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Tories gear up for selection battles

The Tory grassroots are revolting – and they clearly aren’t happy either. This weekend has seen two selection battles engulf different Conservatives associations. Local Tories are currently picking their prospective parliamentary candidates, ahead of the expected general election next year. For incumbent MPs, reselection is normally a formality: the sitting member is proposed and re-adopted by the party activists who live in their constituency.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to have been the case for several sitting Conservatives. First, there was an unfortunate bun-fight for the new Penrith and Solway constituency. This seat is the product of boundary changes and pitted Dr Neil Hudson, the incumbent MP for Penrith and the Border, against Mark Jenkinson, who sits for neighbouring Workington. The new constituency is roughly two-thirds Workington and a third Penrith: unsurprisingly, Jenkinson triumphed. Hudson now faces an unseemly scramble to try to find a new seat if he wishes to continue in the Commons.

On the other side of the country, there’s another row engulfing the Hastings association on the south coast. Sally-Ann Hart has been deselected there by the executive of her local party, with the MP confirming to Guido Fawkes that ‘I was not readopted by my association.’ Her name is now expected to go to the wider constituency membership for a vote on whether she should stand again as the Tory candidate for Hastings. 

Such spats are merely a taster for what’s to come this spring. With the Tories likely to lose the next election, nervy MPs in likely marginals may seek to do the ‘chicken run’ and jump ship to safer seats. Boundary changes will pit colleagues against each other, with some likely to seek refuge in the 17 seats where the incumbent is standing down at the next election.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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