A senior member of the Croydon Conservative Party has been suspended after backing Andrew Pelling’s independent campaign.

Shirley Trimmer, 81, has been a prominent member of the party for more than 40 years and was deputy chairwoman in charge of fundraising.

She was the number one proposer nominating Mr Pelling as an independent candidate at the upcoming election.

The grandmother-of-11, who has been dubbed “the matriarch” of Mr Pelling’s campaign and manages his diary, said she did not blame the party for its actions.

The former veterinary nurse said: “I told them right from the start I was behind Andrew.

“I called a meeting with Terry Grourk, Ian Parker and Gavin Barwell and told them if Andrew would stand I would be supporting him.

“Gavin was very upset and said, ‘Then you are out of the party.’ and I said, ‘So be it.’ “Terry and Ian were much more understanding and calmed things down.

“I carried on working for the party because Andrew had not declared at that stage.”

Mrs Trimmer was one of a few people in charge of choosing Mr Barwell as Mr Pelling’s successor when he offered his resignation to the party at the height of his depression.

She said: “As an officer of the federation it was my duty and my pleasure to have a hand in that selection.

“Andrew was terribly ill at that time and I did not think he would stand again.”

Ian Parker, Croydon Conservative Party agent, said: “Any Conservative Party member who actively supports someone who is not the official Conservative Party candidate takes the risk of having their membership suspended and then, after a review is carried out, be excluded. We are a democratic organisation.”

Mrs Trimmer said: “I don’t blame them for suspending me.

“There has been so much nastiness and bitterness in the party, I just don’t feel the same any more.”

She said she would not rejoin the party if she was permanently excluded after a review.