40/40 seats

31 May 2013 06:45:32

The first 40 candidates for 2015: an overview

By Mark Wallace
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In October, CCHQ announced that it was launching a 40/40 strategy aimed at winning the next election - based on holding 40 marginal seats and winning 40 target seats. We've been reporting on candidate selections over the last few months, and now 40 are in place there is an opportunity to give an overview of the PPCs who will be fighting in some of the key battlegrounds of the general election campaign.

The seats

Before we go into detail on the candidates, it's worth looking at the 40 constituencies which have selected so far (a full list is enclosed at the foot of this post). For a start, we cannot be certain that they are all among the 40 target seats mentioned above - one, Cardiff North, is held by a Conservative, Jonathan Evans, who will be stepping down at the next election, while some of the others have very high majorities.

Not that a high majority automatically rules a seat out from the 40/40 strategy. According to the original briefing last autumn, those being chosen are not simply the most marginal on paper. Analysis has also apparently been done to pick out seats which are undergoing major demographic changes which favour Tory candidates, seats where unusual circumstances affected the last election and seats whose MPs who win on the back of personal loyalty rather than party success may be standing down.

Much of this reasoning may well never become public, but some seats do leap out. The ultra-marginals like Bolton West are there for obvious reasons, as are high profile marginals like Morley and Outwood where Ed Balls hung grimly onto his scalp last time round. There are personality politicians like Alan Beith in Berwick, whom some speculate may retire in 2015. And there are anomalies like Portsmouth South, where party strategists are understandably keen not to be caught short without a candidate in place should Mike Hancock have to resign for whatever reason.

What we do know is that the majorities in the seats where candidates have been selected so far range from 0.1% in Hampstead and Kilburn to 21.8% in Corby and East Northamptonshire. When we discount Cardiff North, the average majority to be overturned is 5.38% - or in 2,400 votes. Many are undoubtedly tough nuts to crack, hence the candidate selection taking place more than two years before the election.

Hitting the Lib Dems

One thing sure to please those concerned that Coalition has softened the party's attitudes towards the Lib Dems is the party split. 19 of the seats are held by Liberal Democrats, and 20 are held by Labour - representing a disproportionate focus on putting candidates in place early in Lib Dem seats. One in three yellow MPs have Conservative candidates on their patch, breathing down their necks, whereas for Labour that number is less than one in twelve.

Whether that disparity is due to awareness that the conservative grassroots have no great love for the Lib Dems, or the feeling that 2015 may offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to winkle some of them out of their strongholds, the intention is there to fight them properly, rather than give them an easy run.

The candidates

So what does the cohort of Conservative candidates look like?

Eleven of the 40 are female - a ratio which exceeds the current Parliamentary mix of 22% without the use of positive discrimination. All but one of these candidates are standing against male incumbents.

Judging by those whose age is publicly available, the new Conservative candidates are a surprisingly young group, too. The average age is a few days short of 40. There is a wide range of experience, from 24 up to 66, but a definite predominance of those in their late 30s and early 40s, old enough to have done something in their lives.

And the things they have done are reassuringly varied. There are two former soldiers and two engineers, two career paths which have been sadly lacking on the Conservative benches in recent years. A quarter run their own businesses, three are lawyers, two journalists, two teachers and one local postman.

This scatter is a sign of a shifting campaign strategy. Just as the party has looked again at its choice of seats to target, it has started to wake up to the importance of having candidates drawn from a broad variety of backgrounds. While Ed Miliband has made great play of his aspiration to have a wide range of candidates at the next election, it seems the Conservatives have stolen a march on him by putting such candidates in place.

There is a clear pattern in the political experience of these PPCs, too. Relatively few of them will have their first taste of electioneering in 2015, meaning most have been through the mill and have sharpened their skills over the course of years.

A new strategy

13 have stood for Parliament before, many of them in the seats they have now been selected to fight again - such as Royston Smith in Southampton Itchen, Rowena Holland in Nottingham South and the excellent Anne-Marie Trevelyan in Berwick. It is right that the selection process should recognise not only the dedication involved in having run for Parliament in the past but also the electoral benefit of sticking with candidates who have made in-roads into a sitting MP's majority. Far too often in the past we have thrown away progress made by good candidates in tough seats and put new faces to work regaining ground lost since the last election.

