Bury St Edmunds: Constituency starts search for David Ruffley’s successor as Tory candidate for 2015 general election
12:15 30 July 2014
Tomorrow’s meeting of the executive of the Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association is set to go ahead as planned – although its nature radically changed with David Ruffley’s decision to stand down from parliament at the next election.
Mr Ruffley is not now expected to be present and the meeting is set to be dominated by discussions about choosing a new Conservative candidate.
The association does not currently have an agent. Appointing an agent will be at the top of the agenda – although Conservative associations do offer each other support.
Area Conservative chairman Colin Noble, who is a member of the neighbouring West Suffolk Conservative Association, will be at the meeting along with an official from Conservative Central Office.
Mr Noble said: “We will be there to help and advise. There are experienced agents in Suffolk and the days when each constituency had its own agent and operated independently are gone.”
Conservatives in Bury St Edmunds are likely to be able to call on their colleagues in neighbouring South Suffolk who have recently chosen James Cartlidge to fight the seat next May after de-selecting Tim Yeo earlier this year.
The Bury St Edmunds seat is likely to be very attractive for those seeking to become a Conservative MP.
With a 12,000 majority it is reasonably safe. It is not too far from London and it has good communications. It includes Stowmarket with its mainline rail station and Needham Market.
The South Suffolk seat attracted more than 100 applicants from Tory hopefuls – it would be a surprise if Bury St Edmunds did not attract a similar number.
Anyone wishing to stand for the seat for the Conservatives will have to be on the party’s list of approved candidates – which means they would have been through a selection process and training before they can apply to represent a seat.
Trying to identify potential candidates is always difficult. Within a few months the association is likely to post an advert on a special website for Conservative candidates asking for applicants.
This is likely to attract people from across the country – and recent selection processes have seen candidates chosen who were not widely known in the area before they were selected.
Dr Therese Coffey, Dr Dan Poulter and Matthew Hancock were not widely known in Suffolk before the last general election – but all have made their mark in parliament and all now have government positions.
The two unsuccessful candidates who were on the three-man shortlist for South Suffolk, Jeremy Quin and James Tumbridge, could both apply.
There has been speculation that a female candidate could be successful given the history of how the seat became vacant.
Heidi Allen missed out on selection in the South East Cambridgeshire seat after an alleged mix-up in the counting of votes and is expected to find another seat in the region.
The association is expected to draw up a selection programme as soon as possible to get the candidate in place and making his or her face known around the constituency at the soonest possible point.
Ideally they would like to have a candidate in place by the time the Conservative Party Conference comes around during the autumn.