email from Ms Davies to Cllr Kopitko said: “I do not think you should take it so personally: the job is getting progressively more complex and increasingly reliant on social media skills.

“I think we need more younger people to represent residents as our party can be seen as being ‘out of touch’ to anybody under 40.

“Don’t let it get you down, I just think that we all have to step aside sometimes to let youngsters take over.”

Cllr Kopitko said the local party has “deeply changed”.

He added: “It appears to be that we’re not on social media as much as they’d like us to be.

“We’re not the foot soldiers to go out and get Dominic Raab re-elected when he needs it.

“I became a councillor to represent local community and the people of Walton and Elmbridge.

“And that’s changed, I didn’t stand to become a politician to fight politics.”

Peter Szanto, Esher & Walton Conservative Association chairman, said: “We have high standards and expectations for Conservative councillors and candidates.

“These are regularly reviewed, and most choose to raise their game when falling below the mark, others unfortunately choose not to.

“We have a highly diverse group of local community champions that are working hard to make Elmbridge even better.”

When the LDRS contacted the branch chair asking whether they denied the claim of “ageism”, Ms Davies said:  “My email to Alan has been taken out of context.

“It was in response to him stating that he felt the decision was around age. Our candidates for May’s elections range in age from 73 to 18.

“Some are considerably older than Alan, so I know that age was not a contributing factor.”

His partner, Cllr Richardson, 60, also tweeted on the evening they announced her resignation.

She wrote on Twitter she could “no longer accept not only what is happening in 10 Downing St and Westminster in general but also what is happening within the local party”.

She said she made it onto a list of candidates who could put themselves forward for seats in forthcoming local elections, but was then de-selected from the list.

She told the LDRS that a lot of the problem was that the local group was “very focused on national politics” and claimed their total focus was on making sure Dominic Raab got re-elected.

Sallie Barker

Mr Szanto added the leaflets, communications, and work of local Conservatives focused only on local issues that residents cared about.

Sallie Barker, chair of the Guildford Conservative Association commented: “Guildford Conservatives have a stringent candidate selection process based on ensuring we have the best councillors to represent the people of the Guildford Constituency. Age is never a factor.”

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Responses to Walton Councillor Claims He Was Considered Too Old for Tory Selection

  1. Keith Francis Reply

    March 16, 2022 at 10:50 pm

    It’s that time of year.

    Look how Surrey Tories, at a special convention, shocked David Munro by de-selecting him as its candidate before the last Police & Crime Commissioner election in favour of a woman who then decided she couldn’t stand and the present Police & Crime Commissioner who was chosen in her place.

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