That isn't the only good news. The bulk of those who have not previously been Parliamentary candidates have experience of local politics - there are two Members of the Welsh Assembly, as well as numerous councillors and group leaders on the list. Combine that with the fact that around three quarters are local candidates, so far as I can ascertain, and there are signs the selection process is properly recognising the benefit of experience, local knowledge and name recognition.

The A-list experiment was a well-publicised mess in the run up to the 2010 General Election. The feeling that it was a mechanism for parachuting or forcing preferred candidates into seats without the due groundwork or elbow grease was hugely damaging to grassroots relations as well as public perception.

Judging by these early selections, some hard lessons may have been learned from what went wrong. Picking local candidates, entrepreneurs, councillors and experienced campaigners do not guaranteed victory but it certainly helps - particularly in the midst of a backlash against the Westminster elite. 

Improvements to be made

There are certainly areas where things could improve further. Gathering the information for this article revealed that most of the candidates still lack their own website, and some Associations in what should be front line target seats evidently lack the resources to keep their own sites up to date. If these seats are due for extra campaigning funds, then they ought to start receiving them soon to make the most of the early selections.

40 candidates will only ever be a foretaste of the hundreds of selections which will take place in the run-up to 2015. However, if these PPCs are anything to go by, the Conservative slate in 2015 is set to be a lot more appealing to party members, a lot more effective on the doorstep and, hopefully, a lot more successful at the ballot box.

Over the next few weeks we will be running a series of quick-fire interviews with as many of these 40 PPCs as possible. The full list of those selected so far is enclosed below.

Berwick upon Tweed: Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Birmingham Northfield: Rachel Maclean
Bolton West: Christopher Green
Brecon and Radnorshire: Christopher Davies
Cardiff North: Craig Williams
Cheadle: Mary Robinson
Cheltenham: Alex Chalk
Chippenham: Michelle Donelan
Chorley: Robert Loughenbury
Colchester: Will Quince
Corby and East Northamptonshire: Tom Pursglove
Delyn: Mark Allan Isherwood
Derby North: Amanda Solloway
Dudley North: Afzal Amin
Eastbourne: Caroline Ansell
Gower: Byron Davies
Halifax: Philip Allott
Hampstead and Kilburn: Simon Marcus
Harrow West: Hannah David
Hazel Grove: William Wragg
Mid Dorset and North Poole: Michael Tomlinson
Morley and Outwood: Andrea Jenkyns
Newcastle-Under-Lyme: Tony Cox
North Cornwall: Scott Mann
North Devon: Peter Heaton-Jones
North East Derbyshire: Lee Rowley
Nottingham South: Rowena Holland
Portsmouth South: Flick Drummond
Solihull: Julian Knight
Somerton and Frome: David Warburton
Southampton Itchen: Royston Smith
St. Austell & Newquay: Stephen Double
St. Ives: Derek Thomas
Sutton & Cheam: Paul Scully
Telford: Lucy Allan
Torbay: Kevin Foster
Vale of Clwyd: James Davies
Walsall North: Douglas Hansen Luke
Wells: James Heappey
Wirral South: John Bell

2 Mar 2013 19:00:35

Flick Drummond selected to fight Portsmouth South again at the next election

By Paul Goodman
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Grant Shapps tweeted the news roughly 15 minutes ago.  It isn't up on the Party website as I write.  Flick Drummond will be taking on Mike Hancock (I presume) for the second time at the next election.  Hancock beat her by 5,200, but a lot has happened since then.  ConservativeHome wishes her the best of luck.

Shapps has also tweeted that James Davies has been selected to contest the Vale of Glamorgan, in which Labour's Chris Ruane had a majority of 2,509 last time round.  We send him our congratulations to him too.

25 Feb 2013 15:54:42

Seven Eight more Tory candidates are selected

By Tim Montgomerie
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Tuesday morning update: Kevin Foster is adopted for Torbay.


