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David DouglasOne of the chief organisers of the Hampstead Conservative party and a key member of Brian Coleman’s election campaign has been forced to flee the Maldives after unwittingly flying into the middle of a turbulent change of government.

David Douglas was pulled out of the islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean by Tory Party HQ on Tuesday amid fears for his safety.

There have been unconfirmed reports of beatings in the streets, and pictures distributed by news agencies on the ground this week showed violent skirmishes said to have been caused by a police mutiny.

“The whole thing was just surreal,” Mr Douglas said last night (Wednesday), back home after spending almost two days on planes.

“It’s only once you get out and look at the internet and see what’s going on that you realise how scary it could have been.”

As one of the brains behind the Conservative challenge which helped turn Glenda Jackson’s Hampstead parliamentary seat from a Labour stronghold to a marginal in 2010, Mr Douglas is part of a Tory scheme to train would-be politicians in “emerging democracies” abroad.

He had headed to the Maldives with another Conservative organiser to show activists from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) how to leaflet effectively and to retain and recruit members.

The MDP won the country’s first ever democratic elections four years ago and has been credited with improving infrastructure and investing in healthcare.

But as Mr DougBut as Mr Douglas was flying to the city of Malé on Tuesday, the MDP’s president Mohammed Nasheed stepped down – he later claimed he had been forced to resign.

Mr Douglas last year helped political organisers in Uganda but is more used to the rather less fiery battles in Hampstead, where he is helping Mr Coleman’s bid to fend off the Labour challenge for the Barnet and Camden seat at May’s London Assembly elections. He was also one of the organisers who helped former Camden councillor Chris Philp come within a whisker of unseating Glenda Jackson in 2010 – losing by just 42 votes.

Mr Douglas, whose trip was organised by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, said he had lost track of which day was which after travelling through time zones and being ordered home after just hours in the Maldives.n my phone and there was a message which said, ‘there has been a change of government, you need to leave now’,” he said.

“There were reports of people who were the equivalent of us who were being beaten. Our safety could not be guaranteed and at that point it wasn’t a question of when’s the next cheapest plane, it was get out whatever the cost.”


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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024