THE chairman of Devizes Constituency Conservative Party Brigadier Peter Sharpe has resigned just days before members meet to select a new parliamentary candidate to replace Claire Perry.

It is understood that Brigadier Sharpe was not entirely happy about the influence Tory party head office has had on the choice of candidate for the safe seat. Originally six candidates were put forward but when the snap General Election was called different rules meant this had to be reduced to three.

Now Antonia Cox, who grew up in Hampshire, but now lives in London and is a local councillor; Sir Ashley Fox a former member of the European Parliament representing the south west; and Danny Kruger, the Eton educated son of Bake Off judge Prue Leith, will go before Devizes party members on Saturday afternoon.

It is expected that about 400 members will be in the Corn Exchange to cast their votes in private on Ms Perry's successor and a decision will be made around 5pm.

Wiltshire councillor for Burbage and the Bedwyns Stuart Wheeler has taken over as chairman of the constituency party.

Executive committee member Jonathan Seed today confirmed the changes but said the mood in the local party was upbeat.

He said: "People now just want to get on with choosing a candidate and then campaigning for them to win the seat."

Antonia Cox was emphasising her local connections at the weekend when she posted a picture of herself and her father in Marlborough High Street on Facebook. She wrote: "With my father in Marlborough reminiscing about a school trip there, and visiting the White Horse Bookshop."

She describes herself as: "Free school founder, local councillor and education campaigner, ex-Daily Telegraph commentator, mother of three grown-ups."

Sir Ashley Fox, who will be 50 on November 15, lives in Bristol with his wife and two children and stood as a Conservative for Bath in the 2001 general election. He was leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament from 2014 to 2019.

Mr Kruger, the son of Prue and her late husband Rayne Kruger is a former speechwriter to David Cameron and key aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He is also an old Etonian, like Boris, and has previously worked for the prisons charity Only Connect which he founded and has also been a vocal supporter of legalisation of cannabis.

Concerns have been raised in some quarters that the candidates have no strong links with the Devizes Constituency and central office put on pressure about who should be selected.

There are worries that local representation is being overruled by Conservative central office.

Mark Wallace of the conservativehome website reported that this was part of the reason for the resignation of Brigadier Sharpe.

He wrote: "ApparentlyConservative Campaign Headquarter is forcing Devizes to delete three candidates from its shortlist against its will."