Tories defiant on choice of MP candidate

CONSERVATIVES in West Suffolk are expected to come under grassroots pressure to choose a local candidate as they begin the search to replace Richard Spring, who is standing down after 17 years as an MP.

Graham Dines

CONSERVATIVES in West Suffolk are expected to come under grassroots pressure to choose a local candidate as they begin the search to replace Richard Spring, who is standing down after 17 years as an MP.

David Cameron is using the larger than normal list of retirements at the next election to ensure that younger and more progressive MPs are packing the Tory benches at Westminster.

But his so-called “A” list has run into trouble from traditional activists, who resent being told local worthies should not be automatically placed on short-lists.

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Already one Suffolk county councillor has said she is interested in the vacancy. Jane Storey, 51, the deputy leader of the county council who is on the David Cameron approved list of Tory candidates, played her local credentials when she tried unsuccessfully to make the Central Suffolk & North Ipswich shortlist.

Constituency chairman Colin Noble says West Suffolk won't be deflected from choosing the candidate they want.

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“I have a desire to get the best person into the job, whether local or not,” said Mr Noble. “We will choose the candidate we want. No-one will predetermine what we should do.

“My attitude is that we want to see the CVs of all applicants and then we can make up our own minds.”

Mr Spring's decision not to seek re-election has left Suffolk West Tories “disappointed.” He became MP for Bury St Edmunds in 1992 and after major boundary changes, he won the new constituency of Suffolk West in 1997, increasing his majority at each of the past two elections.

Mr Noble said: “The people of West Suffolk have been extremely fortunate to have had such an excellent MP as Richard Spring. During his time in the constituency he has worked tirelessly for local people and has championed the cause of the business community and the racing industry.

“I was extremely disappointed when Richard told me of his decision not to seek re-election at the General Election but wish him well in his future career.

“It will be a challenge to find a candidate to carry on with his valuable work for West Suffolk. But it is a challenge that we are all looking forward to.”

He added: “Richard has battled tirelessly for the dualling of the A11. When the new road opens, it will be a fitting memorial to his tenacity.”

Other issues the 63 year-old has been involved in include supporting the bloodstock and horse racing industries of Newmarket and opposing new flight paths on the approach to Stansted airport.

In his letter of resignation, Mr Spring said: “It has been the greatest possible honour to have been the parliamentary representative for West Suffolk.

“It has been a huge privilege to defend and promote local electors' interests both in Suffolk and in the House of Commons.”

As Tories digested the shock news of Mr Spring's department, another constituency in the county was left seething after a newspaper branded activists “Suffolk Swedes” for publicly regretting the absence of locals from its short-list.

Six members of David Cameron's “A” list will battle it out on Friday for the Tory nomination in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich to take over from Sir Michael Lord.

In neighbouring Norfolk South-West, attempts to deselect so-called Cameron Cutie Liz Truss as candidate within hours of her being chosen because she had not revealed her affair with an MP, led to party members being dubbed the Turnip Taliban.

In Suffolk Central and Ipswich North, the chairman Stephen Britt said the suggestion that the Party Chairman, Eric Pickles, imposed any candidates on the constituency as “laughable.”

Mr Britt said: “Other than providing us with a set of rules governing the selection process, there has been no influence by Conservative campaign headquarters on selecting candidates. Our six-strong selection committee takes full responsibility for its choices and knows that the candidate to emerge at our open primary this Friday will make an excellent MP and successor to Sir Michael Lord.”

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