Bracknell Conservatives have short-listed no fewer than seven candidates to go through to an Open Primary* on October 17th. They are:
Further biographical details of the seven will follow.
It's intriguing that the association has been allowed to include a split of four men and three women, given that CCHQ rules state that at least 50% of the candidates being considered at each stage must be female.
Tim reported last week the concerns of some about the failure of the local council leader to make the shortlist.
* Douglas Carswell recently took me to task for describing as an Open Primary the kind of meeting which followers of US politics would recognise as an Open Caucus, and I began describing these meetings as Open Caucuses in my posts here. However, I gather that my change in nomenclature caused panic and confusion among candidates - not least because the meetings open to all electors in a constituency are defined as Open Primaries in the party rulebook. As such, I am reluctantly returning to describing them in those terms here.
Bracknell Tories meet on Friday to choose which members of a shortlist drawn up at CCHQ go to an open primary selection meeting on 17 October.
Local council leader Paul Bettison is unhappy at his failure to get through the shortlist process, however, and ConservativeHome has learnt that colleagues of his on Bracknell Forest Council will attempt to add his name to the list of contenders at Friday's meeting.
They are unlikely to be successful. Rules do not permit a selective editing of the shortlist. Only if the Association held a vote of "no confidence" in the whole process would Cllr Bettison have a chance of being put forward as a possible candidate.
Jonathan Isaby reported two months ago that CCHQ were using a new shortlist process for the plum seats that will select between now and the next General Election. Six members of a local Association - chosen by an Association's Executive - attend a meeting a CCHQ and sift the full list of applicants for the seat. The meeting is attended by three or four CCHQ staffers and they advise on the shortlisting process but do not have a decisive say. One participant in this process did report to ConHome, however, that John Maples MP was "heavily promoting" some candidates over others. Another participant described the involvement of CCHQ as "light touch, entirely advisory and 100% helpful".
The Skipton and Ripon Conservatives have confirmed that they will select their new candidate using an open primary - although by way of a public meeting rather than the all-postal ballot as used in Totnes (at a cost of £40,000).
Association chairman Richard Hughes has announced that any member of the electorate in the constituency can register to attend and vote at the selection meeting, which will take place in Skipton on Saturday 26th September:
“No matter who
you usually vote for, this is your opportunity to hear from and then
pick the man or woman who will fight to be our next Member of
Parliament. Our selection process is the most open and
accountable of any political party and, as a result, we are confident
the right person, who can represent the entire community, will be
11am update: Of the other seats in the current tranche, Bracknell will, like Skipton and Ripon, have an open primary whilst Dudley North will select via a special general meeting of its association. The decisions on selection methods for the other seats are yet to be anounced.
But a week, as the old saying goes, is a long time in politics and the figure five has doubled into ten vacant Conservative seats after the announcement of five further retirements over the last few days.
So here is an update of all the Conservative held seats which will require a new candidate, taking into account the newly announced vacancies and starting with the safest...
Constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham County: Lincolnshire Region: East Midlands Retiring MP: Douglas Hogg Notional Majority: 12,687 (24.2%) Second place party: Labour
Constituency: Skipton and Ripon County: North Yorkshire Region: Yorkshire and the Humber Retiring MP: David Curry Notional Majority: 11,596 (23.4%) Second place party: Lib Dem
Constituency: Bracknell County: Berkshire Region: South East Retiring MP: Andrew Mackay Notional Majority: 10,037 (22.0%) Second place party: Labour
Extraordinary video from the Bracknell Forest Standard from inside last Friday's public meeting. People shout "all of it" when Mr MacKay discusses repaying part of his expense claims. Attacks on him are loudly applauded including when one constituent says he has "no sense of right and wrong". He claimed that three-quarters of the meeting were with him.
Every Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidate should watch this video and worry that this will happen to them if they are ever foolish enough to do what MacKay AND HIS wife Julie Kirkbride did.
Mr MacKay is the fourth Tory resignation. Already resigning are Douglas Hogg, Peter Viggers and Anthony Steen.
5pm: From Fraser Nelson at Coffee House:
"Only this morning, Andrew MacKay said that he would stand for election
again - but after a conversation with David Cameron he has now decided
to stand down at the next election. The open meeting he held had
several calls for him to go, and there was talk of a petition. The
grassroots momentum was significant. This, make no mistake, is a
personal loss to David Cameron who relied on MacKay to be his eyes and
ears in the backbenches."
5.20pm: Statement from Andrew MacKay: ""Following a conversation with David Cameron this morning I have decided to step down as candidate for Bracknell at the next general election. I believe I could be a distraction at a time when he is working to get elected as prime minister with the good working majority necessary to take the tough decisions to turn this country around. I hope my decision to step down goes some way to showing my constituents how sorry I am about my own situation. I would never forgive myself if my candidature distracted voters from the key issues and particularly David's rousing call for change. It has been both a privilege and huge fun to represent the people of Bracknell for 26 years. I understand why people are angry. I hope my decision to step down goes some way to showing my constituents how sorry I am about my own situation." (FROM BBC).
During this must watch video Andrew MacKay MP is accused of misrepresenting a meeting with constituents to discuss his misuse of the second homes allowance:
Mr MacKay suggests that three-quarters of the meeting was with him but, suspiciously, the chairman of the meeting refused to hold a vote of the 350 attendees.
ConservativeHome's trusted source at the meeting filed this report:
"Andrew spoke well at the beginning and was listened to without significant heckling or interruption. He was keen to point out that he had effectively exposed himself rather than being fingered by the Telegraph. He also emphasised that it was only his second home claim that was in dispute and all other expenses were exemplary. The BBC reporting of his comments about reselection is accurate. Most attendees were angry and disappointed but it was all terribly British. It's hard to know how he concludes 75% supported him as at least 90% of comments were against - many remained silent however. Even fierce critics voluntarily acknowledged he is an outstanding constituency MP. There were many long-standing political friends and colleagues of Andrew's who are clearly feeling shocked, let-down and with a real conflict of loyalty - personal friendship v party interest."
7am on Saturday, Updated with Sky video. The Sky reporter says Mr MacKay was "disingenuous" to say that the meeting was with him:
The FT finds support for an Esther Rantzen-style independent candidate if Mr MacKay refuses to resign.