Tories upset at lack of local candidate

ANGER is growing among Tories afterl local people were snubbed in the search for a candidate in the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich seat.

Graham Dines

ANGER is growing among senior Tories at the snub of all local people in the search for a candidate in the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich seat.

None of the six on the final short list has any connection with the county and there is suspicion among rank and file activists - denied by the constituency chairman - that David Cameron is attempting to shoehorn one of his favourites into the safe seat.

With the Conservative Party embroiled in a messy row in Norfolk South-West over the personal life of one of Mr Cameron's favourites, the Tories would have been hoping that the selection process in Suffolk would not have attracted controversy.

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But the decision to ignore every local applicant has infuriated many of the 700 party members in the constituency, including the Conservative group on Mid Suffolk District Council.

When Mr Cameron became party leader in 2005, a gold list of candidates was compiled, all of whom supported the modernising agenda that he believed would make the Tories electable again.

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The EADT understands that council leader Tim Passmore, county councillors Jane Storey and Guy McGregor, and Ipswich borough councillor Stephen Wells all applied for the vacancy, caused by the decision of the MP for 26 years Sir Michael Lord not to seek re-election.

Mid Suffolk councillors have written to the EADT protesting that none of the shortlist has links with Suffolk. “It can only be surmised that they do represent David Cameron's 'gold list'.”

They are particularly angry that Mr Passmore, who was born and farms in the constituency, is not one of the final six.

“Tim is a member of a well established Suffolk family and has supported the Conservative Party since a very young man. He has personal knowledge of life in our rural county, working and farming in Mid Suffolk.

“It is a great disappointment to all who know Tim that his nomination has been rejected and six outsiders have been selected.”

The letter was signed on behalf of the Tory group by Mid Suffolk councillor Diana Kearsley who added: “It is totally unfair that we have not been allowed the opportunity to back a candidate who knows the constituency.”

Mr Passmore declined to comment on the nomination process, but said he was “flattered” that so many people in the constituency had expressed support for him in letters and emails.

After more than 170 people applied for the seat, constituency chairman Stephen Britt and five executive members went to Conservative Central Office to short-list candidates, advised by party chairman Eric Pickles.

“I refute any allegation that we were not allowed to draw up our own short-list,” said Mr Britt. “We were under no pressure to include or exclude certain people - we are perfectly happy with the six final names, any of whom would make an excellent MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.”

A senior member of the executive, who did not wish to be named, said: “How do you define local? Someone from Ipswich may not be acceptable to party members in rural Suffolk or vice versa.”

The six short-listed candidates are Katy Bourne, Timothy Clark, Joanna Gardner, Daniel Poulter, Dominic Schofield, and Claire Strong.

The selection will take place at an open primary on November 27, in which anyone on the electoral register can apply to attend. Sir Michael's majority in 2005 was 7,856.

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