James Forsyth

Will CCHQ impose an all women shortlist in East Surrey?

Will CCHQ impose an all women shortlist in East Surrey?
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East Surrey will be the first seat where Tory central office gets to impose a shortlist of three candidates on a local association. Peter Ainsworth, its MP, has today announced that he is stepping down and because he has waited until the New Year to make this announcement CCHQ’s emergency candidate selection rules now apply.

The first thing to watch for is whether the Tories go for an all women shortlist. When Cameron said in October that the party would have some “all-women shortlists to help us boost the number of Conservative women MPs” there was a furious reaction from some sections of the grassroots. There was even talk of setting up a legal fighting fund to challenge the decision. Cameron has, though, subsequently finessed his position, implying that there would only be all women shortlists where the three best candidates were women.

Another interesting thing will be if there are any local candidates on the list. Also look to see if any Tory SPAd or other well connected figure is placed on the list. East Surrey is a plum seat, even in 1997 the Tories polled more than fifty percent here, and any Tory who gets it knows they have a seat for life. So, the lobbying to get on the shortlist will be intense.