It's time we updated readers on a recent set of seat selections in target constituencies:

  1. David Warburton has been selected for Somerton and Frome;
  2. Tony Cox for Newcastle-under-Lyme;
  3. Robert Loughenbury for Chorley;
  4. Michelle Donelan for Chippenham;
  5. Caroline Ansell for Eastbourne;
  6. Amanda Solloway for Derby North; and...
  7. ...for the seat in which I was born, North Devon, Peter Heaton-Jones has been selected.

Congratulations and good luck to them all.

10 Feb 2013 19:33:45

Afzal Amin selected as Conservative PPC for Dudley North

By Tim Montgomerie
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Dudley North Conservatives have chosen Afzal Amin as their candidate for the next general election.

Mr Amin served in the British Army, undertaking three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. According to the Tory website he has been married for twenty years - with two teenage children.

Labour's Ian Austin held the seat by just 649 votes at the last election.

9 Feb 2013 08:19:02

Berwick Tories choose Anne-Marie Trevelyan to be their parliamentary candidate

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen Shot 2013-02-09 at 08.12.53I am delighted to report that Anne-Marie Trevelyan has been selected as the PCC for Berwick in an open primary. Chris Galley and Lucille Nicholson were the other two candidates.

At the last election Anne-Marie had a terrific result, reducing Alan Beith's Lib Dem majority in the seat from 8,632 to 2,690 - an impressive 8.3% swing. I'm delighted she's been readopted and hope she'll soon be MP for one of England's most beautiful seats. She'll make a great addition to the Tory benches.

Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter.

4 Feb 2013 07:35:04

Three more Tory Associations select candidates: James Heappey in Wells, Lee Rowley for NE Derbyshire and John Bell for Wirrall South

By Tim Montgomerie
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Three more Tory Associations selected candidates over the weekend:

  • James Heappey was selected for Wells. A former soldier and sports enthusiast, he now works for Liam Fox.
  • Lee Rowley for NE Derbyshire. A Westminster councillor, supporter of the Centre for Social Justice and Derbyshire-born.
  • John Bell for Wirrall South. A teacher, local and long-time Tory activist.

Twelve candidates have been selected in the top 40 target seats so far. Nine of them are men. Nearly all of them have strong local connections.

31 Jan 2013 21:51:38

Candidates are now being selected for Cardiff North, Corby, Hazel Grove and Solihull

By Peter Hoskin
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The party has announced that it's now selecting candidates for four more seats. They are:

Cardiff North, Conservative maj of 194
Corby, Labour maj of 7,791
Hazel Grove, Lib Dem maj of 6,371
Solihull, Lib Dem maj of 175

Given that two of the seats were won by the Tories at the last election—Corby, which was subsequently lost in a byelection, and Cardiff North, where Jonathan Evans is standing down as MP—we're not quite sure how this fits in with CCHQ's 40/40 strategy. We shall try to update you as we hear more.

31 Jan 2013 11:36:26

Candidates selected for Hampstead & Kilburn and Gower

By Peter Hoskin
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Simon MarcusTwo more candidates have been chosen for the 2015 election. The first, Simon Marcus for Hampstead and Kilburn. He’s an excellent choice. Not only did he beat the BNP’s Nick Griffin into third place in Barking in 2010, but he also founded the Boxing Academy, based in Tottenham and Hackney, which offers an “alternative education” for disadvantaged teenagers who might otherwise slide into crime and gang culture. In fact, he wrote about it in a post for ConservativeHome a couple of years ago. Here’s a taster from it:

“Children need love, but tough love. The Boxing Academy is based on this principle and it works. Our mentors are all amateur boxers or martial artists and our staff cannot be bullied. The kids respect them. Our staff take calculated risks to get through to our students, some of whom don’t want to leave at the end of the day. We teach GCSEs, life skills and a full sports curriculum, but boxing is the key. Opposite to what many well-meaning liberals say, it does not teach you to be more violent but helps you to calm down and control your anger. Children see the discipline, the work ethic, the authority of a coach, the much needed father figure, the sense of achievement, the decision making, the control of aggression and the self-respect inherent in Boxing and learn that the use of force has a place, comes with responsibility and is not for the street.”

