Conservative Diary

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Latest developments in CF elections

1. The results will be delayed by a day because the ERS, the organisation contracted to manage the elections, has requested more time. The count will now be on Tuesday afternoon instead of Monday evening. At least one candidate is out-of-pocket with their pre-booked train tickets but there's presumably not much that could have done about the unforeseen delay. An evening count on Tuesday would suit the "young professional" candidates that the Party is so keen to attract, however.

2. In case you missed it, click here for the Mail on Sunday piece on the Michael Lunn fiasco. The Political Editor of the paper contacted me after reading the story and commissioned Brendan Carlin, a well-respected journalist recently moved from the Telegraph, to investigate it. He found it to be true. These are the key bits:

"Leaked emails show 24-year-old Ms Hilley, who wants to become a Tory MP, was secretly urged to stand for election – and was given a signal that the Tory leader approved. Last night Ms Hilley told The Mail on Sunday she was approached about standing for the post – while the Tories claimed she approached them."

"In the wake of the row, Tory chiefs received a formal complaint over officials' meddling. The party's ruling board carried out a probe and gave Mr Lunn a "mild rebuke". Mr Lunn did not return calls from this newspaper."

So if anyone was in any doubt about the story, Clare Hilley's corroboration and CCHQ's rebuke of Michael Lunn should assuage it. It should be noted that Hilley believes it has been blown out of proportion and has absolutely no reason to lie about it. It therefore doesn't reflect well on Michael Lunn and the CCHQ spokesman that they have been saying that she was the one who did the approaching, indeed it is just one more reason for rational people who haven't access to the story's sources to smell a rat. It's such a shame it came to this.

3. Just to be clear, this issue is about trust as much as fairness. It's this absence of trust between the membership and the administrative element of CF that has led Chairman candidate Matthew Richardson to ask the Returning Officer if Mark Clarke may be present at key stages of the ballot verification process. As Chairman there are no data protection issues with this and he could potentially spot any glaring inconsistencies in the electoral roll that was submitted to the ERS. The Returning Officer has however denied Clarke access to those stages. There may well be no evidence of foul play but why stop Clarke, the elected Chairman of the organisation, seeking to verify that?


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