Witham Tories take Flight from A-list

THE MP controversially sacked by Michael Howard before the last election because of his off-message call for tax cuts and public spending will be one of 19 candidates to be interviewed by Witham Tories this weekend for the new parliamentary seat.

By Graham Dines

THE MP controversially sacked by Michael Howard before the last election because of his off-message call for tax cuts and public spending will be one of 19 candidates to be interviewed by Witham Tories this weekend for the new parliamentary seat.

But Witham has sent shockwaves through the party establishment by its decision not to shortlist two prominent members of David Cameron's A list - former shadow education minister Tim Collins and one-time local Euro MP Anne McIntosh.

Howard Flight, 58, Conservative MP for Arundel & South Downs in the last parliament and a deputy chairman of the Tory Party, upset Mr Howard when he suggested billions could be slashed from taxation and public spending.


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He was dramatically removed from the approved candidates' list just before the election campaign, forcing Arundel Tories to hold a hasty selection meeting to choose a successor to their popular MP.

Mr Flight, who has the reputation of a right wing tax cutting Thatcherite, will be interviewed in the next few days by the Tories in Witham - a new parliamentary seat carved out of the existing seats of Colchester, North Essex, Braintree and Maldon & Chelmsford Essex. It will give the historic borough of Colchester two MPs for the first time since 1997.

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Missing from the interview stage is Tim Collins, who lost his Westmoreland seat to the Liberal Democrats at the last election and has strong Essex connections. Anne McIntosh, former Euro MP for North Essex and South Suffolk and current MP for the Vale of York seat which disappears under boundary changes, has also been snubbed.

Although local Tories are tight-lipped about who has made the interview stage for what should be a safe Conservative seat, a number of names have emerged.

Local candidates Kevin Bentley - who fought Colchester in 2001 and 2005 - and Essex county councillor Sarah Candy are among the 19 who will meet party activists on Sunday and Monday.

Geoffrey Van Orden, 61, a former Army brigadier and an East of England Euro MP since 1999, will be interviewed, along with James Brokenshire, who won Hornchurch from Labour last year by a majority of 480 but whose seat also disappears because of boundary changes.

Other candidates include: Iain Dale, founder of Politico's publishing who comes from Essex, fought Norfolk North in 2005, and was chief of staff to David Davis during last year's Conservative leadership contest;; Kit Malthouse, the deputy leader of Westminster city council; Pritti Patel, former press officer to William Hague; Alia Miraj, who fought Watford in 2005; Charles Elphick, unsuccessful candidate in St Albans 2005, and A listers Julia Manning, Dominic Schofield, and James Cleverley.

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