Shortlist for Tory seat gets longer

The number of contenders for selection as Tory candidate for the new Mid-Norfolk constituency rose to five yesterday after a further change was forced upon the local party.

By Chris Fisher, Political editor

The number of contenders for selection as Tory candidate for the new Mid-Norfolk constituency rose to five yesterday after a further change was forced upon the local party.

Laura Sandys, one of four people originally chosen to participate in the last part of the process on Saturday, dropped out of the race after being selected as the party's candidate in the Kent seat of Thanet South on Monday.

The gap in the final shortlist has been filled by re-admitting two people who came joint-fifth in last weekend's eliminator - Priti Patel and Kit Malthouse.

Both of them are on the controversial A-list of would-be Conservative candidates but both also have Norfolk connections. Mr Malthouse, the former deputy leader of Westminster Council, owned a farm at Foulsham near Reepham until recently, and says that Norfolk was his adopted home for 20 years. Ms Patel, who was deputy press secretary to William Hague, was born and brought up in Costessey.

They join Cambridgeshire entrepreneur George Freeman, Norwich-born barrister James Tumbridge and Cambridgeshire councillor Vicky Ford in the final showdown, at the Dereham and District Conservative Club, in three days' time. Mr Tumbridge is the only contender not on the A-list established by party leader David Cameron.

Most Read

The Conservative selection process in new Mid-Norfolk seat, which ought to be 'safe' for the party's candidate, has been bedevilled by changes caused by the departure of people chosen as the candidate in other seats.

Novelist Louise Bagshawe was selected as the candidate for Corby (Labour majority 1517) when still on a shortlist of 10 for Mid-Norfolk. Soon after being admitted to that list to fill a vacancy, Annunziata Rees-Mogg became the party's candidate in Somerton and Frome (Liberal Democrat majority of 812). And Ms Sandys will be endeavouring to overturn a Labour majority of 664 in the Thanet seat.

Recent opinion polls strongly suggest that each of those three can be confident of joining the first Tory candidate for the radically changed Mid-Norfolk seat in the Commons after the next general election.