Bury’s Tory selection will be a watershed for Suffolk politics

Who will be the new Tory candidate for Bury St Edmunds?

Who will be the new Tory candidate for Bury St Edmunds? - Credit: Archant

By this time next week there will be a new Tory candidate in place to fight Bury St Edmunds at next year’s general election.

In all likelihood, whoever is chosen by the Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association on Tuesday night will become the constituency’s next MP.

There is a massive Tory majority, the seat has never returned anything other than a Tory MP (even in 1997), and frankly the area doesn’t really look like fertile territory for UKIP or any other protest group.

Given those factors, there is one thing we can be reasonably clear about. Bury will not end up on May 8 next year with a white male MP!

The potential candidates – Jo Churchill, James Cleverly, Helen Whately and Zehra Zaidi – are a bold selection for an Association in an area that is often considered very traditional.

With three women, and two of the candidates with an ethic minority heritage, we are guaranteed another fresh face in the House of Commons from this area.

Don’t forget, until 2010 every single MP in Suffolk and north Essex was a white male. Therese Coffey and Priti Patel blew that stereotype out of the water, now the new Bury MP will add to the diversity.

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The other significant point about all the Bury candidates is that none of them have a strong link with the area.

James Cleverly was based at the Bury TA centre for a time, but that was many years ago, and none of the other candidates appear to have any link with the town whatsoever.

Mr Cleverly is the only candidate to have contacted us to find out anything about the town – and he was in Bury town centre talking to people about issues facing the place a couple of weeks ago.

I haven’t heard that any of the other candidates have been putting themselves about like this.

I have, however, heard from Westminster insiders that all the candidates are highly-regarded within Tory party circles.

Of course being local isn’t the be all and end all of candidate selection. When James Cartlidge was up against two candidates from further afield for the South Suffolk nomination I’d have put my mortgage on him winning.

He won on the first ballot!

But Therese Coffey and Dan Poulter were not known for their local connections before being selected for Suffolk Coastal and Central Suffolk and North Ipswich before the last general election – and they’ve become part of the local community.

And frankly if there was a local candidate in Bury, they’d be the overwhelming favourite to get the nomination – as with Mr Cartlidge and Ben Gummer in Ipswich back in 2007.

But as it is, it’s very difficult to pick out a favourite from the four on the shortlist.

The only thing I can safely predict is that politics in Bury will change for ever!

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