In backing John Glen. I'm not making any comment on the qualities of the other candidates. I've had the pleasure of meeting Victoria Atkins and Zehra Zaida in the last week and both were very impressive. The Salisbury Conservatives have shortlisted six excellent candidates and all of them would make a good MP for this jewel of England. Equally, all will have to work very hard to fill Robert Key's big shoes.
Perhaps I should wait until the Sunday selection meeting and wait until I've heard all six candidates answer thirty minutes of questions. Perhaps, but I cannot believe that I will learn more about any of the candidates in such a short time than I already know about John after more than fifteen years of close friendship.
We can over-emphasise the importance of local candidates but in John's favour are his Wiltshire roots. His dad has worked in horticulture in the county for all his life. John was brought up in Wiltshire and he has many connections with Salisbury. We need a champion for a county that has been badly neglected by Labour since 1997. It's a sad pattern that Labour have channelled money away from areas that made the mistake of voting Conservative.
I first met John when he was research assistant to Conservative MP Gary Streeter in the early 1990s. He hasn't joined the Conservative cause as a career move but worked for the party throughout our lean years. He was an adviser to William Hague when party leader. He was head of the Conservative Research Department under Michael Howard. John would be on the inside track of the Conservative government we all hope for and that would be good for Salisbury.
For want of a better expression, he's what I think of as a full spectrum Conservative. On the one hand he's a Eurosceptic; he's a believer in low taxation; he supports a tough approach to crime and strictly controlled immigration. But there's also a commitment to the greener, gentler conservatism of David Cameron. John was helping me with the social justice project ten years ago when we worked together in the Conservative Christian Fellowship. In his campaign video he makes it clear that, in fixing Labour's deficit, we mustn't balance budgets on the backs of the poor. He's a practical environmentalist; strongly committed to recycling, better use of energy and protecting the countryside.
That Gordon Brown and Tony Blair sent our armed forces to two wars on a peacetime budget must be in the top three of Labour's great failures. Over dinner last Friday in the excellent new curry house on Minster Street (it was the Golden Curry restaurant), John made it clear that his number one job will be to stand up for the military.
Salisbury couldn't do better than choosing John Glen as its Conservative candidate.