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New Selections Of Candidates For 2015 Show The Future Of The Conservative Party

Last Updated: Friday, November 1st, 2013

Now that the candidates have been selected for CCHQ’s chosen 40 attack seats, selections for other constituencies are well underway.

Three seats whose sitting MPs are stepping down in 2015 are next on the list.

Newark, currently held by the disgraced and departing Patrick Mercer, selects tonight. Tonbridge and Malling , served since 1974 by Sir John Stanley, will pick its candidate tomorrow.  Finally, Croydon South will shortly be whittling its long list of 15 down to 4 in the race to succeed Richard Ottaway.

They are very different seats, but each is expected to stay blue next time round so competition has been heated. In Croydon South over 300 members of the candidates’ list applied to be the PPC.

These three selection contests give us a number of insights into the direction and mood of the Conservative Party.

First, the pool of candidates remains bullish.

Those who survived the cull of the list which took place over the summer are often veterans of hard-fought 2010 campaigns – many of whom might have expected to win had the party run a better national campaign. They are back and dead set on being picked again, and then fighting to win.

Second, the range of people getting through the selection process to its later stages is encouragingly wide.

We reported earlier in the year that the 40 attack seats had been populated by a healthy mix of entrepreneurs, former soldiers, experienced local councilors, engineers and a postman. This pattern is largely borne out by those shortlisted for these three safer seats.

Yes, there are a couple of Downing Street advisers, but the pool also includes a former Army officer who saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, a number of successful entrepreneurs, two who have founded their own charities and four figures from local government – including Kit Malthouse, a Deputy Mayor of London.

The officers and members sifting through hundreds of applications increasingly value real world experience outside Westminster – both for the added nous of such candidates, and for their increased appeal to the electorate.

Third, the Conservative Party is yet to settle on its preferred internal constitution and structure – particularly with regard to direct democracy.

All three seats have experimented with new ways of assessing candidates, such as adding doorstep canvassing tests to the traditional interview and speech model. But Tonbridge and Malling has gone further, opting to hold an Open Primary – which is set to attract over 500 local voters to help pick their candidate.

Each of these points has connotations for how politics will shape up in the coming years. Just as the class of 2010 is noticeably more free-spirited than its predecessors, the class of 2015 is likely to be even more full of people experienced outside politics who know their own mind.

The trend for local considerations to take precedence over the demands of Government or party leadership will also continue. Those who have fought and lost before are more likely to want to make the most of their time on the green benches, as they have shed more blood, sweat and tears to get there in the first place.

Local voters and members, as well as personal bugbears, get more of a hearing than the Whips when push comes to shove – particularly for those MPs who feel a threat from the right in the shape of UKIP. As a result, voting patterns will become less predictable.

On the current evidence, the Conservative Parliamentary Party will continue to become broader in its range of experience, and more locally rooted in its political attitudes. That strengthens it as a campaigning machine – but weakens the leadership’s authority and power over it by the same token.

By Mark Wallace



Ryan Bourne: Have immigrants “taken our jobs”? “The results overall throw up some inconvenient evidence for those who think immigration has had profound consequences for British jobs and pay.  The evidence suggests little overall effect on unemployment or pay, with negative effects constrained to the particularly low skilled, from non-EU migrants and particularly in times when the economy is struggling.”

Peter Franklin: Heresy of the week: The battle for the future is not red versus blue, but black versus green “In almost every developed democratic nation, politics is firmly organised along familiar left-right lines. There are a few exceptions – such as Turkey, where the most important division is between Islamism and secularism – but in most systems the main rivalries are based on economic interests. In a thought-provoking article, Steve Fuller foresees a future in which is this is no longer the case.”

Paul Goodman: Why is Downing Street floating BBC reform now? “Were it a vote-shifter with the electorate, the move would make strategic sense.  But it isn’t.  Perhaps Number 10 is being driven to distraction, like so many of the rest of us, by the BBC’s downplaying of the news that most people think the spending scaleback hasn’t damaged public services, or the glee with which it pounced on Ed Miliband’s attack on the Daily Mail, or…but there are a thousand examples.”

Harry Phibbs: Cameron’s struggle to reduce EU red tape shows how tricky renegotiating membership will be
“At present, the polls suggest that most of us would vote to withdraw from the EU on the current terms. However, enough expect to be satisfied with the concessions offered to Mr Cameron that it is expected we will vote to continue our membership if that is something Mr Cameron recommends. However, the scale of the changes that would be required for our EU membership to be in our national interest are immense.”

Lottie Dexter: Childcare is the issue to crack if more single mums are to work “The single mums that I work with on the Million Jobs Campaign are desperate for their children to having a working example. They long for the added self-esteem that comes from a job and – quite often – they just want to get out of the house. Working families have the power to rejuvenate our worst off communities, and enabling more women to work pays economic dividends, too.”

Mark Wallace: Unemployment: what’s the true picture?
“We are too used to viewing unemployment as a solely economic measure. Public debate tends to neglect its human impact – the shorter life spans of the unemployed, the higher risk of depression and other mental illnesses, the harm long-term or even multi-generational unemployment does to social cohesion.”

Mohammed Amin: A UK Government sukuk at last!
“Modern Islamic banking began with a few tiny Islamic banks in Egypt in the late 1960’s. From that small start it has been growing steadily, and now there are several hundred Islamic financial institutions around the world, with global Islamic financial assets of around $1.5 trillion, less than 1% of global financial assets. As Muslims are about 23% of humanity, there is plenty of scope for further growth in Islamic finance.”

By Mark Wallace

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