No doubt because of this work, Mr Marcus was appointed to the panel of the inquiry established to look into the London riots of 2011. He is also—like so many of the candidates announced so far—a Tory councillor.

Continue reading "Candidates selected for Hampstead & Kilburn and Gower" »

30 Jan 2013 16:05:31

Candidates selected for the two target seats of Cheltenham and St Austell & Newquay

By Peter Hoskin
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Two more Tory candidates have been selected for 2015. They are Alex Chalk and Stephen Double — and, although they deserve congratulating, of course, as individuals, there are some striking parallels between the pair.

Both will be contesting target seats that are currently held by Lib Dems. In Mr Chalk’s case, it’s the seat of Cheltenham, which has been shaded yellow since 1992, and where Martin Horwood has a majority of 4,920. In Mr Double’s, it’s St Austell and Newquay, a seat created for the last election, when Stephen Gilbert won a 1,312 vote majority.

And, as with many of the candidates announced so far, both have a history of local-level activism. Mr Chalk, a criminal barrister who was brought up in the Cheltenham constituency, is a councillor London's Hammersmith and Fulham Conncil. Mr Double is Deputy Mayor of St Austell town council, as well as a school governor, a trustee of a local community trust and a volunteer with Volunteer Cornwall.

Anyway, here’s what they have to say in response to their selections. Mr Clark describes his priorities as:

“...to promote the local economy, jobs and growth; tackle the legacy of Labour’s debt, secure a strong future for the NHS and improve local education particularly in Maths and the sciences.”

And Mr Double has said:

“I am incredibly honoured and delighted to have been selected as the next Parliamentary Candidate for the Conservative Party for St Austell and Newquay. I am very grateful to everyone who has supported and encouraged me along the way and especially to all those who came out on a wild Cornish evening to attend the selection husting. This area has been my home for my whole life and it is a place I love and care about deeply. I now look forward to working with and for local people in the campaign for the next General Election. I have had a Liberal as my MP since I was 8 years old. It is time to change that!”

22 Jan 2013 22:06:49

Derek Thomas selected to contest St Ives in 2015

By Peter Hoskin
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Derek ThomasAnother day, another candidate selected for 2015. The seat in question is St. Ives in Cornwall, and the newly selected candidate is the local businessman—Cornish stone mason, in fact—Derek Thomas. Congratulations to him.

Just like the last candidate to be selected, Rowena Holland in Nottingham South, Mr Thomas contested the same seat at the last election. And, just like Dr Holland, he put in an encouraging performance. He achieved a 10.4 per cent swing against the Liberal Democrat’s Andrew George, who has held the seat since 1997, to finish only 1,719 votes behind. Mr George isn’t exactly the most coalitious of MPs, so CCHQ probably won’t fell too much remorse if he gets deposed in 2015...

Here, to finish, is what Mr Thomas said in response to his selection this evening:

“I am delighted to have been selected once again to represent a constituency I care passionately about. I grew up here, I live here and I work here. It is a great privilege to serve this beautiful part of the United Kingdom.

I will do all I can to build a healthy, prosperous and caring community in West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. I will work to ensure that healthcare is delivered as close to home as possible.

I will campaign on behalf of our youngsters so they get the education and opportunities they need to love full and active lives.”

18 Jan 2013 15:30:39

Rowena Holland selected to contest Nottingham South in 2015

By Peter Hoskin
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RowenaHollandA short post to congratulate Dr Rowena Holland on being selected as the Conservative candidate for Nottingham South. The selection was announced last night.

Dr Holland was, in fact, the candidate for Nottingham South at the last election — and performed admirably. In a seat that has been held by Labour since 1992, she placed only 1,772 votes behind that party’s Lilian Greenwood, and achieved a swing towards the Conservatives of 7.4 per cent. Notwithstanding the 8.7 per cent swing that Martin Curtis achieved in Nottingham North, that was probably the best Tory result in the city in 2010.

And Dr Holland is also a Conservative councillor, for the North West Leicestershire District Council. This fits into a trend, that Paul noted recently, for selecting candidates with a record of service to the party.

