Top adviser to contest West Suffolk seat

ONE of the key architects of the Conservative Party's financial plans to get Britain out of recession has been given a safe passage into the House of Commons by Suffolk Tories.

Graham Dines

ONE of the key architects of the Conservative Party's financial plans to get Britain out of recession has been given a safe passage into the House of Commons by Suffolk Tories.

Matthew Hancock, the 31 year-old economic adviser to David Cameron and the chief of staff to Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, won the West Suffolk nomination on the fourth round of voting at an open primary in Mildenhall on Saturday.

He had been scheduled to attend the annual world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, with the rest of Tory high command, but cancelled the visit after being placed in the final shortlist of six candidates for West Suffolk.

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He will now step down from his full-time Westminster role to concentrate on campaigning in the constituency as he bids to replace Richard Spring, who is not seeking re-election after 18 years as a Suffolk MP.

After the selection meeting, Mr Hancock said: “It is a huge honour and humbling to be selected to fight West Suffolk. I am not local so I will work hard to be a visible part of the constituency.”

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He added: “I will fight to ensure the A11 dualling happens, despite the tight public finances, and support a bypass for Brandon.”

Mr Hancock, who is married with two children, has been at the heart of Tory economic policy since the 2005 General Election and heads a team of 12 advisers working for the Shadow Chancellor and Tory leader David Cameron.

He has drafted policy on Tory plans to freeze council tax and wrote the attack on the Government's 10p income tax “con” in 2008.

Born to a farming family in Cheshire, he is a graduate from Oxford University where he gained a first-class degree in politics, philosophy, and economics. Before joining the Tories, he was a housing market analyst for the Bank of England.

A keen cricketer and middle order batsmen, he took part in the world record recognised most northerly game of cricket during the 2005 expedition to the North Pole on behalf of Cancer Research UK, which nearly ended in disaster for him.

He got severe frostbite and had to be airlifted out of the Arctic, and still suffers from arthritis in one finger which was caused by the cold.

Mr Hancock is tipped for rapid promotion through Tory ranks and is seen as the Conservatives' Ed Balls, Gordon Brown's top adviser who quickly reached the Cabinet after becoming a Labour MP.

Tim Montgomery, an influential supporter of Mr Cameron and who runs the ConservativeHome web site for activists, said that although Mr Osborne would have “mixed feelings” about losing his Chief of Staff, the West Suffolk candidate was a person “sure to rise quickly through the ministerial ranks.”

Mr Hancock and his wife Martha will start the job of house hunting immediately, and will rent until the election before the family settles down in the constituency.

It took four rounds of voting for Mr Hancock to emerge victorious, defeating top London lawyer Natalie Elphicke by 88 votes to 81 in the final ballot.

Other shortlisted candidates included Anthony Freize, Sam Gyimah, Shelia Lawlor and Lucille Nicholson.

Nearly 180 people applied for the vacancy. Mr Spring's majority in 2005 was 8,909.

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