New twist in Tory A-list’ row

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor The process of selecting a Tory candidate for the new Mid-Norfolk seat took an unexpected and exotic twist when two of 10 shortlisted contenders pulled out.

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor

The process of selecting a Tory candidate for the new Mid-Norfolk seat took an unexpected and exotic twist today when two of 10 shortlisted contenders pulled out.

Novelist Louise Bagshawe was chosen on Tuesday as the party's candidate for Corby. And Maria Hutchings, who hit the headlines in the last general election campaign for verbally assaulting the prime minister on live TV, dropped out to concentrate on becoming the candidate in Stevenage.

The gaps in the shortlist have been filled by members of two distinguished Tory families. Laura Sandys, daughter of former defence minister Sir Duncan Sandys is back in the race. And so is Annunziata Rees-Mogg, daughter of William Rees-Mogg, the former editor of The Times.

The changes mean that the shortlist remains completely packed with people from the Tories 'A-list' - which emphasises party leader David Cameron's determination to secure more Conservative MPs who are female, from ethnic or social minorities, or have charisma - and that no local contender is on it.

SW Norfolk Tory agent Ian Sherwood - who is overseeing the selection in the new, and currently 'shadow' seat - stressed today that there had been no gender discrimination in replacing Ms Bagshaw and Ms Hutchings with two other women. Ms Sandys and Ms Rees-Mogg had come through, he said, because they had finished eleventh and twelfth in a ballot last weekend when the shortlist was cut from 20 to 10.

Most Read

The next stage in the Mid-Norfolk selection will take place on Saturday in Dereham when the number of contenders will be reduced to four after sitting down at tables with local party members and supporters, chatting to them and answering their questions. It has been described as a political form of speed dating. The winner will be chosen on October 21.

The new Mid- Norfolk - including only a third of the current seat of that name represented by Keith Simpson - is expected to be safe for the Conservatives. Ms Bagshawe faces a tougher contest in Corby, which Labour held at the last election with a majority of just over 1500. In Stevenage there is a Labour majority of over 3000.