‘Absent’ seems to be the word that most often springs to mind for voters in Selby and Ainsty when asked about their former MP, Nigel Adams. Back in my home constituency, one of the most common complaints is that he was a Westminster politician who didn’t care about the area; a Boris Johnson loyalist who hitched his wagon to the former PM – and came undone by association.
Adams resigned on 10 June – a day after Johnson – in a row over his removal from the peerages list by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. Selby is one of three by-elections Rishi Sunak will face on 20 July. Two more could follow courtesy of Nadine Dorries (if she ever formally quits) and Chris Pincher, after his recommended eight-week suspension from parliament.
In Selby and Ainsty, which, since its creation in 2010, has been regarded as a very safe seat, even formerly loyal Conservative voters appear to be turning against the government they once supported. ‘I think the Tory candidate will be annihilated. I think the fact that Nigel Adams was returned and returned and returned over ten years was just because this is a very, very safe seat,’ says Vice Admiral Bob Cooling when I meet him at his house in Tockwith, the small North Yorkshire village I’m from, for a cup of tea.
‘He didn’t – or the party didn’t – cause sufficient upset or disquiet and worry to defeat him. But I think that this time, given the political context, I’d be amazed if this new candidate [Claire Holmes] gets a decent vote.’ Cooling – who says he had voted for Adams in the past – adds: ‘I think people up here are prepared to, metaphorically speaking, give the Tories a good beating.