David Blackburn

Eastern uprising

Eastern uprising
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The spirit of Hereward the Wake is stalking the Fens again. It is very tempting to characterise Elizabeth Truss' opponents, nicknamed the ‘Turnip Taliban’, as a collection of Rigsbys thwarted in their ambition to find the permissive society on the one hand, and plain reactionaries on the other. Not least because Melissa Kite reveals in today’s Telegraph that the TT’s self-appointed Chief-Mullah, Sir Jeremy Bagge, who has taken to traversing his estates in a Pashtun turban to mark his celebrity, venerates women in the following terms: “I have absolutely nothing against women. Who cooks my lunch? Who cooks my dinner?...Women, you can’t do without them?” One might almost think that men were their equals.

But to give the Turnip Taliban their due, sources at CCHQ admit that they have handled this and other recent selection processes inadequately, and have inspired antipathy among activists in consequence. Cameron now faces the prospect of widespread grassroots insurrection. Central Suffolk and North Ipswich are furious that a shortlist of six people without any local connections has been foisted on them, and the rumours that Mid Norfolk will be served an all women shortlist do not abate. Women are grossly underrepresented on Conservative benches, especially in rural seats. Considering the prominent roles that women have in rural and suburban communities, CCHQ should not be making such a hash of selection processes.

That said, Elizabeth Truss must be retained. The Turnip Taliban concedes that Truss was the best candidate. Then a reactionary section within the association discovered the details of her extra-marital affair, for which she has very publicly repented, and took exception. This row is predominantly concerned with sexual ethics, not local democracy. Past adultery does not lessen Truss’ ability to discharge her duties as an MP. She remains the best candidate.