South Suffolk: Babergh councillor James Cartlidge chosen to fight seat for Tories at 2015 general election
21:57 11 July 2014
Businessman and local councillor James Cartlidge has been chosen as Conservative candidate for South Suffolk at the next general election.
Selection ends a year-long saga
The selection of a new candidate for South Suffolk ends a year-long saga that first came to light last summer when MP Tim Yeo was under the spotlight after a national newspaper “sting” which alleged he had offered to coach a witness due to appear before the House of Commons’ Energy Committee of which he is chairman.
There was already concern in his constituency over his apparent low-profile in South Suffolk and questions about whether, as someone who will be 70 next year, he was the right person to fight another election.
The selection was delayed while the Parliamentary Standards Committee, to which Mr Yeo had referred himself, investigated the case. It eventually decided he had not abused his position as chairman of the Energy Committee.
Within two weeks of being cleared, the executive of the association met to consider whether to automatically re-select him to fight the seat – as had happened with all the other Conservative MPs in Suffolk.
At the end of November it decided not to re-select him, but to open the candidacy to a full selection process.
Mr Yeo exercised his right, as a sitting MP, to ask for a ballot of all the Conservative Party members in South Suffolk and in February it was announced that he had failed in his bid to fight the next election for the Tories.
Since then the Conservatives have been preparing to select a new candidate.
The selection process itself was put on hold during the spring as the party concentrated on the European elections – but over the last few weeks it has advertised for candidates, and drawn up a longlist followed by the shortlist that was put to a meeting of all association members last night.
There was controversy over that. There were originally more than 100 applicants for the seat – but this number was whittled down to 11 – seven women and four men – before last night’s shortlist of three, all men, was selected.
Mr Cartlidge, 40, lives in Assington near Sudbury with his wife, Emily, and four children – and was chosen on the first ballot at a selection meeting of Conservative Association members at Suffolk One.
He will now defend the Tories’ 8,689 majority at the next general election.
He runs his own business, Share to Buy, which helps people buy shared equity social housing.
Mr Cartlidge was born in London and went to Manchester University before becoming a political researcher for the Conservative Party.
At that time he helped to prepare former leader Iain Duncan Smith for Prime Minister’s Questions.
He then became a leader writer for the Daily Telegraph before setting up his own business 10 years ago. He stood as Conservative candidate in the safe Labour seat of Lewisham Deptford in 2005 and moved to Suffolk in 2011.
He was elected to Babergh council in a by-election last year.
His two older children, Florence (7) and Harry (5) are at Boxford Primary School while twins Wilfie and Ned were born two weeks ago.
“This is the first time Emily has been out since then!” he said.
Current MP Tim Yeo was not re-selected partly because members felt he did not have a high enough profile in the constituency.
Mr Cartlidge is determined South Suffolk residents should not say the same about him.
“My family lives in the constituency. It is our home and will continue to be our home.
“I’m lucky. My brother lives in London and my in-laws live in London (his father in law is former minister Sir Gerald Howarth) so I could stay with them if needed – but this is my base and it is not too far from London.”
He is under no illusions about the task of getting around the constituency, but said it was a priority for him to bring together the Conservative association and meet as many people as possible.
He said: “The lesson of the elections in May were that there is no such thing as a safe seat – we have to work hard and I am ready for that.
“During the council election I cycled around the ward and that was big enough! This is a big seat and I am determined to meet as many people as possible.”
And he knew where he would get some of the most valuable advice: “I sometimes do the school run to Boxford – that’s where you hear what is really on people’s minds,” he said.