Anyway, she faces quite a battle now: Conservatives lost out in the last local elections in Nottingham, and Labour’s campaign against a directly-elected mayor for the city even drew Eric Pickles’ ire. She has started that fight with the statement below:

Continue reading "Rowena Holland selected to contest Nottingham South in 2015" »

9 Jan 2013 18:28:58

Is Grant Shapps Gandalf in disguise? He announces selections for 14 new seats

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 18.23.17Grant Shapps is setting about reviving the Conservative Party website (see Tim Montgomerie's piece here) and its Blue Blog.  This evening, the blog is his venue for announcing that selection begins today for the following 14 marginal seats:

Birmingham Northfield, Labour majority of 2,782
Bolton West, Labour majority of 92
Brecon and Radnorshire, Liberal Democrat majority of 3,747
Chippenham, Liberal Democrat majority of 2,470
Chorley, Labour majority of 2,593
Eastbourne, Liberal Democrat majority of 3,435
Mid Dorset and North Poole, Liberal Democrat majority of 269
Middlesborough South and East Cleveland, Labour majority of 1,677
Morley and Outwood, Labour majority of 1,505
North Devon, Liberal Democrat majority of 5,821
Somerton and Frome, Liberal Democrat majority of 1,817
Telford, Labour majority of 981
Torbay, Liberal Democrat majority of 4,078
Vale of Clwyd, Labour majority of 2,509

Readers wlll see that as before these are a mixture of Labour and Liberal Democrat-held seats.  Perhaps one was selected to make up the lucky number, in the spirit of Bilbo Baggins's recruitment in the Hobbit.  I wonder which.

Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 18.27.17This is the third such announcement.  We reported the first here and the second here. The party site lists Paul Scully, who was selected for Sutton and Cheam late in December, alongside Cllr Mary Robinson (Cheadle), Cllr Hannah David (Harrow West) and Mark Isherwood AM (Delyn).

All four, then, have a record of service to the party - a trend I noted recently - since Scully is a former Sutton councillor, and "his children, both born in St Helier hospital attended Sutton schools".

Paul Burstow, the current LibDem MP, narrowly fought off a strong challenge from Philippa Stroud, social justice campaigner and adviser to Iain Duncan Smith, at the last election to hold the seat by the slender margin of 1,608 votes.

17 Dec 2012 07:04:39

Cllr Hannah David selected for Harrow West; Mark Isherwood AM for North Wales seat of Delyn

By Tim Montgomerie
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On Saturday Paul Goodman reported that Cllr Mary Robinson has been selected as the Tory candidate for Cheadle.

We have somewhat neglected our coverage of seat selections in recent times and will try to catch up.

15 Dec 2012 13:59:49

Cllr Mary Robinson selected to fight Cheadle at the next general election

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2012-12-15 at 13.57.00The BBC has tweeted that Mary Robinson, a South Ribble Councillor, will be the Conservative candidate for Cheadle at the next election.

Mark Hunter won the seat for the Liberal Democrats at the last election with a majority of 3,272 over the Conservatives.

Cheadle is among the ten constituencies identified in our report of the first tranche of selections for the 40/40 battleground seats.

It goes almost without saying that ConservativeHome welcomes news about further Parliamentary selections...

30 Nov 2012 17:00:39

ConHQ announces the next ten of its forty target seats

By Tim Montgomerie
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At the beginning of this month ConHome published the first ten target seats that the Tories are targeting as part of the 40/40 plan to win a parliamentary majority. Here are the next ten that are now selecting:
  1. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Lib Dem maj of 2,690
  2. Cheltenham, Lib Dem maj of 4,920
  3. Derby North, Lab maj of 613  
  4. Dudley North, Lab maj of 649
  5. Newcastle-under-Lyme, Lab maj of 1,552
  6. North Cornwall, Lib Dem maj of 2,981
  7. St Austell and Newquay, Lib Dem maj of 1,312
  8. Walsall North, Lab maj of 990
  9. Wells, Lib Dem maj of 800
  10. Wirral South, Lab maj of 531.

We learnt earlier this month that twenty of the forty seats are currently held by the Lib Dems. The Tories have decided that the collapse in the Lib Dem vote represents a must-seize once-in-a-generation opportunity. Seven of the twenty named so far are LibDem-held; thirteen to come...